Dancing Through Life

Here’s a little known fact that I’ve always found cute and endearing: my husband loves to dance. I didn’t say he is a good dancer. I often equate him with Steve Martin’s The Jerk when he discovers that music has a beat.

I’m pretty sure that Ken sees himself more like Fiero in Wicked.

  

But the truth is that Ken really, really loves to dance, and he wants to be good at it. In fact, when we were first married, he told me that someday he’d like us to take ballroom dancing lessons. Well, someday is here.

For Christmas, I gave Ken a month of ballroom dancing lessons. I went into it thinking it was going to be easy for me. After all, I’ve always loved to dance. I took dance as a little girl and actually learned square dancing and the waltz in gym class. Ken and I used to do country line dancing all the time before we had children. I knew that this was going to be a piece of cake. I was so wrong.

We go to dance every Thursday night from 7-9pm. We are learning the Rumba, the Bolero, the Waltz, and the Salsa. I’ve had to throw everything I knew about dance out the window and begin at step one, literally (you know, 1,2,3and 4 or 1and2,3and4). It’s exhausting and sometimes frustrating. I can hear the beat, but Ken cannot. He can grasp the side breaks, but I struggle.

Four dances in two hours is brutal. And then there is the hour of at-home practice that Ken insists upon every night. If I thought the arthritis in my foot was bad before, aye-yi-yi! It’s killing me! But last night, as we danced around our living room, I could sense a break-through. We began working together. Sure, we had our moment of frustration with each other, but we let it go. We let it go and just danced.

We will never be Fred and Ginger. And all joking aside, we make the newbies on Dancing with the Stars look like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. But we are learning to dance, and perhaps, we are learning even more important lessons, ones I sometimes need to tell myself over and over again.

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. (Ephesians 4:2)

Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace. (Proverbs 15:18)

The end of something is better than its beginning. Patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

Ken and Amy's Wedding36And most of all, the words that were read at our very own wedding over twenty-four years ago:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Perhaps those were lessons God intended for us to learn all along.

 

What I was writing about this time last year:  The American Way

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 three 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 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is on sale 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)

Rewriting the Story

Last night, I took my mother,  sister-in-law, and friends to see Wicked. It was the fourth time I’ve seen the production, and If you’ve never seen the it, I encourage you, no I implore you, to run, don’t walk, to the nearest theater at which it is playing.  For those who, like myself, read the book and were left shaking your head and wondering what on earth all of the hype is about, trust me.  The play is a beautiful celebration of friendship that you don’t want to miss and will never forget.  Rather than rehashing to story of Dorothy from Kansas, Wicked tells the tale of the deep and abiding friendship of Dorothy’s good and beautiful guardian, Glinda, and Dorothy’s archenemy, the Wicked Witch of the West, known in the book and play as Elphaba.  The most dramatic and pivotal scene is when Elphaba, after casting a spell on an ordinary broom, gains the ability to fly and takes off for the Westernmost reaches of Oz. However, the climax is when the best friends, Glinda and Elphaba, tell each other goodbye.

Elphaba laments that she is limited in her abilities to do good, to save the world, which was all she ever wanted to do.  She has been cast as the villain, and she tells Glinda that she must now figure out how to save Oz from an evil which is overtaking it in the form of the Wizard (not the good guy Frank L. Baum led you to believe he was).  The two friends sing about how their meeting and subsequent friendship is like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun, a stream that shifts when it meets a boulder, a seed dropped by a bird in a distant wood – their friendship is a catalyst for change.

Elphaba says that she has heard that people come into our lives for a reason, that we are led to those who need us, who help us to grow.  She and Glinda agree that no matter what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future, their friendship has changed them, “For Good.”  The song tells us that they are who they are because of knowing each other and that their stories have been rewritten because they are friends (obviously the message of the play).

I can honestly say that I am who I am today because of the people who have crossed my path, because of those I call my friends.  My friends influenced who I was a child, as a teen, and as an adult.  I’ve had to choose wisely, sometimes letting go of people, even close, dear ones, because their influence wasn’t a catalyst for good in my life.  I look back and see where I need to seek forgiveness and where old resentments no longer matter.  I can look around me and see who has changed me for the better both as friends and colleagues. Many years ago, I met a gal from church who became my very best friend and has continues to be a major force in my life. A few years later, I met the mother of one of Rebecca’s classmates, and now I have two best friends who have changed my life and my understanding of friendship. Almost a year ago, a whole new group of people came into my life.  I never thought, when first meeting this group, that they would have such a profound impact on me.  A seed was definitely dropped in a distant wood, and its roots took hold and sprouted into a wonderful new life.

I can’t begin to express what it means to me to know that I have friends who have been there for my entire life.  I have friendships that have deepened over the past twenty years, and I have new friendships that have such strong bonds, I can scarcely believe that we just met.  What I can express is best summed up by the words of Glinda and Elphaba, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Jesus told His disciples, “Follow me,” and they left the lives they knew and followed Him.  Never could they have imagined what awaited them or the world.  They felt an instant connection, and sometimes, if we are among the very luckiest, we find that same connection with others.  Just as the disciples did, we find our stories being rewritten because someone came into our lives.  My wish is that all of my girls are lucky enough to find those relationships, in marriage and in friendship, the ones that change their lives “for good.”

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)

Lessons from the Stage – Ten Things I Learned From Broadway

IMG_0754The Tonys are this weekend, and I am so excited! I love theater, particularly musical theater. There are so many life lessons that can be learned just from sitting in an ornate theater or opera house and losing yourself in the story and songs.  Here are the things I have learned on and off Broadway.

  1. Seize the day. The boys of Newsies remind us that we can overcome anything if we put our minds to it. No matter what obstacles you face in life, there is always a silver lining. Yes, I’m an optimist, but I really do believe that we can make the world a better place through our thoughts, words, and actions and that nothing is too great to get in the way when you truly put your mind to something.
  2. DSC07773Tomorrow is always a day away. Annie knew what she was talking about. If you weren’t able to seize the day, or today was just really bad, there is always a new day to wake up to and a new start to make. And for those days when you feel like you just can’t make it through the day, tomorrow will be here before you know it.
  3. P1374833_10202642514170532_661522642_neople come into our lives for a reason. Elphaba and Glinda learned a lot more in the land of Oz than how to be good and how to be wicked. They learned that we all make a mark on each person we meet and that everyone has the ability to help us to grow if we let them. And that we can help them in return. I firmly believe that this is true. Every person I have ever met has left a mark on me, maybe large or maybe small, but a mark nonetheless. I hope that I have made a good mark on everyone that I have met. It’s something we should all strive for.
  4. Halloween (20)There’s No Place Like Home. While her nemesis and guardian were learning the value of friendship, Dorothy was finding out that home is where the heart is, and that no matter how far you travel, there’s simply no place like home. Right now, all three of my girls are home for the summer. It’s what every mother looks forward to – having all of her loved ones under the same roof. What I love is that when given the choice of spending time at a friend’s house or bringing that friend here, my girls always seem to pick the latter. We go through a lot of food, and a parade of guests is constantly walking through our door, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love that my girls love being at home and sharing their home with others.
  5. IMG_2806You must face your fears. Even when her confidence wavered, Maria found the courage to return to the Von Trapp house. And we learned along with her that we can’t run from our problems. We have to face them and figure out what God intends for us and our future. For every mountain we climb, we must have the courage to face whatever is at the top and the knowledge that we can discover our own destiny. Even Simba knew that you can’t avoid your future by running from your past. No matter how guilty you feel or how sad it makes you, you must have the courage and confidence to face life head on.
  6. IMG_0602Nobody puts Baby in the corner. Every little girl grows up, and whether she’s dancing her way into someone’s heart or fighting for equal rights, her parents will need to learn to let her go. This is something I live every day of my life these days. With one daughter about to graduate from college (11 months and counting) and another about to graduate from high school, I know that it’s time to let go. I have to hope that I have raised them to stand up for what they believe in and to always choose the side of good. And I have to remember that at those times when I still want to put them in the corner, I need to instead give them the space and the freedom to grow.
  7. IMG_1889Be yourself. One of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years is Disney’s Aladdin. The lesson is simple: don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Being yourself always puts you on top. I have lived my entire life being only myself. It wasn’t always easy. I’ve never been popular or been part of the in-crowd, but I’ve been able to lay my head down at night knowing that I was honest and sincere and that I am exactly what you see. I believe that I have instilled this in my girls. It can be the hard road to take through many of life’s travels, but it’s the right road.
  8. DSC02801Forgiveness changes lives. The Bishop forgave Jean Valjean and gave him a new start. Fantine forgave Valjean for putting her out on the streets and gave him her child from whom he learned love. Eponine forgave Marius and Cosette for falling in love. Cosette forgave Eponine and her family for the way they treated her. Valjean forgave himself for past mistakes. Only Javert, who refused to forgive anyone, couldn’t live with the pain. But in the end, even he was forgiven by the one who gave all of them everlasting life – God in Heaven. Learn this most important lesson from the cast of Les Mis and from Joseph who forgave his brother for trying to kill him. Forgive those who trespass against you; forgive yourself; and know that God is loving and always forgives those who seek His kingdom.
  9. BeatitudesTrust God and find joy even in the midst of pain. Tevye reminds us that there is always joy to be found. As sad as it is when he disowns his daughter and when the family is forced to flee Russia, he reminds his family that they must trust in God and find joy in life. Through his unwavering faith, he faces each day with joy, even the saddest days. May we all be people of joy, as Pope Francis encourages. Face each new day with happiness and hope, and know that only joy can combat despair.
  10. DSC09744How we treat others shapes their future and ours. The Phantom didn’t become the beast who haunts the theater based on his own faults but because of the way he was rejected and tortured by others. However, he became the man they most feared because he gave into his fears, his insecurities, and his pain. Never let others make you into something you are not, and never allow yourself to lose sight of tomorrow, the value of friendship, the comfort of home, the love of God, or the joy in living. Always have confidence in yourself, spread your wings, be the person God intended you to be, and forgive others. Never let yourself get to the point of no return.

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, comes out on June 15, 2016 and 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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Unmasked

3 Apr 9, 2013 1-12 PMHalloween is upon us.  That time of year when everyone dons a mask and tries to be someone they’re not.  But let’s be honest here, don’t you sometimes feel like every day is Halloween?  Everywhere I look, I see people trying to fit in with those around them.  Whether it’s high school girls with lots of makeup and matching outfits trying to look and act like the “popular crowd” or middle-aged men and women trying to look or act like teenagers, I often wonder why everyone always tries to be someone they aren’t.

How many times have we seen movies where, at some point, the male lead takes off the glasses of the female lead, lets her hair down, and tells her she’s beautiful?  Do we all swoon because he’s finally seeing how beautiful she is without her glasses?  No!  We swoon because he finally recognizes how someone so different from everyone else, someone not trying to conform, is the most beautiful girl of all.  He sees her for who she is, inside and out, and he realizes that in spite of her being a nerd, or shy, or even crossed-eyed, she’s the one he’s in love with!  Let’s face it, it’s not every girl’s fantasy to be loved because she is just like everyone else.  We want to be loved because we are who we are, and that’s good enough, in fact, better than good enough – it’s perfect. Look at one of the most popular entertainment genres out there – the musical.  Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Footloose, Flashdance, Frozen, Matilda, even The Sound of Music – they all have one message in common – Be who you are, embrace it, show it to the world, and live the life you were born to live.

I was ridiculed a lot in high school by my peers for standing out, for dressing my own way, for being a little too loud and a little too peppy.  I had gone through all those years of elementary and middle school hiding behind the popular girls, and I was determined not to do that in high school.  No matter what, I was going to be myself, popularity be damned.  Here’s what I learned: yes, there were girls who hated me and boys who were annoyed by me, but I didn’t care, and in the end, it didn’t matter.  I was never “in” the popular crowd, but I was friends with them, along with every other group in school.  I never felt the need to fit in with anyone, and it turned out that I fit in with everyone.  And really, that’s the way it should be.  After all, as everyone under the age of 50 understands, “each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”  It’s when we stop hiding all of the facets of who we are that we are able to show the real person who lies beneath the mask.

There’s an old adage that the least popular kids in high school are the most eligible ones twenty years down the line.  So here’s my advice to the world, for what it’s worth.  Be yourself now.  Why wait?  Don’t worry about what others will say or think, just be the best you that you can be.  Take off your mask, and be proud of who you are.  Life is too short to live in someone else’s shoes, or their costume.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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