Review: Rushing Waters

 

Abbie-1

Rushing Waters

by Danielle Steel

Copyright 2016.

 

Fictional Hurricane Ophelia, worse than Sandy, hits New York. Starting in the fall, when the hurricane hits, and ending around Christmas, this book details the lives of several people affected by flooding as a result of the storm. Characters include an interior designer from London visiting her mother in New York, a hospital emergency room doctor, two college students, and others. Some of their paths cross, but most have separate stories of loss and re-building after the storm.

I love this author’s work, but I’m starting to notice an undesirable pattern. If you’re a writer, you’re probably familiar with the concept of showing versus telling. Showing is using dialog and action to tell the story. Telling involves narrative. I’m sure this is prevalent in many of Danielle Steel’s books, but I think there are times when she does way too much telling. I know she’s a best-selling author, but in my years of writing, I’ve come to believe that showing is more effective. Nevertheless, her stories are so compelling that they’re worth wading through the narrative.

I was only too happy to snuggle in my recliner, safe and secure, while reading about characters dealing with no electricity, a supposedly crumbling apartment building, and high water. The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible was great, narrated by Dan John Miller, the same person who read Hotel Vendome. This book made me thankful that I live in a place like Wyoming, which doesn’t have hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy struck New York at about the same time as my husband Bill passed away, in October of 2012. While those affected were dealing with the loss of loved ones and property, I was dealing with grief of my own that was not caused by a natural disaster. You can read more about this in my new memoir.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Advertisements

Acting Out at Open Mic Sessions

Abbie-1

 

 

 

My Profile Picture

I was born in New York City to want-to-be actors who realized the importance of having a day job. That didn’t stop them from acting, though. We moved from New York to Colorado, Arizona, and finally Wyoming, and in just about every town, my parents became involved in local community theater.

As a child, I watched, fascinated, as they rehearsed. Alone in my room, I acted out my own scenes. In Tucson when I was eight, I got my first role, a small one, in the local theater guild’s production of Lysistrata by Aristophanes.

Despite my limited vision, I was able to acquire minor roles in high school and college plays. I was also active in the speech team where I performed interpretations of drama and poetry for competitions. I even won a few awards.

Therefore, when I attended my first Wyoming Writers conference over ten years ago, I was not daunted by the prospect of two open mic sessions. In these activities, writers are encouraged to read their poems, stories, or book excerpts in front of an audience. I wouldn’t win any awards for my performance, but it would be a great way to share my work.

The first night, I read an essay about how I thought my parents’ fights were plays they were rehearsing. After the first few paragraphs, the audience’s laughter nearly knocked me flat on my back. I’d spent months polishing the piece and reading it for practice and forgotten how funny it was. I managed to get through the rest of my performance and keep a straight face, and many people afterward told me how much they enjoyed it.

Since then, I’ve usually been one of the first to sign up for open mic sessions at workshops and other events. Because I love to sing and have been told I’m good at that, I enjoy sharing poems I’ve written that incorporate songs. You can listen to an example here. This past summer, friend and fellow writer Christine Valentine and I brought down the house in Riverton during this year’s Wyoming Writers conference with our rendition of Christine’s poem, “Driven Insane by Mitzi Gaynor,” which uses lyrics from South Pacific and Brigadoon. Christine has written another poem she thinks we can do together so maybe by next summer if not sooner…

Instead of being on a stage under bright lights strutting someone else’s stuff, I’m in front of a lectern in a meeting room, sharing my own work, promoting my books. As I’m sure you know by now, my latest, a memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is now available from Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords. I look forward to sharing my work at future open mic sessions.

Have you ever acted in community theater? Tell me about it in the comments field.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Review: Upwelling

Abbie-1

 

 

 

My Profile Picture

Upwelling: Poems

By Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2016.

 

The poems and essay in this collection cover a wide range of topics. In “Line by Line,” the author reflects on the process of writing poetry. In “The Marriage Pot,” she compares an ordinary pan to her relationship with her husband. In “Verona,” she takes us through the labyrinth of emotions she feels when meeting her guide dog for the first time. Other topics include death, eroticism, and a disturbing dream.

I could relate to the material in this book. It was all straightforward, down to earth, surprising, and heartwarming. I met Ann through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. In the dedication at the beginning of the book, she acknowledges our organization, calling us the “Blue Grass Pals” which is actually the name of our email list server.

Ann isn’t the only one who writes poetry based on her life experiences. The poems at the end of each chapter in My Ideal Partner were inspired by my six years of caring for my late husband Bill after two strokes paralyzed his left side. I think you’ll find it just as much of a good read as Ann’s book.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

A Losing Battle (A Poem)

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

I just found out that today is World Alzheimer’s Day. This inspired me to post a poem I wrote years ago that appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Click on the title to hear me read it.

***

A Losing Battle

 

My get up and go

just got up and went.

I’m feeling so down.

My whole life’s been spent.

 

I sit in my chair

day in and day out.

Sometimes I cry.

Sometimes I shout.

 

I don’t know one soul

from the next, don’t you see?

I can only smile

when they talk to me.

 

I need help each day,

am unsure what to do.

Everything’s jumbled.

Everything’s new.

 

Although I can walk,

I don’t know where to go.

Nothing’s familiar.

There’s nothing I know.

 

Sometimes it’s hopeless.

I see no light

at the end of the tunnel,

no daybreak in sight.

 

It’s just as well

there’s no forthcoming dawn–

for my get up and go’s

gotten up and gone.

***

I’m so thankful that my late husband Bill never had Alzheimer’s. His mind was clear until almost the very end. To read more of our story, please check out my new memoir. I can just imagine how awful it would be to care for a loved one who didn’t know who I was.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Losing Bill, a Poem

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

LOSING BILL

 

 

The Nurse

 

He’d only been living here a month,

although he came frequently for respite care

while his wife went to writers conferences.

He loved bragging about her,

the author of two books,

When his decline made caring for him difficult,

he moved here to stay.

 

After that, he went downhill,

lost strength in his good arm

needed help eating,

developed bed sores so painful

he couldn’t sit up for long.

One day, he quit eating,

was given oxygen.

His wife signed end-of-life papers.

Four days later when I came to work, he was gone.

 

The Husband

 

For six years,

I couldn’t use my left arm or leg.

My wife did everything,

wiped me when I pooped,

dressed me, got me out of bed,

helped me with my computer,

prepared meals, did laundry and other chores.

Other women would have walked away-

she didn’t, despite limited vision.

For six years, I was happy until

 

I didn’t feel like eating.

It became harder and harder for my wife to lift me

so I reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home.

She visited me every day.

We went out once or twice.

Although I wanted to be involved,

it was too hard, too painful.

 

I wanted to be in a better place.

I knew it would be a shock for her

so I held on as long as I could.

When she finally gave me permission, I went.

 

The Wife

 

The nurse’s call woke me at 6 a.m.

I thought, this is it, I’m a widow.

I knew it was coming.

In a way, it was a relief,

but that didn’t take away the emptiness.

At his bedside in the nursing home,

I kissed his cold face,

positioned my cheek in front of his still mouth,

expecting a response—none came.

I buried my face in his soft hair,

caressed his cold chest,

told him I loved him,

took his belongings,

my life changed forever.

 

The Wife, Four Years Later

 

His suitcase from the nursing home sits in the closet, still packed.

His computer and other belongings gather dust

in the nook off the kitchen that was his for years.

Whether I find someone new,

there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Life and love go on.

(((

I wrote the above poem during a workshop this past weekend given by University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. Click this link to hear me read it. Please check out my new memoir to read more of our story.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Now What?

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

Recently, I stepped out of the shower and was drying myself when I discovered something on my left breast. It felt like the moles on other parts of my skin the dermatologist said were nothing to worry about. I told myself I was making a mountain out of a mole, but the fact that it was on my left breast was worrisome.

I hurriedly dressed, called the women’s clinic, and was able to get an appointment for later that morning. When I called the paratransit service to arrange a ride, the dispatcher said, “We’ll get you there, but you’ll have to be patient getting home.” As I put my cell phone in my pocket, I thought that if I wasn’t diagnosed with breast cancer, I would have all the time in the world. I then realized that the nurse-practitioner at the clinic wouldn’t be able to tell if the spot was cancer by looking at it. A biopsy would need to be scheduled, and that would mean waiting and wondering.

I threw myself into my work, eating half a bagel and banana at my desk while checking email. I usually did this every morning to save time. I then started work on an upcoming blog post. Fifteen minutes before my scheduled pick-up time, I was ready. The bus was late.

It was about ten minutes before my scheduled appointment, and the driver said, “I’ve got a couple people to pick up before I can get you there. Sorry.”

Oh great, I thought, and I removed my cell phone from my pocket. “Just tell them it’s our fault. We had a scheduling problem.”

The scheduling problem was my fault. When I called the clinic earlier, there was another opening for the following day, but I didn’t want to wait that long. The paratransit service usually preferred to book rides at least a day in advance, but I’d convinced the dispatcher it was urgent.

When I called the clinic a second time from the bus and explained the situation, the young woman who answered the phone said, “When do you think you’ll be here?”

“I don’t know,” I answered in exasperation. “I’ll be there when I can. Just tell the nurse-practitioner I’m coming.”

As the bus bumped along, I thought my life was going great until now. My new memoir was out, and a couple of promotion events were scheduled. Why did this have to happen now?

I remembered the time when my late husband Bill suffered his first stroke. We’d been married for three months and were happy, then boom! Was this thing on my breast another bomb about to drop? Why?

I alternated between these thoughts and telling myself I was making a mountain out of a mole. I thought of my editor, Leonore Dvorkin, who fought her own battle with breast cancer years earlier and lived to write a memoir about it. While she was recovering from surgery, her husband David took care of her. I no longer had a husband. If I needed a lump or the whole breast removed, I would have to depend on the kindness of friends. My brother would probably want to fly in from Florida, but with a wife and five kids and working two jobs to make ends meet, he couldn’t afford it.

When we finally arrived at the medical complex housing the women’s clinic, I was surprised when my talking watch told me it was ten-forty-five, the actual time of the appointment. My white cane swinging in front of me, I dashed to the elevator and found the Braille-labeled button for the second floor.

“It’s probably nothing,” I told Tracy, the nurse-practitioner moments later. “It could just be a mole, but I thought I should have it checked out.”

“Absolutely,” she said. I placed my index finger on the spot, and she examined it. “It looks like just a clogged pore.”

“You mean it’s nothing to worry about?”

“Not at all,” she answered. “It should clear up soon, but if it gets bigger and starts hurting, let us know.”

After putting my shirt back on and before leaving the exam room, I called the paratransit service to request a ride home, prepared to be patient. As I left the clinic and made my way down the deserted hall toward the elevator, I was relieved and elated. “Yes, I don’t have breast cancer. Life can go on,” I said, thankful no one was there to hear me.

On the ground floor, I stood just inside the entrance. To my surprise, a bus pulled up a few minutes later. This was my lucky day.

Perhaps I over-react in such situations, but it’s only because I would hate to depend on others for care if I needed it. Bill wanted to be able to take care of me, but after his strokes, that was impossible. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Wedding Song

abbie wedding

 

 

Our Wedding Picture

Eleven years ago today, a Saturday, Bill and I stood under an arch framed with flowers in my grandmother’s back yard and said our vows, not knowing that tragedy would strike in three short months. The following poem was written for our wedding by Rose Hill, a dear friend and Wyoming’s poet laureate from 2015-2016.

***

Wedding Song for Abbie and Bill

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

The band’s tuned up, the table spread.

The day of days is finally here.

Abbie and Bill are wed today.

 

From far and wide your friends are come

to offer gifts; advise the groom;

to eat and toast and kiss the bride,

to celebrate these solemn vows.

 

Beneath the gaiety and fun are prayers,

half-formed, heartfelt and deep,

that your love grows each passing year,

that you respect and cherish one another,

 

And as your love grows deeper, stronger,

your home becomes a peaceful haven,

a fort against the world’s demands

where you find joy together.

 

Ring the bells! Dance and sing!

We celebrate your love and marriage

and many anniversaries until

Abbie and Bill are wed fifty years today.

 

Rose Hill

***

Of course it’s not our fiftieth anniversary, and we’ll never make it that far, but we had seven mostly happy years together, and that’s cause for celebration. To read our story, check out My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Visit my Facebook page.