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.

***

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

 

 

A Caregiver’s Last Day

There comes a time while caring for a loved one when you must make the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home. In September of 2012, Bill was getting weaker, making it difficult for me to transfer him from one place to another. We called in a physical therapist who said that due to Bill’s declining condition, it was no longer safe for me to care for him at home. We looked into the possibility of him moving to Greenhouse, which has a better long-term care concept, but Bill was on Medicaid, and there was a six-month waiting list. We put him on the list and with a heavy heart arranged for him to go to another nursing home for the time being. He never made it to the top of that waiting list, passing a month later.

The following poem talks about our last morning at home before he moved to the nursing home. It was published in Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond, a chapbook produced this year by WyoPoets, a state organization that supports poets and promotes poetry throughout the state. Click this link to hear me read it.

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FOR THE LAST TIME

 

Your leg jerks in pain,

as I put on your socks and underwear.

You wince when I roll you over,

pull up your pants as far as they’ll go.

I put on your shoes, pull you upright,

haul on your hoody, fasten your gait belt,

with a lot of effort, swing you from bed to chair.

We embrace–you’ll begin a new life

where others can more easily care for you.

We’ll always be together.

***

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

 

News from Abbie’s Corner

I’m trying something different. Other authors like Debbie Macomber and Danielle Steele have monthly newsletters which their readers can sign up to receive by email. However, these are bestselling authors who put out a new book every few months. I’m lucky if I can publish a book every few years. Who wants to sign up for a newsletter that describes my life which is just as ordinary as anybody else’s? On the other hand, since this blog covers my writing and other aspects of my life, why couldn’t I make this so-called newsletter a monthly feature like my book reviews? That way, those not interested in learning more about little old me can wait until the next Tuesday. As I used to tell residents at the nursing home when encouraging them to participate in a new activity, “You never know until you try.” So here goes.

The past couple of months have been busy. As you may know, I took a trip to Florida in March to visit my brother and his family. This trip was a lot of fun. The weather was perfect, and highlights include a food truck festival in downtown Jupiter, a canoe trip along the Loxahatchee River where we encountered an alligator, and a trip to the beach. My adventures in Florida this time around inspired a series of lunes.

At the beginning of April, I planned to take a trip to California to attend my uncle’s wedding, but I developed a bad chest cold. Two days before I was scheduled to leave, I woke up and could barely talk and decided to cancel my trip. I didn’t want to travel when I felt so miserable and risk passing my crud on to anyone else. I was sorry to miss the wedding. My brother told me about it later, and it sounded fun, but That’s Life.

In the middle of April, my Third Thursday Poets group gave a reading at the local senior center to commemorate National Poetry Month. We were joined by twenty-five high school students, some of whom shared their work. One such pupil turned out to be another Abigail Johnson. As she read her poem about Alexander Hamilton, I saw myself over thirty years ago. The only difference was that I was sharing a poem someone else wrote and performing it from memory in front of an audience as part of my participation in the high school speech team. Oh, and one more thing, this girl didn’t appear to be visually impaired. I wrote a poem about this moment which I’ll share at our October reading and hope she comes.

At the end of April, my friend Rose Hill, who is our state poet laureate, and I drove to Riverton to attend the WyoPoets annual workshop at the Holiday Inn. WyoPoets is an organization that supports poets and promotes the use of poetry throughout the state. The night before the workshop, there was a reading at the Riverton public library, during which Rose unveiled our new chapbook, Labyrinth: Poems from Wyoming and Beyond. Yours truly and others featured in the book shared our work. My poem, “For the Last Time” will be featured here later.

The workshop presenter, Linda Hasselstrom, covered two topics: revising your poetry and performing your work before an audience. I must admit I didn’t take away much from this because she didn’t say anything I didn’t already know about these subjects. Anyway, it was fun critiquing others’ poems, and I got some helpful feedback on one of mine.

Another poem, a short story, and a creative nonfiction piece were published in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I’ll feature them here later.

In June, Rose and I plan to attend the Wyoming Writers conference which will also be in Riverton at the Wind River Hotel & Casino. This will feature Native American historian and storyteller Joseph Marshall, III, poet Lori Howe, and other authors, agents, and editors who will give workshops and hear pitches. There will also be open microphone readings, and Joseph Marshall will be the keynote speaker. Wyoming Writers is an organization similar to WyoPoets except we don’t do just poetry. Last year, I was elected to its board of directors, and I have one more year to serve.

This week is National Nursing Home Week. On Thursday, I’ll be playing my guitar and singing at a facility called Green House. On Friday, I’ll do the same at an assisted living center. The following Thursday, I’ll perform at an adult day care program, and on the last Tuesday of the month, as I usually do, I’ll go to another nursing home and entertain at its monthly birthday party. This was something I did quite a bit when I was a registered music therapist before I got married and started writing full time. Back then, my activities were more for therapeutic purposes, but now, I just entertain them, and they love it.

Well, that’s about all the news I have for now. I would like to add one more thing, though. In the past, I’ve been inserting my photo and books’ front cover images at the bottom of each of my posts. The only way I can do this is to copy and paste the images from another post. For some reason, this WordPress site no longer plays nice with any of the two screen reading programs I use, and as a result, this task is becoming increasingly difficult and time consuming. So it is with a heavy heart that I will no longer post these images unless I can find an easier way to do it. You’ll still see links to the pages on my Website where you can learn more about the books. The front cover images are on those pages, thanks to my excellent Webmaster, Julie Posey. Of course when I post to Writing Wranglers and Warriors, which I only do once a month, I will include the images in those posts since others who blog there do the same thing, and it’s always good to have consistency in a blog.

I realize this newsletter may have gotten a little long, but if I do this every month, I won’t have as much to report. Please let me know what you think of this feature in the comments field below. If enough people want to get this sort of thing in their in box monthly, that’s something I can consider. In the meantime, happy May.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

To All the Petty People in My Life

1.

In fifth grade, I was too much against being told what to do. You had me write twenty-five times, “I will not complain when Mrs. S. tells me to do something.” I could have tossed a stink bomb in the teachers’ lounge, but that didn’t occur to me so get a life.

2.

At the YMCA, I’ve been slamming locker doors since I was in junior high. We were both adults, but you told me not to be so noisy. I could have lit a cigarette, but nobody wants lung cancer so get a life.

3.

At the nursing home, as my boss, you almost fired me for asking a lady if she had diabetes, knowing that with my limited vision, I couldn’t read her chart. I could have given her chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Her blood sugar would have skyrocketed. She might have ended up in the hospital or died. So get a life.

4.

I thought you were my friend so sent you a postcard promoting my new book. You accused me of unethical behavior for using a corporate mailing list for private gain. I could have sold your contact information to a telemarketer, but that’s where I draw the line so get a life.

5.

Now, I’m Secretary of our Corporation. For years, I’ve been using the same email signature with my Website and blog addresses in an attempt to promote my work. When submitting minutes from a previous meeting to our list serve, pasted into a message body, I included my signature as usual. You called it “graffiti,” said it was inappropriate. I could have gone to your house, spray painted every expletive my daddy taught me on your front wall, but that wouldn’t have made it right so get a life.

6.

After reading this, you’ll say I exposed you by writing such drivel. I could have used your real names, but then you would have sued me so get a life.

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Are there petty people in your life? Feel free to vent in the comment field as I did above, but please don’t use people’s real names. In the coming year, let’s all resolve to get a life. Happy New Year. Click here for another song from yours truly.

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That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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