ENJOY A LITTLE HOLIDAY CHEER

fbI’m pleased to announce the release of a collection of Christmas short stories, Bright Lights and Candle Glow. You can download this anthology for FREE!

This collection from eight talented authors boasts short stories set during the winter holiday season. These tales encompass sober themes, heartwarming messages, and uplifting endings, appropriate for the winter season or all year long.

Arranged in chronological order, witness winter miracles from the mid-1800s through modern day, running the spectrum from somber to lighthearted.

  • Learn the meaning of the season from a Civil War soldier.
  • Go from rags to riches with a 1920s mobster.
  • Relive a fond holiday activity with a helpful Grinchy neighbor.
  • Create new holiday memories with a 1970s ranching family.
  • Meet a new friend whose advice rekindles the magic of the season.
  • Experience Christmas from a wise, aged perspective.
  • Cross cultures and beliefs to create a new holiday tradition.
  • Celebrate the season with estranged family after a life-changing revelation.

These stories are sure to enhance your experience of the holiday season. It’s a holiday-themed compilation of short stories with heavy messages and uplifting endings sure to warm the heart in the cold winter months.

Click here to download now!

I used my great grandfather’s Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier as my inspiration for writing my short story a Christmas truce. He wrote about the dismal Christmases he spent during the war. And I remembered one story, in particular, he told about encountering a woman aligned with the Confederacy. Through talking, they both reached a truce of sorts after listening to rhetoric, hatred, and lies being told about the Yankees and the Rebels alike. I wanted to write this story as an analogy for what we’ve experienced in this country in the past several months. In some ways, we’ve been embroiled in a type of “civil war.”

Fiction can serve a higher purpose than mere entertainment. It can enlighten and change minds at its very best. Here’s my effort to do a little of all three.

A Christmas Truce

by P.C. Zick

What is Christmas for a soldier such as me? I tried not to think of it. It did no good but remind us of our miserable state of affairs with the winter rains pounding down upon our heads and our huts, hastily built in the mud-covered mess of the Union army.

My family helped me along by not reminding of what I was missing, but some of the soldiers weren’t as lucky as I was. They received letters from home telling them of the holiday preparations—the parties, the decorations, the baking, the gifts—all the things that would be missed sorely by those of us in the sodden misery of Virginia wearing nothing more than the scratchy wool of our winter uniforms. My mother and sisters must have known better than to send letters that would make me ache and yearn for that which could not be. At least not for Christmas of 1862, as my troop from Michigan awaited orders to march.

The winter rains had begun the week before and already roads were rutted and spirits dampened. While we waited for the rain to stop, and the war to begin again, I took little comfort in my crowded and tiny hut with its smoking fireplace, earthen floor, and cloth roof. Without comforts, conveniences, or accessories, I had nothing much to do. I knew at any time, once the rains stopped, and the sun was able to shine down on the muddy roads, all of my energies would be focused on active service.

Too much time to reflect left me wondering what it all meant. Did my family miss me, especially now that Christmas was upon them, and I wasn’t there to help Father cut down the Christmas tree from my grandfather’s farm on the outskirts of the small community from which I hailed? I thought back to previous years in my worst moments and remembered the party that awaited our return from the woods with the perfectly shaped tree. How could I face my rations of hard bread, bacon, and coffee when memories of sugar cookies and roasted turkey filled my senses? All the days passed one like the other in camp with our regular military duties, which amounted to very little while at rest.

After the last round of steady rain for days, we received a few supplies and a newspaper full of condemnations for the idleness of the troops in the field. But no packages from home arrived, which meant any that had been sent would not be there in time for Christmas.

Any attempt to move large bodies of men was inexpedient and to move artillery and supply trains was next to impossible with the wet and soggy conditions. The clamor of newspapers, the quarrels among general officers, and the interference of Congress with artillery movements, discouraged and demoralized our ranks. It was bad enough for some of the youngest to be away from their homes for the first time at Christmas. The men felt they were enduring hardships and sacrificing lives without adequate results and all because of petty jealousies among the leaders. Idleness and discontent go hand in hand with soldiers, and the gloomy outlook of our winter camp was not cheering. The fences had all disappeared for fuel, and green wood for cooking and heating purposes had to be hauled long distances with the mules floundering knee-deep in the mire and the wagons cutting almost to the hubs.

Finally, on Christmas Eve the sun overpowered the clouds, and the incessant patter of drops on canvass stopped. I almost felt light-hearted to step outside of my hut. To break the monotony, a comrade, Jonathan, happened by and asked if I might enjoy a ride. It was the first day of sunshine we’d seen in more than a week. We both had friends in the 4th Michigan who were camped about four miles in our rear, and I decided the change of pace might very well make me miss my family less if I spent time in the company of other young men who missed home in equal measure. Our commanding officer even allowed us to take two of the horses instead of the regular mules we soldiers used for traveling with our packs. Both Jonathan and I had done extra picket duty on the stormiest nights, so we were in good stead with our superiors.

The day was filled with laughter and boasting and sunshine, and we enjoyed our visit very much. One of the soldiers told a story that had a somewhat sobering effect, although there were humorous aspects to it.

The soldier had heard about a lieutenant camped near Fredericksburg who had become enamored of a young woman who lived in an old-fashioned brick house with her mother.

The young lieutenant, whose duties called him to visit them, became acquainted with the young lady, and at her invitation called frequently upon her. He became quite taken with her charms after only a few visits that were social in nature. It wasn’t usual considering both of their ages.

“Was she Confederate or Yankee?” Jonathan asked.

“It seemed he never bothered with that formality,” came the storyteller’s response. “He said later that because of her friendliness, he assumed her to side with us.”

He continued to tell us that the lieutenant proposed marriage, and the young lady accepted with the blessing of her mother.

“Not a long courtship that,” one of the soldiers said. “But then if she was charming, why wait?”

We all laughed, but when we’d settled down, the story continued.

“One evening while calling upon his intended, during a brief lull in the conversation, the heavy atmosphere bore to his ear what he judged to be the click of a telegraphic instrument,” Samuel continued. “Instantly, his interest and loyalty were awakened and a suspicion of treachery aroused. Without betraying that he had heard the sound, he chatted on, his keen ear strained to catch and locate the clicking.”

“How could he ever suspect his beloved?” I sang out in a high-pitched tone.

“It is wartime, gentlemen,” Jonathan said. “Never trust a soul, especially an innocent maiden.”

The rest shushed us and urged for the story to continue.

“At the usual hour he left, convinced that a contraband communication was going on with the enemy,” Samuel said. “The next evening, taking with him a strong guard and leaving them in the yard, he again called upon the young lady.”

We listened attentively to the rest of the story. Receiving him with the warmth of an expected bride, the young woman conducted him to a sofa, where clasped in each other’s arms, they indulged in fond caresses and endearing words until the ominous sounds of the clicking telegraph again greeted his ear. Excusing himself for a moment that he might clear the phlegm from his throat, he opened the door and motioned vigorously to his guard despite the darkness. While the door was still open, the guard pressed in and exhibited an order from General Burnside to search the house.

“That ended the kissing, that is to be sure,” one of the soldiers said. “What happened then?”

“Everything changed in an instance, it did.”

The young lady, so recently the devoted lover, became a tigress. With flushed cheeks and blazing eyes, she let loose a torrent or rage and abuse upon the Union soldiers.

“Yankee brutes, Lincoln hirelings, scum of the North, and cutthroats” were hurled at the men as she let loose her hatred of the Union. Familiar with the favorite expressions of southern ladies, the guard with due deliberation proceeded with the search. Down in the cellar, they unearthed a young man with complete telegraph offices, the wires leading underground to Fredericksburg. They brought the cringing knave up into the habitable world, and he pleaded piteously for his cowardly life. The sight of his abject fear aroused the genuine affection of the young lady, and she begged in tears with the lieutenant to spare the life of her dear husband.

“A married woman!” I said. “And here she thinks we’re brutes?”

It seems that she had played lover to the lieutenant for the sake of the little information she could squeeze out of him for the use of the rebels.

This was only one such story I’d heard since joining the cause very early in the war. There were many instances where southern women served as decoys, and then their men were taken prisoner. Some were even taken to their deaths. They did not hesitate at anything, if they could cripple a Yankee. As a reasonable man, I knew that the same thing might exist on the other side, if given the chance. Neither side was exempt from fighting the battle of war however they might be able to win.

Jonathan and I soon made our good-byes as we knew the light of day would soon be gone. At least we’d found a way to forget about being away from home on Christmas Eve. As we rode away, I felt pleased with my decision to leave camp for a few hours. But dark clouds descended when we were gone not much more than a mile. At first, I thought we’d stayed too late and nightfall descended upon us.

The rain began in great big dollops of water, and then came faster until we were hard pressed to see the rutted road before us. When we met a group of officers on horseback, who were shouting and obviously had enjoyed some Christmas spirits, I struggled to keep my horse steady. They shouted insults to us when we ignored them.

“Too stuck up they are,” one said.

“They couldn’t win this war any better than two pups still sucking on their mother’s teats,” hurled another.

Jonathan and I concentrated on the narrow roadway. I worried that my horse might take a wrong step and end with us both in the ditch. We passed by them without giving any mind to the officers. One of them turned his horse back toward us after we passed.

“Why did you not salute your superior officer?”

“We weren’t aware that we must salute every jackass we meet,” my friend said.

I secretly applauded the rejoinder, but hoped it wouldn’t lead to an altercation. We hadn’t meant any disrespect, but were concentrating on passing without incident with our horses since the road was rutted from the rains of the previous weeks, and there was a precipitous drop off to our right.

In great rage, the officer demanded our names with regiment and company. These we truthfully gave him. He was young and green, and probably quite drunk, or he would not have turned back for such a condescending purpose. It was bound to be a very long war indeed for someone demanding salutes in precarious or even dangerous situations. It made me wonder how we could defeat the Confederacy if we practiced warfare amongst our fellow soldiers.

“I fear the winter rains have returned,” Jonathan shouted to me as he drew abreast.

“If this keeps up, it will be even more impossible to get supplies,” I said. I peered through the rain that had only let up a bit and saw flickering on the other side of the field to the south of us.

“Jonathan, look over there!” I pointed to the light.

“It’s a house. It may be filled with Confederates, but what have we to lose?”

“Just don’t be taken in by any fair maidens.” I led my horse across the field and toward the warming light of Christmas Eve candles and fires.

As we drew closer, I could see that it was a modest farmhouse, but the candles on the Christmas tree blazed from the front window. We tied up our horses to the front porch railing. A small barn stood behind the house, but I could just make out its outline in the cloud-filled gathering dark. A woman opened the front door. She walked out onto the porch, all the while peering at us.

“You’re not the doctor,” she said. “Who are you, and what is your business here?”

“We’re about two miles from our camp,” I began. “It began pouring, and our horses were having trouble on the road.”

“You’re Yankees.” She spoke in a flat voice. We would not be welcomed here.

“We are, but we mean no harm.” Jonathan pulled a white handkerchief out of his pocket and waved it above his head.

“Are you expecting a doctor?” I asked. “You seemed surprised that we weren’t the doctor.”

I wanted desperately to climb the steps to the covered porch, but she was not welcoming.

“My sister is in labor, and we sent for the doctor hours ago.”

“The roads are terrible.” I swept my arm out over the rain that had started to pick up. “How far apart are the pains?”

She pursed her lips. She didn’t want to respond, but then I heard a noise from inside, and she turned her head toward the front door.

“Five minutes, maybe closer together by now.”

“I spent much of my childhood on my grandfather’s farm,” I began. “I don’t know much about humans, but I’ve assisted on plenty of births of our animals. I could perhaps provide some assistance.”

Her face went through a gambit of emotions until worry for her sister seemed to win out.

“I suppose I don’t have any choice. I’ve never seen anything born before in my life.”

“My name is William Bradford, and this is Jonathan Cameron.” I took a couple of steps toward the door, and then considered what might put her most at ease. I pulled my rifle from my shoulder and set it down on the step. Jonathan did the same thing.

“I’m Susanna Wolfson. Please come onto the porch where it’s dry while I warn my sister. She’ll be none too pleased that her help comes in the form of a Yankee soldier.”

We waited in the cover of the porch while our clothes dripped. She soon returned with towels.

“I’ve asked the house maid to rustle up some dry clothes. My father recently passed, and I’m sure there is something in his room that will do for now.”

After I’d changed into some dry, albeit large clothes, Susanna led me into a darkened bedroom at the top of the stairs. I found the sister, Elizabeth, in the throes of a labor pain. A Negress, I assumed a slave, stood fanning her.

“How long since the last one?” I asked her.

“Four minutes gone.”

I nodded and turned to Susanna. “Do you have someone who can start the boiling of water and making us compresses?”

“We have water boiling.”

I asked them to bring me hot towels that could be laid on her swollen belly.

“You’re a Yankee,” Elizabeth muttered from her bed once the pain stopped. “Are you going to cut my baby out of me and leave me to die?”

“Of course not,” I said. Her question left me nonplussed, but I supposed not out of order, when to her mind, I was the enemy.

“There are no gentlemen in the Yankee army,” Elizabeth said through clenched teeth. “You are all villains and cutthroats.”

“I assure you, I was raised to respect all living things,” I said. “It’s this war that has caused us to be enemies on opposite sides of the field. I have no intention of anything other than helping you bring your child into the world.”

“Even if I name him Johnny Reb?”

“Even if you name him Jefferson Davis.”

That brought a smile to both of the sisters. Finally headway.

“From what I know of the birthing process, it will still be some time before your little Johnny makes his way into the world. I’ll leave you for now. Try to rest when you can.”

Susanna and I walked out into the hallway.

“You and your friend must be hungry. We have the remnants of our supper that we can share.”

“That would be surely appreciated.”

Jonathan and I sat at the kitchen table eating the pork and potatoes laid out before us. There was cornbread as well. It was the best meal we’d seen in weeks, and we made it disappear in no time.

“We hate the Yankees, you know.” Susanna poured us steaming cups of coffee. “You may be acting like gentlemen right now, but I have no faith that you won’t rob us blind before you leave.”

“Have you known any Yankees before tonight?” I asked.

“No, but we’ve heard all the stories. Yankees have no regard for the dignity of life. You are scourges upon the earth.”

I saw Jonathan squirm in his seat. I struggled to keep my temper. I even managed to smile at her pronouncement.

“So I take it all the Confederate soldiers are gentlemen?” I asked in as mild a tone as I could muster under the circumstances.

“Yes, every one.”

“Think again. Is there not at least one man in the Confederate army whom you would hesitate to associate with?”

“Well, yes, perhaps one.” Susanna’s response came slowly, but at least there was the opening I wanted.

“Now, really aren’t there many?” I asked

She looked at me with a frown. I thought I might have stepped over a boundary, until she responded.

“Well, I’ll be honest with you. There are many, but most of them are gentlemen.”

“That is exactly the case with the Yankee army.” I had gotten through to her. “The great majority of its numbers are gentlemen, but it is to be regretted that a few are not, and tonight maybe we’ll prove the truth of this statement.”

“He’s right, you know,” Jonathan interjected. “Just tonight we were almost run off the road by a Yankee officer who thought we should have been saluting him instead of keeping our horses from falling into a ravine. We might still be court martialed since he took down our names.”

Susanna stood and began pacing. “It’s so hard when all you hear are the horrible things, and we’re all on edge right now.”

“That’s what war does,” I said. “It’s even harder when we’re fighting our fellow countrymen. Do you know sometimes when we’re out on picket on quiet nights, either one of us or one of the Confederate soldiers will raise a white handkerchief, and then we’ll both come to the line to pass the night away in conversation?”

“That’s hard to believe.” Susanna stopped pacing and sat down at the table.

We heard commotion at the front door and went with Susanna to see what might be happening. Relief flooded through me, when she greeted the man as Dr. Johnson. I wouldn’t have to birth a baby after all. She led him upstairs, but when she came back down, she invited us into the parlor. She went to the piano.

“It always calms me down to play, but I’m afraid I only know Confederate songs.”

“We will take no offense, but will enjoy the entertainment,” I assured her.

She played the Confederate Wagon, the Bonnie Blue Flag and others. Afterwards, she whirled upon the piano stool to face us.

“You have been so kind, I think I will play the Star Spangled Banner for you.”

By the time she had finished, the rain had stopped. Jonathan and I decided we should head back to our camp. All appeared calm in the upper region of the house.

“Thank you, Susanna,” I said as we prepared to leave after donning our damp uniforms. “It has been a pleasure to meet a true southern lady.”

“And I to meet two Yankee gentlemen.” She grasped my hand to shake it. “I shall tell Elizabeth to keep the faith that her husband may be in the hands of men such as you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He was taken prisoner of war in Fort Lafayette last month,” she said. “We’ve heard nothing since then.”

“I shall look into this,” I promised. “And send word either in person or through a courier as to his well-being.”

“Then please stay the night until the baby is born so you may send him word that he has a child.”

“Nothing would please us more,” I said.

As we settled on the living room floor for a dry night’s rest, I reflected on our day. I suddenly remembered that in a few hours it would be Christmas.

“Merry Christmas, Jonathan. It may not be home, but we’ve all been given a great gift tonight.”

“What’s that?”

“We’ve all learned that we are much more than this pointless war.”

And as we drifted off to sleep, the strains of a baby’s cries wafted down the stairs. New life pulsed as night settled over us, and I fell asleep with hope for the first time in almost two years.

THE END

Remember to download the whole collection by clicking here.

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Minty’s Kiss Lives On

 

Minty's Kiss draft 1_edited-1I hope to start writing a romantic Christmas novella this month. This story, Minty’s Kiss, will be released in a box set with other authors, and all the stories will feature pets–nice, sweet Christmas stories starring a lovable pet.

Only one pet came to mind when I signed up to participate in this box set. Minty. Sweet, eccentric Minty, named by my daughter Anna when Minty chose us as his people.

Our Florida house had a raised floor beneath our bedroom. One Sunday afternoon, we heard a sound that resembled a creaking door. It continued throughout the day and night, yet when we looked under the floor, we couldn’t see anything.

The next day, we took a flashlight and shined it under the house since the squeaking continued sporadically. Eyes glowed back at us, but we couldn’t see what it was attached to. We began leaving bits of food under the floor. Cheese disappeared first. Then we began laying the food closer and closer to the edge of the house. Eventually, we saw a ball of gray fur surrounding those greenish eyes. The shy, scared ball of fur squeaked and hesitantly came closer and closer to us until five-year-old Anna had him eating out of her hands.

“I want to call him Minty,” she declared after she was able to pick him up. He shook with fear at first and didn’t like being up in the air. He liked to sit in laps, but balked and scratched when we stood.

We lived on a dirt dead-end road. We believe Minty, and maybe other kitties, was dropped out of a car—hence, his fear of heights—and left to survive, or not, on his own. That little guy, probably not more than five weeks old, walked a quarter of a mile from the road to our home where we welcomed him and sheltered him from the bad things in the world.

Minty never recovered a proper meow. For eighteen years, he squeaked to announce his presence or to demand something from us. However, that cat could purr so loud we could hear him throughout the house. He refused to use a litter box, but he never left deposits in the house. He slept inside during inclement weather, but mostly he roamed the perimeter of the property and had spots to sleep, thanks to several outbuildings on our twenty acres.

Minty body“Love like Minty” is the title of a painting by Anna, created not long after we put Minty to rest eighteen years after he joined our family. The painting hangs in my living room, reminding me every day that to love like Minty is a very noble standard to follow. We buried him in a spot overlooking the front door of the house where he guards over where my ex-husband still lives, and Anna still considers home.

There are so many Minty stories, but one thing remained constant through his eighteen years. He loved us fiercely, and he always knew when one of us needed comforting. He paid back our kindness a million times over the years. When Anna stayed home from school with the flu or a cold, he’d climb into bed with her and stay until she felt better. When any of us were sad, Minty instinctively knew and kept close by in case we needed him. His kisses consisted of a very scratchy tongue swipe across the cheek. Just once, but enough to let us know he cared.Minty eyes

He fought all the wildlife that came near our house and had plenty of battle scars to prove it. Once he came home in the morning with a gaping wound on his neck requiring stitches to heal. We believe a bob cat may have done the damage. I bet whatever it was, it ended up in worse shape.

MintyIt will be an honor and a delight to share Minty in my novella. He will always remain as an inspiration for how to love unconditionally.

 

 

Happy Sixty to Me

BookSigningToday I turn sixty. How did I manage to live this long when it all seems to be a blur that spun me around so quickly I’m dizzy? I don’t feel sixty. I keep telling myself the number doesn’t matter. It only matters if I allow it to matter. I do know this birthday more than any other thus far reminds me that I am no longer middle-aged. I don’t know what I am, but more than half my life is over. Maudlin thought? Perhaps it could be. I’ve decided to use it as a motivator. I spent far too many moments and hours in worry, angst, and distress during the first six decades of my life. Sometimes they overrode the extreme magic also occurring.

No more of that. Now it’s onto the magical part and time to leave the crap behind. So I begin by sharing this post I wrote two years ago about my birth. Truly, if my life began in such a wonderful way, then I need to make sure the rest of it is equally magical.

magical

magical

From December 2012: I’ll admit today’s post is highly self-indulgent and probably borders on sheer fiction. But it’s my birthday, and to paraphrase Lesley Gore, I’ll write anything I want to. This is the story of my birth as told to me by people no longer around to dispute my account of it. All memory is fiction anyway, so here is mine.

On a dark and dreary Thursday afternoon two days before Christmas, my mother felt the first contractions.

She ignored them as she prepared Christmas for her four sons, ranging in age from sixteen to five.

By four o’clock, she could no longer fight the eight-pound bundle knocking down below. As snow began to fall outside, she called my father at work.

“Meet me at the hospital,” she said.

My mother walked the four blocks to the large rambling house serving as the hospital in our small Michigan town. The snow, heavy and wet, continued to fall.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

With the holiday looming and the snowstorm producing, the doctor on duty sent home his staff by the time my mother arrived. When the doctor determined my imminent birth, he did the only thing he could. He enlisted my father as his assistant.

The year was 1954, and my mother had given birth four times before. Fathers didn’t go near the delivery room in those days. It’s doubtful if he was even at the hospital when my brothers were born.

The doctor instructed my father to hold the bottle of ether under my mother’s nose as needed for pain as the contractions came closer and closer together. My mother said my father became stingy with the anesthetic at one point, and that was a mistake.

“Give me the damn ether – I’ve done this a few times before, and I know what I need,” she screamed.

My father gave her what she desired.

About two hours after my mother’s call to my father, I entered the world at 6:15 p.m. My father stared in wonderment at the screaming creature in his hands.

He gave my mother news she’d wanted for a very long time, “It’s a girl.”

Baby Patti with her mother

Baby Patti with her mother

My father rushed home to my four older brothers watching my family’s first black and white television set purchased only months before. He rushed into the living room and said, “Boys, you have a baby sister!”

They looked up from the TV. One of the brothers asked, “What’s for dinner?” before turning back to the tiny screen in the large cabinet.

Four boys and a girl - 1973

Four boys and a girl – 1973

My mother stayed in the hospital for ten days and wrote my brothers a note, which I still have in my baby book. However, I can’t find the baby book, and I can’t find a photo of me with my father except for one printed in a newspaper when I was ten. In all my moves in the past seven years, things have been lost and rearranged. As a result, I write this blog in honor of my fifty-eighth birthday on December 23 as a way of preserving the story of my birth.

My brothers eventually took an interest in the sister they never quite understood, my mother kept me in ribbons and lace until the ’60s hit, and for the rest of my father’s life, I remained “Daddy’s little girl.”TigersI wish you all a magical holiday season filled with peace. No greater wish for you than to know the love I’ve experienced thus far. SanAntonioRiverWalk2014

Love Like Jesus

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Today many people in the world are celebrating Christmas. We open our presents; we visit with family; and we eat too much.

For centuries, this time of year resonates with celebration from Hanukkah to winter solstice. But the actual celebration of Christmas began as a way to honor the birth of Jesus. So on this day, I offer what I believe are some of the most important lessons we can incorporate into our lives, and they come from the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus taught through words and example about love. It’s the simplest concept in the world, but the hardest to embrace at times.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

In my humble translation, this does not mean to brag or announce your light, but to let your light, your example shine through your existence. In the writing world, it’s called “show, don’t tell.” You don’t have to shout out “I’m a good person.” Be that good person and the world will know.

Matthew 5:43-44 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Tough one, I know, but it’s worth the effort. It takes a lot less effort to love someone than to hate them. To love is to forgive and when we forgive, we unleash a sled full of negativity. Forgiveness is simply the choice to change our perceptions.

Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

A woman I admire recently told me she lives by this teaching. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort in our everyday lives to incorporate this, but it is worth it. And when we act unto others as we wish them to act unto us, we pay it forward as well. There’s a chance our actions will multiply out into the world, and I’d much rather positive energy repeated than negative.

Matthew 7:1-5 Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your own eye?

This is one of the most important teachings. One thing I have learned during my five decades plus on this earth: Unless you’ve walked in the actual shoes and footsteps of another person, you have no idea the motivation behind that person’s actions. We tend to look at a person and put our experiences and background on his behavior. I don’t want to be judged by another person’s experiences. Judge me only until you have experienced what I have experienced in this lifetime. I catch myself judging others too often, but I’m able to recognize it most of the time. All of the other teachings of Jesus fall right into line with this one.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

There’s really nothing more to add except to wish you all an abundant and peaceful Christmas, Hanukkah, winter solstice, Kwanza, or whatever else you choose to celebrate at this time of year. Whatever you celebrate, do it with love, and 2013 is sure to be the best year ever.

 

My Birthday Story

angel birth?

angel birth?

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’ll admit today’s post is highly self-indulgent and probably borders on sheer fiction. But it’s my birthday, and to paraphrase Lesley Gore, I’ll write anything I want to. This is the story of my birth as told to me by people no longer around to dispute my account of it. All memory is fiction anyway, so here is mine.

On a dark and dreary Thursday afternoon two days before Christmas, my mother felt the first contractions.

She ignored them as she prepared Christmas for her four sons, ranging in age from sixteen to five.

By four o’clock, she could no longer fight the eight-pound bundle knocking down below. As snow began to fall outside, she called my father at work.

“Meet me at the hospital,” she said.

My mother walked the four blocks to the large rambling house serving as the hospital in our small Michigan town. The snow, heavy and wet, continued to fall.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

Rowe Memorial Hospital in Stockbridge, Michigan is now a private residence.

With the holiday looming and the snowstorm producing, the doctor on duty sent home his staff by the time my mother arrived. When the doctor determined my imminent birth, he did the only thing he could. He enlisted my father as his assistant.

The year was 1954, and my mother had given birth four times before. Fathers didn’t go near the delivery room in those days. It’s doubtful if he was even at the hospital when my brothers were born.

The doctor instructed my father to hold the bottle of ether under my mother’s nose as needed for pain as the contractions came closer and closer together. My mother said my father became stingy with the anesthetic at one point, and that was a mistake.

“Give me the damn ether – I’ve done this a few times before, and I know what I need,” she screamed.

My father gave her what she desired.

About two hours after my mother’s call to my father, I entered the world at 6:15 p.m. My father stared in wonderment at the screaming creature in his hands.

He gave my mother news she’d wanted for a very long time, “It’s a girl.”

Baby Patti with her mother

Baby Patti with her mother

My father rushed home to my four older brothers watching my family’s first black and white television set purchased only months before. He rushed into the living room and said, “Boys, you have a baby sister!”

They looked up from the TV. One of the brothers asked, “What’s for dinner?” before turning back to the tiny screen in the large cabinet.

Four boys and a girl - 1973

Four boys and a girl – 1973

My mother stayed in the hospital for ten days and wrote my brothers a note, which I still have in my baby book. However, I can’t find the baby book, and I can’t find a photo of me with my father except for one printed in a newspaper when I was ten. In all my moves in the past seven years, things have been lost and rearranged. As a result, I write this blog in honor of my fifty-eighth birthday on December 23 as a way of preserving the story of my birth.

My brothers eventually took an interest in the sister they never quite understood, my mother kept me in ribbons and lace until ’60s hit, and for the rest of my father’s life, I remained “Daddy’s little girl.”Tigers

Christmas Traditions

DSC02211By Patricia Zick @PCZick

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An ornament celebrating Robert’s and my first Christmas together

I grew up in a family steeped in traditions during the holidays. This year, for various reasons, I almost didn’t put up a Christmas tree. Since we won’t be in our home for the actual holiday, we decided it best to not go to the local Christmas tree farm and cut down an eight-foot evergreen and haul it home. That’s a tradition my husband and I started on our first Christmas in our new home two years ago, and I missed it this year. Instead, I hauled out the spare artificial tree I’ve had for nearly two decades and put it in the showcase spot in our front room.

It may not smell like the outdoors, but once I decorated it with all my ornaments, I realized in my living room now stands a story of my life.

An ornament made by my  mother with a photo of my daughter

An ornament made by my mother with a photo of my daughter

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My first ornament – he’s lost his arms but not his charm

I don’t make sloppy joes on Christmas Eve, but my brothers’ families still adhere to that tradition. I didn’t put up the ceramic nativity this year, and I already regret it because it always brings me peace to gaze at those small figurines depicting the true story of the season. My brother Don and I painted and repaired those characters each year although I haven’t done much of anything to them except glue the baby Jesus’ hand back on with super glue last year. There weren’t that many happy memories from my childhood so I treasure the good ones I do have. I also treasure the memories of Christmas Eve when we set up Mom’s old sewing table in the living room in front of the tree. Mom always found an appropriate tablecloth and placed candles on either end. One of my brothers would read the Christmas story from the Bible. Afterwards, I would sing Away in the Manger. Then I’d hear my oldest brother say, “Ho, ho” from the top of the stairs, and my family always expected me as the youngest to believe it was Santa. Like most families, we mixed our holiday metaphors and celebrations into one big happy pot of tradition.

My Michigan roots

My Michigan roots

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My Florida years

My family isn’t all that unique. There many things we didn’t do well, but we knew how to celebrate Christmas. My parents have since passed. Santa brother and manger-painting brother both died several years ago.  I’m left with memories, some ornaments, and a warm feeling in my heart for this time of year. But I’m also here to make new memories with my husband, my daughter and her boyfriend, and other family and dear friends.

What are your favorite holiday memories (from any holiday)?

Happy holidays whatever form they take. May you find peace and love in all you do.