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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Weekly Poetry Challenge: Plan and Finish

I’m trying something new. This challenge was created by blogger Colleen Chesebro. For full guidelines, click this link. The basic idea is to write a haiku, Tanka, or other traditionally formed poem without using the prompt words she provides. Only use synonyms of the words. This week’s words are “plan” and “finish.” My submission is a haiku. Enjoy!

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at the end of summer
wildlife plots for survival
of brutal winter

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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: Love the Beat Goes On

Love the Beat Goes On
by Lynda Filler
Copyright 2017

This is not about Sonny and Cher, although I thought it was when I first glimpsed the title. In this short memoir, author and photographer Lynda Filler discusses her diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2008 and how she miraculously recovered. She starts by detailing events leading up to her diagnosis including but not limited to her experience with online dating following several failed marriages, her move from Canada to Mexico, where she lived for several years, and her return to Canada. She then describes her symptoms and how she came to be diagnosed and told to get her affairs in order because she didn’t have long to live. She then outlines her path to healing and subsequent recovery, providing tips to others suffering from the same malady. She often claims not to be a medical expert and encourages readers to follow the advice given by their own doctors. The book includes resources.

I felt two connections with this book. First of all, my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about the same time as Lynda Filler. Second, my brother and his first wife honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the 1990’s, at probably about the same time Lynda Filler was living there. Although I found her description of her healing process interesting, I was, and still am, skeptical. If this book had been released in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he might have benefited, although I doubt he would have read it.

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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: Forward

On this anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks against New York City and Washington D.C., I’m pasting below a post I wrote several years ago about Michael Hingson and his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero. Since this will be the topic of discussion by my regional talking book library’s group this afternoon, I thought it would be a great time to share this remarkable story once more.

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Forward

We’ve all heard accounts of people killed or seriously injured during the events of 9/11. Here’s a remarkable story about a man and his dog who survived at Ground Zero. Michael Hingson, blind since birth, was working in his office on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 when the first plane hit. The plane crashed into the opposite end from where he was, and as a result, the tower tipped, then righted itself. If I were in that situation, the first thing I would have done was panic, but not Michael. After shutting down his computer, he took up his guide dog Roselle’s harness and said, “Forward.” This is the universal command guide dog owners issue to order their dogs to move in that direction. Along with co-workers and others, he proceeded down seventy-eight flights of stairs amid the stench of smoke and jet fuel and exited the building. As the towers crumbled and fell, he fled in the wake of dust and debris.

In his book, Thunder Dog, The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, Michael Hingson talks about his 9/11 experience and his life growing up in a society with low expectations of the blind. When he was born in Chicago in the 1950’s, a doctor suggested his parents send him to a home for the blind, but they refused, determining that Michael would be raised like any other child. As a kid, he rode his bike in the streets. He taught himself to detect obstacles by listening to his environment. When he was in elementary school, his family moved to a community in California where the school district suggested he be sent to a school for the blind. Again, his parents refused to have him segregated just because he couldn’t see, and eventually, the school district hired a resource teacher to help him learn braille and other skills. In high school, he acquired the first of many guide dogs and was banned from riding the school bus with his dog. His father argued his case before the school board, and when he lost, he appealed to California’s governor who intervened on Michael’s behalf. As an adult, despite many obstacles he faced in a society not set up for the blind, he managed to eventually acquire a sales job with a six-figure salary for a prestigious firm, the offices of which were located on the seventy-eighth floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center.

A year after the events of 9/11, he became a public affairs director for Guide Dogs for the Blind in California where he’d acquired his own dogs. In 2008, he formed the MichaelHingson Group to continue his career as a public speaker and consultant for organizations needing help with diversity and adaptive technology training. He still travels today, giving speeches in which he shares his own experiences and talks about blindness in general.

The book’s introduction was written by Larry King, a CNN talk show host and one of many journalists who interviewed Michael about his experience. Not only does he talk about his life in Thunder Dog, Michael also provides a wealth of information and resources about blindness. The book is available through Amazon and other online retailers. For those needing it in a more accessible format, it can be downloaded from the National Library Service’s braille and audio download site as well as from Bookshare.

After reading the book, I had an opportunity to talk to Michael Hingson when I attended a conference call meeting of a writers’ group to which I belong called Behind Our Eyes. He said that he originally wanted to call this book Forward. Instead, the publisher suggested the title Thunder Dog because of a thunderstorm that woke and frightened Michael’s dog Roselle the night before September 11th. There’s irony in the fact that a dog terrified of thunderstorms calmly guided her owner out of a burning building.

Thunder Dog isn’t just a 9/11 story. Although Michael’s experience during that time is a big part of the book, his story is about someone with a disability who faces curve balls society throws at him head on and says, “Forward.”

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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: Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea
by Debbie Macomber
Copyright 2018.

After losing most of her family as a result of a mud slide near Seattle, Annie retreats to the seaside village where her family rented a cottage for several summers. By a miraculus twist of fate, she is able to rent that same cottage. A physician’s assistant, she finds a job at the local clinic. In her quest for healing, she affects the lives of a shy six-foot artist with whom she falls in love, her reclusive landlady, a teen-ager with an abusive stepfather, and other characters, all needing relief from their troublesome burdens.

I’ve always enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s work, and Cottage by the Sea didn’t disappoint me, but there are a couple of things I don’t like about this and other books she has written. First of all, the author uses way too much unnecessary narrative. As I’ve said before, it’s better to show and not tell, and too much narrative bogs a story down. Another thing I don’t like is her use of adverbs. It’s always better to use a stronger verb, and in the case of dialog, what a person says should speak for itself without the adverb. Because Debbie Macomber tells such heartwarming stories that make me feel good, I’m willing to put up with these pitfalls.

That said, Cottage by the Sea was a great end-of-summer read for me. According to the author’s note at the beginning, a mud slide near Seattle actually happened several years ago. I like the way this author uses real-life events to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate her not including descriptions of sex. There are better ways to show two characters in love like kissing, hugging, hand holding, and body language. Sex scenes are unnecessary and bog a story down.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and it was hard to put down. The narrator did an excellent job portraying each character. Although one minor plot detail could have been handled differently, I found the ending very satisfying. If you don’t have time or enough money to retreat to a seaside village, I suggest you read this book instead. You’ll be refreshed.

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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: Splitting an Order

Splitting an Order
by Ted Kooser
Copyright 2014

The release of this author’s poetry collection coincided with his 75th birthday. Most of the poems in this collection are apparently based on observances in public places. A good example of this is the title poem, in which an elderly man is seen cutting a sandwich in half and serving one half to his aging wife. Others are about ordinary life events such as a car pulling to the side of the road and the couple in the car changing places. The book also includes a longer narrative in which the author reflects on a house where he and his wife first lived, upon learning of a murder that was committed there after they moved out.

I like Ted Kooser’s poetry because it tells a story in a manner that is straightforward and not abstract. I was fortunate several years ago to attend a writers’ conference at which he was the keynote speaker. One point he made was that a poem’s title can be used to set the scene.

This is exactly what he does with his own poems. The title tells the reader either the location of the story in the poem or what action takes place. The poem is thus written around the title.

Take, for example, “At Arby’s, at Noon.” He starts by describing a typical lunch hour in a fast food restaurant. Then, he paints a picture of a woman who is blind kissing a man with a disfigured face while life goes on around them.

For this reason, I highly recommend Ted Kooser’s work. Even if you don’t like poetry, I think you’ll appreciate the way he weaves words into stories about ordinary and not-so-ordinary events.

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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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Where’s Your Happy Place?

Believe it or not, even though I live in Sheridan, Wyoming, my happy place is a beach in Jupiter, Florida, where my brother and I often go when I visit him. I sometimes swim but am mostly content to walk alongside the ocean and feel cool waves wash over my feet, cleansing them of the tension from which I’m retreating. I also enjoy sitting in a lawn chair with a picnic lunch or lying on a blanket. Once when I got sick during my visit, my brother and his family encouraged me to accompany them to the beach. I went, against my better judgement, and to my surprise, the ocean breeze and the roar of the waves plus the occasional cry of seagulls made me feel better.

I recently red an article entitled “5 Ways to Re-Start a Bad Day.” One suggestion given here is to think of your happy place. This could be a place where you went as a child with happy memories associated with it. It could be a place where you’ve never been but would like to go. It could even be a made-up place. Now that summer is waning and fall is approaching, I want you to think of your happy place and tell me about it.

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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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