Withdraw From Your Cares

IMG_0884-001I recently heard of a survey, showing that 52% of Americans reported unused vacation days in 2017. This is down 2% from the previous year, but the trend remains–Americas, unlike their counterparts around the world, are not leaving work behind to spend downtime with their friends and family. And while more people did take time off, half a million more vacation days were lost in 2017 than in 2016. 705 million vacation days were left unused. Of the days not used, Americans forfeited 212 million days, a donation of $561 per person on average in work time to their companies.

I read those numbers and gasped, shaking my head that so many people would rather work, or feel the need to work, rather than take time for themselves. While cost was cited as a barrier to taking time off, I can’t help but ask, what is the cost of a day at home, or at a local park, or at a free museum? Compare the cost of a vacation to that of a hospital stay after a heart attack or stroke brought on by long, stressful days at the office? Almost the same number of people reported their children as barriers to time off. Really? People won’t take vacations because their children get in the way? What kind of world are we living in?

For the first half of our marriage, Ken was an elected official and then the head of a state agency. For all of those years, he was expected to work, or least be available, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He and I both knew that, for the sake of his mental health and the health of our family, he needed to take breaks. Vacations, no matter how big or small, near or far, were always vital to our family and his sanity. For more than ten years now, Ken has worked for a global company, which means that often, while I’m in bed asleep, he is on the phone with colleagues in Korea or Australia. He travels often, almost weekly, and his sleep schedule is never normal. I fear that, without a vacation, he will have a mental or physical breakdown. And his job is not at all abnormal in this world of the internet, cell phones, and ease of travel.

When I was a child, our family didn’t have money to spare, but my brothers and I felt like we were the richest kids in the world. My parents took us to Andrews Air Force Base to see the Blue Angels. We visited every Smithsonian Museum. We hiked up and down the hills at the National Zoo, laughing at the monkeys and marveling at the elephants. All of those things were free. Meals? Hot dogs at the concession trucks. To my parents, these were low-cost days away from work, spent with family. To my brothers and me, they were priceless days that made lasting memories.

I encourage everyone to take a break this summer, or multiple breaks. Go outside. Connect with nature. Discover a passion. Enjoy time with your family. Play ball with your kids. Last summer, the company that Ken worked for was being sold, and we weren’t sure of Ken’s employment future. Rather than a long, expensive vacation, we borrowed a dear friend’s cabin in the Poconos. We hiked, zip lined, and even parasailed, but most of the trip was spent playing games, doing puzzles, and taking it easy. Morgan and Jacob spent hours fishing, and Ken and Katie enjoyed frequent naps. It was wonderful.

So, work hard this summer. Make each day count. But don’t forget this beautiful advice:

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The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Oh, The Places You’ll Go (to borrow from Dr. Seuss)

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

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)

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

The Family that Travels Together…

Explore. dream, discoverVacation planning time is upon us.  Tis the season when families are cementing their summer plans and dreaming about visiting exotic locales.  Growing up, our vacations always consisted of borrowing a friend’s condo at the beach for a week or traveling with my father on business to places like Dover, New Hampshire or Long Island, New York.  We didn’t go far, but we always had fun.  I’ll never forget the time we stayed at a motel outside of Williamsburg.  I still remember thinking that it had to be the grandest hotel in the world with its strawberry shaped pool and vending machines right in our hallway.  In my mind, it was truly a magical vacation that included stops in Colonial Williamsburg and the now extinct pottery factory, a must-see place for all travelers at the time.

When I was about nine, we traveled to New Hampshire where we toured the Budweiser Factory.  What I remember most was the visit to the stables where the famed clydesdales lived.  I can still picture one of those beautiful creatures as it leaned out of its stall to take a carrot from my little hand.  Again, it was magical for that horse-loving girl from the DC vacationsuburbs.  Another time, we spent a week at Bethany Beach with no plans other than to enjoy the sun and the surf.  Of course, it rained all day, every day, all week.  We played a lot of cards and went to the movies at least once.  We left without suntans, but I think we had more fun on that trip than any other trip we ever took as a family.

Ken and I have tried to give our girls plenty of unforgettable vacations.  IMG_2254We’ve done Disney, several times, and even took my parents there when our girls were very young.  My father had no interest in going and complained non-stop leading up to the trip that he had managed to avoid that mousetrap his entire life and couldn’t understand why he had to go now.  Of course, Dad will do anything for Mom, so he went.  About two days into the trip, we were laughing at the girls as they danced along with the Lion King, wearing their matching Alice in Wonderland dresses that I had hand-sewn.  My Dad turned to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “You know, this really is the happiest place on earth.”  I smiled back with the knowledge that it wasn’t Disney World that produced all of that happiness.  It was all of us being there together.  Yes, you know it: magical.

As we begin planning our summer vacation, it makes my heart soar that our three girls, two in high school and one about to graduate from college (next year, deep breaths…) still look forward to taking family trips together every year.  We have been so very blessed to be able to take trips ranging from weekend camping trips, where we huddled in a tent in the pouring down IMG_2258rain, to trips to Europe.  One of our favorite memories was spending the night in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota on the land that once belonged to Charles Ingalls and which Laura wrote about in Little Town on the Prairie.

We’ve all heard it said that you will never look back on life and wish you had spent more time at work, but most people look back and wish they had spent more time with their family.  So I urge you, this summer, to make the time to take a vacation with your family.  It doesn’t have to be grand and exotic; it can even be at home.  It just has to be time that you spend together, playing, walking, exploring, learning.  Don’t sit in the house and watch TV.  Go out, find an adventure, and do it together.  Whether you travel to a faraway land or to a museum an hour away, make it magical.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events