Who Are You?

My married name is Schisler, but I will always be a MacWilliams, a Scot by name and blood. Aye, there’s some Irish and Welsh in there, too, but when asked about my ethnicity, my answer is always, “I’m Scottish.” So I was delighted when my daughter, Katie Ann, chose Scotland as one of the destinations on her graduation trip. When our oldest, Rebecca, graduated from high school, she and I backpacked through Europe for three weeks. It is a trip neither of us will ever forget, and one that Katie and Morgan have been planning ever since.

Beginning in England, I took Katie to all the famed tourist stops: London Bridge, the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, etc. Katie selected three tours: Sherlock Holmes, a day trip to Salisbury, Bath, and Stonehenge, and of course, the Harry Potter studio tour. What fun we had doing all of those things! But our favorite day was the one we spent traveling by train to Windsor. The town was charming, and we loved visiting Windsor Castle. As fans of the PBS series, Victoria, we enjoyed seeing the young queen’s favorite home. All the while, as we toured London and the surrounding areas, I told Katie about how the histories of England and Scotland intertwine.

Upon arriving in Edinburgh, Katie and I went to lunch, and I told her as much of the history of Scotland that I could, knowing just bits of the long and winding story. After checking into our flat, we visited Edinburgh Castle and then roamed the Royal Mile. In and out of the tartan shops we went, picking up scarves and other items with my family’s crest and tartan on them. We did some research about our family and its exile from Scotland. Highlanders, they were, and they fought against the crown until being thrown out of the country. Most of the MacWilliamses fled to Ireland, becoming McWilliamses, but many were sent to the new colonies, which, we believe, is how my ancestors arrived in the U.S. While it makes for an interesting family history, it has caused much debate among family members about exactly who or what we are and from where we came. Some claim that we are all Irish, while others, like myself, cling to our Scottish heritage.

It saddens me that such a beautiful country has suffered so much turmoil and upheaval throughout its history. But rather than tear down the people’s pride of or love for their country, all of the turmoil seems to have strengthened their patriotism. Scotland still clings to its own traditions, its rich history, its whiskey and plaid and heroes. The more a Scot fought for independence against the Brits, the more he is loved by the people. 

Toward the end of Dragonfly in Amber, book two of the Outlander series, Claire wonders about the legacy that Bonnie Prince Charlie left to Scotland. Seeing modern-day graffiti, demanding “Free Scotland,” she asks, without the prince’s series of battles aimed at granting the country’s independence, would Scotland have “endured two hundred years of union with England, and still—still’—she waved a hand at the sprawling letters overhead—’have kept its own identity?”

It made me think about where we are in the United States, still a toddler of a country. Without the will to hold true to and fight for our heritage and beliefs, what chance do we have to preserve our history, culture, and traditions? If another country stole the Liberty Bell, would we, today, even attempt to get it back? Perhaps there has to be over a thousand years of history and tradition before there can be a Stone of a Destiny. Hopefully, if our nation were to ever face trials like those of Scotland, Americans, no matter their differences, will come together to like the Scots have. I love my country, and I will always be an American, but I will always be a proud Scot as well. Aye, I’m Scottish, and proud of it. 

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Striking Gold.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Seven Reasons to Put Down Your Electronic Devices This Summer

School has been out for less than a week, and so far, my girls have worked at their respective jobs, gone kayaking, watched movies on our backyard movie screen, gone on bike rides and boat rides, and spent time lying on the hammock, reading books. The requirements that they get outside every day, read every day, and work a summer job have been drilled into them their entire lives. However, I still see them spending way more time on their electronic devices than I would like, but I’m coming up with some ways to change that. And you should, too. Since it’s summer time, I’m going to ask you to step outside. Outside your house or office, outside your comfort zone, maybe even outside of yourself.

 

 

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There is a whole world outside that awaits you, but the only way to really appreciate it is to get up off the couch or away from your desk, and go outside to see it. Perhaps this means taking a bike ride, going out on the water, or even visiting a museum. The main point is to get outside of your house. Go somewhere. Do something. You’ll be amazed at what you might learn. But first, you’ll need to…

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nlearn

It takes hard work and effort to break a habit. Believe it or not, that phone is not actually glued to your hand. And don’t think that I’m Miss Perfect when it comes to putting down my phone. I’m absolutely as bad as the next person. The other night, we were watching a movie in the backyard when Rebecca looked around and said, “Every one of you is playing a game on your phone or iPad instead of watching the movie.” While I protested that I could certainly watch a movie and play Words With Friends at the same time, I knew she was right. Note to self: the next time we have movie night, the iPad stays in the house. Watching a movie in the backyard with my family, with a glowing fire blazing nearby, and two dogs slumbering next to my chair, should be all the entertainment I need.

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ry something new

Last week, I wrote about trying something new. There is so much in the world that I haven’t done, and I’ve done a lot! I could probably make a list of over 100 things that I’d still like to do. Of course, I can’t fit them all in this summer, but I’ve been trying to decide lately what I can do. For starters, I cut a mango today for the very first time. And I’m going to be visiting my first active volcano in July! Now those are certainly very different firsts, but they both count! Your something new can be small, large, or life-changing. The point is, you’re trying something new, but you must do it physically and not using a phone, tablet, or laptop!

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ee the world

Ken gets very frustrated when we go on long drives and everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen. “Look around you,” he’ll cry. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” And as much as I love to read in the car, I know he’s right. When everyone is staring at their screens, they’re missing the real show outside their window. Luckily, my girls have been able to experience some of the those beautiful things they’ve missed as the world goes by while they’re on their phones. They’ve slid down a snowy hill on a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. They’ve white-water-rafted in the Rocky mountains. They’ve kayaked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And not once during any of those times did they ask, “Where’s my phone.”

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Rebecca and Ken on the Gulf of St Lawrence in Percé, Quebec.

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magine

Imagine a world without cell phones. I know, we say it all the time, “What did we ever do without cell phones?” Or without computers? Hmmm, let me see if I remember. Oh yeah, we talked. We played. We stayed out late, well after dark, playing hide and seek and jailbreak. We played street hockey. We rode bikes. We played flag football in the backyard. We went on long walks, spent time in the neighborhood park, took tennis lessons, joined Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so much more. The list goes on and on. And not once did we wonder what we were missing. Not once did we worry about who was trying to reach us while we were out. Imagine what life would be like if we could do all those things today without frantically looking for a place to charge our phones!

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iscover

Discover life beyond your laptop. A study in New York Magazine from 2015 showed that about 1/3 of Americans have never interacted with their neighbors. Researchers believe this is because we are more in touch with people through electronics than through personal relationships. The study also showed that those who did know and interact with their neighbors are healthier and enjoy their day more. Many neighborhoods today have playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, bike paths, and more. Step outside and look around. Wave. Have a drink with the guy across the street. Check out the local park. Go on a bike ride. And take your kids with you.

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We hiked to the top of that waterfall!

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ssentials

Just look at these research titles:

Reasons Cell Phone Usage Reduces Happiness

Science Shows Your Cell Phone Is Ruining Your Life — Even When You’re Not Using It

Happiness Tip: Stop Checking Your Freaking Phone

Science Says Your Cell Phone Use Could Be Hurting Your Relationship

If I were a anthropologist in the future, studying the collapse of the human race, I could probably trace the demise back to one single invention – the cell phone. People are on them ALL. THE. TIME. At dinner, at the movies, on the subway, walking down the street. What is so important that none of us, myself included, can go more than sixty seconds without looking at our phones?  I’m sure you’ve all heard that America is suffering from a terrible, contagious, life-threatening disease. It’s known as FOMO. Time Magazine even did a story on it recently – This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out. The answer? Gratitude. “Really?” you ask. Yep. It’s that simple. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate your friends, family, home, job, life. The article sums it up by saying, “Gratitude is essential.”

By focussing on the good in your life, going outside without your device, trying something new, seeing the world, imagining the possibilities, discovering the people around you, and being grateful for what you have, you can kick the electronic habit. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

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Morgan’s boyfriend, Jacob, went horseback riding for the first time last summer.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Lessons From The Stage – Ten Things I Learned From Broadway.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  A Summer Reading Guide for Kids;  Dear Husband, When I Forget to See You; and Why Are Fireflies Disappearing?.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Mothers, Daughters, and Memories

Recently, I read an article in a magazine entitled, A Moment in Time: Try Not to Forget. It was the story of Laurel Miff’s visit to London with her grandmother who now suffers from Alzheimer’s. That trip is one of the few memories that Miff’s grandmother still recalls. “Whenever I visit her now,” Miff wrote, “she speaks of how we deftly made our way through the Tube from one London site to another, with barely a moment’s pause to enjoy a cup of tea.” The article brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the wonderful trip my mother and I took to Ireland. We spent our days, from sunup until long after the sun went down, touring site after site in city after city. Some nights, though exhausted, we laughed so hard we thought we might be booted from the hotel. We still love to joke about our Psycho experience in Kilkenny, our favorite town, where the hotel owner, bellhop, cleaning service, chef, and concierge were all the same person. Those eight days are among the most wonderful of my life, and I thank God that we were able to spend that time together.

Four years ago, when Rebecca graduated from high school, she had this crazy idea that a group of her friends and a couple moms (myself included) would drive cross country and back. I say crazy because this was when gas was over $6.00/gallon! Ken laughed and told her that, with all of the frequent flyer mileage he accumulates, he could fly her and me to Europe and back cheaper than she could drive halfway across the country! Well, he didn’t have to say that twice.

Rebecca spent the next couple months planning our trip, based on what she learned in two of her favorite classes: World History and World Geography. Over the course of three weeks, we visited seven countries on a budget of $6000, and no, I did not stay in any hostels. There comes a time, or an age, in life where you have to draw the line! 

We knew that we had opened a real can of worms with two younger sisters eager to follow in our footsteps, but the trip was worth every penny spent then and will be worth what is spent in the future. Rebecca and I created memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. From walking around the ancient stones of Stonehenge on a chilly, windy day to seeing three different figures of royalty, live and in person (Queen Elizabeth II of England, The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Queen Beatrice of Denmark), to sipping wine and eating escargot at an outdoor cafe in Paris as we watched the passersby, the trip was magical. 

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In a few weeks, Katie and I will embark on our journey. While she has planned a week’s stay in London, we will be using the time there to venture out to places neither of us has seen: Bath, Windsor, Wimbledon, and a few others. We will then visit Scotland (alas, no trip to Craigh na Dun for me) and finish our trip in Iceland. It’s a completely different itinerary as Rebecca and Katie are very different people, but the end goal is the same. It’s a time for mother and daughter to renew our relationship, reminisce about the past, talk about the future, and create memories to last a lifetime.

I can’t figure out where the time has gone over the years of my life and the lives of my children, but I do know that I haven’t let it go by without trying to create as many lasting memories as I can. I cherish every moment I have with my mother as well as every moment with my girls. Sure, we have disagreements, and there are moments of drama, but I can honestly say that cross words are few and far between. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to have the mother I have and the daughters Ken and I have raised.

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It’s a big world out there with lots to see and do. Take the time to see explore it, and take a friend. I highly recommend your mother, grandmother, or daughter. Create memories that are so good, even Alzheimer’s can’t cause them to fade. And I’ll remember you, my readers, in a few weeks as I sip my scotch and look out over the city of Edinburgh or stare at the volcanoes of Iceland. Raising a glass, I will toast to you, to travel, and to mothers and daughters everywhere.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: A Season for Changes.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Helicopter Parents Are Raising Unemployable Children by Marcia Sirota of The Huffington Post; Husband’s Confused When Wife Climbs In The Crib. Then, He Learns The Heartbreaking Reason… by Jenny Brown on Shareably; 21 Highly-Anticipated Book Club Reads Coming This Spring by  on the BookBub Blog.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

 

How Do You Measure A Year?

DSC08677.JPGOne year ago this week, Ken and I received the news that we were chosen to go to the Holy Land with a group of pilgrims.  As excited as we were, we had no idea how life changing that trip would be.  To see the places about which we’ve only read or heard, to walk in the footsteps of our Lord, to stand on the shores of the Jordan River and inside the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher were things that we never imagined being able to do.  To top it all off, we made new friends, some of whom have become among the closest friends we have.  It’s amazing to me, when I look back over the course of this past year, that one year ago, I had never been to Mount Tabor.  I had never looked down at the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  I didn’t know George or Tammi or either Anne.  I had never met Bianca or Mary Ann or either Michelle.  How different my life was just a year ago.  And that got me thinking…

How different are all of our lives from just a year ago?  In the past twelve months, I’ve attended graduations, weddings, christenings, and funerals.  I’ve seen my girls go from being just “in high school and college” to being Seniors about to graduate and move on.  I’ve traveled to new places and returned to old favorites.  In June, I published my third novel, and within a few weeks, I will be publishing another. 

As the song asks, “how do you measure a year?”  Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days.  That’s how we think about a year: a long, drawn out collection of days.  But 365 is a small number that is gone in the blink of an eye.  It sounds like a lot – five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.  But in less than a year, a baby is conceived and then born, a wedding is planned, a school year is completed and another started, a fine wine ages, a house is built and occupied.  And we look back and say, “where did the year go?”  How does time get away from us so easily?

So as you begin to think about your New Year’s Resolutions, think about the past as well.  Think about all that you did in the past year, the people you met, the places you visited, the things you accomplished.  And think about the minutes that got away from you, the tasks left unfinished, the goals left unmet.  Don’t think of the future as long and drawn out.  Think of it as short and fleeting.  Make the most of every day, every minute.  There’s much to be seen in the world, many new people to meet, and a lot to be accomplished.  And the reality is, there is never enough time in which to do it.  But there is enough time to enjoy life.  I urge you to start today.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Beautiful Land Across the Water

img_0829We spent this past weekend on the island of Chincoteague, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  It was one of those rare weekends when we didn’t really have any plans.  I had just finished the first draft of my next novel, which takes place on the island, and Ken asked if he could read it.  Several chapters in, he told me that he loved the writing and the storyline, but I had many geographical errors.  It has been years since I spent any time on the island, and to be honest, I never paid that much attention to which waterways were which or how much marsh there is instead of sand.  His remedy?  To pack up the camper and head to Virginia.

Ken’s brother, Tom, and his family moved to Chincoteague many years ago, but as the children grew older, and life got busier, we found it hard to all get together on the island, so Tom and his crew always come up to Maryland rather than everyone going down to Virginia.  But true to his nature, Tom welcomed us with open arms and was the perfect host and tour guide.  We arrived late Friday night after watching Morgan’s field hockey game, ironically, just thirty minutes away from her cousins’ home.  Ken and I stayed in the camper while the cousins all slept in the house, or didn’t sleep, as they hadn’t been together for a while and wanted to spend as much time together as they could.

img_0823On Saturday, Tom gave us a tour of Chincoteague, a name taken from the Native American name, Gingoteague, which is believed to mean, “Beautiful land across the water.”  It is indeed across the water, across the Chincoteague Bay from the rest of Virginia and across the Chincoteague Channel from Assateague Island, both a State and National Park.  Many people my age and older will recall the beloved novel, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, about the pony who swam across the channel to the annual firemen’s pony auction and then made her home on Chincoteague.  We drove to the beach on Assateague, passing several herds of the wild ponies, and then back to Chincoteague to Memorial Park and then through the downtown.

img_0818After lunch, Ken, my mother-in-law, and I struck out on our own so that I could see everything through the eyes of Kate, my main character.  We climbed to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse and visited the island museum.  At the museum, I learned so many things that had never turned up in my research, such as, when Assateague, once the more populated island, became privately owned, the inhabitants rolled their homes down to the water, put them on boats, and floated them to Chincoteague where some are still standing today, almost one hundred years later!  You can bet that someone in my book will live in one of those homes!  Also, in the museum, we saw the real Misty, a treat for any girl who, like myself, devoured the book series as a child.img_3030

img_0803Later in the afternoon, Tom and his wife, Sandi, took us on a boat ride.  We literally circumnavigated the entire island, and I was treated to a view of the island that I had never before seen.  I also found the perfect location for Kate’s winter getaway.  To wrap up the day, Sandi served us some of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had.  We talked about my book and the island, especially the history of the island as it relates to the Coast Guard.  Approximately 75% of the retirees on Chincoteague are former Coast Guard.  Those valiant men and women play a large role in my book, and I was honored to spend the weekend of 9/11 in a place where those who serve are held in the highest regard.  Banners honoring all of the young men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces are proudly displayed up and down Main Street, including one of my nephew, Ty.

As I learned with my previous books, nothing beats personal research.  There’s a lot that I can learn and see online, but there’s nothing like visiting a place in person, talking to its people, seeing firsthand its beauty, and immersing oneself in its culture.  I am so grateful for the time and attention that Tom and Sandi gave to our tour and my questions and to my husband for giving up his weekend so that my book can be as authentic as possible.  I look forward to paying my respects to the people and history of Chincoteague Island.img_0890

 

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Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Off the Grid

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We had a problem at camp this year that we’ve never had – complaints from adults and girls alike that the teen counselors spent too much time on their phones. I was actually quite surprised considering a HUGE part of their training revolves around the rule that they are NOT to be on their phones at camp. No campers are supposed to know that anyone even has a phone. Teens (and adults) who have phones with them are to refrain from being on the phones unless they are on break or after the girls are in bed. I was disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, I just recently wrote a blog about why we need to start putting our phones down and enjoying life.

I sometimes wonder if today’s young people have any idea that they can actually exist without being on their phones. They’re either texting, or snap chatting, or instagramming, or tweeting, or uploading to FaceBook, YouTube, or Tumbler. They’re looking at posts, watching vines, or playing games. It is any wonder that employers complain that today’s recent graduates have no socials skills? 

For the past week, we have been living in paradise. We’ve been at our second home in the San Juan range of the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Our girls each brought a
friend with them, and though we tried to prepare them, I don’t think they really believed us when we kept saying that there was no cell service at our cabin. That means a week of no texting, no chatting, no posting, and no calling. For the first twenty-four hours, I wasn’t sure these poor kids were going to survive. Slowly, they started to come alive. They noticed the low-hanging clouds over the mountains, the way the morning mist clings to the treetops, and the wildlife that lives around the mountain. They went four-wheeling to look for deer, and they began to talk about which day they were going to get up at five to see the sunrise.IMG_0002
The next day, the whole gang went white water rafting. They had to brave the icy cold waters, racing rapids, and light rain without any contact with the outside world. Not only did they all survive, they had the time of their lives. There was no need to find satisfaction through electronic devices when the world at their fingertips had so much to offer.IMG_0093_KMLater that day, they pulled out the puzzles, and that evening, they played a board game. The next night, after a day of white water rafting, they brought out the cards. Uno led to blackjack, and the stakes were high – a collection of lollipops and chocolate bars. 

They woke at four the next morning to tackle something that none of the visiting friends had ever done. They climbed one of the highest mountains in the continental United States — Handes Peak, which stands at 14,048 feet. I will admit that they were thrilled to discover that there is LTE service at over 14K feet. They all called their moms back home in Maryland and posted pictures of their accomplishment. Then it was back to the land of no service. IMG_2136Back at the cabin, everyone was rewarded with s’mores as a rainbow lit up the evening sky. The kids ate quickly, and we enjoyed playing Dominoes until late into the night.IMG_0036Horseback riding on the high plains of the Rockies took the gang out of their element once again, and there was no mention of not being able to text or call anyone. Over the course of the two and a half hour trail ride, we all talked and took in the scenery with no mention of phones or social media. That night, we enjoyed watching the Olympics without anyone even asking about which athlete or sport was trending on Twitter. IMG_0079We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.IMG_0102On the day we left, some of us woke up to see the sunrise over the mountains. Though there were plenty of pictures taken to be shared once they had service, there were also memories made that can be shared with others for many more years than those photos will be around. While I know that this will all change one we get back to civilization, I like to imagine that these kids might actually think twice the next time they face the choice between their phones and a bike ride, or a walk in the woods, or any other activity. I hope that the the thing they will remember the most from this vacation is the reason why I love spending time at our cabin high in the Colorado Rockies – it’s a reminder of how wonderful life is when you you stop letting other things get in the way of actually enjoying life.IMG_0150

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Six Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

DSC00972Ken has always given me a hard time on long car rides about having my nose stuck in a book instead of looking around. While I can’t argue his point that there’s so much to see, those long stretches of highway just scream for distraction. However, I’ve always managed to know when to put the book down and take in the beauty around me. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lost on most people today who can’t lift their eyes from their phones for more than thirty seconds. There is so much that they are missing.  Here are just a few of the reasons why everyone needs to put their phones down more often and open their eyes to the world around them.

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Seville, Spain

1. There is so much to see in this world! Don’t sit with your eyes glued to the screen. Reading about places on the Internet will never, ever be the same as seeing them with your own eyes. You will never experience the world on a screen the way you will with all of five of your senses. Take a walk, take a drive, fly to another land. And don’t look at your phone. 

2. There’s nothing like real human interaction. Instead of texting friends, go out with them! Turn the phones off, and enjoy your time together. When you have a problem, need a shoulder to lean on, someone to wipe your tears, your phone won’t meet your needs. Only your friends, live and in the flesh, can give you a hug, a pat on the back, a genuine smile and loving touch.

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A spontaneous night of bowling with friends.
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The 9/11 Museum

3. History can come to life. These days, you can watch a movie on your phone, a YouTube video showing clips of an important event, a news broadcast, and more. But there’s nothing like touching an artifact, There’s nothing like walking on the hallowed ground of a Civil War battlefield or Ground Zero. Instead of an online virtual tour of the White House, call your congressman, and schedule a visit.  It’s easy and it’s free. Rather than watching a documentary about the Civil War, visit Gettysburg, or Antietam, or Fort Sumter.  Someone once asked me how we were able to instill such a love of learning and of history in our children. It was easy, I told them, we didn’t teach them history, we showed them history. We brought it to life before their very lives.

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Morgan playing her favorite game

4. Games are more fun in real life. Our country faces a juvenile obesity problem that is unprecedented, and it can’t be solved by exercising one’s thumbs. Virtual reality games don’t constitute exercise, and no matter how much you walk around looking for Pokemon, you aren’t truly pushing your body, gaining strength and muscle, or sharpening your athletic skills, and nether are your children. 

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It’s always fun and games when the family is together

5. Social skills are important! Whether playing a team sport, or a game of Uno with family, we need to stop looking at our phones for entertainment and start looking around us. Last week, my mother, brother, and I took all of the cousins (8 kids, ages 9 to 20) to Six Flags and were met with disappointment. Just before opening, a bomb threat was called in, and the park wasn’t able to open. We went for ice cream, a stroll on a local boardwalk, and then back to Grandma’s house for an afternoon of board games. And we had a ball.  It wasn’t the thrill of riding a roller coaster, but there were laughs, cheers, and a sense of camaraderie that could not have been had if everyone had simply gone back to the house and played on their phones. It was a no phone zone, and it was wonderful.

6. Because moments are fleeting. Life passes by in the blink of an eye. Ferris knew what he was talking about when he said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A sunrise may last for as long as thirty minutes, but each minute, even each half minute, is completely different. Colors change, clouds shift, shadows grow and shrink. Each time you blink, the scene transforms. When I photograph a sunrise, I end up with about a hundred shots, each one totally and completely different from the rest. It’s an amazing palette of colors on an ever-changing canvas. To look away for even an instant is to miss the next great work of art. Perhaps God does that on purpose. It’s a reminder that each moment, each tiny piece of time is to be marveled at, revered, appreciated. And take it from someone who has seen a lot of sunrises, there’s nothing like putting down the phone, or even the camera, and gazing at the real thing.

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Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Whispering Vines (2016)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and EventsSix Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

No Place Like Home

 

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The Plaza de Espana in Seville

It’s good to be home.  While our family had a wonderful vacation traveling all over Portugal and Spain, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in your own bed.  It’s even better when you’ve spent the previous two weeks sleeping in other people’s beds in other people’s houses.  Yes, I do mean houses, or apartments in most cases.  Rather than staying in hotels, we spent this vacation renting homes through AirBnB.  My sister-in-law suggested them to us a few years ago, but I was never interested in staying in someone else’s home.  This year, to save money, we decided to give it a try.  My feelings are still mixed, and to be honest, I’m not sure I would do it again, but it was part of the adventure, so I’m glad we gave it a try.

 

 

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The central square in Merida, Spain, just a few blocks from our apartment – our favorite of the houses in which we stayed.

AirBnB was created with the idea that people would open up their home to travelers as a bed and breakfast or that they would allow others to rent their home when they, the host family, was away.  In theory, it’s a great idea.  However, as pointed out in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, that’s not quite the reality of the business.  Rather than staying in someone’s personal home, in most cases, guests stay in an apartment that has been purchased by the owner specifically for AirBnB rentals.  While this was fine with us (and slightly less creepy), according to HBR, it’s having devastating effects on the housing market in several US and European cities where “residents” are no longer actually living in the homes, and real estate prices are driving middle income families out of local neighborhoods.  We could certainly see how this was the case as most of the places where we lodged were in residential areas rather than hotel and tourist centers. 

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The shrine and basilica in Fatima, Portugal

All in all, our experiences were good ones.  Our children had never stayed in a B&B, and they were happy that only one of the places we stayed in was in someone’s home.  While they delighted in the scrumptious breakfast we were provided before leaving Fatima, they didn’t like the feeling of staying in the home of a stranger while the owner slept in the room upstairs.  They much preferred the apartments where we were met by the owner, given a tour, and handed a key, before saying goodbye to the never seen again host.  They did love, however, the opportunity to have their own beds, and in some cases, their own rooms, and it was nice to be able to wash all of our clothes halfway through the trip.

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Katie and Morgan took turns reading to each other on the many subway rides.

My advice to anyone considering AirB&B is simple.  Research, read, and review.  If the apartment is “located in the center of Malaga [and] the square is filled with restaurants, tapas bars, pubs and bars, fundamental enclaves within the Malaga night.,” know that this really means “nothing in Malaga closes, or quiets, until close to 3am, and you’re in the thick of it.”  If you’re an early to bed family or a light sleeper, hearing the partying in the streets until 3am and then the trash trucks and recycling trucks until 4am is probably not going to bode well for your next day of sightseeing.  “Close to the train station” may not mean an easy walk with your bags but rather a subway ride in which you’ll have to change trains three times.

While we didn’t have any major issues, and all of the hosts were pleasant and helpful, I really missed the amenities of staying in a hotel – a concierge to consult, a clean room each afternoon, a steady supply of toilet paper (yep, that was an interesting morning), and a pool, game room, etc. the things that most people enjoy while on vacation.  It was good experience, and I don’t think I would have changed anything, but I did learn to read between the lines.  In some cases, if it sounds good to be true, it probably is.

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The Roman ruins in Merida, thankfully not one of the apartments.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

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Striking Gold


Our family recently discovered a hidden gem while on vacation in Spain. When we were planning our trip, our oldest daughter discovered a little known city called Merida, between Fatima, Portugal, and Seville. Though it is one of the oldest cities in Spain, it has been only in recent years that Merida has become a destination for tourists. A small, quiet town in southwest Spain, it is the site of several Roman ruins including a coliseum and amphitheater. Like much of Spain, the city comes alive at night when locals and visitors as young as three years of age can be seen playing in the streets and watching futbol in the outdoor bars into the wee hours of the night. 

We visited the city over a weekend in June, yet the streets were still almost empty, and the tourist sites had plenty of room in which to move. Unlike other European cities such as Paris or Rome, Merida felt quaint and new in spite of the age of the city. Untouched by most tourists, its beauty can be fully appreciated even during the times of day when one would expect large crowds. It’s easy to take the time necessary to fully enjoy the experience and the ambiance of the city. 

Aside from the wonderful aspects of the city of Merida, I discovered something else while on vacation this year that surprised me. Though our family has vacationed together every year since our oldest was born over twenty years ago, this was the first year that I didn’t feel like I was traveling with three children. Technically, two of our girls are still youths, ages fifteen and seventeen, but this summer, it really felt like we were traveling with adults. 

Shopping excursions shifted from visiting local toy stores to dress shopping as the girls all tried to imitate the fashion tastes of Europe. Desired souvenirs were no longer key chains and snow globes but artwork and pottery. Yes, there were some disagreements, petty squabbles, and normal insecurities that sisters are so adept at bringing out in each other, but there were more moments of real conversation (without cell phones!), mature sight-seeing (no children’s museums), and late nights sitting in Spanish bars talking about college and future plans. 

Though I often lament about how much it pains me to see my girls grow older, I have to admit that spending time with my young adult daughters was a truly uplifting and pleasant experience. I’m not ready to marry any of them off, but I can see the future, and it is a treasure to behold. 

   Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

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Finding The Way

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Several times in the past month, El Camino de Santiago has come up in conversation among my friends.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, El Camino is a pilgrimage route in Spain.  The Way of Saint James is a series of routes, predominantly taken on foot, along the Pyrenees and Asturias Mountains (though one can also take a route from Seville) leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of St. James the Apostle.  Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk El Camino.  A few years ago, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez brought El Camino to the big Screen in the movie, The Way.  Ever since I first heard about it and subsequently saw the movie, I have wanted to walk it. 

Pilgrims must be in good shape and able to walk many miles with little food and no guarantee of shelter.  Though it started as a religious pilgrimage almost two-thousand years ago, El Camino is often traveled by adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking a respite from the hectic pace of today’s technology-infused world.  I can’t help but wonder whether or not snapchat fans would follow Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards if they chose to make El Camino their next endeavor.  Perhaps some wouldn’t find it quite as exciting as a trip to the top of Everest without oxygen, but I would be glued to my phone watching them document their route across the French and Spanish border to Compostela.

I often say that there is only one thing on my bucket list.  There are many places in this world I would like to see and many things I still want to accomplish, but there is only one thing that I feel I must do before I am called to my eternal home.  Morgan will be in high school for three more years, and then we will have one in law school and two in college.  Ken wants to travel to Alaska when we become empty nesters, and I will happily go with him, but I know that will be just a pre-curser to my ultimate travel experience.  I am determined to follow The Way.

For those who can’t make it to Spain, two Dominican priests are planning on replicating the pilgrimage in the United States.  The route will take pilgrims from New Orleans to Memphis with stops at many churches along the path.  While I am intrigued by this and would happily join them, I would treat it as practice, a pilgrimage before The Pilgrimage, a way to prepare for what is to come.  For preparation is the key.  Stamina and good health must be taken into account, but I believe that there is much more to the preparation than the physical.  If I walk The Way, it will be for spiritual reasons.  It takes about a month to complete the trip, but I suspect it takes a lifetime to complete the journey.  Where am I on that journey?  Only God knows, but I’m pretty sure I have a long way to go, and The Way is just a step on that journey.

According to the web site for the movie, El Camino, “by its nature, serves as the ultimate metaphor for life.”  The well-trodden path serves as a guide, but we must make the journey our own.  We must find our own way.  As for me, I hope to someday find myself along El Camino.  I pray that it is just one of “the ways” by which I will make my final journey.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

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