Poem Depicts Florida Wildlife Adventure

Last week when I posted “Thirty-Foot Sloop,” a poem about my Pacific Ocean misadventure, someone asked me if I ever tried sailing again after that. Well, I have, but not on the high seas. When I visited my brother and his family in Florida, we often took trips down the Loxahatchee River, which is a lot smoother. Last year, we rented a canoe, and I wrote a poem about what happened. Click on the title below the picture to hear me read it.

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My sister-in-law snapped a photo of this creature with her iPhone before she and my brother back-paddled the canoe away from it as fast as they could. 

THE ALLIGATOR

 

A warm March afternoon under a cloudless Florida sky,

floating down the Loxahatchee River,

I sit on the canoe bottom, cramped,

while others paddle.

In a narrow section,

where we hope to spot wildlife, it appears.

Not a snake, but still a deadly creature,

it stands among plants on the bank,

gazes at its reflection in the gleaming water.

I don’t see it–they do.

After snapping a picture,

we sail far, far away

while icy fingers of fear massage my spine.

***

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.

 

 

Barfing on the High Seas

One morning years ago at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Los Angeles, while most of my extended family was gathered for my uncle’s wedding, we were sitting around the pool, discussing what we would do that day. The men wanted to go sailing, and the women wanted to see some sights. At the age of twenty-three, I’d never been on a sailboat but had done my fair share of sightseeing, and being young and visually impaired, I didn’t find that at all appealing.

When I invited myself to go sailing with my brother, dad, and two uncles, they readily agreed, and we set off. At a marina, we found a captain willing to take us on a three-hour cruse for a fee, which would increase if we made a mess. Before heading out, we ate lunch at a nearby establishment where I had a cheeseburger with French fries and a Coke. Once we hit the high seas, I wished more than ever that I’d gone to look at museums and other attractions with my grandmother and aunts.

I wrote a poem about this experience several years ago. Kathy Waller’s 100-word short story inspired me to post it. Click on the title to hear me read it.

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THIRTY-FOOT SLOOP

 

In the summer of 1984, my family sets sail

from a marina at Redondo Beach, California.

The rented boat glides through smooth port waters.

 

A college kid, the only woman on board,

once we hit rough waters,

my stomach revolts.

Moments later, while holding the leaking sack

containing what was once my lunch, Uncle Tony asks,

“Will the EPA mind if I throw this overboard?”

 

“No problem,” says Shawn, the captain.

He hands me a bucket,

places a hand on my shoulder

while I let it all out.

 

A helicopter whirrs overhead.

“They’re making a movie,” Uncle Jon speculates.

Oh boy, I always wanted to be in a movie,

I think, huddled over my white bucket,

Barfing on the High Seas.

 

Later, Shawn reminisces about man overboard drills.

Still nauseated, I glance at the water, the shore.

If I jump in, try to swim,

will I make it?

 

After three hours, back in calm waters,

I step onto the dock,

exhausted, sunburned—it could be worse.

***

Afterward, I learned that the women not only saw some sights but also went to an ice cream parlor where they encountered a celebrity from Hill Street Blues. Oh well, some choices we make in life aren’t always good ones.

***

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.

 

Blog Party Now Live

Welcome to my first ever blog party to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Break out the Bailey’s Irish Cream and soda bread or whatever you consume on this day, and let’s have a great time.

I’ll start by re-blogging a post I wrote several years ago that’s fitting for St. Patrick’s Day. After reading it, you’re encouraged to find a favorite post, either from your blog or someone else’s, and paste a link to it in the comments field along with a brief description of the blog.

The post you submit can be about anything, not just the Irish or St. Patrick’s Day. After you do this, you can look at other postings in the comments section and get to know other bloggers, and they can get to know you. Let the party begin.

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Book and Movie Tell Tragic Adoption Story

 

In 1952, you’re a teen-aged girl in Ireland. After a romantic encounter with a man you meet at a fair, you become pregnant. In shame, your family sends you away to a convent.

It’s a breech birth. The nuns have little or no medical training. Other women and children have died during childbirth and are buried in unmarked graves nearby. The mother superior believes that the pain of childbirth is God’s punishment for carnal sin so no drugs are administered. In agony, as the nun removes the baby with forceps, you beg her not to “let them put him in the ground.” Miraculously, a healthy baby boy is born. Thus begins the story of Philomena, a book I’ve read and a movie I’ve seen.

Martin Sixsmith, author of The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, (2009) and Philomena, with Dame Judi Dench, (2013) is a British writer, Russian scholar, BBC presenter, and former advisor to the government in the United Kingdom. He has written about Russian history, the scandal surrounding the adoption of Irish children by American parents, and other current events. Besides two books about Philomena Lee, the Irish mother forced to give up her child for adoption, his other work includes Russia: A 1000-Year Chronicle of the Wild East, (2012) and Spin. (2005) In his writing, he has also focused on political communication in government.

The book, Philomena begins with a short introduction by Dame Judi Dench, the actress who portrayed her in the movie. Martin Sixsmith then starts by describing the birth of Philomena’s son Anthony and their lives afterward in the convent. Philomena and other girls who had babies out of wedlock were prisoners there for four years, working to pay off the cost of their care, so to speak. She did the laundry seven days a week and by night, she and the other girls sewed clothes for their children who stayed in the convent until they were adopted. The mothers were allowed daily contact with their children and naturally, they developed close bonds.

Sixsmith also touches on the sale of Irish children to American families. He describes how some Irish government officials tried to block such adoptions but were thwarted by the Catholic Church. In 1955, Philomena was forced to sign papers giving Anthony up for adoption, and he was taken to the U.S. to live with a family in Missouri. Mary, a little girl at the convent about the same age who developed a close friendship with Anthony, was also taken by the same family who didn’t want to separate the children.

Most of the remainder of Martin Sixsmith’s book is devoted primarily to Anthony’s story. The family who adopted him and Mary changed his name to Michael, and Sixsmith describes his life growing up in Missouri and Iowa. The friendship between Michael and Mary grew stronger in America, and in later years, Mary was the only one in the family who supported him. All through his life, Michael wondered about his natural mother. His adoptive parents, who knew the truth, thought it better to tell him that his mother abandoned him.

Sixsmith explains how Michael first realized he was gay as a teen-ager. A priest at Notre Dame University encouraged him to purge himself of his desires. Michael tried but found himself becoming more and more involved in homosexual activities.

In the 1970’s after graduating from Notre Dame and receiving a law degree from George Washington University, Michael worked for the National Republican Committee in D.C. and eventually became the chief counsel for the White House. Sixsmith pinpoints the irony of a gay man working for the Republican Party during the Reagan and Bush eras when homosexuality was considered taboo and Republicans blocked funding for AIDS research. This, combined with feelings of abandonment Michael harbored from his childhood, caused mood swings and bouts of drinking and engaging in sadomasochistic activities. Most of his relationships didn’t last long.

In the 1970’s Michael and Mary made a trip to Ireland in an attempt to find their mothers but were told by the nuns at the convent that they had no records. In the 1990’s, after Michael developed AIDS, he made a second trip to Ireland with his partner, Pete Nelson, and was told that records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire. They later learned at the bed and breakfast where they were staying that the nuns deliberately set the fire because of an investigation into the Catholic Church’s practice of selling Irish children to American families for adoption. Michael died a year or so later, never knowing about his mother. At his request, he was buried at the convent in Ireland where he was born.

At the end of the book, Martin Sixsmith devotes a couple of chapters to Philomena after Anthony was taken from her in 1955. I would like to have read more about her, but she may not have wanted her life revealed in such detail. After Anthony left the convent, the nuns sent Philomena to work at a school for boys in England, and she eventually became a nurse. She married twice and had several children and grandchildren. She made frequent trips to the convent in Ireland to inquire about her son but was rebuffed by the nuns every time. She kept the secret of Anthony’s birth from her family for fifty years.

After she finally broke down and told them, her daughter introduced her to Sixsmith, and the three of them visited the convent in Ireland. By this time, there were different nuns with more liberal views, and through other channels, they were able to learn of Anthony’s life in America and that he passed away and was buried at the convent.

I liked Martin Sixsmith’s style of writing this book. Besides giving us a journalistic rundown of all the events, he takes us into the lives of the main characters, telling us what they were feeling and thinking. The book was written like fiction, and I was compelled to keep reading to the end.

On the other hand, the movie doesn’t tell the whole story and uses some artistic license. After Sixsmith meets Philomena’s daughter at a party, he is introduced to her mother, and the two of them travel to Ireland to inquire about Anthony. The nuns tell them their records from the 1950’s were destroyed in a fire and show Philomena the contract she signed, giving Anthony up for adoption that stated she agreed not to try to contact him. Sixsmith later learns from locals in a pub that the nuns started the fire.

The search for Anthony takes Martin and Philomena to Washington, D.C. where they learn of his life and passing. After talking with Mary and Pete Nelson, they learn of Michael’s burial at the convent in Ireland. Upon their return, Martin confronts one of the nuns, and Philomena finds her son’s grave and says goodbye. I enjoyed the performances of Dame Judi Dench and the other actors, but the movie left a lot to be desired, compared to the book.

According to Sixsmith, Michael requested that “Danny Boy” be sung at his funeral in Washington, D.C. before he was taken to Ireland for burial. I can think of no better way to end this post. Please click this link to hear me sing this song. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

***

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.

 

 

 

Novel Explores Serious Questions

The Shortest Way Home

by Juliette Fay

Copyright 2013

 

Set in a suburb of Boston, this story centers around a family with Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative disorder that becomes prevalent during adulthood. Shawn, a nurse who has worked in developing countries for years, thinks he has dodged the bullet but refuses to be tested.

Feeling burned out, he comes home, hoping to re-group and then return to his work. Years earlier, after Shawn’s mother died of Huntington’s Disease, his father left Shawn and his brother and sister with their aunt and never returned.

Now, Shawn discovers that his aunt is suffering from some sort of dementia not related to Huntington’s, and his eleven-year-old nephew, Kevin, has sensory processing disorder which effects his behavior. Kevin is the son of Shawn’s brother, who died of pneumonia after Shawn went overseas.

Because his sister, a want-to-be actress, is too busy with her job as a waitress at a diner and play rehearsals, Shawn reluctantly cares for his aunt and nephew until someone else can be hired. He finds employment in a bakery run by an old friend and falls in love with Rebecca, a girl he knew in high school, who now works as a massage therapist. Then, his sister announces she’s soon heading for New York, leaving Shawn in the permanent role of caregiver. By this time, he’s conflicted between his love for Rebecca, Kevin, and his aunt and wanting to flee to Haiti, where a doctor, with whom he once worked, has opened a clinic following an earthquake.

Then, his father shows up unexpected, and after meeting his grandson, proposes a trip to Ireland with him and Shawn, to which Shawn reluctantly agrees, despite anger at his father for leaving the family years earlier. The book ends soon after they return.

I like the way this book explores the question of “to know or not to know” if you’ll be afflicted with a serious condition such as Huntington’s Disease later in life. It also focuses on the conflict between family love and loyalty and wanting to pursue one’s own dreams, especially if one’s life may be cut short by a serious illness. I can appreciate how the relationship between Shawn, raised an Irish Catholic, and God changes. There are some serious life lessons to be learned here, so I definitely recommend this book to everyone.

***

 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.

 

Circus in the Bedroom

Abbie-1

In light of the announcement that the Ringling Brothers circus is closing after 100 years of operation, I decided to re-blog a poem from a couple of months ago that appears in My Ideal Partner. At one point during the six years I cared for my late husband Bill, we had to purchase a mechanical lift to make it easier for home health care aides to transfer him from the bed to the commode in order to give him a shower. As you’ll note from the excerpt below, Bill didn’t like the lift, but I came up with a pretty good solution to that problem. Click on the poem’s title to hear me read it.

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At first, Bill didn’t like the lift, because it suspended him in mid–air while he was transferred from the bed to the commode and vice versa. I almost laughed when I saw the process for the first time, because it reminded me of the song about the man on the flying trapeze. Because Bill had no vision, I could imagine how insecure he felt during the process. We kept reassuring him that he was securely fastened into the sling and wouldn’t fall, but after his first shower, he said, “I’m not using that damn lift again.”

I was flabbergasted. It had taken one month to get the lift, and another for the carpet in the bedroom to be replaced. For two months, Bill traipsed back and forth to Eventide (the nursing home) for his showers. I had to dress him every day, not just on the days when his showers at home weren’t scheduled. My own back was starting to bother me. I was ready for a break. “Please, honey, just try it for another week,” I said. “It takes some getting used to.”

“It’s not a problem,” said Bonnie. (Bill’s case worker) “Jean said you can keep getting your showers at Eventide if you don’t want to use the lift.”

I wasn’t about to settle for that. Because Bill joked about girls seeing him naked, I got an idea. “Okay, honey, just imagine you’re naked on a flying trapeze in a big circus tent, and fifty women are in that tent who paid $50 each to see you naked on that flying trapeze, and you’re going to get all that money.”

It sounded outrageous, but it worked. After another week, he seemed happy as a clam, being propelled across the room, hanging in mid air.

***

UNDER THE BIG TOP

 

Like the daring young man on the flying trapeze,

he glides through the air, smiles down on me.

I wink, say, “Bravo!”

 

We’re not in a circus but in our bedroom.

His left arm and leg useless,

a mechanical lift raises him off the bed,

propels him across the room,

lowers him to the commode, ready for the shower.

***

It’s too bad men on flying trapezes don’t bring in as much money for circuses as elephants do.

***

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.

 

Hangover Revisited

Abbie-1

I just returned last night from a week in Florida with my brother and his family, where I had a wonderful time. Since I’m still unpacking and have a million other things to do, I decided to simply re-blog a post from last year about this time. You can read the original here.

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Hangover: A Source of Inspiration

 

Now that the holiday season has passed, some people’s thoughts turn to the effects of drinking too much on New Year’s Eve. Did you know that a hangover isn’t necessarily related to consuming a lot of booze? According to dictionary.com, a hangover can also be defined as “any aftermath of or lingering effect from a distressing experience.”

For six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. People who have never been family caregivers don’t understand the trauma involved in such a role. Bill could do little for himself. I had to dress him, take him to the bathroom, and even help him with his computer. With children, you know they’ll eventually grow up and become independent, but when your spouse is no longer able to do for himself, your family caregiving obligations will only stop when he dies.

It has been three years since Bill’s passing. Because he could do little for himself, I couldn’t be away from home for more than a couple of hours at the most. Even now, on occasion, when I leave the house and am not home in a couple of hours, I become anxious and have to tell myself that Bill is in a better place where he can change the channel on the satellite radio and find another book to read, all on his own. He’s not waiting for me to come home and empty the urinal or get him out of bed so he can sit outside and listen to the Colorado Rockies being creamed by almost every team in the league.

I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep at night. I nod off and am jerked awake by a feeling of anxiety or restlessness. I tell myself that Bill is not calling me to get up and empty the urinal, that I can go to sleep and not be interrupted. I eventually do and usually sleep through the night.

I have developed sciatica in my right hip, probably as a result of lifting Bill from the bed to the wheelchair to the recliner to the commode, etc. It occasionally flares up after I’ve been exercising and becomes more prevalent during cold and humid conditions. Adville and ice packs are my best friends.

This type of hangover is not something that a Bloody Mary will cure. It will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The good news is that it’s not as bad as a hangover you get from excessive imbibing.

***

One year later, I’m sleeping better and have discovered that walking for about a half an hour a day, on the treadmill this time of year, keeps the sciatica at bay. I’m not as anxious as I was last year, so maybe this hangover is finally abating. I hope you enjoyed my blast from the past and that any hangover symptoms you may have suffered over the New Year’s holiday are gone.

***

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.

 

 

Two Final Holiday Books

Abbie-1

St. Nick

by Alan Russell

Copyright 2013

 

Nick, a divorced cop, feeling depressed after being suspended from the San Diego police department, grudgingly agrees to work undercover as Santa Claus at a mall, where muggings have frequently been occurring. Not only is Nick expected to catch the bad guys, but he’s also compelled to grant a Christmas wish to a terminally ill child and find another child who wrote an anonymous letter to Santa, asking him to visit. He then meets a female television reporter, and things really get interesting. The realistic ending is predictable.

I usually don’t read detective stories, but the plot of this Audible daily deal intrigued me. It’s funny, sweet, moving, and not your run-of-the-mill mystery tale. I loved the way the narrator, Patrick Lawlor, portrayed Nick and other male characters, and his depiction of women and children wasn’t bad. This book is also available from Amazon. I know it’s a little late now, but maybe you can put it on your holiday reading list for next year.

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A Literary Christmas

Published by The British Library

Copyright 2014

 

This short anthology of Christmas stories and poems includes excerpts from such classics as A Christmas Carol and Little Women and work by Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, and others. Of course no holiday collection would be complete without “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

This was another Audible daily deal with two excellent British narrators, Juliet Stevenson and Simon Callow. I could read some of the timeless classics in this collection over and over again. I was especially touched by the excerpt from Little Women, where the girls give their breakfast to a poor family on Christmas morning.

The recording was re-produced from a two-CD set, as evidenced by announcements of “Disc One” and “Disc Two.” With today’s advances in modern recording technology, you’d think those could have been deleted. Also, there should have been more of a pause between selections, especially when switching narrators. It seemed that one barely finished a selection when the other jumped in.

This book is also available from Amazon, so it would make a good family read during the holiday season. Children, depending on their ages, may find some of the pieces hard to grasp, but “The Night Before Christmas” and excerpts from A Christmas Carol and Little Women could surely be crowd pleasers. In any case, I hope you’ll also put this book on your holiday reading list for next year.

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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.