A Modern Little House on the Prairie #Thursday Book Feature

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie

by Christopher Ingraham

Copyright 2020

 

What Amazon Says

 

The hilarious, charming, and candid story of writer Christopher Ingraham’s decision to uproot his life and move his family to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, population 1,400—the community he made famous as “the worst place to live in America” in a story he wrote for the Washington Post.

Like so many young American couples, Chris Ingraham and his wife Briana were having a difficult time making ends meet as they tried to raise their twin boys in the East Coast suburbs.  One day, Chris – in his role as a “data guy” reporter at the Washington Post – stumbled on a study that would change his life. It was a ranking of America’s 3,000+ counties from ugliest to most scenic. He quickly scrolled to the bottom of the list and gleefully wrote the words “The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) … Red Lake County, Minn.” The story went viral, to put it mildly.

Among the reactions were many from residents of Red Lake County. While they were unflappably polite – it’s not called “Minnesota Nice” for nothing – they challenged him to look beyond the spreadsheet and actually visit their community. Ingraham, with slight trepidation, accepted. Impressed by the locals’ warmth, humor and hospitality – and ever more aware of his financial situation and torturous commute – Chris and Briana eventually decided to relocate to the town he’d just dragged through the dirt on the Internet.

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now is the story of making a decision that turns all your preconceptions – good and bad — on their heads. In Red Lake County, Ingraham experiences the intensity and power of small-town gossip, struggles to find a decent cup of coffee, suffers through winters with temperatures dropping to forty below zero, and unearths some truths about small-town life that the coastal media usually miss. It’s a wry and charming tale – with data! –of what happened to one family brave enough to move waaaay beyond its comfort zone.

 

My Thoughts

 

When I read an excerpt from this book in the June issue of Reader’s Digest, I was intrigued. It’s one example of what can happen when a reporter doesn’t check things out thoroughly. Luckily for Christopher Ingraham, this turned out better than anyone could have expected.

I’ve always enjoyed stories that take place in Minnesota, including the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon vignettes. This book didn’t disappoint me. The author’s accounts of deer hunting and ice fishing fascinated me, although I doubt I’ll ever engage in such activities. Having once spent six months in Fargo, North Dakota, located on the border with Minnesota, I could empathize with the family’s struggles during the winter. This is a great book to read on a hot summer day.

***

By the way, from now through July 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.

Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

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.

***

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A Winter Adventure #Thursday Book Feature #Poetry #Excerpt

The following poem appears in the current issue of The Weekly Avocet. It was also published in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

 

You may think this doesn’t look like a poem, and it doesn’t. It is what’s called a prose poem, which means basically that it looks like prose but reads like poetry. You can click the link below the poem to hear me read it.

A Winter Adventure

                                            

 

On a cold, cloudy day, we strap on our skis, boots, head up the trail. I inch along, sure I’ll fall at any minute, as my skis slide through packed snow.

“Left foot right pole, right foot left pole. See if you can go faster,” Dad says. I prefer to keep my slow, plodding pace.

 

At the top of the hill, we retrace our steps. My feet slide out from under me. I land flat on my back. “Smile,” says my brother, holding the camera.

 

“Stick that camera where the sun won’t shine,” I want to tell him.

 

“You’re not falling right.  You could get hurt,” he says. I remove the skis, walk the rest of the day.

 

A Winter Adventure

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

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.

***

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

White Christmas #Monday Musical Memories

When I was growing up in Tucson, Arizona, during this time of the year, I heard many songs and stories about snowmen coming to life, riding in a one-horse conveyance through drifted snow to Grandmother’s house for fun, pudding, and pumpkin pie, and Santa riding through the snow in a sleigh, pulled by eight reindeer, to deliver packages to many good boys and girls. In the warm Arizona climate, I longed for snow. On the rare occasions we were blessed with the white stuff, it didn’t last long enough to build a snowman.

When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973 when I was twelve, I learned, first-hand, the meaning of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” After slipping, sliding, and falling on my butt a few times, I realized that snow wasn’t what I expected it to be. I didn’t know what I expected it to be, but that didn’t make it any more likeable. By February of our first year, I was sick of it. But we were settled here, so all I could do was put on my big girl pants and deal with it.

As an adult, my perspective on snow hasn’t changed. I could move to a warmer climate. If I could afford to do so, I’d spend winters in Florida closer to my brother and summers here in Wyoming. But at my age, the prospect of moving is more daunting than putting on my boots and getting out in the snow when I need to go somewhere. But every once in a while, I can’t help wishing for a brown Christmas instead of a white one.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm about snow, I enjoy singing songs about it, like the one you’ll hear me sing when you click the link below. If you like white Christmases, may you always have them. May your days always be merry and bright.

 

White Christmas

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

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.

***

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Winter Through the Senses #Poetry

Winter arrived early here in Wyoming. So, here’s a poem I wrote that appears in this year’s fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. It was also published last year in The Weekly Avocet. Click on the title to hear me read it.

 

WINTER THROUGH THE SENSES

 

 

In the silent snowfall,

see flakes swirl.

Amid white-covered streets, sidewalks,

feel snow crunch beneath your boots.

Hear the rumble of a distant snow blower.

 

Indoors, feel the warmth of slippers on your feet.

Breathe the aroma of steaming cocoa.

Savor the flavor of its frothy, chocolaty goodness,

safe, warm while snow keeps falling.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

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.

***

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My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Gloves (Fiction)

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Note: a writing exercise inspired the following story, which was published several years ago in Emerging Voices. Please be warned that it contains some strong language and violence. You can also read this story on my website.

 

GLOVES

 

 

The snow fell in a wall of white that obscured her view of the road and the darkening sky. “Why didn’t I stay where I was?” she asked herself as she drove at a snail’s pace along the Shirley Basin Road that wound its way from Medicine Bow to Casper, Wyoming.

As the car’s interior grew colder, she fiddled with the heater knob, but nothing happened. Dammit! No heat!”

She pulled to the side of the road, ignoring the sliding noise the tires made. She searched for her gloves, but they weren’t in her coat pockets or her purse. “I must have left them at the convenience store in Medicine Bow.”

After taking several deep breaths and warming her hands in her pockets, she said, “I should go back. There are people in Medicine Bow. There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

The engine whined, and the tires skidded on the ice under the newly fallen snow. In a frantic effort to free herself, she gunned the engine and rocked the car back and forth. The motor continued to whine as the tires slipped deeper into the drift. After a few more minutes of struggling, she switched off the engine and stuffed her cold hands in her pockets.

The night was silent except for the wind and the sound of snow pelting the car. Shivering, she zipped her winter coat as high as it would go. After tightening the hood around her face, she wriggled her toes inside her boots. With a sigh of resignation, she buried her hands deeper in her coat pockets and settled herself more comfortably.

“It doesn’t matter,” she told herself. What do I have to live for? If God exists, and this is his way of punishing me for running away, so be it.” She closed her eyes and let herself drift, though she knew this was dangerous.

A few minutes later, she opened her eyes with a sense of impending doom. Hearing a car engine behind her, she turned and gasped in horror when she recognized the angry face outside her window. It couldn’t be, she thought. He couldn’t have known where she was going. Since she had no relatives in Wyoming, the chances of him finding her were slim, but there he was, the exhaust from his idling car making an eerie specter in the freezing air.

His knuckles rapped against the pane with several sharp thuds. Her panic rising, she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the button to automatically lock all doors. Her heart sank when he removed the spare key from his pocket and unlocked the driver’s side door. Yanking her out into the freezing cold, he slammed the door and pinned her against it, delivering a hard blow to her cheek.

“How did you find me?” she asked, holding up her hands to protect herself.

“I followed your tracks,” he said, as he struck her a second time. “I found these on the counter at the Super America in Medicine Bow.” He removed her gloves from his pocket and tossed them into the snow.

“You never did have much sense,” he said, as he hit her a third time, “so I figured you’d be stranded out here somewhere.”

When she bent to retrieve the gloves, he delivered a sharp kick to her backside, sending her sprawling in the snow. As anger rose within her, she bent her knee and kicked as hard as she could. Her effort was rewarded when her foot struck something solid, and he yelped in pain.

She jumped to her feet. Putting on her gloves, she glared at him, as he lay writhing in the snow and clutching his crotch. She flung herself on top of him.

With her gloved fists, she pummeled his face. “Now, you’re getting a taste of your own medicine!” she yelled, striking his eyes, nose and mouth.

The blows sounded harsh. “Ma’am, are you okay?” a voice called from somewhere.

She opened her eyes to find herself still sitting behind the wheel of her car. It had stopped snowing, and a bright moon shone overhead. The lights of a snowplow blinked behind her. A man, apparently its driver, was pounding on her window.

Shivering, she opened the door a crack and said, “I’m stuck, and my heat doesn’t work.”

“You don’t have any heat at all?”

“No,” she answered, shaking in earnest.

“How long have you been sitting there?”

“I don’t know,” she answered through chattering teeth.

He pulled the door open and extended his hand. “Come get in my vehicle where it’s warm, and I’ll call a wrecker.”

She stiffened and shrank away from him. “It’s okay,” he said. “I’m here to help you.”

His tone was soft, his words not judgmental or condescending. She looked into his face and saw nothing but concern. “Thank you,” she said, as she allowed him to help her out of her car. With him, she walked away, not looking back, only looking forward.

 

THE END

 

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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