When my younger brother and I were kids, we loved to play on our parents’ queen-size bed. We enjoyed pretending we were trees that were about to fall. We stood on the foot of the bed and yelled, “Timber!” as we flopped backwards. The following poem is about how cutting down trees can bring change. It was published in Wordgathering in September of 2008.
We heard the workmen next door,
as we got ready for our day.
Lying down, we put on his pants,
one leg, then the other,
rolled, pulled, rolled, pulled
till they were up as far as they would go.
Sitting on the side of the bed,
we removed the sweaty t-shirt
that covered him while he slept.
His arm encircled my waist.
We tugged, laughed,
swore till it was over his head.
One arm, then the other,
it was off.
On went the sweatshirt,
one sleeve, then the other,
over his head it went.
All the while,
chain saws whined.
Branches and limbs fell,
bringing change, welcome or not.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Racing in the Rain

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein was The New York Times best selling book in 2008. I recommend this to anyone who likes a good man and dog story. It’s told from the dog’s point of view. Since dogs can’t be everywhere humans can, they’re only able to guess what happens in certain situations. Such is the case with Enzo, acquired as a puppy by race car driver Dennis Swift. After purchasing Enzo from a puppy farm, Dennis marries Eve, and they have a daughter, Zoie. When Dennis isn’t racing, he works as a sales representative at a car dealership. As Zoie grows older, his racing career takes him away from home more often, and this becomes a source of contention between Dennis and Eve.
When Zoie is five years old, Eve is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Enzo senses the onslaught of this disease years earlier but being a dog, he can’t warn her. Besides, as he points out, Eve wouldn’t have wanted to know since she refused to see a doctor when she first developed headaches, nausea, vomiting, and mood swings.
When Eve is hospitalized and given only six to eight months to live, her parents, who never liked Dennis and blame him for not forcing Eve to seek medical attention earlier, do what they say is best. They insist Eve and Zoie live with them. They set up a hospital bed in their living room and hire nurses around the clock. Dennis agrees to let Zoie live with her mother and grandparents only because he thinks Zoie should be with her mother for as much of her remaining time as possible. He has no idea what Eve’s parents have up their sleeves.
On the day Eve dies, Dennis is slapped with a lawsuit from her parents for custody of Zoie. The next day, he is arrested for raping Eve’s fifteen-year-old cousin while driving her home from a family gathering. Enzo has witnessed the so-called rape, but because he’s a dog, he can’t reveal the truth to anyone except in a dream where he testifies in court with the help of a speech synthesizer.
Thus follows a three-year court battle. At one point, Dennis is ready to sign an agreement in which he relinquishes custody of Zoie in exchange for the clearing of the rape charges against him, but Enzo snatches the papers and pees on them, and Dennis decides to keep fighting. It takes a miracle to exonerate Dennis and reunite him with Zoie.
In the end, Enzo’s health declines after he is hit by a car. On the day Zoie is to return home to her father, he dies, satisfied that he has lived a fulfilling life. He is reincarnated as a little boy who loves car racing. To learn more about Garth Stein and his writing, visit http://www.garthstein.com/bio.php
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Magnets and Ladders

I’m currently working with a group of other disabled writers on our very own Web magazine which is now up and running. Magnets and Ladders contains prose and poetry by disabled authors such as myself. One of my stories appears in the first issue which contains pieces that were published in 2007 in our anthology entitled Behind Our Eyes.  I’ve already posted “The Flower Boy” here so I’ll just leave a link to where you can read the magazine. You’ll find more information about our anthology here. http://www.magnetsandladders.org/files/spring11.html Enjoy!
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Julie and Julia, the Book

This is the true story of Julie Powell’s adventures in what she calls cooking dangerously. In the movie, she was portrayed as an insurance agent, but actually, in 2002 when she cooked her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days and blogged about it, she was working for Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Her project earned her a lot of attention, not just from those reading her blog. She was repeatedly admonished by her boss not to give the name of the agency either in her blog or in interviews with the media. Either the agency thought her project a source of embarrassment or they just didn’t want to be mentioned. However, they were noted in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julie_Powell
The book also covers other aspects of Julie’s life: her and her husband Eric’s  move to a decrepit loft in Long Island City, two friends’ relationships, and another friend leaving her husband for another man. Julie’s cooking is thwarted by pipes that leak and then freeze, drains that don’t work properly, and maggots in the sink of her tiny apartment kitchen. Her story is interspersed with scenes between Julia Child and her husband Paul from the 1940’s which she bases on Paul’s letters. After completing the project, Julie and Eric visit the Julia Child exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. and leave a stick of butter as a token of their thanks. Then comes the book deal with Little, Brown, and Company, and in the end, as Julie is writing the book in August of 2004, she receives a phone call from her mother saying that Julia Child has passed away.
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously was published in 2005. A second book entitled Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession was released in 2009. According to a review in The Sunday Times, this is about her experiences training as a butcher. It’s also about how she cheated on Eric and how he cheated on her which resulted in their separation. I’m not sure I want to read it. Julie still has a blog at http://juliepowell.blogspot.com/ but the last post was in April of 2010.
I doubt I’ll undertake any dangerous cooking projects. This has nothing to do with my visual impairment. I’ve known people with no vision at all who have barbecued meat over an open flame. My husband Bill is totally blind, and before he suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed him, he made mashed potatoes that were simply to die for. If I wanted, I could learn to prepare the feet of cows and other animals with poached eggs and other ingredients, dissect lobsters even when they’re still alive, and bone a whole duck. If I discovered maggots in my kitchen, I could do what they did on the Battleship Potemkin in 1914 and make a maggot  soup. I’m surprised Julie didn’t think of that, but maybe she didn‘t see the movie. Besides, Julia Child would probably have turned up her nose at such a creation just as the sailors did on the Battleship Potemkin.
Anyway, when Julie undertook this project, she was turning thirty and felt her life was slipping away and needed to do something that would give her a sense of accomplishment. I’m nearly fifty, and although my life might be slipping away, I have plenty to be proud of and keep me occupied. I’ve published my first novel in July of 2007. I’ve put together a collection of poems entitled How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver which I’ve been sending to various publishers. My singing and writing group obligations keep me hopping. Caring for Bill is a project in itself. I considered blogging about that, but Bill would have been mortified if millions of readers all over the world read about how I cleaned him up after his bowel movements. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing, and as far as cooking is concerned, I’ll stick to macaroni and cheese and tuna casserole.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

My Life in France

Okay, I’m back in France, this time with Julia Child. Since I recently saw the movie “Julie and Julia” about a New York insurance agent who cooks 524 of Julia Child’s recipes in 365 days and  blogs about it, I thought it would be fun to read the books on which the movie was based. My Life in France isn’t just about Julia’s life in Paris where she earned a diploma from Le Cordon Bleu, the world famous cooking school. After World War II, Julia and her husband Paul lived in various locations in France, Norway, and the U.S. because of Paul’s government job. When Paul retired in the 1960’s, they settled in the U.S. and France. The book also covers the agonizing process of publishing Julia’s first book, Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and the myriad of others to follow plus her television career.
I’m not much of a cook and don’t plan to be so why would I want to read about a chef? I love to eat, and I’m fascinated by French food, except for the snails of course. As a writer, I’m also interested in other authors’ publishing success stories. Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a collaboration between Julia and two others, and it took years to publish. I think this is mainly because Julia and her collaborators didn’t live in the same city, and this was in the good old days before e-mail and file sharing. Once it was published, the others didn’t seem to take as long, but they were still a lot of work because each recipe they used was researched and tested numerous times.
One difference between writing and cooking is that when you make a mistake in your writing, it’s easy to go back and fix it, especially with computers nowadays. But once a meal is on the table, that’s it. If Bill doesn’t like the onions in the macaroni and cheese, I can’t open it on my computer and delete the onions. For this reason, I’ll stick to writing stories and poems and cook only when necessary. For more information about Julia Child, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Child As Julia would have said, “Bon appetit!”
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome