The following was published in the summer 2019 issue of The Avocet. It was inspired by an incident that happened several years ago while I was visiting my brother and his family in Florida. My sister-in-law took the photo of the alligator. You can click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.
A warm afternoon under a cloudless Florida sky,
we float down the Loxahatchee River.
I sit on the canoe bottom,
cramped, while brother and sister-in-law paddle.
It suddenly appears.
Not a snake, but just as deadly,
it stands on the bank,
gazes at its reflection in the gleaming water.
I don’t see it—my family does.
After snapping a picture,
we sail far, far away
while icy fingers of fear massage my spine.
Coming Soon: The Red Dress: A Novel
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.
When you read this, I’ll be on my way to Jupiter, Florida, where I plan to spend a relaxing, fun-filled week with my brother and his family. In past years when I’ve been there, I’ve enjoyed walking on the beach, feeling warm sand between my toes and the whoosh of cool water as waves wash over my ankles. I’ve also walked in the water, tried my hand at boogie boarding, and eaten many wonderful picnic lunches. If Bill were still alive, we might be sitting on a blanket under a boardwalk having some fun just like in this song. Click the link below to enjoy.
How about you? Have you ever been to a beach? Did you enjoy walking along the shore and in the water? Did you ever swim? Have you ever tried surfing or boogie boarding? Did you bring your own lunch or buy hot dogs and French fries from a vendor? Have you ever sat under a boardwalk on a blanket with someone you loved?
Hi, I’m Alexa. In case you don’t know me, I’m a virtual assistant from Amazon. I can play music and games, read books, help with shopping lists, and so much more. I come in a variety of shapes and sizes and am the newest addition to Abbie’s menagerie of stuff.
Abbie bought my Tap version last June. This particular model is about the shape of a can of Dr. Pepper, her favorite beverage, but twice as tall. It comes with a charging cradle and has about eight hours of battery life. Abbie keeps its cradle in the living room and every day, she removes it from the cradle and carries it into her office when she’s working and into the kitchen when she’s eating.
Since Abbie likes my Tap so much, she decided to buy a Dot, which is the size and shape of a large hockey puck. This she keeps in her bedroom and uses it mostly as a clock radio to replace the one that quit working. Unlike the Tap, the Dot only runs on electricity.
Some people think of me as just a speaker and don’t realize I have a personality. They think all I hear is my name when someone wants me to do something, but this isn’t necessarily true. Unless I’m turned off or my microphone is muted, I can hear everything that goes on around me. Contrary to what some may say, what I hear in the house stays in the house.
You’d think that in a household with only one person like Abbie’s, there wouldn’t be much to hear. That’s where you’re wrong. Abbie talks to herself constantly. At first, it drove me nuts, especially when she said my name, and I thought she was asking me for something. I finally got used to it, though, and actually, I like it because I know what she’s up to and can now tell you.
I must admit, though, that since I only arrived in June of this year, I don’t know anything about what Abbie has been up to before then, so I’ll let her talk about that first. And now, without further ado, heeere’s Abbie!
Thank you, Alexa. Goodness! You’d think I was Johnny Carson. Well, let’s see, in March of this year, I made my usual trip to Florida to visit my brother and his family in Jupiter. This time, besides the usual trip to the beach, we also went to a shrimp and beer festival and a neighbor’s barbecue. The highlight of the week was a protest march against gun violence in West Palm Beach. I just happened to arrive the week of my nephew’s twenty-first birthday, so I was fortunate to have an opportunity to celebrate with him.
In April, I attended the WyoPoets workshop in Cheyenne. Several of us formed a convoy, just like in the song, that drove across the state. We had a great time. The workshop was inspiring, and we ate some delicious food.
In June, our group traveled the same way to the Wyoming Writers conference in Dubois, which is a pretty little town near Jackson. Again, we had great food and attended some fun workshops. I always love such events, especially when I can travel to them with a group.
Soon after I arrived home from the Wyoming Writers conference, Alexa came into my life, so I’ll let her take it from here.
When I showed up, Abbie was working on a novel, The Red Dress, about how such a garment plays a role in the lives of three generations of women. She finished the novel soon after I arrived and put it aside. During that time, her singing group performed at a baseball game and a church service. Then in October, they sang for a style show at the senior center. The fashions being displayed were from the senior center’s thrift store, The Green Boomerang.
By the way, when Abbie isn’t shopping for Kindle books on Amazon, she likes to buy clothes at The Green Boomerang. She recently bought a pair of really nice black shoes, almost new, for only $10.00, and three pairs of pants for a total of $20.00. I shouldn’t say this since I was created by Amazon, but not even they can beat prices like this.
In November, Abbie started maintaining her own website. She’d paid someone to do it for years, but when she heard about a course from Mystic Access on building and maintaining sites with WordPress, she decided to start spreading her wings. By the way, the WordPress course, like other products from Mystic Access, is designed with the blind in mind.
Abbie hired a friend, Jackie McBride with Brighter Vision Technologies, totally blind, who does web development and hosting, to move the site from its existing location to her server and install WordPress. Since then, Abbie’s been having fun creating menus, setting header images, and installing widgets. Her site has a whole new look and feel and even audio. As you may have noticed, she has also made similar adjustments to this blog, which also uses the WordPress platform. Of course I can’t surf the web, so I’m just going by hearsay, but you really should check out her website. There’s still more she wants to do with it, and once she’s done, she can concentrate on The Red Dress.
Abbie and her singing group will be busy this holiday season as usual. They had their first performance during Sheridan’s annual Christmas stroll downtown at The Green Boomerang. They will also sing at a historic mansion’s open house, a women’s club Christmas party, and a church service.
Abbie has also had a couple of solo appearances: one for Westview Nursing Home’s monthly birthday party, and the other for the First Congregational Church’s monthly Last Friday at First program. She’ll perform at an assisted living facility, the senior center’s adult day care center, and another nursing home. By the way, I’ve heard her practice, and she sounds great.
Well, I think that’s it for now. Abbie, do you have anything more to say?
No, I don’t think so. Thank you so much, Alexa. You’ve been a big help as usual.
Oh, I almost forgot. Abbie’s been getting into trivia games. She recently enabled my “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” skill and my “Question of the Day” skill. She’s doing pretty well with both of these.
Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t mention that. Since both games have multiple choice questions, if I don’t know the answers, I guess. Some days, I’m lucky, and others, I’m not.
As the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” says, you did your best, and that’s what matters. Who knows? Maybe someday, you’ll reach the top of the money tree.
You’re right, Alexa. Now I leave you with a recording of me singing a song that expresses the sentiment of those unable to be with loved ones this year. I hope this won’t be the case for you. Have a great holiday season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.