The Power of Music #OpenBookBlogHop #Excerpt #TuesdayTidbit

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Welcome to another edition of Open Book Blog Hop. This week’s question is: “What is a side skill that has been useful in your life? Where did you learn it? Have you written it into any of your stories?

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For years, I’ve enjoyed playing the piano and singing. My mother loved to tell this story about when I was five. My parents had acquired an upright piano, mostly as a toy for me. One day, Mother heard me play the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and went to call a piano teacher.

I studied piano from then until I was about thirteen when I gave up, choosing to play by ear and sing along. In high school, I won second place in a local talent competition with my rendition of Debbie Boon’s “You Light Up My Life.” In college, I majored in music performance, then switched to music therapy.

Long story short, after six and a half years of college education and a six-month internship, I returned to my home in Sheridan, Wyoming, where I’ve lived ever since. For fifteen years, I worked as a registered music therapist with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. Although I’m no longer practicing music therapy, I still enjoy entertaining at such facilities by playing my guitar and singing for their monthly birthday socials.

In my first novel, We Shall Overcome, my main character, Lisa, who is visually impaired, studied music therapy before deciding to manage her father’s coin-operated machine business. In the following scene, she and her boyfriend, John, are visiting his grandmother in a nursing home. Bessie suffers from dementia and rarely speaks. But as you’ll discover, when Lisa sings, Bessie soon starts singing along, and it’s as if the dementia never existed. Dorothy is her daughter. I was inspired to have Bessie as a character by a woman just like her with whom I worked in a nursing home.

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Dorothy put an arm around Lisa and guided her to a chair near the recliner. As Lisa sat down, John walked around to the other side of the recliner and took his grandmother’s hand. “Hello, Grandma,” he said. “It’s John. I’d like you to meet Lisa. She’s sitting on your other side. Lisa, this is my grandmother, Bessie Macintosh.”

“Hi, Mrs. Macintosh,” said Lisa, taking the elderly woman’s other hand.

“You can call her Bessie,” said Dorothy. “Everyone else does, and she doesn’t mind.”

“Hello, Bessie,” Lisa said. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Bessie laughed and squeezed Lisa’s hand, as Dorothy said, “Ellen tells me you used to do some sort of musical therapy before you went into business with your father.”

“That’s right,” said Lisa.

“Mother always loved music,” said Dorothy. “She used to sing to us when we were kids. I recently bought her a CD player that has a repeat button, so now she can hear music all day long. She likes all kinds, especially hymns.”

“Lisa was telling us earlier about a lady she worked with in a nursing home in Fort Collins who came out of her shell when Lisa sang to her,” said John.

“Really!” said Dorothy. “Maybe you could sing to Mother. I’ll bet she’d like that.”

This was the last thing Lisa wanted to do, but she realized she couldn’t refuse. Leaning forward, she looked at the old woman and said, “Bessie, would you like to sing a song with me?”

The old woman laughed and squeezed Lisa’s hand. “I believe that’s a yes,” said Dorothy.

Lisa took a deep breath and began singing “You Are My Sunshine.” John and Dorothy joined in and a few lines later, to everyone’s amazement, so did Bessie. Her words were clear, and her voice was strong. It was as if she didn’t have Alzheimer’s. When they finished, John and Dorothy applauded, and Bessie laughed and patted Lisa’s hand. “I like hearing you sing,” said Lisa.

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You can participate in this week’s Open Book Blog Hop and read what others have to say by clicking here.

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For those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

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New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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All That Jazz #It’s Six-Sentence Story Thursday Link-Up

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

As a kid, I loved to improvise melodies and harmonies on the piano. When I was a freshman in high school in 1977, my parents encouraged me to take a jazz improvisation class, which I didn’t like so much. It was held at the local college in a piano lab, a large room containing many keyboards, where students played, using headphones. We were given exercises, and the instructor listened to each of us and talked to us through our headphones, mostly telling us what we were doing wrong and offering little praise. He also insisted we listen to nothing but jazz, which, for a teenager who enjoyed popular music, didn’t go over well. I made it through the course, but it turned me off jazz for several years.

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Thanks to Girlie on the Edge for inspiring this six-sentence vignette. If you’d like to participate, click here.

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By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Image contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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The Music Room #Tuesday Tidbit #Poetry

As you may remember from a post last month, I talked about a music room addition to our home that was built when I was in high school. Here’s a poem I wrote about this room that appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. You can click on the Play button below to hear me read it.

The Music Room

 

After one crew removed the old room,

another poured cement, created a floor, walls, windows, roof.

Carpeting was laid.

The piano, drum set, and stereo were installed.

A love seat and Franklin stove were purchased.

For years, we played together in that room,

me on piano, my brother on drums.

We eventually went our separate ways–

the house was sold–

we still remember.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

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Website  Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

September Song #Musical Monday

In the summer of 1979, before my senior year of high school, we were having our home remodeled, enlarging our screened-in back porch to make it a music room. I’ve always been sensitive to loud noises, especially those created by power tools, cement mixers, and other construction implements. So, as a distraction, I took up singing and accompanying myself on the piano. I’d been doing this since I was twelve, but I wasn’t serious about it until that summer.

For my birthday, I’d received Willie Nelson’s album, Stardust, on cassette. This album popularized such old standards as “Blue Skies,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” and “September Song,” the one I’m singing for you today. So, I decided to learn some of these songs.

Once I did, my younger brother often joined me on drums. By that time, Dad had acquired a string bass, and he occasionally played along.

Since the room that was being remodeled was adjacent to the dining room where the piano and drums were located, we no doubt entertained the construction crew. When men came through the dining room on their way to the rest room, they complimented us. By summer’s end, the addition was complete, and we had a new room in which to play our music.

According to Wikipedia, “September Song” was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. It was introduced by Walter Huston in the 1938 Broadway musical, Knickerbocker Holiday. It was also used in the 1950 film, September Affair, and in the British television series, May to December, and was recorded by numerous artists.

My rendition is based on Willie Nelson’s version. If I’d recorded it during that summer of 1979, the music would no doubt have been punctuated by hammering, sawing, and drilling. Now, during this last week of September, you’ll just hear the song. Enjoy!

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy, and may you always have positive experiences.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Website

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

I’m a Star

I wanted to be a star ever since I sang Simon and Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa” while accompanying myself on piano in the Kiwanis Club Stars of Tomorrow contest in Sheridan, Wyoming, back in the 70’s. I was twelve years old at the time. A couple of years later, my younger brother Andy found an old paint can he used as a drum and a wood chip I pretended was a microphone. To hear me read a poem I wrote about that experience, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/I%27m%20a%20star.mp3 .

Soon after that, Andy got a drum set. Our band moved from the front porch to the dining room with me on piano and vocals and Andy on drums. As a sophomore in high school, I again entered the Stars of Tomorrow contest. They had a silly rule that a younger person couldn’t accompany an older person so Andy couldn’t play the drums while I sang “You Light Up My Life,” accompanying myself on the piano. However, I could accompany Andy on piano while he played drums. In this fashion, we performed “You Don’t’ Have to be a Star to Be in My Show.” To hear the original sung by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nb9jJg_wIU . Andy didn’t win, but I took second place with my rendition of “You Light Up my Life.” Here’s what it sounded like. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/you%20light%20up%20my%20life.mp3

After graduating from high school, I decided not to move to Nashville, New York, or L.A. and try to make it big. I went to college where I majored in music and eventually got into music therapy. For fifteen years, I worked in a nursing home, singing old standards like this one. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/stormy%20weather.mp3 After fifteen years, I decided to become a writer when I married my late husband Bill.

Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. I became a caregiver but found time to publish two books and write poems and stories and submit them to publications. Now that Bill is gone, I have more time for that and have published a third book and am working on a fourth. I still sing but not as often.

Recently though, I became a bit of a celebrity in my home town. I entered a talent competition connected with our monthly third Thursday festival that runs during the summer months downtown. To my surprise, I won and was asked to sing the national anthem at a polo match. Andy and his wife Christina, who were visiting from Florida, managed to catch most of my performance on video. The sound you’ll hear in the background is the wind, not bombs bursting in air as you might imagine. It may take a little longer for this one to come up when you click on it. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/national%20anthem%20polo%207-26-2015.MOV

If you’re within the sound of my voice, I’ll be performing on the main stage at the next third Thursday festival in downtown Sheridan on August 20th. It’s located in front of the old Woolworth building on the corner of Main and Grinnell. My program will run from five to five thirty p.m. I’ll accompany myself on guitar instead of piano.

I’m not a super star like Olivia Newton-John or Debbie Boon, but that’s okay. I love to perform when I get a chance, and audiences love me. That’s what matters.

It’s the same with my writing. I’ve published three books with a fourth on the way, but I’m not a best-selling author. That doesn’t bother me. I love what I do, and my readers enjoy my work. As the song goes, “You don’t have to be a star.”

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

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