Baseball Revisited

On September 10th, my late husband Bill and I would have been married nine years. One of Bill’s passions was baseball, and his favorite team was the Colorado Rockies. I don’t know if he ever went to a Rockies game, but I hope to do so next week.

On Sunday, I’ll be driving with my uncle and aunt from Sheridan to Colorado Springs where we’ll stay with relatives. My uncle from Los Angeles, a Dodgers fan, will be flying in, and he has tickets to the Rockies/Dodgers game on Monday. I hope that Bill will be with me in spirit, as I cheer his team to victory. In celebration of our ninth wedding anniversary, I’m re-blogging a post about baseball from last year. Enjoy!

At the Old Ball Game

Baseball season officially starts today when the Houston Astros take on the Texas Rangers. If Bill were still alive, he would be anticipating the Colorado Rockies opening game. The house will be oddly quiet without the thwack of bat against ball, the roar of the crowd, and the radio announcer’s excited voice when a player makes a home run.

Believe it or not, I wrote a poem about baseball. This is a fun pun poem which consists of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings, i.e. sight (s I g h t) instead of site. (s I t e.” After you read this poem, you can click on the link below to hear me sing a well-known song about one of America’s favorite pastimes.

BASE BAWL (B A W L)

If you get a fowl bawl, (b a w l) you’re not playing the game write. (w r I t e) When you’re on home plate, and you see the ball coming toward you, swing the bat and prey (p r e y) that it connects with the bawl (b a w l) and sends it  in the write (w r i t e) direction. Theirs `(t h e i r s) a trick to that you will master only after months of practice and only if you have good I’s. (I ‘ s) It mite (m I t e) be better two (t w o) dew (d e w) something like water aerobics which doesn’t require a lot of I (i) site. (s I t e) It beats being hit in the knows (k n o w s) with a bawl. (b a w l)

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/ball%20game.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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Philomena

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth there and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, you give birth to a healthy baby boy. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, the author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British author, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005) In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government. To read more about him, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Sixsmith .

In Philomena, after a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie, Martin Sixsmith starts by describing the details of the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were virtual prisoners at the convent for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She worked in the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families by the Catholic Church. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

The remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University told Michael that homosexuality is a sin and encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in such activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, bound for the U.S., the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events and when they happened, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin becomes confrontational with one of the nuns and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. This is a song I’ve sung many times in the fifteen years I worked as a music therapist in a nursing home. I can’t think of a better way to end this post. Please click on the link below to hear me sing the song one more time.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/danny%20boy.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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One Wish

You’re shopping at a market in Marrakesh, a city located in western Morocco, Africa. You find an old lamp, and after you dust it off, a genie pops out. You’re given one wish. What would it be?

This was an exercise my third Thursday poets did last week. We each wrote, in whatever form we chose, what our wish would be. Some wished to be reunited with loved ones passed away. Others wished for world peace. I’m pretty embarrassed by what I wrote, but here it is, anyway.

I wish I could be a best-selling author with a well-known publisher that would pay for me to traverse the country and maybe the world to promote my books, and what money I make would be enough so I could live without social security. It would also be nice if my husband hadn’t died, and he hadn’t had two strokes so he could more easily enjoy my success. Now that I think of it, I wish my father hadn’t died, either. However, since I only have one wish, I’ll wish for success in my writing.

If you had one wish, what would it be?

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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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

 

Pre-order That’s Life today!