Thursday Book Feature: Happiness

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

by Heather Harpham

Copyright 2017

 

This is the true story of how one sibling saved another’s life via a stem cell transplant. Heather Harpham’s daughter Gracie was born with a mysterious blood disorder, requiring frequent transfusions. She describes how she and her husband Brian accidentally conceived a second child soon after Gracie’s birth and the long, agonizing, decision-making and transplant process.

At first, I was concerned, not only for Gracie’s welfare, but about what her younger brother Gabriel would need to endure in order for Gracie to have the transplant. Then I learned that since Gabriel’s stem cells were harvested at birth with no pain or discomfort, nothing else needed to be done to him. Maybe the author should have made this more clear from the get-go.

I also didn’t like the way she, at the beginning, switched between scenes with her and Gracie in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after Gracie’s birth and the story of her and Brian becoming a couple and her subsequent pregnancy. Although the back story about Heather and Brian is important, at the time, I couldn’t have cared less. I was more concerned about Gracie. It would have been better to have a prologue with one scene in the NICU and then start the story at the beginning. That’s how I do it in My Ideal Partner; How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Otherwise, I love this sweet story with a happy ending.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Open Book Blog Hop: Dropping the Mic’

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Thanks to Stevie Turner for inspiring this. In her post, she challenges bloggers to write about a time when they dropped the mic’. Dropping the mic’ means experiencing a moment of glory. There are several such moments in my life. One stands out and is mentioned in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

When I published my first book, We Shall Overcome, my late husband Bill was confined to a wheelchair as a result of two strokes. I’d written the book several years earlier. Getting it ready for publication was a great way to escape from the stress of being a family caregiver.

One evening during the summer of 2007, I held my first book in my hands for the first time. Bill was sprawled in his recliner, as I removed one of the fifty author copies I’d ordered from the box. “Wow,” I said, as I gazed at the cover image I’d chosen, then turned it over to see my profile picture on the back.

“Let me see it,” said Bill.

He was totally blind, so of course he couldn’t see it, but he could hold it in his hands and share my pride and joy. I handed it to him and described the cover. Despite my limited vision, I could imagine the shit-eating grin that crossed his face when he said, “My wife, the published author.”

I held him. It didn’t matter that he would never walk again, that he could do little for himself and depended on me for everything. I had a man who loved me and a published book.

What about you? Can you think of a time when you dropped the mic’? Please tell me about it. I look forward to reading your stories either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

How Bill Got My Attention

Daily Inklings, a site providing prompts for bloggers, inspired this. In the post, bloggers are encouraged to write about how someone drew them into a conversation. In my case, the conversation wasn’t face to face.

On a Saturday evening in January of 2005, I was perusing the mail after a long day on the job at the nursing home where I worked. Among bills and junk, I found a braille letter from Bill Taylor, with whom I’d been corresponding for the past couple of years.

We’d communicated by email daily and phone occasionally, and he’d sent me cassettes of songs he’d downloaded from the Internet. He’d supported my writing endeavors by providing feedback on poems and stories I’d emailed him. Now, his words on the page jumped out at me. “Dear Abbie, I’m writing to ask for your hand in marriage.”

Stunned, I wondered how in the world I could marry this man. I’d only met him twice when my father and I drove from our home in Sheridan, Wyoming, to his home in Fowler, Colorado, on our way to visit relatives in New Mexico. I was under the impression he just wanted to be friends.

Because I worked in a nursing home, and his mother lived in one, we’d hit it off when we’d met a couple of years earlier through Newsreel, an audio magazine for people with blindness or low vision. We’d also discovered that we liked some of the same kinds of music and loved to read and that our favorite beverage was Dr. Pepper.

Did that mean I could just marry him? I was already in my mid-forties, and he was in his mid-sixties. We were both set in our ways. Could we make this work?

Long story short, six months later, I married him. He wanted to leave his home in Colorado, so we settled here in Wyoming.

Three months after our wedding, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. A year later, he suffered a second stroke, not as severe, but enough to hold him back so he never could walk. I cared for him at home until he passed in October of 2012. You can read our full story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

How about you? Can you think of a time when someone got your attention? Please tell me about it, either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: Homecoming

Homecoming: A Memoir

By David Russell

Copyright 2018.

 

This short memoir is autobiographical in nature, spanning the author’s life from birth till the present. David Russell talks about being born prematurely in the 1950’s and blinded as a result of receiving too much oxygen. He then touches on his life growing up in Michigan, living in a succession of homes, being sent to a public elementary school, then choosing to attend the state school for the blind during his junior and senior high years.

After describing his high school graduation, which occurred in 1970, he shares his experiences attending several colleges over the next decade, describing how he became a registered music therapist, completing a six-month internship at a mental health facility in Georgia. He then touches on his adult years in a variety of locations before finally getting married and settling down.

I liked the author’s description of how he was born and how his parents learned he was blind. For those of us who know that too much oxygen at birth causes blindness, the scene where his parents tell the doctor to do everything he can to save their child and the doctor puts baby David in a crude incubator so he can be transported to another hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit is a good foreshadowing of what’s to come. After that though, the author rushes through his life’s story with little dialog or interaction with others. He provides some detail on his music education, playing the piano for a living in various locations, his college experiences, his internship, and his job working with developmentally challenged clients in Florida, but it’s not enough. His book is divided into two parts with the first being about his life in general and the second being about a specific year in college. This doesn’t make sense.

I would like to have known more. What was it like for him to be mainstreamed in elementary school? Why did he choose to attend the state school for the blind, and why wasn’t he happy there? Having been a registered music therapist myself, I would like to have learned more about his experiences with his in-class practicum, internship, and how his work helped his clients. I realize his theme is “home,” but it doesn’t work. He has an interesting story but doesn’t draw his readers into it.

***

Note: I submitted a portion of this review to Amazon, but they refuse to publish it. Here’s the reasaon I was given via email. “Our data shows elements of your Amazon account match elements of other Amazon accounts reviewing the same product.” I suspect what they actually mean is that they won’t publish the review  because it’s unfavorable. For this reason, I will no longer veview books on Amazon.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Opening Paragraph

Thanks to Charles French for inspiring this. In his post, he encourages authors/bloggers to talk about one of their books and share the opening paragraph. So here’s the synopsis and first paragraph from my latest book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Synopsis

In September of 2005, Abbie Johnson married Bill Taylor. She was in her mid-forties, and he was nineteen years older. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side and confined him to a wheelchair. Abbie Johnson Taylor, once a registered music therapist, uses prose and poetry to tell the story of how she met and married her husband, then cared for him for six years despite her visual impairment. At first, there was a glimmer of hope that Bill would walk again, but when therapists gave up on him seven months after his second stroke, Taylor resigned herself to being a permanent family caregiver.

Opening Paragraph

 

This couldn’t be happening, I told myself, as, in my underwear, I paced the upstairs hall in Grandma’s house between my aunt’s old bedroom and the bathroom. It was the afternoon of September 10, 2005. In the yard, I heard strains of music from the string duo my father hired for the occasion and the chatter of arriving guests. Soon the ceremony would start. Would I have to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm in my underwear? Where was my sister–in–law, Kathleen, who agreed to be matron of honor?

***

How about you? If you’re an author, please feel free to share the synopsis and opening paragraph from one of your books, either in the comment field or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading your work.

By the way, if you use talking books because of a visual or other disability, My Ideal Partner is now available from the regional talking book library in Salt Lake City, Utah. The catalog number is DBU04558. I hope the book will eventually be available on the National Library Service’s braille and audio download site, but for now, your regional talking book library should be able to order it from Utah for you.

I now leave you with a recording of me singing a song I wish I’d had the nerve to sing at my wedding. Simply click the link below and enjoy.

 

Annie’s Song

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: No Barriers

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.No Barriers: A Blind Man’s Journey to Kayak the Grand Canyon

by Erik Weihenmayer and Buddy Levy

Copyright 2017

This memoir’s title may be a bit misleading. Erik Weihenmayer doesn’t just talk about his big Grand Canyon adventure but also covers other topics. The book starts with a forward by an American journalist, injured while on assignment overseas, who was inspired by Erik’s work. Erik then touches on his Mount Everest adventure, the subject of a previous book, and how he met his wife and married her on Mount Kilimanjaro. After that, he describes how he led various mountain climbing and river rafting adventures with children and adults who have disabilities. He explains how he formed No Barriers, an organization that empowers people with disabilities through hiking and other activities.

Erik also talks about family struggles: his brother’s battle with alcoholism and subsequent death, the arduous but successful process Erik and his wife went through to adopt a little boy from Nepal, and the child’s struggle to adapt to their way of life, then finding out later his mother was still alive. All this is interspersed with stories of his adventures and finally, how he succeeded in kayaking the Grand Canyon, with its multitude of dangerous rapids. In his epilog, he tells us what became of various children and adults with disabilities whom he helped through his involvement with No Barriers. The recorded version, which I downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio site, and which was produced by McMillon Audio, contains an interview with Erik.

I’m not the adventurous sort, but I always enjoy re-living others’ experiences from the comfort of my recliner, and Erik’s story didn’t disappoint. Members of my regional talking book library’s group chose this book to discuss because they wanted to escape winter and cold weather, but I found myself wrapping my blanket more tightly around me, as I read of Erik and his crew climbing mountains in sub-zero temperatures, so I don’t think this was quite the escape for which they’d hoped. Oh well, sometimes, you don’t really know until you read the book, which has a clear message meant not just for those with disabilities. You should never let barriers, real or imagined, stop you from making dreams come true.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Thursday Book Feature: In Pieces

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.In Pieces

by Sally Field

Copyright 2018.

 

In Pieces is a touching and sometimes funny autobiography of this well-known actress. Sally Field starts by talking about her life growing up in California. Her mother was an actress who never became popular, and her father served during World War II. After her father returned, her parents divorced, and her mother eventually married a Hollywood stunt man who abused Sally and her older brother. She explains how she became involved in theater as a teen-ager and how she got her first job soon after graduating from high school.

While detailing her career as an actress in television and movies, she describes having an abortion after an affair with a boy she doesn’t remember, marrying a boy she met in high school, giving birth to two sons, divorcing her first husband, then marrying another man ten years later, giving birth to another son, then divorcing her second husband. She also discusses her relationship with Burt Reynolds in the 1970’s while they were starring together. At the end, she talks about how she and her mother came to terms with her abuse at the hands of her stepfather before her mother died. This book includes some of her journal entries, and the Audible version, which I purchased, includes a pdf document with photos.

I always enjoy reading about celebrities’ lives, especially those with whom I’m familiar. Sally Field’s story didn’t disappoint me. I loved the way she narrated it, and at times, I thought it should be made into a movie with Sally Field starring as herself. Maybe it will someday.

 

My Books

 

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.