Season’s Greetings 2018

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.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?

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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.

My Books

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Thursday Book Feature: The Christmas Forest

Image contains: me, smiling.The Christmas Forest

by Rebecca Boxall

Copyright 2018.

 

After the tragic death of their parents, Enid and Bess are living in two identical cottages side by side on the island of Jersey, England. Enid meets Fred, who lives in Australia, through a Christmas card exchange. Fred is mourning the loss of his mother. After corresponding with Enid for a year, he invites her to visit him for Christmas. Because she has Aspberger’s, Enid is afraid to leave her comfort zone, but Bess persuades her to accept Fred’s invitation. The book has sub-plots involving other characters.

I felt a special connection to this book. It reminded me of the time my late husband Bill, who lived in Fowler, Colorado, proposed to me and then invited himself to visit me in Sheridan, Wyoming. Although this didn’t happen during the holidays, and I wasn’t expected to leave my comfort zone, I could understand Enid’s apprehension. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner.

With its surprising plot twists, The Christmas Forest kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it. In the Audible version I purchased, the three narrators did an excellent job of portraying Enid, Bess, and Fred as they told the story from each of their points of view. I can’t think of a better way to start your holiday reading.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

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My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Wednesday Words Poetry Challenge: Christmas and Letter (Synonyms Only)

Image contains: me, smiling.This feature was created by Colleen Chesebro. Since it’s the first week of the month, she’s inviting authors to choose their own words. Because my annual holiday newsletter has been on my mind lately, I decided to use synonyms of “christmas” and “letter.”
The following is a nonet which contains nine lines with each line consisting of a consecutive number of syllables in descending order. In other words, the first line has nine syllables; the second line has eight, etc. You’ll note that I used one set of synonyms in the title and another in the poem. Click the Play button below the poem to hear me read it.

Yuletide Missive

Every year, I write a note to all
family and friends far and wide
to pass along best wishes
for some holiday cheer,
bring them up to date
on happenings
in my life,
wish them
joy.

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Book Excerpt About Christmas Party Shenanigans

Image contains: me, smiling.Here it is December already, and the start of the holiday shopping season. This would be a great time for you to buy my latest book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. This would make a great gift for someone on your list who is caring for a loved one, but even those who aren’t family caregivers should enjoy my story. It’s about how I met and married my late husband Bill, who was totally blind, then  cared for him after he suffered two strokes that partially paralyzed him.

Below is an excerpt which I hope will whet your appetite. This scene took place during the annual Range Writers Christmas party that we hosted a couple of months after Bill was discharged from the nursing home.

***

One side effect of a stroke is that the person has little control over emotions. Often while listening to a talking book or email message, Bill would start bawling because the material moved him. When I sat next to him, even in public, he frequently put his arm around me and told me he loved me. As we all sat in the living room, laughing and chatting, Bill extended his hand to the woman sitting on the couch next to his recliner, thinking it was me. “I love you, honey,” he said.

From across the room, I heard and saw everything. “Oh, sweetie, that’s Mary,” I said.

Embarrassed, Mary rose and offered to trade places with me. As I sat down next to Bill and took his hand, I said, “I turn my back for ten seconds, and you’re hitting on another woman.” He laughed, and so did everyone else.

After that, I always made sure I sat next to him at parties, and if that wasn’t possible, he always knew where I was.

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed that little anecdote. Now, I’ll leave you with a recording of me singing a fun Christmas party song and the hope that your significant other doesn’t hit on another during your holiday festivities this year.

 

 

My Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

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My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

Saturday Song: Snow

Last week, our weather started looking a lot like Christmas, so I could finally identify with the sentiment in this song. It’s from Bing Crosby’s epic White Christmas. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. In any case, enjoy the song, and have a great Saturday and a merry Christmas.

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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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Season’s Greetings 2014

Well, it has definitely been an interesting year. I spent last Christmas with my brother Andy and his fiancé Christina and their combined family in Jupiter, Florida. During this time, Andy proposed to Christina while I sang “The Rose.” I had fun despite the fact that I picked up a nasty stomach flu that forced me to stay in bed for a few days. I missed the family’s holiday festivities but felt well enough later to go to the beach one day and to a performance of The Nutcracker the next.

About a week after I got home, I came down with a bad chest cold and didn’t recover from that for at least two weeks. All things considered, it was a pretty good Christmas, better than staying at home alone, twiddling my thumbs, and feeling sorry for myself. I plan to go again this year and hope for better health conditions.

By the end of January, my new poetry collection, That’s Life, was finished, and I sent it to several publishers. In February, I was surprised to receive word from Finishing Line Press that they wanted to publish it. After agreeing to their terms, I spent several busy months readying the manuscript according to their specifications and promoting it.

In April, I attended our annual WyoPoets workshop in Casper where the presenter was our state poet laureate, Echo Klaproth. Also, my singing group, Just Harmony, performed at the Daughters of the American Revolution state convention here in Sheridan. We sang at other times for different venues throughout the year including a local baseball game, a church service, and an assisted living facility.

In June, the Wyoming Writers annual conference was here in Sheridan with a variety of presenters including Echo Klaproth and Creative Nonfiction editor Lee Gutkind. In August, I gave a reading at the local public library to promote my new book. By this time, it was in the pre-publication stage which meant I needed to secure as many pre-orders as possible to determine how many copies could be printed. Thanks to those of you who pre-ordered a copy. I hope you’re enjoying it.

In July, I went to Florid again, this time to attend Andy’s second wedding which was held at a bed and breakfast in West Palm Beach. I participated in a fun-filled week of festivities including lunch with Christina and her friends, a pool party, a rehearsal dinner at a restaurant in West Palm Beach, and a trip to a Jupiter park for a production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

The ceremony took place on the bed and breakfast’s front porch where I was a bridesmaid and sang “The Rose.” The reception was held behind the facility in what they called a back yard bar. There was plenty of room for eating, dancing, and socializing. Andy hired a band consisting of old college buddies he played with years ago. During breaks, I sang “Annie’s Song” and others. I accompanied most of my songs on the guitar. I had a great week there but was glad to get home after a rough flight from Denver to Billings, Montana, where we encountered a severe thunderstorm, and I was afraid I would be sick again.

About the middle of October, That’s Life was finally released, and in celebration of National Poetry Day, I sat in the local senior center’s lobby and sold books for a couple of hours before participating in a reading with my third Thursday poets group in the facility’s community room. In November, I did a reading for a poetry class at the local high school and at an assisted living center. I also did a signing at a local bookstore.

If you haven’t already ordered my new book, I encourage you to do so at one of the links below or by going to my Website. I wish you all an enjoyable holiday season and a happy new year.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

Holiday Hardship

The Fourth of July is just around the corner, and like other holidays, it’s not something I look forward to, especially with no close relatives. I’ll probably eat lunch at the senior center. They’re having barbecued pork sandwiches which sounds pretty good. I may run into my former high school English teacher who eats there every day. She was one of those teachers who inspired me to read, and although she’s elderly and forgetful, I still enjoy eating lunch with her.

I remember great times we had on the Fourth of July when I was a kid. In Tucson, Arizona, we attended fireworks displays. At first, I covered my ears to shut out the loud bangs, but with my limited vision, I watched, fascinated, as colorful shapes exploded in the night sky. When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, there were no public displays so we bought our own fireworks and shot them off at home, although it was illegal. One time, Dad was kneeling in the middle of the street, about to light one, when we spotted a car coming slowly towards him the way police cars did when patrolling the neighborhood. We stood with baited breath, wondering if we would spend the rest of the holiday behind bars, but as the vehicle pulled to the curb in front of our house, we realized it was Grandma. We were never more glad to see her than at that time.

The following from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, compares how sad holidays can be without close family to how difficult they can be when all the relatives congregate at my house to celebrate. It talks more about Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the concept is the same for all holidays.

HOLIDAY HARDSHIP

 

Thanksgiving is coming.

Already, a friend far away

asks if I have plans.

I’ll spend Christmas

in the tropics with my brother,

but Thanksgiving’s up in the air

with no husband, father, mother.

Other relatives have plans.

 

At least I don’t have to clean the house,

shop, prepare food for twelve people,

pick up after everyone,

deal with leftovers

while men watch football,

women fail to be helpful,

children run around,

scream, argue, cry.

It’s not the same.

What do you remember about the Fourth of July when you were growing up?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

Pre-order That’s Life Today!