Thursday Book Feature: The Christmas Train

Don’t ask why my group chose a Christmas book to discuss in March. At least you’ll have something to put on your December reading list. Merry Christmas, three months late or nine months early, depending on how you look at it.

***

The Christmas Train
Baldacci, David.
Copyright 2002.

After being put on the no-fly list as a result of a confrontation with the airlines, journalist Tom decides to travel by train across the country from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles and write about it. In L.A., he plans to spend Christmas with his current girlfriend, Lilia, an actress. Along the way, he meets an eccentric old lady, a retired priest, a movie director, and then his former girlfriend Eleanor. Things get even more interesting when Lilia boards the train in Kansas City. Other events including the discovery of a naked man sleeping in one of the coach cars, a series of robberies, and a blizzard make this a hilarious, heartwarming holiday tale with two interesting revelations at the end.

This was another book that was hard to put down. I was right there on the train with Tom, Eleanor, and the other characters, yet thankful to be safe in my recliner at home when the train encountered an avalanche. I definitely recommend The Christmas Train as a great holiday read.

***

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
Like Me on Facebook.

***

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.

***

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

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

**

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

Saturday Song: Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo & Patsy

In 1973 after we moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan Wyoming, my grandmother, who lived close by, often came to our house Christmas Eve. No doubt she had too much to drink, but she somehow managed to return home in her maroon Cadillac without encountering any reindeer. The grandmother in this song was less fortunate. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

***

***

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.

***

Season’s Greetings 2017

I hope this finds you well, having had a great year. Mine has been pretty quiet.

In January of 2017, I spent a week in Florida with my brother and his family. It was a little chilly, so we didn’t spend a lot of time on the beach, but we went to a party and attended an epiphany celebration at an Episcopal church in West Palm Beach, the same church Donald Trump attends when he’s in town, wouldn’t you know?

In April, I attended the WyoPoets annual workshop in Buffalo, about thirty miles south of here. In June, I went to the Wyoming Writers conference in Gillette, about 100 miles south and east of here. Both were fun and informative.

In July, I sang with my group, Just Harmony, at the local ball park for a VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) game. We performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” to start the game and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seven-inning stretch. This was a lot of fun. I always feel close to Bill when I attend a baseball game.

In July, I performed alone and with Just Harmony for two Vaudeville programs. Alone, I shared some of my poems. With the group, I sang several songs. I think both performances brought down the house.

In September, I went to Colorado Springs with Aunt Junior and Uncle Roger, who live here in Sheridan. My Uncle Tony and Aunt Kitty live in the springs, and a party was planned for Tony’s 75th birthday. It was held at a clubhouse across the road from their home. Some of the food was catered while other dishes were provided by local folks. There was plenty to eat, and I enjoyed seeing my cousins again and meeting some of Tony’s friends and former colleagues from his law office.

For Thanksgiving, Uncle Tony and Aunt Kitty came here, and we had a lovely dinner at Aunt Junior and Uncle Roger’s house, complete with turkey and all the trimmings plus appetizers and pumpkin pie. The day after, Just Harmony performed downtown at a thrift store called The Green Boomerang as part of Sheridan’s annual Christmas Stroll. A week later, we performed at a museum’s holiday open house and a nursing home and at a memory service at a local funeral home. We have three more performances coming up. Tis the season to be singing.

Speaking of which, I did plenty of that this year, not only with Just Harmony but on my own, accompanying myself on guitar. Each month, I went to senior facilities here in town and entertained the residents. I think I enjoy performing as much as they enjoy hearing me.

On December 8th, Rose Hill, a friend and fellow poet, and I did a program of music and poetry as part of Christmas at the Carriagehouse, an annual variety show that takes place at a local theater. Rose read a story she wrote about how “Silent Night” was written, and I led the audience in singing that song’s first verse. Rose then shared a humorous poem she wrote about Santa Claus being a cowboy, and I finished by reciting a touching poem I wrote about grief and singing “O Holy Night,” the song that inspired it. Here’s the poem. Click on the title to hear me read it and sing the song.

A MOURNFUL NIGHT

I wash dishes, mouth the words

to the familiar carol.

As soap washes away scum

from plates, glasses, flatware,

my tears wash away grief,

leave me at peace.

So far, I have no plans for Christmas. I’ll probably do what I did last year: have lunch at the senior center, then spend the rest of the day watching Christmas movies on my tablet. My favorite is the one about the little boy who wants and receives a Red Rider BB gun, then comes close to shooting his eye out. I hope your holiday wishes and plans don’t go awry and that next year is just as good for you as this one was.

***

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.

***