News from My Corner December 2021 #Newsletters #TuesdayTidbit #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

Dear Family and Friends,

 

In the past few years, I’ve asked my virtual assistants to write my holiday letters for me. But, as I’m sure you remember, they can be a bit biased. Last year, when all three of them, Siri, Google, and Alexa, chimed in, it almost got deadly. So, from now on, I’m taking my brother’s sage advice. If you want something done right, do it yourself.

That having been said, I’m trying something new. Fellow author and blogger Lynda Lambert composes a newsletter that she sends and posts on her blog twice a year. So, I’m going to see if this will work for me. It may not, but I always say you never know until you try.
As I’m writing this on the day after Thanksgiving, there’s no snow on the ground, only leaves. Although it’s cloudy and cold, there’s nothing to indicate that winter and Christmas are on the way.

Although I’m glad not to have to deal with winter weather, it would be nice to have a little snow tonight for Sheridan’s annual Christmas stroll, where my singing group, Just Harmony, will perform. We’ll be singing indoors at a local thrift store, and a little of the white stuff on the ground would surely put people in a holiday shopping mood. Meanwhile, I’ve asked Alexa to play the holiday standards station from Tune-In Radio, and that seems to be putting me in the holiday letter-writing mood.

Thanks to COVID, I haven’t done much traveling this past year. I’d love to fly to Florida and spend Christmas with my brother and his family, but although I’m fully vaccinated, I’m concerned about picking up the virus in an airport or on a plane and passing it on to someone more vulnerable. Now that another variant of the virus has been reported in South Africa and other locations, I know I made the right decision to stay home.

Although I miss my family and love being with them, it’s not worth it if I’m risking making someone sick. I’ll probably eat Christmas dinner at the senior center. I had a nice Thanksgiving meal there yesterday.

Last April, I attended the WyoPoets annual workshop in Gillette, about a hundred miles south and east of Sheridan. I had submitted a poem for critique, and to my surprise and delight, the presenter read my poem during the workshop and offered her comments. Sadly, most of the day was spent reading and discussing other poems, including mine. I would have liked to  have done more writing during the workshop. But it was still fun reconnecting with other poets I hadn’t seen in over a year.

In June, I attended the National Federation of State Poetry Societies virtual conference, which featured workshops, open mic readings, and other activities. I wrote a couple more poems as a result of those workshops.

In July, my brother and his wife came and stayed for a few days. They’d been traveling across the country, visiting friends and relatives, and Sheridan was their last stop before they headed home to Florida. While they were here, we attended the rodeo parade and my class reunion and gathered with other family members for a celebration of life for an uncle who had passed away the previous winter. We had a wonderful time, and I’m hoping to get down to Florida to see them sometime next year.

All throughout the spring and summer, I was working on my new novel, Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me. It was finally released the first week in October. Unfortunately, not realizing how soon it would be published, I signed up for a virtual memoir writing class that started at the end of September and ran until the first of November. So, between that and my blog and other obligations, I had little time to promote the book until this month. As for the memoir writing class, I now have a few more creative nonfiction pieces I can submit for publication later.

Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me is a novel about a grandmother with dementia who lives in a nursing home and tells her teenaged granddaughter a secret. The girl, not knowing what else to do, tells her parents she knows this secret. In the course of the book, which starts Halloween and ends at Christmas, the family is dealing with the situation. You can read a synopsis, reviews, and find ordering links on my website at:  https://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com I’ll be signing copies of the book at Sheridan Stationery Books and Gifts on September 4th from one to three p.m. and have scheduled a radio interview on station KROE AM on December 20th at 9:10 a.m.

Last year, senior facilities where I’d been entertaining, that had been on lock-down due to the coronavirus pandemic, started opening up. I now do two gigs a month, one at a nursing home and the other at an assisted living facility. Our local senior center does lunchtime livestreams now in their dining room. I’ll be performing for one of those on December 23rd, and the event will be broadcast live on Facebook. I recently started participating in karaoke online through Zoom and in person at a local bar and grill.

Just Harmony has also started performing again. In September, we sang for a state Red Hats convention. Besides our performance during tonight’s Christmas stroll, we’ll be singing at a Mormon church service, an assisted living facility, a historical museum’s holiday open house, and for a local women’s club’s Christmas party.

I leave you now with a poem I wrote several years ago and revised recently for one of my writers’ critique groups.

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHER’S COOKING

 

 

 

I loved Mother’s meatloaf, steak San Marco, calico beans.

During meals, she often said,

“It’s too dry, too salty,

needs more pepper, should have been cooked longer.”

 

When I was an adult, she mashed potatoes for the first time:

boiled, peeled, sliced them,

added milk and butter, then attacked them with an electric mixer.

They turned out chunky but still tasted good.

 

On Christmas Day, with family and friends gathered at the table,

she berated herself for allowing

bits of potato to evade the whirring beaters.

I said I liked the potatoes, asked for a second helping.

As she scooped another delicious mound on my plate, she said,

“Well, you’re used to college cafeteria food.”

 

 

I hope your holiday season is as memorable as the year my mother made mashed potatoes for the first time, and I wish you all the best in the coming year.

 

With Love and Friendship,

Abbie

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Christmas Bowl #Tuesday Tidbit, #Essay

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school. Due in part to my visual impairment, I wasn’t successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the nose with a ball. But in college, I found a sport I could do pretty well, despite the visual impairment, and without injury.

In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyoming. I was required to take at least two semesters of physical education. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least amount of athletic ability, and the chance of injury was slim.

The first few days of class were humiliating. I found that no matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. But between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me.

The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself, so I  would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait my turn. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement, so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.

Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent, and I hit more and more pins. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.

By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved bowling and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional tour on television.

I was living at home at the time. Since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive out to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So, I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We would often go as a family, with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time!

As Christmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed, as I realized that the bowling class wouldn’t continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again once the term ended. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. Santa Claus even brought me an electronic bowling game. My parents realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.

Through the years, I continued to bowl, although not as frequently, due to having other interests and obligations. One year, I joined a team on a ladies’ bowling league. We only bowled a few times, and the team finally broke up due to lack of interest. I offered my services to another team captain I knew, but I was never called. Perhaps my seventy-six average didn’t make me league material.

Now, although I still have the bag with the ball and shoes, I haven’t bowled in years. But I still have the memory of that seventy-six bowling average. That was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.

***

The above essay is in response to Dr. Crystal Grimes’ holiday blogging party, in which you can participate here. This essay was published years ago in Christmas in the Country, an anthology of work by disabled authors. It has since been revised.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

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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May You Never Be Alone #Musical Monday

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

The song I’m singing today is one I featured here last year, but it’s worth an encore performance. According to the artist’s website, Susan Boyle, the Scottish singer whom I’ve heard sing this song, has won fans on both sides of the globe since her performance on Britain’s Got Talent eleven years ago. She has sold over 25 million albums, produced 250 audio streams, and received over 650 million YouTube hits. Among her other accomplishments are a debut acting role in Christmas Candle, a cameo role in Zoolander 2, and three television documentaries. You can learn more about her here.

When I first heard “May You Never Be Alone” a year ago, it was as if my late husband were singing it to me, reassuring me that he was nearby and that we would be reunited. Now, more than ever, this song resonates, since many of us will not be spending the holidays with loved ones in an attempt to keep the coronavirus from spreading. I hope my rendition warms your heart and gives you hope.

This post is part of Dr. Grimes’ holiday blogging party. You can still participate by clicking here.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

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

Website

 

 

Silent Night #Fiction, #Tuesday Tidbit

Note: The following is in response to Dr. Crystal Grimes’ holiday blogging party. Click here to learn how you can participate. This story was also published in the fall/winter 2018-2019 issue of Magnets and Ladders. You can click the link below it to hear me play and sing the song, for which the story is titled.

SILENT NIGHT

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

The day before Christmas, my seven-year-old daughter Hannah was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I opted to spend CHRISTMAS Day with her. My parents, as they’d done every year since the divorce, had invited Hannah and me to their house for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t leave my little girl alone in the hospital.

Hannah wasn’t on solid food yet, but a nurse offered to bring me a tray, perhaps realizing it would be difficult for me to navigate to the cafeteria with my limited vision. While Hannah slept, I sat by her bed and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. The food was surprisingly good for a hospital.

I said as much to the nurse when she came to collect my tray. “We have a chef now,” she said.  “Of course, many of our patients are too sick to appreciate it, but it’s certainly better than the fare we used to serve.”

The little girl in the other bed moaned and then started crying in earnest. I looked over and couldn’t see anyone sitting with her. “Oh, that’s Jessica,” said the nurse in a conspiratorial tone. “Poor kid, she fell out of her neighbor’s treehouse yesterday and broke her leg in three places. She’s in a body cast from her chest to her right foot.”

Hannah must have awakened for she said, “Ou, I guess I won’t complain about my tummy anymore. I’m glad I don’t have a treehouse, and I hope Santa didn’t leave me one.”

I marveled at how sensitive my daughter was. As the nurse went to Jessica and tried to comfort her, I said, “How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“I’m okay, but my tummy still hurts.”

“I thought you weren’t gonna complain about your tummy anymore,” I said, as I ruffled her hair.

Hannah giggled, then winced. “Ouch, Mommy, it hurts more when I laugh.”

“It sounds like you could use some pain medication too,” said the nurse, as she started to leave the room.

“No, it only really hurts when I laugh,” said Hannah.

“Well, in that case, laughter’s the best medicine,” said the nurse. “I’ll be back soon.”

“How old is Jessica?” asked Hannah.

“Oh, I think she’s about your age,” answered the nurse. “I’ll be back in a bit with some medicine for her, and that’ll make her feel better.” With that, she was gone.

Jessica was still sniffling, but it wasn’t as loud as before. “Mommy, you should go sing her a song,” said Hannah. “like you did for me last night when I was really hurting. I’m not hurting as much now, and I think she’s hurting more.”

Years earlier, I’d worked as a registered music therapist. That was before Hannah was born, before I’d started losing my vision, before my world changed. My husband hadn’t wanted a child but was resigned to the idea once he learned I was pregnant. The vision loss after Hannah’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, he paid plenty of child support. That, along with my disability payments, allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and once I learned to use a computer with screen reading and magnification software, I brought in a little income from freelance writing.

Now, I looked over at the little girl in the other bed. My specialty as a music therapist had been with elderly nursing home residents, not hospitalized children. I hadn’t even done a clinical practicum with that population. I remembered bed-ridden residents who smiled and relaxed when I sat by their beds, held their hands, and sang. I even performed at some of their funerals. The fact that my singing in the emergency room the night before had calmed Hannah made me think that perhaps I hadn’t lost my touch. I rose and pulled my chair next to the other bed, where I sat and took the child’s hand that lay on top of the white sheet covering her.

“Hi Jessica,” I said. “I’m Joan. My little girl Hannah is in the other bed. What’s wrong?”

“My leg really hurts,” she answered. “I’ll never play in that stupid treehouse again.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, stroking her hair. “Would you  like to sing a song with me?”

“Will that make the pain go away?” she asked.

“It’ll take your mind off of it. What’s your favorite Christmas song?”

She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

“All right, let’s sing it together, shall we?”

I started, and soon, she joined in, followed by Hannah. When we finished that song, Jessica suggested “Jingle Bells,” then “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The nurse appeared and said, “What lovely singing. Jessica, I have some medicine that will make you feel better. I’m going to put it in your IV now.”

As she started to do this, I said, “Why don’t we sing one more song?”

“I want to hear you sing something by yourself,” said Jessica. “You have a pretty voice, and so did my mommy. She used to sing to me at night before I went to sleep.” A wistful look crossed her face.

“Why doesn’t she sing to you anymore?” I asked.

“She was killed in a car accident a few months ago,” she answered. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“Oh honey, I’m sorry,” I said, as I stroked her hair. Tears welled in my own eyes.

Holding them back, I said, “What song did your mom like to sing to you this time of year?”

“‘Silent Night,'” she answered.

“Yeah, sing that one, Mom,” said Hannah.

I took a deep breath and began. To my surprise, the nurse joined in, singing alto. Our two voices blending together in harmony was almost too much, but I managed to continue.

As we started the second verse, I sensed a presence at my side and turned to see a man standing there. “Daddy!” Jessica said, her eyes wide with delight.

“Hey princess,” he said, reaching over me and ruffling her hair. Then he said, “oh, don’t stop singing on my account. It’s beautiful.”

His voice broke, and it was all I could do to keep from losing it. We started the song where we’d left off and finished the second verse. To break the spell, I turned to the nurse and said, “You and I need to talk. I sing in a women’s group that could use an extra voice.”

“Wow, that sounds interesting,” she said. “You also have a nice voice. I need to see to other patients, but I’ll come back later after my shift, and you can tell me more about it.” She turned and started to leave the room.

Jessica’s father put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You and I also need to talk. It’s only been two months since I lost my wife, and I never dreamed I’d say this to another woman, but could I buy you a cup of coffee, maybe in the cafeteria?”

From the doorway, the nurse said, “Our coffee here isn’t as good as the food. Why don’t you two go across the street to Starbuck’s?”

We hesitated. “Your kids will be fine,” she said. “They’re both out of the woods. I have your cell numbers in their charts. If anything drastic happens, I’ll call you. Joan, you’ve been here all day. You need a break. Go!” With that, she was gone.

I looked at this stranger, not knowing what to think. Finally, I said, “I’ve been divorced for about six years. I’m losing my vision, and I never imagined another man would ask me out for coffee.”

I expected him to back away, but instead, he said, “Any man not interested in you is a fool. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re good with kids, and you have a lovely voice.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “You just got here. Don’t you want to spend some time with Jessica?”

Jessica said, “I’m okay.  My leg doesn’t hurt so much now that the nurse gave me some medicine in my IV. Daddy, Joan could make you happy like Mommy did.”

“Yeah,” said Hannah. “Mom, I think this guy could make you happy like Daddy did.”

Jessica’s father laughed and said, “I think these two, along with that nurse, are trying to play matchmaker.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Don Gray.”

“Joan Clark,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it.

Still uncertain, I turned to Hannah and said, “Honey, don’t you remember what I’ve told you about not going off with a stranger?”

“Yeah, but he’s not a stranger. He’s Jessica’s dad.”

“She’s got a point,” said Don.

“My dad told me not to go off with a stranger too,” said Jessica. “but he’s okay. He’s been really sad since Mom died.”

I could feel my heart melting as more tears threatened. “Jessica and I could sing another song,” said Hannah. “How about 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”

“Yeah,” said Jessica. She started the song, and Hannah joined in. Laughing, we both made our way out the door.

“Do you need to take my arm?” Don asked.

“Yes, please,” I answered, realizing I’d left my cane in the room. As I grasped his muscular arm and walked with him down the hall, I had a good feeling about this.

 

***

Silent Night

***

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

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

Website

 

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

The Earring Debacle #Wednesday Words

When I was thirteen years old, I couldn’t get motivated to do much reading on my own, due to my visual impairment. I preferred to have my mother read to me instead. One book we read together was about a Jewish family in New York who had five girls and one boy. It was part of a series that I believe was called All of a Kind.

One of the girls in the story, who was my age, had her ears pierced. I found this process horrifying and vowed no jeweler would stick my earlobes with a needle just so I could wear earrings. Mother must have thought otherwise, for on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, she bundled my younger brother and me into the car, telling us we needed to do an errand. When I asked her where we were going, she said, “You’ll see.”

At the time, I’d requested, for Christmas, an electric chord organ I’d seen in a department store. So, I thought we were going to purchase it, but how would we get it home in our Mercedes Benz? As Mother pulled into a parking space downtown, she said, “Well, Andy, shall we tell her?”

“Yeah!” my younger brother answered.

Turning to me, as I sat next to her in the front seat, Mother said, “You’re going to get your ears pierced today.”

I was mortified. The last thing I wanted was to have my ears pierced. But I’d been raised to be appreciative of gifts, even when I didn’t want them. So, what could I say?

The jewelry store was packed with exuberant children and harried adults, doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, but I was far from happy. The woman who finally took us into a back room must have been reading my mind because she said, “Hon, are you sure you want to do this?”

I could have said no, but Mother would have gotten mad, and Andy would have called me a chicken. So, I pasted a smile on my face and said yes.

After applying plenty of alcohol to both my earlobes, she did it with a sort of hole-puncher that inserted earrings. It hurt a lot! In order for the holes to stay open, I needed to wear these earrings for at least six months. They had to be turned and alcohol applied to my lobes several times a day, and my earlobes were sore at times. Mother bought me pair after pair of earrings, which I reluctantly but diligently wore. In school, I was envied by other girls who didn’t have pierced ears.

Eventually, my ears became infected, and I had to let them close over, much to my relief and Mother’s consternation. By the way, I did get that electric chord organ for Christmas, and it was one of the best gifts I’d ever received. Now, besides the piano, I had one more instrument I could play.

How about you? What was the worst Christmas present you ever received? Thanks to blogger Stevie Turner for inspiring this. She also asks what was the worst gift you ever gave. I can’t think of any, but maybe you can. If so, you can share your memories in the comment field below or click here to participate in Stevie’s blog hop.

Please note that for the next few days, I’ll be taking a staycation to celebrate Thanksgiving. This means there will be no posts either here or on Facebook Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. If you’re in the United States, I hope you have a safe and happy holiday, and will see you back here Monday.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

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

Website

 

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.