Comedian Shares Life Through Laughter #FridayFunReads #Reblogs #Inspiration

I posted a version of the following review here a few years ago. The version below appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, which can be read here. Thanks to Mary-Jo Lord, editor-in-chief, for revisions she made to this review, with my permission, of course. Enjoy!

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COMEDIAN SHARES LIFE THROUGH LAUGHTER

REVIEW OF IF YOU ASK ME: (AND OF COURSE YOU WON’T)  BY BETTY WHITE

BY ABBIE JOHNSON TAYLOR

Copyright 2022

 

Could you use some good laughs, especially during these unprecedented times? If so, look no further than Audible, where you can download a recording of this book, narrated by Betty White herself, may she rest in peace. I couldn’t help laughing when I saw her on television as the scatter-brained Rose in The Golden Girls. She was also on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I was a little young when that was running. My mother watched that as religiously as I watched The Golden Girls.

According to her biography on her IMDB page, Betty White was born on January 17th, 1922 in Oak Park Illinois. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a lighting company executive. Her family moved to Los Angeles when Betty was two. She attended Horace Mann Elementary and Beverly Hills High School. Hoping to be a writer, she became more interested in acting after writing and playing the lead role in a graduation play at Horace Mann.

Her television career began in 1939 when she and a former high school classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel. She also worked in radio and movies. Best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) and The Golden Girls (1985), she performed in a variety of other television shows including Life with Elizabeth, Date with the Angels, The Betty White Show, The Golden Palace, Hot in Cleveland, and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. After Rue McClanahan’s death in 2010, Betty White was the only living golden girl until she passed on December 31st, 2021 at the age of ninety-nine. She won seven Emmy awards and received twenty Emmy nominations. She was the first woman to receive an Emmy award for game show hosting Just Men and is the only person to have an Emmy award in all female comedic performing categories. In May of 2010, she was the oldest person to guest host Saturday Night Live and won a Primetime Emmy Award for this. As of 2012, she was the oldest Emmy nominee.

In If You Ask Me, Betty White combines her ideas on such topics as friendship, technology, and aging with anecdotes from her childhood, career, and work with animals.

Humorous quips about exercise and hair color, and her rumored crush on Robert Redford are delivered in classic Betty White style. She shares what happens backstage at awards ceremonies and how her role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show changed her career.

She talks about developing a friendship with a guerilla, meeting two whales, and adopting a dog rejected by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I can relate when she says how frustrating it is not to recognize a face, especially when the face belongs to a celebrity she meets at a party and thinks she should know. Being visually impaired, I have the same problem but don’t run into celebrities at parties. In any case, I recommend this book to anyone needing some good laughs.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Hunting Out of Season #TuesdayTidbit #Fiction #Inspiration

Even though it’s Tuesday, I’m posting the following story as part of fellow author and blogger Stevie Turner’s Friday Write feature. This work of flash fiction appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I was inspired to write it after someone told me she’d actually overheard a stranger say the story’s first lines into his cell phone.

 

HUNTING OUT OF SEASON

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2022.

 

“Next time you don’t pick up the phone, I’ll beat the shit out of you!” His words were loud and clear through my sister’s cell when she answered his call.

I pulled the rental car to the side of the road. Turning to her, I said, “Give me that phone.”

She complied, her hand trembling, nearly dropping the device. “Not any more, buddy,” I told him. “Not if I have any say in the matter.”

The call was disconnected. “He thinks he called a wrong number,” I said. “He’ll call back.”

Sure enough, the phone rang, and his name came up on the screen. “Hi, Mike,” I said.

“Who the hell’s this?”

“Oh, you don’t remember me from your wedding a few months ago? I’m Debbie’s big brother Rick, six-feet tall, muscular. I had a bad feeling about you. So, I wasn’t surprised when Debbie called me yesterday after not speaking to anyone in our family for three months and begged me to fly all the way out to this god-forsaken state of Arizona to rescue her. She didn’t tell you she’d invited me for a visit? That was smart. You would have beaten the shit out of her then and made her tell me not to come.”

After a pause, he said, “Of course I wouldn’t have done that. I know who you are. We talked about going hunting in October when the season opens. Maybe Debbie and I will come this fall, and we can do that.”

“Seriously?”

“Look, we’ve have some disagreements…”

“Disagreements? You call a broken arm and bruises all over my sister’s body mere disagreements? I don’t think so, buddy.”

“I told her I was sorry. Sometimes, I lose control when I get angry. I’m trying not to…”

“Yeah, right. That’s what they all say. Forget it! I’m taking her back to Wyoming. If you come after her, you’ll be in big trouble because you’ll be hunting out of season. As a matter of fact, there is no hunting season for the type of game you’re after.”

I ended the call and handed the phone back to Debbie. “Can you believe he said he wanted to come up to Wyoming and go hunting with me?”

She managed a weak smile, as she slipped the phone into her purse. “You’re good.”

“So are you, Sis.” I resisted the urge to pat the shoulder of her broken left arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

As I put the car in gear, she fanned her face. “God, I hate Arizona summers. Why did I ever leave Wyoming?”

 

THE END

 

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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SPRING/SUMMER 2022 EDITION OF MAGNETS AND LADDERS #SocialMediaMonday #magazines #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

Magnets and Ladders is an online magazine produced twice a year by Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ organization to which I belong. I’m pleased to announce that a memoir, book review, and short story of mine have been published in this issue. You may find work by other authors you recognize. So, snuggle into your preferred reading area with your favorite beverage and enjoy some great fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and more.

 

SPRING/SUMMER 2022 EDITION OF MAGNETS AND LADDERS

The Red Stuff #TuesdayTidbit #Reblogs #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

Thanks to fellow blogger Chris Hofstader for publishing my creative nonfiction piece in his magazine. When you click the link below, you’ll need to scroll down close to the end to find it. If you’re using a screen reader, the quickest way to get there is to press your heading level 1 navigation key twice. But if you’re blind or visually impaired, you might want to read other articles in this publication and subscribe.

My piece was also published on the Recovering the Self blog and in Magnets and Ladders. Enjoy!

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For six years, despite my limited vision, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side soon after we were married. Bill was so finicky that mealtime was often a nightmare because he didn’t always want to eat what I wanted to fix. So, I had to scramble to find a substitute for him while still enjoying what I wanted to eat.

 

Read the full story here.

Silent Night #Fiction #TuesdayTidbit #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

I’ve posted the story here before, but if you’ve read it, I hope you’ll agree it’s worth another read. It was published in Magnets and Ladders and The Writer’s Grapevine. Below it, as a special holiday treat, you’ll find a recording of me singing the song for which the story is titled. Enjoy!

SILENT NIGHT

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2018

The day before Christmas, my seven-year-old daughter Hannah was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I opted to spend CHRISTMAS Day with her. My parents, as they’d done every year since the divorce, had invited Hannah and me to their house for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t leave my little girl alone in the hospital.

Hannah wasn’t on solid food yet, but a nurse offered to bring me a tray, perhaps realizing it would be difficult for me to navigate to the cafeteria with my limited vision. While Hannah slept, I sat by her bed and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. The food was surprisingly good for a hospital.

I said as much to the nurse when she came to collect my tray. “We have a chef now,” she said.  “Of course, many of our patients are too sick to appreciate it, but it’s certainly better than the fare we used to serve.”

The little girl in the other bed moaned and then started crying in earnest. I looked over and couldn’t see anyone sitting with her. “Oh, that’s Jessica,” said the nurse in a conspiratorial tone. “Poor kid, she fell out of her neighbor’s treehouse yesterday and broke her leg in three places. She’s in a body cast from her chest to her right foot.”

Hannah must have awakened for she said, “Ou, I guess I won’t complain about my tummy anymore. I’m glad I don’t have a treehouse, and I hope Santa didn’t leave me one.”

I marveled at how sensitive my daughter was. As the nurse went to Jessica and tried to comfort her, I said, “How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“I’m okay, but my tummy still hurts.”

“I thought you weren’t gonna complain about your tummy anymore,” I said, as I ruffled her hair.

Hannah giggled, then winced. “Ouch, Mommy, it hurts more when I laugh.”

“It sounds like you could use some pain medication, too,” the nurse said, as she started to leave the room.

“No, it only really hurts when I laugh,” Hannah said.

“Well, in that case, laughter’s the best medicine,” the nurse said. “I’ll be back soon.”

“How old is Jessica?” Hannah asked.

“Oh, I think she’s about your age,” answered the nurse. “I’ll be back in a bit with some medicine for her, and that’ll make her feel better.” With that, she was gone.

Jessica was still sniffling, but it wasn’t as loud as before. “Mommy, you should go sing her a song,” said Hannah. “like you did for me last night when I was really hurting. I’m not hurting as much now, and I think she’s hurting more.”

Years earlier, I’d worked as a registered music therapist. That was before Hannah was born, before I’d started losing my vision, before my world changed. My husband hadn’t wanted a child but was resigned to the idea once he learned I was pregnant. The vision loss after Hannah’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, he paid plenty of child support. That, along with my disability payments, allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and once I learned to use a computer with screen reading and magnification software, I brought in a little income from freelance writing.

Now, I looked over at the little girl in the other bed. My specialty as a music therapist had been with elderly nursing home residents, not hospitalized children. I hadn’t even done a clinical practicum with that population. I remembered bed-ridden residents who smiled and relaxed when I sat by their beds, held their hands, and sang. I even performed at some of their funerals. The fact that my singing in the emergency room the night before had calmed Hannah made me think that perhaps I hadn’t lost my touch. I rose and pulled my chair next to the other bed, where I sat and took the child’s hand that lay on top of the white sheet covering her.

“Hi Jessica,” I said. “I’m Joan. My little girl Hannah is in the other bed. What’s wrong?”

“My leg really hurts,” she answered. “I’ll never play in that stupid treehouse again.”

“That’s too bad,” I said, stroking her hair. “Would you  like to sing a song with me?”

“Will that make the pain go away?” she asked.

“It’ll take your mind off of it. What’s your favorite Christmas song?”

She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

“All right, let’s sing it together, shall we?”

I started, and soon, she joined in, followed by Hannah. When we finished that song, Jessica suggested “Jingle Bells,” then “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The nurse appeared and said, “What lovely singing. Jessica, I have some medicine that will make you feel better. I’m going to put it in your IV now.”

As she started to do this, I said, “Why don’t we sing one more song?”

“I want to hear you sing something by yourself,” said Jessica. “You have a pretty voice, and so did my mommy. She used to sing to me at night before I went to sleep.” A wistful look crossed her face.

“Why doesn’t she sing to you anymore?” I asked.

“She was killed in a car accident a few months ago,” she answered. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” I said, as I stroked her hair. Tears welled in my own eyes.

Holding them back, I said, “What song did your mom like to sing to you this time of year?”

“‘Silent Night,'” she answered.

“Yeah, sing that one, Mom,” said Hannah.

I took a deep breath and began. To my surprise, the nurse joined in, singing alto. Our two voices blending together in harmony was almost too much, but I managed to continue.

As we started the second verse, I sensed a presence at my side and turned to see a man standing there. “Daddy!” Jessica said, her eyes wide with delight.

“Hey princess,” he said, reaching over me and ruffling her hair. Then he said, “oh, don’t stop singing on my account. It’s beautiful.”

His voice broke, and it was all I could do to keep from losing it. We started the song where we’d left off and finished the second verse. To break the spell, I turned to the nurse and said, “You and I need to talk. I sing in a women’s group that could use an extra voice.”

“Wow, that sounds interesting,” she said. “You also have a nice voice. I need to see to other patients, but I’ll come back later after my shift, and you can tell me more about it.” She turned and started to leave the room.

Jessica’s father put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You and I also need to talk. It’s only been two months since I lost my wife, and I never dreamed I’d say this to another woman, but could I buy you a cup of coffee, maybe in the cafeteria?”

From the doorway, the nurse said, “Our coffee here isn’t as good as the food. Why don’t you two go across the street to Starbuck’s?”

We hesitated. “Your kids will be fine,” she said. “They’re both out of the woods. I have your cell numbers in their charts. If anything drastic happens, I’ll call you. Joan, you’ve been here all day. You need a break. Go!” With that, she was gone.

I looked at this stranger, not knowing what to think. Finally, I said, “I’ve been divorced for about six years. I’m losing my vision, and I never imagined another man would ask me out for coffee.”

I expected him to back away, but instead, he said, “Any man not interested in you is a fool. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re good with kids, and you have a lovely voice.”

Flabbergasted, I said, “You just got here. Don’t you want to spend some time with Jessica?”

Jessica said, “I’m okay.  My leg doesn’t hurt so much now that the nurse gave me some medicine in my IV. Daddy, Joan could make you happy like Mommy did.”

“Yeah,” said Hannah. “Mom, I think this guy could make you happy like Daddy did.”

Jessica’s father laughed and said, “I think these two, along with that nurse, are trying to play matchmaker.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Don Gray.”

“Joan Clark,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it.

Still uncertain, I turned to Hannah and said, “Honey, don’t you remember what I’ve told you about not going off with a stranger?”

“Yeah, but he’s not a stranger. He’s Jessica’s dad.”

“She’s got a point,” said Don.

“My dad told me not to go off with a stranger too,” said Jessica. “but he’s okay. He’s been really sad since Mom died.”

I could feel my heart melting as more tears threatened. “Jessica and I could sing another song,” said Hannah. “How about 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”

“Yeah,” said Jessica. She started the song, and Hannah joined in. Laughing, we both made our way out the door.

“Do you need to take my arm?” Don asked.

“Yes, please,” I answered, realizing I’d left my cane in the room. As I grasped his muscular arm and walked with him down the hall, I had a good feeling about this.

 

***

Silent Night

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You know, Hannah isn’t my only character with appendicitis. In my latest novel, Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me, a ten-year-old suffers the same fate. Want to know more? See below for details, and read the book.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

Front cover image contains: elderly woman in red sweater sitting next to a window.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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