Anthology Depicts Disability Culture

Abbie-1

Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow

Edited by Chris Kuell

Copyright 2016

 

Breath and Shadow is an online magazine featuring poems, stories, and essays by authors with disabilities. Pieces here focus mainly on what it’s like to have a disability and how others treat a person with a disability. This anthology showcases the best work that appeared in the publication over the past twelve years.

It contains dark pieces such as Susan M. Silver’s short story, “I’ll Be Looking at the Moon,” in which the protagonist is dealing with a serious illness. In contrast, there’s Amy Krout-Horn’s essay, “Who Dresses You?” in which she talks about a humorous way she answered this narrow-minded question from a waitress.

Many pieces portray the relationship between a person with a disability and health care professionals such as Lizz Schumer’s essay, “Peace Protest,” in which she talks about convalescing after a fall and wondering if she inherited her grandfather’s brain cancer. Then there’s Chris Kuell’s short story, “The Interview,” in which a blind woman retaliates against a prospective employer who is unwilling to even consider the possibility of hiring her.

I would like to have seen fewer dark pieces. Nevertheless, I think this is a must-read for everyone, especially those in a profession that requires dealing directly with others: waitresses, doctors, nurses, cab drivers, etc. You don’t have to read the whole thing cover to cover. You could read perhaps one or two pieces a day. If you’re one of those narrow-minded persons who take a dim view of what people with disabilities can do, this anthology will force you to think outside the box. If you’re a person with a disability, you’ll read this and realize you’re not the only one. The people in this book, whether real or made-up, will speak to you of their experiences.

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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

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Riding Waves with a Dog

Dogs can do incredible things. When I first started reading Ricochet: Riding a Wave of Hope with the Dog Who Inspired Millions by Judy Fridono, I thought it was just another one of those uplifting dog stories I enjoy reading from time to time. Although the book starts out as a story of a service dog in the making, it turns into something totally unexpected, at least for me.

Judy Fridono starts out talking about how she spent a year raising a service dog puppy while living in Chicago. She describes the agony of having to return the dog to the training facility for service dogs once her year was up. After that, she talks about her life growing up in a tough Chicago neighborhood. Her father was an alcoholic and a drug user, and this made her childhood difficult at times. When she was a teen-ager, both her parents died. She was attacked once and robbed another time, and all this caused her to have nightmares and panic attacks. She also contracted rheumatoid arthritis which didn’t help matters.

She then talks about how Rena, the puppy she raised for a year, helped her overcome her fears and inspired her to train service dogs. After she returned Rena, she moved to San Diego, California, to attend a dog training school. Through a miraculous twist of fate, Rena was returned to her, and after completing a dog training course, she formed her own service dog training organization.

Ricochet was part of a litter of Golden Retriever puppies, and Fridono started training her soon after she was born. However, although Ricochet was intelligent, after several months, she became stubborn, reminding me of the Irish setters we had when we were growing up who would only do something for us if it pleased them. Ricochet loved to chase birds, and since this is not a good trait for a service dog, Fridono became increasingly frustrated with her.

Ricochet also loved to surf, and on a whim, Fridono entered her into a competition. She feared it would be a disaster because of the dog’s obsession with birds. Fridono was afraid the dog would jump off the surf board after a flock of seagulls instead of focusing on her task. To her astonishment though, Ricochet stayed on the board through several waves and didn’t even look at a bird. She then realized that Ricochet had a different purpose in life and started looking for other ways the dog could be of service.

Fridono then describes how Ricochet inspired many people through surfing and other activities: children with autism and physical disabilities, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, even a teen-aged boy in Florida with terminal cancer. Ricochet put smiles on their faces and gave them the courage to go on, despite their limitations.

Ricochet also raised money for therapy and other essentials. She even helped Fridono when she underwent open heart surgery. The dog’s efforts gained world-wide attention through Facebook and other media. I’d never heard of Ricochet until I read this book, but I was touched by her story. To learn more about Judy Fridono and Ricochet, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8tUI3EC66M . This video consists of an interview with Fridono and footage of Ricochet in action.

In the summer of 2005 before my late husband Bill suffered the strokes that paralyzed him, we took a trip to California to visit friends and relatives for a couple of weeks. One of our stops was in Valley Village, near L.A., where my uncle lived. After he demonstrated how he does sound effects for movies, Bill asked, “Is there any chance I could work for you?”

At the time, we were living here in Sheridan, Wyoming, and I had no inclination to move anywhere else so I laughed, and nothing more was said. After reading Ricochet’s story, I can’t help wondering what might have happened if we did move to California. Although Judy Fridono lived in San Diego, she and Ricochet didn’t just work with people in that area. Would synchronicity have brought Bill and Ricochet together? He would have loved surfing with this dog. Would Bill still be alive if Ricochet had given him a reason not to give up?

I’m just a 53-year-old writer living in Sheridan, Wyoming. I’m able to walk and care for myself, and I don’t have any serious emotional problems. The only parts of me that don’t work well are my eyes. Because others need Ricochet’s care more than I do, I doubt I’ll have an opportunity to surf with this incredible dog, but maybe I’ll give boogie boarding another try the next time I go to Florida. When I visited my brother in Jupiter last summer, we went to the beach, and I borrowed a boogie board from one of my nieces. After I paddled around in the shallow water for a while, my brother offered to pull me into deeper water so I could catch a wave. The sky was growing cloudy, and the waves were getting choppy so I chickened out. Perhaps next time if the sea and weather are calm, I’ll take him up on his offer. Who knows? Maybe I’ll ride the wave of my life for Bill.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

Pre-Order My New Chapbook Today!

My poetry collection from Finishing Line Press, That’s Life, is coming out late this summer. Life happens. As a teen-ager, you’re told you can’t go to the mall because your aunt from out of town is visiting, and the family is planning a trip to see The Nutcracker. As an adult, you hear news on the radio about an airport bombing in Los Angeles. Your husband suffers a debilitating stroke, and you spend the last six years of his life caring for him at home.

Not all the poems in this book are about tragedies. Some are humorous, others serious. Topics range from school to love to death and everything in between. Here is what others have to say.

“Abbie Johnson Taylor’s book of new and selected poems, That’s Life, speaks to both the small and momentous events in our lives. She writes of a picnic in Florida where she eats fried chicken, and she writes of her husband’s stroke and then death. In between, we see a woman who appreciates her foldable cane, and who offers advice to teen-age girls. Taylor’s language is simple and clean. She doesn’t get distracted by trying to make her poems sound “poetic,” but rather uses clear, everyday language to convey her thoughts to her readers. I know that many readers will find solace in Taylor’s plain-spoken, but heartfelt lyrics.” Jane Elkington Wohl, Author of Beasts in Snow and Triage

That’s Life is a collection of poems that celebrates the normal, the ordinary. In this book, beauty, peace, and happiness are found in everyday events and situations. Abbie Johnson Taylor also emphasizes the strength of the human mind and heart. Faced with difficult, stressful, and tragic circumstances, the subjects in this book nonetheless endure, thrive, and bask in happiness and hope.” Allyson Whipple, author of We’re Smaller Than We Think We Are

If you order before August 29th, you can buy the book at a reduced shipping rate. It’s not available as an eBook yet, but it will be IF the publisher sells AT LEAST 55 copies. For those of you who need the book in an accessible format, at some point, I’ll try to record it and make it available on my Website as a free download along with a text version. In the meantime, I’ll post excerpts here. Please share this with others who might be interested. Thank you. Order Form

(Please mail all orders to the Finishing Line Press address below or order online at https://finishinglinepress.com/product_info.php?products_id=2081.

Please send me ______ copy(ies) of That’s Life: New and Selected Poems by Abbie Johnson Taylor at $12.00 per copy plus $2.99 shipping. Enclosed is my check payable to Finishing Line Press for $__________ Name Address City/State/Zip Please send check or money order to:

Finishing Line Press P.O. Box 1626 Georgetown, KY 40324

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Magnets and Ladders Spring/Summer Issue Now Online

Magnets and Ladders is an online magazine featuring work by authors with disabilities such as myself. You’ll find stories, essays, poems, articles about writing, and contest information. Even if you’re not a disabled author, I think you’ll enjoy this publication. It contains, among other things, two of my short stories and one of my poems. I’ll post these works here in coming weeks, but in the meantime, please check out all the wonderful work Magnets and Ladders has to offer at http://www.magnetsandladders.org/wp/.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

A Poem and an Interview

Last week, I posted poems written for my nieces Isabella, ten, and Anna, thirteen. Anna will actually be my step-niece in July when her mother marries my brother. Now, here’s a poem I wrote for Isabella several years ago after observing her in a dance recital. It appears in this year’s issue of Serendipity Poets Journal.

To Isabella at Five

With Hannah Montana, Dora the Explorer,

dance through your life,

whirl, twirl, spin around the room,

little Miss Muffet on your tuffet.

When the spider comes, dance away,

up mountains, across streams.

Follow the rainbow on ballet slippers

till it leads to your dream.

Do you remember when you took dance lessons or when your daughter or granddaughter took dance lessons?

I was recently interviewed, along with other authors, on a radio program called The Writing Mama Show. It lasts about an hour, and you can listen here. When you get to the page, you may hear a brief commercial. Just ignore it, and keep listening.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

 

 

Poems for My Nieces

I just received word from Wilda Morris that one of my poems is a March winner in her monthly poetry challenge on her blog. Last month’s challenge was to write a lullaby poem so I wrote one for my niece Isabella who is ten years old. You can read it plus other winning poems here.

Isabella’s not the only niece for whom I wrote a poem. Anna isn’t technically my niece, but she’ll be my step-niece in July when her mother marries my brother. After visiting them in Florida last Christmas, I was inspired to write the following poem which will appear in my new chapbook, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

THAT’S LIFE

 

For Anna

Oh you of thirteen years,

when told you can’t go to the mall

or sleep over with a friend,

please understand that’s the way life is.

If you grow up thinking

you’ll always have your way,

you’ll be sadly disappointed

so better put on your big girl pants—

deal with it.

 

Have you ever written a poem for a loved one?

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Queen of the Mountain

Do you have a recliner or a favorite armchair? Don’t you just love sinking into it at the end of a long, hard day with a book, newspaper, or TV remote control and a cup of coffee or other beverage?

My late husband Bill loved his recliner. Because of his paralysis due to his strokes, it was necessary to purchase one that could lift him almost to a standing position so I could more easily transfer him to his wheelchair. One day after I got him settled, he said, “I’m the king of the mountain.”

This inspired the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. The original title was “King of the Mountain,” but that didn’t seem to fit so I changed it.

RECUMBENT

With his good hand, he presses a button.

The chair reclines.

Familiar objects are within reach,

telephone, radio, drink,

cassette player, bag of nuts, TV remote control.

As I cover him with poncho and blanket,

his sightless eyes gaze at me with love.

He smiles, content.

I still have Bill’s recliner. I’m sure there are others who need such a chair more than I do, especially since I don’t even use the lift feature. There may come a day, though, when I’ll need it so I guess I’ll keep it. In the meantime, I’m now the queen of the mountain. What familiar objects comfort you?

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver