Of Falling Silver and Glass

Late one night while I was emptying my dishwasher, a couple of forks slipped out of my grasp and hit the floor with a loud clang. Normally, I would have been annoyed, since I was anxious to get this done and get to bed. However, I found myself laughing hysterically, struggling not to wet my pants. I thought back to a similar situation years ago in a different kitchen.

In 1988, I was attending the Wyoming Lions Summer School for the Visually Impaired on Casper Mountain. After supper one night, I volunteered, or was chosen, for dish duty. After accumulating a neat pile of dry plastic glasses, I was reaching for a wet one when my arm brushed the pile hard enough to set it off balance. Glasses flew everywhere, hitting the floor with a loud clatter.

The normal human reaction in this situation is to be mortified, but having always enjoyed the sound of disaster, it was all I could do to keep a straight face, especially since others were laughing. The staffer in charge of the kitchen knew I’d just completed a music therapy internship. Not known for a sense of humor, he said, “Is that what you trained for at Villa Maria?”

I should have said, “No, I trained as a music therapist, not a dishwasher.” At the time, I couldn’t say anything, speechless as I was with mirth.

Isn’t it frustrating when you think of something you could have said in a particular situation? Of course that’s better than regretting something you said but still…

So what’s the point of this post? Again, I’m speechless with mirth and have no idea. Maybe years from now, I’ll have a better answer to that question.

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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.

 

Review: The Rain in Portugal

Today is Billy Collins’s birthday, so it’s only fitting that I re-blog a review of his latest book from last November.

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The Rain in Portugal: Poems

by Billy Collins

Copyright 2016.

In the author’s usual humorous style, poems in this collection reflect on jazz, nature, writing poetry, and other subjects. In “Lucky Cat,” Collins suggests betting with other humans on the actions of felines. In “Only Child,” he longs for a sister to help care for his aging parents. In “The Bard in Flight,” he imagines what Shakespeare would do on an airplane. The collection’s title comes from the poem “On Rhyme,” in which he reflects on such common sayings as “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”

Billy Collins is one of my favorite poets. I heard about his latest collection when he appeared live yesterday on A Prairie Home Companion. Of course he read a few of his poems, and I was hooked. Needless to say, I downloaded the book and spent last night reading the…

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His

While working on music I’ll sing next week at Greenhouse, I decided to perform a song I hadn’t sung in years, Vera Lynn’s “Yours.” As I was practicing this, I realized that I feel the same way as the woman in the song. This was popular in 1941, so I think it’s safe to assume that the woman is singing this about her loved one fighting overseas during World War II, wondering if he will return and knowing that even if he doesn’t, she’ll always love him and no one else.

My husband Bill isn’t fighting overseas. He left this world four years ago and isn’t coming back. I’ll always be his and could never love another man. Please click this link to hear me sing the song.

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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.

 

Blog Party Now Live

Welcome to my first ever blog party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Break out the Bailey’s Irish Cream and soda bread or whatever you consume on this day, and let’s have a great time.

I’ll start by re-blogging a post I wrote several years ago that’s fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. After reading it, you’re encouraged to find a favorite post, either from your blog or someone else’s, and paste a link to it in the comments field along with a brief description of the blog.

The post you submit can be about anything, not just the Irish or St. Patrick’s Day. After you do this, you can look at other postings in the comments section and get to know other bloggers, and they can get to know you. Let the party begin.

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Book and Movie Tell Tragic Adoption Story

 

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, a healthy baby boy is born. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British writer, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005) In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government.

The book, Philomena begins with a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie. Martin Sixsmith then starts by describing the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were prisoners there for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She did the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

Most of the remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in homosexual activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin confronts one of the nuns, and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. I can think of no better way to end this post. Please click this link to hear me sing this song. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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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.

 

 

 

St. Patrick’s Day Blog Party Invitation

Thanks to the inspiration of another blogger, on Friday, March 17th, I’ll be hosting my first ever blog party. No matter where you live, you can come to this party from the comfort of your own computer, smart phone, or other device that can access my blog. Bring your own food and drink, and let’s have a great time. Here’s how it will work.

Bright and early Friday morning, I’ll start things off by re-blogging a post from several years ago that will be fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. At that time, you will be invited to select a favorite post from your own blog and copy a link to it along with a description of your blog in the comments field. The post doesn’t need to be Irish-related. If you don’t have a blog, you can choose a favorite post from a blog you follow. Afterward, you can read other postings in the comments section, and you may be inspired to start a blog of your own if you don’t already have one.

The idea here is to meet other bloggers and give ourselves more exposure. Please share this with your friends, using the social media links below or by email. Let’s start the weekend off right with a great St. Patrick’s Day blog party.

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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.

 

Novel Explores Serious Questions

The Shortest Way Home

by Juliette Fay

Copyright 2013

 

Set in a suburb of Boston, this story centers around a family with Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative disorder that becomes prevalent during adulthood. Shawn, a nurse who has worked in developing countries for years, thinks he has dodged the bullet but refuses to be tested.

Feeling burned out, he comes home, hoping to re-group and then return to his work. Years earlier, after Shawn’s mother died of Huntington’s Disease, his father left Shawn and his brother and sister with their aunt and never returned.

Now, Shawn discovers that his aunt is suffering from some sort of dementia not related to Huntington’s, and his eleven-year-old nephew, Kevin, has sensory processing disorder which effects his behavior. Kevin is the son of Shawn’s brother, who died of pneumonia after Shawn went overseas.

Because his sister, a want-to-be actress, is too busy with her job as a waitress at a diner and play rehearsals, Shawn reluctantly cares for his aunt and nephew until someone else can be hired. He finds employment in a bakery run by an old friend and falls in love with Rebecca, a girl he knew in high school, who now works as a massage therapist. Then, his sister announces she’s soon heading for New York, leaving Shawn in the permanent role of caregiver. By this time, he’s conflicted between his love for Rebecca, Kevin, and his aunt and wanting to flee to Haiti, where a doctor, with whom he once worked, has opened a clinic following an earthquake.

Then, his father shows up unexpected, and after meeting his grandson, proposes a trip to Ireland with him and Shawn, to which Shawn reluctantly agrees, despite anger at his father for leaving the family years earlier. The book ends soon after they return.

I like the way this book explores the question of “to know or not to know” if you’ll be afflicted with a serious condition such as Huntington’s Disease later in life. It also focuses on the conflict between family love and loyalty and wanting to pursue one’s own dreams, especially if one’s life may be cut short by a serious illness. I can appreciate how the relationship between Shawn, raised an Irish Catholic, and God changes. There are some serious life lessons to be learned here, so I definitely recommend this book to everyone.

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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.

 

Glenda Bealle, An Inspiration

Since 2010, in her studio in Hayesville, North Carolina, Glenda C. Bealle has been teaching and inviting guest instructors to teach classes in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, family history writing, and publishing. Her work has been published in various magazines, anthologies, and newspapers, and she has appeared on The Writers Show in Chattanooga. She has published two books: a poetry collection, Now Might as Well be Then, in 2009, and a family history, Profiles and Pedigrees: Thomas Charles Council and His Descendants, in 1998. She has two blogs: Writer’s Circle and Writing Life Stories. She hosts Coffee with the Poets and Writers at the Moss Memorial Library in Hayesville monthly and is involved with the North Carolina Writers’ Network-West.

Glenda has worn a variety of hats: painter, schoolteacher, HAM radio operator, caregiver, newsletter editor, Christmas tree farmer, choir member, gardener and public relations and sales person. Having grown up on a farm with six brothers and sisters, she can drive a tractor, a stick shift, and a motorcycle. When she was younger, her favorite activity was horseback riding. Loving animals, especially dogs, she advocates for preventing the birth of unwanted pets by spaying and neutering.

She suffers from MCS, a respiratory disorder that causes her to be sensitive to synthetic chemical fragrances and scented laundry soap and dryer sheets. Most people in public places inadvertently wear such fragrances, but that doesn’t stop her from getting out and promoting her work, networking with other writers, and advocating for clean indoor air.

She loves teaching and helping other writers reach their goals. I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend any of her classes, since I’m in Wyoming, miles away from North Carolina, but her blog posts and other writing have inspired me, and I can imagine what a wonderful teacher she must be. If you live near Hayesville North Carolina, I recommend checking out her studio. If you’re like me, too far away, you can at least visit her blogs and learn more about her published books.

You may wonder why I’m plugging her all of a sudden. Well, she and I follow each other’s blogs, and this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find this post in my email in box. This is one of many articles she has written about me on her blog in which she considers me an inspiration. I’m not that religious, but I’ve always been a fan of The Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not remembering the last time I mentioned Glenda on my blog, I realize it’s now time for me to praise her as much as she has praised me.

In her post, she says I make her feel like a do-nothing person. Okay, she doesn’t travel to nursing homes and other facilities with a guitar when not writing, but she gives in other ways. She inspires other writers, not just those who take her classes. Many of my poems and stories don’t really fit literary markets, but Glenda is well-known in such circles, despite the fact that her MCS makes being out in public difficult. I find that truly amazing. I appreciate her saying how much I inspire her, but she also inspires me. One good inspiration deserves another.

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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.