Saturday, December 26, 2015

A time for contemplation--Tricia McGill

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Well Christmas is over and once again it is time to think about the coming New Year festivities. I hope your day was as wonderful as you hoped it would be. And I sincerely hope that your day was spent with your loved ones.

As I write this in my study in Australia (on the 24th) with my ceiling fan going and the temperature hovering around 30degC (86degF) I am singing along with the guy on the radio as he croons about sleigh bells ringing and snow in the lane outside while dreaming of a white Christmas. This is funny really as I haven’t seen snow in over 30 years, and don’t wish to. I did love snow as a child but from memory it seldom snowed on Christmas day in London and doubt it does these days either with the climate warming.
My magnificent bougainvillea
Christmas time means different things to all people. Mainly it is a time for family. I tend to think too much about those who are not as fortunate as I, the homeless, the lonely, or sick. My sister has spent two Christmas days in hospital over the years and there is nothing as depressing as being hospitalized on this special day.

I tend to spend a lot of time around this period of the year contemplating on Christmas’s past. I guess it has something to do with getting older, as I am not alone in this, I know. Being the youngest in a large, boisterous family my memories of my childhood Christmases are all good. I believed in Santa and certainly did not believe it when told by an uncaring older cousin that there was no such thing as Father Christmas. Looking back, that’s really a very cruel truth to tell a child. No, this could not be, and to this day I still believe that Santa does exist. Of course he does, if only in our imaginations. It’s part of the wonder of childhood, that belief that he has all those elves helping him to make the presents and then he delivers them to every far-flung corner of the world in his sleigh. But with this belief and adulthood comes the truth, and the story begins to unravel. There is far too much poverty and starvation in the world and there must be multitudes who are just wondering where their next meal is coming from, and not what Santa is bringing them.

I watched the ads on my TV and heard stories from friends of the massive waste that goes on around this time and despair, especially when I see the amount of food being bought and consumed. Not to mention the expensive gifts some children asked Santa to bring them. Most of my gifts were made my members of my family, and were cherished for this reason. Very few people seem to make gifts anymore and the children are more than satisfied with their I Pods, computer games and high-tech gizmos. Except for the very small who are still happier to play with the box the toy came in than the gift itself.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if these indulgent parents who spend a fortune on their children encouraged them to give up at least some of their gifts to the poor, homeless and sick?

So, this time of year brings those contemplations. While walking my dogs this morning I counted my many blessings. Here I was walking, as I do every day, with six pins holding my lower spine in shape, so that is my main blessing to count, plus being fated to live in a country where there are expert surgeons to perform such miracles, and where I am given access to their aid. I sit here able to see my words as I type, another blessing indeed. I lay down to rest each night in my comfortable bed in my home that my husband and I had built with money we were able to earn by living in a society free of restrictions.

I’ve received a 2016 diary from a friend which contains a wealth of advice that I will treasure. As I turn the page each day I will find a phrase or saying to live each day by. I have found one at random that seems a perfect gem for each and every one us. “Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”

There are also some words of wisdom on how to plan for a longer life.

“See the glass half full.” Ok, that’s me, ever the optimist. Apparently we recover faster from illness.

“Find true love.” So far, so good.

“Exercise” As mentioned above, I walk every day so should improve my physical and mental health.

“Have a social circle.” That is another of my blessings, I cherish my friends and family and know there is always someone I can call on for help if needed.

“Have a pet.” Wouldn’t be without my furry babies. They help to keep my blood pressure down, listen with interest to my grumbles, know my every mood, and they make me laugh.

“Laugh a lot.” I thank the Lord that I have laughed well through my life and continue to see the funny side of things. So that accounts for me not getting overly stressed about minor issues. My motto is, if it can’t be changed then don’t be fussed about it.

There are a few more words of advice but these just about cover the main ones to live by. I’ve just found another phrase that really hits the nail on the head. “Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” All in all, I should be around for a few more years.

All that remains is for me to wish you the compliments of the season, no matter how you celebrate this time of the year, and may all your wishes come true in 2016. And don’t forget that each day is a gift and should be lived to the fullest. And count your blessings.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Power of Christmas: The Christmas Truce, 1914

The meaning of Freedom is starkly and brilliantly demonstrated in Mikki Sadil's Civil War Era novel, The Freedom Thief.  If you haven't read this one you are missing a novel you will not forget - it's written from a young adult viewpoint, but this novel is for everyone, everywhere.

What does Christmas mean to you?

To many, particularly in the last 30 or 40 years, it represents the "Spirit of Giving", which to kids, means gifts and plenty of them; to adults...many of means charity and charitable donations they can deduct from their income tax.
   On the battlefront of the long ago days of World War One, Christmas meant much more, and in the long run, that 'much more' became the saving of many lives on both sides of enemy trenches.

                                                            The Background:

   The first five months of World War I was an enigma to both German and Allied forces. In the lower ranks there reigned supreme discontent, confusion, and unanswered questions as to what these men, on both sides, were fighting and dying for. German troops attacked through Belgium into France, but were repulsed outside of Paris by both French and British troops. No matter which side initiated a battle, neither side progressed as those in command thought they should. Allied and German troops were met with stalemates when neither side would give ground, and neither side could outwit or outfight the other. The "Race to the Sea", as the commanders called it, was little more than an exercise in frustration, as both sides continued to push forward but maintained little progress.


     Fraternization, the peaceful and sometimes even friendly interactions between opposing German and Allied forces, became a regular feature during the early months of this war. Sometimes, it manifested itself as merely passive aggression, where neither side would engage in threatening behavior. Other times, it included conversations and occasional visits from one force's trench lines to the other. The main reason this was so convenient for both sides is that the trenches were seldom more than forty feet apart...Germans in one trench, British or French in the other. The forty feet between these trenches became known as "No Man's Land," and were considered to be neutral territory.
    By November, 1914, both sides were having their rations brought to the front lines after dark, and there was observed a period of peace while soldiers collected their food. In early December of that year, a German surgeon recorded a regular half-hour truce each evening, in which each side recovered their dead, and French and German soldiers exchanged bits of news from the home front.
    When news of these peaceful interactions reached the highest ranking officers of both the Allied and German armies, they were quickly repulsed, and word was passed down on both sides that such fraternization must cease immediately. If not, those involved would be militarily punished forthwith. For the most part, that order was ignored. On December 7th, 1914, Pope Benedict XV asked that "the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sing." Officially, this request was rebuffed by both Allied and German commanders.

                                                         Christmas, 1914

    By December, 1914, there were approximately 100,000 British and German troops maintaining unofficial and unapproved cessations of hostility along the Western Front. The first truce was held on the Belgian front in a small, ancient town called Ypres. As dark fell on Christmas Eve, British  troops saw lights glowing across No Man's Land. The Germans had cut down small pine trees and decorated them with candles, as well as lining the outside edges of their  trenches with more candles. British soldiers gathered along the edges of their own trenches to listen as German voices reached them across the small piece of neutral territory.
                   Stille nacht, hellige nacht...
    The British looked at each other in confusion, never having heard those words before. Then one of the men translated: Silent night, holy night...
     They smiled and applauded as the song finished. One of the British began singing
                   The first Nowell, the angel did say...
     Immediately, all the British joined in, and when they finished, applause came from the German trenches. Then, the German voices rose again in song...
                    O Tannenbaum, o Tannebaum...
    When the song ended, the British applauded, and began singing again...
                    O Come all ye faithful...
    This time, however, the Germans joined in, singing in Latin...
                    Adeste Fideles...
    When the singing ended, both sides began shouting Christmas greetings to one another. A few minutes later, a German soldier stood and held a large sign over his head. In crudely printed English, the sign said, "We no shoot, you no shoot." He ventured slowly out into No Man's Land, still holding up the sign. A few of the Brits put down their rifles, and carefully went out to meet him. When no shots were fired from either side, more and more men, sworn to be enemies, chose to lose that fateful epithet for the time being, and joined in the celebration.
     The truce continued through Christmas Day, with soldiers from both sides exchanging small gifts, such as food, tobacco, alcohol, even such things as hand-knitted socks and scarves sent from both British and German families. Stories were shared about Christmases at home, and the traditions of each country, as well as family experiences. Soldiers teamed up together for ball games, with both sides on one team. Finally, in the late afternoon, both sides went out onto the battlefield to bring back the bodies of their recently slain comrades. British and Germans held joint services for their fallen friends. Hostilities were forgotten. As night drew near, they shook hands with one another, and retreated back into their own wet and muddy trenches, knowing that the dawn of the new day would end new-found friendships, and the fighting and killing would begin once again.

                                                           Christmas, 1914:
                                                      Along the Western Front

    Ypres was not the only place where hostilities ceased on that remarkable Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in the year 1914. It was simply the most historical. All along the Western Front, in muddy battlefields, in the broken houses destroyed by both Allied and German fire, across narrow inlets of water, German, French, Belgian, and British forces simply ceased fire. In many places, the soldiers met on neutral ground, chatted, exchanged Christmas stories and pleasantries; in others, where neutrality was difficult to come by, there was, at least, a mingling of minds across the battlefield, and for twenty-four hours or more, all fighting ceased.
     The prevailing attitude of all the men, no matter where they came from, seemed to be the question "Why are we here killing each other?" Even the higher-ranking officers of all the forces seemed unable to answer that question. They were merely following the orders of those who prevailed as Commanders-in-Chief, and who were not in the middle of death and destruction.
     The Cease Fire lasted until the late hours of Christmas Day. In the early morning light of December 26th, 1914, the battles began again, as men who had sworn to be enemies, yet had become friends for twenty-four hours, started shooting at one another once more.
      The amazing thing about this Christmas Truce was that for many days following, in Ypres, Belgium, and in other places along the Western Front, the death toll dropped. It seemed that the men of the Allied Armies, and those of the German Army, had suddenly forgotten how to hit a target.

                                                       Christmas, 2015

    Today, our world seems consumed with fear. Terrorism is the primary thought in everyone's mind, no matter how we try to hide it. It is an enemy we don't yet know how to fight, for it is not so simple as seeing someone you are supposed to hate across forty yards of muddy ground.

    My prayer for all of you, Americans and well as any others who may read this that for today, live in the true Spirit of Christmas. Enjoy your families and friends, and remember that Christmas is really all about the Spirit of Love, Hope, Joy, and Peace. Make that remembrance the focus of your lives, and put fear where it the back of the closet. We can't ignore the face of Terrorism, but we are stronger than Terror is, and we, Americans and Canadians, will prevail in the face of Evil.

   Remember: The Force is With You! And so is the Power of Christmas.

   Merry Christmas Everyone!

   Mikki Sadil

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Always Believe is a heartwarming story with all the enchantment of the holiday – a small town with stores like the Snickerdoodle Bakery and Wonderland Bookstore, a snow festival and children’s Christmas pageant, a touch of romance, and of course, a miracle or two.

It’s the first day of December, snow is in the air and Gracie Singleton Saylor is shopping for a Christmas tree, when she runs smack into Merett Bradmoore, her High School hero and his seven-year-old daughter. Seeing he’s not the happy-go-lucky guy he used to be, she’s determined to restore the gift of optimism he gave her fifteen years ago. But can she return his hope without losing her own?


As far as twelve-year old Quinn is concerned Christmas has lost its magic. Since his father’s death life has lost its sparkle. His mom is now a widow struggling to put food on the table. Quinn is no help, and the mysterious illness afflicting him only makes things worse. Even Christmas, complete with decorated trees, ribbons and bows have no meaning…then along comes Jazira.


Every Christmas Eve, Luke and Mary Cassidy’s friends and family gather to celebrate the holiday. From the kitchen wafts the scent of sugar cookies, fruit cake, and hot cider, not to mention all the other goodies. Gathered around the piano singing carols is a prelude to the Christmas Eve church service....
A match maker’s work is never done it seems. What better season than Christmas to give true love a tiny push?


Chantilly Morrison is set to launch Chantilly Frost, a new cosmetics line, by holding a “Dear Santa” contest to make women’s fantasies come true. But because of an error in the ad copy, she’s inundated with letters from children, whose scribbled wishes tug at her heart. She hires an investigator to find the letter writers so she can throw a huge Christmas party and make the children’s fantasies come true.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

THE ADVENT CALENDAR by Victoria Chatham

Over the years my Christmases haven’t been built so much on traditions as memories.

My earliest recollections of Christmas are at my grandmother’s house with a passel of assorted relatives and friends. Gran always had a real tree, with real candles placed in holders shaped liked peacocks with long feathery tales. Health and Safety measures today would have those banned in a flash! Lighting the candles was always the task of the man of the house. Being war time and with most of the men in the family being spread throughout the forces, this would be the task of any male who was lucky enough to have home leave.

As an adult with a family of my own I made sure that Christmas was a really fun time for my kids. One year we built our own Advent calendar. It started with a long piece of wallpaper taped the length of the dining room wall and a big star which had to be moved each day to indicate the progress of Wise Men’s journey as they followed the star to Bethlehem.

Each day we added something, one of the Wise Men riding his camel, or a sheep or two. The Wise Men’s robes and turbans were cut out from fabric scraps and re-purposed jewelry. Wool to make the camels realistic came from real sheep’s wool pulled from the barbed wire fences around their field. Trees were made using twigs and leaves picked up during a walk through the woods. A lot of glue was necessary for this procedure.

As the scene progressed so did the number of neighbor kids who wanted to help build the calendar. We had many discussions as to how many hills the Wise Men would have traveled over and how wide the desert was. Real sand and small pebbles came into the picture here. A swipe of paste on the paper, then the kids stood back and threw sand at it. A lot stuck but I was thankful to have a tiled dining room floor to make the resulting clean up easy. The final scene was the one we had the most fun with as we added the ox and the ass making them tactile with unraveled knitting wool in appropriate colors and cut into suitable lengths for fur. The angel over the stable had real wings, courtesy of the neighbor’s flock of white chickens which almost went into shock when they saw a dozen kids advancing on their run to collect their fallen feathers.

The children were all concerned that the final scene of Baby Jesus in the manger be done properly. They chose to make a straw doll and wrap it in a length of bandage for the swaddling clothes. None of them wanted to miss out on placing Baby Jesus in his manger, a collage of crisscrossed drinking straws and real straw, so on Christmas morning I had a house full of children and their parents in to finish the calendar. Hot chocolate for the kids, coffee laced with a little something for the adults, cookies aplenty and good will all round.

After Christmas the calendar was carefully taken down and rolled up. The kids talked about it so much when they went back to school that one of the teachers asked me about it and came to our house to see it. His excitement was palpable as we unrolled it. My kids explained what we had made each day and who had helped and how they’d had to discourage one eager participant from putting a red post box in the desert as they hadn’t been invented yet. Rather than be relegated to our attic until the next year, that calendar went off to school where it was enjoyed and embellished for several years more.

But the fun we had building it never lost the sense of reverence for the meaning behind it. I don’t even know if any of the children involved in its construction would remember it now with as much fondness as do I. Of all my Christmases, wherever they have been or whoever I have spent them with, that is my most vivid Christmas memory of all.

Merry Christmas to all of you and a happy, healthy and successful New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Summer Swimming With Grandad

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Summer Swimming With Grandad

 In Canada’s election this year we elected a government that promised to legalize marijuana. This reminded me of my Grandad, Walter, the summer’s spent swimming and picnicking, as a child, along the Vedder River in Chilliwack, British Columbia. I’m sure your thinking, what… So I’ll tell you the story especially at this time of year when getting together with friends and family is so important. 
 I always remember sitting with granddad on the edge of the Vedder River under the shade of an old cedar tree with our fishing rods dangling in the water moving by with a slow measured pace, much like everything else on a hot summer day. The city was just a few minutes behind us, but the view in front was of ice cream capped mountains, towering trees and gurgling water. We hadn’t a bite on our lines yet, but one of the first things I learned about fishing from gramps was that it didn’t matter if you never caught anything. 
 "That wasn't the point," he'd smile to me.
 I liked coming here with my family on picnics as well, although granddad said this won’t last long as the developers were moving in soon. At ten years old I wasn’t quite sure what developers were, but I figured I’d find out someday. I didn’t know how anyone could develop anything more gorgeous than the scenery before us. He was prone to bouts of rambling talk that seemed to have no set purpose, on occasion I'd fall asleep in my head. I hesitated to consider him crazy, dad called him touched and said he'd zone out as well.
"Just nod and wink every few seconds," Dad told me. Actually, dad said, granddad and Uncle Al were getting to be best friends as he got older. I kinda liked the old codger even if his memory seemed to be going. He’d stare at me sometimes when I’d not seen him for awhile and say “oh yeah, Jim’s oldest boy.”
 “You said euphoria son, here have a couple of these, they’ll perk you up, while I tell you about the Euphoria Tea Company.” He told me some of the wildest stories and always shared those little cinnamon heart candies he had on him. At ten it seemed there wasn’t much more to life then crunching cinnamon hearts and fishing with granddad on a hot summer’s day.
 “I remember back during the opening stages of the second world war. A mite before your time son.” Everything he told me about was a mite before my time. I wondered how grandpa found the energy to do all these crazy things he’d tell me about. All I’ve ever known him to do was bellyache about his lack of regularity (whatever that was), chew on cinnamon hearts and complain about the crap weather. I wondered when I get old if I’d be just like him someday. NAH.
 “Actually I said, oh look Gloria’s over by that tree Granddad, not euphoria.” Gloria was my next door neighbor, a year older and here having a picnic with her family. So far she hadn’t seen me or I knew she’d been sitting here talking with us, wanting to do gross things like kiss and smooch. Grown up things people do when they’re older, like eighty-four.
 “I’d been driving through the states in my old Rambler, now there was a car, did I ever tell you about my old Rambler son?” He told me so many stories about his travels across Canada with that old Rambler I could rebuild it in my sleep. Actually, from all the stories he’d told me I calculated he’d been behind the wheel of that car most of his natural life, including driving it to the washroom every time he went for a pee.
 “So I just hit Euphoria, Saskatchewan, Population 2840, the sign said and if you’d ever been through Saskatchewan you’d know they counted every dog, cat, gopher and next of kin that lived there or at the other end of the telephone line. One of those towns where the grain elevators were the only building over two stories high.”
 “Our teacher said the prairies are flat, no mountains, not like here.” I had never been to the prairies, lived my whole life in BC. The only thing granddad said he liked about the prairies was the big open sky and the incredible thunder storms that would roll in with the fury of a two tomcats fighting over a female in heat. Something I’d never heard yet, but figured it raise quite the ruckus.
 “And lightning, lightning so strong you could read a book sitting on your balcony on a moonless night.” Although I personally would probably be found huddled underneath my bed sheets, granddad said he used to sit outside and watch the lightning. Small wonder, as my mom would say, he didn’t go blind.
 “Yup Saskatchewan, the only place in the world where you can sit on your back porch and watch your dog run away from home for four days,” he snickered.
 "In fact it took me a week of driving across the province before I realized I broke a tie rod end in the old Rambler." He stopped for a second, "did I ever tell you about my Rambler..." I nodded and winked, "Yup, sure have."
 “I blinked and darn near missed the place, which isn’t good when you’re running on fumes. Then again, that old car could run on the sniff of an oil rag. So I asked the gas station man where a guy could get a cold beer, when I pulled in for gas. He gawked at me like my butt was on fire.”
 “This here’s a dry county I can assure you sir.” He said and dismissed me like one of those bugs he was scraping off my windshield. “Well,” I muttered,
“I’ll be making a bee line outa here in a darn hurry.” Another fella who was sitting on the porch whittling away on a piece of wood, straw hanging out of his mouth piped up.
“Can’t says I didn’t hear yea all talking out there. Now if yea want a potent brew to settle your nerves try the café up the street and ask the waitress for a cup of their Euphoria tea.”
 “Tea, what I look like I got a decal of the Queen hanging off my underwear or something.”
 “Like the gentleman said, this hears a dry county. But try a cup of that tea, euphoria. It leaves yea in better shape then it finds yea, if you know what I mean.” He winked at me like I knew what the joke was about. I wondered what the hell kind of crazy town was this? However being a lad of curiosity I drove up the road, figuring on grabbing a bite of chow. The café seemed unusually full. As with most small towns everyone stopped and stared, some openly gawking like they never saw anyone who they never recognized before, as I walked in.
 “Care for a menu?” The grain fed waitress asked. I sat on a chair that seemed to be already pre-fitted to someone else’s body. A seat some local been sitting everyday for the last forty years after he came in from doing chores, just to shoot the bull with the rest of the boys over a cup of coffee and talk about farmer things.”
 “Farmer things?” I asked.
 “Yeah, like how’s your bull doing, oh he’s okay, chased three heifers yesterday, darn coyotes been around my hen house again, I see your hay crop’s coming up, looking fine. Yup, I’ve been watching everyday, as long as it don’t rain I’ll be okay. Hope it don’t rain. You know farmer things.” So I smiled at the waitress, pretty girl, we were on the prairies and she was one of them grain fed types, udderly challenged, if you know what I mean, son.” Granddad snorted. I didn’t but nodded in agreement as if I knew what he was talking about.
 “I remember looking at the menu and noting that there was no alcohol on the list. The tea or coffee was ten cents, pretty steep in those days. So I ordered a cheeseburger and fries. As I waited for the waitress to come back I remembered the Euphoria tea only I didn’t recall seeing anything like that on the menu. I did notice some of the folks sitting there with these huge mugs and glazed looks on their faces staring off into space real goofy like. When the waitress came by I asked for a cup of their euphoria tea. She returned a minute later toting one of those large mugs everyone else had. They must have a large brew pot of the stuff out back, I thought at the time. “That’ll be twenty-five cents.” She said as she set the mug down.
 “Two bits?” I replied, “I ain’t never paid a quarter for a cup of tea in my whole life.” She smiled, “you ain’t never had a cup of Euphoria then.” Well I figured if anyone that had the courage to ask that kinda money must have a good product there, so I paid her. I remember that it had a bitter taste, kinda like old socks that clung in back of your throat, clawing their way down. The first thing I remember was my lips going numb and after that, well, time sorta became irrelevant as I sipped away and weird things began happening. I watched this fly for what seemed like hours walking across my table, then he began to tap dance. At one point I laughed. Ever see a fly tap dance, son.”
 “I can’t say as I ever had.” Where he got these ideas for his stories I was never quite sure. Granddad handed me another cinnamon heart candy, I knew as long as he had a good supply of candies, I knew I could wade through his story.
 “I understood why the other folks were sitting there all goofy like, because I’m sure that’s how I musta looked staring at that fly. I don’t recall leaving the restaurant or getting into my car, but I did. In fact I don’t remember if I even ate my burger. Although I suspect I didn’t cause I was sure hungry the next morning. I coulda ate the arsehole out of a skunk and come back for the smell. To be honest son, I don’t remember a hell of a lot about the rest of the day. The blue sky seemed awfully blue and marshmallow clouds took on all kinds of white fluffy shapes. I remember passing a cop and thinking he was out to get me. Before long I pulled into a rest stop and fell asleep. The strangest thing, when I woke up I realized I’d driven nearly a hundred miles. Which was too bad cause I was tempted to drive back for a refill. Never did though.”
 Grandpa sat there with this quiet look on his face. Crazy old guy, he’d tell me some of the craziest stories. Most of which I never believed especially when I Goggled Euphoria, Saskatchewan and couldn’t find it. Then again my teacher said that most of those small towns weren’t on the map let alone on the internet. I wondered when I get his age if I’d ever have as many wild stories as he did. I grabbed another cinnamon heart candy and thought; nope, probably not. Not as long as I keep sitting here on this riverbank doing nothing.

 So I pushed Granddad into the river.

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 Have A Merry Christmas And A Dry Happy New Year
From Frank Talaber

That's Life or Strangers in the Night By? Sandy Semerad

Husband Larry has been singing this song over and over lately. “That’s life. That’s what people say. You’re riding high in April. Shot down in May…”

“Why do you keep singing that?” I asked him.

“It’s stuck in my brain,” he answered. “Blame that television commercial.”

He has a point. The ad agency no doubt chose Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the song for that particular commercial, because it’s addictive, as many of Sinatra’s songs are.

Thanks to Larry and the commemoration of Sinatra’s birth, December 12, a hundred years ago, I’ve reconnected with the man and his music. I can't quite believe Sinatra would have been a centenarian by now had he lived, although he was thought dead when he was born, according to reports. The forceps used to birth him, scarred the left side of his face and neck and punctured an ear drum, but he miraculously survived to become a legend who sang mostly by ear.

           In the eighties, though it seems like yesterday, I exercised while listening to a cassette of Fly me to the Moon, I've got you under my skin, That’s why the Lady is a tramp, That old black magic, My way, to name a few. As I jogged around my house, Sinatra sang to me, making my workout bearable.

          When he came to the Atlanta Omni in 1988, I went to see him. I brought along binoculars for the momentous occasion. I wanted to view old blue eyes up close.

          At 73 years old, his singing had lost some of its steam. Camel cigarettes and Jack Daniels had taken their toll. I've read he had a preference for Jack, “two fingers with a splash of water.” (I gave one of my characters in A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES, a fondness for the drink. Had I subconsciously thought of Sinatra? Maybe).
           But getting back to the Omni performance, he was touring with Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis, Jr. Their voices rang out stronger than Frank’s back then, but his charisma and magical interpretations, still touched and inspired me. I loved his unique phraseology. He captivated me with the stories he told through song.

Sinatra interpreted lyrics his own way and when I think about the words to My Way, another Sinatra hit, they seemed to describe him:  For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught. To say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows, and did it my way!”

            When he sang My Way, I was convinced, he meant it. Although the lyric contains clichés, he gave each word a special meaning, as if singing the story of his life: “Yes, there were times. I’m sure you knew. When I bit off more than I could chew, but through it all when there was a doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall and I did it my way…”

            Yet, those who knew Sinatra claimed he disliked My Way. He thought the song sounded cocky, they said.Perhaps this was another contradiction in his complex life, which Kitty Kelly revealed in her unauthorized biography entitled, His Way

           In her book, she exposed the flaws of a man who demanded perfection. According to Kelly, Sinatra could be brash and appear overly self-confident.

          Kelly wrote about his unstable upbringing, ties with the mafia, his manic depression, suicide attempts, his affairs and love life, his political associations and feud with President John Kennedy, whom he once idolized. However, the book also talked about his intense work ethic, his generosity and how he despised and battled racism and antisemitism.

          After I read Kelly's book about Sinatra, I decided no words will ever dispel his brilliant talent, as a legendary singer, actor and performer, nor weaken my gratitude to him for enriching my life with his music.

          There’s just this one particular song I need a reprieve from, but it’s Larry’s birthday today, December 21, and if he wants to sing that song over and over, so be it.

         Larry, like Sinatra, endured a difficult childhood. He had a hip disease, confining him to a wheel chair. But he overcame his disability to become a Bengal Bouts boxing champ at Notre Dame and Golden Gloves champ.

          I recently asked him, “What’s your favorite Frank Sinatra song?”

           “I really like, That’s Life,” he said.
          “Yes, I know,” I said. “That’s obvious.”

           “I used to like New York, New York, but I've heard it and played it so much, it’s not my favorite anymore.”

           “Can you think of another song, perhaps a love song of Sinatra’s that you like?”

          He frowned. “Let me think. Refresh my memory. Pull up Sinatra on YouTube and let me hear a few.”

           I did. I was certain he’d pick one. He adores music. He plays the piano beautifully and writes poems.

          Larry listened quietly, and eventually said, “Stranger in the Night.” Larry and I were like stranger in the night when we met, and we've been married for twenty-two years this month, December 11. His selection of this song is sweet, I think.

           So, I've been practicing. “Strangers in the night exchanging glances….”

          I may sing it all day long. It’s addictive. And then on Christmas Eve switch to Silent Night. Merry Christmas!

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