News from Abbie’s Corner April 2017

March has been a pretty quiet month. On the 2nd, I had an opportunity to hear pianist Andre Bohren at the Wyo Theater. On the 4th, I planned to attend a performance of Swan Lake at Sheridan College’s Whitney Center for the Arts, but I got a bad cold and decided to stay home. I’d already purchased a ticket but was able to give it to a friend who enjoyed the performance.

On the 18th, my singing group, Just Harmony, performed at an event at the local Methodist church they called a spudtacular. For dinner, there were baked potatoes with a variety of toppings plus salads and ice cream for dessert. We were the first to sing, followed by a group of kids who sang Irish songs, accompanying themselves on flute, guitar, and drum.

Besides a reading by former state poet laureate Rose Hill, a dear friend and church member, the event included a drawing for door prizes. I ended up with a mug that says, “Chocolate, always the answer.” So what’s the question? I guess it’s chocolate.

I gave two solo performances this month: on the 24th at Greenhouse and on the 28th at Westview. I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge for a birthday social on April 7th and Westview again on the 25th.

Since April is National Poetry Month, my Third Thursday Poets will give a reading on the 20th. We’re in the process of producing a chapbook to benefit the senior center, and this will be launched during our event. On April 29th, I’ll attend a poetry workshop in Buffalo, Wyoming, about thirty miles south of Sheridan, sponsored by WyoPoets.

Since we had a lot of rain in March, I was inspired to sing a medley of songs about rain at my solo performances. I’ll sing it again for you.

I’m using a different platform to post my audio files. If you have trouble with the player, please let me know in the comments field, and I’ll paste a link there that should work. If enough people have trouble with the player, I can use the link instead, so please don’t be afraid to share your thoughts on this subject or any other for that matter. Happy spring.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Circus in the Bedroom

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

Poem Speaks Out Against Trump

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I usually don’t get political here, but when someone in my Third Thursday Poets group suggested we each write a poem about the meaning of January 20th for critique at our last session, I couldn’t resist. Click on the title below to hear me read what I wrote. You’re welcome to comment, whether you agree or not, but if you don’t like what you read or hear, I hope we can simply agree to disagree.

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INAUGURATION DAY

 

 

Today, our country turns over a new leaf.

A different leader takes the Oath of Office.

A billionaire, racist, bigot

with no grasp of foreign policy,

little respect for women or minorities

or concern for impoverished Americans,

the economy, environment,

he won the Presidency, not by popular vote

in an election possibly rigged by Russians.

What will become of America?

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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.

 

 

 

News from Abbie’s Corner December 2016

Abbie-1

As you read this, I’m flying the so-called friendly skies to Florida where I’ll spend about a week with my brother and his family before returning on January 9th. December was a busy month, as you would expect for a holiday season.

The whirlwind actually started the night after Thanksgiving when Just Harmony, my singing group, was one of many entertainers during the Christmas stroll in downtown Sheridan. We sang at a thrift store run by the local senior center called The Green Boomerang.

A week later on December 3rd, we performed for a Christmas open house at the Trail End Museum here in Sheridan. After that, our appearances came in quick succession: a memory service at Champion’s Funeral Home, an AARP Christmas party at a local senior apartment complex, a Big Horn Women’s Club Christmas party, and a Sunday morning service at Prairie Dog Community Church. We also sang at Green House and Sugarland Ridge.

I did some performing of my own with my guitar. The Monday after Thanksgiving, I did a poetry reading and sang for a cider social at Sugarland Ridge. The Tuesday after that, I sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview. The following week, I performed at Sheridan Manor, the week after that at Green House, and on the 22nd at the senior center’s adult day care facility.

On the 21st, I planned to participate in an open mic program at the senior center, but I was the only one signed up, so I played my guitar and sang for about half an hour while people played cards and chatted. The activities director asked me to come back any time.

I also went to a couple of Christmas parties. December 8th was our Friendship Club Christmas party at Ole’s Pizza and Spaghetti House. We ordered lunch off the menu, exchanged ornaments, and played Christmas bingo. On the 10th, Range Writers had its Christmas party at The Country Kitchen. Again, we ordered off the menu, and we exchanged gifts and each read something to the group.

Here in Sheridan, we definitely had a white Christmas. We already had quite a bit of snow on the ground. When I got up about eight o’clock Christmas morning, it was cloudy, but contrary to the weather prediction, it didn’t look like we’d received any new snow overnight. By eleven o’clock however, as I was waiting inside the kitchen door for the para-transit bus that would take me to the senior center for Christmas dinner, it was coming down. Actually, I think it was blowing more than it was snowing.

Despite the inclement weather, the senior center’s dining room was crowded. The delicious meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes, asparagus, fruit, and custard was paid for by a local philanthropist. Someone played Christmas songs on the piano while everyone ate. I ended up eating and visiting with people I knew.

Afterward, as the bus made its way through the storm, windshield wipers at full speed, I wondered if it would have been safer to eat Christmas dinner at home alone. I had a mini beef pot roast from Schwann I could have cooked in the microwave along with some frozen mashed potatoes and green beans, but although it would have tasted good, it wouldn’t have been the same. Once I arrived home safely, I was glad I went.

Aside from my trip to Florida and my usual appearance at Westview’s monthly birthday party, I have no other plans for January. Just Harmony will start practicing music for programs in the winter and spring months. I have a completed full-length poetry manuscript I recently submitted to the National Federation of State Poetry Society’s Stevens Manuscript Competition, and I may send it out to other publishers and then resume work on the short story collection I started last summer, Welcome to Wyoming.

Here’s a song we associate with the coming of a new year. I wish you all a great 2017 and will have more news in February.

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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.

A Poem Rings True

Abbie-1

I wrote the following last night in light of events during the past week. It was inspired by the song, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Click on the title to hear me read it.

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NOTHING RINGING

 

I heard no bells on Christmas Day,

no familiar carol,

no song of peace on Earth,

only bad news:

 

war raging in the Middle East,

a sea plane crash in Russia,

a friend’s canine companion passing,

another friend’s mother diagnosed with breast cancer,

a third’s mother hospitalized with dehydration,

actress Carrie Fisher dead from a heart attack.

 

There may be no peace on earth,

no good will to men,

but hope still lives.

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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.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner November 2016

Abbie-1

Wow, can you believe it? Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away. Time flies when you’re having fun, doesn’t it? Well, October was a pretty busy month.

On the 8th, I participated in a national event for independent authors at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. Many libraries across the country hosted this program which was open to the public. After a light lunch of sandwiches, vegetables with dip, and soft drinks, we watched a digital presentation featuring leaders in the publishing industry giving advice to authors wanting to self-publish. After that, several authors, myself included, participated in a panel discussion where we shared our experiences. We then sat at a table and tried to sell books for about half an hour. Although I didn’t make any sales that day, I enjoyed networking with other writers.

On October 20th, my Third Thursday Poets gave a reading at the Sheridan Senior Center. We do this twice a year, once in October and once in April, to commemorate National Poetry Day and Month respectively. October’s National Poetry Day is actually on the 15th, the same as White Cane Safety Day. You can read more about that here, but I digress.

At our reading, several poets, myself included, shared work. Some read poems by other authors. I performed a poem I featured in an earlier blog post, much to everyone’s delight. The poem involved stomping my feet, and afterward, someone complimented me on its percussiveness.

You’ve probably heard the song “Sing for Your Supper.” Well, I played my guitar and sang for the monthly birthday party at Westview on the 25th and got free cake. On the 23rd, I played the piano and sang at a friend’s party in the dining room of a senior apartment complex and got a free meal, a potluck affair to which I contributed homemade pasta salad, so it wasn’t exactly free. I also performed at Green House on the 4th and Day Break on the 28th but no free food there. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge and Westview. My appearance at Sugarland Ridge will feature a reading as well as music.

This past month, I had a rare opportunity to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra live in concert, here in Sheridan, Wyoming, of all places. Although their music was way before my time, my father loved jazz, and hearing the big band brought back pleasant memories of the two of us enjoying this music together when he was alive. I also reflected on the lives of my late parents and husband growing up during World War II with songs like “White Cliffs of Dover” and “American Patrol.” This inspired an earlier blog post.

Well, that’s the news for now. I wish I could come up with something witty like what Garrison Keillor says at the end of his Lake Woebegone monologues, but oh well… Such is life. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and will be back in December with more news.

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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.