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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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

 

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A News-Inspired Poem

On November 1st, 2013, I started participating in the November Poem-A-Day (PAD) challenge on Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. This involved writing a poem a day for a month, inspired by daily prompts. As I read that day’s prompt, my radio was tuned to an NPR station. The hourly newscast was on, and I heard about an airport shooting in Los Angeles. I don’t remember Robert Lee Brewer’s prompt, but somehow, that news story fit so I started writing and came up with the following poem from That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, my chapbook to be released by Finishing Line Press at the end of August.

LOS ANGELES, NOVEMBER 1ST, 2013

 

In a busy airport,

they appear, running,

amid the sound of gunfire.

Some fall–others keep going,

one dead—more wounded–why?

Have you ever been struck by a news story such as the events of 9/11?

 

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 Park for All Seasons

In the summer of 1973 when I was twelve, my family moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming. One day, Mother took me and my younger brother Andy to Kendrick Park to play. We spun on the merry-go-round, catapulted down the slide, and swung higher, higher, higher with the help of Mother who pushed us. I fell off the swing when it was pushed too high, and I lost my grip on the handholds. Afterward, Mother bought us ice cream at the nearby stand, a chocolate malt for me and a fire stick cone for Andy.

Across the road was a footbridge over Big Goose Creek. We crossed it and stood on the opposite bank, tossing stones in the water. Fascinated, I watched with my limited vision, as rocks soared, then spiraled down to land with a loud splash. This was something we never did in Tucson.

The next day, I got a sense of how small Sheridan was compared to Tucson when I asked Mother if we could play at the same park where we went the day before. She laughed and said, “Of course. It’s the only one there is.”

Through the years, we also enjoyed concerts at the band shell and swam in the pool. My parents and brother played tennis on the courts. As a teen-ager, I walked through the park and up the hill to the high school. When we got a male Irish setter named Clancy, we often took him for walks in the park. Sometimes, Dad drove through the park, letting Clancy run alongside the car, his ears flopping in the breeze, his red fur coat gleaming in the sunlight.

Now, both parents are gone, and my brother lives miles away with a family of his own. I still live here in Sheridan, not too far from Kendrick Park.

I still buy ice cream and attend concerts at the band shell. Instead of throwing rocks in the creek, I walk alongside it on a cement path that winds past houses, a soccer field, and a senior apartment complex. It was here that I came up with the inspiration for two poems from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver: “Ducks on the Sidewalk” and “A Spring Constitutional.”

Sheridan now has other parks. Whitney Common is nice. I walk through there from time to time on my way downtown from the YMCA or to the library. It’s a walking park with a playground, fountain, and small amphitheater.

Thorne-Rider Park has a baseball stadium where the local VFW team plays every summer. My singing group has occasionally performed the national anthem to start a game and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the fifth inning stretch. There are two or three other parks and even one for dogs, but I’ve never visited them. No other park holds the same memories that Kendrick does. What do you remember about parks in your community?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcomeand 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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