On Top of the House

One day when I was eight, my dad took me up on the roof of our house. This was back in the 60’s when we lived in a house in Tucson Arizona. We had a swamp cooler on the roof, and it always broke down during the summer months. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver talks about that time on the roof, how everything seemed different from up there, and how Dad somehow managed to get the cooler going again.

On Top of The House

The cooler stands silent, inert,
dares Dad to fix it.
At the age of eight, I perch on one of the roof’s slopes,
gaze in wonder at the world below.
Mother calls from far away, yet close.
Where is she?

Dad hunches over the cooler.
“Turn it on,” he calls.
After a pause, it springs to life,
distributing cool air throughout the house’s interior.
It’s time to leave the top of the world.

Did you ever climb on the roof of your house when you were a kid? Tell me about it. Have you ever watched your dad repair something or try and fail to repair something? Please e-mail me or share your comments below.

By the way, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver is now available in print online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the publisher iUniverse. On my Website is a page containing information about the book, a sample poem, and links to where the book can be ordered on the sites I just mentioned.

Now, let’s take our reminiscing in a different direction. The house in Tucson I just mentioned had no chimney so Santa Claus came in through the front door on Christmas Eve. This was in the good old days before people locked their doors. What are your memories of Santa Claus? Here’s a song to get you thinking about it. This link will be available for at least a few days.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/up%20on%20the%20housetop.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net

Hemorrhage

On January 28th, 2006, I learned the meaning of this word. I’d heard the word before, but the damaging concept had never hit home until that fateful night when I walked into our house after performing with my group at a wine tasting event to find my husband lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, and barely coherent. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver details the events surrounding my husband’s first stroke and the hopelessness.

Hemorrhage

Barely coherent, drenched in sweat, he lay on the floor. “What happened?” I asked. His response was unintelligible.

“I don’t need to go to the hospital,” he told the paramedics. “but if my wife wants me to go, I guess I will.”

“The stroke was caused by bleeding on the right side of his brain,” said the doctor. “He may need surgery.”

“In this case, surgery won’t help,” another doctor told us. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“He’s not strong enough to participate in our rehabilitation program,” said the social worker. “He’ll have to go to a nursing home.”

“I don’t know how much you’ll recover or how long it will take,” a third doctor said. “Continue the therapy, and watch your blood pressure.”

“We’ll work on strengthening your legs and try to get you up and moving,” the therapist promised him.

“They’ve given up on me. I don’t think I’ll ever walk again.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor Author of
We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net

Aging

When we grow old, we often become dependent on others because we can no longer walk, talk, see, hear, or think clearly. A nursing home is not like a prison. There are no bars on the windows, no armed guards, but a nursing home is still an institution where everything is regimented. When you’re used to being in your own home where you can do the things you want when you want and eat food cooked to your specific liking, moving to such a facility can be a difficult adjustment, no matter how hard the staff tries to make residents feel at home. It sometimes feels like a prison sentence.

The following poem is from my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It talks about being sentenced to a life of dependence simply for growing old.

Aging

I sit on a bench outside the nursing home,
an ordinary red brick building with many windows.
Oaks and cottonwoods grace the lawn.
The fragrance of roses and newly mown grass permeate the air.
Birds sing. Cars whoosh by.
Through an open window,
an old woman talks to herself, laughs.
I think of others imprisoned by age,
unable to stand, walk, talk, see, hear, think,
sentenced to a life of dependence for growing old.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net

Season’s Greetings from the Taylors

I’m sending out Christmas letters early this year for a good reason. I’m in the process of self-publishing my collection of poems entitled How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. The book is in the printing stage and should be on the market in a couple of weeks. Once it hits bookstore shelves, I’ll be busy marketing so I’m trying to get my Christmas chores out of the way early.

The year 2011 has been an eventful one. In February, I made a difficult decision. I’d been singing with a women’s barbershop group called Patchwork. I first joined them when they were part of the Sweet Adelines network, and we eventually separated from the network because we couldn’t find the required number of members. Last year, I realized that my philosophy for performing was different from that of the majority of the group. We were performing songs that weren’t ready to be performed and often gave performances when we didn’t have all our parts. This negatively effected our sound. When our assistant director quit, I decided I’d had enough as well. As it turned out, several others in the group felt the same way and also quit. About a month later, we formed our own group, Just Harmony.

This group isn’t limited to barbershop music. We sing a variety of songs with three and four-part harmony, some accompanied, some not. Patchwork’s former assistant director now directs us and accompanies us on piano when necessary.

We’ve had several performances since we started practicing in April. In May, we sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to start a local baseball game. in July, we sang for a senior ladies’ golf tournament banquet. In September, we performed for a gathering at a clubhouse in Banner about twenty miles south of Sheridan. In October, we sang at a talent show at the local Methodist church where we practice, and in November, we performed at a service at the Prairie Dog Community Church located about seven or eight miles south of Sheridan. Last Saturday, we sang for a red hat Christmas party at the Holiday Inn, and next Saturday, we may perform again at the Prairie Dog Community Church.

In April, I attended the WyoPoets annual workshop in Casper. The presenter was Lee Ann Roripaugh, a creative writing instructor at a South Dakota university. She taught us several forms of prose poetry. The poem below is one I wrote during the workshop. The form is called a haibun, a combination of prose and a Japanese form called a haiku which contains three lines: the first and third having five syllables and the second having seven. This poem is included in my collection.

Spring’s Hopelessness

Spring comes wet with little sun. Hope is dashed by the wind that buffets the house, rattles wind chimes, rain that drums on the roof. Without enough warmth, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs won’t grow.

He loves the sun, can’t get enough. It’s one of his few pleasures since he can no longer walk or use his left arm or care for himself. After a brutal winter with endless snow, frigid temperatures, he longs to enjoy the sun’s healing warmth.

wishes for the sun
fall on the deaf ears of God
wait for warmth to come

In May, our friend Becky Holloway from Marshalltown, Iowa, spent a week with us. In June, I attended the Wyoming Writers’ annual conference, again in Casper. In September, we received a visit from our friends Don Andreoli and Alice Lentz who live in Pueblo, Colorado.

Also in September, Bill and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary by attending my cousin Shelley’s wedding at the Eaton Guest Ranch about nineteen miles east of Sheridan. The ceremony was held outdoors, and the weather was perfect, sunny and in the low 80’s. Afterward, we moved indoors for appetizers and dinner. It was a great way for us to commemorate our marriage.

In November, I asked Bill what he wanted for Christmas, and he said, “a copy of your poetry book.” I then realized it was time for me to self publish How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I contacted iUniverse, the same company that published my novel, We Shall Overcome, and within a week, they had the manuscript. Now, after three rounds of proofing, it’s finally in the printing stage.

In a couple of weeks, the book should be available from many online book retailers for $10.95 per paperback copy and $3.99 per eBook edition. If you want a more accessible digital copy, e-mail me, and for the price of the eBook, I’ll e-mail the book to you in doc format. You can read more about the book on previous posts.

Now, click on the link below to hear or download a holiday greeting from Bill and me. We wish you a joyous season and prosperous new year to come.

Sincerely,
Abbie and Bill Taylor

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/15213189/holiday%20greeting%202011.mp3

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net

Breakfast

What did you have this morning when you got up? Here’s a poem that talks about something I occasionally fix for me and Bill. It’s included in my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, which I hope will be released next month.

Breakfast

We eat pancakes,
not square, not triangular,
not bathed in peanut butter or onions,
round buttermilk pancakes
covered with maple syrup,
prepared by me with love.

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Do you remember Mom or Grandma making pancakes, waffles, or biscuits from scratch, waking to the smell wafting up to your room from the kitchen, enticing you to climb out of your warm bed on a cold winter morning, put on a robe and slippers, and hurry downstairs to a hot breakfast? Please share your memories. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
and
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com
abbie@samobile.net