A Perfect Day Revisited

I recently heard that rock and roll icon Lou Reed passed away. This morning, I heard that one of the Pope’s cardinals in Rome tweeted the last verse of one of Reed’s songs, “A Perfect Day.” Not being familiar with Lou Reed’s music, I didn’t realize he’d written that song which I mentioned last winter when I blogged about a book with that same title by Richard Paul Evans. Although the song had nothing to do with the book, it kept popping into my head, as I was reading it. 

Lewis Allan Reed was born on March 2nd, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York. He died on October 27th in Southampton, New York, at the age of 71. Besides being a singer/songwriter, he was a producer and photographer. The only instrument he played was a guitar. He was active from 1964 until he died. He worked with many recording companies including MGM, RCA, and Warner Brothers and was associated with a variety of performers and groups such as The Velvet Underground, John Cale, and Nico. After he passed, I heard that some of his songs, including “Walk on the Wild Side,” had negative connotations. To learn more about Lou Reed, click here.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband Bill’s passing, and although I doubt Bill was a Lou Reed fan, I’ll remember the perfect day we had before he died when we ate lunch at a local pizza joint. Here’s a video of Susan Boyle singing “A Perfect Day.” I also mentioned this song in my post about Richard Paul Evans’ book. May you have many perfect days with those you love. 

 

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

Did I Waste Fifteen Years?

Thanks to Bruce Atchison for inspiring this. I wasn’t always a writer. For fifteen years, I was a registered music therapist working in a nursing home and volunteering at other facilities in Sheridan, Wyoming, that served senior citizens. I played the piano or guitar and sang and conducted such activities as name that tune and musical bingo. I worked one on one with residents in their rooms when they couldn’t or wouldn’t attend group activities. I even held a woman’s hand and sang to her before she died and was often asked to sing at residents’ funerals. 

Now that I write full time, I wonder if I should have pursued a career in writing instead of music therapy, but did I waste fifteen years? No, the nursing home where I worked had little resources for music activities. There were weekly church services with music, the occasional performer who entertained during socials, high school choirs and other groups who came during the holidays; that was it. If not for me, music would not have been an integral part of these residents’ lives. This may sound like I’m bragging, but I still run into family members who tell me how much my music meant to their loved ones in the nursing home and inquire if I still work there. It’s nice to know that for fifteen years, what I did touched other lives. 

If not for my experience in a nursing home, I would have been totally lost when my husband Bill suffered his first stroke and was sent to the same facility where I worked. Of course it was still overwhelming, but I was familiar with people there and knew what to expect. People knew and respected me which played a crucial role in getting Bill home where I could care for him. 

I think my music therapy experience helped the most at the end of Bill’s life. Once I got over the initial shock after signing the end of life care paperwork, I knew just what to do. I played my guitar and sang his favorite songs then held his hand and sang some more. When he appeared to be resting comfortably, I pulled out my netbook and started writing his obituary. This isn’t something music therapists do for dying patients, but Bill was my husband. He liked to have events such as weddings and funerals organized in advance. He was pretty much out of it, but I think he was somewhat aware of what I was doing. Once I started writing the obituary, he knew I had the situation under control and felt he could leave this world.

As the anniversary of his death, October 30th, approaches, I look back on my life and have no regrets. Maybe I should have started writing earlier, but it really doesn’t matter. I’m glad things turned out the way they did.  

 

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

Why I’m Not a Republican

Thanks to Bruce Atchison for inspiring the title. I don’t write about politics often, but after three weeks of listening to news about the government shutdown, I’ve come to a startling conclusion. Since today is National Poetry Day, I was planning to post something about that, but I need to get this off my chest instead. 

Republicans are terrorists in their own way. They’re not likely to stage a massacre at a shopping mall, bomb a sporting event, or hijack a plane and  crash it into The World Trade Center, but for the past three weeks, they’ve been holding our government hostage in an attempt to abolish Obamacare. Did the Democrats intentionally cause a government shutdown in order to repeal No Child Left Behind? No, they accepted the fact that the legislation was passed and went on with their lives. That’s what good politicians and sportsmen should do. Accept defeat and go on. 

I’m not saying Obamacare is good, and I don’t like No Child Left Behind, either. However, the Republicans threw a nasty curve ball when the house of representatives passed legislation to avoid a government shutdown that would abolish Obamacare, knowing full well the senate wouldn’t pass it and President Obama would veto it. As a result, many government workers are without pay, and some have families to support and no other source of income. 

Fortunately, I’m not one of those, but I’m concerned that a continued government shutdown and default might effect social security disability and other benefits, but do the Republicans care? No, they won’t tell you this, but their party’s main concern is for the rich, and Obamacare definitely won’t help them. They’re pulling out all the stops, and President Obama may be forced to give in to save this country. Although they’re not violent, Republicans can  be just as ruthless as Osama Bin Ladden. 

Here’s the irony. A Republican President declared war on terrorism after 9/11. During next year’s election when you go to the polls, ask yourself this question. Do I want democracy or terrorism? The answer should be obvious.

 

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

On Not Knowing What to Write

In the fifteen years I worked with nursing home residents suffering from varying forms of dementia, I learned that sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. This also applies to writing. Tuesday is the day I usually update my blog, but I had no idea what to post. I searched other blogs for inspiration but nothing came to me until I got to The Practice of Attention in which the author talks about his experiences reading his poetry in retirement homes, bars, and other unlikely places. As I was leaving a comment on my own experiences with senior citizens, I realized that now was the time for me to go with the flow. If I didn’t have anything to write, I would write about not having anything to write. 

During my freshman year at SheridanCollege here in Wyoming, I took an English class where we were required to keep a journal and write in it daily. However, the instructor never actually read the carefully crafted entries students turned in once a week; she merely glanced at them to be sure we’d written an entry for each day. Many times, I inserted a blank piece of paper into the typewriter and then just sat there and stared at it. Finally, my mother, who also taught English at Sheridan College, suggested that since the instructor wasn’t reading the  journal entries, I should just type, “I don’t know what to write.” over and over and over. That’s what I did, and after repeatedly writing that sentence, other things came to me, and I wrote them down. Before I knew it, I typed a full page. 

Since people actually read this blog, I would lose followers in a hurry if I repeatedly wrote, “I don’t know what to write.” Instead, I’ll just conclude by saying that next Tuesday, October 15th, is National Poetry Day, and that should inspire me. In the meantime, go with the flow.  

 

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

A Summer in Sonoma

If you read this blog regularly, you know I didn’t spend a summer in this California town, but I just finished reading a book with this title by Robyn Carr. It takes place during the summer. Years after high school graduation, four friends still live in the same town, keep in touch, and support each other through domestic woes and other difficulties.

Cassie, an emergency room nurse,  is trying not to fall in love with a man on a motorcycle who rescues her from a rapist. Julie, a stay at home mom with a husband and three kids, is deep in debt, and her husband, a fireman, doesn’t get it. Marty, a hairdresser, is married to another firefighter who leaves dirty dishes and clothes in  his wake and doesn’t shower or shave unless he’s going to work; yet the yard, garage, and his boat are immaculate. Beth, an obstetrician, has breast cancer which forces the others to put their lives in perspective. 

Reading this book also helped me put my life in perspective as well. At one point in our marriage, Bill had to file for bankrupcy, but at least we didn’t have three kids, and I wasn’t eating cereal all the time so they could have more nutritious meals. Bill was also a bit of a slob, but he couldn’t help it. With the use of only one arm and leg, it was nearly impossible to pick up after himself. At least he was showered and shaved three days a week. I no longer have a husband, father, or mother, but at least I don’t have cancer. I wanted to tell Marty, though,  so what if her husband didn’t pick up after himself. Neither did my father, and my mother complained about that all the time, but at least she didn’t have to wipe his butt, dress him, and transfer him from one place to another, dropping him on the floor a few times in the process.

 

Since a retired fire chief I know might be reading this, let me say that not all firemen are slobs or irresponsible with money. I can see why the author made both husbands firefighters in the same department, though. It made it easier to justify them both being good buddies. I like the way she resolves everything in the end, leaving a few minor details to the reader’s imagination. This  book is a Rita award winner. 

Robyn Carr was first published in 1978, and it took her thirty years to make it to the New York Times bestseller list with A Virgin River Christmas in 2007. In 2011, Bring Me Home for Christmas, the sixteenth novel in the Virgin River series, made not only The New York Times roster but also the Barnes & Noble and Publishers Weekly lists. Her last five novels made the #1 slot on The New York Times list their first week on sale. To learn more about her and her books, click here

A Summer in Sonoma is available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon and in recorded format from Audible. I received it in recorded format on a digital cartridge from my talking book library, and the narrator was very good. I’m sure it’ll be available for download on the National Library Service’s BARD site when the government is back up and running. Although this book takes place during the summer, it’s a good read year round, and I definitely recommend it. 

 

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