September Reviews

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naiomi Jackson. Copyright 2015.

When I read a review of this author’s debut novel in the August 24th issue of The New Yorker, it sounded like an interesting read, and it was. During the summer of `1989, two girls from Brooklyn, Phaedra, 10, and Dion, 16, are sent by their mentally unstable mother to Barbados to live with their grandmother in a small community called Bird Hill. Accustomed to their mother being gone a lot and caring for her younger sister, Dion resists her grandmother’s regimen of attending vacation Bible school and church and doing chores. On the other hand, Phaedra embraces her new life and takes an interest in her grandmother’s career as a midwife. Both girls make friends and become involved in the community.

After their mother commits suicide, their estranged father comes to Barbados. Wealthy, with a woman, and a resident of Florida, he wants the girls to live with him. Phaedra doesn’t trust him and wants to stay with their grandmother. Dion wants to be with their father, but after he and others brutally beat someone she knows who is homosexual during a festival, she realizes he’s not the man she thought he was and returns to her grandmother’s house, more than willing to live her new life.

This book brought back pleasant memories of my own grandmothers who each cared for me for a short time when I was Phaedra’s age. It’s a coming of age novel, but I recommend it to anyone of any age.

***

My Home Away from Home: Life at Perkins School for the Blind by Robert T. Branco. Copyright 2013.

Years ago, I reviewed Deliverance from Jericho by Bruce Atchison, about this author’s mostly negative experiences at a school for the blind run by the Canadian government. Robert Branco gives a more positive account of the eight years he spent at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, from 1969 to 1977. After spending five years in a public school sight-saving class, he started at Perkins when he was twelve and graduated at the age of nineteen.

Like many such institutions, Perkins had its darker side: sadistic housemothers, bullies, and policies and methods of instruction and discipline that didn’t make sense, but the author also shares more pleasant memories of field trips, singing in the chorus, learning to play the piano, taking classes in science, math, and Spanish, sports, and other events. He also shares how blind kids, like their sighted counterparts, got involved in sex, drugs, and other illicit activities. Closer to the end of the book, he touches on adaptive devices in the 1970’s such as the Perkins Brailler, Optacon, and abacus and explains how changes by a new administrator, who was also blind, made Perkins less institutional. He also describes his training in the use of the white cane and daily living skills.

One thing I didn’t like about My Home Away from Home is that it reads more like a textbook than a memoir. I would like to have seen more dialog and action punctuating the narrative. Nevertheless, the story held my attention, reminding me of my own experiences at the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind. I definitely recommend this book to parents and educators of blind children.

***

Family Life by Akhil Sharma. Copyright 2014.

In this novel, 40-year-old Ajay reminisces about life after his family’s immigration to the U.S. from India in the late 1970’s. Two years after they settle in New York, his older brother Birju, after diving into a swimming pool, suffers a serious head injury that leaves him brain dead. After Birju spends two years in a nursing home receiving unsatisfactory care, the family buys a house in New Jersey, and Ajay and his parents become full time caregivers with the help of aides who are hired when the family can afford them.

Despite his responsibilities, Ajay manages to get excellent grades in school but is isolated from other kids in elementary school and junior high. In high school, he acquires a girlfriend. The stress of caregiving drives his parents to fight and his father to drink and eventually check himself into a New York hospital for treatment and start attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings after he’s released.

Birju’s condition, Ajay’s grades, and the father’s alcoholism bring the family a lot of positive and negative attention from other Indians in their community who feel Birju could be healed, alcoholism is a dreaded disease, and intelligent people should be worshiped. Ajay’s acceptance to Princeton only makes matters worse. Nevertheless, he goes to college, graduates, and becomes a successful investment banker, eventually managing to pay for round-the-clock care at home for his brother. He then meets a girl and realizes he’s in trouble.

Having been a caregiver, I found myself relating to this story more than most people probably would. Fortunately, Bill could still talk and feed himself and was alert most of the time. Birju couldn’t do anything except breathe and perform other bodily functions. Although he received plenty of sensory stimulation at home, it was hard to tell how aware he was of what went on around him.

The ending left a lot to be desired. I would like to have known how much longer Birju lived after Ajay became a successful investment banker. What happened to his parents? Did they stay in the house in New Jersey or move elsewhere after Birju died? It’s a good idea to leave some things to the reader’s imagination, but I can only imagine so much.

***

Silver Linings by Debbie Macomber. Copyright 2015.

This is the fourth in the author’s Rose Harbor Inn series. Jo Marie, a widow and the owner of a bed and breakfast in Cedar Cove, Washington, has four guests: two women attending their 10th high school reunion, and a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. Her love/hate relationship with the handyman, ongoing throughout the series, takes an unexpected turn.

Kelly and Katie hope to settle the score with past high school flames at their reunion and end up getting more than they expect. If you read Starry Night, you may remember Finn and Carrie, the newlyweds. After traveling across the country on their honeymoon, they spend one night at Rose Harbor Inn before returning to their home in Alaska. Unlike previous books in the Rose Harbor Inn series where issues are resolved during one weekend, Silver Linings spans a longer period of time from September till January, leaving the reader wondering until the end.

I like the way Debbie Macomber introduces characters from past books. First of all, there’s Finn and Carrie, so much in love with each other, a stark contrast to Kelly and Katie’s love gone awry. Later, Jo Marie receives a postcard from Roy and Maggie. In Love Letters, they’re the couple who came to the inn to resolve their marital difficulties and are expecting their third child. As usual, the ending leaves us waiting with baited breath for the next installment.

***

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

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Grandma’s Radio

Grandparent’s Day was a couple of weeks ago, and I completely forgot about it until now. Several months ago when it was my turn to facilitate our third Thursday poets’ meeting, I played my guitar and sang “Grandma’s Feather Bed.” I brought copies of the lyrics so people could sing along if they wanted. I then suggested we write about the best darn thing about our own grandmothers’ homes. To hear me sing the song with piano accompaniment, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/grandma%27s%20feather%20bed.mp3 . What I wrote is below.

***

GRANDMA’S RADIO

“It’s a good day,” the morning announcer sings.

“Now, stand by for news.”

At the age of twelve, lying next to Grandma

in her big double bed, I ask,

“Why do we have to listen to news?”

“So we’ll know what’s going on in the world,”

she answers. After local and national news,

sports, horiscopes, we begin our day.

In my own room at home, I have a radio,

wake up in the morning to all the happenings

around town, around the country, around the world.

As a teen-ager, I listen to latest hits,

The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, some comedy.

With limited vision, I’m carried off

in a way never accomplished by television.

Now, with Granma gone, I follow her example

lie in bed, listen to National Public Radio,

know what goes on in the world.

***

Now it’s your turn. What’s the best darn thing about your grandma’s house? Please feel free to share below.

***

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Funky Word Poem!

During our last third Thursday poets meeting, our state poet laureate facilitated an interesting activity. We went around the room several times, each thinking up funny-sounding words and phrases. We then wrote poems, using all or as many    of the words as we wanted. Below is the list we came up with, and I’ll follow that with my poem.

***

fliberty jibbet

bubble trouble

Stilton cheese

galloping goulash

cracklin crispies

zounds

boogie woogie

gibberish

knuckle head

flirty feline

zeitgeist,

yucko bucko

a little spittle

bloviation

fantasmagoric

calamity

grackle

yucca glauca

hunky poo

punky poo

***

A WIDOW NO LONGER WEEPS

A fliberty gibbet talks gibberish

to her flirty feline.

“You’re my hunky poo.

Am I your punky poo?”

She says the same to her yucca glauca.

Neither the cat nor the plant respond.

She wanders into the kitchen,

cuts herself a slice of Stilton cheese

which she eats along with

a serving of leftover galloping goulash

and cracklin’ crispies for dessert.

She longs for her true hunky poo

who ended up in bubble trouble

after suffering two strokes.

Seven years later, he died.

Now, she must boogie woogie alone.

It’s better to have loved and lost

than to be in love with a knuckle head.

***

As you may have figured out, the above poem is sort of the story of my life. Now, it’s your turn. Use the list of funny words and phrases above or make your own. Write a poem, story, or essay using any or all of them. If you have a blog, I double dare you to post the finished product. If not, you’re welcome to share below.

***

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Anniversary Gift

In the past ten years, I’ve had three life-changing events, all prefaced by natural disasters. In December of 2004, an earthquake and tsunami struck the coast of Japan. In January of 2005, my husband Bill proposed to me by mail. He was living in Fowler, Colorado, while I was here in Sheridan, Wyoming. After a two-year long distance relationship, I thought he just wanted to be friends so the letter came as a shock.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. On September 10, 2005, Bill and I were married in a beautiful ceremony in my grandmother’s back yard.

Our Wedding Picture

Our Wedding Picture

This was taken on our wedding day, but I’m not sure where or when. I’m wearing a light green wedding dress, and my hair is adorned with flowers. Bill is standing on my right sight in a dark green suit with tie, and his outfit is complimented by the sunglasses he often wore when he went out.

In October of 2013, Super Storm Sandy struck New York. On October 30th, 2013, Bill passed away in a nursing home where he’d been for the past month, declining as a result of two strokes after six years of being cared for by me at home.

Today, we would have been married ten years. To commemorate our anniversary, I would like to share a poem from my latest collection, That’s Life,

and the song that inspired it. When I heard this song a couple of years ago on A Prairie Home Companion, it was as if Bill were speaking to me from above. After two years, I’m finally able to sing it with dry eyes. You can click on the link below to hear me recite the poem and sing the song.

***

WORDS FROM A LOVED ONE’S GRAVE

Everywhere you are,

I will always be with you,

watching from above.

Every time you breathe,

every decision you make,

I’ll know about it

and love you even more.

***

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/wherever%20you%20are.mp3

***

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Love in Ten Lines

Love is a rose.

You can’t pick love

because love won’t grow

if love is extracted.

Love turns to thorns

when you’ve missed love.

You lose your love

when possessive of love,

Love in your mind,

Love in your heart.

***

This poem was partially inspired by “Love is a Rose” by Linda Ronstadt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed2r8cAyvEo

***

“Love is worth everything we pay.” From The Mask of Zorro: “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY

***

Thanks to Blair King for generating this prompt idea. You can read the full post at https://peoplethingsandlife.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/love-in-ten-lines/ .

Now, it’s your turn. See if you can write a poem about love in ten lines. The word “love” must be in every line, and each line can only have four words. If you have a blog, I challenge you to post your poem there along with a quotation about love as I have done. If not, you can share in the comment field below. Any way you do it, I’d love to hear from you about love.

***

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

What Part of “Secular” Do You Not Understand?

I rarely blog about such controversial subjects as gay marriage, but this post rings true, and I can’t help sharing. If you don’t like it, then don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Reject Reality

Selling flowers or wedding cakes to a same-sex couple, or even issuing marriages licenses is not the same as being a part of a same-sex wedding ceremony. Usually no one invites their florist to their wedding anyway. However, you cannot simply disagree to do your job because of whatever religious beliefs you have. If a Muslim person worked at a grocery store but refused to handle any pork products because of their faith, they would be fired. So it is a wonder how some Christians can still have so much privilege and power and continue to ask for more.

There is no war on religion. Around 80% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian. And regardless of whatever conspiracy theories are floating around, Obama is a Christian as well. Maintaining the right to freedom of religion and trying to enforce your beliefs on others without consequence from the law are…

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Meet Wyoming’s Poet Laureate

Sheridan poet A. Rose Hill was appointed Wyoming’s seventh Poet Laureate by Governor Matt Mead on July 9, 2015. Her first duty was to read her poem “Song of Wyoming,” honoring Wyoming’s 125th anniversary of statehood. The program on the Capitol steps included Governor Mead, three former governors, and Wyoming’s two senators.

Rose has never published her own collection of poems, but her work has appeared in such publications as Leaning into the Wind and Woven on the Wind. She’s a great-grandmother, bookkeeper, housewife, historian, and former maid.

I first met Rose over 10 years ago when she called to let me know that an essay I sent to a contest sponsored by Range Writers won second place. She invited me to join the group which I did. We developed a friendship, traveling to workshops and conferences, spending many nights in motel rooms, sometimes in the same bed. She accompanied me to events where I promoted my books and supported my writing in other ways. Through the years, I got to know her and her poetry.

Rose was born on a farm near Cainsville, Missouri, September 7, 1931, and came to Sheridan with her mother and three sisters in the spring of 1947 several years after her father died. She worked as a maid at the historic Trail’s End mansion from 1947 to 1949 and graduated from Sheridan High School in 1949. She was a telephone operator, clerk, and teller for Mountain Bell from 1951 to 1959. Rose began her writing career for the Ocksheperida, Sheridan High School’s newspaper, and later edited a newsletter at Sheridan College. She earned an AA degree in accounting after her husband Gail started Ace Radiator which is now her son’s business. She has kept books for the business since it began in 1959.

She met Gail in the fall of 1948, and they married on September 4, 1949, three days before she turned eighteen. They adopted two boys and a girl. Their younger son died in 2001 of cancer. Gail died on Christmas Day, 2013. Rose has six grandchildren and two great grandchildren with a third on the way. She enjoys reading, singing in a church choir, taking care of her youngest granddaughter, spending time with family, and keeping a journal.

Rose and Petunias

Rose and Petunias

Wanting readers to see what she sees and feel what she feels, Rose puts poetic ideas in understandable form, using as few words as necessary without being obscure. She doesn’t usually write rhymed, metered poetry because she finds it too restricting.
My favorite poem of hers is “Grandma Tol’ Me.” When I asked her, she said, “My grandmother did indeed inspire that poem. She had a way of chuckling when things were a little tense. I asked her once how she could smile in the face of difficulties. She told me, “If I weren’t smiling, I’d be crying.”
Rose says she was utterly astonished upon receiving a phone call from the Governor inviting her to become Wyoming’s next Poet Laureate. During her term, sponsored in part by the Wyoming Arts Council, she wants to celebrate the arts and make the public aware of all Wyoming artists, encourage the preservation of Wyoming’s history and the improvement of writing education in schools, make the arts more economically possible for artists including all writers, and encourage innovation in all of Wyoming’s arts community. To move forward with her agenda, she plans to meet with as many of Wyoming’s writing groups as possible and visit classrooms in schools around the state.
Rose is a member of Wyoming Writers, WyoPoets, Sheridan’s Range Writers, and Third Thursday Poets, all groups to which I belong. To learn more and read “Grandma Tol’ Me,” visit http://www.wyopoets.org/featured-members/a-rose .

 

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

Order from Amazon

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea