Glenn Miller Brings Back Memories

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Thanks to Glenda Bealle for inspiring this post. I recently had an opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert. As the seductive strains of “Moonlight Serenade” flowed through the theater, I got goosebumps and was moved almost to tears, wishing my father was still alive and sitting next to me at that moment.

His father played the saxophone in a band before World War II, and Dad was born in 1936 while the band was touring in Pueblo. The family settled here in Sheridan in 1938, and in 1940, Grandpa Johnson started the family’s coin-operated machine business.

Dad once told me that Grandpa fought in the war and lost part of his hearing as a result of constant artillery fire. He may have continued to play the saxophone afterward, but I’m not sure. In any case, Dad grew up appreciating jazz and passed that on to me as evidenced by a poem I posted here a while back.

I’m not sure where my mother was born on December 7th, 1935, and I no longer have her obituary. I do know that she did most of her growing up in Colorado where her father was a school principal in Berthed. She once told me about her birthday when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She and her family were driving to the countryside for a picnic when the news came on the radio. Her father turned the car around and drove back to town. Needless to say, there was no birthday celebration that year.

My late husband Bill was born on October 18th, 1942 in Fowler, Colorado. Growing up on a farm, he wasn’t exposed much to big band music and never appreciated it much except for vocals. In fact, he was fond of saying that since he couldn’t see anything, he fell in love with my singing voice. You can read more of our story in my new memoir. I wish I’d taken time to learn more about my late parents’ and husband’s lives growing up during the Glenn Miller era.

I bought a CD at the concert that night, and now, “Pennsylvania 6-500” fills my home office, as I edit this. Is there a singer, band, or type of music that gives you goose bumps, moves you to tears, and/or brings back memories? Please tell me about it.

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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.

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Review: Girl in the Dark

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Girl in the Dark: A Memoir of a Life Without Light

By Anna Lyndsey

Copyright 2015

 

In this memoir, the author shares her experiences with severe photo sensitivity. It started in May of 2005. While sitting in front of her computer screen in her London office, her face suddenly felt painfully hot, as if someone were blow-torching it, she says. A fan next to her computer helped but didn’t totally eliminate the problem. Weeks later, she experienced the same thing during a meeting, perhaps as a result of the fluorescent lights in the conference room.

It got to the point where even sunlight caused her pain, and she was forced to quit her job. She asked her boyfriend Pete if she could move in to his home in Hampshire with him, and he agreed. Despite her condition, he proposed to her, and she accepted. They planned a wedding but had to postpone it because she got to the point where she needed to be in darkness most of the time in order to get any relief.

She describes how she made one room of her house completely dark and spent hours on end there, listening to audio books and the radio, venturing out only for meals and sometimes having to eat in the dark room. During the summer months, the room was unbearable, but not being in the room would have been worse.

Over the years, there were times when she was able to take walks outside between dusk and dawn. She describes how she and Pete fashioned a contraption they called a puppy cage, which allowed her to travel without being exposed to light, but because of her severe sensitivity, traveling during the day was difficult. As a result, she rarely saw a doctor and could only consult with a dermatologist about her condition by phone once in a while. She tried homeopathic and other remedies, but nothing worked for long.

She and Pete were finally able to have a wedding during one of her remission periods. This gives the book a somewhat happy ending, but Anna Lyndsey will probably have this condition for the rest of her life.

I like the way she tells her story in present tense so that it reads like fiction. I was with her the whole time, feeling her pain and frustration at being confined in the dark and her joy of spending time outdoors, appreciating nature.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in The New Yorker about this book. The article’s author (I’ll call him Kevin.) consulted dermatology experts in the U.S. not familiar with Anna Lyndsey’s case, who said that sensitivity that severe wasn’t possible. He then questioned the validity of her story, especially since she wrote the book under a pen name and changed people and place names to protect privacy. Intrigued, I wondered if Girl in the Dark was one of those memoirs that would turn out not to be true.

As I read the book, though, it occurred to me that Kevin may not have even picked it up, although he wrote that he had a copy with him when he went to England to interview her. If he read the book, he wouldn’t have even considered asking if he could use his digital recorder during the interview because even the light from that device might have caused her pain for hours.

I can understand why Anna Lyndsey used a pen name and changed people and place names. On the rare occasions she was able to travel during the day before her condition got too bad, she wore a mask and hat to protect her face. This elicited stares and avoidance from others on trains and in other public places. It’s way too bad that people all over the world will not open their minds and hearts to others who are different.

Girl in the Dark was one of those books that helped me put my life in perspective. Caring for my late husband who was paralyzed by two strokes for seven years is nothing compared to spending days and hours on end in the dark or bearing painful consequences otherwise. I’m so thankful each day I can sit at my computer and write and not be affected by the glow from the screen or sunlight streaming through the windows.

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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.

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News from Abbie’s Corner October 2016

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As I write this, it’s a beautiful Indian summer day in late September. The sun shines in a cloudless sky. Through my open front door, as I sprawl in my easy chair with my feet up, I hear the occasional car going by, dog barking, and a neighbor’s weed eater. Guitar music flows from my device’s speaker, courtesy of the public radio station in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. It’s 77 degrees, and the only thing that keeps me from writing outdoors is my tablet’s low battery.

By the way, I’m working with a new device, a BrailleNote Touch from Humanware. This is the world’s first Google-certified Braille tablet. I like this a lot better than my iPad. I don’t have to swipe, flick, double tap, or triple click. Although using the touch screen is an option, most functions can be performed with the Braille keyboard and thumb keys.

The down side is that it’s running an older version of Android, but most apps I’ve tried work pretty well, and the word processor is a lot better than other Braille note takers I’ve used. After I finish writing and proofreading this, I’ll upload it to Dropbox so I can access it on my computer, add finishing touches, and schedule it for posting. It’s nice not to be tied to my PC all the time.

Believe it or not, I’ve also been doing other things this month. On September 10th, Range Writers was pleased to have as a guest state poet laureate Eugene Gagliano. He did a wonderful presentation on character development and other aspects of writing. September 10th would have been our 11th wedding anniversary so I thought it only fitting that former poet laureate and dear friend Rose Hill read a poem she wrote for our wedding in memory of my late husband.

On September 17th, I attended a writing workshop in Buffalo, about 30 miles south of here. It was conducted by Lori Howe, University of Wyoming instructor and state humanities council road scholar. She gave us prompts and plenty of time to write and share our work. A poem I wrote during this time was posted here earlier.

On September 29th, I returned to Buffalo for a reception for Eugene Gagliano. Again, he did a great presentation where he talked about his life, read some of his work, and demonstrated some activities he does with children in the classroom. I had a great time.

Of course I’ve been busy singing as well. My group, Just Harmony, is working on Christmas music and already has several performances scheduled in December. On the 9th, I performed at Sugarland Ridge for a fall social. On the 27th, I sang at Westview for their monthly birthday party. I’ll be at Green House on October 4th and at Westview on the 25th. Sugarland Ridge has invited me back in November to do a reading and music in an attempt to promote my new book.

Speaking of which, I did a signing this month at Sheridan Stationery on the 24th and sold books in the lobby of the Sheridan Senior Center on the 27th. On October 8th, I’ll be part of a National Indie Author Day presentation at the library. I still have plenty of copies of My Ideal Partner to sell, and it’s also available online through Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, and other sources.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. Happy fall, everyone. I’ll be back next month with more news.

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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.