Over the Bridge and Along the Creek

Here’s a little ditty I wrote recently. Years ago when my grandmother was alive, I enjoyed walking to her house, even as an adult. Now, our town boasts a series of connected cement walkways that would have provided a scenic route from my house to hers if she were still alive. The following is set to a familiar tune we associate with Thanksgiving. To hear me sing it while accompanying myself on piano, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/over%20bridge%20along%20creek.mp3 . Happy Thanksgiving!

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OVER THE BRIDGE AND A LONG THE CREEK

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My cane knows the way. I will not stray as through the leaves I go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house I spy.

Hurray for the turkey, stuffing, and yams and Grandma’s apple pie.

Over the bridge and along the creek to Grandma’s house I go.

My dog knows the way so “Forward,” I say as along the path we go.

Over the bridge and along the creek, now Grandma’s house we spy.

I must insure my trusty guide does not eat Grandma’s pie. Ruff ruff.

***

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

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Holiday Review: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving by Janet Evanovich. Copyright 2006.

 

In Williamsburg, Virginia, when Megan, a potter, and Pat a pediatrician, meet unexpectedly, it’s love at first sight. However, after one botched engagement and a second man leaving her at the altar, Megan is determined never to marry. Pat develops cold feet when he realizes the financial difficulty involved in supporting a family. Add a rabbit, a baby, Thanksgiving dinner with two families who barely know each other, the former boyfriend who left Megan at the altar, and a pregnant horse, and you have an intriguing story with a predictable end.

I used to enjoy romances like this one. Now, I may have outgrown love at first sight, orgasm over bread, and the long, agonizing scenario of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. I downloaded this book from Audible, and C.J. Critt, the narrator, does an excellent job giving each character a distinct voice. I especially liked her portrayal of the former boyfriend, and one of my favorite scenes is when he’s playing darts with Pat in a bar, and Pat throws a dart that hits him right where it counts. This audiobook is only about five hours long, but it seems like an eternity until the resolution. The humor interjected in the story helps. I recommend this book to anyone who likes romance, babies, animals, and a funny holiday story. To learn more about Janet Evanovich and her books go to http://www.evanovich.com/ .

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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

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November 2015 Reviews

A Place to Belong by Phyllis Campbell. Copyright 2002.

 

Jill, a high school student, loses her vision after a brain tumor is removed. Her mother and stepfather send her from her home in Washington to live with her paternal grandmother in rural Virginia with whom she’s never had contact. With the help of Susan from Come Home, My Heart, she learns Braille and other basic adaptive skills.

She also develops a bond with Ben, a little boy who was traumatized by his father’s death and a friendship that could turn into romance with his older brother. In the end, after Jill learns why her father was never in contact with his parents after marrying her mother, she helps rescue Ben when he falls in a hole. She then decides to attend the Virginia State School for the Deaf and Blind and go on with her life.

I like the stark contrast the author illustrates between opinions of those with disabilities. In the small town where Jill’s grandmother lives, most of the people accept her like they would anyone else, despite her blindness. On the other hand, Jill’s mother and stepfather think she should have a private tutor and not associate with others blind or sighted.

I also like the way Phyllis Campbell incorporates characters from a previous book. However, I noticed one problem. In Come Home, My Heart, which I’m assuming is set in the 1980’s, Wanda, Susan’s adopted daughter, was only nine years old. In A Place to Belong, she appears to be only in high school when in 2001, she would have been in her twenties. As a child, Wanda suffered from epilepsy, but I doubt that would have slowed her learning, especially since she’s able to drive Susan everywhere.

Otherwise, I think this is a great book, especially for teen-agers. I hope young people reading this will gain more of an understanding of what it’s like to lose your vision. To learn more about this and other books by Phyllis Campbell, go to http://www.phylliscampbellbooks.com/ .

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Friendships in the Dark: A Blind Woman’s Story of the People and Pets Who Light up Her World by Phyllis Campbell. Copyright 1996.

After reading Come Home, My Heart and A Place to Belong, I wanted to read this author’s memoir which talks about her life and the animals who shared it with her. She starts by describing what it was like to be five years old in 1943 on a farm in Virginia, the fear of her older brother going off to war, how her older sister, also totally blind, taught her to read Braille, and the animals on the farm with whom she developed a close bond like Sly, the old dog and Mouser, a kitten who met a tragic end.

She then goes on to talk about the years she attended the Virginia State School for the Deaf & Blind with her sister, how her first year was marred by illness, her music lessons, and learning to walk with a cane. During this time, her family moved from the farm to a house on the grounds of a nearby mental hospital where her father found a job.

She talks about her life in the 1960’s after graduating from high school, her mother’s death from cancer, her father’s stroke, her brother getting married, living with her older sister in an apartment until she, too, got married, and eventually, her own marriage to a sighted man who worked various jobs. She then describes acquiring a guide dog in the 1970’s and how she and her husband bought an old fixer-upper in the 1980’s. She describes the myriad of animals in her life including but not limited to Buttons, the pooch her family owned when they lived on the mental hospital grounds, Miss Muffett, the cat she and her sister owned in the apartment together, her guide dog Lear and a cat she called Lady Gray who came with the old house she and her husband bought in the 1980’s.

For the benefit of those not familiar with blind people, she describes Braille, the process of walking with a white cane, and what it’s like to train with a guide dog. Each chapter begins with a quotation, some of which are from the Bible, and she occasionally shares how God answered her prayers and gave her the courage and strength to do certain things.

Having read other tales of not-so-pleasant experiences at state schools for the blind, I braced myself for more stories of horrible bullies, sadistic house parents, and bad teachers, but I was pleasantly surprised. Mrs. Campbell spoke with nothing but fondness for other students, teachers, staff, and even the superintendent. She even describes dogs and cats the school acquired while she was there. In fact, she loved school so much that when she became ill during her first year, she hated staying in the infirmary and begged to be allowed to return to classes. I laughed at her many anecdotes involving animals like the time the superintendent’s dog kept following her and her mother home from the school. I was moved to tears when Lear, her faithful guide, needed to be put down after almost twenty years of service. I recommend this book to anyone curious about blindness who likes heartwarming stories involving relationships between humans and animals. To learn more about Phyllis Campbell and her books, go to http://www.phylliscampbellbooks.com/ . Other reviews of this book can be found at http://www.brettbooks.com .

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Bark by Lorrie Moore. Copyright 2014.

 

The stories in this collection have nothing to do with dogs or trees. In “Debarkation,” a divorced historian ends up in a relationship with a divorced pediatrician who seems more interested in interacting with her teen-aged son than him. In “The Juniper Tree,” a woman visits the ghost of a friend who just passed away, or does she? In “Wings,” a musician at rock bottom in her career returns to the town where her grandmother used to live, befriends an elderly neighbor with a terminal illness, inherits his house when he dies, and turns it into a sort of Ronald McDonald house. In “Thank You for Having Me,” a motorcycle gang crashes a wedding. Other stories deal with such topics as divorce and mental illness.

Although I found these stories intriguing, the author’s nasty habit of including too much back story and description caused my mind to wander, and I must admit I dozed once or twice. Lorrie Moore is an award-winning author of other books with outlandish titles such as Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? To order her books, go to http://www.amazon.com/Lorrie-Moore/e/B000APWFEY .

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Crossing the Plains with Bruno by Annick Smith. Copyright 2015.

 

In this author and filmmaker’s memoir, she describes a road trip she took with her dog Bruno about ten years ago during the month of May. She drove from her home in Montana to visit her mother in Chicago and back. Along the way, she provides histories of landmarks and shares memories they evoke of her life growing up in Chicago, her marriage to Dave Smith, their life in Seattle and California, her husband’s sudden death after they’ve settled in Montana, and her filmmaking career.

After arriving in Chicago, she talks about the time she spent in the senior high rise apartment building where her mother lived and at the family’s lake side cottage about eighty miles away. She describes visits from family and friends during that time and shares more memories such as her parents’ divorce and reconciliation and her father’s affair with a teen-aged girl.

She then describes the trip home, a bit rushed because her partner Bill Kitterege’s brother just passed away, and she was anxious to get home to meet his family before they returned to Oregon. Nevertheless, she takes time to reflect on more landmarks and share more memories like the time she came to Montana to research the film, Heartland, based on the true story of a pioneer woman in Montana during the earlier part of the 20th century. She also touches on her relationship with Bill Kitterege, her dog Bruno, and other animals.

This book brought back some fun memories for me, especially of traveling with our Irish setter Clancy when I was a teen-ager. When Annick Smith described sneaking Bruno up a back staircase at an inn where no pets were allowed, I was reminded of many times we did the same thing with Clancy. Like Bruno, Clancy loved to run alongside a creek or river, jump in and swim for a while, then get out and shake himself all over you.

I was also amused that Annick Smith read to Bruno at night from a book called Dog Music which consists of poetry about dogs. This seemed to calm Bruno, especially after he had a bad dream. The author’s appreciation of literature is reflected in the pages of this book which would make a great Christmas gift for anyone who likes to read and travel and loves dogs. To learn more about Annick Smith and her books, go to http://www.amazon.com/Annick-Smith/e/B001IXRWQ8 .

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Note: Speaking of Christmas, next month, I’ll be doing my book reviews a little differently. As you know, I normally review books I’ve read in a given month at the end of the month. However, if you’re like me, by the end of December, you’ll be sick and tired of Christmas so instead, I’ll review holiday books as I read them so you’ll have a chance to read them before you get sick and tired of the holiday season. At the end of December, I’ll review any other books without a holiday theme. You’ll see my regular Tuesday posts, and these may consist of book reviews, depending on when I finish a book. If I finish a book later in the week, I may post another review. If you’re hanging on my every word, you might want to subscribe by email so you don’t miss anything. Happy holidays, and happy reading.

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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.

In the Moment (Fiction)

I sat in the classroom, not knowing what to write. The only sounds were heavy breathing from the guy next to me and the scratch of pencil against paper. The blank sheet stared me in the face.

I stared back, as time dragged on. Another student walked in late, whispering an apology. Footsteps sounded in the hall, as others walked by the open door.

I stared out the open window that overlooked the courtyard. Birds sang. Students laughed, as they passed the building, no inspiration there.

I looked around at other students sitting at tables set up in a u-shape format, the blackboard, the professor’s laptop on the lectern at the front of the room. I turned and stared at the computers lining the wall behind me. At the beginning of class, the instructor said we could use them if we didn’t want to write the old-fashioned way. I stood up and made my way to one of the terminals.

Sitting down, I pushed a button, and the screen came to life with Facebook in all its glory. Without thinking, I typed my log-in information and went straight to my home newsfeed page. There, on my timeline, were his words. “Emma Sawyer, you’re nothing but a goody two-shoes. Go to Hell!”

Others gasped, and a few tittered. I turned to see projected on the screen above the blackboard my Facebook timeline with Jeremy’s ugly words. Other screens were lit up, probably displaying the same information. I opened my mouth but couldn’t say anything.

Someone was shaking me. “Emma, wake up.” It was my roommate Shelley. The bland classroom walls dissolved into the walls of my dorm room, decorated with my photos and Shelley’s rock star posters.

“Oh, what is it?” I asked, rubbing my eyes.

“It’s after nine. Didn’t you hear your alarm? Your creative writing class starts at ten. Oh, and Jeremy called.”

“Shit,” I said, sitting up and reaching for my cell. “You didn’t talk to him, did you?”

”           “Of course not, silly, I just saw who it was on your caller ID. I’m glad you finally got rid of that bozo.”

“Yeah, he’s a real jerk. He’s here on a football scholarship so all he can think about are football, football, and football. He just wants to have fun, and he can’t understand that there are times when I need to study. Oh well….”

I picked up my phone and, with the push of a few buttons, blocked his calls and deleted him from my contacts. I then reached for my lap top.

“Emma, it’s after nine. You’re going to be late,” said Shelley, putting on her coat.

“I know, but if I don’t do this now, he’ll ruin my day.”

“And if you don’t eat breakfast, you’ll ruin your health, but that’s not my problem, is it?” said Shelley, sounding disgusted, as she slung her back pack over her shoulders. “I’m off to the cafeteria and then to my music therapy class. See you later.”

I waited for the computer to boot up, then went straight to Facebook where I un-friended Jeremy and blocked him from contacting me. For good measure, I deleted my Facebook account, figuring I could create another one later. I also blocked him from e-mailing me and removed his address.

I showered, dressed, and dashed to my class, grabbing a Hostess Twinkie and a can of Dr. Pepper on the way. I made it just in time. After roll call, the instructor, a woman who looked to be in her twenties said, “Okay, for the next fifteen minutes, I want you to write about being in the moment.”

THE END

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The above story appears in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders at http://www.magnetsandladders.org . It was inspired by a memoir writing workshop I took last fall, held in a classroom similar to that in the story, with computers along the walls that students could use. The instructor, also a young woman in her twenties, gave us a similar prompt, to write about being in the moment.

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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

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Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

Scent Story (Poetry)

The store smelled of new books.

As an excited girl of twelve or thirteen,

I made my way to the Nancy Drew section,

already in the convertible with Nancy and her friends.

Forty years later,

in a toilet stall at the YMCA,

The tissue’s scent takes me back to a time

when I couldn’t wait to get home and read.

***

In a recent post at https://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/a-cornucopia-of-thanks-for-libraries/ , Alice Massa, a retired teacher and poet, shares her memories of the libraries she frequented over the years. Like me, she loved to sniff a book’s interior as a child. That reminded me of the above poem which I wrote years ago after noticing that a piece of toilet paper at the YMCA smelled just like the inside of a new Nancy Drew book. To hear me read this poem, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/scent%20story.mp3 .

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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

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Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Vote for my new book idea.

At the Graveside

On this day three years ago, we held a graveside service for my husband Bill at the cemetery in Fowler, Colorado. Rest in peace, honeybunch.

Abbie's Corner of the World

A cold, windy November morning,

the sun provides little warmth

as we sit in chairs under an awning.

In the casket, he lies,

not a wretch, but a man I love,

his passing my life’s eclipse.

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This poem appears in That’s Life: New and Selected Poems. Click the link below to hear me read it and sing a song I sang at my late husband’s graveside almost three years ago.

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https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/at%20the%20graveside.mp3

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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Life at Fifteen

I recently heard an interesting story on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. This was the last in a series of interviews with girls around the world about what it’s like for them to be fifteen and their hopes for the future. This time, the reporter talked to girls at a high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. To hear this, go to http://www.npr.org/2015/11/01/453739538/-15-girls-american-girls-open-up-about-their-lives-their-hopes .

I was kicked out of a bar on my fifteenth birthday. My parents and younger brother Andy were with me. We had a lovely dinner at the Historic Sheridan Inn. A man played the organ and sang, and I requested one of my favorite songs. When I heard the familiar opening accompaniment, I was so excited that I knocked my Coke into my lap. To hear me sing this song with guitar accompaniment, go to https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/please%20mister%20please.mp3 .

At home earlier, Dad taught me how to dance so after dinner, we strutted our stuff along with other happy couples. When the dining room closed, we wandered into the bar where another man was playing the guitar and singing. We found a table, and Dad ordered Coke for me and Andy and something alcoholic for himself and Mother. The manager appeared and said, “Gee, I hate to tell you this, but after ten o’clock, no kids.”

It wasn’t the first time that happened, but because it was my birthday, it was especially disappointing. As far as I was concerned, that special day was ruined. As Dad guided me out the door though, he said, “Well, when you get up on that stage with your own guitar, you can tell your audience that story.” That was my aspiration back then, to be a singer like Olivia Newton-John.

Thirty-nine years later in August of this year, I took the stage with my guitar during Sheridan’s Third Thursday Festival downtown and told my audience that story, much to their amusement. I didn’t become a best-selling recording artist like Olivia-Newton-John, but maybe I’ll be a best-selling author. Who knows?

What was life like for you at fifteen? What were your hopes for the future? Did your parents have any ideas about what you should be, or did they support your aspirations? Please feel free to share in the comment field below.

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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.