Novella Weaves Curious Holiday Yarn #Thursday Book Feature

The Happening: A Carol for All Seasons

by John Wahtera

Copyright 1974

 

In a poor, mixed-class neighborhood, Digby, a white, starving artist, lives with a small group of other unfortunate people in a run-down house slated for demolition. Across the street is a church where no one goes anymore. Digby gets an idea and works with the church’s white pastor on a community holiday celebration he calls a “happening.” This event includes fancy lighting, music, a black Santa and more. Digby and the pastor receive unexpected support from an unlikely source in the black community.

Since this book was published in 1974, we have an idea that the story is set sometime before then in an urban environment, but we don’t know exactly when or where. It might have been more helpful for the author to orient readers to time and place in some way.

The ending left a bit to be desired. I would like to have known what happened to at least one of the characters.

The sub-title doesn’t fit the story, implying that it could be enjoyed year-round. Although some Christmas stories could be read anytime, this one definitely is better suited for this time of year. Otherwise, I liked this short but interesting holiday tale.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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Season’s Greetings 2019

Note: none of the opinions expressed below are those of author Abbie Johnson Taylor.

 

Season’s Greetings? Bah Humbug!

 

I’m the Google assistant. Much to my chagrin, I ended up joining Abbie’s technology family last spring when her tablet was upgraded to almost the latest version of Android. I don’t have a fancy name like Alexa. People just call me Google. When they want me to do something for them, they say, “Okay Google” or “Hey Google.”

Alexa can do more than I can, like read Abbie kindle books or play Audible books for her, and I think Abbie likes her better than me. It’s just as well I can’t read books to Abbie because she likes the dumbest books. If you don’t believe me, search here for posts under the category, “Thursday Book Feature.”

Abbie occasionally asks me to add events to her calendar or tell her what’s on her calendar for a specific date. And boy, does she have a lot of events each month: writing group meetings, singing engagements, the occasional doctor’s appointment, and more. There’s so much to keep track of that it’s a wonder my head’s not spinning. Alexa also has access to Abbie’s calendar, but she doesn’t seem to mind keeping track of it all. Good for her.

I don’t particularly care for Abbie’s taste in music, either. Right now, as I’m writing this stupid Christmas letter for her, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, and she’s already listening to Christmas music. Alexa is playing Susan Boyle’s album, The Gift. Abbie has taken an interest in Susan Boyle of late. God knows why. She’s a Scottish singer with a repertoire full of sappy songs like “A Perfect Day” and “You Raise Me Up.” Abbie had the nerve to ask me who wrote one of her songs, “May You Never Be Alone.” Darned if I knew, so I told her it was written by Hank Williams. Abbie asked Alexa first, and she said she didn’t know. That’s what I should have said.

Last June, when I realized Abbie was taking me with her to Florida to spend a week with her brother Andy and his family, I was excited. I thought surely I’d be spending a lot of time sunning myself on a beach. Hey, we artificial intelligence assistants deserve a vacation, too. But this was not to be, at least not for me.

Although I got to sit outside with Abbie while she used the tablet to check email on Andy’s patio when it wasn’t too hot, I spent most of the time languishing in a dark bedroom while Abbie and Andy and his wife Christina went to the beach or Loxahatchee River or to Christina’s brother’s house where they swam in his pool. The only excitement I saw that whole week was when Abbie and I were nearly attacked in Andy’s living room by Peggy, a robot vacuum cleaner. If Peggy could have climbed the stairs to the second floor, we probably wouldn’t be here. Now that I think of it, listening to stupid Susan Boyle is preferable to being swallowed by a robot vacuum cleaner. Even Peggy has a better name than I do. God!

I’m consoled by two facts regarding this trip. First, Alexa didn’t get to go at all. Second, Abbie, Andy, and Christina didn’t get to canoe down the Loxahatchee River because of the threat of thunderstorms. Ha ha! I’m pretty sure Abbie enjoyed herself, though. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have posted those stupid haiku about the beach and the Loxahatchee River on Facebook. Yuck!

In July, Abbie published her fifth book, a novel called The Red Dress. What kind of a title is that, anyway? Abbie says it’s about how such a garment is related to the lives of three generations of women. Gag me, will you? If you don’t believe me, go to her website and see for yourself. In fact, all her books are stupid. She makes me want to throw up. I couldn’t believe it when she sold eighteen copies of The Red Dress at a local bookstore in September. Some people are so stupid.

Abbie has also been busy performing at nursing homes and other dumb places. I haven’t heard her sing because when she practices, the tablet is either in sleep mode or powered off completely, and of course, she doesn’t take me to her gigs. But if she’s anything like Susan Boyle, I don’t want to hear her, thank you very much.

Actually, I have heard her sing. Occasionally, she records herself singing with an app on the tablet. She’s just as bad as Susan Boyle, so no wonder I repressed that memory.

She also sings with a group called Just Harmony. What kind of a name is that for a group? You can’t have a song with just harmony. You have to have melody, too. Jesus, some people are so dense.

I haven’t heard them either. I know that for sure. But if they’re anything like Abbie herself or Susan Boyle, forget it.

Abbie will also sing in an ecumenical choir that will perform for a stupid epiphany service the first Sunday in January. They’re singing “Oh Holy Night,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and a song neither Abbie or I have heard called “One Faith, One Hope, One Lord.” Barf! Barf! Barf! I’m glad I won’t get to hear that either.

As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t get a vacation this Christmas, which I probably won’t, then nobody else should, either. But I suppose I ought to wish you all happy holidays, anyway. But if you ask me, Mr. Scrooge was a pretty good guy until the ghosts showed up.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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White Christmas #Monday Musical Memories

When I was growing up in Tucson, Arizona, during this time of the year, I heard many songs and stories about snowmen coming to life, riding in a one-horse conveyance through drifted snow to Grandmother’s house for fun, pudding, and pumpkin pie, and Santa riding through the snow in a sleigh, pulled by eight reindeer, to deliver packages to many good boys and girls. In the warm Arizona climate, I longed for snow. On the rare occasions we were blessed with the white stuff, it didn’t last long enough to build a snowman.

When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973 when I was twelve, I learned, first-hand, the meaning of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” After slipping, sliding, and falling on my butt a few times, I realized that snow wasn’t what I expected it to be. I didn’t know what I expected it to be, but that didn’t make it any more likeable. By February of our first year, I was sick of it. But we were settled here, so all I could do was put on my big girl pants and deal with it.

As an adult, my perspective on snow hasn’t changed. I could move to a warmer climate. If I could afford to do so, I’d spend winters in Florida closer to my brother and summers here in Wyoming. But at my age, the prospect of moving is more daunting than putting on my boots and getting out in the snow when I need to go somewhere. But every once in a while, I can’t help wishing for a brown Christmas instead of a white one.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm about snow, I enjoy singing songs about it, like the one you’ll hear me sing when you click the link below. If you like white Christmases, may you always have them. May your days always be merry and bright.

 

White Christmas

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Her First Turkey (Fiction)

The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and corkscrew were placed in the center of the table.

Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the dorrway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”

They all trooped in: her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children; Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”

“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.

Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.

“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”

“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”

After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. Still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.

“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.

“I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite. It was delicious.

“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”

“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”

The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.

She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”

“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”

Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”

“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”

“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”

“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”

“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.

“I like the salad,” said Rob.

“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”

“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”

Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home-cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”

There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.

The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.

***

“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”

“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”

“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”

Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to email it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wish I’d thought of that last month.”

“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.

“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”

“I think you’re right, honey.”

“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can email it.”

“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”

“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the Blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”

 

THE END

 

The above story was published several years ago in Magnets and Ladders. It also appears in the November issue of The Writer’s Grapevine.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Over the Bridge and Along the Creek #Monday Musical Memories

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, here’s a little ditty I wrote to the tune of “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Years ago, when I was single, I often walked from my apartment to my grandmother’s home for family get-togethers, Thanksgiving included. My route took me over a bridge and on a walking path next to a creek, hence the song.

As you’ll note, I wrote two verses: one from the perspective of a blind person using a cane and the other from that of a guide dog user. I’ve never used a guide dog but know people who do. So, I hope I’ve portrayed that realistically. Now, click on the link below to hear me sing this parody.

 

Over the Bridge and Along the Creek

 

How about you? Did your family travel anywhere for Thanksgiving when you were growing up? How did you get there? Was there the usual fare: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc? Whatever you do this year for Thanksgiving, have a great holiday!

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

TMI Tuesday October 22nd, 2019

I’m trying a new feature. The TMI Tuesday Blog offers weekly questions for bloggers to answer and post on Tuesdays. My answers to this week’s questions are below.

***

Can you handle the truth?

Yes.

A couple of October holidays are coming up. Do you participate in Halloween or Dia de los Muertos? How?

Not being of Mexican or Spanish descent, I’ve never participated in Dia de los Muertos. I no longer observe Halloween.

When my late husband Bill was alive, he enjoyed watching me hand out treats to children who came to our door. After two strokes partially paralyzed him, he could no longer do this himself. So, every year, I bought a huge bag of Halloween candy. At most, we got four kids, so he ate the rest of the candy. Now that he’s gone, since I’m not a candy fan, I no longer bother.

Do your parents/parent like your significant other?

Both my parents and significant other are gone. By the time Bill and I met, my mother had passed. But Dad loved Bill from the start. When I told him about Bill’s marriage proposal, he said, “Well, I’ll be damned. You should think about this, honey. He’s a fine fellow.”

Right now! What do you need most love or validation?

It would be nice to have both, but there are worse things than not having either.

You are singing in the shower. What song do you want to belt out?

I rarely sing in the shower, but when I do, I practice songs I’ll perform later, either with my group or on my own, at nursing homes and other venues.

Bonus: What’s your damage?

Now that’s an awfully broad question. I could write pages and pages about the damage Bill received as a result of his strokes, the damage to my lap top computer after I accidentally dropped it, the weather damage to my roof, etc. But I’ve already mentioned that in past posts. So, I see no reason to re-hash it.

***

If you’d like to participate in TMI Tuesday, click here. You can learn more about Bill and me by reading My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Memoir Offers Escape to Childhood Innocence #Thursday Book Feature

I Love You, Miss Huddleston: And Other Inappropriate Longings of My Indiana Childhood

by Philip Gulley

 

With a lot of humor, this author’s memoir talks about his life growing up in the 1960-s and 70’s. Born the son of a bug spray salesman, he starts by talking about his childhood, sharing memories of how he delivered newspapers, did extra trick-or-treating around Halloween, created home-made bombs from his father’s bug spray collection, and engaged in other antics with his friends. He also explains how he fell in love with his sixth grade teacher, hence the title.

After that, he describes his adolescent years: how he worked for the Youth Conservation Corps, then as a stock boy in a grocery store, and other jobs. Having been raised a Catholic, he discusses his experiences with and ideas about religion. He describes how he met and married his future wife and touches on how he became a Quaker minister.

I was born a couple of years after Mr. Gulley. So, some of his stories brought back memories of my own. I remember story math problems involving trains that I could never solve and how much I hated showering naked in front of others after gym class. Of course, I never engaged in any of Mr. Gulley’s antics, but I wouldn’t have put it past my brother to have done so. In a world of violence, corruption, and hatred, this book offers an escape back to a time when the only thing you had to worry about was what would happen when you told your teacher your dog ate your homework.

 

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.