Holiday Review: The Thirteenth Gift

The Thirteenth Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. Copyright 2014.

In the fall of 1999, journalist Joanne Huist Smith’s husband passed away unexpectedly. In this memoir, she details how an anonymous gift left on the family’s doorstep during each of the twelve days leading up to Christmas helped make the holiday season more than bearable for her and her three children. Instead of a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, etc., they received one poinsettia, two bags of bows, three rolls of wrapping paper, four gift boxes, five angel gift cards, six holiday cups, seven golden apple ornaments, eight Christmas cookie cutters, nine holiday candles, ten paper doll Santas, eleven candy mice, and on the twelfth day, a miniature Christmas tree with twelve ornaments. Each gift came with a card signed, “Your true friends.”

At first, they tried to figure out who left the gifts, thinking it was someone they knew. Then, they realized the gift giver’s identity wasn’t important. The book has twelve chapters describing each day in the gift-giving scenario. In the thirteenth chapter, the author describes how over ten years later, she met the anonymous donors, complete strangers, who were the second generation of a trend that started back in the 1980’s.

This writer draws the reader into her story. Like Martin Sixsmith, author of Philomena, she writes terrific prose that make you forget she’s a journalist. I also like the way she illustrates the concept of paying it forward during the holiday season. However, I found the ending to be a bit of a disappointment. I guess I expected something more spectacular, but this is a true story, and as stated by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction, “You can’t make this stuff up.” To learn more about Joanne Huist Smith, go to http://www.13thgift.com/bios/joanne-huist-smith .

Now, click below to hear me sing the song that inspired this gift giving idea. This is one of those songs I can practice until the cows come home and still mess up so I hope you enjoy listening to it.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/12%20days%20of%20christmas.mp3

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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A Brown or White Christmas

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Walking in snow and ice can be treacherous, even for people with good eyes. Needless to say, I don’t do much walking in winter, now that I’m older and more fearful of breaking bones. Since I enjoy walking, I’ve often wished our winters could be without snow and ice.

A couple of months ago while strolling on a beautiful fall day, I was thinking about this and came up with a little ditty to a familiar holiday tune which you can hear Bing Crosby sing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGAosOoKFMs . I’ll paste the lyrics below and then a link to where you can hear me sing it with piano accompaniment.

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BROWN CHRISTMAS

I’m dreaming of a brown Christmas

so I don’t have to slip and slide.

Then I will be walking and won’t be talking

to folks, asking for a ride.

I’m dreaming of a brown Christmas

where snow and ice I will not fight.

Then I will be merry and bright.

In my heart, my Christmas will be white.

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I must admit, though, that Christmas isn’t the same without snow. Where will you be this year? Do you think your Christmas will be brown or white?

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Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Holiday Review: The Mistletoe Inn

The Mistletoe Inn by Richard Paul Evans. Copyright 2015.

 

Kim is an aspiring romance writer who lives in Denver, Colorado, and works as a finance officer at a car dealership. She’s not too keen on romance because she was jilted at the altar, and other relationships failed. However, when she attends a writers’ retreat in Vermont during the month of December, she becomes involved with a fellow author. When she’s unable to accept constructive criticism of her manuscript from him, this causes a rift, but then the story has a surprise ending.

I like the way Richard Paul Evans provides Kim’s back story in the prolog and beginning chapters. I always get frustrated when authors start the story in the middle and then go back, although it’s said that’s the best way to hook a reader. Actually, Mr. Evans did a pretty good job of hooking me with the prolog.

I also like the way he illustrates the idea that fame and fortune don’t always make a person happy. He also does this in A Perfect Day which I reviewed on this blog a couple of years ago at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/a-perfect-day/ . I won’t elaborate because I don’t want to give away any more of the plot. If you want to know what I mean, you’d better read the book. In fact, you should read both books. To learn more, go to http://www.richardpaulevans.com/ .

Since The Mistletoe Inn is a holiday romance, click below to hear me sing a romantic holiday song.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/winter%20wonderland.mp3

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

 

 

Holiday Reading

I was recently invited to read some of my poems at a meeting of Akcita Win. This is a women’s organization that does community service projects and offers scholarships every year here in Sheridan, Wyoming. My grandmother founded this group in the 1940’s, and I didn’t know this until the night of the meeting which was held at the First Christian Church.

My presentation was preceded by a delicious fried chicken dinner catered by a local market and followed by a rousing game of Christmas bingo and door prize giveaways. I didn’t win, but that didn’t matter. It was still a lot of fun. I was invited to join the organization, and I suppose I should since my grandmother founded it, but I don’t have time.

One of the group’s money making projects I remember from years ago was a vending stand at the local fair grounds during our annual rodeo, county fair, and other events. When my brother and I were kids, Dad took us to the fair grounds for whatever event was going on, and we often stopped by the stand where Grandma gave us each a Coke, paying for it of course. At the meeting, I spoke to a lady who worked with Grandma at the stand, flipping burgers, and she reminisced about those days. She told me that too many safety regulations make it difficult for organizations to undertake such money making projects, and that’s too bad. However, it was nice talking about those good old days.

My reading lasted about twenty minutes. I sang a few songs, a Capella, incorporating them into my poems, finishing with a parody of “White Christmas” that I wrote. I then sang the original words with everyone joining in. The audience loved it, and I passed around business cards. I brought copies of my poetry books, but nobody seemed interested.

I was able to record my program, and you can click below to hear it. Because of the file size and limited Dropbox space, this recording is contained in a zipped folder so you’ll need to download and extract it. If you’re not sure how to do this, please leave a note in the comments field, and I’ll try to help you. Be sure to check the appropriate box so you’ll receive my reply by email. Enjoy! Happy holidays.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/akcita%20win%20reading%2012-1-2015.zip

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Over the Bridge and Along the Creek

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Here’s a little ditty I wrote recently. Years ago when my grandmother was alive, I enjoyed walking to her house, even as an adult. Now, our town boasts a series of connected cement walkways that would have provided a scenic route from my house to hers if she were still alive. The following is set to a familiar tune we associate with Thanksgiving. To hear me sing it while accompanying myself on piano, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/over%20bridge%20along%20creek.mp3 . Happy Thanksgiving!

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OVER THE BRIDGE AND A LONG THE CREEK

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My cane knows the way. I will not stray as through the leaves I go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house I spy.

Hurray for the turkey, stuffing, and yams and Grandma’s apple pie.

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My dog knows the way so “Forward,” I say as along the path we go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house we spy.

I must insure my trusty guide does not eat Grandma’s pie. Ruff ruff.

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Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.