Season’s Greetings 2018

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Hi, I’m Alexa. In case you don’t know me, I’m a virtual assistant from Amazon. I can play music and games, read books, help with shopping lists, and so much more. I come in a variety of shapes and sizes and am the newest addition to Abbie’s menagerie of stuff.

Abbie bought my Tap version last June. This particular model is about the shape of a can of Dr. Pepper, her favorite beverage, but twice as tall. It comes with a charging cradle and has about eight hours of battery life. Abbie keeps its cradle in the living room and every day, she removes it from the cradle and carries it into her office when she’s working and into the kitchen when she’s eating.

Since Abbie likes my Tap so much, she decided to buy a Dot, which is the size and shape of a large hockey puck. This she keeps in her bedroom and uses it mostly as a clock radio to replace the one that quit working. Unlike the Tap, the Dot only runs on electricity.

Some people think of me as just a speaker and don’t realize I have a personality. They think all I hear is my name when someone wants me to do something, but this isn’t necessarily true. Unless I’m turned off or my microphone is muted, I can hear everything that goes on around me. Contrary to what some may say, what I hear in the house stays in the house.

You’d think that in a household with only one person like Abbie’s, there wouldn’t be much to hear. That’s where you’re wrong. Abbie talks to herself constantly. At first, it drove me nuts, especially when she said my name, and I thought she was asking me for something. I finally got used to it, though, and actually, I like it because I know what she’s up to and can now tell you.

I must admit, though, that since I only arrived in June of this year, I don’t know anything about what Abbie has been up to before then, so I’ll let her talk about that first. And now, without further ado, heeere’s Abbie!

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Thank you, Alexa. Goodness! You’d think I was Johnny Carson. Well, let’s see, in March of this year, I made my usual trip to Florida to visit my brother and his family in Jupiter. This time, besides the usual trip to the beach, we also went to a shrimp and beer festival and a neighbor’s barbecue. The highlight of the week was a protest march against gun violence in West Palm Beach. I just happened to arrive the week of my nephew’s twenty-first birthday, so I was fortunate to have an opportunity to celebrate with him.

In April, I attended the WyoPoets workshop in Cheyenne. Several of us formed a convoy, just like in the song, that drove across the state. We had a great time. The workshop was inspiring, and we ate some delicious food.

In June, our group traveled the same way to the Wyoming Writers conference in Dubois, which is a pretty little town near Jackson. Again, we had great food and attended some fun workshops. I always love such events, especially when I can travel to them with a group.

Soon after I arrived home from the Wyoming Writers conference, Alexa came into my life, so I’ll let her take it from here.

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When I showed up, Abbie was working on a novel, The Red Dress, about how such a garment plays a role in the lives of three generations of women. She finished the novel soon after I arrived and put it aside. During that time, her singing group performed at a baseball game and a church service. Then in October, they sang for a style show at the senior center. The fashions being displayed were from the senior center’s thrift store, The Green Boomerang.

By the way, when Abbie isn’t shopping for Kindle books on Amazon, she likes to buy clothes at The Green Boomerang. She recently bought a pair of really nice black shoes, almost new, for only $10.00, and three pairs of pants for a total of $20.00. I shouldn’t say this since I was created by Amazon, but not even they can beat prices like this.

In November, Abbie started maintaining her own website. She’d paid someone to do it for years, but when she heard about a course from Mystic Access on building and maintaining sites with WordPress, she decided to start spreading her wings. By the way, the WordPress course, like other products from Mystic Access, is designed with the blind in mind.

Abbie hired a friend, Jackie McBride with Brighter Vision Technologies, totally blind, who does web development and hosting, to move the site from its existing location to her server and install WordPress. Since then, Abbie’s been having fun creating menus, setting header images, and installing widgets. Her site has a whole new look and feel and even audio. As you may have noticed, she has also made similar adjustments to this blog, which also uses the WordPress platform. Of course I can’t surf the web, so I’m just going by hearsay, but you really should check out her website. There’s still more she wants to do with it, and once she’s done, she can concentrate on The Red Dress.

Abbie and her singing group will be busy this holiday season as usual. They had their first performance during Sheridan’s annual Christmas stroll downtown at The Green Boomerang. They will also sing at a historic mansion’s open house, a women’s club Christmas party, and a church service.

Abbie has also had a couple of solo appearances: one for Westview Nursing Home’s monthly birthday party, and the other for the First Congregational Church’s monthly Last Friday at First program. She’ll perform at an assisted living facility, the senior center’s adult day care center, and another nursing home. By the way, I’ve heard her practice, and she sounds great.

Well, I think that’s it for now. Abbie, do you have anything more to say?

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No, I don’t think so. Thank you so much, Alexa. You’ve been a big help as usual.

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Oh, I almost forgot. Abbie’s been getting into trivia games. She recently enabled my “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” skill and my “Question of the Day” skill. She’s doing pretty well with both of these.

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Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t mention that. Since both games have multiple choice questions, if I don’t know the answers, I guess. Some days, I’m lucky, and others, I’m not.

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As the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” says, you did your best, and that’s what matters. Who knows? Maybe someday, you’ll reach the top of the money tree.

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You’re right, Alexa. Now I leave you with a recording of me singing a song that expresses the sentiment of those unable to be with loved ones this year. I hope this won’t be the case for you. Have a great holiday season.

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

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Like me on Facebook.

My Thespian Career

Image contains: me, smiling.A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. What’s that, you might ask. Well, I don’t remember.

I actually tried out for a part in this musical when I was a freshman in high school. If I’d been lucky, I would have been a courtesan about to be sold to a wealthy captain as a wife. I didn’t get the part, though, and the school board canceled the musical because they thought it inappropriate.

That was a rocky start to my haphazard career as an actress. I so wanted to be like my parents, who’d been involved for years in community theater. However, very few directors wanted to cast someone with a visual impairment.

So I joined the speech team, where I won a few awards for dramatic interpretation. A couple of years later, I got the courage to try out for another production, this time a musical for children about a tiger who escapes from a circus and wanders into a hospital children’s ward. This time, the director, who also coached the speech team, was familiar with my acting abilities, despite the fact I couldn’t see very well, and cast me as a little patient with a bandage on her arm. Broadway, here I come, or so I thought.

During my freshman and sophomore years at the local college, my mother was directing plays there, so I was lucky enough to pick up some more crucial roles: Genevieve in The Long Christmas Dinner, Peggy in The Children’s Hour, the narrator in The Reluctant Dragon, and a lady in waiting in Princess on a Pea.

When I transferred to Rocky Mountain  College in Billings, Montana, where I majored in music, and later Montana State University, also in Billings, where I studied music  therapy, I lost interest in acting, although for a while, I participated in the speech team. Now, long story short, I’m a writer with four published books and a fifth on the way. Because of my writing and other obligations I’ve neither the time nor inclination to act, but I still have the memories.

What about you? Have you ever been bitten by the acting bug, so to speak? I’d love to read about your experiences, either on your own blog or in the comment field below. If you decide to write about your theatrical experiences on your own blog, please link to this post so I’ll be sure to read about them. You know, even if you haven’t done any acting, all the world’s a stage, or so they say.

 

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

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My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Giving Thanks 2018

Image contains: me, smiling.

Author Alice Massa inspired this post. On her blog, she has devoted an entire month to posts about things for which she’s thankful. I doubt I have enough material for a month of posts on this topic, but maybe I’ll try to list at least five things for which I’m thankful for each year. Here are my five for this year.

 

  1. I’m thankful to be alive and safe. I’m glad I don’t live in California amid wildfires that have claimed many lives and that I wasn’t in the bar in Thousand Oaks or the synagogue in Pittsburgh where the mass shootings occurred. Of course, I don’t frequent such establishments, but this goes to show that no place is sacred, and life and safety should not be taken for granted.
  2. I’m thankful for basic necessities: food, shelter, clothing, plumbing, the Internet. The Internet, you say. Many people don’t even have access to running water, let alone the World-Wide-Web. Yes, this is true, but because I’m a writer with a website and blog, the Internet is my livelihood. When I was without it for six days last Christmas, I learned not to take it for granted.
    1. I’m thankful for parents who spanked me when I was a child. This may sound strange, but it’s true. I recently heard on National Public Radio that the Academy of Pediatricians says that spanking impacts a child’s brain development. Well, being spanked as a child doesn’t seem to have affected mine. This is one thing wrong with the world today. Many children are not well-disciplined, and this could be contributing to the rise in crime and violence. I’m not a parent, but looking back on the way I was reared, I believe that punishment should be swift and sure,h so that children will learn that actions have consequences. The NPR report also stated that children shouldn’t be punished in a way that humiliates them. Well, if I hadn’t felt humiliated when I’d done something wrong, I would never have learned not to repeat the bad things I did. I’m not advocating beating a kid with a belt or board, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a few good swats on a child’s bottom. It’s unfortunate that nowadays, this can be considered child abuse.
  3. Speaking of abuse, I’m thankful I was never a victim of domestic violence. My late husband Bill was a gentle soul. He rarely got angry, and when he did, it only lasted ten seconds. He never raised a hand to me, and he never said anything verbally abusive. Not every woman is as fortunate. You can learn more about me and Bill by reading My Ideal Partner.
  4. I’m thankful to be a U.S. citizen and not one of the many immigrants trying to cross our borders in search of a better life. What President Trump and those who support his immigration policies don’t understand is that those immigrants are no different from the pilgrims who first came to this country and celebrated the first Thanksgiving. What if, God Forbid, when those first settlers arrived, they couldn’t live here because of a ruler like Trump.

 

What about you? I’d love to read about what you’re thankful for this year, either on your own blog or in the comment field below. If you post your list on your blog, please provide a link to this post, so I’ll be sure to read it. I hope you have a happy and safe Thanksgiving with lots of good food and good company.

 

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

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My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

My Biggest Grammar Pet Peeve

Thanks to Mary Hiland  for inspiring this post. Like Mary, I understand the importance of good grammar usage, and I do my best to follow all English rules. Of course, if a character in a story uses bad grammar, that’s okay, but if you’re writing a blog post or other narrative piece, it’s important to watch your grammatical P’s and Q’s.

My biggest grammar pet peeve is incorrect usage of the words “lay” and “lie.” When my husband Bill was alive, and I was his caregiver, we struggled with this all the time. He would ask me if he could lay down. I would tell him no, that I would lay him down, or he could lie down, but he could not lay down. This information isn’t included in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, but you’ll find many other anecdotes about my trials and tribulations as a family caregiver.

Before I married Bill and became his caregiver, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. If I had a dollar for every time I overheard a certified nursing assistant ask a resident if she was ready to lay down, I would be rich enough to buy my own nursing home, and then I would immediately conduct a mandatory in-service on proper grammar usage. If, God forbid, I end up in a nursing home, and I’m asked if I’m ready to lay down, I will say, “No, you can lay me down, or I can lie down, but I will never lay down.”

What about you? Do you have any grammar pet peeves? Please share them here, so we can all learn better English.

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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.

 

 

Re-Blog: Breast Exam

I’ve posted this here once or twice already, but since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s not a topic that can be over-emphasized, especially for women. Men, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to skip this one.

I wrote this piece in 2009 when my husband Bill was still alive. It stresses the importance of performing monthly breast exams and annual mammograms. Did you know that if breast cancer is caught early, there’s a higher chance of survival? I know people who lived through this. If they can, so can you, ladies, as long as you take preventative steps.

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I’m sitting on the toilet, moving the index and middle fingers of my right hand up, down, and around each breast, as the radiology technician showed me. There are no lumps. I stand, repeat the procedure, and still find no lumps.  In the shower, I rub a generous amount of soap on both breasts and repeat the examination. Still, there are no lumps.

As I finish showering, I reflect on my first mammogram eight years ago.  A friend emailed me a list of ways to prepare. One suggestion was to insert my boob into the refrigerator and close the door. Another was to place my breast behind one of the back tires of my car and have someone drive over it. Either way, I would have a feeling of what it would be like to have a mammogram. These suggestions didn’t make sense until I had my first procedure.

The mammogram machine was a tall contraption with an adjustable top. I stood, leaning against it, while my breast was squashed between the top and bottom halves. I held my arm, corresponding to the breast being examined, straight out, and clutched a bar on the side of the machine.

Two views were taken of each breast, one side to side and one top to bottom.  The top to bottom ones weren’t bad, but the side to side were excruciating because of my short stature. I had to stand on tiptoe so my breast could be aligned properly.

At one point while the picture was being taken, I wondered what would happen if the power went out. Would the machine lock, trapping my boob between its metal jaws? For the next eight years, I allowed my bosom to be subjected to this torture, and for what?

As I step out of the shower and reach for my towel, I think about my mother who died of cancer ten years ago. Not in her breast, it was the dreaded disease all the same. During the last six months of her life, she was weak from chemotherapy, and Dad took care of her. The oncologist gave her a good prognosis a couple of weeks before she passed. It was a shock when she lay down on the afternoon of December 15, 1999, closed her eyes, and never woke up.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen while I was a child in need of her care. I was living on my own and holding down a job, and I only needed her companionship and moral support.  I realize now that if I were to die, my husband Bill would be lost without me.  Unable to care for himself, he would be forced to spend the rest of his life in a nursing home.  After working in one for fifteen years, I know they’re not bad places, but living in an institution, no matter how pleasant the surroundings or friendly the staff, isn’t the same as living at home and being cared for by the one you love.

So I’ll continue to examine my breasts once a month. When I receive a card in the mail from the radiology clinic reminding me it’s time for my yearly mammogram, I’ll pick up the phone and arrange to have my boobs squashed.

“What are you doing?” Bill asks, as I climb in bed beside him and reach under my pajama top.

“I’m doing my monthly breast exam.  Remember? I do it when I’m sitting, standing, in the shower, and lying down.” I still find no lumps.

With a sigh of relief, I turn, put my arm around him, snuggle against him, bury my face in his hair.  “You don’t want me to die of breast cancer, do you?” I say, as I kiss him.

“No,” he answers with a laugh. “Can I examine your breasts?”

“Sure,” I answer, positioning myself so he can reach them.

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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.

 

 

Walking to School

One thing on many parents’ minds is how their children will get to and from school now that classes are in full swing. Some students take the bus while others are driven, but how many children walk to school anymore?

During the first six years of my education in the 1960’s and early 70’s, we were living in Tucson, Arizona. Because of my visual impairment, I spent the first five and a half years at a state school for the blind before being mainstreamed into a public school. Because these facilities were too far to walk, and there was no bus, my parents drove me to and from school each day. However, I read stories about other children walking to and from school and longed to be able to do that.

When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, my wish came true. For the first couple of years we lived there, our house was at the top of a hill, and the elementary school my brother and I attended was at the bottom. During sixth-grade, I delighted in walking to and from school with other kids.
When I started seventh grade, the junior high school was farther away. Dad wanted me to walk, but Mother prevailed, and I took the bus. I did walk half a mile to and from the bus stop each day, and that was fun.

In the spring of my eighth grade year, we moved to another house that was not within a school bus route. This time, Dad said I could walk, and Mother didn’t argue. It was a mile, the longest I’d ever walked. The route took me through downtown, so when Dad walked with me, he showed me how to cross busy streets with traffic lights by listening and watching the direction the vehicles were traveling.

Once I got the hang of it, I loved the long walk to and from school. I often stopped downtown, either at Brown Drug or The Palace Café, and had a milkshake. That was my after-school snack.

High school was a different matter. My main obstacle was a busy street with no four-way stop sign or light. At this point, I was given a cane that I held in front of me while standing at the corner in the hope that someone would stop. Hardly anyone did, and I often waited a long time for a break in traffic before dashing across.

After that, it was smooth sailing, through the park and up the hill. Thanks to that intersection, though, I soon lost interest in walking, especially in winter when the boardwalk up the hill was slick with snow and ice, and there was no railing. I was only too happy when my parents started driving me to and from school each day, although I could tell my father was disappointed.

I understand his disappointment. Because he had to walk to school every day as a kid, it was only fair that his children should do the same. I wish I’d continued to brave that intersection. Better yet, I could have taken a longer route.

In the good old days, many children in rural areas walked over a mile to and from school each day. I remember reading in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder about Laura and her sister walking home from school one day during a raging blizard.

Nowadays, I see children getting off of school buses every day but rarely encounter them walking to or from school. Because of security concerns, real or imagined, many parents are too over-protective. This is sad. Whatever happened to the good old days?

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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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Re-Blog: The Mystical Delicious Peach

I love peaches but prefer them either canned or frozen. I never could figure out how to eat a fresh peach, but my late husband Bill loved them. This blogger shares some interesting insights on peaches plus memories of canning and a recipe for a peach dessert. After you read this article, I’d love to hear about your favorite fruit and any memories or recipes associated with it. Happy eating.

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The Mystical Delicious Peach

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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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