A Cardinal Holiday

I know Christmas has come and gone, but recently, I read a delightful book, A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg, and you know what? This book can be enjoyed any time of year.

In Chicago, Oswald T. Campbell learns that his emphazema is getting worse, and unless he leaves the windy city, he may not last through Christmas. His doctor gives him a brochure for a resort in an Alabama town called Lost River. However, when he tries to get a reservation, Mr. Campbell finds out that the hotel burned down in the early 1900’s, but through a miraculous twist of fate, he finds someone in the town willing to rent him a room.

The rest of the story centers around an injured redbird named Jack. Taken in by Lost River’s general store owner, he learns to do tricks and becomes a fixture in the community who is mourned by many when he dies unexpectedly. Other characters besides Mr. Campbell’s landlady and her feeble mother include the postmistress, mailman, and a private investigator/process server, to name a few. The author takes us through events in these characters’ lives over the course of a year until a Christmas miracle allows a little girl with a serious birth defect to walk again. I was lucky to run across a recording of the book read by the author, and that was a nice touch.

Fannie Flagg’s career started in the fifth grade when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, The Whoopee Girls. At nineteen, she started writing and producing television specials. She later wrote for and appeared on Candid Camera. She then became established as a writer and actress in television, movies, and the theater. She even wrote the script for the movie adaptation of her book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, and it was nominated for an Academy Award and a Writers Guild of America Award and won the Scripter Award for best screenplay of the year. She lives in California and Alabama. To learn more about her and her books, visit http://fannieflaggbooks.com/ .

I’ve read many of Fannie Flagg’s books including Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, and Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven. Her characters are funny and provocative, and everything turns out well in the end. Although her plots my not be realistic at times, it’s fun to escape into the worlds she creates. I recommend A Redbird Christmas and other tales to anyone who enjoys a good laugh and a heartwarming story. Happy New Year!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

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South for Christmas

Greetings from sunny Florida where it’s two days before Christmas, and my brother and his family and I are in the midst of the hustle and bustle before our holiday festivities begin. Last month as part of Robert Lee Brewer’s poem a day challenge on his blog at http://www.writersdigest.com/editor- blogs/poetic-asides , I wrote the following poem which will eventually be included in another chapbook. It’s based on the lyrics to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I’ll include a link below to where you can hear me sing the song.

I’ll be South for Christmas

My Florida relatives count on me.

There won’t be snow but maybe mistletoe

and presents under the tree.

On Christmas Eve, we’ll go to the beach,

fly kites, maybe try boogie boarding.

It won’t feel like Christmas,

but Santa will come with bounty for the children.

I’ll be there if only in my heart.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/home%20for%20christmas.mp3

Where will you be for Christmas? I hope you have a good one.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

This I Believe

I plan to submit the following essay to a project called This I Believe, based on the original program broadcast on National Public Radio several years ago. I was tempted to write something like this after Bill suffered his first stroke because I believed that one day, he would walk through the front door and take me in his arms. Although he never walked through that door after his strokes, there were still many embraces, and now, I know what I believe.

A Writer’s Destiny

In January of 2005, I received a letter that changed my life. Being visually impaired, I was in a long distance relationship with a totally blind man I met two years earlier through a magazine. Bill lived in Fowler, Colorado. I lived in Sheridan, Wyoming. We were drawn to each other because I worked in a nursing home, and his mother lived in one. We met face to face twice when Dad and I detoured to Fowler on our way to New Mexico to visit relatives. I thought he just wanted to be friends.

On that night in January, I had to consider the possibility that our relationship would be more than that. I wasn’t ready to share my life with anyone and didn’t want to leave my home town. To my surprise, Bill told me he wanted to move to Sheridan, and this made my decision easier. He came for a visit two months later. At first, I had my doubts, but when he officially proposed to me at a restaurant with family and friends, I said yes.

In July of 2005, Bill moved to Sheridan. In September, we were married. I quit my job and started writing full time.

In January of 2006, I returned home one night to find him lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, barely coherent. After a trip to the hospital, we learned he’d suffered a debilitating stroke. He was eventually admitted to the nursing home where I worked for fifteen years.

His left side was paralyzed, and after two months of therapy, he reached a plateau, and we were forced to face the fact that he might never walk again. In September of 2006, I brought him home and became a full time caregiver.

In October, he started outpatient therapy, and we thought he would be on his feet again. In January of 2007, he suffered a second mild stroke that set him back. He continued outpatient therapy, but in August, they gave up on him. We had five good years until he declined to the point where I could hardly lift him. I moved him back to the nursing home where he died a month later.

I now realize that because of my experience with nursing home residents, some higher power determined that I was best suited to care for Bill when the time came. If I hadn’t married him, he would have ended up in the nursing home in Fowler along with his mother. He wouldn’t have lived as long or enjoyed the same quality of life.

At a dead end with my music therapy career, I started writing. If I hadn’t quit my job with Bill’s encouragement, I wouldn’t have published three books. After Bill’s strokes, I learned to dress him, transfer him from one place to another, and perform other personal care tasks I never dreamed of doing. In the end, he taught me that a disability should never stop you. I believe in fate, that we were meant to be together, even for a short time.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

 

Season’s Greetings 2014

Well, it has definitely been an interesting year. I spent last Christmas with my brother Andy and his fiancé Christina and their combined family in Jupiter, Florida. During this time, Andy proposed to Christina while I sang “The Rose.” I had fun despite the fact that I picked up a nasty stomach flu that forced me to stay in bed for a few days. I missed the family’s holiday festivities but felt well enough later to go to the beach one day and to a performance of The Nutcracker the next.

About a week after I got home, I came down with a bad chest cold and didn’t recover from that for at least two weeks. All things considered, it was a pretty good Christmas, better than staying at home alone, twiddling my thumbs, and feeling sorry for myself. I plan to go again this year and hope for better health conditions.

By the end of January, my new poetry collection, That’s Life, was finished, and I sent it to several publishers. In February, I was surprised to receive word from Finishing Line Press that they wanted to publish it. After agreeing to their terms, I spent several busy months readying the manuscript according to their specifications and promoting it.

In April, I attended our annual WyoPoets workshop in Casper where the presenter was our state poet laureate, Echo Klaproth. Also, my singing group, Just Harmony, performed at the Daughters of the American Revolution state convention here in Sheridan. We sang at other times for different venues throughout the year including a local baseball game, a church service, and an assisted living facility.

In June, the Wyoming Writers annual conference was here in Sheridan with a variety of presenters including Echo Klaproth and Creative Nonfiction editor Lee Gutkind. In August, I gave a reading at the local public library to promote my new book. By this time, it was in the pre-publication stage which meant I needed to secure as many pre-orders as possible to determine how many copies could be printed. Thanks to those of you who pre-ordered a copy. I hope you’re enjoying it.

In July, I went to Florid again, this time to attend Andy’s second wedding which was held at a bed and breakfast in West Palm Beach. I participated in a fun-filled week of festivities including lunch with Christina and her friends, a pool party, a rehearsal dinner at a restaurant in West Palm Beach, and a trip to a Jupiter park for a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

The ceremony took place on the bed and breakfast’s front porch where I was a bridesmaid and sang “The Rose.” The reception was held behind the facility in what they called a back yard bar. There was plenty of room for eating, dancing, and socializing. Andy hired a band consisting of old college buddies he played with years ago. During breaks, I sang “Annie’s Song” and others. I accompanied most of my songs on the guitar. I had a great week there but was glad to get home after a rough flight from Denver to Billings, Montana, where we encountered a severe thunderstorm, and I was afraid I would be sick again.

About the middle of October, That’s Life was finally released, and in celebration of National Poetry Day, I sat in the local senior center’s lobby and sold books for a couple of hours before participating in a reading with my third Thursday poets group in the facility’s community room. In November, I did a reading for a poetry class at the local high school and at an assisted living center. I also did a signing at a local bookstore.

If you haven’t already ordered my new book, I encourage you to do so at one of the links below or by going to my Website. I wish you all an enjoyable holiday season and a happy new year.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

The World According to a Cat

You’re a recovering drug addict, subsisting on whatever money you can make playing your guitar and singing on the streets of London. Then one day, you meet a ginger cat who changes your life. Such is the case of James Bowen, the author of A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. These two books tell the story of how this stray cat positively influenced the author’s life.

In A Street Cat Named Bob, Bowen discusses how he took Bob in after the cat kept hanging around his flat and how they developed a relationship. Because Bob was a stray, Bowen didn’t think he would stay with him, but it’s said that cats choose their owners, and this turned out to be the case with Bob and Bowen. The author talks about how he became estranged from his parents and moved to England from Australia to pursue a career in music. He then explains how he became addicted to drugs and shares his experiences on the streets after finding Bob, how he took the cat with him everywhere and how Bob’s presence caused more people to pay attention to him and earned him more money. Eventually, because of police harassment, he was forced to give up busking and start selling editions of a local magazine called The Big Issue.

In The World According to Bob, Bowen recounts further adventures with his cat on the streets. He also touches a little more on his life growing up in Australia, how he was hospitalized frequently as a child with a variety of psychiatric disorders. After a couple of years on the streets with Bob, he was discovered by the media, and he explains how he wrote his first book and how its publication got him off the streets, improved his relationships with his family, and changed attitudes toward the homeless.

According to Wikipedia, James Bowen was born on March 15th, 1979 in Surrey, England. After his parents were divorced, he moved to Australia with his mother and stepfather. His home life was tense, and because the family frequently moved, he was unsettled at school. Continually bullied, he began sniffing glue and was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, schizophrenia, and manic depression.

In 1997, he moved to London, and after living with his half-sister for a while, he spent the next ten years sleeping either on the streets or in shelters. He started using heroine to escape the reality of being homeless. In the spring of 2007, he entered a drug treatment program while busking at Covent Garden and living in sheltered accommodation in Tottenham. This was when he met Bob, and if you read his two international bestsellers, written with the help of author Garry Jenkins, you’ll know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. To learn more about James Bowen, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James-_Bowen_(author)#Early_life . You can also read a newspaper article and view photos of the author and his cat at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2227639/James-Bowen-Best-selling-true-story-busker-got-life-track-thanks-stray-cat-film.html .

James Bowen’s style of writing drew me into his world. I laughed at Bob’s habit of hiding in unexpected places and his delight in playing with aluminum wrappers and other items. Of course these are traits any cat would have. I found myself getting angry at people who confronted Bowen because they thought he was mistreating Bob and an apartment complex manager who complained that Bowen’s guitar playing and singing at two in the afternoon was keeping her tenants awake. I agree that Bowen probably should have gotten a proper job, and of course he shouldn’t have been using drugs in the first place, but given the circumstances, he didn’t know better and didn’t have the self-esteem to consider a career other than busking and selling magazines. These books would appeal to cat lovers, but I also hope young people around the world will read them and think twice before turning to drugs.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We shall Overcome, How To Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.