Thursday Book Feature: Wonder

Wonder

by R. J. Palacio

Copyright 2012.

For the first four years of his education, August, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder resulting in severe facial deformity, was home-schooled. As this book opens, he is told that he will be starting fifth grade at a prep school near their home in River Heights, a suburb of Manhattan, New York. Naturally, he is reluctant to go, and as you can imagine, he has a hard time fitting in with other kids. This story is told from several points of view including August’s sister and his best friend, a couple of his sister’s friends, and of course August himself. At the end, there’s a list of sayings August’s teacher writes on the blackboard each month during the school year.

One thing I liked about the Brilliance Audio production of this book was how each of the three narrators portrayed each character from who’s point of view they were reading the story, as well as other minor characters. As I listened, I was taken back to my own school days, especially my experiences with starting junior high in a new school. In the good old days, junior high was similar to middle school now in that students move from one classroom to another every hour and have lockers. The book also helped me put those experiences in perspective. Because of my visual impairment, like August, I wasn’t popular at first, but at least kids weren’t screaming and running away from me or calling me a freak.

Once I got into this book, it was hard to put down. I laughed and got mad and was almost moved to tears by the ending. By telling the story from the first person point of view of each of the major characters, the author writes in a style that identifies with both kids and adults. For this reason, this book should be required reading for students from fifth grade up. Even adults can learn, from this book, lessons about open-mindedness and acceptance of others not like us.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Saturday Song: Listen to your heart by Roxette

I heard this song a while back on an oldies station. It came out at a time when I wasn’t paying attention to popular music, but the words caught my attention and reminded me of my own situation over ten years ago. Like the woman in the song, I felt conflicted after Bill proposed to me in 2005. Since I was under the impression he just wanted to be friends, his letter, asking me to marry him, came as a shock.

To make a long story short, I eventually listened to my heart and did not tell him goodbye. Although he became partially paralyzed three months after our wedding, and I had to care for him during most of our married life, I have no regrets. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Stepping and Cooking

The poem you’ll hear me read when you click below appears in My Ideal Partner. It describes how my feet traversed through the house many times, as I cooked, cleaned, and cared for my late husband Bill, who was partially paralyzed. I swear if I’d been wearing a pedometer during those six years after his strokes, it probably would have been overloaded. The text of the poem is below.

The song I’ll sing is one I sang to Bill many times before his strokes. He loved to cook, so whenever I found him stirring something on the stove or peeling potatoes at the kitchen counter, I sang this Hank Williams standard. If I’d known he would have two strokes and I would have to do all the cooking, I would have paid more attention while he was preparing meals instead of flirting with him. I hope you enjoy my presentation of poetry and song.

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MANY STEPS

From counter to wastebasket, back to counter

to wheelchair, to bathroom, to recliner, to bed,

my feet pound linoleum and carpet to cook his meals,

dress and transfer him from one place to another.

At the end of the day, weary, footsore,

I hold him in bed, enjoy the fruit of my labor.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Cozy

Were you cozy during this past holiday season? I was, despite my Internet being down from Wednesday, December 20th through Tuesday, December 26th. At first, I was told a technician would visit on Friday, the 22nd. That day came and went with no sign of any repair person. I called several times and was given quite the song and dance routine. First, the tech was running late with his previous customer, but I was next on his list. Next, he was in the area, working on the connection. Finally, I was told that my visit with the technician was re-scheduled for Tuesday, the 26th, the day after Christmas. When I complained to the customer service department, the best they could give me was a $10.00 discount for time not used. Big deal!

Except for attending a tuba Christmas concert Saturday afternoon, I spent the long Christmas weekend snuggled in my recliner, either reading books or watching movies I’d already downloaded or listening to holiday programs on National Public Radio. On Christmas Day, I had lunch at our local senior center, where I enjoyed roast beef, a twice baked potato, asparagus, and bread pudding.

On the morning of Tuesday, December 26th, a technician finally called me around eleven o’clock. He said he thought he’d fixed the problem and asked me to power cycle my modem. I did, and sure enough, it worked. Apparently, the issue was with a bad port in the local office. According to the technician, this could have been fixed the previous week if the CEO hadn’t been out of town.

Needless to say, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to find another Internet provider. I also resolve to have my furnace vents cleaned regularly in the hope of cutting back on dust that could occasionally be wreaking havoc with my allergies. This, of course, has nothing to do with my Internet. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? I hope you all had a great holiday season and wish you a Happy New Year.

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Note: the above was inspired by a blog post in response to a daily prompt.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: A Christmas Embrace

I know it’s a little late, but maybe you can put this on your reading list for next year.

A Christmas Embrace

By Ellen T. Marsh

Copyright 1994

In California, Alex and Rose have been married for almost ten years. He is an accountant, and she is a veterinarian. Their careers have kept them busy over the years, and as a result, Rose feels they’re drifting apart. In an attempt to save their marriage, she books a surprise weekend for them both in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Meanwhile, Alex, by a stroke of luck, ends up with a pair of tickets to a football game in San Diego and a weekend’s stay at a posh hotel there. He plans to surprise Rose with this, but when she reveals her surprise first, although he’s angry, he reluctantly agrees to accompany her. After landing in Baltimore, Maryland, during a snowstorm, Alex and Rose get more than they bargained for.

When I read this book, I was depressed because my Internet was down, and a technician wasn’t scheduled to repair my service until the day after Christmas. I soon realized that there are worse things than being without Internet. Although I knew that all along, I needed to be reminded of the important things in life: food, clothing, and shelter. These I had. I’m also thankful that my own marriage with Bill, though short, was never strained, despite the fact that I had to care for him during the last six years of his life. This feel-good book helped me escape from my woes and retrieve my attitude of gratitude.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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My Favorite Family Holiday Vacation

In 1970 when I was nine, and my younger brother Andy was two, we were living in Tucson, Arizona. At Christmas that year, it was decided that Mother, Andy, and I would spend the holiday in Denver with Mother’s relatives while Dad visited his family in Sheridan, Wyoming. I assume this is because my parents couldn’t agree on one place to spend Christmas. Looking back, I can’t imagine why we couldn’t have seen both sets of relations, since Sheridan is only about an eight-hour drive from Denver, compared to the mileage between Denver and Tucson.

This was my first Christmas away from home, and I was worried about Santa finding us, but Mother assured me that he would come to Denver. I don’t remember how Dad got to and from Sheridan, but Mother, Andy, and I flew to and from Denver. Grammy and Granddad, as we affectionately called my mother’s parents, had recently moved into a new house they’d built on a hillside. It was a split-level home, and I found it fascinating.

From the garage, a set of stairs led to a door which opened onto a hallway. On the left was a bathroom and on the right was Granddad’s study. Straight ahead was a large family room containing a couch, several chairs, a TV, and a piano. A sliding door led to a patio beyond.

To the left, another set of stairs led to an expansive living and dining area and kitchen. More stairs led to yet another level containing three bedrooms and a bathroom. The master bedroom, where Grandad slept, had its own bathroom. The room where we slept had a set of double decker beds plus a crib for Andy. Mother and I utilized the bunks with me on the bottom and her on the top. After living in single-level homes in Tucson for years, despite my limited vision, I loved this house with all its stairs.

My mother’s brother Jack, his wife Sharon, and their children, Kelly and Bill, also lived in Denver. Kelly was my age, and Bill was Andy’s, so we always enjoyed playing together. We spent Christmas Eve at their house, then returned to Grammy and Granddad’s house and went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up and realized we’d forgotten to hang our stockings. Where would Santa put our gifts? I roused Mother by banging on the top bunk above me, and she sleepily assured me that Grammy and Granddad had taken care of that. I eventually went back to sleep.

Sure enough, in the morning, it was apparent that Santa had indeed found us, as evidenced by the full stockings in the family room. There was no fireplace, no chimney, so how Santa got in will always be a mystery. My most memorable gifts that year were a set of large print multiplication flash cards and an alarm clock with “Wake up, Abbie” printed on the front. Andy got an inflatable dummy you could use as a punching bag. I think it was called Socko.

Mother had other relatives in Denver, mostly uncles and aunts, who came for Christmas dinner, along with Uncle Jack and his family. Kelly showed me a similar alarm clock she’d received with “Wake up, Kelly” printed on its front.

After about a week in Denver, we returned to Tucson where we found more presents from Santa waiting: a bicycle for me and a little red wagon for Andy. A few days later, Dad returned from Sheridan and brought me an eight—track player. I’m pretty sure he brought something for Andy but don’t remember what that was.

We visited Grammy and Granddad’s house many times over the years as children and adults. After my grandparents passed, Uncle Jack lived there until his death. Now, someone else is lucky to have this wonderful home.

What was your most memorable family holiday vacation? Please share it, either on your own blog with a link to it here or in the comment field below. By now, Christmas has come and gone, and I hope this holiday was filled with memories for you.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: The Mistletoe Secret

The Mistletoe Secret

by Richard Paul Evans

Copyright 2016.

Eleven months after Alex’s wife leaves him for another man, he’s lonely but won’t admit it. His friends and co-workers encourage him to try an online dating service, which proves fruitless. Then, he discovers a blog written by a woman who calls herself LBH. There’s no profile, no contact information, no way to identify her. Alex feels compelled to find her. He discovers clues in the woman’s posts, and his search eventually takes him to Midway, Utah.

I was drawn to this book’s title because my late husband Bill once invited me to kiss him under the mistletoe in his home in Fowler, Colorado. Halfway through the book though, I wondered how I could have gotten into such a story. It might have been better without the prologue, in which the mysterious blogger’s identity is revealed, but the idea of a man traveling across the country in search of an unknown woman is ridiculous.

Alex turns out to be a flake. The author may have made him that way to interject some humor, but I didn’t find it a bit funny, especially as it pertained to his relationship with LBH. The ending, with its shocking revelation, gave me pause but didn’t completely change my mind.

I spent almost an entire Sunday reading this book because it was recommended as a good holiday read. To me, it was a waste of time. However, if you are young and believe in the magic of holiday romance, this book may be for you.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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