Tag Archives: Christmas

12 Days of Christmas PETS — Bonus New Years Post

Happy New Year every one!

To celebrate I’m adding a bonus blog post today. This one is a logo for the 12 Days of Christmas Pets designed by my friend Hannah Eber.

Scanned DocumentHow cute is that?

Hannah is a 3rd year in University of Cincinnati DAAP’s industrial design program. She works mostly in product design, but enjoys handlettering and graphic design as hobbies. Also loves: sketching, dancing, playing the bass, eating steamed crabs (in addition to most all foods), and slowly reading classic novels.
Visit https://www.behance.net/eberhr for some of her work in progress.


Day Seven: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

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Artist Julia DeNuzzio did this special  picture for her mother, Sue, for Christmas. The subject is of Matilda, the family’s beloved Bichon who passed away this April. Matilda was the family’s only dog and they had her for 14 years.

“We felt very blessed for having her for as long as we did.” Said Sue. “This is the first Christmas with out her and we really miss her.” That made the painting even more special for the family. “I love the look in her eyes, and the little pink nose is right on.”


Matilda DeNuzio


Julia attends Wake Forest University where she majors in Studio Art and minors in French and Entrepreneurship.



Day Five: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

Scanned DocumentMy cousin Shannon Baker commissioned artist Sam Peterson to paint this picture of her dogs Pete and Josie for Christmas a few years ago.

Shannon;s pups

Sam Peterson is a visual artist who explores his relationship with other species using many different mediums. He works on commission, using either photos he takes of the subject, or photos chosen with the client. The works are small, intimate, lively, and thoughtful. His most recent commission was for the recently deceased beagle mix Tangerine, whom he drew in a field of bluebonnets (she’s Texan) that turned into butterflies arching into the sky, representing her now-free spirit.

Learn more about Sam and his art at handsofsam.wordpress.com .

Day Three: 12 Days of Christmas Pets

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Today’s Christmas Pet is a “2 fer” and it comes to us via my friend Debby Deweese. Debby and her daughter, Hillary, are the human companions for Shelby and Champion.

Shelby and Champion

Shelby and Champion

Shelby the 10 year old poodle and Champion the 1 year old, three legged chihuahua are new friends for the holidays. Champion can be found on Instagram at champion_the_tiny_dog

Day Two: 12 Days of Christmas PETS

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The second offering in our “12 Days of Christmas Pets” comes from artist Jedediah Kahl.




Puppies First Christmas. Copyright Kahl 2014.

Puppies First Christmas.
Copyright Kahl 2014.

Jedediah Kahl is a young illustrator. He earned his AFA degree in Fine Art at the Community College of Baltimore County in 2008 and then transferred to the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design where he earned is BFA is Illustration in May of 2013. Since graduating he has been creating illustrations for several different organizations and companies and operates his own company, Jedediah Kahl Illustration. Some of those organizations and companies include: Cliffs of the Nuese State Park in NC, Saint Joan of Arc Catholic School in Aberdeen, the Maryland Ranger School, Cedar Fort Publishing and Media in Utah and many more.

Jedediah traditionally works by hand with the inclusion of some digital media. Recently his work has incorporated hand drawn black and white ink work with either watercolor or digital color.

Within his company he has published two different books. The first, “You Don’t Understand” is a children’s book meant to teach about sharing and the second, “Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Mind” is an illustrated collection of ten different Edgar Allan Poe stories that explore the workings of peoples minds. He also has a collection of greeting cards and a series of Christmas ornaments.

You can visit his website at: http://jedediahkahlillustration.weebly.com.
To contact him you can either submit a submission on his contact page on the website,
e-mail him at jedediahkahl@yahoo.com or call him at (443) 847-3227.

12 Days of Christmas STORIES, Kringlelander (Conclusion)

12th Night is almost here and our celebration of words and stories is almost at an end.

Here’s the conclusion of Kringlelander.  Click HERE for part one.


(Part 2)
by Rita

Flake 3

“Three centuries ago…” Elrond started to tell another of his long stories as the globe of snow settled to a new scene — a small, peaceful, snow-cover village appeared. “13 elves set out from Rivendell to learn the ways of the great craftsmen of Olurgius.”

Evidently the journey was long (though perhaps not as long as it took Elrond to tell me about it) and dangerous. “Only the bravest and strongest of elves could hope to make it there and back again…

“Thirteen left that day, all experts in their field. There was Maylifor, son of Mandiglor, master of silver and gold, maker of Solobigolh…” He  began to list each elf’s special skills and the weapons he made, and the warrior elves who used the weapons, and the battles in which those elves saw action …

After “Hardobim, son of Helomagrim…”  (the fifth elf in the series) I put up my hand “13 elves went on a journey to learn new skills, I got it.”

Elrond did that thing where he both raised his eyebrow and squinted at the same time then continued. “But low, the 13 did not make it to Olurgius for the winter was long and difficult  and many hardships befell the weary travelers. Lost was the band and desperate in their plight when a glimmer of hope from an expected place shone upon them.

“A roaming band of Dwarves came upon this noble crew and added them in their time of weakness. They brought 13 to their diminutive lair. No miners they, these dwarves were craftsmen. And so the elves found kindred spirits in their rescuers.

“Winter thawed to spring, and spring bloomed to summer. The grateful elves taught the dwarves all the knew, and the bearded ones taught the 13 many tricks and skills they had learned under the mountains. As fall fell into winter the travelers decided to stay one more season in the village before finishing their journey to Olurgius.

“When they returned to Rivendell they became the greatest masters of sword and shield. Their fine blades sang through the air in the Battle of Billingorarth…” the elf elaborated for several more minutes, whipping himself into a froth of excitement before I held up my hand again.

“So I’m to have some fine bit of elvish armor up at my cold castle, then?’

Annoyed, Elrond gave me THAT look — you know the one — and cut to the chase. “Alas, Santaron, no. Your love of the pipe and pint have made you oblivious to the most obvious once again.”

Hmmm, he had me there.

“Long winter nights make for the strangest of bed fellows.” Elrond spelled out for me — the sneer on his lips was even tighter than usual. “Living among the baser creature of Middle Earth for more than a year the 13 had come to appreciate a, shall we say, certain dwarfish style.” He cleared his throat, hardly able to mouth what came next out loud. “At some point during that long winter the 13 mingled with female dwarves.” He shuttered.

“Years later a delegation of the creatures made their way to this hallowed city. Among them were 26 oddlings. Twinned pairs of young creatures, one boy, one girl, hybrid dwarf and elf from each of the 13. Too tall and refined to be dwarves, too hairy and squat to be elves.”

The vein in Elrond’s temple throbbed. “We tried to educate the half childs, but the dwarf in  them was too strong, and they were stubborn. They didn’t want to learn our refined ways. Eventually, for their own happiness we found a colony for them in the Westerland. There they have lived amongst themselves multiplying once a generation and living long, peaceful, unexceptional lives. They never managed to produce much more than a butter knife between them, but they are content — indeed happy — to make toys instead of weapons. They celebrate silly joys of childhood.”

Galadrial’s ball now showed a gathering of mid-sized creatures in bright colored clothing frolicking around a decorated evergreen tree. “They… are… the… DWELVES” She said in her spooky, superior voice. “Dwarves… with… elf… like… visages.”

Magical creatures, at least half magic, they too would need to be relocated.

She handed me the globe of snow. “Are…   you … ready… Kringlelander?” I looked in the globe and saw that a little man with a long white beard and with fur trimmed red robes stood in the door of one of the buildings.

Elrond and Galadriel did a kind of fist bump and their elfin rings clicked together.

My guest room at Rivendell disappeared and suddenly I was at the Pole.

A little deer with a red nose landed next to me. He nuzzled his snout into my pocket looking for a deer treat,  and I knew I was home.


12 Days of Christmas STORIES, The Reindeer Ride, by Lynn Reynolds

Author Lynn Reynolds sent in this lovely, touching story. You should check out Lynn’s other writing at her web site www.lynnreynolds.com or consider buying one of her novels off her amazon page at www.amazon.com/author/lynnreynolds

Flake 6

The Reindeer Ride

Lynn Reynolds

The snow wafted down on Pete’s head, gently at first, but harder as the evening wore on. He leaned closer to the little fire pit he’d dug in his corner of the Christmas tree lot. There were still an awful lot of trees here. People just weren’t in a festive mood this season.
It had been a bad year all over the county. The fish cannery up in Tilghman Heights had closed, its owners having moved their operations to a cheaper facility in Mexico. That meant over 300 folks scraping by on unemployment.  A summer hurricane had destroyed the promenade next to the beach, so the usual tourist trade had never shown up. And even the town newspaper had become a free online weekly, so that was another twenty-five people who weren’t actually getting paid for the work they did. Not to mention the suggestion that the town was so dead, it didn’t even have enough news worth printing.
Little wonder almost no one had bought a tree from Pete this year. This was the downside of being a Christmas tree farmer. You spent all year tending those little trees for one big event. If it didn’t go well, you were stuck for the rest of the year. The pre-cut trees here on the lot would get ground up for mulch. Then he’d have to cull a fair number of trees on the farm, sell the larger ones to a cabinetmaker near Tilghman Heights who used them to make knick—knacks he sold in a gift shop on the promenade.
The farm was paid off now, so he’d get by okay, supplementing with the income from the organic eggs and cheese he sold in his roadside stand. But it sure wouldn’t be a year of extravagance.
The wind picked up and whipped the snow into a whirl around Pete’s face. He was getting too old for all of this. Since Ellie had died, it was hard to find the point in maintaining Evergreen Acres Tree Farm. The farm had been the dream of their youth. In the early years, they’d even had a couple of reindeer. They would spend the whole off-season making crafts—Ellie’s ornaments for the tree and Pete’s snow globes. Thirty years ago, when Pete and Ellie had started, Christmas had still revolved around family time— not 24-hour shopping frenzies. People came to Evergreen Acres in droves then. They toured the farm, fed the reindeer, bought handmade ornaments, then cut down their tree and took it home.
A few years back, the county had made them surrender the reindeer because it said the deer might harbor some obscure Norwegian mite that could infect other mammals. Then Ellie got sick and couldn’t make the ornaments anymore, and Pete just lost heart. He’d even stopped making the snow globes.  Last year a couple of high-powered lawyers from the city had gotten into an honest-to-God fist fight over who saw which tree first, and that was it for the cut-your-own business.  It was the last and worst in a series of increasingly unpleasant occurrences. People were so hurried and so angry nowadays. This year, Pete had only done the pre-cut trees and even that wasn’t going well.
Maybe it was time to sell to the developers. Let them turn Evergreen Acres into a monstrosity of McMansions or even a business “park.” He’d go live with his son’s family in Texas. Sleep late, go fishing, finally enjoy what was left of his life.
“Excuse me,” a small voice intruded on Pete’s lavish bout of self-pity. He looked up from the workbench he used as a counter. At first, he didn’t see anyone. The twilight and the snow definitely made visibility poorer, but this was ridiculous. Pete stood and saw a little girl in a knit reindeer hat. Her cheeks and nose were ruddy with the cold. She looked to be maybe ten years old.
“Well, hello, little lady,” Pete said. “How can I help you?”
“I want a tree,” she chirped.
“Where are your parents?”
“Daddy’s hurt,” she said. “He can’t move around too well anymore, and Mommy is sad all the time lately, so she doesn’t think she wants a tree.  I decided to come and get one for her.”
Pete swallowed hard. “Well, you’re a good girl to do that. What kind of tree do you want?”
“A big one!” she said, and her eyes lit up. Pete came out from behind his counter and knelt down beside her. Up close, he could see she had big brown eyes. Just like his dear Ellie.
“I can pay for it,” the little girl said. “I was saving up all year to buy presents, but I —” She stopped abruptly. “I decided to get the tree instead. I have $20. I saved it from my allowance.”
Pete chuckled. Normally, that would buy a small tree. But what the hell? It was Christmas Eve and no one else would be coming in this weather.
“Pick whatever tree you want, sweetie,” he said. He straightened and patted her on her reindeer hat. The little antlers jingled when he did so. There were tiny little bells on the ends.
The girl beamed at him and ran ahead, up one aisle and down the next. Finally she came to a tall, fat balsam fir.
“What kind is this?” she asked.
He told her its common name. Then he added, “Some people call it Balm-of-Gilead fir. There was an ointment in the Bible called Balm of Gilead that was supposed to bring healing to anyone who used it.”
Actually, he wasn’t too sure about that. Ellie was the Bible reader and after her lingering, painful death, Pete hadn’t felt inclined to pick the big book up ever again. But it made a good sales pitch, so he used it a lot.
The girl clapped her hands. “That will be perfect! It’s just what they need.” She fumbled in her coat pocket—it was a red cloth coat, the sort a child might wear for a special occasion, like going to Midnight Mass. Pete checked his watch. It was still early yet, only 6pm. He’d been planning on closing around 7pm, because he knew that no one else would bother coming in this weather.
The girl had dug out a rumpled clutch of five-dollar bills and was holding it out to Pete. He thought about the Dad—injured in some unnamed accident and no doubt short on funds because of it. He remembered a few rough years when he and Ellie were young and he’d actually swiped some money out of Tommy’s piggy bank to buy the Christmas turkey. Even though Tommy couldn’t be home this year, he called often. He’d even arranged for the grandkids to do a Skype session with Pete before midnight Mass tonight. Pete had been grumpy about the whole thing, but now he realized what a little technological miracle that Skype call would be. Looking at the little girl, Pete realized his somewhat dreary life could be a hell of a lot worse.
“What’s your name, sweetie?” he asked.
“Tell ya what, Abby,” he said. “You keep that money.  This’ll be my Christmas present to you and your family.”
He expected a mild polite protest, but the girl stuffed the money back in her pocket and nodded solemnly.
“That’s a good idea,” she said to him, and she suddenly seemed older and wiser than her jingling reindeer hat would’ve indicated.
Pete went and got some netting and twine, bound the tree up and then dragged it to his truck. Getting too old for this sort of thing too, he thought, his breathing catching a bit as he hoisted the seven-foot tree into the truck.
“Hop up” he called, and the little girl climbed onto the running board and then scrambled up into the passenger seat. Pete banked the little flame in the firepot, then closed and locked the gate around the tree lot. He joined the girl in the cab of his Ford F-350.
“Where to, Miss Abby?”
“It’s not far. The Manning house, on Briarcliff Road.”
“Ah, so you’re one of the Mannings,” he smiled. “Sam Manning went to school with my Tommy.”
“I know,” the girl said.
Pete stole a glance at her. “Really?”
“He used to talk about playing football with Tommy Parrish a lot. He misses football most of all.”
Pete grunted a response, avoiding some trite expression of sympathy. Also, he was focusing hard on the road. The Ford had 4-wheel drive, but even so, best to take care in conditions like this. The snow was coming down harder, fat, wet flakes that would turn to rain later tonight and make an icy mess of the road when the temperature dropped in the wee hours of the morning. Pete turned the windshield wipers up higher. A dim memory scratched at the door of his brain. A car skidding on an ice-covered road last winter. Tommy had mentioned it in one of their phone calls. Sam Manning had been badly injured the day before Christmas, he’d said. Might never walk again.
Pete gave a heavy sigh. “Must be hard on your dad.”
The girl agreed that it was. “But the tree will cheer him up, especially when he knows it came from me!” She giggled, a laugh full of mischief and merriment. Pete laughed too.
“I sure hope you haven’t given your parents a fright, sneaking out on a snowy night like this.”
“They won’t know,” she said.
They drove down silent, deserted streets, their only company the yellowish glow of the streetlights and the occasional whistle of the wind. Pete turned off of Main Street, making a left onto Briarcliff. It surprised him that he remembered the way to Sam’s house, no doubt from driving his son there back in high school. But that was what? Twelve years ago. And would Sam still be living in the same house, the house he’d grown up in?
Apparently so, because little Abby pointed straight ahead and piped up.  “There it is. The grey house on the right.”
“I remember it,” Pete said.
The house was on a little hill, but the sturdy Ford easily traversed the distance in the accumulating snow. Pete halted in the driveway beside the house.
“You coming, Miss Abby?”
She shook her head until the bells on her little hat jingled. “I’m going to wait here for you to get the tree, if that’s okay.”
Pete hesitated, and then cursed his own cynicism. The girl’s feet couldn’t even reach the brakes.
“Well, you stay warm in here, and I’ll go let your mom and Dad know about their surprise.”
He traipsed up the path, noting the wheelchair ramp that had been built next to the front stairs. Poor Sam. Pete remembered him as a lanky, broad-shouldered quarterback for the high school team some fifteen years ago. Never easy to be wheelchair-bound, but must be even harder for an athlete.
Pete stepped onto the covered porch and stomped the snow off his boots. Then he rang the bell. After a few moments, a short, round woman with long red hair opened the door.
“Hello, Mrs. Manning, Merry Christmas to you,” he said. “I have your daughter’s special Christmas surprise here for you.”
The woman’s freckled face darkened. “Is this a joke? Because it’s in very poor taste.”
“I’m sorry?”
A man hobbled into view over the woman’s shoulder. It was Sam, equipped with crutches and leg braces. Pete looked forward to telling his son that Sam was back on his feet, however unsteadily.
“Mr. Parrish!” He bobbed his head by way of greeting and hobbled up to his wife’s side, the braces clanking as he approached.
“Hello, Sam. Sorry I haven’t seen you in an age. Don’t get off the farm much, now that Ellie’s gone.”
“Tommy always said his mom was your social director, sir.”
“Indeed she was, Sam, indeed she was.” After an awkward pause, Pete remembered his purpose. “I have a special Christmas surprise your little girl wanted me to bring you.”
Husband and wife exchanged what could only be termed a significant look. Pete had seen this look once or twice recently when he spoke to people younger than himself. It seemed to him to resemble the look he and Ellie used to exchange whenever his eccentric old grandfather spoke. Surely he wasn’t old enough to be looked at that way yet.
“That’s really not funny, especially at Christmas,” the woman said.
“Chrissie, I’m sure he doesn’t know,” Sam said to his wife. “I used to help out on Mr. Parrish’s farm back in the day. He’s a great guy.”
Sam turned his head to look at Pete. “You must have the wrong house, Mr. Parrish. Our girl died last year in the car accident.”
The wife gave an audible wince at the word “died.” “You don’t have to be so blunt,” she protested.
“Yes, I do,” Sam said. “We need to be able to say it.”
Pete sighed heavily. “Like cancer. Took my wife and me a long, long time to be able to say that word.”
He turned and looked back at the truck. He couldn’t see the little girl’s head in the window anymore.  Of course she wasn’t there anymore. That was how stories like this always ended.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “A little girl in a red coat picked out the tree. She rode in the truck with me. Told me to come to this house.”
He raised his hands in a gesture of utter helplessness. The motion of a man acknowledging that he was trapped in the grip of an inscrutable power. It was true that Ellie was the Bible reader, not Pete. But that didn’t mean Pete had no belief in things unseen.
“Listen,” he said. “Why don’t I bring the tree up to your house anyway? Consider it a gift.”
“What am I going to do with a tree?” the woman fumed.
“Chrissie —”
“I don’t want a tree!” she cried and she ran away from the door, into the dining room at the back of the house.
“It’s been a bad year,” Sam sighed.
“I’m sure it has,” Pete agreed. “I thought I was having a bad year, but I see now I was wrong.”
He raised a hand in a farewell gesture. “I’d tell you to have a Merry Christmas, but I know how much that annoyed me after Ellie died. Hope the new year treats you both better.”
He turned away from the door and took hold of the railing, preparing to head back to his truck.
“Mr. Parrish?” Sam called after him. Pete halted and turned to face the younger man.
“Why don’t you bring the tree up anyway? It might be a nice thing to have a tree after all. My mom’s coming over tomorrow. She’ll be glad to see we made the effort.”
Pete smiled. He remembered Sam’s mother as a fairly stern, strong-willed woman. He could imagine Sam wanting to have that tree in order to avoid an afternoon of nagging and criticism.
The snow was tapering off as Pete returned to his truck. He half-expected the tree to be gone. Wasn’t even sure the truck would be there. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure he was awake.
In any event, he knew the girl would be gone and he was right. But when he opened up the passenger door, he found her reindeer hat sitting on the seat.
“Thank you kindly, Miss Abby,” he murmured, and he stuffed it in his pocket before going around to lower the truck’s liftgate.
Sam had opened the front door wide, but Pete left the bundled tree out on their porch. The young wife, Chrissie, had returned, wiping at her eyes and nose with the sleeve of her oversize sweater.
“I’ll let the snow melt off of it before bringing it in,” Pete said to them. “You can always decorate it on Christmas morning. I got nothing to do tomorrow, I could come back and help you get it up, put the angel on top if you’d like.”
“I’m sorry I was so rude,” Chrissie said to him. “Please come in for a minute.”
Pete stomped the snow off his boots and stepped into the foyer.
Unexpectedly, Chrissie Manning took hold of Pete’s hand. “I don’t know who you saw, but my little girl is gone. A year tonight.”
“I know,” said Pete. “I remember seeing it in the news stories now. I’m so sorry for your loss. But you see, a little girl in a red coat DID come to my tree lot this evening.”     He squeezed Chrissie’s hand in his own. “She said she’d saved up her allowance money and wanted a really big tree. Picked a balsam fir. That’s also called Balm-of-Gilead fir. It’s from a Bible story. The balm was supposed to heal the sick and—” Here he remembered something else Ellie had told him. “And it was supposed to help the dead rest easier.”
This time, the familiar sales pitch caught in his throat. He felt a stinging in his nostrils as he spoke.
“The young lady left this in my truck.”
He disentangled his hands from Chrissie’s surprisingly sturdy grip. Then he pulled the reindeer hat out of his coat pocket.
Sam, who’d been the calm, equable one up until now, turned white as a sheet. He staggered back from them and slumped against the closet door in the foyer. Chrissie gasped and held out her hand for the little hat. It was beige with big white googly eyes sewn on to it. It had little pink and beige ears and a pair of black stuffed antlers with tiny bells on the tips.
“Oh, Mr. Parrish!” she sobbed and sank to the floor on her knees, burying her face in the hat.
“It smells like her shampoo,” she said, rubbing the hat against her face.
“Chrissie—” Sam murmured, his voice pleading. She looked up at him, seemed to realize his frustration. She rose and held the hat out to him. Sam’s weight still rested on the crutches, but he stretched a hand out and fingered the hat. His jaw twitched with the effort to keep his emotions under control.
“I washed her hair that morning,” Chrissie said to him. “That weird watermelon shampoo she loved. Smell it!”
She held it up higher and he sniffed at the hat. Pete thought his heart would break, watching the two of them clutching at that hat.
“I stayed behind to finish wrapping gifts that night,” Chrissie said to him. “I was going to meet them at church and then we were going to go on to my mom’s from there. But I never got to the church. And except for the funeral, I haven’t been back since. I saw their wreck on the road when I left an hour later. I made this hat with my own hands, and she loved it so. I buried her in this hat. I buried her in it.”
Sam and Chrissie stared at him, as if expecting him to explain the impossible, the ineffable.
“I guess she wanted you all to know she’s thinking of you wherever she is. She was very jolly. Laughing a lot.”
“That’s good, that’s good,” Chrissie said. “Thank you, thank you for coming. And for not running away when I yelled at you earlier.”
She kept staring at the hat.
“It was no trouble at all, Mrs. Manning, no trouble at all.”
“Will you have some cider and stay a while?” Sam asked, his voice full of emotion.
“I think I will at that,” Pete agreed.
They took his coat and hung it on a rack with some other wet things. Then they ushered him into their home, past the dining room and into the cluttered kitchen. Chrissie knelt and helped her husband adjust the leg braces so he could sit at the table with them. She brought out a box of Girl Scout cookies and took a kettle of warm cider from the stove.
Pete ate the cookies and drank the cider. He listened to Sam and Chrissie talk about their daughter, and he even told them about his Ellie.
Suddenly, during a lull in the conversation, Sam spoke up. “How does something like this happen?”
None of them had an answer.
“Why doesn’t everyone get a miracle?” Sam went on. “And why don’t we get to choose what the miracle is?”
Chrissie gave a laugh. “Because we’d all waste it on winning lotteries and being rock stars.”
“Too true,” Pete admitted.
He thought about the little girl in the reindeer hat, coming so far just to get a tree for her parents, and he thought of his Skype call with his grandkids later tonight—and then he checked his watch. It was only eight p.m. He still had a couple of hours to go.
“You know, I thank you all for the cider,” he said, rising from the table. “I think we should get that tree up tonight. It just seems right.”
Chrissie and Sam murmured their agreement, gazing at the hat that was now sitting on the kitchen table.
“Do you have a stand?”
“No,” Sam admitted. “We had an artificial tree last year.”
Pete gave him a darkly comical look. “People like you are why I’m going to wind up retiring to Texas soon.”
Sam exchanged a sheepish shrug with his wife.
“I’ll go back to my lot and get a tree stand,” Pete said. “But I have some errands to run, so I might be a little while.”
He was thinking about Christmas trees and miracles and how we don’t get to choose the miracles but sometimes we do get to make one happen.
Pete drove back to the lot and loaded a bunch of the smaller trees into the bed, along with as many stands as he had. Then he headed up to Tilghman Heights, where the fish cannery had closed and people were scrabbling to survive on food stamps and unemployment and not much hope at all.  He figured he’d just start knocking on doors and see who wanted a free Christmas tree and a story about miracles.

That was the first year. Every year afterwards, it got bigger and bigger.
Soon Pete wasn’t just delivering trees, he was delivering Christmas dinners and toys too. He sold a piece of his land to help pay for it all, but he still had plenty of room to grow his trees.
After a couple of years, Sam joined him on the rides. He always walked with a pronounced limp and he wore a back brace and couldn’t do the heavy lifting, but he drove the truck for Pete. Sometimes he brought the reindeer hat with him, if they’d heard there was someone on the route who had a real need to hear about a true miracle.
Now people call it Abby’s Reindeer Ride, after the little girl with the reindeer hat.

# # #

12 Days of Christmas STORIES: “Stars of Wonder” by Kate Shrewsday

If you aren’t already enjoying Kate Shrewsday‘s blog on a regular basis you don’t know what you are missing. Do yourself a favor and click HERE to sample her lovely writing, then hit the follow button so you can enjoy Kate’s view of the world in the future.

Here’s a little something she wrote for 12 Days of Christmas STORIES (thanks Kate!!!)…

Stars of Wonder

by Kate Shrewsday

Flake 13

So Christmas wears on, and the presents are all open, the last vestiges of the turkey are finished, and this time two odd thousand years ago the smallest wise man would be asking asking the other two, “Are we nearly there yet?”

The question would not help matters. The charm of trekking across the desert after stars would have largely worn off, and the other two would scowl and hug their cloaks to them in the chill of the desert night.

And the camels would rumble ominously. Even camels’ feet get weary sometimes.

The visit to Herod was not quite what anyone had expected. The almighty power that commands the stars was supposed to have better lines of communication between himself and the powerful leaders of his pet planet. The wise men had banked on it, and the almighty’s systems had been found wanting.

The child who was to be born king of the Jews, it was naturally assumed, would be born with the full knowledge and co-operation of the local king, Herod. And the star gave the visitors no reason to doubt their hypothesis; it glided regally up to Jerusalem, bound ultimately for Bethlehem.

But stars: they can be a tease.

Have you ever tried a telescope? Using one is like playing a fine-tuned instrument. The struggle to get a star in the cross-thread, just in the right place; the precision tuning to get that image perfect.

Tonight we went through the whole thing for the first time with my 10-year-old son. Waiting until after dark, we climbed up onto a plateau into the forest nearby and pointed the telescope at a star. Would it stay still to be observed? It would not. It dodged and weaved like a prizefighter, and because the image is inverted on the telescope when we moved one way to chase it, it would move the other way. And finally, after fifteen minutes of painstaking star-chasing, we trapped it like Tinkerbell, a dancing spot in the firmament, for long enough to view it.

And guess what. It was a sphere. A great, round reddish sphere.

Mars was coming out to play.

Yes, they can be a tease, these celestial bodies. They are anything but static, hurtling through space at 53, 968 miles per hour, but they are held in thrall to a star themselves, and it is that which gives them their game plan, a great space waltz orchestrated by Madame Gravity.

Yet they have their order. The decision to follow a star, it is a huge gamble: every star has its path, but all the paths are part of a crazy whole which walks hand in hand with the Father of Time, Chaos himself.

What must it have been like to be following one of these; for its promises not to be quite as they seemed?

The New Year approaches. Our lives have a certain order, but anything might happen, once midnight chimes.

Who knows how our story will twist and turn?

But each has its trajectory.

When it happens: may you have a Happy New Year.



12 Days of Christmas Stories — Toby the Elf, part 2

Click HERE to read part 1

Toby the Elf

Flake 9Three — Toby

Our rented Ford Bronco makes its way down the deserted main street of Katoonak.  This is about as far North as were going to get in the civilized world and Chrissie has persuaded me to stop and rest for the night.

I’m driving — she gave me a crash course in driving a stick shift — and I have been afraid of just that — crashing — ever since.  I pull over in front of the cabin.  The chains on the wheels stop screaming at us but my ears still ring from it.  The man at the gas station and general store rented us this house for the night.  It’s not very big.  One room plus bath.

We zip up our parks and make a run for the front door.  After a brief struggle with the frozen lock we are inside.  Chrissie finds the light switch and flips it on.  The cabin isn’t as bad as I had feared. It is bright inside.  The wood of interior walls has been painted white.  And it is pretty clean, just a few cobwebs and a lot of dust.  I head for the kitchen and set down the bag of groceries I brought in from the truck.  I try the kitchen facet and after a sputter or two a stream of cold water splashes into the sink.  I look over at Chrissie and smile.  “It works.”

“Hallelujah!” She’s got her parka off and she puts down her barrel duffel bag and starts to look through it.  She pulls out a blow dryer and a hand full of clothes.  “I’ll make a deal with you.”  She says with mischief.  “You let me get the first bath and I’ll let you have the bed.”

I shrug.  “You can have the bed too; just don’t use up all the hot water.”  She smiles and heads for the other door.  I start to unpack a few of the cans we bought from the man who rented us the cabin. I think about washing the dishes in the closet, but before I can start I hear the pipe sputter then moan.  I don’t want to use any water when she’s in the shower.  The water stops after only a few minutes and I realize that she must be taking a tub bath.  So I do the few dishes I think we will need.  I light the gas stove and begin to heat up a 16 oz. can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.

I straighten up the cabin.  While it is cooking I clean off the desk — there isn’t a table in here so I guess we’ll use that instead.  I set it up for dinner.

I check on the stew and when I look up Chrissie is in the room again.  She nods to the desk.  “You didn’t leave anything for me to do.”  She says without complaint.

“You can watch this,”  I indicate the stew, “while I get cleaned up.”

“O.K.”  She goes to her bag and pulls out a towel.  “Here,” she tosses it to me,  “there was only one in there.”

“Thank you.”  I grab the plastic bag the acts as my suitcase and head toward the bathroom.

Flake 10
Four — Chrissie

The stew is good, considering it came from a can.  Toby — who is usually quiet — hasn’t spoken a word since we sat down to eat.  It’s hard to believe the change in him since he was an elf.  He was always so popular; always the perfect worker bee; completely in tune with the rest of the hive.  He’s told me that one of the things he finds disheartening about his human body is that it is so solitary.  It is hard for him to be alone, disconnected from the collective.

On the other hand, I like the isolation; I like the singularness of being human.  I like that the only person I have to worry about  pleasing is me.

Except, I do try to please other people.  As Katie and I became closer and closer friends it became more and more important to me that she see me in a good light.  And, now, with Toby, I find myself being on my best behavior.  Oddly, it is very important to me that I be accepted by this down and out elf.

Luckily for me Toby is very easy to please.

I keep telling myself that I’m doing all this for the sake of Christmas.  But a big part of me is doing it for him.  At first, maybe it was out of pity, but now it is somehow more.

He looks up from his bowl, catching me staring at him, and tries to smile.  “It’s pretty good, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Toby,”  I tease him.  “You make a fine bowl of beef stew.”

He has learned that my sarcastic tone is not meant cruelly and he no longer ducks his head in embarrassment.  “Dinty Moore had more to do with it than I did.”  He says with a shrug.

We do all the dishes and pack our supplies back up for the rest of the trip.  We are both tired so we settle right in to go to sleep, me up on the bed, him in a sleeping bag on the floor near the heater.

I turn off the light and it is quiet for a minute, then I hear Toby shift on the floor.  “Chrissie?”  He sounds nervous.

“Yeah, Tob — What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”  He is quiet for a few seconds.  “Uh, I have something I have to tell you, O.K.?”

“Yeah, well, I’m listening.”

“Uh, do you remember when I said that I tried to get Santa to send someone to find you?”

“Uh-huh.”  I say with a yawn.

“Well, actually, I asked Santa to send me.”  He is quiet for a second, and when he speaks again his voice seems tighter in his throat.  “He accused me of having impure thoughts about you.”—I’m pretty sure that the old man didn’t use the term ‘impure thoughts,’ but Toby seems embarrassed enough as it is, so I don’t make him spell things out.  “Well, uh, that wasn’t  true at the time  — I mean I don’t think that I was capable of impure thoughts as an elf — but now, in this body, I don’t know that he was so wrong.”  He pauses and when he speaks again his voice is rushed.  “I find you very desirable Chrissie, I guess I always have.”

I can’t believe he is saying this to me.  My heart is in my throat.  I have never had a  man — human or elf — make me want to hear this more.  And I didn’t even realize that I desired him, until just now.  I take a deep breath.  Half of me, the sarcastic, cynical half — is waiting for him to tell me that this is all a joke.

“I, uh, wanted to tell you before we got to the Pole.”  He says quietly. “I guess I wanted to be the one to tell you.”  I can hear the frustration in his voice, but I can not make my own voice come out of my throat and tell him that I understand.  “Maybe I am only doing this for selfish reasons.”

I want to tell him that I know him well enough to know that that isn’t true, but my voice is still out of commission.  My body, however, seems to know exactly what to do.  My legs swing themselves off the side of the bed and my feet find the carpet.  I head over to the mass on the floor next to the heater.  The red “on” indicator is my only illumination, but I successfully traverse the cabin and find myself standing over Toby.

He is sitting in the sleeping bag, looking up at me, waiting to see what I am going to do.

Finally my hand extends down to Toby.  “Come on.”  My voice makes it though my throat and out of my mouth.  “It’s too cold to sleep on the floor.”

He takes my hand and lets me help him to his feet, then I lead him to the bed.

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