LOVE IS ALL WE NEED IN A WORLD GONE MAD

MountainMiracleA dear friend called me this morning. After catching up for a few minutes, she mentioned that someone was driving her to doctor appointments. She mentioned “he,” and before I could ask her about it, she said, “Yes, I have a ‘he’ in my life. And it’s serious.”

Let me tell you about my friend, Ginny. I met her at the gym when I lived in the Pittsburgh area, and we were in the same Tai Chi class. I noticed her immediately. She was beautiful, even in her gym clothes. Her hair was always perfectly in place. She wore tastefully applied blue eye shadow and jewelry. Often, she wore a scarf tied around her neck. Slender and graceful, she worked out and went to exercise classes, often imparting her positive attitude on others.

She radiated happiness and gave me such a boost during some very difficult times while I struggled through health issues of my own and those of my husband. On my worst days, I still rose and dressed as nicely as possible remembering Ginny’s words that looking nice helped make the world better. I know she always made me feel better.

She’d been widowed for a long time, but had never shown any interest in any man though they flocked to her. She didn’t think she’d ever find love again. Did I mention that Ginny is eighty-four years old?

Eighty-four years old, and she’s found love again. “It’s the love of my greatest dreams,” she said. When I asked his age, she hesitated.

“He’s young. Very young,” she said. Then she giggled. “He’s sixty-six.”

Her daughters don’t like it one bit since he is close to their ages, so she hesitated to tell me.

I cried at her news—absolute tears of joy.

“Love knows no bounds,” I said. “Nothing matters if you love one another and you make each other happy.”

Really, what else is there?

A wedding looms. They plan to elope. Now how sweet is that? Love at any age is love for all ages.

love hands

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.

 

 

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.

 

Falling in Love Twice

two loves – the man and the city

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I fell in love twice several years ago. The first time I fell in love with my husband. The second time I fell in love with the city he called home for more than three decades:  Pittsburgh.

“You’re moving where?” family and friends asked. Even strangers asked me why I would move from Florida, the Sunshine State, to the cold north. I still am asked that question.

Each time I answer that love brought me here – twice. Pittsburgh remains a well-kept secret from most of the country, except for those of us who know about its not-so-secret charms.

How did this second love affair begin? Perhaps it began in a geography class in Michigan, my first year in college in 1974. That’s when I learned about the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converging to form the mighty Ohio, giving Pittsburgh a starring role in the Industrial Revolution of this country.

The idea of water creating our urban centers left an impression. Then I never thought much about Pittsburgh until 2009, when love brought a renaissance to my world.

Downtown

Probably the first surprise was the landscape of the Pittsburgh area. When I drove into the city from the airport, I marveled at the hills and the valley below created by the three rivers of Pittsburgh. There are particular vistas all around the city and its environs that allow me to believe anything is possible.

I lived in Florida for nearly thirty years, having moved there from Michigan in 1980. Many of the residents come from somewhere else. Finding a native Floridian resembles the search for that old needle in the haystack.

When I first came to Pittsburgh, I noticed a difference right away. Most people I met and still meet were born and raised in the Pittsburgh area. Although they might think of moving somewhere else, they really do not intend to leave. I’ve learned those who do leave tend to return.

Soon after I moved to the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported folks volunteered to paint planters downtown to freshen up for spring. No wonder Pittsburgh could reinvent itself after U.S. Steel left town. The people – not institutions – made it possible because they love this place, which uniquely exists as the western East, the eastern West, the southern North and the northern South of the United States.

Places of green still exist here because the hills make some sections uninhabitable, both surprising and delighting me. I am an urban country girl, and I have always wanted it both ways. Here I’ve found that balance in both my surroundings and in my personal life.

I love the hills, but I love the architecture of the churches, commercial buildings, and homes as well. Studying those structures is a lesson in American history all by itself. The bridges are also a wonder of engineering and architecture. Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other city in the world.

Ohio River bridge 25 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh

My love affair intensified after a visit to the Heinz History Center. I found myself curiously emotional as I learned about the city and its inhabitants. I never realized so many influential folks from Pittsburgh played an important role in my life. Dr. Benjamin Spock taught me I would not spoil my child by picking her up when she cried, and Mr. Rogers visited our neighborhood every day to reinforce the concepts of friendship and citizenship in my young daughter.

Rachel Carson, whose environmental writing helped develop awareness of DDT and the pollutants in the air, inspires me in my writing and life. Nellie Bly broke through glass ceilings allowing me privileges unknown to the women of her generation.

Stephen Foster immortalized the place I lived in Florida for nearly three decades through song. He never visited “way down upon the Suwannee River,” but he called Pittsburgh home.

Although I did not know it at the time, Pittsburgh and its inhabitants served as the backdrop to my life, from the ketchup I poured on my burgers to the polio shot I received as a child. No wonder I fell hard for this place of steel with its soft edges and open arms.

My surprise at falling in love with Pittsburgh is exemplified in the surprise that comes whenever I approach the downtown area from my home 45 minutes west of the city. Within one mile of the center of Pittsburgh, there is no view of a skyline, only the hillside and then the sign announcing the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Approaching Fort Pitt Tunnel on I-376

The tunnel is a mile long cutting through the rock of the hillside. The tunnel’s lights guide the way when suddenly daylight is seen at the end.

light at the end of Fort Pitt Tunnel

Suddenly, the car bursts out into the sunshine and I’m crossing the Monongahela River and there is the surprise and delight of a city in its Renaissance – Pittsburgh in all it glory with the Ohio to the left and the Allegheny straight ahead, and a distinctive skyline of steel and glass. That’s all it took for me to fall in love with my new city.

Pittsburgh skyline

Pittsburgh also provides the backdrop for my new marriage. As I traverse the city and experience the Strip District and its glorious markets, cruise the three rivers and cheer the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates, I am certain my decisions to marry and to move here are victories for love both times.

Heinz Field – home of the Steelers

Note: This was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on May 5, 2010 in the “Raves” guest column as “Raves: She first fell hard for a Pittsburgher, then for his city.” It’s published under my former name, Patricia Behnke, three months before our wedding.