What did you have this morning when you got up? Here’s a poem that talks about something I occasionally fix for me and Bill. It’s included in my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, which I hope will be released next month.


We eat pancakes,
not square, not triangular,
not bathed in peanut butter or onions,
round buttermilk pancakes
covered with maple syrup,
prepared by me with love.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Do you remember Mom or Grandma making pancakes, waffles, or biscuits from scratch, waking to the smell wafting up to your room from the kitchen, enticing you to climb out of your warm bed on a cold winter morning, put on a robe and slippers, and hurry downstairs to a hot breakfast? Please share your memories. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Her First Turkey

Below is a story of mine that was published in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. I mentioned it in a post a while back but thought that since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, you would enjoy reading it.

Her First Turkey

The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and cork screw were placed in the center of the table.

Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the doorway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”

They all trooped in, her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children, Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”

“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.

Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.

“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”

“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”

After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. But still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.

“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.

‘I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite.

“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”

“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”

The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.

She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”

“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”

Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”

“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”

“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”

“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”

“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.

“I like the salad,” said Rob.

“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”

“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”

Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”

There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.

The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.“

“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”

“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”

“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”

Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to e-mail it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wishI’d thought of that last month.”

“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.

“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”

“I think you’re right, honey.”

“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can e-mail it.”

“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”

“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”

The End

Who cooked the turkey when you were growing up? Did everyone chip in and bring something? Did the men watch football while the women prepared the meal?Please feel free to share your Thanksgiving memories. You can comment below or e-mail me. Also, you can click on the link below to hear me sing, “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Have a great Thanksgiving!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


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

On Being Three

The following poem appears in my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It’s about a time I barely remember, a time when as a toddler, I may have broken my father’s ashtray.

On Being Three

I barely remember that year.
Mother said my first word was ashtray.
That’s funny—I’ve never smoked.
My earliest memory is of Dad cursing a blue streak.
Hmm—maybe he swore because I broke his ashtray.

Do you remember when you were three? Think back to your earliest recollection, and tell me about it. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

This is the title of the opening poem in my new book How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste it below. Today, I finished proofing the manuscript and e-mailed the proof form to my Publishing Services Associate. She assured me that I would receive final proofs in a few days so we’re moving right along. I’ll post more poems from the book here in coming weeks.

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

It’s about a quarter to twelve on Saturday, January 28th, 2006.
I’m walking downtown where I’ll meet a friend for lunch.
Afterward, I’ll come home, finish laundry,
read a book, anticipate the spaghetti dinner he’ll fix later.
At four o’clock, I’ll listen to “A Prairie Home Companion.”
At six, I’ll meet others in my singing group at the Eagles Club
where we’ll perform for a wine tasting.
At seven, I’ll come home, expect to find supper on the table—
instead, he’ll be lying on the floor.
Our lives won’t be the same.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Questions and Answers

I’m getting a head start on putting together marketing materials for my book How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. One of these is what’s called a Q & A which contains information about me and the book. This will be sent along with a press release to the media. I’ll paste it below for your perusal.


Q. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

A. I was born in New York City on June 1st, 1961. We only lived there for about a year. My parents had degrees in education, but they wanted to become actors. However, they realized that teaching careers would provide a more stable income. After a year in New York, we moved to Boulder, Colorado. When I was about four, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. In 1973, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming. My grandfather died a couple of years earlier, and my grandmother needed someone to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. Since no one else seemed interested, my father felt obligated to take over. Sheridan has been my home ever since.

Q. Because of your visual impairment, were you educated in special schools?

A. In Tucson, I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind for five and a half years. When my parents became dissatisfied with my education, they transferred me to a public school. When we moved to Sheridan, I completed my education in public schools.

Q. Where did you go to college?

A. When I graduated from high school in 1980, I thought I wanted to be a rock singer. I went to Sheridan College for two years where I majored in music performance and graduated with an AA degree. I then transferred to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where I again majored in music performance and graduated with a BA degree after two and a half years. While I was there, a career counselor told me about music therapy, the use of music with a variety of populations including the elderly and mentally ill to achieve therapeutic goals. Since Montana State University had a music therapy program, I transferred there after graduating from Rocky Mountain College. After two more years of study and an internship in a nursing home in Fargo, North Dakota, I returned to Sheridan in 1988. Almost a year later, I found a job conducting activities in a nursing home where I used the music therapy skills I learned.

Q. You’re not working there now?

A. No, I quit so I could write full time.

Q. Was that when your writing career got off the ground?

A. No, I started writing a few years before I quit my day job. Several of my poems and stories were published in various journals and anthologies, and I wrote my first novel We Shall Overcome. When I married my husband Bill, he persuaded me to write full time.

Q. How much vision do you have, and do you use any adaptive devices to make your life easier?

A. I can see people, objects, places, and some pictures. I can read print if it’s large enough. I use a desktop video magnifier, and my computer has software that reads the screen to me in synthetic speech, allows me to navigate using the keyboard, and tells me what I’m typing. I use a white cane while walking around town.

Q. Where did you get the idea for How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver?

A. In January of 2006, three months after we were married, Bill suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. He spent months in a nursing facility where he received therapy and finally came home the following September. at that time, I found myself writing more poems about him and the trials and tribulations of being a family caregiver.

Q. Where did you come up with the title?

A. I’ll have to give our caseworker at the local senior center’s in-home services program most of the credit for that. Several years ago, one of the aides who gave Bill his shower three days a week claimed the process of transferring him from the bed to the commode was bothering her back. Our caseworker said, “I wish I knew how to build a better mousetrap.” That’s what being a caregiver is about. You sometimes have to find different ways of doing things, and it can be especially tricky when you can’t see very well. You often figure things out by trial and error.

Q. Are all the poems in the book about taking care of Bill?

A. No, the majority cover such topics as feeding, dressing, and toileting. Some are from Bill’s point of view. One in particular is from the point of view of his computer which he has trouble using because of his lack of short-term memory and use of his left arm. Some poems provide a humorous outlook on being a family caregiver. Others offer a heartwarming look at our relationship. Poems in the second and third parts of the book cover childhood memories and reflect on other topics. The last part contains poems inspired by my fifteen years experience working with nursing home residents.

Q. Bill is still in a wheelchair today?

A. Yes, when he came home in 2006, we hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. But in January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In august of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he wasn’t showing any progress. He may never walk again, but that doesn’t matter. We love each other, and we’ll enjoy our life together for as long as we can.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How To Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections Of a Family Caregiver