Thursday Book Feature: The Ice House

The Ice House
by Laura Lee Smith
Copyright 2017.

Johnnie is an immigrant from Scotland, living in Florida and running an ice factory with his wife. Because of a hefty fine by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration after an accident, the factory may close. Johnnie’s son’s drug addiction has strained their relationship to the breaking point. Then Johnnie discovers he has a brain tumor. Against the wishes of his wife and doctor, he travels to Scotland with a young neighbor in an attempt to mend fences with his son.

Because this book is character-driven, it has way too much narration. In the beginning, I could tolerate it, but as the plot developed, it interfered with the action and drove me nuts. The ending could have been different, and the last chapter gave the book an unnecessary aura of sadness.

If The Ice House still appeals to you, I hope you enjoy it. As for me, reading a book shouldn’t be frustrating, and I prefer an ending that makes me feel good. I doubt I’ll read any more of this author’s work.

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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.

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Thursday Tidbit: Excerpt from That’s Life

This excerpt is from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. Click here for more information and ordering links. I wrote this several years ago after visiting my brother and his family in Florida and dedicated it to one of my nieces. Click here for a recording of me reading it.

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THAT’S LIFE

For Ana

Oh you of thirteen years,
when told you can’t go to the mall
or sleep over with a friend,
please understand that’s the way life is.
If you grow up thinking
you’ll always have your way,
you’ll be sadly disappointed
so better put on your big girl pants—
deal with it.

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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.

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Saturday Song: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins

It’s a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day here in sunny Florida, and to show you just how great this day is, here’s a song from one of my favorite movies. I triple dog dare you to say, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” three times fast. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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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.

***

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.

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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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Poem Depicts Florida Wildlife Adventure

Last week when I posted “Thirty-Foot Sloop,” a poem about my Pacific Ocean misadventure, someone asked me if I ever tried sailing again after that. Well, I have, but not on the high seas. When I visited my brother and his family in Florida, we often took trips down the Loxahatchee River, which is a lot smoother. Last year, we rented a canoe, and I wrote a poem about what happened. Click on the title below the picture to hear me read it.

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My sister-in-law snapped a photo of this creature with her iPhone before she and my brother back-paddled the canoe away from it as fast as they could. 

THE ALLIGATOR

 

A warm March afternoon under a cloudless Florida sky,

floating down the Loxahatchee River,

I sit on the canoe bottom, cramped,

while others paddle.

In a narrow section,

where we hope to spot wildlife, it appears.

Not a snake, but still a deadly creature,

it stands among plants on the bank,

gazes at its reflection in the gleaming water.

I don’t see it–they do.

After snapping a picture,

we sail far, far away

while icy fingers of fear massage my spine.

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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.

 

 

Letter to Mother Nature

Abbie-1

Thanks to Alice Massa for inspiring this post.

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Dear Mother Nature,

 

Since the week before Thanksgiving, all we’ve seen, here in Wyoming, is snow, snow, and more snow and bitter, bitter cold. At first, it was great. It got me in the mood to work on seasonal music for my performances and write Christmas letters and holiday blog posts.

Then, it got old fast. This year, thanks to you, Sheridan had a white Christmas, with ten inches of snow dumped on us and plenty of wind. For me and others not traveling out of town, it was okay. For those needing to get home the day after Christmas, it was not so good, as road closures abounded.

The snow and freezing temperatures continued after the holidays with no sign of warmer weather. Two days after the first of the year, as I was flying to Florida, it was so cold the pilot had to rev the engines several times to warm them, and I couldn’t help wondering if the plane would get off the ground.

Of course it did, and Florida provided a welcome respite from your brutality, with plenty of sunshine and 70-degree days most of the time. When I ended up spending the night in Denver on my way home because of a flight delay, I was pleasantly surprised to find no snow on the ground. I hoped you were showing our neck of the woods the same courtesy, but that hope was dashed the next day, as my plane approached Sheridan, and you created a great deal of turbulence. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my breakfast. Soon after my homecoming, you gave Sheridan another eleven inches of snow.

I don’t know why they call you Mother Nature. You’re definitely not my mother. My mother would never have made it almost impossible for me to walk anywhere by depositing a multitude of snow and ice on the ground and not letting it melt before dropping more. She would never have frozen me to the core with sub-zero temperatures, then mocked me with sunshine that gave the impression it was warmer.

Why couldn’t you have given us the same treatment as Denver, warm winds and sixty-degree temperatures? I know Wyoming isn’t the only state you’re bullying, but places like California are still in drought, yet you ignore them and give the rest of us moisture we no longer need. I’ve just about had it with you.

 

Signed,

Frozen in Wyoming

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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.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner

I’m trying something different. Other authors like Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steele have monthly newsletters which their readers can sign up to receive by email. However, these are bestselling authors who put out a new book every few months. I’m lucky if I can publish a book every few years. Who wants to sign up for a newsletter that describes my life which is just as ordinary as anybody else’s? On the other hand, since this blog covers my writing and other aspects of my life, why couldn’t I make this so-called newsletter a monthly feature like my book reviews? That way, those not interested in learning more about little old me can wait until the next Tuesday. As I used to tell residents at the nursing home when encouraging them to participate in a new activity, “You never know until you try.” So here goes.

The past couple of months have been busy. As you may know, I took a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother and his family. This trip was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, and highlights include a food truck festival in downtown Jupiter, a canoe trip along the Loxahatchee River where we encountered an alligator, and a trip to the beach. My adventures in Florida this time around inspired a series of lunes.

At the beginning of April, I planned to take a trip to California to attend my uncle’s wedding, but I developed a bad chest cold. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and could barely talk and decided to cancel my trip. I didn’t want to travel when I felt so miserable and risk passing my crud on to anyone else. I was sorry to miss the wedding. My brother told me about it later, and it sounded fun, but That’s Life.

In the middle of April, my Third Thursday Poets group gave a reading at the local senior center to commemorate National Poetry Month. We were joined by twenty-five high school students, some of whom shared their work. One such pupil turned out to be another Abigail Johnson. As she read her poem about Alexander Hamilton, I saw myself over thirty years ago. The only difference was that I was sharing a poem someone else wrote and performing it from memory in front of an audience as part of my participation in the high school speech team. Oh, and one more thing, this girl didn’t appear to be visually impaired. I wrote a poem about this moment which I’ll share at our October reading and hope she comes.

At the end of April, my friend Rose Hill, who is our state poet laureate, and I drove to Riverton to attend the WyoPoets annual workshop at the Holiday Inn. WyoPoets is an organization that supports poets and promotes the use of poetry throughout the state. The night before the workshop, there was a reading at the Riverton public library, during which Rose unveiled our new chapbook, Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond. Yours truly and others featured in the book shared our work. My poem, “For the Last Time” will be featured here later.

The workshop presenter, Linda Hasselstrom, covered two topics: revising your poetry and performing your work before an audience. I must admit I didn’t take away much from this because she didn’t say anything I didn’t already know about these subjects. Anyway, it was fun critiquing others’ poems, and I got some helpful feedback on one of mine.

Another poem, a short story, and a creative nonfiction piece were published in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I’ll feature them here later.

In June, Rose and I plan to attend the Wyoming Writers conference which will also be in Riverton at the Wind River Hotel & Casino. This will feature Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall, III, poet Lori Howe, and other authors, agents, and editors who will give workshops and hear pitches. There will also be open microphone readings, and Joseph Marshall will be the keynote speaker. Wyoming Writers is an organization similar to WyoPoets except we don’t do just poetry. Last year, I was elected to its board of directors, and I have one more year to serve.

This week is National Nursing Home Week. On Thursday, I’ll be playing my guitar and singing at a facility called Green House. On Friday, I’ll do the same at an assisted living center. The following Thursday, I’ll perform at an adult day care program, and on the last Tuesday of the month, as I usually do, I’ll go to another nursing home and entertain at its monthly birthday party. This was something I did quite a bit when I was a registered music therapist before I got married and started writing full time. Back then, my activities were more for therapeutic purposes, but now, I just entertain them, and they love it.

Well, that’s about all the news I have for now. I would like to add one more thing, though. In the past, I’ve been inserting my photo and books’ front cover images at the bottom of each of my posts. The only way I can do this is to copy and paste the images from another post. For some reason, this WordPress site no longer plays nice with any of the two screen reading programs I use, and as a result, this task is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming. So it is with a heavy heart that I will no longer post these images unless I can find an easier way to do it. You’ll still see links to the pages on my Website where you can learn more about the books. The front cover images are on those pages, thanks to my excellent Webmaster, Julie Posey. Of course when I post to Writing Wranglers and Warriors, which I only do once a month, I will include the images in those posts since others who blog there do the same thing, and it’s always good to have consistency in a blog.

I realize this newsletter may have gotten a little long, but if I do this every month, I won’t have as much to report. Please let me know what you think of this feature in the comments field below. If enough people want to get this sort of thing in their in box monthly, that’s something I can consider. In the meantime, happy May.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems