Pop in School?

In parts of the country, school is already starting this week. My brother in Florida is a professor at the university in Jupiter. His new wife teaches elementary school. Between them, they have five kids ranging in age from seventeen to ten. The whole family is starting school this week.

A while back, I read on The Writer’s Almanac a poem called “They’re Taking Chocolate Milk off the Menu.” You can read it at http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2013/09/16 . This inspired the following two poems from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. As you’ll note, they contradict each other. After reading them, you can weigh in with your opinion.

NO POP IN SCHOOL

Without the caffeine,

students would doze, not learn a thing.

If kids could bring soda to class,

they would be more attentive, able to concentrate.

Teachers may have belching contests on their hands,

but that just goes with the territory.

 

It never occurred to me

to buy a can from the machine for consumption in class.

If I were to go back to high school,

I would take Dr. Pepper to Speech,

let the top’s pop fill the air,

stand, deliver with a belch.

 

FORGET WHAT I SAID

 

about pop in school.

Loaded with sugar, caffeine,

not good for kids,

not conducive to learning,

it must be eliminated.

Too many students climb walls.

We must start somewhere,

no more pop in school.

What do you think about pop in school?

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

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Helicopter Aunt

A year ago last March while I was visiting my brother and his family in Florida, my little nieces begged me to take them to the community pool one day. No other adults were around, and they couldn’t swim by themselves because the pool had no lifeguard. I’d just woken up from a nap and was settling myself on the living room couch with a can of Dr. Pepper and my Victor stream to listen to a good book while awaiting the return of the girls’ parents. The last thing I wanted to do was go swimming. When I hesitated, eight-year-old Isabella said, “You don’t have to swim. You can just watch us.”

“We know how to swim,” said nine-year-old Lauren. “We won’t drown.”

I agreed to accompany them, thinking this wouldn’t be any harder than transferring my late husband to the toilet, then wiping him and swinging him back into his wheelchair after he finished his business. The girls dawned their aquatic finery, and we were soon on our way.

The community pool was located only a couple of blocks from my brother’s house, but it might as well have been a mile. When my brother and I were kids and walked the short distance to the park to swim, all we carried were our towels. In this day and age, besides the obligatory towels, we had to haul a multitude of pool accessories including but not limited to kick boards, noodles, and a variety of inflatable animals that were used as floatation devices.

As we trekked to the pool, our equipment in tow, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. With no lifeguard, there would be the ever present danger of helicopter moms, women who hovered over their children, worried about any little thing that might harm them, and criticizing other parents for not doing the same. Earlier that day at a street festival in downtown Jupiter, we encountered such a mom, and my brother felt compelled to be a helicopter dad while his little girl was playing with her little girl.

I didn’t think to bring my Victor and headphones so I could listen to my book while the girls swam, but even so, with my limited vision, I would be easy prey. “You should be watching those girls. They’re in the deep end of the pool. I know they’re using rubber duckies, but those could deflate, and the girls might sink. You should be keeping an eye on them.”

“Oh my, isn’t that your little Susie who just went under?” I would say.

To my relief, the pool looked deserted, not a single helicopter mom in sight, at least none that I could see. Just to be safe, I said, “It looks like no one else is here.”

“Yeah, we have the whole pool to ourselves,” said Isabella before both girls plummeted into the pristine blueness.

I wasn’t sure which was the deep end, but as long as I wasn’t planning to get in, it didn’t matter. I found a lawn chair in the shade and settled down to watch them frolic in the water with their little floaty toys. I tried to keep my eyes on them as best I could, holding my breath as little heads disappeared underwater but popped back up.

 

As I relaxed, I almost wished I’d put on my swimming suit. I remembered the time a couple of years earlier when my brother had his own pool. Isabella and I had a great time tossing a ball back and forth in the water while Biance’s “Single Ladies” blasted from the stereo. Now, there was no ball and no Biance, but at least there were no helicopter moms, and the girls were having fun. That was the only important thing. I liked making my nieces happy. Maybe that’s why I was inspired to write poems about them. You can read these poems at http://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/poems-for-my-nieces/ .

This post was inspired by one I read on a blog called The Writing Bug at http://www.writingbugncw.com/2014/08/helicopter-mom.html . Are you a helicopter mom? If not, have you ever met such parents? How did you deal with them?

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

 

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A Street Reconstruction Adventure

Here in Sheridan, Wyoming, we have two seasons: winter and construction. This year, it’s not so bad, but in past summers, I wished I could teleport or use the Starship Enterprise’s transporter to get from one place to another because the city was doing several major street reconstruction projects at once which made getting around almost impossible, even on foot.

During one such summer, a funny thing happened. Here I was with my limited vision, worried about stepping in wet concrete or wandering into the path of an oncoming bulldozer, when an article in the local paper inspired the following from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems to be released at the end of August. This was also published in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

On an Adventure with Her Grandkids

She drove into a mound

of freshly poured concrete surrounded by orange cones,

was cited by police for not following signage.

Her insurance company will be billed.

The blind aren’t the only ones who blunder.

How often does your town do street reconstruction projects? Are they done one at a time or several at once? Have you or someone else had an interesting experience as a result?

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

 

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A Day in the Life…

For over twenty years, I’ve been taking water fitness classes at the YMCA. I once heard that water exercise is better for you than anything done on land because it is low impact, and the water offers more resistance. I like it because in the pool, I don’t feel like I’m working up a sweat like I did when I used to take aerobics classes out of the water. Besides the usual jumping jacks, jogging, and other exercises you would do in an aerobics class, we work with floatation devices and other equipment in the water to strengthen our muscles.

Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful instructors. One of them struck my fancy. Besides teaching water fitness and swim classes at the YMCA, she drives a school bus and manages a farm. Despite everything she has to do, she takes the time to bake cookies or other treats that she brings on the last day of each session for us to enjoy as a reward for all our hard work in the water. Her energy and enthusiasm inspired the following poem from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems.

A DAY IN LORRAINE’S LIFE

Up with the rooster,

she milks cows, feeds and waters stock,

gathers eggs, shovels manure.

After breakfast, it’s off to the bus barn.

She picks up children from other farms,

drives them twenty miles to school.

After that, she goes to the YMCA,

jumps in the pool, once, twice, three times,

encourages adults to jog, jump,

breast stroke while sitting on kick boards,

teaches little kids to swim,

makes sure no one drowns.

In the afternoon, back in her school bus,

she drives kids home.

When she returns to the farm,

there’s milking to do,

stock to feed and water,

more manure to shovel, supper to fix,

and oh yes, she must bake cookies

for her water exercise classes.

Tomorrow’s the last day—

they should be rewarded.

 

What do you like to do for exercise?

 

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

 

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Wherever You Are

While listening to A Prairie Home Companion one day last summer, I heard a song that struck a chord in my heart. After losing my husband the year before, I found myself crying as I heard the following words being sung over and over. “I will always be wherever you are, wherever you are.” I knew then that Bill was with me, whether I was at home, the YMCA, singing practice, or one of my various writers’ group meetings. Thinking about it even today brings tears to my eyes.

The song inspired the following poem from That’s Life, my new chapbook to be released in August of this year by Finishing Line Press. This is what is called a sevenling. It contains two stanzas of haiku and one line that stands alone, making seven lines altogether.

WORDS FROM A LOVED ONE’S GRAVE

Everywhere you are,

I will always be with you,

watching from above.

 

Every time you breathe,

every decision you make,

I’ll know about it

 

and love you even more.

Since I don’t remember the name of the song or artist I heard on A Prairie Home Companion that day, trying to find it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Instead, I’ll leave you with a recording of me singing another song I performed at my brother’s wedding last week. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/the%20rose.mp3 Wherever you are, I hope this touches your heart.

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

 

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My Summer Vacation

I’m writing this from sunny Florida where I’ll be performing at my brother’s wedding this week. Other featured attractions include a pool party and a rehearsal dinner, and today, I’ll be having lunch with my future sister-in-law and her friends. It promises to be a fun and exciting week.

I’ve visited Jupiter, Florida, several times since my brother moved here, and I’ve always had a wonderful time, even last Christmas when I came down with a nasty flu bug that confined me to bed for a few days. My visits have inspired several poems including the one that appears in my new chapbook, That’s Life, due out at the end of August by Finishing Line Press. I’ll paste it below.

THE LAST TIME I WAS IN FLORIDA

I walked next to the ocean in Jupiter,

felt warm sand between my toes,

cool ocean waves against my feet,

enjoyed a picnic lunch near the Loxahatchee River,

then putt putted in a boat that saw better days

to an island once inhabited by a trapper,

ate fried chicken on a beach at high tide,

delicious fresh seafood at a place called Leftovers,

heard cool jazz in a club.

I can’t wait to go back.

What interesting places have you visited? To hear a recording of me singing one of the songs I‘ll perform at my brother’s wedding, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/annie%27s%20song.mp3 .

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

 

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Remembering a Loving Grandmother

Today would have been Grandma’s birthday if she were still alive. I’m not sure how old she would have been, but I remember her 90th birthday celebration during the earlier part of this century. It may have been the summer after my mother passed away in 1999.

We rented the Historic Sheridan Inn, and relatives from Colorado, California, and Utah converged on our town in Wyoming. We also invited many friends who lived in the area. The party included food, live music, and of course picture taking and lasted well into the night. The next day, my uncle and aunt hosted a barbecue at their home. It was a great two-day bash and Grandma’s last big birthday celebration.

In 1973, my family moved here to Sheridan so my father could take over the family’s coin-operated machine business after my grandfather died. For a couple of months until we found a home of our own, we stayed with Grandma. I enjoyed sleeping with her in her double bed and waking up in the morning to her radio. I was twelve at the time, and the local talk program bored me. I once asked her why she listened to the news, and she said she liked to know what was going on in the world. Her attention to current events rubbed off on me. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I tune my radio to NPR so I can hear state and national news.

Grandma became a fixture in our lives when we moved to Sheridan. We visited her often, and my brother and I occasionally spent the night with her. She gave us our favorite foods: macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, hamburgers. I loved her potato salad and Boston cream pie. She rarely made a fuss when we yelled at each other or made a mess. Dad once told us that when he was a boy, she made him eat everything on his plate, but she never did that with us. She seemed to enjoy making her grandchildren happy.

Grandma’s back yard had a swing set that brought us hours of pleasure along with the jukeboxes and games Dad kept in the shop that he would later distribute to restaurants, bars, and other establishments. There was also a picnic table, a glider, and several comfortable canvas chairs. When out of town relatives visited, we congregated there for a barbecue. A jukebox was rolled out of the shop for entertainment, and after eating, we kids danced and listened to the music while the adults talked and drank, and Grandma talked and drank right along with them.

Grandma wasn’t fazed by my visual impairment and supported me in my endeavors. My grandfather was a musician so she liked the idea of me being a singer. When I was in high school, she bought me a guitar and arranged for me to take lessons. When I sang and accompanied myself on the guitar or piano or performed with a choir, she always said the music was beautiful.

When I decided to study music therapy in college and work with senior citizens, she was all for it. After completing a six-month music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, I moved back to Sheridan and found an apartment and a job in a nursing home. Since the apartment had no washer or dryer, I often went to a Laundromat a block from Grandma’s house and visited her. She seemed to enjoy hearing about the music and other activities I did at the nursing home and even had ideas.

Once after I received a written reprimand from a supervisor who claimed she couldn’t work with my visual impairment, I showed Grandma the paper. She took one look at it and said, “Hey! Who is this bitch?” She rarely used colorful words and admonished us when we were kids not to use them so it was all I could do to keep from laughing, but I had to fight back tears as well because those words illustrated her undying love.

Grandma also didn’t like it when words were used incorrectly. Her biggest pet peeve was saying a particular food was healthy instead of healthful. Fortunately, she never saw me buy Healthy Choice frozen dinners at the grocery store.

When my late husband Bill proposed to me in 2005, Grandma was skeptical, especially since I wasn’t sure I wanted to marry him. To make a long story short, in three months, I changed my mind, and she was behind me all the way, remarking that he had it bad for me. She also supported my decision to quit my day job and write full time. My wedding was held in her back yard.

Grandma died in January of 2006 after being hospitalized with pneumonia. At the same time, Bill suffered his second stroke, and he was already partially paralyzed as a result of his first. I regret not spending more time with Grandma in her last hours, but I think she would have understood if she were aware of what was going on around her. AT her graveside service, another big family event that took place in July around the time of her birthday, I sang “Amazing Grace” with no accompaniment of any kind. To hear me sing the song the way I did back then, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/amazing%20grace.mp3 .

What do you remember about your grandmother?

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

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