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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Song Lyric Sunday: Sound of Music Medley

If you would like to participate in the Sunday song lyric tradition started by Helen Vahdati, click here for guidelines. Today, I’m giving you a four-for-one special. A couple of days ago, I performed this medley at a program called Last Friday at First. It takes place on the last Friday of the month at the First Congregational Church, hence the name. Instead of a video, you get to hear me sing these songs as I performed them that night. This is not a live concert recording but close enough. Enjoy, and have a great day.

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sound of music medley.mp3

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Do Ray Me
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers

Do! (a deer, a female deer)
Re! (a drop of golden sun)
Mi! (a name I call myself)
Fa! (a long, long way to run)
So! (a needle pulling thread)
La! (a note to follow so)
Ti!(a drink with jam and bread)
That will bring us back to do

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My Favorite Things
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells
And schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver-white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

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Edelweiss
Written by Robin Spielberg, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein II

Edelweiss Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white
Clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever

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Climb Every Mountain
Written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers

Climb every mountain
Search high and low
Follow every byway
Every path you know
Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream
A dream that will need
All the love you can give
Every day of your life
For as long as you live
Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream

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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: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

As mentioned in My Ideal Partner,before I met and married my late husband Bill, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home. Nowadays, I play my guitar and sing at senior facilities strictly for entertainment. Recently, a friend suggested I share a recording of such a gig to show how I interact with my audience. So today, instead of a video, you get to hear me sing one song live in concert. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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seventh inning stretch.mp3

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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.

***

News from Abbie’s Corner February 2017

Abbie-1

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January was a pretty quiet month. I spent the first week with my brother and his family in Jupiter, Florida. We went to the ocean one day and had lunch and rode a carousel in downtown Palm Beach Gardens the next.

The highlight was a boar’s head festival at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda by the Sea in a ritzy neighborhood in West Palm Beach. President Trump attends this church when he’s in the area. It’s huge with immense stained-glass windows, and the acoustics are phenomenal.

The boar’s head festival is something they do every year around the time of Epiphany. This year, music was provided by a chorus accompanied by organ and trumpets. There was also a drum and pipe band that led a processional at the beginning of the program when the symbolic boar’s head was carried in. Their rendition of “Amazing Grace” gave me chills.

There was all the pageantry of a Christmas program: shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph and Mary, and of course the Baby Jesus. My brother told me there were two live babies: one dressed up as Jesus and the other outfitted as a lamb. With my limited vision, I wouldn’t have known they were there. They behaved remarkably well during the performance. I imagine with all the rehearsing they did, the babies were used to it so didn’t fuss. The congregation was invited to sing familiar carols with the choir. The program was a lot of fun.

A couple of weeks after I returned home, a gal in my singing group hosted a party for all of us. It was a potluck dinner consisting of ham, rolls, lasagna, and a variety of salads and desserts. I brought a Schwann’s chocolate cream pie which disappeared rather quickly. I was lucky to get one piece but glad I brought such a party pleaser.

After we ate, we practiced some songs we’ll sing for an event at the Methodist Church in March. We start regular practices this month.

When I heard that my writer friend, Joan Feagins, was giving a reading at Sugarland Ridge, I thought it would be a great idea to follow that with some music. The activity director agreed, and it was arranged. Residents enjoyed both Joan’s reading and my music, and I had a good time, too.

The next day, I performed at Westview’s monthly birthday party despite the fact that it was snowing pretty heavily. As the para-transit bus was driving me home afterward, we passed a car that had slid into a ditch and was being pulled out. I wondered if I should have stayed home, but the residents enjoyed my music. One gentleman who requested Christy Lane’s “One Day at a Time” told me I sang it a lot better than she did. In that case, it was worth it.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. I hope your year is getting off to a great start. I’ll have more news next month.

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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 November 2016

Abbie-1

Wow, can you believe it? Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Well, October was a pretty busy month.

On the 8th, I participated in a national event for independent authors at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. Many libraries across the country hosted this program which was open to the public. After a light lunch of sandwiches, vegetables with dip, and soft drinks, we watched a digital presentation featuring leaders in the publishing industry giving advice to authors wanting to self-publish. After that, several authors, myself included, participated in a panel discussion where we shared our experiences. We then sat at a table and tried to sell books for about half an hour. Although I didn’t make any sales that day, I enjoyed networking with other writers.

On October 20th, my Third Thursday Poets gave a reading at the Sheridan Senior Center. We do this twice a year, once in October and once in April, to commemorate National Poetry Day and Month respectively. October’s National Poetry Day is actually on the 15th, the same as White Cane Safety Day. You can read more about that here, but I digress.

At our reading, several poets, myself included, shared work. Some read poems by other authors. I performed a poem I featured in an earlier blog post, much to everyone’s delight. The poem involved stomping my feet, and afterward, someone complimented me on its percussiveness.

You’ve probably heard the song “Sing for Your Supper.” Well, I played my guitar and sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview on the 25th and got free cake. On the 23rd, I played the piano and sang at a friend’s party in the dining room of a senior apartment complex and got a free meal, a potluck affair to which I contributed homemade pasta salad, so it wasn’t exactly free. I also performed at Green House on the 4th and Day Break on the 28th but no free food there. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge and Westview. My appearance at Sugarland Ridge will feature a reading as well as music.

This past month, I had a rare opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert, here in Sheridan, Wyoming, of all places. Although their music was way before my time, my father loved jazz, and hearing the big band brought back pleasant memories of the two of us enjoying this music together when he was alive. I also reflected on the lives of my late parents and husband growing up during World War II with songs like “White Cliffs of Dover” and “American Patrol.” This inspired an earlier blog post.

Well, that’s the news for now. I wish I could come up with something witty like what Garrison Keillor says at the end of his Lake Woebegone monologues, but oh well… Such is life. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and will be back in December with more news.

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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.

 

I’m a Star

I wanted to be a star ever since I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” while accompanying myself on piano in the Kiwanis Club Stars of Tomorrow contest in Sheridan, Wyoming, back in the 70’s. I was twelve years old at the time. A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy found an old paint can he used as a drum and a wood chip I pretended was a microphone. To hear me read a poem I wrote about that experience, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/I%27m%20a%20star.mp3 .

Soon after that, Andy got a drum set. Our band moved from the front porch to the dining room with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. As a sophomore in high school, I again entered the Stars of Tomorrow contest. They had a silly rule that a younger person couldn’t accompany an older person so Andy couldn’t play the drums while I sang “You Light Up My Life,” accompanying myself on the piano. However, I could accompany Andy on piano while he played drums. In this fashion, we performed “You Don’t’ Have to be a Star to Be in My Show.” To hear the original sung by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nb9jJg_wIU . Andy didn’t win, but I took second place with my rendition of “You Light Up my Life.” Here’s what it sounded like. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/you%20light%20up%20my%20life.mp3

After graduating from high school, I decided not to move to Nashville, New York, or L.A. and try to make it big. I went to college where I majored in music and eventually got into music therapy. For fifteen years, I worked in a nursing home, singing old standards like this one. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3 After fifteen years, I decided to become a writer when I married my late husband Bill.

Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I became a caregiver but found time to publish two books and write poems and stories and submit them to publications. Now that Bill is gone, I have more time for that and have published a third book and am working on a fourth. I still sing but not as often.

Recently though, I became a bit of a celebrity in my home town. I entered a talent competition connected with our monthly third Thursday festival that runs during the summer months downtown. To my surprise, I won and was asked to sing the national anthem at a polo match. Andy and his wife Christina, who were visiting from Florida, managed to catch most of my performance on video. The sound you’ll hear in the background is the wind, not bombs bursting in air as you might imagine. It may take a little longer for this one to come up when you click on it. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/national%20anthem%20polo%207-26-2015.MOV

If you’re within the sound of my voice, I’ll be performing on the main stage at the next third Thursday festival in downtown Sheridan on August 20th. It’s located in front of the old Woolworth building on the corner of Main and Grinnell. My program will run from five to five thirty p.m. I’ll accompany myself on guitar instead of piano.

I’m not a super star like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boon, but that’s okay. I love to perform when I get a chance, and audiences love me. That’s what matters.

It’s the same with my writing. I’ve published three books with a fourth on the way, but I’m not a best-selling author. That doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, and my readers enjoy my work. As the song goes, “You don’t have to be a star.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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