Mother’s Secret

Sister Earnest came into our lives, unexpected. We weren’t Catholic. In the fall of 1985, Mother was teaching English and communications at Sheridan College in Wyoming, and the nun was one of her students. She was part of a contemplative Benedictine monastery located about fifteen miles south of town near Big Horn where people could retreat to meditate and swim in their pool.

At Christmas that year, while I was home on break from the University of Montana in Billings where I was doing graduate work in music therapy, Mother made a startling announcement. We were walking in the park on Christmas Day. Dad and my younger brother Andy were off somewhere so it was just her and me. Because of my limited vision, I held her arm, as she guided me along the snowy road while the sun shone overhead. “I’m moving out,” she said.

“What?”

“There’s a house I can rent about a mile from the monastery. It’s on the Walters Ranch property, and there’s a swimming pool which I could use. I’ll probably move there in January.”

Shocked but intrigued, I said, “Okay, it sounds like you’ll be settled there by the time I come home for summer vacation. I can’t wait to try out the pool.”

“Actually, there won’t be room for you and Andy. The house only has one bedroom. There’s a utility room, but it has a washer and dryer and not much space.”

My heart sank. Then I thought of something else. “What about Clancy and the cats?” Clancy was our Irish setter, or to be more precise, Dad’s dog.

“Andy can feed the animals, and I’ll show him how to run the washer and dryer and dishwasher so he can do all that.”

Stunned, I slipped on a patch of ice and nearly fell. After steadying me, Mother said, “I have a right to be selfish.” I didn’t know what to say.

We finished our walk in silence. After returning home, I rushed upstairs to my room and found Howard, our tiger-striped cat, stretched out on my bed. As I did many times when I was a child, I flopped down next to her, buried my face in her fur, and let the tears flow. She purred as if to say, “There, there, it’ll be all right.”

In January, I returned to school and tried not to think about Mother moving out, leaving Dad, Andy, Clancy, and the cats to fend for themselves. It wasn’t too hard not to dwell on our dysfunctional family since my studies took a lot of my attention.

About a month later, Mother called. “Your dad is moving out. He found an apartment, and he’ll take Clancy.” I was relieved that Andy and the cats would still be in good hands. I wasn’t as attached to Clancy but knew Dad would take good care of him.

Soon after that, Mother came to visit and brought Sister Earnest. I hadn’t met her before. Although I couldn’t put my finger on it, I thought she was weird. She said, “Why don’t I rub your feet? Massage is my specialty.”

I took her up on the offer, not knowing what else to say or do. It felt pretty good, but for some reason, I didn’t sleep well that night.

I compared notes with Dad later when he came with Clancy. He said, “Yeah, you’re right. There is something strange about her.”

During the following summer, Mother spent more and more time with Sister Earnest. She stayed overnight at the monastery once in a while, and I was often invited to play my guitar and sing for their religious programs and swim in their pool. I liked the other nuns, and the pool was great.

Mother seemed to be a different person around Sister Earnest. It was as if the nun brought out something in her that nobody else could, but I didn’t know what. I felt uncomfortable when I was around them both or when Mother talked to her on the phone for long periods of time.

“Her original name was Jackie,” Mother said. “She used to be a nurse.” That didn’t help.

Sister Earnest also spent nights at the house with Mother, sometimes when I was home on breaks. The following Christmas, she took over the decorating of the house and wouldn’t let me or Andy help Mother with the tree. She was overbearing and often patronizing, and I was nervous around her. When she ate Christmas dinner with me, Andy, Dad, Mother, and Grandma, she insisted on saying grace before the meal. This was something we never did, and I could tell everyone besides Mother was just as uncomfortable as I was.

One night, Mother and Sister Earnest had been in the study where the nun slept when she stayed with us. After they left to start dinner, I passed the study on my way downstairs and noticed the sofa bed already unfolded and the sheets in tangles. I felt sick to my stomach but told myself this couldn’t be. Nuns didn’t have sex with women or anyone else. She was just giving Mother a massage, right?

In the fall of 1987, I moved to Fargo, North Dakota, where I completed a six-month music therapy internship. As luck would have it, next door to the nursing home where I worked was a convent. Although they weren’t the same order as Sister Earnest’s, she contacted them, hoping I could perhaps live in a cottage on their premises. No such accommodations were available so I rented an apartment instead.

I was invited to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the convent. One nun brought me a care package containing pop, canned goods, and other non-perishable items sent by Sister Earnest and invited me to a Christmas concert. Another often asked me to play my guitar and sing for religious activities she conducted at the nursing home.

Sister Earnest was hoping I would stay in Fargo after my internship ended and get a job. Mother suggested as much. At first, I liked the idea, but by April of 1988, I’d had enough of that town, the brutal winter, my bank that wouldn’t cash a check from Mother because of limited funds, and my internship supervisor who, from January on, made my life miserable.

Despite the D grade I received in my internship, I was eventually able to become registered as a music therapist, but that didn’t make finding a job any easier since the profession was little known back then. For the next six months, I lived at home. Andy was in college by that time so it was just me, Mother, and often Sister Earnest. I had lunch with Dad and helped him with the business occasionally, but I spent most of my time sending out resumes and filing job applications with little success. Mother and Sister Earnest did their thing, and I was often left to my own devices.

In January of 1989, Sister Earnest left the Benedictine order and moved to California. I half expected Mother to follow her, but she didn’t. Instead, she suggested I find an apartment since I had enough in savings, and I could get by for a while with the money I received from Social Security every month. I was only too happy to move out. At that time, I was offered a volunteer position at a nursing home in Sheridan. In March, I was hired as an activities assistant.

Although my parents separated and eventually divorced, they got along a lot better than they did when they were married, especially after Sister Earnest left. Mother traveled to California frequently to visit her, and the former nun came to Sheridan once in a while. A couple of years after I moved out, our family house was sold, and Mother moved first to a townhouse in Sheridan and then a cabin in Story, , a small town twenty miles away at the foot of the Big Horn Mountains. Andy was married by this time and living in Colorado.

One day while Dad and I were visiting Mother in Story, she said, “Earnest keeps asking me to return things she gave me, and now, she wants to come and live with me. I don’t think I can take any more of this.” I was relieved that Mother had finally come to her senses.

Years later, Mother was diagnosed with cancer. When she became weak as a result of chemotherapy and malnourishment, Dad moved to the little house in Story to care for her for six months before she passed away unexpectedly in December of 1999. In November of 2012, after my husband’s funeral, Dad, perhaps a little drunk, said, “Your mother wanted a divorce because she was in love with Sister Earnest.”

***

This was published in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. Names were changed to protect privacy.

***

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

 

A Graduation Poem

My nephew Dylan in Florida and my cousin Darby in Colorado are both graduating from high school this year. I sent them each a check and the following poem. Click here to listen to me recite it and sing a song I’ve always associated with graduation.

You’ll note the poem is an acrostic in which the first letter of each consecutive line spells a word, in this case, “graduate.” The first letter of each line is in bold so you can see how these letters spell the word, as you read down the page. I dedicate this not only to Dylan and Darby but also to anyone graduating. Congratulations!

***

Graduate

 

Go out into the world.

Reach for the top.

Always look forward.

Dream of what you want to be.

Use your mind, heart, hands,

And you can do anything.

Trust your instincts.

Energize your life.

***

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

 

A Caregiver’s Last Day

There comes a time while caring for a loved one when you must make the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home. In September of 2012, Bill was getting weaker, making it difficult for me to transfer him from one place to another. We called in a physical therapist who said that due to Bill’s declining condition, it was no longer safe for me to care for him at home. We looked into the possibility of him moving to Greenhouse, which has a better long-term care concept, but Bill was on Medicaid, and there was a six-month waiting list. We put him on the list and with a heavy heart arranged for him to go to another nursing home for the time being. He never made it to the top of that waiting list, passing a month later.

The following poem talks about our last morning at home before he moved to the nursing home. It was published in Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond, a chapbook produced this year by WyoPoets, a state organization that supports poets and promotes poetry throughout the state. Click this link to hear me read it.

***

FOR THE LAST TIME

 

Your leg jerks in pain,

as I put on your socks and underwear.

You wince when I roll you over,

pull up your pants as far as they’ll go.

I put on your shoes, pull you upright,

haul on your hoody, fasten your gait belt,

with a lot of effort, swing you from bed to chair.

We embrace–you’ll begin a new life

where others can more easily care for you.

We’ll always be together.

***

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

 

News from Abbie’s Corner

I’m trying something different. Other authors like Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steele have monthly newsletters which their readers can sign up to receive by email. However, these are bestselling authors who put out a new book every few months. I’m lucky if I can publish a book every few years. Who wants to sign up for a newsletter that describes my life which is just as ordinary as anybody else’s? On the other hand, since this blog covers my writing and other aspects of my life, why couldn’t I make this so-called newsletter a monthly feature like my book reviews? That way, those not interested in learning more about little old me can wait until the next Tuesday. As I used to tell residents at the nursing home when encouraging them to participate in a new activity, “You never know until you try.” So here goes.

The past couple of months have been busy. As you may know, I took a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother and his family. This trip was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, and highlights include a food truck festival in downtown Jupiter, a canoe trip along the Loxahatchee River where we encountered an alligator, and a trip to the beach. My adventures in Florida this time around inspired a series of lunes.

At the beginning of April, I planned to take a trip to California to attend my uncle’s wedding, but I developed a bad chest cold. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and could barely talk and decided to cancel my trip. I didn’t want to travel when I felt so miserable and risk passing my crud on to anyone else. I was sorry to miss the wedding. My brother told me about it later, and it sounded fun, but That’s Life.

In the middle of April, my Third Thursday Poets group gave a reading at the local senior center to commemorate National Poetry Month. We were joined by twenty-five high school students, some of whom shared their work. One such pupil turned out to be another Abigail Johnson. As she read her poem about Alexander Hamilton, I saw myself over thirty years ago. The only difference was that I was sharing a poem someone else wrote and performing it from memory in front of an audience as part of my participation in the high school speech team. Oh, and one more thing, this girl didn’t appear to be visually impaired. I wrote a poem about this moment which I’ll share at our October reading and hope she comes.

At the end of April, my friend Rose Hill, who is our state poet laureate, and I drove to Riverton to attend the WyoPoets annual workshop at the Holiday Inn. WyoPoets is an organization that supports poets and promotes the use of poetry throughout the state. The night before the workshop, there was a reading at the Riverton public library, during which Rose unveiled our new chapbook, Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond. Yours truly and others featured in the book shared our work. My poem, “For the Last Time” will be featured here later.

The workshop presenter, Linda Hasselstrom, covered two topics: revising your poetry and performing your work before an audience. I must admit I didn’t take away much from this because she didn’t say anything I didn’t already know about these subjects. Anyway, it was fun critiquing others’ poems, and I got some helpful feedback on one of mine.

Another poem, a short story, and a creative nonfiction piece were published in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I’ll feature them here later.

In June, Rose and I plan to attend the Wyoming Writers conference which will also be in Riverton at the Wind River Hotel & Casino. This will feature Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall, III, poet Lori Howe, and other authors, agents, and editors who will give workshops and hear pitches. There will also be open microphone readings, and Joseph Marshall will be the keynote speaker. Wyoming Writers is an organization similar to WyoPoets except we don’t do just poetry. Last year, I was elected to its board of directors, and I have one more year to serve.

This week is National Nursing Home Week. On Thursday, I’ll be playing my guitar and singing at a facility called Green House. On Friday, I’ll do the same at an assisted living center. The following Thursday, I’ll perform at an adult day care program, and on the last Tuesday of the month, as I usually do, I’ll go to another nursing home and entertain at its monthly birthday party. This was something I did quite a bit when I was a registered music therapist before I got married and started writing full time. Back then, my activities were more for therapeutic purposes, but now, I just entertain them, and they love it.

Well, that’s about all the news I have for now. I would like to add one more thing, though. In the past, I’ve been inserting my photo and books’ front cover images at the bottom of each of my posts. The only way I can do this is to copy and paste the images from another post. For some reason, this WordPress site no longer plays nice with any of the two screen reading programs I use, and as a result, this task is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming. So it is with a heavy heart that I will no longer post these images unless I can find an easier way to do it. You’ll still see links to the pages on my Website where you can learn more about the books. The front cover images are on those pages, thanks to my excellent Webmaster, Julie Posey. Of course when I post to Writing Wranglers and Warriors, which I only do once a month, I will include the images in those posts since others who blog there do the same thing, and it’s always good to have consistency in a blog.

I realize this newsletter may have gotten a little long, but if I do this every month, I won’t have as much to report. Please let me know what you think of this feature in the comments field below. If enough people want to get this sort of thing in their in box monthly, that’s something I can consider. In the meantime, happy May.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

A Poem for My Father’s Birthday

Dad would have been eighty today. One of his greatest loves was jazz, and I have many fond childhood memories of the two of us listening to such music together. You can watch a video of the song we often enjoyed. To hear me read the poem, click this link.

***

Dad, Fats, and Me

 

As the piano’s base notes

imitate baby elephant patter,

I stomp my six-year-old feet in time,

while sitting on the couch across from Dad,

sprawled in his easy chair, his nose in a book.

He looks up, chuckles.

 

As Fats Waller sings no praises

to a woman’s over-sized feet,

I stand, stomp around the den.

Dad sings along–I giggle.

 

As the song crescendos

with blaring saxophone and trumpet,

I lift my feet,

bring them to the floor with purpose.

 

The record has other songs:

“The Joint is Jumpin’,” “Seafood, Mama,”

but my little feet always stomp in time

whenever I hear Fats say, “Your Feet’s Too Big.”

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order from Amazon

Order That’s

A Poem About My Mother

One thing I remember about my mother is her cooking. The following poem illustrates this and her inferiority complex when it came to meal preparation. This poetry form is a haibun, consisting of two paragraphs of prose and one haiku. Of course you’ll note here that the haiku has nothing to do with nature, but in my view, anything goes. Click this link to hear me read the poem.

***

MOTHER’S CUISINE

Mother considered herself a mediocre cook, but I thought otherwise. I loved her meatloaf, steak San Marco, calico beans. When complimented, she said, “It’s too dry, too salty, needs more pepper, should have been cooked longer.”

When I was in college, she mashed potatoes for the first time: boiled, peeled, sliced them, added milk and butter, attacked them with an electric mixer. They turned out chunky but still good. On Christmas Day, with family and friends gathered around the table, when I asked for a second helping of potatoes, she said, “Well, you’re used to cafeteria food.”

mother’s chocolate cake

evokes happy memories

of a child’s delight

***

Mother and her cooking are long gone, but I still remember. What about you? Happy Mother’s Day.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

April 2016 Reviews

Since April was National Poetry Month, most of the books I read contained, you guessed it, poetry. However, I managed to squeeze in a collection of essays and a few works of fiction so if you don’t like poetry, scroll down. For those of you using screen readers, I finally figured out how to make each review its own separate heading so if you don’t want to finish one, you can easily skip to the next. Happy reading.

***

Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond

Selected by A. Rose Hill

Copyright 2016

 

As Past President of WyoPoets, I’m proud to tell you about our new chapbook of poems by members that has just been released. WyoPoets is an organization that supports poets and promotes poetry throughout the state of Wyoming through workshops, contests and other programs. The poets who contributed to this anthology are from Wyoming and surrounding states.

The book’s theme is transitions or pivotal moments in life. My poem, “For the Last Time,” which I’ll post separately here later, is about the day I moved my late husband to a nursing home when I could no longer care for him. Aaron E. Holst, a local retired fire chief, writes a letter to his deceased father about fighting a forest fire. Other poems touch on baptism, domestic violence, dating, and other topics. A. Rose Hill, our state poet laureate, who selected the poems, talks about herself at the beginning of the book, and at the end, information about joining WyoPoets is included. To order this chapbook, send $8.00 for the first book plus $3.00 shipping and $1.00 for each additional copy to WyoPoets, PO Box 155, Douglas, WY 82633. To learn more about WyoPoets, click here.

***

I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs

by Francesco Marciuliano.

Copyright 2013.

 

Have you ever wondered what your dog is thinking when he attacks your favorite shoe? Now, you can find out. From the author of I Could Pee on This, a collection of poems written from a cat’s point of view comes a similar poetry collection written from a dog’s point of view. The book is divided into four chapters: Inside, Outside, By Your Side, and Heavy Thinking. Each chapter contains several poems that outline a dog’s emotions during certain situations.

My favorites were “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House,” “Dance of Joy,” and “I Dropped a Ball.” These reminded me of the dogs in my family when I was growing up and my brother’s dogs in Florida where I visited in March. After reading this, I was inspired to write my own dog poem. You can read more about Francesco Marciuliano here.

***

The Best Loved Poems of the American People

Selected by Hazel Felleman.

Copyright 1936.

 

This is an anthology of over 500 poems that were popular during the earlier part of the 20th century. Material is arranged by such themes as love and friendship, faith, animals, and nature, to name a few. It was produced in response to requests for favorite poems sent to a column in The New York Times Book Review.

The collection includes such classics as Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and Clement Clark Moor’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It also has poems that became old, familiar songs such as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Home Sweet Home,” and the Christmas carol “I Saw Three Ships.” Some poems are humorous and whimsical, others more serious. There are a few that I enjoyed as a child. I found some boring but enjoyed reading most of them. I like the way the book ends with Robert Browning’s “The Years at the Spring,” especially the last line, “All’s right with the world!”

***

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

by T. S. Eliot.

Copyright 1967. Illustrations copyright 1982 by Edward Gory.

 

This poetry collection inspired the Broadway musical, Cats. T. S. Eliot wrote the poems in the 1930’s for his godchildren, but for years, they have been enjoyed by anyone young at heart. You’ll meet such memorable feline characters as Growl Tiger, Rum Tum Tugger, and McCavity. A friend to whom I gave this book years ago commented that the illustrations make the cats come alive.

When I was in college, I had the sound track from Cats. I liked how some of the poems were set to music. However, my favorite song from the musical is not in the book. Here I am, singing it. To learn more about T.S. Eliot, click here.

***

Langston Hughes: The Voice of the Poet

Copyright 2002.

 

This is a recording produced by Random House Audio in a series of poets reading their work aloud. In this program which lasts a little over an hour, Hughes (1902-1967) shares work that reflects on such topics as racism, violence against blacks, music, and death, some inspired by his life experiences. In the beginning, he talks about, among other things, how being elected the class poet in the eighth grade despite being black helped launch his career as a poet. Some of his work is in the style of a blues song while other poems use traditional rhyming patterns or free verse. If everyone read such poets as Langston Hughes, our nation could be more tolerant of those who are different from us. To learn more about this poet, click here

***

Spoon River Anthology

by Edgar Lee Masters

Copyright 1962.

 

The 200 plus poems in this collection, first published in 1915, tell of people in Spoon River, Illinois, who share their stories from their graves. Like any town, Spoon River had its bad apples: a corrupt banker, an arsonist, and a rapist, to name a few, but there were others like Hannah Armstrong, who ran a boarding house where Abe Lincoln once stayed, Joseph Dixon, who tuned harps and other stringed instruments, and Lucinda Matlock, Masters’ grandmother. Each epitaph, in one way or another, tells how each person lived and died. The 1962 edition contains an introduction by poet May Swensen, an epilog, suggested reading, and biographical information about Masters.

When I was in high school, I participated in the local college’s production, directed by my mother, of a musical based on Masters’ work. With other students, I sang old folk songs that were probably popular during that time. We accompanied ourselves on piano, guitar, saxophone, and various rhythm instruments. Songs were interspersed with readings of the epitaphs by students and other community members. Reading some of the poems in this anthology brought back memories of that time. I’d sing you one of the songs but can’t find any of the music from that production, and although I remember tunes, titles and lyrics elude me. Oh well… You can read more about Edgar Lee Masters here.

***

Letter to My Daughter

by Maya Angelou

Copyright 2008.

 

The essays and poems in this bestseller reflect on racism, religion, and other topics. Maya Angelou writes about her life in San Francisco with her mother when she moved there as a teen-ager after being raised by her grandmother in Arkansas. She describes how her son was conceived through sex without love and talks about the guilt she felt when she left him in her mother’s care while on the road performing. This almost drove her to kill herself and her child until her voice teacher encouraged her to write down her blessings. She shares a couple of anecdotes from her time in Africa and her perceptions of Coretta Scott King and other celebrities. She dedicates this book to daughters all over the world, not having any of her own.

I found it hard to believe when a waitress in a North Carolina café told Maya and her friend that nobody had been served in over an hour because the cook ran out of grits. If I were black and in that café, I would have looked around to see if others at neighboring tables were eating which they probably would have been. Apparently though, Maya believed the waitress’s tale. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading the work in this book, although I found the poems a bit too abstract. To learn more about Maya Angelou, click here.

***

And We Stay

by Jenny Hubbard

Copyright 2014.

 

This was named a 2015 Printz Honor Book by the American Library Association. In 1995, seventeen-year-old Emily Beam is sent to the Amherst School for Girls in Massachusetts after her boyfriend Paul commits suicide. Too ashamed to tell her story, she makes few friends but writes a lot of poems which are scattered throughout the book along with flashbacks that tell of her relationship with Paul and what drove him to shoot himself in the high school library back home.

She takes an interest in the poet Emily Dickinson who also attended the Amherst School for Girls over a century ago. A teacher encourages Emily Beam to enter a poetry contest and loans her a biography of Emily Dickinson. Emily Beam becomes obsessed with visiting Emily Dickinson’s grave and her home which is now a museum.

This book is perhaps more suited to teen-agers, but I, a middle-aged widow, found it hard to put down. Emily’s story fascinated me. It’s not often you find a teen-ager who writes poetry for therapeutic purposes and who is interested in a classic poet. I have a feeling that if my favorite high school English teacher were still in the business, she would assign this book to her freshman English class. It’s a great way to introduce young people to poetry and get them to think about issues of the day. For more information about Jenny Hubbard’s books, click here.

***

Brokedown Cowboy

by Maisey Yates

Copyright 2015

 

In Copper Ridge, Oregon, Connor Garret is a rancher who lost his wife three years earlier. When Felicity Foster, his best friend since childhood, needs a place to stay, he takes her in and can’t resist fantasizing about her in her underwear and other romantic situations. The feeling is mutual. Felicity organizes a community effort to replace Connor’s barn that burned down. Will she also replace his wife?

This interesting story is bogged down by way too much detail about the characters’ feelings and love making. At first, I was curious about the outcome, but now, I don’t care anymore so I decided not to finish the book. To learn more about New York Times bestselling author Maisey Yates and her books, click here.

***

Songs of My Selfie: An Anthology of Millennial Stories

Edited by Constance Renfrow

Copyright 2016.

 

We all know about mid-life crisis, but has anyone heard of quarter-life crisis? That’s what the seventeen stories in this anthology are about. They’re written by twenty something emerging writers about and for people in that age group. In “The Most Laid-Back Guy Ever,” a young woman falls for a young man in an airport. In “Small Bump,” a young couple decides to abort a pregnancy. In “Victoria,” a young woman secretly leaves her family to fly off with her boyfriend, but does she change her mind at the airport? Each story includes a selfie of the author.

Some of these tales are fun to read, but after a while, I got tired of this book. I may read more of it later. I’m a widow in my fifties, but I definitely recommend this to those in their twenties who can more easily identify with these characters. To learn more about Constance Renfrow and this book, click here.

***

The Woman Upstairs

By Claire Messud

Copyright 2013.

 

In this bestselling author’s latest novel, third grade teacher Nora Eldridge becomes involved with the Shahid family when they become her neighbors in Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, I didn’t get very far with this. It starts out from Nora’s first person point of view, and one of the first things she says is that when she dies, her epitaph should read, “Fuck you all!”

I don’t mind the F word. I first learned it from my daddy years ago and still use it occasionally, but the context in which this author uses it tells me that something is going to happen that will make the main character feel this way, and I’m not sure I want to know what it is, at least not now. You can read more about this book here.

***

Dad is Fat

by Jim Gaffigan

Copyright 2013

 

No, this is not another memoir about someone living with an obese father, although I wondered when I saw the title. In this book, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan writes about living with five children under the age of nine and his wife in a small two-bedroom apartment in New York City. He starts by relating an experience he and his wife had years earlier while touring the Grand Canyon with friends who had a baby. He then launches into a series of humorous stories about his relationship with his father and covers such topics as pregnancy, home birth, education, and family vacations. He also shares the reactions of family and friends to each pregnancy and birth and ponders the question, “Are you done yet?”. So whose dad is fat, you ask? Well, read the book.

Many of these little essays left me rolling in my recliner. They not only brought back my own childhood memories but helped put my earlier life in perspective. Having children is similar to being a family caregiver. For six years, I cared for my late husband who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. I can imagine how much more difficult it would be to care for five husbands, all totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Of course kids eventually grow up and become independent, but still… To find out if Jim Gaffigan’s done having kids, click here.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

O