Season’s Greetings 2016

Abbie-1

This year has been busy as usual. I took a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother Andy and his family. This trip was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, and highlights include a food truck festival in downtown Jupiter, a canoe trip along the Loxahatchee River where we encountered an alligator, and a trip to the beach.

At the beginning of April, I planned to fly to California to attend my uncle’s wedding, but I developed a bad chest cold. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and could barely talk and decided to cancel my trip. I didn’t want to travel when I felt so miserable and risk passing my crud on to anyone else. I was sorry to miss the wedding. Andy told me about it later, and it sounded fun.

In the middle of April, my Third Thursday Poets group gave a reading at the local senior center to commemorate National Poetry Month. We were joined by twenty-five high school students, some of whom shared their work.

At the end of April, my friend Rose Hill, who was our state poet laureate last year, and I drove to Riverton to attend the WyoPoets annual workshop at the Holiday Inn. The night before the workshop, there was a reading at the Riverton public library, during which Rose unveiled WyoPoets’ newest chapbook, Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond. Yours truly and others featured in the book shared work.

In June, Rose and I returned to Riverton for the Wyoming Writers conference, held at the Wind River Hotel & Casino. This was more of an adventure than most conferences we attended. In order to get from our hotel room to most of the meeting rooms, we had to cross the casino, full of noise and cigarette smoke. Needless to say, “Luck be a Lady tonight,” was going through my head all weekend.

A couple of months earlier, I finished my new memoir and contacted Leonore Dvorkin, of Denver, Colorado, who, along with her husband, David, helps authors publish their work online through Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, and other sources. She encouraged me to send her my manuscript but said she wasn’t sure they could get to it until possibly after the first of the year.

At the end of June, though, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Leonore, saying that she’d read through my manuscript, and because it was so well written, she thought it could be published this summer. To make a long story short, Leonore and David were true to their word, and in August, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, was published.

Also during the summer months, I started taking a poetry class from the Hadley Institute, a school that offers free correspondence courses to those who are blind and visually impaired. You may wonder why I’m taking a poetry class when I already have two poetry collections under my belt. Well, there’s always room for improvement. Because of my new book’s publication and other activities, I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I would have liked, but I hope to finish it next year. I’ve already written several poems as a result, so maybe I’ll have enough for another book. Who knows?

In July, Andy and his wife Christina spent a weekend with me. They also visited friends and relatives in Colorado and hiked in Yellowstone Park. While they were here, we attended the rodeo parade, explored our old neighborhood, got ice cream in the park, and ate dinner with friends and relatives. I had such a great time while they were here, and I hope they’ll come again next year. I’m planning to spend a week with them in January.

On July 20th, fellow poet Christine Valentine and I were featured as part of the weekly Vaudeville program at the Wyo Theater. We performed a poem Christine wrote, “Driven Insane by Mitzi Gaynor,” which talks about songs that get stuck in your head. The songs mentioned here were “101 Pounds of Fun” from South Pacific and “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” from Brigadoon. Christine read the poem, and we sang the songs together when she got to them. It was a lot of fun, and the audience loved it.

In August, my brother’s in-laws from Florida came to town one day. They’d been traveling across the country for several weeks, and they took me out to dinner at Frackleton’s. The food was delicious, and I had a great time visiting with them.

On October 8th, I participated in a national event for independent authors at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. Many libraries across the country hosted this program which was open to the public.

We watched a digital presentation featuring leaders in the publishing industry giving advice to authors wanting to self-publish. After that, several authors, myself included, participated in a panel discussion where we shared our experiences. We then sat at a table and tried to sell books for about half an hour. Although I didn’t make any sales that day, I enjoyed networking with other writers.

On October 20th, my Third Thursday Poets gave another reading at the Sheridan Senior Center to commemorate National Poetry Day. Several poets, myself included, shared work. Some read poems by other authors. I performed a poem I wrote about my memories of listening to music with Dad when I was little.

My Thanksgiving this year was pretty quiet. I had the traditional turkey dinner at the senior center, came home, took a nap, and did some reading and a little writing. It would have been wonderful to gather with family for this occasion, but it was nice spending the holiday alone. As far as I know, my Christmas will also be a quiet one.

Of course I did my share of singing. My group, Just Harmony, performed at various functions in the past year, and we’ve got several Christmas performances lined up. I’ve also been singing at nursing homes, an assisted living facility, and an adult day care center on a regular basis. I enjoy doing this and will continue to do it as often as I can.

Well, I believe I’ve gone on long enough. Speaking of singing, I leave you now with my Christmas wish for all of you. Click on the Dropbox link below to hear it. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a terrific new year to come.

 

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/merry%20little%20christmas.mp3

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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.

 

Christmas Tree

Abbie-1

Some people get their trees the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I don’t remember our family being quite that eager. Usually sometime during the first week of December, we piled into the car and drove to a Christmas tree lot, no trudging through the woods with a chain saw for us. Despite my limited vision, I loved seeing beautiful Christmas trees lined up in neat rows. While my younger brother Andy ran around and got into mischief, I wandered among pines, touching branches and inhaling the sweet aroma.

After Mother and Dad found the perfect tree, we somehow managed to get it home, despite the fact we didn’t have a pick-up truck most of the time. Once home, I watched and Andy played while Dad got out the tree stand, and he and Mother erected the tree. Then, they attached the lights, first testing them on the floor to be sure they worked before stringing them on the tree. Dad sometimes had to run to the store to buy bulbs to replace ones that were burned out.

Once the lights were on the tree, the fun began, at least for me. I loved touching and looking at our wide selection of ornaments from balls to snowmen to the baby Jesus, some handed down from my mother’s mother’s mother. Mother showed me how to attach the hook on each ornament to a particular branch. She didn’t care where ornaments were placed as long as two of them weren’t on one branch and fragile ones were on more secure branches. Andy sometimes helped, but most of the time, he did his own thing while Dad sat nearby with his nose in a book or newspaper.

When all the ornaments were in place, Mother flipped the switch, and I watched in awe, as the tree lit up. I gazed at our wonderful tree and wondered what gifts would be underneath it Christmas morning.

On New Year’s Day like clockwork, Mother was ready to take the tree down. Since Dad and Andy always had better things to do, I helped her disassemble everything. I loved our ornaments and didn’t mind taking them off the tree, putting them in their respective boxes, and helping Mother put the boxes away until the following year. Then she managed to haul the tree out to the alley to be picked up with the next trash collection.

When I grew up and moved into my own apartment, I didn’t bother with a tree or other decorations since I could still enjoy these in my family home. After my parents separated, and Mother moved to Story, about twenty miles north of my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming, I didn’t do much with decorating, but Dad and I spent Christmas Eve and Day with her. By this time, Andy was living in Colorado, and he and his family often spent the holiday with us.

After Bill and I were married, we didn’t bother with decorating. I’m not sure why. When I first met Bill, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, and when Dad and I visited him at Christmas time before he proposed to me, his house was decorated, and he said, “Let’s kiss under the mistletoe.” I thought he was joking. You can read more about this in my new memoir.

Now that Bill and my parents are gone, I don’t bother decorating the house. Besides, I don’t have room for a tree. I have a few ornaments I’ve collected over the years that I put out if I think of it and can find them, but that doesn’t happen often.

What do you remember about tree trimming in your house during the holiday season when you were growing up? Have your decorating habits changed now that you’re an adult?

I leave you now with a song to get you thinking about that Christmas tree. Happy decorating.

***

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 10 Cent Chocolate Tub

Abbie-1

The 10-Cent Chocolate Tub

by Mike Mcgann

Copyright 2006.

 

In this collection of essays, the author talks about his life growing up in Pitsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in the suburbs as well as his experiences in the military and in musical theater and his broadcasting career. He explores such topics as parenting, radio, bullies, and disco. In one piece, he explains how he met Gene Kelly while collecting money on his paper route. A 10-cent chocolate tub is a huge ice cream cone made by Bard’s Dairy in Pittsburgh during the 1950’s when children were given only a nickel for vanilla ice cream.

Although Mike Mcgann grew up a little before my time, I enjoyed reading his stories. I almost wish I’d been alive back then. I laughed at some of his anecdotes of life in the city and in the suburbs. Having perfect pitch, I can appreciate one thing he says when talking about his musical theater experiences. “There should be a rule that if you can’t sing in tune and on key (or close to it), you can’t sing in public.” I love the title. I wouldn’t mind having one of those 10-cent chocolate tubs right now, but I guess I’ll settle for chocolate frozen yogurt from Schwann. It’s more healthful.

***

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.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner November 2016

Abbie-1

Wow, can you believe it? Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Well, October was a pretty busy month.

On the 8th, I participated in a national event for independent authors at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. Many libraries across the country hosted this program which was open to the public. After a light lunch of sandwiches, vegetables with dip, and soft drinks, we watched a digital presentation featuring leaders in the publishing industry giving advice to authors wanting to self-publish. After that, several authors, myself included, participated in a panel discussion where we shared our experiences. We then sat at a table and tried to sell books for about half an hour. Although I didn’t make any sales that day, I enjoyed networking with other writers.

On October 20th, my Third Thursday Poets gave a reading at the Sheridan Senior Center. We do this twice a year, once in October and once in April, to commemorate National Poetry Day and Month respectively. October’s National Poetry Day is actually on the 15th, the same as White Cane Safety Day. You can read more about that here, but I digress.

At our reading, several poets, myself included, shared work. Some read poems by other authors. I performed a poem I featured in an earlier blog post, much to everyone’s delight. The poem involved stomping my feet, and afterward, someone complimented me on its percussiveness.

You’ve probably heard the song “Sing for Your Supper.” Well, I played my guitar and sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview on the 25th and got free cake. On the 23rd, I played the piano and sang at a friend’s party in the dining room of a senior apartment complex and got a free meal, a potluck affair to which I contributed homemade pasta salad, so it wasn’t exactly free. I also performed at Green House on the 4th and Day Break on the 28th but no free food there. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge and Westview. My appearance at Sugarland Ridge will feature a reading as well as music.

This past month, I had a rare opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert, here in Sheridan, Wyoming, of all places. Although their music was way before my time, my father loved jazz, and hearing the big band brought back pleasant memories of the two of us enjoying this music together when he was alive. I also reflected on the lives of my late parents and husband growing up during World War II with songs like “White Cliffs of Dover” and “American Patrol.” This inspired an earlier blog post.

Well, that’s the news for now. I wish I could come up with something witty like what Garrison Keillor says at the end of his Lake Woebegone monologues, but oh well… Such is life. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and will be back in December with more news.

***

 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: Wishful Drinking

Abbie-1

Wishful Drinking

By Carrie Fisher

Copyright 2008.

 

If you’re a fan of Star Wars, you probably remember Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. However, she acted in other films and wrote a novel. Wishful Drinking is a short, humorous memoir covering her life in general, though she shares some anecdotes from her experiences filming the original movie, like how Mark Hamill burst a blood vessel in his eye while filming the Death Star trash compactor scene.

She talks about what it was like to grow up as the daughter of two celebrities, singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, how her father left her mother for another woman when Carrie and her brother were kids, acting with her mother in plays and performing in nightclubs while in New York, her on-again off-again relationship with Paul Simon and others, and waking up one morning to find a dead man in bed next to her. She touches on the birth of her daughter, a product of one of the other relationships, and describes her struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. She ends the book with a quote from Star Wars and says no wonder she was mentally ill. She could never get that speech out of her head.

I was a Star Wars fan in the 1970’s, and after learning through The Writers Almanac that Carrie Fisher’s birthday was this month, I thought now would be a great time to read this book. I had to laugh at one point when Carrie Fisher said she was once diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and didn’t believe she had it. It occurred to me that after everything Princess Leia goes through in the original Star Wars series, she would be a great candidate for post-traumatic stress disorder. I wonder if Carrie Fisher ever thought of that. Even if you’ve never heard of Star Wars, I think you’ll find this book delightful.

***

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.

 

My First Love

Abbie-1

His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele so finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until my freshman year in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.” This was in 1976.

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked, as I got up from my chair and walked to the phone in the hallway where Dad stood, holding the receiver. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.

Speechless, I turned to Dad who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother Andy. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him another tape with some of the songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by and still no word from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

I don’t remember if I told my late husband Bill about Brett. If I did, Bill probably didn’t consider Brett a threat since I didn’t know where he was. Besides, he wasn’t the jealous type. You can read about how I met and married Bill and then cared for him after he suffered two strokes in my new memoir.

Who was your first love? If this person wasn’t your only love, do you still keep in touch?

***

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: Until I Say Goodbye

Abbie-1

Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy

 

by Susan Spencer-Wendel

Copyright 2013.

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” The author uses this quote from Dr. Seuss in her bestselling memoir where she details one year of her life after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. People with this condition can live for years with a ventilator and other equipment, but this journalist for The Palm Beach Post and mother of three in Florida decided to quit her job, live with joy, and not try to prolong her life.

She talks about how she spent a year traveling with family and friends: to the Yukon to see the northern lights with her best friend, a cruise on the Caribbean with her sister, a trip to Budapest, Hungary, with her husband John to re-live their years together there, a visit to her deceased birth father’s family in Cypress, a trip to New York City with her teen-aged daughter, who tried on wedding dresses for an event her mother would never witness, and other family vacations. She also explains how and why she got permanent make-up and arranged for a hut to be built in the family’s back yard.

She provides plenty of back story about her life growing up with her adoptive parents and how she met and married John and the adventures they had before settling down with their family in Florida. She discusses meeting her birth mother in California and learning about her birth father and how this affected her relationship with her adoptive mother. She describes how she wrote this book on her iPhone, since her hands were too weak to use even an iPad keyboard.

I like the way she ends the book by spelling out her children’s names as if she were typing them on her iPhone and then inserting the quote by Dr. Seuss. In this way, she leaves readers with the impression that a loved one’s death shouldn’t be a sad occasion. According to an Associated Press article, she stayed alive until September of this year. I wish my late husband had lived long enough to read this book. Maybe Susan Spencer-Wendel’s account of how she tapped out her story on her iPhone with one finger might have inspired him to write My Ideal Partner with me.

Several years ago, I suggested we write a book together, detailing his strokes and rehabilitation and my experiences with caregiving. Because this would have been tough for him, only able to type with one hand, I suggested, half in jest, that I tap the keys on the left side of the computer and he tap the ones on the right. In answer, he said, “I’d rather do this on the piano with you.”

“Never mind,” I told myself after he passed. “I’ll write my own book.” And I did.

***

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.