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.
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,
Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.
Independently published with the help of DLD Books.
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?