In Praise of Cats

The first poem I ever read by Marge Piercy is “In Praise of Joe” which can be read here. This poem, about her addiction to coffee, inspired me to write “Ode to Dr. Pepper” which I posted on my blog here. In case you’re wondering what Dr. Pepper and coffee have to do with cats, I just finished reading Marge Piercy’s 2002 memoir, Sleeping with Cats. You can read my review of this book here.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

A Million Kisses

On this day in 2006, three months after we were married, my husband Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side.  In the evening when I returned home after performing with my singing group, he was lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, with a chair on top of him. This was a night that changed our lives forever. To read more, click here.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Famous Firsts

Thanks to DB Corey in Writing Wranglers and Warriors for inspiring this post. There’s a first time for everything, and we all remember the first time we did this or that. As parents, we remember our kids’ first steps, first words, first day of school, the first time we let them drive the car solo. As adults, we remember our first love, first apartment, first job interview.

According to my mother, my first word was “ash tray.” My parents smoked so go figure. When Dad got his first computer in the 1980’s while I was in college, the first word my younger brother typed on it was “half-assed.” My first apartment was a ground floor unit in an old house with a Mickey Mouse kitchen and bathroom, expansive living and dining rooms, a front and back door, and no laundry facilities.

My first and only love was my late husband Bill. He was totally blind, and three months after we were married, he suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I remember how proud he was when my first book was published. “Let me see it,” he said when copies arrived in the mail.

I placed one in his lap and described the cover, as he fingered it lovingly and smiled. At my first book signing, he was by my side, sitting in his wheelchair with a shit-eating grin. At times, he put his arm around me and rubbed my shoulders. He didn’t care that we were in public. All that mattered to him was that his wife was a published author. I hope he’s smiling down on me from wherever he is, as I continue to write, publish, and sign books.

What firsts do you remember? Please feel free to share them below.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Goals and Affirmations

Last Saturday in my Range Writers monthly meeting, we talked about setting goals and affirmations instead of making New Year’s resolutions. The difference is that a resolution is vague, i.e. I will lose weight. A goal is more specific. For example, you can set a goal to clean out your garage by the end of the month. During our meeting, we each wrote down several goals we want to accomplish during the year. Here’s my list.

  1. In November, I participated in the poem-a-day chapbook challenge on Robert Lee Brewer’s Poetic Asides Blog. My chapbook has been assembled, and I already sent it to one publisher. I plan to send it it to as many others as possible by the end of the month.
  2. I’ve also put together a collection of short stories and will have it ready to submit for publication by the end of February.
  3. I’ll send my collection of short stories to as many publishers as possible by the end of March.
  4. I will have written another poetry chapbook by the end of April. I say this because Robert Lee Brewer will have another poem-a-day challenge on his Poetic Asides blog in April, and I will participate in that.
  5. I’ll revise and send my second poetry chapbook to as many publishers as possible by the end of June.

I’ve set other weekly and monthly goals. I’ll post to my blog at least once a week and keep up with other blogs I follow on a regular basis. I’ll write one poem at least once a week. I say this because Robert Lee Brewer posts a poetry prompt every Wednesday on his Poetic Asides Blog so that will give me the inspiration I need. I’ll also try to write at least one short story a month. I also write for a blog called Writing Wraanglers and Warriors, and I’ll post to that once or twice a month as needed.

During the Range Writers meeting after determining our goals, we wrote at least one affirmation. An affirmation is a positive statement pertaiing to a goal. For example, if you set a goal to clean out your garage by the end of the month, one affirmation might be that it would be nice to drive your car into the garage without hitting anything. For my goal of sending my poetry chapbook to as many publishers as possible by the end of the month, my affirmation is that I love the way my chapbook is put together, how the poems seem to flow from one to the next, yet vary in subject matter.

Now it’s your turn. See if you can come up with a list of goals you want to accomplish for the year. Be specific. Set a time frame for each goal as I did above. Then, see if you can come up with an affirmation for each goal. These goals don’t have to be written in stone. If you don’t accomplish what you set out to do by the deadline, it’s no big deal. You can always change them. Please feel free to share your goals and affirmations in the comment box below. I hope you all have a prosperous new year in which all your goals are accomplished.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

No Place Like Home

The Wizard of Oz has always been one of my favorite stories. I’ve read the book at least twice and seen the movie countless times. I recently read the book a third time, and it was just as intriguing.  Besides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum wrote 13 novel sequels, 9 other fantasy novels, and countless other books. He also wrote 83 short stories, over 200 poems, countless scripts, and many miscellaneous pieces. He made numerous attempts to bring his work to the stage and screen. You can read my Writing Wranglers and Warriors post on Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz here.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Winter Travels

Greetings from Jupiter, Florida, where it’s the day before New Year’s Eve. I would have posted here last week, but I picked up a nasty stomach virus late Monday night which kept me in bed for several days. So much for Christmas in the tropics,but such is life. At least I got to open a few presents.

 

I normally post here on Tuesdays, but tomorrow, I’ll be returning home to Sheridan, Wyoming, and there’ll be plenty of unpacking and settling in to do once I get there so I’m deviating from my usual schedule. Since there’s no snow here in Florida, getting to the airport in Fort Lauderdale shouldn’t be a problem, but once I get to Billings, Montana, I can only hope the roads will be clear so my driver can deliver me safely to my door. As I think about this, I look back on a particular winter night from my childhood.

In the 1970’s when I was in high school, my family was driving home to Sheridan, Wyoming, one Thanksgiving after spending the holiday with relatives in Colorado. We had just left Medicine Bow when we ran into a blizzard on Shirley Basin. With nothing for miles around but white, my parents argued over whether to turn around and go back to Medicine Bow or plow ahead. “I don’t think there’ll be a place to stay in Medicine Bow,” said Mother.

“There are people in Medicine Bow,” said Dad. “There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

“All right, why don’t I drive,” said Mother. Without a word, Dad pulled the car to the side of the road, and my parents quickly changed positions. Mother drove slowly and carefully the rest of the way to Casper while Dad found a flask in the glove compartment and emptied its contents in record time.

Years later, this experience was the basis for a short story, “Gloves,” which will be included in a collection I hope to publish next year. The story is on my Website, and I’ll paste it below. It was first published in the 2008 issue of Emerging Voices, a literary magazine produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff. May you all have safe travels this winter.

GLOVES

The snow fell in a wall of white that obscured her view of the road and the darkening sky. “Why didn’t I stay where I was?” she asked herself as she drove at a snail’s pace along the Shirley Basin Road that wound its way from Medicine Bow to Casper, Wyoming.

As the car’s interior grew colder, she fiddled with the heater knob, but nothing happened. “Dammit!  No heat!”

She pulled to the side of the road, ignoring the sliding noise the tires made. She searched for her gloves, but they weren’t in her coat pockets or her purse.  “I must have left them at the convenience store in Medicine Bow.”
After taking several deep breaths and warming her hands in her pockets, she said, “I should go back. There are people in Medicine Bow. There is warmth in Medicine Bow.”

The engine whined, and the tires skidded on the ice under the newly fallen snow. In a frantic effort to free herself, she gunned the engine and rocked the car back and forth. The motor continued to whine as the tires slipped deeper into the drift. After a few more minutes of struggling, she switched off the engine and stuffed her cold hands into her pockets.

Close to tears, she said, “Here I am, stuck in a snowstorm on a deserted road with no heater, no gloves, no cell phone, and no food. Who knows how long it’ll be before help arrives?  Why didn’t I at least get something to munch on at the convenience store? What am I to do now?”

The night was silent except for the wind and the sound of snow pelting the car. Shivering, she zipped her winter coat as high as it would go. After tightening the hood around her face, she wriggled her toes inside her boots. With a sigh of resignation, she buried her hands deeper in her coat pockets and settled herself more comfortably.

“It doesn’t matter. What do I have to live for? If God exists, and this is his way of punishing me for running away, so be it. She closed her eyes and let herself drift, though she knew this was dangerous.

The sound of a car engine woke her. She turned and gasped in horror when she recognized the angry face outside her window. “Oh my god, it can’t be! He couldn’t have known where I was going.”

Since she had no relatives in Wyoming, the chance of him finding her were slim, but there he was, standing outside her frosted window, glaring at her. The exhaust rising from his idling car made an eerie specter in the freezing air.

His knuckles rapped against the pane with several sharp thuds. Her panic rising, she turned the key in the ignition and pushed the button to automatically lock all doors. Her heart sank when he removed the spare key from his pocket and unlocked the driver’s door. He yanked her out into the freezing cold, slammed the door, and pinned her against it before delivering a hard blow to her cheek.

“How did you find me?” she asked, holding up her hands to protect herself.

“I followed your tracks,” he said, as he struck her a second time. “I found these on the counter at the Super America in Medicine Bow.” He removed her gloves from his pocket and tossed them into the snow.

“You never did have much common sense,” he said as he hit her a third time, “so I figured you’d be stranded out here somewhere.”

When she bent to retrieve the gloves, he delivered a sharp kick to her backside, sending her sprawling in the snow. As anger rose within her, she bent her knee and kicked as hard as she could. Her effort was rewarded when her foot struck something solid, and he yelped in pain.

She jumped to her feet. Putting on her gloves, she glared at him as he lay writhing in the snow and clutching his crotch. She flung herself on top of him and knocked him flat on his back. With her gloved fists, she pummeled his face.

“Now, you’re getting a taste of your own medicine!” she yelled.

As she continuously struck his face, she wasn’t surprised to smell booze on his breath. She picked up his head and slammed it against the ground a few times, thinking it was odd he didn’t move or try to defend himself. She looked at his inert body in the snow before getting to her feet and removing his wallet from his coat pocket. It was no longer snowing, and a bright moon shone through the clouds. She got into his warm car and drove away, never looking back, only looking forward.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Another Perfect Day

Since I’m in the midst of finishing projects and getting ready for my trip to Florida, this is a re-run. I reviewed Richard Paul Evans’ book, A Perfect Day, in February of last year, but I think it’s a good book to read during this holiday season. I hope you enjoy the review and the book.

A Perfect Day

I just finished reading a book by this title by Richard Paul Evans. It was published in 2003 and made into a television movie in 2006. I never saw the movie, but as I read the book’s prolog in which the main character describes a scene outside his hotel room window in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah: a heavy snowfall, a car slip sliding up Main Street, I imagined Susan Boyle singing “Perfect Day,” as credits rolled across the screen. By the way, you can watch a video of Susan Boyle singing this song here.

A Perfect Day is a heartwarming tale of love and forgiveness. After losing his job at a radio station where he’s been working for eight years, Robert decides to pursue his dream of becoming a writer. His first book, also called A Perfect Day, is based on his wife Allyson’s story of the last few months she spent with her father before he died of cancer. The book becomes a best seller, even making the top of the New York Times list, but the life of a best-selling author, the traveling, interviews, book signings, meeting other women, all negatively affect his relationship with Allyson and their little girl Carson.

One day, Robert is approached by a stranger in a Starbucks café in New York City. This stranger appears to know everything about Robert, even some things he never told Allyson. He even knows that Robert’s meeting with his publisher’s sales team later that day has been postponed before Robert receives this information. He gives Robert the impression that he’s an Angel and tells him he only has forty more days to live. At this point, I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish the book because this sounded so crazy, but I’m glad I did. After another turn of events, Robert ends up back in the hotel room in Salt Lake City where the story begins, but that’s not where it ends.

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 best-selling author of The Christmas Box and other books, each having appeared on the New York Times best seller list. He has sold more than 14 million copies of his books, and they have been translated into more than 25 languages. Several have been international best sellers. Besides A Perfect Day, three other books have been made into television movies. He received numerous awards for his books and his work with abused children. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife Keri and their five children. You can read more about him here.

A Perfect Day is available at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. You’ll find links on the author’s site to where the book can be ordered from these locations. It can also be downloaded in a specialized recorded format from the National Library Service’s Braille and audio reading download site. (BARD)

A Perfect Day touched me because it reminded me of losing my husband Bill. In the book, Allyson’s father asks her to come home for just one perfect day with him before he tells her he’s dying of cancer, and that’s what inspires Robert’s story. Bill and I did spend one perfect day together about a month before he died, not knowing we would be parted. He was living in the nursing home by this time, and I took him out to lunch at our favorite Italian restaurant where he ordered his favorite pizza, all meat, and enjoyed most of it. Even then, I didn’t realize he was deteriorating, and I didn’t believe I would lose him until his nurse told me he’d stopped eating, and it was time to think about end of life care. I’ll always cherish the memories of all the perfect days Bill and I had together.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver