Chicken Soup for the Soul

I’ve been reading Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs. This is a compilation of stories by parents, teachers, and others working with disabled children. Having been a disabled child myself, I feel a special bond with these children and their parents.
Fortunately, my parents didn’t have to put up with screaming, head banging, or other destructive behaviors of autistic or emotionally disturbed children, nor did they have to deal with a debilitating physical disordered that confined me to a wheelchair. The only part of my body that didn’t’ work well and still doesn’t is my eyes.
Even so, teaching a child with a visual impairment how to care for herself and do other tasks can be a challenge, and the  Arizona School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson, where we lived, was little help. They taught me to read and write Braille, and I learned English, spelling, and arithmetic like any sighted child, but when I was ten, the school sent my parents a letter telling them that over the summer, they needed to teach me certain skills such as making a bed and fixing myself a sandwich, and if they failed, I would have to live in the dormitory the following year. I don’t remember much about that summer, but I do know that my mother taught me how to make my bed, peel a banana, pour myself a glass of chocolate milk, and eat a sandwich. In the fall, I was tested, and I passed.
There’s my tale of triumphing over adversity as a disabled child. If Chicken Soup for the Soul were publishing an anthology about disabled children in the sixties when I was growing up, my mother would have told them her story. To learn more about Chicken Soup for the Soul books, go to http://www.chickensoup.com/
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Julie and Julia

I recently watched this movie for the first time. It was released in 2009 so why did I wait two years to see it? When a movie is first made available in theaters, it’s not that accessible to those of us who don’t see well. If I sit close to the front of the theater, I can see most of the action on the screen but not everything. So I prefer to wait until the movie is available in a described format, meaning that a voice describes everything including the action, costumes, and scenery.
The same goes for books. Most are only available in print when they’re first released. Although I have a desktop magnifier, reading that way is a tiresome process. I’d rather wait until the book is either recorded by a live human being or made available in a format that can be read by a text to speech engine.
“Julie and Julia” is a true story of two women. In 2002, insurance agent Julie Powell decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s first cookbook in 365 days and blog about it. This is intertwined with the story of how Julia Child wrote her first cookbook in the late 1940’s.
When I was a child, I loved watching an educational program on PBS called “The Electric Company.” It was aimed at teaching children to read and consisted of a variety of sketches. One piece was about a bumbling chef by the name of Julia Grown-up who laid dresses over salads, broke bowls, dropped them in wishing wells, and tried to mix eggs without breaking them first instead of using salad dressing, breaking eggs, dropping them into bowls, and mixing well.  It wasn’t until I was grown up that I heard of  Julia Child.
At one point in the movie after Julie Powell has received numerous offers from publishers and agents for a book about her experiences, she receives a phone call from a reporter who recently interviewed Julia Child. Apparently, Julia told the reporter that what Julie was doing was disrespectful. Julia Child must have been even less impressed with Julia Grown-up.
At the end of the movie, Julia Child opens a manila envelope containing a copy of her first book. This reminded me of the time I opened a box containing thirty copies of my novel, We Shall overcome. How exhilarating it was to hold my book in my own two hands and gaze in wonder upon the cover.
I wish that like  Julie Powell, I could come up with something ingenious that I could blog about and end up with a book deal. I don’t think I’ll try cooking any of Julia Child’s recipes, though. I couldn’t bring myself to drop a live lobster into a pot of boiling water, and the process of boning a duck sounds similar to that of dissecting a frog in eighth grade science class, and that made me sick. Maybe something else will come to me. In the meantime, I just sent a manuscript of poems to a publisher. Will see what happens.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

First Word

I recently read Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry by Donald Hall. One thing he said struck me as interesting. The first word he learned to read when he went to school was that. I wish I could remember the first word I learned to read. My mother once told me that the first word I spoke was ashtray which is strange because I’ve never smoked. In the first grade, I remember reading about the adventures of Dick, Jane, Tom, and Betty who encouraged each other to ride fast, on bicycles, I’m assuming. There was also the dog Spot who chased a blue ball.
My mother is gone now, and I doubt my father would know the first word I learned to read because he was away most of the time. If any of you remember the first word you learned to read or would like to share any other childhood memories, please use the comment box below. If you have trouble, you can e-mail me, using the link below, and I’ll post your comments for you. Happy reading!
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome

Dear Bill

The following poem appears on my Web site and was published in Peninsula Poets in the fall of 2007. I wrote it in January of that year after my husband suffered a second stroke. Since the second stroke wasn’t as severe as the first one, we were still optimistic about his recovery. He’s still confined to a wheelchair, though. The odds of  him walking through the door and taking me in his arms are pretty slim, but I still love him, and I’m content with a frequent one-armed embrace.
DEAR BILL
I believe that one day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms. We’ll embrace.
What happened a year ago
was a major obstacle flung in our path to wedded bliss. 
What happened yesterday was only a small setback.
I knew that, as I sat by your hospital bed. 
We laughed, talked. 
You dozed from time to time. 
I tried to kiss you.
My lips couldn’t reach yours through the side rail. 
You reached out, stroked my hair, told me not to worry. 
So as I did last year,
I’ll lead my lone existence,
get up in the morning,
make breakfast for one instead of two,
go about my day,
visit you when I can,
go to sleep in my lonely bed,
know that you’ll soon be next to me. 
I believe that some day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms, hold me. 
I’ll live for that day.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome
The following poem appears on my Web site and was published in Peninsula Poets in the fall of 2007. I wrote it in January of that year after my husband suffered a second stroke. Since the second stroke wasn’t as severe as the first one, we were still optimistic about his recovery. He’s still confined to a wheelchair, though. The odds of  him walking through the door and taking me in his arms are pretty slim, but I still love him, and I’m content with a frequent one-armed embrace.
DEAR BILL
I believe that one day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms. We’ll embrace.
What happened a year ago
was a major obstacle flung in our path to wedded bliss. 
What happened yesterday was only a small setback.
I knew that, as I sat by your hospital bed. 
We laughed, talked. 
You dozed from time to time. 
I tried to kiss you.
My lips couldn’t reach yours through the side rail. 
You reached out, stroked my hair, told me not to worry. 
So as I did last year,
I’ll lead my lone existence,
get up in the morning,
make breakfast for one instead of two,
go about my day,
visit you when I can,
go to sleep in my lonely bed,
know that you’ll soon be next to me. 
I believe that some day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms, hold me. 
I’ll live for that day.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome
The following poem appears on my Web site and was published in Peninsula Poets in the fall of 2007. I wrote it in January of that year after my husband suffered a second stroke. Since the second stroke wasn’t as severe as the first one, we were still optimistic about his recovery. He’s still confined to a wheelchair, though. The odds of  him walking through the door and taking me in his arms are pretty slim, but I still love him, and I’m content with a frequent one-armed embrace.
DEAR BILL
I believe that one day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms. We’ll embrace.
What happened a year ago
was a major obstacle flung in our path to wedded bliss. 
What happened yesterday was only a small setback.
I knew that, as I sat by your hospital bed. 
We laughed, talked. 
You dozed from time to time. 
I tried to kiss you.
My lips couldn’t reach yours through the side rail. 
You reached out, stroked my hair, told me not to worry. 
So as I did last year,
I’ll lead my lone existence,
get up in the morning,
make breakfast for one instead of two,
go about my day,
visit you when I can,
go to sleep in my lonely bed,
know that you’ll soon be next to me. 
I believe that some day, you’ll walk through the door,
take me in your arms, hold me. 
I’ll live for that day.
Abbie Johnson Taylor
Author of We Shall Overcome