Joy to the Messiness of Christmas

christmas morning!

christmas morning! (Photo credit: Nikki McLeod)


“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.
Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney

 Christmas is meant to be messy—it is a combination of all those things that make it slightly chaotic, happily disordered, and a bit muddled. There are those who may succeed in putting order in the holiday season—with napkins folded in reindeer shapes, festive name plates creatively crowning every plate, and a gourmet dinner cooked flawlessly for shining happy faces around the dining room table. Impeccable manners are displayed and the conversation is articulate, with no hint of religion, politics, or money.

          Beautifully wrapped gifts are opened carefully, the paper whisked away before it hits the floor, and expressions of gratitude greet every well-chosen present. Tasteful Christmas sweaters are worn with flare, and well-mannered children sit quietly awaiting their turn to open the bounty provided by Santa.

          …………………..Okay, now for a little reality. What I have described above may have happened on the Christmas shows carefully orchestrated in days of yore, (think Bing Crosby Christmas specials) and Martha Stewart may still bring some order to the holidays (though we really don’t know—Christmas Day may be one of havoc, turmoil and mayhem at her house too) but as for me and mine—we start out carefully unwrapping our gifts, but it soon becomes a frenzy of paper torn off with abandon, and bows tossed aside to reveal the prize of the day. Later we are left scrambling to find instructions and batteries among the tissue paper and flotsam and jetsam of Christmas unwrapped.

          I strive to produce a gourmet meal (having watched one too many shows on the Food Network), but we are all satisfied with what is eventually the outcome of my labours—some years it is overcooked prime rib, others a butchered turkey (this year I am going to use an electric knife bestowed on me by a friend—so hopefully it will not look like I wrestled with the meat). Generally the meal tastes pretty good and it is always saved by dessert. Those who gather around my table are generally well-mannered, but voices do get raised in passion, and perhaps a wine glass gets knocked over (usually by me as I am a klutz). But I contend that it is the “mess” of Christmas that makes it festive; it is the confusion and jumble and tangle of the whole event that is what makes memories.

          Christmas is not meant to be perfect—after all it is celebrated by people, and who do you know that is perfect? I love the noise of happy kids—their exuberance and joy at a holiday they can barely believe is happening makes one rethink what is important. I always have the sugarplum of a perfect Christmas dancing in my head, stress out to make sure that everything is impeccable–then I come to the realization that the Christmas we celebrate this year will be just right—despite arguments, unwanted presents, and overcooked meat. Life has its peccadilloes and so does Christmas.

         

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and...

June and Ward Cleaver (Barbara Billingsley and Hugh Beaumont). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thinking that Christmas will not suffer from some turmoil is unrealistic—remember even June and Ward Cleaver had to put up with Beaver’s antics and Eddie’s caustic charm. Christmas does not solve the world’s problems per se, but for a few moments it can put them on hold and we can bask in the glow of our Christmas trees, the warmth of our families, and enjoy all the special foods and drinks and presents that help make the season merry.

          My fervent wish for all of you is that you can take some time out this Christmas to enjoy what the season has to offer. I leave you with these wise words from W.J. Tucker (my addition is in brackets):

          “For centuries men (and women) have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.” ~ from Pulpit Preaching

          Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ~ may you find joy in this holiday season!

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So, What Was the Question?

English: Vesper Martini Português: Vesper Martini

Vesper Martini (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The top three answers in a survey by the newly off the presses “livehappy” magazine were:

1. Be present.

2. Make, bring, or share food!

3. Do something unexpected.

I love all three of these answers and they pretty well cover the elements of a happy life. The question that elicited these responses was “How would you make others happy during the holidays”, but I would like to put forth the theory that these three answers are the solution to that question that has bugged all of us sometime in our lives and that is: “What is the point?”

The point is to be here and now and understand that that is all you really have and you should make the best of it. Food is almost always a good answer to any question—whether the delicacies be indulgent, or healthy, or both. Food provides nourishment, comfort, and if is a chocolate cake–happiness.

 And the third answer? That is the one that keeps us on our toes. The unexpected shakes things up—that is why ‘Bond, James Bond’, always wanted his drink “shaken, not stirred”. He knew that stirred would probably produce a better drink—but he wanted something more and stirring was just not exhilarating enough. Think about the whole process—to shake a drink you create drama, while stirring neither inflames or inspires—it merely gets the job done. (I read somewhere that shaking your drink does not result in a better drink; stirring does—but stirring brings to mind a double double not a *martini—which is much more cosmopolitan.) I think I may have wrung this metaphor (or whatever it is I am trying to express) dry. (Pun intended).

Anyway, back to the point—what is your answer to “How would you make others happy (and yourself) during the holidays? We are allowed to be a little self-indulgent at this time of year, don’t you think?

·        For the erudite: It was in the movie Casino Royale in 1953, that Bond orders “Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel.” (Wikipedia)

Let’s get this party started!

1st December 2013, Sunday, Was that a snowflak...

1st December 2013, Sunday (Photo credit: tomylees)

I am providing you with a rare opportunity ~ a sneak peek into this week’s  newspaper column which is not due until tomorrow morning. As this is the first day of December I thought it was apropos. This is not hot off the presses–it is a look at something before it even meets the presses:     

            December really creeps up on us. It is not like we do not know that it is coming. But I am always a bit unprepared for this most magical time of the year. It comes directly after stealthy November, so why am I so surprised that there are now just a few weeks before Christmas instead of months?  I believe that my ability to live in denial gets me through November, but when December skulks out of the shadows and jingles its bells even I cannot deny that I should get in gear.

            So what gets you into the Christmas spirit? I devour Christmas magazines and cookbooks but seldom glean anything of import from them. I am not particularly crafty though for years I pretended—but now I just let the authentic me loose, and authentic me is not all that crafty.  I enjoy a bit of cutting and pasting but that gets old after a while and does not really get one much past making  Christmas cards, paper snowflakes, or the occasional bookmark. I think that my crafting phase has passed and though it was short-lived I did give it the “old college try” and if you happened to be the recipient of my craftiness, rest easy that you will not have to admire my “all thumbs” creations in the future.

          

English: A bauble on a Christmas tree.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I do have a bit of a decorating bent, but find that I am thinking about the fact that what I gloriously decorate my home with will have to be taken down in about a month—so of late I tend to decorate with statement  pieces rather than all the small things I have collected over the years. The only place I break this rule now is the Christmas tree—mine drips with nostalgic tissue paper bells, popsicle stick sleds, pipe cleaner snowmen, and pinecones decorated with lots and lots of glitter. Sure my kids are in their twenties now—and are no longer producing these little works of art—but I keep them stashed safely away and bring them out every year reliving their childhoods when innocent belief reigned supreme.

            I remember those days of innocent belief, when I was not the purveyor of all things Christmas but an innocent and receptive beneficiary. As a kid, I could not believe that there could be a thing so wondrous as Christmas. My mother can be blamed in large part for this, as she created the best Christmases ever.  I remember going to my cousin’s house one Christmas and she showed me all the clothes she got and I recall thinking how horrible—mind you she was four years older than I, so at 13 she was very happy to get clothes, but at nine years of age I could not imagine worse presents. I told my mom then that I was really glad that Santa had not left me clothes. Dolls and books, games and toys were more my speed at that age—and Santa always made sure there was plenty to unwrap under our tree.

            At our house, we did not have the tradition of each person unwrapping one present at a time while the others in the family looked on—and though I now think it is a lovely way to celebrate—I liked the way we were each given a present and we all opened them at once. It added to the confusion and chaos of Christmas morning—which is one of its most attractive attributes to me. We were a family of six—mom and dad and two boys and two girls—and the mayhem was all part of the fun.

        

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Shopping

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree  (Photo credit: K!T)

    Christmas past seems to play a large part of Christmas present. We remember old traditions and we keep them even if just in our memories. Some are translated to fit today; and others are kept intact to be celebrated over and over again. I have a rather bedraggled Christmas tree that my kids do not want me to get rid of because it is the one they remember from their childhoods. So every year we get it out and dress it to the nines, and it is transformed from a Charlie Brown Christmas tree to the belle of the Christmas ball. 

            So as this month of December gets started and we embrace it and all that it celebrates, we will enjoy the new season it heralds. Winter is made so much more palatable by the cheer imparted by the holiday season.

            In the immortal words of Pink: (Let’s) “Get this party started right now.”

ARE YOU READY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Unbroken Sabbatical

While I am on a sabbatical from my blog, I still have to write my weekly column for the newspaper, so thought I would share it with you. I am not going to edit it into a post–this is how it will appear in the Kingsville Reporter this week (with a fifteen year old picture of me anchoring page 5.)

ON THE HOMEFRONT

Happy..Happy.. Mother's Day :-)..

Happy..Happy.. Mother’s Day (Photo credit: Thai Jasmine)

 Happy Mom’s Day

  “I got to grow up with a mother who taught me to believe in me.” ~ Antonio Villaraigosa

My hope is that my children will be able to say that they got to grow up with a mother who taught them to believe in themselves. That is one of the greatest gifts I can think of, and it is a gift my mother bestowed on me. I have been a mother for over twenty-seven years. I lost my mom when I was thirty-nine, but in those thirty-nine years she taught me a lot. And one of the things she taught me was how to be a mom.  I am still working on it  ~  it takes a lot of practice.

 Not too long after I lost my mother, I met Ida Conklin (a well known lady in Kingsville) at the bank. She expressed her sympathy at my loss. She was a bit older than my mother but she told me that one never really gets over losing their mother. And she was so right. Even as I write this today, I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. As Mother’s Day approaches, I would prefer that she were still here and that I not just have memories of her. But, the memories are many and they are precious.  I always have a hard time writing my Mother’s Day column because there is such a flood of memories—and I still cannot seem to put them in words. But, if you still have your mom, honour her. If your mom has gone to what I like to think of as a “better place” honour her memory. That is all I have to say…..for now, except Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, and goodnight.

 Another topic:

            As you know if you read this column on a somewhat regular basis, I have become a blogger—which is just another name for someone who has a presence in the ethereal regions of the internet. One of my favourite bloggers is Heidi@lightlycrunchy.wordpress.com. She has a very down home but sophisticated take on life that I really enjoy. She is not into existentialism, crazy metaphysical hokum, or super analyzing her pain and angst (at least not in her blog—but don’t get me wrong—I enjoy a little metaphysical hokum at times). She is ~ dare I say it, sensible, with a deft sense of humour. Here, just in time for spring is her post on what she intends to plant in her huge garden which she tends with the help of her family. She works outside the home and inside the home. Here is a little example of her life:

Today we cleaned up, the kids did a complete clean out of the barn and there was even a chance for a nap. I sorted through the seed order and am going to use this space to write them down. Last year I neglected to record anything and lost the packing slip, so I am leaving myself a list here where I can find it again when ordering time comes around next year. I am pretty good at keeping records, but lousy at remembering where I put them.

We’ll still have to purchase our seed potatoes, green pepper and hot pepper plants, tomatoes in several varieties and some onion sets, but this will be a good start. Next weekend we’ll start planting some seed.

dill

dill (Photo credit: sweet lil’ bunny)

Here is her order:

 2013 William Dam Seed Order: Basil – Italian Large Leaf Organic/Sweet Basil; Beans (bush) – Provider; Brussels Sprouts – Jade Cross Hybrid; Carrots – Nelson Hybrid/Baltimore Hybrid; Cucumber – Eureka Hybrid & Sweet Success Hybrid; Dill – Bouquet; Lettuce – Great Lakes 659/Buttercrunch/Bon Vivant Salad Mix/ Pinares; Melons – Diplomat Hybrid/Halona Hybrid; Onions – Ramrod/Camelot Hybrid; Parsley – Green Pearl Organic; Peas – Lincoln; Pumpkins-Dill’s Atlantic Giant/Mustang Hybrid/ Spooktacular Hybrid; Radish – Raxe; Rosemary; Sage; Spinach – Space Hybrid; Sunflower (Helianthus) – Mammoth Russian; Watermelon – Jade Star Hybrid, Full Lucky Hybrid; Zucchini – Spineless Beauty Hybrid; Leek – Jolant.”

            I know this list has some of you salivating—and your fingers are just itching to get into the soil, and I know enough to realize that you have probably already done a little planting.  Others (me included) are a little confused, yet impressed with all the seeds that Heidi has gathered, particularly the Spooktacular pumpkins and space spinach.

            Left to my own devices I would probably get a tomato plant or two—but my eldest son is raring to go on this year’s garden—so,… so be it. If you only want to garden in your mind, check out Heidi’s blog—she will keep you updated on her progress as well as show you the fruits of her labour – she cans and freezes and makes spaghetti sauce—and has a husband who cooks! (I love my husband, but I think I could love him just that bit more if he cooked.)

~ Two ~ Party On!!!!!!!

Times Square New Years Eve Ball

Times Square New Years Eve Ball (Photo credit: ★ SimonPix)

Let the party begin! It is New Year’s Eve–let’s party like it is 1999! (Or if I were being truly wild and crazy–1977,  but that is another story). Grab a hat from mybeautfulthings, some champagne from Chay, wish RoSy a Happy Birthday, devour some munchies that Eagle-Eyed Editor so kindly brought, and don’t bump Robin Coyle’s table–we don’t want her to fall off!!

Robin robincoyle (she is the one in the lampshade) and I are hosting this party with our rose coloured glasses perched prominently on our noses. We want to enter this new year on a positive note–so here is the invitation with instructions:

You Are Invited to a New Year’s Eve Virtual Party

Where: Here

Why: To bring in the New Year on a positive note

How: By leaving a positive comment or resolution

When:  New Year’s Eve —all day and all night and into New Year’s Day

Come one, come all, and bring your most festive smiles.

Entertainment: You, Vanessa Chapman, and Rodents & Rebels

So join us for the frivolities and add whatever you think may make the party hardy!

Vanessa Chapman is dropping by with a song she and a friend have put together for us so make sure you find her–I think she will be in the kitchen. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDHzns7FryU&w=560&h=315%5D.

I have some mystery guests dropping by so check back every once in awhile to see what goodies they provide for us in the form of wise words, music, and even cigars!

Here is wishing all of you a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a great start to 2013–a leapless year!

Sharing my card from Mary with you:  http://www.jacquielawson.com/viewcard.asp?code=3946887033868&source=jl999

~ THREE ~ Party, party……

The New Year is fast approaching and what better way to say Goodbye to 2012 and Hello to 2013 than to have a party? Robin Coyle and I have decided to host a New Year’s Eve Party, but it will be a party with a difference.

English: Fireworks over Copenhagen the night b...

New Year’s Fireworks  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There will be no cover charge, no BYOB, and no outlandish costumes (unless you have one you want to break out). Nope. You are granted access to this party with a positive comment or resolution (songs and dances will be accepted also—but they must be happy songs and dances).

So here is the formal invitation:

You Are Invited to a New Year’s Eve Virtual Party

Where: Here

Why: To bring in the New Year on a positive note

How: By leaving a positive comment or resolution

When: Why New Year’s Eve of course—all day and all night and into New Year’s Day

Come one, come all, and bring your most festive smiles.

Entertainment: You, Vanessa Chapman, and Rodents & Rebels

So join us for the frivolities and add whatever you think may make the party hardy!

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm  Comments (78)  
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Space to Think

I have a very serious addiction. I love magazines–their stories, the hints they provide on making your life the “best ever” particularly at Christmas time, the fashions, and yes, even the ads–which if you pay attention are quite artistic.

A Christmas Snow

A Christmas Snow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up very early this morning and did not want to crawl out from under my warm covers, so I picked up a copy of “Real Simple” from my bedside table, and found these words from photographer, Cig Harvey, in answer to the question: “What makes your life simple?”

He said: ” When I’m driving in the snow, I often think about the relief and joy that I’ll feel when I get home. I love the way the world falls quiet during a snowstorm and the house becomes almost a separate planet, with the space to think, create, organize and reflect.”

I love these sentiments. Although we have had no snow yet this season (a few flakes does not count) I await the first lovely snow with much anticipation. I still love the snow (though I wish it would avoid the roads) and the cozy feeling you get looking out your front window while holding a warm drink, with the space to think and reflect.

Published in: on December 6, 2012 at 11:25 am  Comments (63)  
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~Christmas Coup~

CD cover

CD cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrooge and the Grinch are mounting a coup to capture my Christmas spirit. I am about to set the tree up and decorate the house, but disturbingly I keep thinking: “What you get out you will have to put away.” Never before has this has been something I have considered prior to decorating every little nook and cranny in my house. Am I suddenly becoming an adherent of “less is more”?

I love the Christmas season and all that it entails. I love over-the-top decorations, the bright and sparkly, the excessively rich food, the holly jolly guy, and human size crèches. Greenery? I can’t get enough of it. Pine cones dipped in glue then sparkles? Bring them on. Piles of presents—I am not one to let commercialism get in the way of my consumerism. But, that little voice in the background is plaguing me as it whispers: “What you get out you will have to put away.”

Has anyone else had this thought? I have a lot of tiny decorations that just may stay packed this year. Their larger counterparts will be brought out instead, with a nod to the fact that they will be easier to dust. Am I getting lazier? I don’t think so—let’s call it wiser. They say that “hindsight is 20/20”—I am thinking that a little foresight might make hindsight a little easier to take.

For instance, the book, “Old Fashioned Christmas Favourites” written by my old friends Vickie and JoAnn, suggests that, “A Christmas tree without popcorn and cranberry strings just isn’t a Christmas tree.” Maybe—but then they go on to say that, “For a very special effect, throw popcorn on your Christmas tree. This gives the look of freshly fallen snow.” Really? Throw popcorn on my tree? I think not. I can just imagine having to clean it up every time Kitty Bob, our stupid lovely cat climbs up the inner branches of the tree. When he does that I am stressed out (to the max).  Adding insult to injury would be having to constantly pick up stray pieces of popcorn.

The companion question to the statement “What you get out you will have to put away” is “do I really want to do that?” The answers with regard to throwing popcorn on my tree are a resounding “no”, “not ever”, “what, are you crazy?” While the act of actually throwing popcorn onto my tree does appeal to me, I am using my newly found foresight to predict that it will just cause more work in the long run.

Here is a list of some other things I will not be doing this year:

1. Hot gluing gumdrops all over the surface of a wreath shaped Styrofoam form that I have wrapped in fabric—nope you will not find me doing this.

2. Fashioning paper serving cones to serve sweet and salty nuts, which I have just finished making in my kitchen.

3. Making felt stemware coasters for my wine glasses to protect my table. That is what the tablecloth is for.

4. Shredding carrots and putting them on my front lawn for Rudolph and his reindeer friends. (I cannot say for certain though that I would not have done this fifteen years ago when the boys were little—but at 21 and 26 I doubt they will be thrilled by this little activity.)

5. Tie a Christmas bandana around my stupid wonderful cat’s neck. Somebody bought the cat a sweater one year and he looked askance at us when we tried to put it on him, as if to say “Can’t you see I have a fur coat?” (Okay, I read that one somewhere, but I thought it was funny). I will, however, endeavour to get a festive red collar with a bell, so I can hear him when he climbs the Christmas tree.

Oh, well, the heck with foresight. I will probably decorate the house to the nines and worry about taking all the stuff down in mid-January. That is six weeks away—who plans that far ahead? Just for the record, I always plan to take the decorations down the day after New Year’s, but it always stretches out to mid-January. Then when I finally have my stuff put away, I look with a critical eye at all those who have not taken theirs down yet. Hypocritical? Yes. But satisfying.

So, will you practice foresight or hindsight this Christmas?

Christmas Wreath

A Blogcation

James Taylor at Christmas

Wikipedia

Just a little heads up:

I am taking a week off from blogging to concentrate on a number of things that need my attention–so while I will be responding to commenters today–I will not be seen or heard from much until December 1st. Enjoy this last week of November and see you back here next Saturday.

Note: Make a note in your calendar to come to my virtual Christmas Party on Saturday, December 15th.

Here is my Formal Invitation:

Virtual Christmas Party

Date: December 15th

Where: Virtually Here

Why: It Is Christmas!

Theme: Come as your favourite author or character in a book.

Co-host: Robin Coyle (she does not know this yet)

Bring: Your favourite appetizer from the 1970’s

Music Provided by: James Taylor and Rodents & Rebels

Special Entertainment: Margaret Atwood. She promises to be festive.

Requirement: Description of your author or character’s outfit, appetizer, and favourite song request from either James or R & R.

I will provide an update closer to the 15th. Idea stolen from Robin Coyle who threw a virtual Cocktail Party that was a raving success. You can wear your shoes in the house if they are clean. Reindeer socks will be provided at the door for those who need them.

See you in a little less than a week!

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a read...

English: Author Margaret Atwood attends a reading  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

~ A Little Early Snappy, Happy Ever After or A Little Magic in the Air ~

Cover of "A Family Christmas"

Cover of A Family Christmas

Ever notice how Christmas comes at the right time of year? When it is at its darkest, and starting to get cold and dreary? Even without snow, Christmas lights brighten things up a bit. Last night we had a light shower of snow and it is gently snowing right now, adding a little frosting to the still warm ground. Just that right festive touch for getting into the spirit.

One of my favourite little Christmas ditties is “We Need A Little Christmas” by Jerry Herman–and these lines just seem to embody the season we are about to embark:

“For I’ve grown a little leaner,  Grown a little colder, Grown a little sadder, Grown a little older, And I need a little angel, Sitting on my shoulder, Need a little Christmas now.”

We seem to make Christmas into a hassle with endless lists of things to do to make it merry and bright, and sometimes lose out on the magic of the whole season.

I read an interview with Santa in the book, “A Family Christmas” compiled by Caroline Kennedy, and the word magic was used no less than six times in answer to various questions.

Asked how reindeer fly, the jolly elf said that they are fed a magic mixture of corn and oats that only grows near the North Pole.

Magic was also the one word answer he gave to the questions, “how do you fit down the chimney”, and “how do you get into a home that does not have a chimney”.

How does he fly around the world in one night? Santa says it takes “a combination of lots of practice, judicious use of time zones, and of course, a little magic.

And how does he know who has been naughty and who has been nice? You got it: Magic.

What is magic? I have a two part definition: it is the suspension of disbelief; and the belief that there are things that happen we cannot explain. (It could be argued that this is also the basis of faith—but that is a topic for another place and another time.)  The best dictionary definition I found, (among many) is that magic “is a supernatural power that makes impossible things happen.”

Right now, there is a group of people who want us to only believe in those things we can prove—Darwin is their main man, and they only want to deal in things that can be substantiated. I have no argument with these people—in fact I think it is easy to follow this dictum as it takes us out of the world of imagination, into a world of grounded thought.

At various times in my life, I too have wanted proof positive, but have come to the conclusion that it does not exist. I like to think that there are things that happen that there are no easy or worldly answers to.

I am not talking magic as in the world of potions and spells, enchantments and bewitchments. I am talking about magic as inexplicable and astonishing, miraculous and exquisite.

If reindeer do fly—it is magic. When Santa makes it down the chimney unscathed-it is magic. By the way, when he does get to

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl: a magical moment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your house, he made it very clear in his interview that he likes all kinds of milk except buttermilk, and loves all kinds of cookies, but most especially Christmas cookies.

Santa’s  favourite colour is red (who knew?); he has hundreds and hundreds of elves; and can remember without hesitation the names of his reindeer. And yes, he does count Rudolph as one of his reindeer.

When asked how old he is, Santa replied: “As old as my tongue, and slightly older than my teeth.”

So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth so to speak. And what is it that Santa wants for Christmas? Without batting an eye he says:  “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all people.” Now where have we heard that before?

Do you believe in Magic?(Wasn’t that a title of a song from the 1960’s? The Barefoot Baroness  would know.)