Novel Weaves Compelling Family Drama #Thursday Book Feature

Summer of 69

by Elin Hilderbrand

Copyright 2019

 

This is the story of one family during the summer of 1969. Jesse, thirteen, dreads spending a long, lonely summer on Nantucket with just her mother and grandmother. Her brother Richard is fighting in Vietnam. Her sister Curby, a college student, has a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard, and her other sister Blaire is married and pregnant in Boston.

This story is told from alternating third person points of view of most of the characters and is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the moon landing. In the author’s note at the end, she explains how this story relates to her own life and events in the news during that time.

Despite this author’s nasty habit of inserting too much narrative in scenes containing dialog between two or more characters, I was drawn into the story right away. I was right there with the characters, walking on a beach or eating in a fancy restaurant. Jesse’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother’s eccentricities. I was also reminded of when my younger brother first learned to play tennis.

The narrator in the Audible version is excellent. I like how the last part of the book, which is set at Thanksgiving in 1969, ties up most loose ends. Being a musician, I can appreciate how each section is titled after a song popular during that time. With summer drawing to a close, this is one more book you should read this season, especially since this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

 

 

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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Wednesday Words Poetry Challenge: Celebrate and Number (Synonyms Only)

Image contains: me, smiling.This feature was created by Collene Chesebro. This week’s words are “celebrate” and “number.” In the following etheree, I’m using “commemorate” instead of “celebrate” and “bunches” instead of “number.” In light of the upcoming U.S. holiday, this poem suggests how the American government should handle immigration, contrary to what President Trump is doing now. You can click the Play button below to hear me read it.

 

A THANKSGIVING REQUEST

We
give thanks
for our lives
in this nation.
We commemorate
the bunches of pilgrims
who first came to this country.
Let’s open our borders to those
who come, seeking a better life, as
forefathers who came centuries ago.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

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Giving Thanks 2018

Image contains: me, smiling.

Author Alice Massa inspired this post. On her blog, she has devoted an entire month to posts about things for which she’s thankful. I doubt I have enough material for a month of posts on this topic, but maybe I’ll try to list at least five things for which I’m thankful for each year. Here are my five for this year.

 

  1. I’m thankful to be alive and safe. I’m glad I don’t live in California amid wildfires that have claimed many lives and that I wasn’t in the bar in Thousand Oaks or the synagogue in Pittsburgh where the mass shootings occurred. Of course, I don’t frequent such establishments, but this goes to show that no place is sacred, and life and safety should not be taken for granted.
  2. I’m thankful for basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, plumbing, the Internet. The Internet, you say. Many people don’t even have access to running water, let alone the World-Wide-Web. Yes, this is true, but because I’m a writer with a website and blog, the Internet is my livelihood. When I was without it for six days last Christmas, I learned not to take it for granted.
    1. I’m thankful for parents who spanked me when I was a child. This may sound strange, but it’s true. I recently heard on National Public Radio that the Academy of Pediatricians says that spanking impacts a child’s brain development. Well, being spanked as a child doesn’t seem to have affected mine. This is one thing wrong with the world today. Many children are not well-disciplined, and this could be contributing to the rise in crime and violence. I’m not a parent, but looking back on the way I was reared, I believe that punishment should be swift and sure,h so that children will learn that actions have consequences. The NPR report also stated that children shouldn’t be punished in a way that humiliates them. Well, if I hadn’t felt humiliated when I’d done something wrong, I would never have learned not to repeat the bad things I did. I’m not advocating beating a kid with a belt or board, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a few good swats on a child’s bottom. It’s unfortunate that nowadays, this can be considered child abuse.
  3. Speaking of abuse, I’m thankful I was never a victim of domestic violence. My late husband Bill was a gentle soul. He rarely got angry, and when he did, it only lasted ten seconds. He never raised a hand to me, and he never said anything verbally abusive. Not every woman is as fortunate. You can learn more about me and Bill by reading My Ideal Partner.
  4. I’m thankful to be a U.S. citizen and not one of the many immigrants trying to cross our borders in search of a better life. What President Trump and those who support his immigration policies don’t understand is that those immigrants are no different from the pilgrims who first came to this country and celebrated the first Thanksgiving. What if, God Forbid, when those first settlers arrived, they couldn’t live here because of a ruler like Trump.

 

What about you? I’d love to read about what you’re thankful for this year, either on your own blog or in the comment field below. If you post your list on your blog, please provide a link to this post, so I’ll be sure to read it. I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving with lots of good food and good company.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

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News from Abbie’s Corner April 2017

March has been a pretty quiet month. On the 2nd, I had an opportunity to hear pianist Andre Bohren at the Wyo Theater. On the 4th, I planned to attend a performance of Swan Lake at Sheridan College’s Whitney Center for the Arts, but I got a bad cold and decided to stay home. I’d already purchased a ticket but was able to give it to a friend who enjoyed the performance.

On the 18th, my singing group, Just Harmony, performed at an event at the local Methodist church they called a spudtacular. For dinner, there were baked potatoes with a variety of toppings plus salads and ice cream for dessert. We were the first to sing, followed by a group of kids who sang Irish songs, accompanying themselves on flute, guitar, and drum.

Besides a reading by former state poet laureate Rose Hill, a dear friend and church member, the event included a drawing for door prizes. I ended up with a mug that says, “Chocolate, always the answer.” So what’s the question? I guess it’s chocolate.

I gave two solo performances this month: on the 24th at Greenhouse and on the 28th at Westview. I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge for a birthday social on April 7th and Westview again on the 25th.

Since April is National Poetry Month, my Third Thursday Poets will give a reading on the 20th. We’re in the process of producing a chapbook to benefit the senior center, and this will be launched during our event. On April 29th, I’ll attend a poetry workshop in Buffalo, Wyoming, about thirty miles south of Sheridan, sponsored by WyoPoets.

Since we had a lot of rain in March, I was inspired to sing a medley of songs about rain at my solo performances. I’ll sing it again for you.

I’m using a different platform to post my audio files. If you have trouble with the player, please let me know in the comments field, and I’ll paste a link there that should work. If enough people have trouble with the player, I can use the link instead, so please don’t be afraid to share your thoughts on this subject or any other for that matter. Happy spring.

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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.

 

Blog Party Now Live

Welcome to my first ever blog party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Break out the Bailey’s Irish Cream and soda bread or whatever you consume on this day, and let’s have a great time.

I’ll start by re-blogging a post I wrote several years ago that’s fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. After reading it, you’re encouraged to find a favorite post, either from your blog or someone else’s, and paste a link to it in the comments field along with a brief description of the blog.

The post you submit can be about anything, not just the Irish or St. Patrick’s Day. After you do this, you can look at other postings in the comments section and get to know other bloggers, and they can get to know you. Let the party begin.

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Book and Movie Tell Tragic Adoption Story

 

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, a healthy baby boy is born. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British writer, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005) In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government.

The book, Philomena begins with a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie. Martin Sixsmith then starts by describing the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were prisoners there for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She did the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

Most of the remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in homosexual activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin confronts one of the nuns, and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. I can think of no better way to end this post. Please click this link to hear me sing this song. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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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.

 

 

 

Circus in the Bedroom

Abbie-1

In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

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UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

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It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

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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.

 

Poem Speaks Out Against Trump

Abbie-1

I usually don’t get political here, but when someone in my Third Thursday Poets group suggested we each write a poem about the meaning of January 20th for critique at our last session, I couldn’t resist. Click on the title below to hear me read what I wrote. You’re welcome to comment, whether you agree or not, but if you don’t like what you read or hear, I hope we can simply agree to disagree.

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INAUGURATION DAY

 

 

Today, our country turns over a new leaf.

A different leader takes the Oath of Office.

A billionaire, racist, bigot

with no grasp of foreign policy,

little respect for women or minorities

or concern for impoverished Americans,

the economy, environment,

he won the Presidency, not by popular vote

in an election possibly rigged by Russians.

What will become of America?

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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.