My Career as a Bowler

As a kid, I was forced to try a variety of sports in school physical education classes. Unfortunately, due to my visual impairment, I was not successful at any of them. I either fell on my face or was hit in the face with a ball. When throwing, my aim was terrible. When I was in college however, I discovered a sport I could do pretty well.

In 1981, I was entering my second year at Sheridan College in my Wyoming home town. I was required to take at least two semesters of P.E. It was time for me to quit procrastinating and do it. I signed up for bowling because to me, that seemed to require the least athletic ability and the chance of injury was slim.

The first few days of class were humiliating. No matter what I did, the ball always ended up in the gutter. Fortunately, nobody laughed at me, which they would have done in elementary school. However, in between frames, I watched other students bowl strikes and spares and heard them cheering for one another and was depressed by the realization that no one was cheering for me. I took comfort in the fact that at least I wasn’t getting hurt.

The instructor saw that I was floundering and tossed me a lifeline. She arranged for me to have a lane all to myself so I would have an opportunity to practice continually without having to wait for others to bowl. She also worked with me to perfect my arm movement so I could aim the ball right down the center of the lane.

Gradually, I improved. My gutter balls became less and less frequent and I began hitting more and more pins each time I bowled. One day, I finally bowled a strike, and the alley reverberated with the cheers of my classmates.

By the time the holidays rolled around, my average score was seventy-six. I loved the sport and wanted to practice in order to improve my game. I even watched the professional bowling tour on TV. I was living at home at the time.

The problem was that since I couldn’t drive, it was impossible for me to borrow the car and drive to the bowling alley whenever I wanted. So I constantly begged my parents to take me bowling, which they readily agreed to do most of the time. We often went as a family with my younger brother Andy tagging along. At Thanksgiving, when my uncle, aunt, and cousins from out of town were visiting, I even talked them into bowling with us, and we all had a wonderful time.

AsChristmas grew closer, I became somewhat depressed when I realized that the bowling class would not continue the second semester. I had really come to enjoy it and wondered if I would ever bowl again. Then, to my wondering eyes on Christmas morning, there appeared a bowling ball, a pair of shoes, and a bag in which to carry them. My parents even gave me an electronic bowling game. They had realized that I was serious about this sport, just as Andy had been serious about tennis a few years earlier.

Through the years, I continued to bowl. When I was studying music therapy at Montana State University in Billings, I occasionally bowled with a group of students from the residence hall where I lived. While completing a six-month music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, I often bowled with a couple of organizations for the blind and visually impaired.

When I started working at the nursing home in Sheridan after my internship, one of the activities we offered residents was bowling. We set up a makeshift alley in the recreation room, and my job was to set the pins. They had to be arranged on the floor just so, and when a resident knocked them down, I had to pick them up. I grew to appreciate the automatic pin setters at the bowling alley.

At one time during my fifteen-year stint working with seniors in nursing homes and other facilities, I got involved in a women’s bowling league. I was on one team, and we met once a week and played against other teams. This was short-lived because the team broke up after a few weeks due to lack of interest. None of the other teams in the league had an opening, so that was that.

Since then, I’ve been married and widowed and moved twice. I have no idea where my bowling ball and shoes are and don’t know if I’ll ever have an opportunity to bowl again. That doesn’t matter. I can still remember standing at the edge of the lane, my feet behind the black line, my knees bent, a bowling ball in my right hand, swinging my right arm back and forth to gain momentum, then letting fly as my arm swung forward, watching the ball roll away, out of my line of vision, and hearing the satisfying clatter of pins being knocked down.

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Note: A slightly different version of the above was published years ago in an anthology of Christmas stories written by authors with disabilities. After reading Mike Staton’s post on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I was inspired to rewrite and post it here.

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How about you? What sport, if any, were you good at when you were a kid? Did your parents take your interest in this sport seriously, buying clothes and equipment you needed in order to participate, driving you to and from practice, even practicing with you? Please share your memories, either in the comment field below or on your own blog with a pingback here. I look forward to reading about your sporting adventures.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Our Buddy

The first vehicle I remember from my childhood was a white Mercedes Benz with four doors and a trunk. The interior seats were of a gray and white decorative pattern. Before my younger brother was born, my parents and I took many trips from our home in Tucson, Arizona.

We called the car Buddy. After my younger brother was born, when he was old enough, Dad started calling him Buddy, and I was confused. My brother’s given name was Andy, so why was Dad calling him Buddy? I was too young to understand that “buddy” was also a term of endearment.

Three years after my younger brother was born, after a second car was purchased, Buddy took Dad and me all the way from Tucson to Sheridan, Wyoming. The year was 1971, and I was ten years old. Dad would have gone on his own, but on the night he planned to leave, while we were eating supper, he asked if I wanted to come, and I said yes, since I was always up for an adventure.

We left that night. Because it was close to my bedtime, I camped out in Buddy’s back seat while Dad drove for a few hours. When we stopped, he unrolled a sleeping bag on the ground near the car. We were still in Arizona.

The next day, we drove through the Navajo Reservation and into Colorado, stopping at Four Corners, where Dad said we lost an hour. That night, we ended up in Durango, and I remember thinking it strange that it was still light at eight o’clock in the evening. That night, we visited several bars. Years later, this experience inspired a poem from my collection, How to Build A Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

The next day, we stopped at Mesa Verde, then spent the night with friends in Beulah, and the following evening, Dad left me in Denver with my maternal grandmother while he drove the rest of the way to Sheridan.

I stayed with Grammy and Granddad Hinkley in Denver for several weeks. During that time, Dad and his mother, Grandma Johnson, went to Las Vegas and back to Denver, where they picked me up. We drove to Sheridan in Grandma’s Cadillac because Buddy quit working after Dad reached Sheridan the first time.

We’d come here because Grandpa Johnson died in the fall of the previous year, and Grandma needed help with the family’s coin-operated machine business. During the weeks I spent in Sheridan, Buddy sat neglected in front of Grandma’s house. Dad was too busy running the business and keeping me entertained to worry about fixing the car. When we drove anywhere, we either used Grandma’s car or one of the company vehicles. When it was time for me to start school, Dad drove me to Denver, again in Grandma’s Cadillac, and I boarded a plane for Tucson. I wondered if I would ever see Buddy again.

In October of that year, Buddy somehow managed to get Dad home safe and sound. Two years later, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could run the business full time. We had two cars: Buddy and the other Mercedes Benz we called 220S Baby. We rented a U-Haul truck to carry our earthly possessions. Dad drove the U-Haul, towing Buddy, while Mother drove 220S Baby.

After we settled in Sheridan, Buddy eventually retired and was relegated to a space in our driveway behind the garage. When Andy became a teen-ager, Mother wanted him to fix up and use the old car, but Andy wasn’t interested, and Dad didn’t like the idea for some reason. She eventually gave Andy her old Fiat when she bought a new Subaru. There were other cars, a gray Buick station wagon, a number of pick-up trucks and a van that were used mostly for the coin-operated machine business, a Plymouth Reliant station wagon, a Mitsubishi, and a red Subaru station wagon that Andy inherited after Dad passed away and gave to his son as a graduation present. For a couple of years when my husband was alive and partially paralyzed by two strokes, I owned a red wheelchair-accessible van. However, our Buddy, a reliable car for years, will always be foremost in my memory.

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How about you? I’d love to hear about the first car you remember when you were growing up. What color and brand was it? What did the interior look like? Do you remember where it came from? Can you think of a specific road trip you took with your family in this car? Please share your thoughts either in the comments field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Memoir Depicts Life on the Range

The Secret Life of Cowboys
by Tom Groneberg
Copyright 2007

This is the story of a want-to-be cowboy who decided to go west after graduating from college. He started in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he guided tourists on horseback rides. After two years of this, he moved with his wife to Montana, where, after dropping out of an MFA program in creative writing at the University, he worked on various ranches and eventually bought his own with the financial support of his parents. After several years in the cattle business, he became burned out, and after his son was born, he sold the ranch and started writing magazine articles about the lives of cowboys and was eventually hired as a hand at a ranch near his new home.

I like the way the author tells his story as if it were a novel instead of a memoir. His vivid descriptions of branding, castrating, and vaccinating cattle as well as mending fences and bailing hay took me right there and made me glad I wasn’t a cow. I’m not a fan of stories told in the present tense, but in this case, it works.

I have a couple of connections to this book. First of all, when I was in high school, I skied with my family in Breckenridge, Colorado, where the author first started working with horses, and realized skiing wasn’t for me when I landed flat on my back. On the other hand, the author’s parents eventually settled in Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town. They may still live here. Who knows?

This book portrays the cowboy life as it is, not as romantic or adventurous as it may appear in western movies or novels. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching such movies or reading such books. It will open your eyes to the west as it truly is today.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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My Classical Music Story

Because I was born legally blind, my parents exposed me to as much music as possible. I don’t remember much of my early years, but my mother told some great stories later. One of these was about a time when I was five, and my parents had just bought a piano. It was intended as a toy for me, but when my mother heard me play the opening bars of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, she called a piano teacher.

I took piano lessons off and on for years but developed more of an interest in accompanying my singing of popular songs. However, in college, as part of my music major requirement, I performed Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, which I enjoyed playing because it consists mostly of chords and no fancy melodic passages. After that, I became a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. I often played the piano and sang old standards as part of our activities.

Fifteen years later, I got married, and because I was writing as a hobby at the time, my husband persuaded me to quit my job and other obligations to be a full-time author. Three months after our wedding, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I cared for him at home until he died seven years later. I often played the piano and sang “Stormy Weather” and other favorites for him during this time.

Nowadays, I’ve published four books and a fifth is on the way. I still play the piano and sing but not often, and I don’t play classical pieces anymore. I wish, though, I could remember the day when, at the age of five, I played those opening notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony that signaled fate knocking at my door.

What about you? Has a classical music piece impacted you in some way. I’d love to read about it, either on your own blog with a link to this page or in the comment field below. You can also share your classical music story here.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Let’s Talk About Books

I love to read, and now that I have an Amazon Echo Tap, I enjoy the instant satisfaction I get when purchasing Audible and Kindle books and reading them right away without having to download them to another device first. So when Amaan Khan posted this book tag, I jumped at the chance to answer his twenty-five questions about my reading habits.

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Q1. How many books is too many in a series?

A. It depends on the series. I enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove and Harbor Inn books and wished there were more. All good things must come to an end, though, I guess.

Q2. Which do you prefer, character-driven or plot-driven books?

A. As a writer, I should know the difference, but I must admit that I don’t. In any case, I like a story with more showing and less telling. For some reason though, I’m always drawn to Daniel Steel’s stories which have the opposite.

Q3. How do you feel about cliffhangers?

A. As an author, I feel these are a great way to keep people reading, but as a reader, I usually like to stop at the end of a chapter. I don’t like being left to wonder what will happen, especially before I go to bed. It drives me nuts, and I won’t sleep, so more often than not, I’ll keep reading until everyone’s safe for the moment. I definitely do not like a cliffhanger at the end of a book in a series, especially if the next book isn’t available yet.

Q4. Do you prefer books in hard cover or paperback?

A. I prefer neither. Because of my visual impairment, I enjoy digital books, read to me by either a human or text-to-speech voice. I recently started having Alexa read Kindle books to me, and I like her style.

Q5. What’s your favorite book?

A. I don’t have any favorite books.

Q6. Do you like love triangles?

A. I don’t anymore. When I was younger, I found them intriguing, but now, I think they’re silly.

Q7. What book are you currently reading?

A. I’m enjoying The Cast by Danielle Steel, which came out a few months ago. I hope to post a review of it here soon.

Q8. Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction?

A. I like both if it’s not too violent or boring.

Q9. What’s the oldest book you’ve read?

A. I don’t remember because I’m getting old myself. Smile emoticon.

Q10. What’s your favorite classic book?

A. That’s a no-brainer. It’s The Wizard of Oz, one of few books I read more than once. I must have seen the movie a million times. I even played Dorothy in a school production when I was in fifth grade.

Q11. What is your favorite genre?

A. When I was young, I used to like romance but not so much anymore. I like memoirs and fictional stories about family and relationships the most.

Q12. Who’s your favorite author?

A. I’ve already mentioned Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steel. They’re my favorites.

Q13. How many books do you own?

A. I have so many on my portable reading device and in my Audible and Kindle libraries that I can’t count them all.

Q14. Do you use bookmarks or dog ears?

A. I don’t think it’s possible to dog ear the pages in a digital book, and Alexa doesn’t yet have the capability to insert bookmarks, but as long as she’ll resume reading where I left off, that’s all I need. If I want, say, a book on writing with exercises I need to bookmark for later use, I’ll download the book in another format and read it on a different device that has bookmarking capabilities.

Q15. Is there a book you can always reread?

A. Every once in a while, I’ll reread a book, but most of the time, I don’t.

Q16. Do you have a preference for first or third person point of view?

A. I like them both when used effectively in the story.

Q17. In what position do you read?

A. I either stretch out in my recliner in the living room or in a lawn chair in the back yard. I sometimes attach headphones to a portable device and listen while doing household chores.

Q18. Can you read with music?

A. No, since I read by ear, music is distracting.

Q19. Do you prefer audio or text books?

A. I prefer to have a human voice read books to me, but if a book isn’t available in a recorded format, and I want to read it right away, I’ll settle for a text version.

Q20. Do you like to shop in a bookstore or online?

A. I prefer shopping for books online. With my Amazon Echo Tap, it’s a snap.

Q21. Do you prefer stand-alone books or books in a series?

A. I prefer books that stand alone, but once in a while, I’ll take on a series.

Q22. What book do you recommend to everybody?

A. I review books here often, and those are the books I recommend. I also promote my own books, and I encourage you to read those as well.

Q23. What’s a book you’ll not read again?

A. I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but as I said before, most books I don’t reread.

Q24. Do you prefer a male or female main character?

A. I prefer a woman as a main character, but once in a while, I’ll read a book where the main character is a man.

Q25. Do you prefer single or multiple points of view?

A. That depends. If a story is told from more than one point of view in a way that’s not confusing, I’ll read it.

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Now it’s your turn. I triple dog dare you to answer as many of the above questions as you can, either on your own blog with a link here or in the comment field below. I look forward to your answers. Happy reading.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Reblog: Saturday is for Sharing–Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanks to Lynda Lambert for giving me this opportunity to promote myself. Check this out.

Saturday is for Sharing: Abbie Johnson Taylor

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Tidbit: Prologue–My Ideal Partner–Excerpt

Today, I’m trying a new feature. I normally post book reviews on Thursday, but since I don’t always have books to review, in that case, I’ll toot my own horn instead of that of another author. Today’s tidbit is from My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

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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?

She was probably still at the motel with my brother, Andy; their two sons, Dylan and Tristan, ages eight and six, who were to be ushers; and their two–year–old daughter, Isabella, who would serve as flower girl. Not only were we missing ushers and a flower girl, but my dress was with Kathleen at the motel, or so I thought. Why wasn’t she here?

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Now, here’s a recording of me singing a song I wanted to sing at our wedding but didn’t think I could without losing it.

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annie’s song.mp3

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For more information about My Ideal Partner and ordering links, click here.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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