Saturday Song: Bread: Guitar Man

In last week’s Saturday music feature, you heard a song about a man playing a piano in a bar. Today’s hit is about a man entertaining with a guitar. I can relate to this, since most of the senior facilities where I perform don’t have a piano, at least in the room where I’m playing. If I were a guy, they’d probably call me the guitar man. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Saturday Song: Billy Joel: Piano Man

This song was popular in the 1970’s when I was growing up. I could relate to it when I played the piano and sang as part of my work at the nursing home. It still strikes a chord today when I entertain at such facilities once a month. The only difference between my situation and that of the pianist in the song is the setting. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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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
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature- A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home:

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher

by Sue Halpern

Copyright 2012

This title sounds like the start of a joke, but it really isn’t. The author describes how she trained her Labradoodle, Pransky, to be a therapy dog, and how for years, they visited a county nursing home in Vermont once a week. She starts by talking about how she acquired Pransky and came up with her name. Years later after her daughter left home to go away to school, Halpern decided she and Pransky needed something to do, since her job as a stay-at-home mom no longer existed. Hence, she decided to train Pransky to be a therapy dog.

She describes the arduous process, which wasn’t easy for her or Pransky. Nevertheless, Pransky managed to pass the test.

Halpern then relates many experiences with residents at the nursing home who’s lives Pransky touched, like Dottie, hard of hearing, who enjoyed taking Pransky for walks with her wheelchair, Lizzie, who had difficulty speaking due to a rare genetic disorder but greeted Pransky whenever she saw her, and the Carters, a couple who always had plenty of dog biscuits to spare. Then there was Janis, who loved telling jokes but not about a dog walking into a nursing home. The author also touches on the history of therapy dogs and reflects on nursing homes and other topics related to aging.

The book is divided into seven chapters centered around each of the seven Catholic virtues. This is one thing I didn’t like about it, maybe because I’m not Catholic. I found her reflections on this and other religious and philosophical subjects irrelevant to her story. In fact, they either distracted me or put me to sleep.

Also, the ending was a bit up in the air. She talks about her daughter going off to study in Norway and then returning home briefly to accept a scholarship and give a speech. This had nothing to do with Pransky’s visit to the county nursing home. It might have been better to end by explaining how long she and Pransky volunteered there or if she and the dog were still visiting the facility on a regular basis when she finished writing the book.

On the other hand, having worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home for fifteen years, I could relate to some of Halpern’s stories, since I had similar experiences. I could also understand her feelings of rejection when residents refused a visit from Pransky, since not all residents I encountered enjoyed music activities or wanted me to visit them in their rooms.

Since October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, I thought this would be a fun book to read, and it was, although Pransky didn’t come from a shelter. There’s no reason why a shelter dog couldn’t be a therapy dog if the pooch has the right disposition and receives proper training.

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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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News from Abbie’s Corner March 2017

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I’d love to say that it’s been a pretty quiet month here in Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town, but Garrison Keillor might sue me, even though he’s retired and no longer uses this line to describe his fictional home town of Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, so I’ll say that this past month has been pretty quiet.

On February 2nd, my friend Christine Valentine and I attended a concert by the Dave Bruebeck Quartet at the Whitney Center for the Arts on the campus of Sheridan College. The music was great, especially their rendition of “Take Five” with the drum rift that took me back to the time when my younger brother Andy played the drums. Dad, may he rest in peace, would have loved it, and I’m sorry he and Andy couldn’t be there.

Also on February 2nd, I gave my own performance at the Sheridan Senior Center’s adult day care program. Accompanying myself on guitar, I sang a lot of old standards those clients loved. On February 28th, I gave a similar performance at Westview for the monthly birthday party, which the residents enjoyed.

My singing group, Just Harmony, after taking a month off, started practicing in February. We already have a performance lined up for an event at the Methodist church, where we practice, on March 18th. We hope to get more lined up.

The weather here has been unseasonably warm. As a result, I’ve been able to get out and do some walking. On Friday, February 17th, I walked downtown and did some errands. On the 18th, I walked to the library for my monthly Range Writers meeting. I do realize that we still have some winter left, so I’m not holding my breath.

Well, that’s all the news for now. I’ll be back in a month with more.

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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 New Me

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Recently while my homemaker from the local senior center was cleaning, she found plaster falling from the ceiling near my kitchen door. Apparently, it had gotten wet. This could only mean one thing. My roof was leaking again.

Why didn’t I see this? Well, with my limited vision, I don’t see things unless they’re close to me. Although I walk by my kitchen door every day, it never occurred to me to look up.

When my homemaker pointed out the offending area, I saw it, and it looked awful. I could just reach it by standing on tiptoe, and when my finger touched the spot, more flecks of plaster went flying. Yuck!

My roof was replaced in 2008 when I bought the house, and I was assured it would last at least thirty years. It wasn’t even ten years old. I called the same roofer, and after taking a look, he reported that the material he used was only supposed to last ten years, and it was aging. Like me, I thought.

As long as I’m getting part of my roof replaced, why not have my me replaced? Maybe I could get a younger me who can see, a me who doesn’t recoil at the prospect of dealing with contractors and insurance bureaucrats, a me who doesn’t hate being around any kind of construction, a me who can drive and not rely on others to get me everywhere, especially in winter, a me with more confidence when walking in treacherous conditions and less fear of falling on ice, braking bones, and ending up in a nursing home.

When I suggested as much to a friend though, she pointed out that with better eyesight, I might not like the way the world looks. It also occurred to me that with no disability, I wouldn’t earn income from social security. To make car payments and support my writing habit, I’d have to go back to my forty-hour-a-week job conducting activities with nursing home residents who fell on ice and broke bones.

Although the other features of a new me would be nice, this investment will have to wait until I get the roof fixed. Apparently, although my homeowner’s insurance will cover fixing the plaster on my ceiling, it won’t cover the replacement of part of my roof unless the damage was a result of a storm. Hmm, maybe with a better me, I could get up on the roof and make it look like storm damage.

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Note: After I wrote the above, the insurance adjuster came and said that a piece has fallen off the roof, so it’s definitely storm damage. Whether it’s the type of storm damage my policy covers remains to be seen.

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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.

 

Losing Bill, a Poem

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My Profile Picture

LOSING BILL

 

 

The Nurse

 

He’d only been living here a month,

although he came frequently for respite care

while his wife went to writers conferences.

He loved bragging about her,

the author of two books,

When his decline made caring for him difficult,

he moved here to stay.

 

After that, he went downhill,

lost strength in his good arm

needed help eating,

developed bed sores so painful

he couldn’t sit up for long.

One day, he quit eating,

was given oxygen.

His wife signed end-of-life papers.

Four days later when I came to work, he was gone.

 

The Husband

 

For six years,

I couldn’t use my left arm or leg.

My wife did everything,

wiped me when I pooped,

dressed me, got me out of bed,

helped me with my computer,

prepared meals, did laundry and other chores.

Other women would have walked away-

she didn’t, despite limited vision.

For six years, I was happy until

 

I didn’t feel like eating.

It became harder and harder for my wife to lift me

so I reluctantly agreed to move to a nursing home.

She visited me every day.

We went out once or twice.

Although I wanted to be involved,

it was too hard, too painful.

 

I wanted to be in a better place.

I knew it would be a shock for her

so I held on as long as I could.

When she finally gave me permission, I went.

 

The Wife

 

The nurse’s call woke me at 6 a.m.

I thought, this is it, I’m a widow.

I knew it was coming.

In a way, it was a relief,

but that didn’t take away the emptiness.

At his bedside in the nursing home,

I kissed his cold face,

positioned my cheek in front of his still mouth,

expecting a response—none came.

I buried my face in his soft hair,

caressed his cold chest,

told him I loved him,

took his belongings,

my life changed forever.

 

The Wife, Four Years Later

 

His suitcase from the nursing home sits in the closet, still packed.

His computer and other belongings gather dust

in the nook off the kitchen that was his for years.

Whether I find someone new,

there will always be a place in my heart for him.

Life and love go on.

(((

I wrote the above poem during a workshop this past weekend given by University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. Click this link to hear me read it. Please check out my new memoir to read more of our story.

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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 June 2016

Last month, I was busy with singing engagements. I played my guitar and sang at two nursing homes, an assisted living facility, and an adult day care program. I’ve decided to space out these performances so I’m not doing them all in one month. I won’t do any this month except for Westview where I’ve already committed to doing it once a month for the monthly birthday party. I’ll start in July, doing just one of the other facilities each month so I’m doing only two per month instead of four every other month. That way, each of the other facilities will have me every couple of months, and it won’t be quite so hectic.

The first weekend of this month, I attended the Wyoming Writers annual conference in Riverton which was quite an adventure compared to other such conferences. It was held at the Wind River Hotel & Casino, and as I usually do, I traveled with Rose Hill, Wyoming’s current poet laureate, and we stayed together in a hotel room.

At about ten thirty on Friday morning after getting up at the crack of dawn and driving for hours, we arrived at the hotel to discover that we couldn’t check in until four o’clock that afternoon. Being on the Wyoming Writers board, I had a meeting to attend on the other side of the casino. Rose wanted to accompany me so off we went. As we wound our way through the maze of slot machines and black jack tables, the song “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” from Guys and Dolls popped into my head. We needed luck to survive the barrage of noise, flashing lights, and cigarette smoke.

After the meeting and lunch, it was back through the casino to the hotel where conference registration was taking place. When we got there, we were told we could use a golf cart to get around the casino, instead of through it, and to the meeting rooms on the other side. It came with Austen and Garland, two friendly young drivers who took turns shuttling people around during that weekend. The cart only held one person besides the driver so Rose and I had to take turns using it. I felt sorry for those poor guys, having to run back and forth and decided to attend Saturday workshops on the hotel side so I wouldn’t have to press them into service as often.

I’m glad I made that decision because the workshops I attended were led by poet and University of Wyoming instructor Lori Howe. In one session, she had us choose seven words from a list and write a poem about a particular moment in life. In another, she asked us to write a poem about an event from more than one perspective. Needless to say, I wrote two poems that day. I’ll submit them for possible publication in an anthology she’s editing that will consist of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by Wyoming authors.

On Saturday night, there was a banquet featuring Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall III as keynote speaker. I must admit that writing two poems in one day is exhausting, and I dozed off during his presentation. However, I downloaded one of his short story collections, The Dance House, and will read and review it here later.

After the banquet, an open mic session was scheduled in one of the large meeting rooms on the other side of the casino. I’d already promised friend and fellow poet Christine Valentine I’d do a duet with her so there was no turning back. It was nearly nine o’clock, and Rose said, “Do you think we could hoof it over there without calling those guys to help us?”

“Sure,” I said, confident that if Lady Luck was with us the first two times we traversed that den of iniquity that is the Wind River Reservation’s main economic source, surely she would be with us a third time. I needed the exercise, and I figured I was already a candidate for lung cancer since my mother probably smoked while I was in her womb.

When we arrived at the Cottonwood Room, Rose huffing and puffing, me smiling with another sense of accomplishment, our conference chair said, “Why didn’t you use the cart?”

“We figured the guys were off duty,” I answered.

“Well, they’re not,” she said. She then produced her phone, made a call, and said, “Austen will be back to pick you up at ten o’clock.”

The duet Christine and I did was a poem she wrote about being driven to distraction by two songs. The first was “101 Pounds of Fun” from South Pacific. In the poem, she writes about how she and her husband kept singing that song together after watching the musical on television. She even sang it to the postmistress who probably thought she was crazy. In the end, she explains how she purchased Brigadoon from Netflix. Now, they’re singing ”Go Home with Bonnie Jean.”

Speaking of earworms, “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” stuck with me all weekend. Often, I found myself humming it in our hotel room. Finally, Rose, a Methodist grandmother, in exasperation, countered with her rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” (Here’s my version.) All in all, despite the hassles, this year’s conference was pretty good.

Now, here’s some good news. I originally thought my memoir, My Ideal Partner, wouldn’t be published until the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. A few weeks ago, I was surprised to receive an email from Leonore Dvorkin, saying she and her husband David were ahead of schedule. It looks like the book will be out sometime this summer. Meanwhile, she has been copy editing. The email messages that would normally have been flying fast and furious have not been because she says this book is well written. I guess it had better be since it’s my fourth one. When it’s published, it’ll be available as an eBook from Smashwords and Amazon and in print from CreateSpace.

This summer, I’ll be taking a correspondence class in the elements of poetry from the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I’ve never taken a course from them but have heard good things about their classes so am looking forward to the experience. You may wonder if it’s necessary for me to take a poetry class when I have two poetry collections under my belt. Well, there’s always room for learning and improvement.

As Garrison Keillor would say, that’s the news from Sheridan, Wyoming, my home town. Have a great month. I’ll have more news for you in July.

 

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