Letter to Mother Nature

Abbie-1

Thanks to Alice Massa for inspiring this post.

***

Dear Mother Nature,

 

Since the week before Thanksgiving, all we’ve seen, here in Wyoming, is snow, snow, and more snow and bitter, bitter cold. At first, it was great. It got me in the mood to work on seasonal music for my performances and write Christmas letters and holiday blog posts.

Then, it got old fast. This year, thanks to you, Sheridan had a white Christmas, with ten inches of snow dumped on us and plenty of wind. For me and others not traveling out of town, it was okay. For those needing to get home the day after Christmas, it was not so good, as road closures abounded.

The snow and freezing temperatures continued after the holidays with no sign of warmer weather. Two days after the first of the year, as I was flying to Florida, it was so cold the pilot had to rev the engines several times to warm them, and I couldn’t help wondering if the plane would get off the ground.

Of course it did, and Florida provided a welcome respite from your brutality, with plenty of sunshine and 70-degree days most of the time. When I ended up spending the night in Denver on my way home because of a flight delay, I was pleasantly surprised to find no snow on the ground. I hoped you were showing our neck of the woods the same courtesy, but that hope was dashed the next day, as my plane approached Sheridan, and you created a great deal of turbulence. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my breakfast. Soon after my homecoming, you gave Sheridan another eleven inches of snow.

I don’t know why they call you Mother Nature. You’re definitely not my mother. My mother would never have made it almost impossible for me to walk anywhere by depositing a multitude of snow and ice on the ground and not letting it melt before dropping more. She would never have frozen me to the core with sub-zero temperatures, then mocked me with sunshine that gave the impression it was warmer.

Why couldn’t you have given us the same treatment as Denver, warm winds and sixty-degree temperatures? I know Wyoming isn’t the only state you’re bullying, but places like California are still in drought, yet you ignore them and give the rest of us moisture we no longer need. I’ve just about had it with you.

 

Signed,

Frozen in Wyoming

***

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.

 

Review: Rushing Waters

 

Abbie-1

Rushing Waters

by Danielle Steel

Copyright 2016.

 

Fictional Hurricane Ophelia, worse than Sandy, hits New York. Starting in the fall, when the hurricane hits, and ending around Christmas, this book details the lives of several people affected by flooding as a result of the storm. Characters include an interior designer from London visiting her mother in New York, a hospital emergency room doctor, two college students, and others. Some of their paths cross, but most have separate stories of loss and re-building after the storm.

I love this author’s work, but I’m starting to notice an undesirable pattern. If you’re a writer, you’re probably familiar with the concept of showing versus telling. Showing is using dialog and action to tell the story. Telling involves narrative. I’m sure this is prevalent in many of Danielle Steel’s books, but I think there are times when she does way too much telling. I know she’s a best-selling author, but in my years of writing, I’ve come to believe that showing is more effective. Nevertheless, her stories are so compelling that they’re worth wading through the narrative.

I was only too happy to snuggle in my recliner, safe and secure, while reading about characters dealing with no electricity, a supposedly crumbling apartment building, and high water. The recording of this book I downloaded from Audible was great, narrated by Dan John Miller, the same person who read Hotel Vendome. This book made me thankful that I live in a place like Wyoming, which doesn’t have hurricanes.

Hurricane Sandy struck New York at about the same time as my husband Bill passed away, in October of 2012. While those affected were dealing with the loss of loved ones and property, I was dealing with grief of my own that was not caused by a natural disaster. You can read more about this in my new memoir.

***

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.

 

Little Apartment in the Big City

Thanks to Ella for inspiring this. In her post, she talks about moving to a different location and starting a job in a place where she knows no one and has to prove herself. This is daunting for anyone but can be complicated by a disability. In what I’m about to relate, some names have been changed to protect privacy.

In 1987, Fargo, North Dakota, was large compared to my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. A music therapy student, I was accepted for an internship in a nursing home there. Although I was anxious to be on my own in a new place, I felt some trepidation, as my parents and I drove into the town late one Sunday night in August after being on the road for twelve hours. I was comforted by the fact that my parents would stay with me until I found a place to live and got settled and that my internship wouldn’t start until the middle of September.

We found a motel near the freeway where we spent the night. The next morning, Dad bought a local paper and a city map. He scoured the classified ad section for apartments. After making phone calls and arranging to see a few that he found, we checked out of the motel and ate breakfast before beginning our home hunting adventure.

Because of my visual impairment, it was important to find a place within easy walking distance to the nursing home where I would work for the next six months. We had no luck. The apartments were either not affordable, too small, or didn’t meet my needs for other reasons.

A few hours later, discouraged, we were driving aimlessly, looking for a place to eat lunch when Mother said, “Oh look, there’s a senior citizen high rise like the ones in Sheridan.”

“It’s a little too far for her to walk to the nursing home,” said Dad.

“They probably have a minibus like the one in Sheridan that could take her,” said Mother. “They could also take her to the grocery store.”

“She doesn’t want to live with old folks,” said Dad, as he pulled into the parking lot.

I was thinking the same thing but said nothing. As we walked into the lobby, Mother said, “There’s a bulletin board, and it says which apartments are empty. It looks like there are several.”

In the office, we spoke to the manager. “You really don’t want to live with old folks, do you?” he asked.

Were my thoughts being broadcast to the world? “She’ll be working at Red River Care Center,” said Mother. “It’s a little far for her to walk so maybe your minibus could take her.”

“Our van only takes people shopping and to medical appointments,” said the manager. “Besides, this facility only serves senior citizens.” I was relieved, but where would I live?

After lunch at a nearby McDonald’s, we found several other apartment buildings that weren’t designated for senior citizens, but none of them had vacancies. “What about downtown?” asked Dad. “You could take the bus to the Red River Care Center.”

“Yeah, why didn’t I think of that?” I said, feeling hopeful. “When I went to that stupid rehab center in Topeka several years ago, I learned how to take buses.”

“I don’t know,” said Mother. “You might have to change buses and…”

“Maybe not,” said Dad. “If you get an apartment downtown close to the transfer point, then you’d just have to take one bus. Let’s go take a look.”

We found the city bus transfer station which was right next to the greyhound terminal. “Now you know where to go to catch the bus home for Christmas,” said Mother, as we parked in the lot between the two bus stations.

The holiday season was farthest from my mind, as we entered the city bus center. To my surprise, the gentleman behind the counter was very helpful. When we told him I was looking for a place to live downtown in the hope of having easy access to work, he said, “Oh yeah, if you live close to here, you’ll just take one bus to the Red River Care Center. In fact, there’s a building a few blocks away that might have an opening. It’s an old hotel that was converted into apartments. It’s called Grant Street Place.”

We found a pay phone, and after locating the apartment building’s address and phone number, Dad called and made an appointment for the next day. We then found another motel room.

The next morning at 9 a.m., we arrived at Grant Street Apartments, a six-story structure located on a busy downtown thoroughfare. In the lobby, a woman greeted us and introduced herself as Becky, one of two managers. “We have a lot of young people here,” she said. “There are also quite a few older people. We all look out for each other.”

The two vacant apartments were an efficiency and a one-bedroom. I liked them both, but the efficiency only had a couch that folded into a bed, and I didn’t want to mess with that. Since the rent on both apartments was about the same, I chose the one-bedroom.

The rooms were small but usable. There was a combination living and dining room with a kitchenette, a full bathroom on one side, and a bedroom on the other. The kitchenette had a sink, microwave, two-burner stove, and small refrigerator with freezer under the counter. The main room and bedroom had light gray carpeting, and the bathroom had a white-tiled floor. The apartment overlooked an alley so although there wasn’t much of a view, there wasn’t much street noise, either. It was simply furnished with an armchair, end table, and dining table with lamp in the main room and in the bedroom a double bed, small table, and wardrobe.

My apartment was on the fourth floor, and the basement contained a huge laundry room. All the machines were coin-operated, and I could use them easily despite my limited vision. The basement also had a beauty shop which I frequented several times during my stay.

The building had two elevators: one in the back that tenants could use independently and one in the front that was the old-fashioned kind operated by Andy, a fellow who also picked up our garbage three days a week if we remembered to leave it outside our doors. Mailboxes were located inside the rear entrance near the self-service elevator.

The next few days were a blur of activity, as we got settled in my new home. The first order of business was to get a phone. Once that was working, Mother arranged for a cleaning service to come every other week while I was at work. Dad set up an account with a local taxi company. My parents paid for both these amenities. Since utilities and cable television were included in the rent, the only expenses I had to worry about were the phone and groceries.

We found Leeby’s, a small grocery store a few blocks away, and a supermarket called Hornbacker’s, easily accessible by bus. Buses ran every hour during the week and every two hours on weekends.

My parents stayed in the apartment with me, Mother and me sleeping in the bedroom, and Dad sleeping on the floor in the main room. On Friday night, they left on their long drive back to Sheridan. Once they were gone, I was truly on my own, but I was excited.

Before I left Wyoming, I was given the phone number for the North Dakota commission for the blind in Grand Forks. I called them, and a mobility instructor came and helped me with some routes my parents and I worked out. She also gave me phone numbers for a couple of people involved in blind bowling groups in the area. I phoned them and enjoyed bowling twice a month, and I met some nice people. This was one of few good things about that city.

At first, I rarely used the taxi. It was easy to take the bus to and from the nursing home where I worked 40-hour weeks. On Saturdays, I took the bus to Hornbacker’s and did my weekly shopping. Since I didn’t have to be at work until eleven on Wednesday, I often walked to Leeby’s early that morning if I needed a few things.

Life in my little apartment wasn’t always a bed of roses. Although the building was well maintained, and most of the neighbors I met were nice, the people above me often played loud music and had parties. I called the security officer late at night when it happened and complained to the manager, and the noise subsided for a while but started back up again.

The management had a contract with an exterminator who came every six months. Because of his process of ridding the building of rodents, all cupboards, closets, and drawers had to be emptied. The night before he was scheduled to come, I took clothes, dishes, and other items out of my drawers, cupboards, and wardrobe and laid them on every available surface except the bed. When I came home from work the next day, I put everything back. This was time consuming, and because I never saw one rat, mouse, or termite, I didn’t think it necessary. For the first time, I considered not staying in Fargo after my internship ended.

Late one night, the fire alarm rang, and as we gathered in the lobby, there appeared to be no security personnel or managers in sight. The fire department arrived and found nothing so we returned to our apartments.

Winter came and with it, extreme cold, twenty-foot snowdrifts and freezing rain. One morning during a particularly bad storm, my supervisor called and told me I didn’t need to go to work. I was relieved since the local radio announcer advised against unnecessary travel, and I wasn’t sure if I could get a cab. It was nice having a snow day. After that, I used the taxi more frequently, but since Dad often talked of walking to and from school in such conditions as a kid, I wasn’t sure how he would take the higher cab bills. I needn’t have worried.

In December, I was given two weeks off for Christmas and went home. In January, my parents drove me back to Fargo. On the morning I was to return to work and they to Sheridan, it was 40 below zero. Dad went out to start the car, returning a few minutes later to say, “Dead as a doornail.”

My parents planned to drop me off at the nursing home on their way out of town. Instead, we walked to the nearby terminal and caught the bus just in time. “God damn, it’s cold,” said Dad, as we slogged through the snow from the bus stop to the nursing home. “How the hell do you do this?”

“You’ll see when you get the next taxi bill,” I said.

Several hours later after the car was fixed, they stopped by the nursing home to say goodbye before leaving town. “Don’t worry about the cab bill,” said Dad. “It’s too cold for walking.” I was relieved.

One day, my supervisor said, “I don’t think this internship is working out.”

This was a shock since I thought things were going well, though I had difficulty keeping up with the paperwork, and it took me longer to complete other tasks. I was tempted to tell her that I didn’t like her cold city and would be only too glad to go home, but I wasn’t a quitter. When times were tough, Dad always told me not to let bastards get me down. Close to tears, I said, “I’m sorry you’re not happy with my progress so far, but if you’ll give me another chance, I’ll try harder and hope to do better.”

She gave me a second chance, but I could tell she didn’t think it would work out, and it didn’t. For the next three months, I did my best, but it seemed that almost everyone including my supervisor was against me. Others in our department were cold and came down on me for minor infractions, and one or two nurses snapped at me. The only things that kept me from giving up were the residents, who appreciated my music activities, and the love and support of my parents. My little apartment downtown became a place to which I was glad to retreat at the end of the day and a refuge I hated leaving in the morning.

The staff at the nursing home weren’t the only ones with frozen hearts. Because I was only getting so much from Social Security per month and no salary from my internship, it was hard making ends meet at times. One day when I tried to cash a check Mother sent me, the bank teller said, “There isn’t enough in your account to cover this so I can’t do it.”

At the bank in Sheridan, the employees knew me. This would never have happened. I was relieved when the manager at Leeby’s agreed to cash the check.

In March, the six months of my internship were up. My overall grade was a D. I was anxious to get home, but one of the nurses who supported me asked me to sing for her wedding in April. The day after the nuptials, I was on the bus to Sheridan.

In May when the lease on my apartment was up, Dad and I returned. By then, even the apartment manager’s heart appeared frozen, although the weather was warm. “You didn’t vacuum,” she said when she inspected my apartment. “We won’t return part of your deposit for that.” Dad and I loaded all my earthly possessions into his station wagon, drove away, and never looked back.

It was a depressing six months, and perhaps I should have felt defeated, as we left town, but I did not. I took Dad’s advice and didn’t let those North Dakota bastards get me down. Despite the D grade I received in my internship, I became a registered music therapist. Six months after I moved back to Sheridan, I found a job in a nursing home where I worked for fifteen years. In the earlier part of this century, I met my late husband Bill through a magazine. The rest of the story is in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

 

What do you remember about your first time on your own after college? Tell me about it in the comments field.

***

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.

 

Heat Wave

It’s hot all over the country. Even in Wyoming, temperatures are climbing into the triple digits. I recently read in the newspaper that they’re predicted to be above normal for the next few months.

I’m reminded of the summer of 2012, one of the hottest on record, my husband Bill’s last year. A conversation I had with my homemaker during that time inspired me to write the following poem. I posted it here a couple of years ago, but I think it’s worth re-visiting. Click this link to hear me read it.

***

TERESA’S FORCAST

 

“It’s going to be hot forever,”

she says on a sweltering July day.

“seventy-six degrees in San Diego,

a hundred and six here. Maybe by Thanksgiving,

you’ll be able to cook your turkey indoors,

but the climate’s getting warmer.”

 

“Not in Wyoming–She’s full of it,” I tell myself.

“Take what she says with a grain of salt.”

 

As she leaves, she says,

“It’s a hundred degrees. Don’t go out.”

 

“You probably shouldn’t be out, either,” I say.

“Why don’t you stay?”

She snickers–the kitchen door slams.

***

This conversation is outlined in my new memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. It’s now available in print and Kindle through Createspace and Amazon and in various eBook formats from Smashwords. You’ll find links to where you can order from these sources at the book’s page on my site. I recommend curling up under a ceiling fan or in front of your air conditioner with this book.

***

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

 

Review: The Dance House

Note: I’ve decided to review books as I read them instead of doing them all at once. This will make my life easier, and the additional posts might attract more readers.

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The Dance House: Stories from Rosebud

by Joseph Marshall III

Copyright 1998

 

Since Joseph Marshall was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Wyoming Writers conference, I decided to read one of his books. The Dance House contains short stories and essays about Indian life. The stories take place during the earlier part of the 20th century. In “Oliver’s Silver Dollar,” a young Lakota Sioux, speaking little English, is sent to a mental institution where he stays for thirty years because of a misunderstanding over one word. In “1965 Continental,” a white sheriff persecutes an Indian man because he believes he stole a fancy car. Other tales are about Native Americans surviving blizzards, dealing with whites who discriminate against them, and sharing wisdom and traditions with their grandchildren. The title story deals with the aftermath of a law allowing white men to claim Indian land. This collection also contains essays about Indians’ heritage, culture, and dealings with white oppressors.

The stories in this book took me back to times and places I hadn’t explored much since I was a teen’-ager in Mrs. Wright’s English class at Sheridan High School in Wyoming. If she were still teaching, I’m sure she would assign this book to her students. We all should read books like this to understand how we, as a nation, did a disservice to Native Americans by forcing them onto reservations, placing their children in government-run boarding schools, and commandeering their land. Remember that Indians were here before any of the first settlers came to this country in the 1600’s.

***

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

 

 

A Winter Poem Revisited

I posted this in July of 2012, but since it’s Groundhog Day, and I don’t have any more brilliant ideas, I decided this poem was worth a second look. It was published in Emerging Voices in 2012, and I’ve made some revisions since then. You can read the original here. It’s not as cold now as when I first wrote the poem so I look back on that day with gratitude. Click this link to hear me read it.

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FIVE WAYS OF LOOKING AT COLD

 

1.

 

At a quarter to nine in the morning, it’s seventeen below.

Waiting for a ride, I stand inside the kitchen door.

Sunlight shimmers on frosted glass.

I rub with gloved hand but make no dent,

hear the car pull into the driveway—

its tires crunch on frozen snow.

 

2.

 

“I don’t have the heat on yet,”

she says when I get in the car.

“It needs to warm up first.”

I don’t complain–

walking would be a lot worse.

In the YMCA locker room, my nose runs.

 

3.

 

Water exercise class in progress,

“North to Alaska” plays on the stereo.

Why would I want to go there? I’m cold enough—

as water’s warmth surrounds me,

I move across the pool–

my mind unfreezes, opens.

 

4.

 

Driving home isn’t so bad.

The car has absorbed the winter sun’s warmth.

When I get home, the temperature is four degrees above.

 

5.

 

The groundhog did not see his shadow today.

Will there be an early spring?

The late afternoon temperature has risen to twelve above,

feels like twelve below.

***

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome

Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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