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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Running Through the Sprinkler (Poetry)

The following poem was recently published in The Weekly Avocet. This is a haibun, a poetry form that combines a paragraph of prose with a stanza of haiku. You can click the link below to hear me read it.

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running through the sprinkler.mp3

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RUNNING THROUGH THE SPRINKLER

I stand on the sidewalk, a jet of cold water in front of me, my impaired eyes unable to find a way around it, as cars whoosh by on the busy street. The ninety-degree sun beats down. A tepid breeze caresses my face. I remember how fun it was to run through the sprinkler as a kid. Why not, I think. With a hearty “Yahoo!” I dash into the water’s inviting coolness.

a hot summer day
cold water sweeps over me
I’m a child again

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What did you do to cool off in the summer when you were a kid?

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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 Most Precious Possession


During a memoir writing workshop at the Wyoming Writers conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, one of many story ideas we were given was this. If your house was on fire, and all the people and animals were safe, what would you take with you? This reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law years ago after they evacuated their home in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as a result of a forest fire that threatened the small town. Thankfully, their house remained in tact, but something my sister-in-law said made me want to strangle her.

She explained that since she and my brother didn’t know if their house would survive the fire, they’d crammed as many of their earthly possessions as they could into their mini-van including two small children and two cats. She’d insisted on taking their photo album, although there was little room. I wanted to tell her that more memories can be made and more pictures taken, but you can’t replace yourself or a loved one. Being a mother, she should have focused more on making sure she and her children were safe.

If my house were on fire, I suppose I might try to rescue my tablet and SD card containing some of my writing. Then again, call me vain, and maybe it’s my fear of fire and death that are talking, but my most precious possession is me. Photographs can be re-taken. Computers can be replaced. Writing can be rewritten. You can bake a cake again, even if you don’t have the recipe. Life, on the other hand, is the most precious possession of all.

What about you? If your house caught fire, and all the people and animals were safe, what would you take with you? I hope I’ve convinced you that this is a no-brainer, but if I haven’t, I’d be interested in reading about any treasured items you might try to rescue and the stories behind them. That’s the point of this exercise, anyway. You can share your stories on your own blog with a link here or in the comment field below. In any case, I hope to hear from you.

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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: Guest Review–When Night Comes


Today, I’m pleased to present a guest review of an interesting collection of poems. I haven’t read this yet but hope to do so eventually. You can also read Lynda’s review on her blog, and it was published this week in The Weekly Avocet. It contains some information about Lynda’s most recent collection of essays and poems and an email address where she can be reached. Enjoy, and happy reading.

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When Night Comes

by Wesley Sims

A Book Review by Lynda McKinney Lambert

I met poet Wes Sims One Sunday morning while reading my weekly issue of a poetry magazine, The Weekly Avocet, published by Charles Portolano, featuring poetry that has a nature theme. In one particular issue, I encountered 3 Haiku poems by Sims. Each intrigued me for he presented new ways of looking at something ordinary. The poems caught my attention. Since Mr. Portolano encourages his writers to drop a note to other poets and to make friends with them, I sent a note to Wes Sims to say how much I enjoyed his poems.

Eventually, I learned about Wes Sims’ poetry chapbook, “When Night Comes,” because he sent me a copy. I’ve enjoyed reading this 28-page chapbook. It is a collection of twenty-four poems.

The chapbook’s cover is a moody black and white photo of a nocturnal landscape by the author. I thought “This is the perfect image for this collection of poems.” In addition to writing poetry, Sims likes to do photography. I found that the all-seeing-eye of the photographer is apparent in the poems, as I read through this collection. He sees and speaks of little details that might go unnoticed. It is in the description of the little things that we are brought into Sims’ world through his poems.

In “How to Use a Shoebox,” Wes Sims gives us his secret and intention for writing: “the impact of little things preserved” (p.4)

The mostly one-page poems are created by building up layers of finely nuanced accumulations. Sims is actively viewing and preserving as he writes the poems. Minute images are intertwined with his personal and private memories as he has known them in rural Tennessee.
Sims describes his world – the present and the distant or even the historical past of his rural landscapes in Tennessee. Reading through the poems brings the reader right into his family circle. This is the place where Past and Present merge. The poem becomes a confluence in which time is collapsed. The individuals he presents are not generalized people, but they are family and they are named: “grandson; grandmother; Mr. Newman; Sister; Dad; Mother; Uncle Bo; Mrs… Engle…” This gives us a feeling that we know them personally or that we have just met them even though many of the people who populate his poems are no longer in this world.
But, more than this Sims gives us a deeper understanding of life as he has known it – and we feel like we, too, have lived this life. In the poem, “Eyes to See,” he speaks of watching a blind man…

“Until one day, when I saw
Him in a church setting
Heard his lips sing out in prayer,
And received my revelation—
I was a blind man, too.”
(from “Eyes to See,” p. 24)

Through the book we see deserted old rundown barns and abandoned empty sheds; time-worn, rarely travelled roads up into the hills; and the last days of people who have passed away. No matter where we live or what our life is like, we relate to Wes Sims and his reflections on particular individuals, rural life, death of loved ones; flowers, dogs, songs, snakes, music, personal memory and history. We know that our lives are enriched by the small things and places we encounter over a lifetime. It all adds up, in the end. Unimportant and trivial things really do matter.

You can find this chapbook for sale on the publisher’s website:
Buy it at Finishing Line Press Also available on Amazon:
Buy it here! or better yet, write Wes at wes4words@att.net

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems by Lynda McKinney Lambert, Pennsylvania artist, teacher, and author Lynda McKinney Lambert invites readers into her world of profound sight loss to discover the subtle nuances and beauty of a physical and spiritual world. She takes strands from ancient mythology, history, and contemporary life and weaves a richly textured new fabric using images that are seen and unseen as she takes us on a year-long journey through the seasons. llambert@zoominternet.net

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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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In the Garden (poetry)


According to this week’s issue of The Weekly Avocet, National Gardening Week is celebrated during the first part of June. Here’s a poem of mine on the subject that originally appeared in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It was inspired by a real event. I recently submitted this to The Weekly Avocet’s garden challenge but haven’t yet heard if they’ll publish it.

You can click below to hear me read the poem.

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In the Garden

There are no trees, just an expanse of dirt.
While Mother and Dad work, I sit on the steps,
with limited vision, study seed packets of peas, corn, tomatoes,
read the labels, gaze at the pictures.
I’m only twelve.
Little brother Andy, five,
rides his bike around the neighborhood.

In the distance, sirens wail.
“Sounds like fire engines,” says Dad.

In the house, the phone rings.
I hurry indoors to answer it.
A male voice asks for my mother.
I rush outside, call her to the phone.

“Oh my god! We’ll be right there,” she says.
“Ed, we need to pick up Andy at the police station.
He was playing with matches near the shack
at the bottom of the hill when it caught fire.”
The garden and I are abandoned.

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What are your childhood memories of gardening? Did you help your parents till the soil and plant the seeds? What about enjoying the fruits of your labor in the fall? Didn’t those fresh vegetables taste wonderful? Do you think gardening taught you about eating healthier foods? I’d love to read your thoughts, either in the comments field here or on your own blog. Happy gardening, and happy summer.

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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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Meeting My Inspiration Again


One sunny afternoon last week, I was resting in my recliner, listening to the drone of lawnmowers and whine of weeedwhackers as my landscapers did their weekly business in my yard. Suddenly, I heard a crash. This time, it wasn’t my garage door being smashed by a truck belonging to a patron of the day care center next door. It was a lawnmower colliding with a car in my neighbor’s driveway on the other side. I know this only because one of the landscapers, not knowing me, came to my door, thinking it was my driveway and my car.

According to a policeman who showed up a couple of hours later, the car sustained a lot of damage. I gave him the landscaping company’s phone number, and he gave me his card, saying he remembered asking me years ago if drivers were stopping to let me cross streets with my white cane. I couldn’t believe it.

In the fall of 2002, I was single and living in an apartment complex subsidized for seniors and people with disabilities. A registered music therapist, I was working in a nursing home. On a day off, I was walking home after my water exercise class at the YMCA. I’d just jaywalked in front of my building and stopped to talk to a neighbor in a wheelchair when she told me there was a policeman behind me. I turned around and there he was, on a bicycle.

Where had he come from? Had he seen me jaywalk? Was I about to get a ticket, my first ever brush with the law?

To my surprise and relief, he asked me if I was having difficulty crossing streets because drivers weren’t stopping. I told him that as long as I used four-way and other intersections where drivers were required by law to stop, I rarely had a problem. I also explained that I couldn’t see well enough to get the license plates from offending vehicles. He said he would bring up the issue at roll call and rode away.

Now, I was again flustered, even though I’d done nothing wrong this time. All I could tell him was that our first meeting had inspired my first novel. I should have given him my card, but I didn’t. He probably thought I was nuts and wished he’d given me that ticket for jaywalking years ago. In any case, we parted amicably enough.

After I posted about this incident on Facebook, someone asked if the story would continue. That remains to be seen. I may never see that officer again, but I’ll always have the memory of how our first meeting inspired We Shall Overcome.

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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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What is Nothing?

Nothing is what you get
when you pour coffee from an empty pot,
what you find when you open the refrigerator
and you haven’t bought groceries in a while,
what you end up with
when you spend all your money
with no more coming in,
what you have when you sell everything
to pay for the mortgage,
and it’s still not enough,
what you have when you walk the streets,
too proud to go to a homeless shelter.
Nothing but the clothes on your back
is all you have
when someone finds your body
in a cold, dark alley.

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During my last Third Thursday Poets meeting, the facilitator led us in a breathing exercise, prompting us to write about the first word that came to mind afterward. The word that popped into my head was “nothing,” so the above poem is what I wrote. Don’t worry. This does not come from personal experience. Click below to hear me read it.

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what is nothing.mp3

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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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