238 Chasing Dreams at Any Age with Gail Shisler

Chasing Dreams at Any Age with Gail Shisler


Who says dreams have deadlines? Join me and my mother who is living proof that it's never too late to chase your aspirations. As she approaches her 80th birthday, she's celebrating the publication of her second book—a poignant memoir that underscores her lifelong affair with the written word. From her first-grade scribbles to receiving accolades for her biography of a Marine Corps general, my mother's story is a beacon of hope for anyone believing they've missed their moment.

This episode isn't just a celebration; it's an exploration of sustaining passions and balancing life's demands. We delve into the lessons learned from managing a household while nurturing a creative spirit and how these experiences are immortalized through storytelling.

Mentioned in the episode:
The Smallest Tree in the Forest by Gail B. Shisler


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Megan: 1:09
Hey friends. So one of the things that is an underlying kind of core principle and something that is subtly taught inside of everything I teach in regards to time management and planning for women is the idea and the core principle that we all deserve to plan and prioritize time in our lives for the things that are important to us, for our goals, for our dreams, for our desires, and to not put things on the back burner. Along with that is also the recognition that there's no, there's no time limit, there's no point in life in which we ever need to say, well, I guess I can't do that anymore. And that's really one of the messages that I have here today inside of the Work Life Harmony podcast with the best guest ever, my mom, because you're going to hear about her new book that she has just published as she's approaching her 80th birthday and the journey of getting there Along with a really powerful message from her as well, and you're going to see why, growing up, I never felt like I had to put limits on my life when you get to hear about all the things my mom has done. So I'm excited to reintroduce my mom to all of you here today. Welcome to the Work Life Harmony podcast.

Megan: 2:23
I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the top program and top planner teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and, just like you, I'm juggling hashtag all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity so you can have work life harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed, this is the show for you, and if you're new here, I'd love to get you started with my work life harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram at Megan Sumrell with the word harmony and my team will send it right over.

Megan: 3:15
Hey, everyone, welcome back to Work Life Harmony. I have, hands down, the best guest I was about to say the best guest I've ever had on the show, but I've actually had her on the show before, so it's just a repeat. So thank you for being here, mom, I'm delighted Today we're going to take a little bit of a pivot from our usual really tactical, pragmatic tip strategies and all of that on planning and saving time. But this really is focusing for me on the conversation of the harmony part of life, and I know so many of us as I shared. I recently turned 50.

Megan: 3:53
The older we get, it's almost like we feel like we'd get more and more disconnected from our dreams, our desires. We think we've missed the window to do amazing things, and so I wanted to have my mom on today because she has been an amazing example for me on ages, just a number and we have tons of time to do the things that we desire to do. So again, welcome to the show, mom, thank you, I'm delighted to be here. So the big news that we have to share is and the timing of this that I wanted to record this now here today. Can I share about your birthday?

Gail: 4:31

Megan: 4:31
Okay, well, some people are funny about. So my mom is about to have a big milestone birthday. She is turning 80. And here we are just a few weeks before her birthday and her second book was just published. I want you to sit on that for a minute, right? We don't usually hear about, I know I would certainly never have considered for myself of doing something big and huge and amazing at that age. So, mom, I would love for you to first share but kind of your background about writing, your passion for writing when you got into writing.

Gail: 5:06
Well, I think I've always enjoyed writing. I can remember as young as first grade writing what I thought would be a book which was three pages long and it had something to do with a mouse. I'm a little unclear on it now. Do you still have? No, I don't, oh, shoot, I don't. But I remember being very pleased at the end that I had this book of three pages. And I've also got tired of it and I stopped. So I've always enjoyed writing, but I think maybe I got serious about it after I had a class my freshman year in college and the English professor was wonderful and he said you can't write a paper or anything until you learn to write a paragraph. And that's all we did all semester was read a poem and then write a paragraph about it. And the final exam was a point that he put up on the blackboard and we had to write one paragraph about this point and the exam. They left four hours for it and not one of us left the room before the four hours was up.

Gail: 6:11
Exam was one paragraph, but it made me realize that every single word is important and you have to have a vocabulary to be able to express those words. And that was sort of the beginning of, I think, my great desire to write Now, did you?

Megan: 6:27
know at that time you wanted to write a book.

Gail: 6:30
No, I started out with short stories. Quite frankly, life was confusing and you married and you have a husband in the Marine Corps and three children and a short story was what I could sort of compass. So it was a while before I thought about a book.

Megan: 6:45
Do you remember what age range you were when you thought I think I'd like to write a book?

Gail: 6:50
Probably in my 40s, and I'm glad the first book wasn't published, though I tremendously desired that it be so but I look at it now and I think, no, this wasn't good enough. I realize what you have to bring to your writing is experience, and the first book that was published really came out of my experience.

Megan: 7:11
So we're going to come back to the first book that was published, because that was about 14 years ago. When did you start writing this book, the new book that just came out?

Gail: 7:22
Well, I've been at this probably for 15 years. It's a memoir and things would sort of recur that one had forgotten about, or something would happen in life and I'd think, oh, I remember about that.

Megan: 7:35
I thought it. I think it's been longer than it may be, but I still remember reading. I think I started reading some of that before I moved to North Carolina. That's been 20 years.

Gail: 7:46

Megan: 7:47
Well, it might be that long. Okay, so you were working on this book. Did you go down the process of wanting to get this book published before now?

Gail: 7:58
No, I haven't. And then I got sort of off on the other book and this book was really just a desire to write a thank you note to my grandparents and that's why it started, because they were three very fabulous people. And it just started and I wrote it for the family and the other book I really hoped would be published.

Megan: 8:21
So let's go back to your first book, which is for Country and Core. What, when did you know you wanted to write that book?

Gail: 8:31
Well, I retired from my full-time job and I really had at it, and my grandfather about this was 50s. Well this was, I would have been probably yeah, 55,. I think.

Megan: 8:46
Yes, I think about 55 or 60.

Gail: 8:49
And I spent three years of research on the book. I had letters from my grandmother and grandfather. I had stuff that he had put down in the Marine Corps Library. I spent three years doing research and because it compassed his entire lifespan, I had to know about World War I because he was in it. I had to know about Haiti because they were stationed there. So it took quite a bit of research. But also I knew him. I had lived in his house and I knew him very well, so that it sort of came out of my experience and I could write about him in a way that I think was as honest as it can be when you're a granddaughter.

Megan: 9:32
So for those you know a lot of people probably aren't that up on military history who was your great grandfather, who was your grandfather, so that they understand the importance of that book that you wrote.

Gail: 9:43
My grandfather retired as a four-star Marine general. He led the Marines in the Korean War. Probably people might have heard of the landing in Incheon he was running the First Marine Division then the recapture of Seoul. He was in charge of the First Marine Division then and then the battle that resonates with Marines is the Chosun Reservoir, where they were pushed up into North Korea and had to fight their way out as the Chinese entered the war. That's probably what he is most famous for.

Megan: 10:15
Now just to give you all some perspective on that book. So I can remember going to the big book launch for that and I was about one month out of being pregnant with my daughter, which is—that's why I remember the timing of it so well the book is available still. You can go out on Amazon for Country and Core and are you willing to tell everyone—because you're probably not going to brag about yourself—what General Mattis had to say about this book?

Gail: 10:46
Well, general Mattis, who was a great reader and is known for his library, put it on one, the list of his top. I think it was 30 books. No, it was in the top 10. Top 10, was it? Yeah, I knew you were in top. I don't know which. I was glad, and he spoke about learning about leadership from it, which is something that my grandfather was known for.

Megan: 11:08
Now one of the things, as your daughter and as a woman, that I love about everything related to that book. Can you say that there is another military-focused book written by a woman that was not in the military?

Gail: 11:28
No, and every review of the book started in spite of the fact, but I did write it so that anybody could understand it. If you don't know what a blatoon is, you'll know if you read the book. If you don't know how a division is organized, you will know when you read the book. I wanted everyone to appreciate what was involved, and I think that's what I could bring to the table as a woman writing about this.

Megan: 11:54
Yeah, so I'm going to be unfeminine in front of you. It makes my mom a total badass, in my opinion, along with my sisters and my dad. We all agree. So let's talk about this new book that has just come out. What is it called?

Gail: 12:09
It's called the Smallest Tree in the Forest and the subtitle is Growing Up with Grandparents and what inspired you to write this book?

Megan: 12:18
What kind of spoke to you to put this together?

Gail: 12:21
Well, they were wonderful people. My father was killed in World War II and so I was raised mostly by my mother. But we lived with my grandparents quite a bit and because she was a working mother which nobody was in the 50s I spent every summer with them as well. So I had a lot of time with them and I just it began as a thank you note and then I realized I wrote down all the happy times and the happy memories and I realized suddenly halfway through it that you don't recognize the sunshine unless you have the shadows as well. So at some point I was able to add some of the things that happened to me that were less than optimal, that they helped me through, and I think my message in this was you don't have to know everything about somebody, you can just be good and that's helpful. And I realized they had no idea what was going on in my life, but they were a real wellspring of joy and solidity and so on to me, and that was the purpose of the book.

Megan: 13:33
Did you have any old materials that you pulled from to remember some of the stories that you shared? I mean, you go back. One of my favorites is the writing of the tricycle At age four. You all are going to love that one. Are these just moments that popped into your head, or did you have a methodical way of pulling together?

Gail: 13:52
No, they were moments that popped in my head and I think I do remember. There are people that don't remember and I'm a rememberer, so I do have, but in some cases I'll say after that I don't remember. I have little moments that shine from my childhood. Obviously, as you get older you remember more consistently and maybe pictures helped a little bit too.

Megan: 14:18
Yeah, there are beautiful photos in the book. You will definitely the family remember our photos. It was alarming to me to see young pictures of you, and I see my daughter's face in them. I see my niece's face in them, I see my sister's faces in them. Now, when would you say you really dug in on knowing you wanted to complete this book?

Gail: 14:42
I think I got pushed into it by my children.

Megan: 14:46
For half. No Well, we pushed you into the publishing, but when? Did you really say no, I want to go back, because you kind of had this on pause for a little while I did.

Gail: 14:55
I did send out letters to publishers. Well, you can't get to a publisher, you have to have a literary agent. I have a whole filing drawer of this does not meet our needs at this time, typed by some secretary and signed by I don't know who. The nicest comment I got was I like the title, but that's as far as I got. This was after I'd had a book published which I thought would open doors for me but it didn't seem to in the New York publishing business. That did you think about just.

Gail: 15:26
Thing forget it. No, I kept working at it. I kept thinking there's something here. My solution at first was to just type it all up and put it on a Loose Leaf Finder. One of my daughters just said I don't want a Loose Leaf Finder, I want a book.

Megan: 15:44
That wasn't me. Is that what that one was? That was not me. That said that. No, we all bought it.

Gail: 15:48
We all but this daughter knew how to get somebody that knew how to do it. What's happened since? The difference between my first book and my second is the publishing industry has changed. The first book, if you were self-published, you couldn't get an ISBN number, which is what puts you into the Library of Congress. Now you can. The publishing business has really changed in the last 10 years or so. What was the?

Megan: 16:13
final push decision, etc. To make you say, okay, I'm going to publish the book.

Gail: 16:20
I think my pushy daughters, but they just said they come in a book.

Megan: 16:25
They lead on that, I think, well, I think we all cheer a book.

Gail: 16:28
I think, you know, I've suddenly realized, yes, this would be nice to have it in book form. And you know, and I felt I had finished it, I had it quite maybe three or four chapters in the last year and I looked at it and I thought this is done, I'm done, and I sort of made the point here and just celebrated the fact that really it sells trite but in the end love conquers all and that's the purpose of the book.

Megan: 17:00
You just answer. My next question is what do you hope people will get out of reading this?

Gail: 17:06
Well, I think, for one thing, if you're a grandparent, you realize you have a lot of impact. You're somebody that knows this child, but not in the I have to correct their table manners sort of way. You know them. You can take them to museums, you can see them on the side. Sometimes you know things about them that their parents haven't recognized, that you have something to offer this child, and certainly my grandparents did, and all three of them offered different things to me and they were all important. So I think that as a grandparent, you realize you can have an impact on people, and I think for others it's an idea that include family and your children's lives, because they do add something to their lives, no doubt about it.

Megan: 17:55
So good. And for those of you that I get questions sometimes when I'll share stories in my life on things that would maybe be considered a failure or things that didn't work out well, and people ask me well, how do you keep going? And hopefully, hearing my mom talk today, you know the answer to that. I've had, and still have, an incredible role model in my life that shows me there's no time limit on our dreams. There's no expire time to pursue things that we love, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle. I know it wasn't easy for you when you weren't getting the letters back from agents and all of that, and you still kept going.

Megan: 18:50
So I just want all of our listeners to hopefully take a couple things out of this. Again, the window's not gone. You're never too old. If you're in the trenches right now with young ones and all the things, it doesn't mean that you will never do the thing. And secondly, I hope you get an understanding into why I treasure my relationship with my mom and how fortunate my daughter is to have you as a grandmother, because you are doing for her what your grandparents did for you. Well, I hope I am. I hope I am. Thank you so much, mom, I love you.

Gail: 19:35
Well, thank you too, it's a pleasure.

Megan: 19:38
Getting on top of all things time management, organization and productivity doesn't have to stop just because this episode is over. If you want one tap access to all of my training and current top podcasts, go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Pink Bee app. It's one word, the Pink Bee. It is jam-packed with simple yet powerful tips and strategies to get you out of overwhelm and into harmony. And if you have a question you want me to cover on a future episode, go to iTunes and ask your question in the podcast review section. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a five-star review. What's your panning morning like?

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