As I sit at our dining room table, I can see a lizard on the sliding glass door that opens to the back yard. Usually she is hanging upside down, waiting very still for a bug to hit the door, then dashes to try to catch it.”
Isn’t that like our life now – we are hanging upside down, frozen in place, waiting for something to come to us. But God encourages us to “press on”. (Phil 3:14) ” press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
I met my Valentine Feb 14, 1965
My position as an Instructor at Penn State was contingent on my working on a doctoral degree. After 2 1/2 years, my doctoral program was not going well, and I was looking for a job at a small college.
A colleague acquaintance, used a transparent ploy to “set me up” to meet a graduate student friend of hers. In November, she gave me a college bulletin which had an article about the speech department at a small college in Ohio, and told me I had to return it “in person!”. It took me several months of praying to get up the courage to call the girl. By “coincidence”, I arranged to return the bulletin on February 14th, 1965, Valentine’s Day, when the graduate women’s dorm was having an open house.
When I met Betty, I knew immediately that my prayer was answered! We talked for a couple of hours about things we had in common, then I walked across campus to a pay phone and called my mother in Michigan. “Guess what Mom, I just met the girl I’m going to marry.”
Mom’s response was, “don’t get hurt.”
After my carefully planned courtship, I proposed to Betty May 1st, 76 days later. We married August 14, on her birthday. Now, 55 years later, I can safely say — I didn’t get hurt, I got blessed!
Happy Valentine’s Day Betty!
Daddy and his brother Steve loved baseball. After high school, they played for the Ionia team. Steve was the pitcher, Daddy was the catcher. When Daddy and I played catch in the driveway, I used his big catcher’s mitt and mask.
Daddy took me to see a Detroit Tigers game when I was little. I only remember that Rudy York was the player Daddy pointed out. Before we got TV, he always listened to the games on the radio. He sat on the settle with his eyes closed, apparently asleep, but never missed a play. Mom used to say she hoped the Tigers were not playing the day of her funeral.
As a surprise, Mom sent a post card to Ernie Harwell, the legendary Tiger announcer of the day, that Bob Hicks, a fan in Ionia, was celebrating his 80th birthday by listening to the game. Ernie read it on the air, July 8th, and we all yelled “Surprise!”
Daddy taught me to play checkers when I was young. He always beat me. I found a book in my mail order catalogs, “How to Win at Checkers,” which explained the perfect game. When I started beating him, Daddy quit, and we moved on to chess. When I started beating him at chess, we moved on to cribbage. Daddy always won at card games, but I enjoyed playing with him. We played our last game of cribbage when he was 90, the last time I saw him.
The family game was “Pedro”, which was a game something like Bridge, where the players bid based on their perceived ability to take “tricks”. Daddy usually paired with Mom, and I with my sister Jan. Daddy was the best player and most aggressive bidder, Mom was the most timid, and Jan and I were cautious, but could hold our own after I got into my teens.
Pedro was also the game used at the local Grange Hall for card parties. After I was old enough, we used to go to compete. Daddy was a frequent winner. Daddy was the game player.
There are lots of programs and ways each year to celebrate the birthday of our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. Is your church doing a Christmas Eve service? I remember going to a church program that had the choir singing, and a narration of the Christmas story.
One of our friends called to tell us about her family going to church for a program featuring a live nativity scene. When the scene ended, her granddaughter looked up and asked, “Grandma, where is the mouse?”
Of course, she had read my book, “Mouse in the Manger”, so we had a big smile over her innocent question. We are delighted that children are reading and remembering Micah the mouse who was present at the birth of Jesus. Hopefully, they will also remember who He is, as savior of the world.
Just in case you don’t know where the mouse is, link over to robertzhicks.com and take a look. The story of the birth of Christ is not just for Christmas, but all year long. In fact, it is a good baby shower gift for all life long.
Enjoy Christmas, and have a wonderful, blessed New Year!
Ladybug Lil Wins An Awar
Just learned that my picture book, The Ladybug Known as Lil, won the Bronze Award in the prestigious Royal Palm Literary Awards (RPLA) competition given by the Florida Writer’s Association (FWA). The 2019 awards were announced at FWA’s four-day annual conference in Altamonte Springs, Florida.
The Royal Palm Literary Awards competition is a service of the Florida Writers Association established to recognize excellence in its members published and unpublished works while providing objective and constructive written assessments for all entrants. I’ve had good results with this organization and the contest!
Chris Coward, RPLA chairperson, declared, “This year was the most competitive RPLA we’ve ever had,” In all, there were 513 qualified submissions in 28 adult genres and 5 youth genres, with published and unpublished entries considered separately.
The Ladybug Known as Lil, won the Bronze award for Unpublished Children’s Picture Books. My other entry, Danny the Dragon, was a Finalist in the Published Children’s Picture Books.
Mouse in the Manager was a Finalist in the 2015 RPLA, and Tommie Turtle’s Secret was best Children’s Picture Book and Book of the Year in 2008. All three books have been endorsed by the American Dyslexia Association for easy reading for children.
In case you’ve forgotten the story of Ladybug Lil — Ladybug Lil, star singer at the Pumpkin Club, rides her roach through the night to find sheriff Bugaboo, and ride with the posse to save Pumpkin Town from the invasion of the dreaded Aphid Gang.
There is an extensive THINGS TO LEARN section with information about the insects in the story. It’s a good introduction to entomology, the study of insects.
Visit www.RobertZHicks.com for information about my award winning books.
by Robert Z. Hicks
It’s Christmas in Hawaii and there isn’t any snow.
Christmas lights in palm trees are swaying to and fro.
The sun is bright and warm, and shining all day.
Can Santa really come, with no snow for his sleigh?
It’s Christmas in the islands, and all over town,
Keikis packing slippers and their best sleeping gown.
They’re goin’ sleep at grandma’s hale, and see the family.
They’ll hang mistletoe and holly, and trim a Christmas tree.
They’ll be making cookies, malasadas and more,
To share with the neighbors who live next door.
There’ll be barbecue chicken and Christmas kaukau,
And haupia pudding and ono laulau.
The keikis all snuggle up cozy in their beds,
While visions of Li Hing mui dance in their heads,
When up on the rooftop they hear “pitter patter”.
Hoof beats of reindeer? Naw, just rain, it’s no matter.
“Gather ‘round all kanes and wahines too,
There’s lots of presents for all of you.”
Quick as a wink Santa gave gifts to all,
To Maile a muumuu, and to Kimo a ball.
Then Santa with a shaka sign to you and to me,
Jumped in da canoe and set out to sea.
He called “Mele Kalikimaka”, as he sailed out of sight,
“Aloha nui loa, and to all a good night.”
Hale house or home
Malasadas deep-fried doughnut – may be filled with pork, coconut, etc.
Haupia coconut pudding
LauLau pork or fish wrapped in taro or luau leaf
Li Hing mui candy made from salty plums.
Tutu grandma or grandparents
Wahines girls or young women
Muumuu a loose, brightly colored dress
Shaka sign sign of friendly intent or “Hang Loose”
Mele Kalikimaka Merry Christmas
Aloha nui loa much love
By Robert Z. Hicks
T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for a mouse.
He crept to the kitchen and stopped by a chair,
To nibble at breadcrumbs that had tumbled down there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of candy canes danced in their heads.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there.
When up on the housetop there rose such a clatter,
The mouse jumped in alarm and thought, “What’s the matter?”
Down through the chimney came a round little man,
With a bright red suit and a Florida tan.
Over his shoulder was a bag full of toys,
Dolls for the girls, and games for the boys.
Out in the kitchen, still tarrying there,
The mouse heard a scuffle and sounds of despair.
He ran down the hall to a terrible scene,
Santa tangled in cobwebs from last Halloween!
Caught like a fly, he turned and he twisted,
The more to be tangled, the more he resisted.
The mouse was dismayed by an awful thought,
“What will happen to Christmas if Santa stays caught?”
No thought for his safety, he knew what to do,
He leaped to the cobwebs and began to chew.
His teeth flashed in the light from the Christmas tree,
And in no time at all, he had chewed Santa free.
“Oh thank you kind sir,” said Santa to the mouse.
“You’ve saved me, and Christmas, so for you and your spouse,
I’ve two pounds of cheese and chocolates to share,
And a castle to live in under the stair.”
Santa dished out the presents in the blink of an eye,
Then whisked up the chimney with a wink for goodbye.
Stars twinkled above as he jumped to his sleigh,
“Up Dancer, up Prancer, let’s be on our way.
Merry Christmas,” Santa called, as he zoomed out of sight.
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Christmas was always the big family event of the year, with Christmas Eve as the most exciting part for me. Soon after Thanksgiving, we would go to a tree farm and buy a fresh cut tree, usually eight to ten feet tall to set up near the front window in the living room.
We fussed with the strings of lights because all the bulbs had to be good for the string to light. My sister Jan and I decorated the tree with many colored balls and dangling ornaments, and strands of icicles. We had a special antique angel for the top. The family was completed when my aunt Viva pulled in the driveway a few days before the big day, honking the horn to herald her arrival. Christmas Eve tradition began with kidney bean stew for supper. The stew was made ahead, so Mom wouldn’t be tied up in the kitchen.
Our gift giving tradition was to “fish” for small inexpensive gifts. Mom said that Grandma started the tradition during the Depression when there wasn’t much money for gifts. All the wrapped gifts were piled on the pool table in the front room, and a sheet tacked up over the door. We tied a string on a “fishing pole” to throw over the sheet. Someone would hook a gift on the string and call for the recipient to come “fish” it out while everyone watched to see what they got. With many small gifts, the giving could be stretched out for the whole evening.
The gifts also became a tradition. I always gave Mom a box of #2 lead pencils and packs of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum — individually wrapped, of course. I tied the pencils in a long string. I always gave my sister Jan a can of cashews, and Daddy a bottle of after shave lotion; usually Old Spice or Bay Rum. Daddy got paperback books, and Zane Grey westerns or Agatha Christi mysteries.
We vied to see who would notice the passing of midnight, and be the first to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Then we hung our stockings on the mantle over the fireplace and waded through the mounds of wrapping paper to go to bed. Christmas morning I was up early! I snuck out to once again try to shout “Merry Christmas” before someone else did. First stop was to see what goodies were in my stocking; maybe a candy bar or a small jackknife.
Mom was already up preparing Christmas dinner for the midday. Normal days we ate in the kitchen, but today we ate on the big table in the dining room. Mom usually boiled two of our own chickens, and dropped dumplings on top of them. I loved those dumplings and gravy! The rest was traditional, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert.
Finally, it was time to clean up the Christmas Eve mess. We gathered all the torn wrapping paper still piled in the living room, and put away our gifts. The tree stayed up until New Year’s Day. Either Christmas Eve or the end of Christmas Day, or both, Mom would sit down at the old upright piano, and we gathered around to sing Christmas carols.
Sigh. Christmas was over. Now, the long wait until next year. The wonderful memories lingered as we ate leftover chicken and pie and kidney bean stew.
What special memories of Christmas do you have from your childhood?
What are your favorite Christmas traditions?