My Senior Year in High School

Tis the season for class reunions, and this past weekend was my brother’s 30th. With the help of the following questionnaire posted on Facebook by the spouse of one of his classmates, I got to thinking about my senior year in high school.

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The year was: 1979-1980

  1. Did you know your spouse? No, he was nineteen years my senior, and at that time, I think he was living in California.
  2. Did you car pool to school? No, I either walked through the park and up the board walk, or one of my parents drove me.
  3. What kind of car did you have? I didn’t have a car which was a good thing, since I was visually impaired.
  4. What kind of car do you have now? My vision hasn’t improved since high school, so I still don’t have a car.
  5. It’s Friday night… Where were you? I was either home watching television or reading a book, or out of town at a speech meet.
  6. What kind of job did you have? I wasn’t employed. It never occurred to me to find a job when I was a teen-ager.
  7. What kind of job do you have now? I’m a writer with three published books and a fourth on the way.
  8. Were you a party animal? NO! NEVER!
  9. Were you a cheerleader? No.
  10. Were you considered a jock? Definitely not!
  11. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? I sang in the concert choir.
  12. Were you a nerd? I hope not.
  13. Did you get suspended? NEVER!
  14. Can you sing the fight song? No.
  15. Who was your favorite teacher? Natalie Wright was not only the greatest English teacher I ever had but one of my best friends, who fueled my interest in books. She went out of her way to be sure the material I needed for her classes was in an accessible format and even loaned me books on cassette she didn’t assign in class like Anna Karenina and The Time Machine. She’s now at Westview, and I visit her from time to time. She hardly remembers the material she taught, but she always knows who I am and claims I was her best student.
  16. Where did you sit for lunch? I ate in the cafeteria with a few friends. I wasn’t that popular, probably because of my visual impairment.
  17. What was your school’s full name? Sheridan High School.
  18. What was your school mascot? The Bronc.
  19. If you could go back and do it again, would you? Believe it or not, I like being in my mid 50’s, living on my own, and doing what I want. Although I have some fond memories, I wouldn’t go back.
  20. Did you have fun at Prom? Yes, Dad took me when no other boy would. I had more fun than he did.
  21. Do you still talk to your Prom date? No, my father passed away in August of 2013.
  22. Are you planning on going to your next reunion? That depends. If I hear about it and can find a ride, I’ll probably go, but I don’t think we’ve had a reunion since 2000, or at least I haven’t heard about it.
  23. Are you still in contact with people from school? No, not very many.
  24. What are/were your school’s colors? Blue and gold. ***

Now, it’s your turn. Tell me about your senior year of high school. If you have a blog, why don’t you copy and paste the above questionnaire, delete my answers, and provide your own? If not, you can still answer any or all questions in the comments field. In any case, I’d love to hear about your high school senior experiences. The longer ago you were in high school, the more fun your answers will be.

***,

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

 

 

 

Review: The Sisters Weiss

The Sisters Weiss

by Naomi Ragen

Copyright 2013.

 

In the late 1950’s and early 60’s, sisters Rose and Pearl grow up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family in New York City. Together, they learn the Jewish culture and religion: the strict regimen of preparing and eating kosher food, the prayers and other rituals. Rose, the older of the two, takes care of Pearl, and they develop a bond.

As a child, Rose takes an interest in photography when she wins a camera as a prize for depositing a certain amount of money in a bank account. The camera is cheap, and she gives up, thinking she can never take pictures like the ones she sees in books. When she’s in high school, the father of one of her friends, who is not an orthodox Jew, loans her a book of photographs, some of them of naked women. When her parents find out, she is proclaimed a sinner and sent to live with her grandmother in another part of the city and attend a more stringent Jewish high school.

That doesn’t stop her from pursuing photography. Realizing that she can lie to her grandmother about her whereabouts, she starts taking a photography class at a local arts institute. Her parents eventually find out, and she is forced to move back home, and preparations are made to marry her off as soon as possible.

At seventeen, Rose doesn’t want to be like her mother, caring for a husband and children and having no time for her own ambition. However, she tries to abide by her parents’ wishes until she discovers that in order to marry a boy her parents have chosen, she must give up photography. The night before her wedding, she leaves her family home, never to return.

Forty years later, Rose is a successful photographer with several published books and various awards for her work. She has traveled all over the world, married twice, and had two children. When her niece, Pearl’s daughter, shows up on her doorstep, also fleeing an arranged marriage, Rose is forced to confront her past and compelled to re-connect with her family.

This was one of those books I couldn’t put down. I was fascinated and horrified to learn of the Jews’ dietary restrictions and the list of things a person couldn’t do on the Sabbath. I was amazed to discover that even in 2007, there were still orthodox Jews who led sheltered lives, providing girls with just enough education to allow them to be good and pious wives and mothers. I found the glossary of Yiddish terms interesting and helpful, although I understood most of them within the book’s context. I was disappointed in the ending, though. Without giving it away, let me just say I wish it could have been different.

 

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

 

 

Review: The Art of Memoir

The Art of Memoir

by Mary Karr

Copyright 2015.

 

The author of Lit and other memoirs talks about the craft of writing such a book. She covers such topics as truth versus fiction, finding your voice, and how to deal with reactions of family members to what you write about them. She uses work by other authors to illustrate her points and provides an appendix of over a hundred suggested memoir titles.

I found it hard to get into this book, probably because I’ve already written a memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, which will be coming out sometime this month. I only picked up Mary Karr’s book because a discussion of it was planned for a meeting of Behind Our Eyes, a writing group to which I belong. After slogging through two and a half chapters and skipping part of one, I decided not to finish the book. This might be more helpful to someone considering writing a memoir.

 

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

 

 

Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

by Bill Bryson

Copyright 2006

 

In this travel writer’s memoir, he talks about his life growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950’s and early 60’s. He describes what it was like to have acentric parents who worked for the local newspaper: his mother making him pee in a jar when there wasn’t time for him to run upstairs to the bathroom, his father wandering downstairs bottomless in the middle of the night to make himself an elaborate snack. He discusses going to movies and a local cafeteria and other pleasures kids enjoyed back in the day and imagining himself as the Thunderbolt Kid, obliterating bullies and others who made his life miserable.

He makes it clear that as a kid, he didn’t try very hard in school and describes, in great detail, antics he and his friends pulled. He also touches on news of the day including the building of the atom and hydrogen bombs, the campaign against communism, and the persecution of blacks. All his chapters begin with news stories, some humorous, taken from local newspapers and magazines. At the end, he talks about how Des Moines changed over the years since his childhood and what happened to his classmates and partners in crime.

I heard about this book from the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled, where I occasionally get recorded books on digital cartridges. They’re hosting a discussion of this book today, and when I read about it in their newsletter, it sounded like an interesting read, which it was. The recording I acquired from the Braille and Audio Reading Download site was produced by Randomhouse Audio and narrated by the author. It includes an interview with Bill Bryson after his reading of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed his narration, laughing at many of his anecdotes.

Okay, call me an old lady or goody-two-shoes, if you must, but I feel this book is a negative influence on young people. I wasn’t impressed with the fact that Bill Bryson often skipped school, though he loved to read. He acted proud of the things he did: standing by while a friend put live insects in his soup at the local cafeteria, bringing the tainted food to the attention of the manager, and gaining them free sundaes. It was funny the first time, but his friend kept doing it until he was caught, and it got old fast. Then there was the time when Bryson forged drivers’ licenses from his father’s checks and let his friend take the rap, not admitting he was the one who did it.

Almost every kid occasionally skips school and pulls a stunt, but this is ridiculous. At one point, I almost didn’t want to finish the book, but I’m glad I did. Despite the fact that he got through high school by the skin of his teeth, barely graduating at the bottom of his class, only making an effort in school to avoid being sent to Vietnam, it’s a wonder he became successful as a published author. I’m sure his high school career counselor, who once said Bryson wasn’t qualified to do much of anything, feels the same way, if she’s still alive.

By the way, my own memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, will be coming out sometime this month. I promise there will be no boys breaking into their older brothers’ locked drawers just so they can see naked women in men’s’ magazines. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available, so stay tuned.

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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

 

 

Mourning Has Broken: A Book Review

I would like to read this book, but I can’t find it in an accessible format, even from Audible. However, I thought I would share this review along with my rendition of a song that went through my head, as I read the review, never mind that the spelling of “morning” is different. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/morning%20has%20broken.mp3

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

mourning2

I read this book during a time of loss and sadness. When my spirits were so low neither music nor books could enter my heart. Numerous books remained unread, the words and stories therein unable to penetrate the wall. 

Then I recalled reading about Carol Balawyder and ‘Mourning Has Broken’; her book on loss and grief. On a whim I bought it.

My attention was seized from the very first few sentences and as I devoured it within two days ‘Mourning Has Broken’ left a deep and profound impact on me.

The writing is exceptional and beautiful. Poetic in places, full of wisdom. Her words spoke directly to me, then at times mirrored my experiences of loss exactly. I have never highlighted so much in a book since my student days. Nor have I I talked so much about a book – I am sure my family by now feel…

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News from Abbie’s Corner July 2016

Friday, July 1st, 2016 1:45 p.m.

 

I’m composing this during what’s called a writing marathon, sponsored by the Wyoming Writing Project, a program developed by the university to facilitate writing. Here’s how it works.

After gathering at the agriculture building at Sheridan College, we split into groups. Each group’s goal is to travel to two or three locations around town and write for about fifteen or twenty minutes before sharing with others and moving to a new setting. Right now, I’m sitting at a picnic table at Whitney Common, a local park I often walk through on my way to other places.

Here’s the big news. My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is soon to become a reality. David Dvorkin is in the process of formatting the manuscript for Createspace. It will also be available as EBooks on Smashwords and Amazon.

This month promises to be busy, what with my book coming out. I’ll write and send press releases to the media and mail sell sheets to bookstores and libraries. I’ll also plan as many appearances as possible to promote my book. It’s always exciting when a new book comes out.

On the last Tuesday of June, I did my usual monthly gig at Westview, where I played my guitar and sang, much to residents’ delight. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge, an assisted living facility, on July 8th. They’re doing a red, white, and blue social, so I’ll supply some patriotic music along with some country and western songs, since our annual national rodeo is the following week. On July 26th, I’ll be back at Westview.

Speaking of the rodeo, that’s the week my brother, Andy, from Florida, will be visiting. He and his wife Christina will fly into Denver on the 12th and rent a car. After spending time with relatives in Colorado, they’ll drive here the weekend of the 15th for his 30th class reunion. They also want to spend some time in Yellowstone Park, so I hope they’ll do that the following week and come back that weekend before returning to Colorado and flying back to Florida on the 26th. Will just have to wait and see what they have planned.

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Friday, July 1st, 2016 2:15 p.m.

I’m sitting downtown across the street from the post office. After sharing what we wrote at Whitney Common, our group has moved here. Time drags by on this hot July afternoon, as I sit on a hard bench with no back and watch cars go by. After about ten minutes, Aaron, one of my traveling companions for the day, says if we’d been using our heads, we could have gone kitty corner to the Pony Grill and Bar, sat on the deck, and had a drink. Oh well…

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Friday, July 3rd, 2016 2:45 p.m.

 

I’m in the Sagebrush Community Art Center, located near the Sheridan Inn next to the railroad tracks. I’m sitting in a cool, quiet room, surrounded by walls sporting paintings, most of which I can’t make out from where I am. On the way here, Aaron pointed out a yellow truck where a vendor sells a variety of foods including barbecue and stir fry. This reminded me of a food truck festival I attended with Andy and Christina when I visited them in Florida last March. The streets were lined for miles with nothing but food trucks selling everything from pizza to Chinese food. Anyway, after we’re done writing and sharing at the art gallery, we’ll return to the college and wrap up.

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Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 12:32 PM

 

Two days later, on another hot July afternoon, I’m reclined in my air conditioned living room, trying to put this writing marathon in perspective. It’s a fun activity for those who need motivation and inspiration to write. It provides a safe environment for writing and sharing, where no feedback is allowed, and readings are followed by a respectful “thank you” from others in the group.

Since I had an agenda, to write this blog post, I found the constant interruptions to share work and move to different locations an unwelcome distraction, reminding me of times when Bill was alive and I had to drop what I was doing every so often to take care of him. I guess I should have expected that.

Others in my group shared work inspired by their surroundings: a poem about children playing in the fountain at Whitney Common, a narrative about a homeless man wandering downtown streets. Next time, I’ll just go with the flow and write about what I see, smell, and hear around me. Who knows? A poem or story may come forth.

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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

 

 

Dream Closet (Fiction)

Monique let herself into David’s apartment with the key she still had, although they broke up the week before. She patted her stomach, as a wave of doubt hit her. Yes, she was doing the right thing, she told herself. David was the father of her child, but he was too down to earth. An accountant who made a lot of money, he would probably expect her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

On the other hand, Mike was cool, a singer/songwriter with a band who hoped to reach the top of the bestseller list one day. If she married him, he wouldn’t care what she did as long as she made him happy in bed. If he recorded an album and went on tour, she could travel with him, and that would be fun for her and the baby. Now, all she needed to do was collect the picture David refused to return and leave the key, and she would be done with him.

The photo still sat on the mantle. It was taken several months earlier while David and Monique were on the beach. Monique gave her cell phone to a passing tourist who agreed to snap the shot. As a surprise for David’s birthday, she had it printed and framed.

She picked it up and studied it one last time, her in her purple bikini with long dark hair cascading in waves down her back, and him in his black swimming trunks, as they embraced on the sand. She was about to put it in her purse and replace it with the key when she was startled to hear David’s voice in the hall outside the apartment followed by a woman’s voice she thought she recognized. She set the photo back on the mantle, made a mad dash for the living room closet, and stepped inside, closing the door behind her just as the key turned in the lock on the apartment door.

Enveloped by coats in the closet’s dark interior, she heard the unmistakable voice of her best friend Lynne. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. All I wanted was to tell you the truth about Monique and the baby.”

Monique couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lynne was supportive the week before when Monique told her what she planned to do. “Oh, that’s so hard for you,” Lynne said. That was what she always said when Monique was going through tough times.

“Don’t think about that now,” said David. “Sit down. Take a load off. I’ll fix you a drink. What would you like?”

“Oh, just a Scotch and soda is fine, and don’t mind if I do take off these shoes. My feet are killing me.”

Monique heard ice clinking in glasses and other sounds that told her David was making drinks in the kitchen. “You really ought to get rid of that picture,” said Lynne.

“You mean the one on the mantle of me and Monique? I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.”

“David, she lied to you about your child. I don’t know why I’ve been friends with her for so long. All she wants to do is have a good time. She has no sense of responsibility whatsoever.”

Monique strained in an attempt to see more through the keyhole and barely made out David coming into the living room with two glasses. “You’re right,” he said, as he set them on the coffee table. “Now, come here, you silly goofball.”

“Not with her smiling down on us from your mantle,” said Lynne. Monique heard a resounding crash.

“Oh well, I didn’t like that picture, anyway,” said David.

Tears filled Monique’s eyes, as she heard the sound of the frame’s pieces being swept into a dust pan. “How about some music?” he said a minute later.

“Great idea,” said Lynne.

The strains of “Only Time” by Enya soon filled the room. It was playing on the stereo the night David proposed to Monique a month earlier. David knew that and so did Lynne. She couldn’t see them through the keyhole and assumed they were snuggled on the couch with their drinks.

“So how did such a sensible woman like you end up being friends with a worldly girl like Monique?” asked David.

“I’m not that unworldly,” said Lynne with a laugh. “I like to go to clubs once in a while. Remember? Monique introduced us at The Jaybird where Mike Evans and his band were playing.”

“That’s right,” said David with a chuckle. “What was I thinking?”

“Monique and I have been friends since childhood. She’s changed over the years, and I didn’t see that until last week when she told me she wanted to marry Mike even though you’re her baby’s father. She says you’re too conservative, and Mike’s in the moment. I guess I can’t blame her. She had a rough childhood. Her dad left without a word when she was about five or six, and her mother’s an alcoholic.”

“Monique told me all that. You’d think she would want her kid to have a more stable family. What kind of life is this kid going to have with neither parent holding a steady job, waiting for that big recording contract that might never come?”

“I don’t know,” said Lynne with a sigh.

“Well, I’m not about to stand by and let that happen, especially if the kid is mine. I have an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I can do legally, but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”

Monique gasped, then clamped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t been heard. ”There should be a way you can force her to have a blood test to determine if the baby is yours,” said Lynne. “Who knows? It could be Mike’s. Perish the thought.”

“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said David. “Dance with me.”

The couple came into view through the keyhole. Monique gazed in fascination, as their bodies swayed to the music. Lynne said, “Oh David, I’ve always loved you since the night Monique introduced us. I didn’t want to steal you away from her until now.”

“I love you, too, but I’m probably on the rebound from Monique.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Ummmm!” Monique felt sick, as she heard David and Lynne kissing just inches from the closet door.

“Good morning,” said the radio announcer. “It’s thirty-one minutes after six on a sunny Monday, fifty-five degrees, looking for a high near eighty.”

Monique leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where she hung over the toilet and let it all out. “Damn this morning sickness.”

David was there, placing a cool hand on her forehead. “Hey babe, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she said, leaning into him, feeling the reassuring warmth of his body and pressing her face against his. “I wish we didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You have a good reason to stay home,” he said, kissing her. “and I don’t have anything at the office that can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“You mean that?”

“Sure,” said David. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”

***

The above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders.

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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