Friday, December 30, 2011

A Secret Sadness

A couple of weeks after Bill suffered his first stroke and was transferred to the nursing home, I was invited to a friend’s birthday party for her little girl. I was feeling especially sad that day, and it was all I could do to hold back tears, as I ate tacos and watched the child open her gifts. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates this.

A Secret Sadness

I fight to keep from crying.
“Push it back, way back,” I tell myself.
Melissa’s eight-year-old cries of delight
mingle with the chatter of her playmates,
the smell of tacos.

Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side.
Will he ever walk again?

I paste a smile on my face, admire Melissa’s presents.
How can I be happy?

I’ll leave you now with a song that also depicts my unhappiness in the first weeks after Bill’s first stroke. This is one of Bill’s favorite songs, and he wants me to sing it at his funeral. I don’t know if I can do that. The link will be available for at least a couple of days.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where I Came From

As I said in earlier posts, I was born in New York City, and my family moved to Boulder, Colorado, and Tucson, Arizona, before finally settling here in Sheridan, Wyoming. I went away to college and came back. When Bill proposed to me, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, at the time, and I thought he wanted me to move there to be with him, which I might have considered, daunting as it sounded. To my relief, Bill wanted to move here to be with me. The following poem was just published in Sensations Magazine. It details all the places where I’ve lived and illustrates the fact that Sheridan, Wyoming, is where I want to stay.

Where I Came From

I came from the city they say never sleeps,
a town in Colorado I barely recall,
the heat of Arizona that seeps into your bones,
a place where blind children learned the three R’s,
a neighborhood where children rode bikes, played games,
the green grass and trees, rolling hills of Wyoming,
college campuses full of activity,
a summer in Kansas when I was glad to get home,
a North Dakota winter so brutal, so cold,
another town in Colorado where I might have been happy,
a blue Wyoming sky—this is where I’ll stay.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reta's Song

Reta was one of the residents at Sheridan Manor I knew for years. When she first came, she preferred to stay in her room, choosing not to attend group activities, although she came to the dining room for meals. She loved to visit with me or anyone else who took the time to stop and talk. As her mental abilities declined, she chose to take her meals in her room, although she still loved to visit.

For some unknown reason, she started singing to herself, as she sat in her room. When she was eventually confined to a wheelchair, aides wheeled her to the lobby and other communal areas where she regaled everyone else with her songs. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates how Reta devoted the last few months of her life to song.

Reta’s Song

She sits in her wheelchair day in and day out,
singing the same song over and over and over again.
The tune is the same.
She makes up different words.
Sometimes, her words make sense.
Often, they have no meaning.
Unaware of what goes on around her,
she just keeps singing that same song
over and over and over again.

There was a time when she didn’t sing,
not even when someone else was singing.
She’d talk your head off for hours.
She didn’t keep singing that same song
over and over and over again.

She has changed.
She no longer talks your head off.
She sings it off.
When spoken to, she responds mostly In song.
The words are different.
The tune is the same.
She just keeps singing that same song
over and over and over again.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Parody

Here’s a more upbeat look at Christmas. The following poem could be sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls,” but I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll leave you with a link to where you can hear me play and sing another well-known Christmas song. This link will be available for at least a few days. I hope all of you who are reading this have a merry Christmas and prosperous 2012.

Christmas Parody

Tis the season to go crazy,
round and round it all gets hazy,
lots of programs and parties galore!
Hang up the phone and open the door.

Tis the season to spend money
on gourmet coffee and lots of honey,
candy, toys, books, clothes,
wrapping paper, ribbons, bows.

Deck the hall with a four-leaf clover.
Tis the time to be hung over.
Open up the wine and brandy.
Water should be always handy.

Look at the brightly burning fire.
Play the guitar and join the choir.
Don’t be shy. Just let it out.
Tis the time to “twist and shout!”

Oh the days are swiftly flying,
new year coming, old year dying.
Till the ending of this year,
Fill your heart with Christmas cheer.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Mournful Night

Since my mother died of cancer on December 15th, 1999, Christmas hasn’t been quite the same. Now, with my family scattered across the country, it’s usually just me, Bill, and Dad for the holiday. Below is a poem that talks about how a particular carol causes a lump in my throat, as I mourn my mother’s passing. Below the poem, you will find a link to a recording of me playing and singing that carol. This link will be available for at least a couple of days.

A Mournful Night

I wash dishes,mouth the words to “O Holy Night.”
As soap washes away skum
from plates, glasses, silverware,
centuries after that holy night,
tears washed away the pain of my mother’s passing,
but the carol still causes a lump in my throat.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Tree

The first of two poems I’ll include today is supposed to look like a Christmas tree. It has nine lines with each line having more syllables than the last. In the second poem, I talk about how the creation of the first poem triggered a memory of a school Christmas craft project that didn’t turn out quite right. Both poems are from my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

On A Summer Evening

surrounds me.
Crickets chirp their
evening serenade.
I lie awake, listen
to the night outside the panes.
I finally close my eyes and drift,
lulled by the crickets’ songs, the breezes.

I Admire My Handiwork

The poem contains nine lines,
each with one more syllable than the last.
It looks like a Christmas tree.
I’m transported back to my fifth grade classroom
in a school for children with visual impairments.

I’m pasting pop bottle tops to a piece of red felt
in nine rows, each containing more lids than the last.
But the rows are jagged.
“It’s supposed to look like a Christmas tree,” says Mrs. Jones.
“Don’t you know what a Christmas tree looks like?”

Almost fifty years later,
I stare in amazement at my computer screen
where I’ve managed to form a perfect Christmas tree out of words.

What do you remember about having a Christmas tree in your home? Did Dad go out in the forest to find just the right tree, or did you all pile into the family station wagon and drive to a nearby lot? Did you use homemade or store-bought decorations? Did your tree have a star or angel on top? Who was given the honor of putting that star or angel on top of the tree? Please e-mail me or share your memories below.

Here’s a Christmas medley to get you thinking about that memorable Christmas tree. This link will be available for at least a couple of days.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Friday, December 16, 2011

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.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


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.


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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


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.


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

Monday, December 5, 2011

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.

Abbie and Bill Taylor

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


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.


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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Her First Turkey

Below is a story of mine that was published in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. I mentioned it in a post a while back but thought that since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, you would enjoy reading it.

Her First Turkey

The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and cork screw were placed in the center of the table.

Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the doorway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”

They all trooped in, her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children, Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”

“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.

Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.

“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”

“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”

After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. But still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.

“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.

‘I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite.

“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”

“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”

The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.

She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”

“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”

Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”

“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”

“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”

“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”

“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.

“I like the salad,” said Rob.

“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”

“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”

Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”

There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.

The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.“

“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.

“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”

“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”

“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”

Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”

“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to e-mail it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wishI’d thought of that last month.”

“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.

“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”

“I think you’re right, honey.”

“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can e-mail it.”

“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”

“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”

“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”

The End

Who cooked the turkey when you were growing up? Did everyone chip in and bring something? Did the men watch football while the women prepared the meal?Please feel free to share your Thanksgiving memories. You can comment below or e-mail me. Also, you can click on the link below to hear me sing, “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Have a great Thanksgiving!

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


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

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Being Three

The following poem appears in my new book, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It’s about a time I barely remember, a time when as a toddler, I may have broken my father’s ashtray.

On Being Three

I barely remember that year.
Mother said my first word was ashtray.
That’s funny—I’ve never smoked.
My earliest memory is of Dad cursing a blue streak.
Hmm—maybe he swore because I broke his ashtray.

Do you remember when you were three? Think back to your earliest recollection, and tell me about it. You can leave a comment below or e-mail me.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

This is the title of the opening poem in my new book How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. I’ll paste it below. Today, I finished proofing the manuscript and e-mailed the proof form to my Publishing Services Associate. She assured me that I would receive final proofs in a few days so we’re moving right along. I’ll post more poems from the book here in coming weeks.

The Day My Husband Had a Stroke

It’s about a quarter to twelve on Saturday, January 28th, 2006.
I’m walking downtown where I’ll meet a friend for lunch.
Afterward, I’ll come home, finish laundry,
read a book, anticipate the spaghetti dinner he’ll fix later.
At four o’clock, I’ll listen to “A Prairie Home Companion.”
At six, I’ll meet others in my singing group at the Eagles Club
where we’ll perform for a wine tasting.
At seven, I’ll come home, expect to find supper on the table—
instead, he’ll be lying on the floor.
Our lives won’t be the same.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Questions and Answers

I’m getting a head start on putting together marketing materials for my book How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. One of these is what’s called a Q & A which contains information about me and the book. This will be sent along with a press release to the media. I’ll paste it below for your perusal.


Q. Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

A. I was born in New York City on June 1st, 1961. We only lived there for about a year. My parents had degrees in education, but they wanted to become actors. However, they realized that teaching careers would provide a more stable income. After a year in New York, we moved to Boulder, Colorado. When I was about four, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. In 1973, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming. My grandfather died a couple of years earlier, and my grandmother needed someone to run the family’s coin-operated machine business. Since no one else seemed interested, my father felt obligated to take over. Sheridan has been my home ever since.

Q. Because of your visual impairment, were you educated in special schools?

A. In Tucson, I attended the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind for five and a half years. When my parents became dissatisfied with my education, they transferred me to a public school. When we moved to Sheridan, I completed my education in public schools.

Q. Where did you go to college?

A. When I graduated from high school in 1980, I thought I wanted to be a rock singer. I went to Sheridan College for two years where I majored in music performance and graduated with an AA degree. I then transferred to Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where I again majored in music performance and graduated with a BA degree after two and a half years. While I was there, a career counselor told me about music therapy, the use of music with a variety of populations including the elderly and mentally ill to achieve therapeutic goals. Since Montana State University had a music therapy program, I transferred there after graduating from Rocky Mountain College. After two more years of study and an internship in a nursing home in Fargo, North Dakota, I returned to Sheridan in 1988. Almost a year later, I found a job conducting activities in a nursing home where I used the music therapy skills I learned.

Q. You’re not working there now?

A. No, I quit so I could write full time.

Q. Was that when your writing career got off the ground?

A. No, I started writing a few years before I quit my day job. Several of my poems and stories were published in various journals and anthologies, and I wrote my first novel We Shall Overcome. When I married my husband Bill, he persuaded me to write full time.

Q. How much vision do you have, and do you use any adaptive devices to make your life easier?

A. I can see people, objects, places, and some pictures. I can read print if it’s large enough. I use a desktop video magnifier, and my computer has software that reads the screen to me in synthetic speech, allows me to navigate using the keyboard, and tells me what I’m typing. I use a white cane while walking around town.

Q. Where did you get the idea for How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver?

A. In January of 2006, three months after we were married, Bill suffered a stroke that left his left side paralyzed. He spent months in a nursing facility where he received therapy and finally came home the following September. at that time, I found myself writing more poems about him and the trials and tribulations of being a family caregiver.

Q. Where did you come up with the title?

A. I’ll have to give our caseworker at the local senior center’s in-home services program most of the credit for that. Several years ago, one of the aides who gave Bill his shower three days a week claimed the process of transferring him from the bed to the commode was bothering her back. Our caseworker said, “I wish I knew how to build a better mousetrap.” That’s what being a caregiver is about. You sometimes have to find different ways of doing things, and it can be especially tricky when you can’t see very well. You often figure things out by trial and error.

Q. Are all the poems in the book about taking care of Bill?

A. No, the majority cover such topics as feeding, dressing, and toileting. Some are from Bill’s point of view. One in particular is from the point of view of his computer which he has trouble using because of his lack of short-term memory and use of his left arm. Some poems provide a humorous outlook on being a family caregiver. Others offer a heartwarming look at our relationship. Poems in the second and third parts of the book cover childhood memories and reflect on other topics. The last part contains poems inspired by my fifteen years experience working with nursing home residents.

Q. Bill is still in a wheelchair today?

A. Yes, when he came home in 2006, we hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. But in January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In august of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he wasn’t showing any progress. He may never walk again, but that doesn’t matter. We love each other, and we’ll enjoy our life together for as long as we can.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How To Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections Of a Family Caregiver

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Build a Better Mousetrap

It’s becoming a reality. Yesterday, I submitted my poetry manuscript to iUniverse. It is entitled How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. It contains 66 poems that cover such topics as aspects of being a family caregiver, childhood memories, and aging. Below is a description of the book that will appear on the cover. Will keep you posted as to the book’s progress through the publishing process.

In January of 2006, Abbie Johnson Taylor’s husband suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. After months of therapy in a nursing facility, he returned home in September of that year. Although he still had little use of his left arm and leg, it was hoped that through outpatient therapy, he would eventually walk again. In January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke that wasn’t as severe, but it was enough to impact his recovery. In August of that year, his therapy was discontinued because he showed no progress. He has never walked since.

The first five poems tell the story of how Taylor found her husband when he suffered his first stroke, detail events in the first few months afterward, and describe Taylor and her husband’s reactions. The rest of the poems in the first part were inspired by Taylor’s experiences while caring for her husband. Covering such topics as dressing, feeding, toileting, their relationship, and his computer, they often provide a humorous outlook. Some poems are from the husband’s point of view. Poems in the next two parts cover childhood memories and other topics. The last section of poems was inspired by Taylor’s fifteen years of experience as a registered music therapist in a nursing home before marrying her husband.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


In the months between the time I agreed to marry Bill and the time he moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, to be with me, I wrote the following poem. If you haven’t read the story of how Bill and I met and were married, click here. You can read the poem on my Website.


In the morning,
I kiss the sheets, pillowcases, his towel,
drink in his scent.

When I eat breakfast,
I wish he were there
to drop Raisin Bran crumbs on the carpet,
talk to me,
take my hand,
kiss me.

All through the day,
I wish he were with me
to rub aching muscles,
hold and kiss me when I least expect it.

In the evening,
I wish he could do the dishes
while I read him the paper.
Later, as I sit with my feet up, enjoying a good book,
I wish he were opposite me, doing the same.

As I drift off to sleep,
I wish he were next to me
with his arms around me.

One day, we’ll be together.
Until then,
all I have are memories.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Serial Miracle

Halloween is just around the corner. Here’s a story I wrote years ago after reading an e-mail message someone forwarded me about a serial killer who lured women out of their houses at night with a recording of a crying baby. My story was published in the spring of 2009 in Emerging Voices, a literary journal produced by Western Nebraska Community College in Scottsbluff.


I woke with a start when I heard the baby cry. I’d been dozing in an arm chair in the living room. I jumped to my feet and stopped short. That wasn’t David. He died a few days earlier. I was the one to find his cold, limp body. Now, I heard a crying baby.

It was late on Halloween. Because I didn’t feel like distributing goodies this year, I hadn’t turned on the front porch light. The baby’s cries came from just outside the front door. My husband Mark was working late. As the cries persisted, I wished he were here.

Was I going crazy? Some women in my situation suffered from delusions that their babies were still alive. The best thing to do was go to bed. I could take a couple of sleeping pills. As I walked into the bedroom, the cries grew fainter. I hurried back into the living room, and the cries became louder. There had to be a baby out there.

Before I could take another step, I remembered something I heard on the ten o’clock news. A serial killer lured women out of their homes with a recording of a baby crying. This didn’t sound like a tape. It was real. I decided to take a chance.

I switched on the porch light and flung open the door. A crying bundle lay a few inches from the open doorway. A cold gust of wind hit me in the face.

“Oh you poor thing. You must be nearly frozen.” I carried the bundle inside and closed the door. The crying stopped.

The infant was wrapped in a thin white blanket. I saw a bald head and blue eyes. How small the baby was. It couldn’t have been more than a few days old. David was three months old when he died. It was a miracle.

I carried the baby into David’s old room and turned on the light. Everything was the same as it was before David’s death. The crib stood against one wall with a changing table next to it. The rocking chair sat by the window. As I laid the infant on the table, I saw a note attached to the blanket. As I unpinned it, the baby whimpered. I carried the infant to the rocker.

“Are you hungry, sweetheart? I’ll get you changed and fed in a minute. I just need to see what this note says.”

Tears filled my eyes, as I read the handwritten message. “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Olson, You don’t know me, but I read about the death of your baby boy in the obituaries. I just had this baby a few days ago, but I’m only sixteen years old, and I can’t take care of her. I think you guys could probably give her a better home so I’m giving her to you. I named her Elizabeth, but you can call her what you want. I hope you like girls. Sincerely, a caring teen mother”

“Honey, I’m home,” called Mark.

“I’m in David’s room.” I rose to my feet, cradling the baby.

Mark appeared in the doorway and gaped in astonishment. “What’s this?”

“Oh Mark, the most wonderful thing has happened. Come and meet our daughter Elizabeth.”


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome


This is not an announcement of a forthcoming addition to the Taylor family. This is actually a story I wrote several years ago about what happens when a teen-ager writes an essay on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and uses the word pregnant. I got the idea from a Reader’s Digest article in which the author talks about a similar experience he had with his fifth grade teacher while writing a similar essay. In his story, he said that when he was sent home with a note, his mother told him he’d better do what the teacher said or else. I realized that my parents who were English teachers would never have reacted in this way. They would have challenged my teacher’s decision on my use of the word pregnant, and that’s how this work of fiction was born. You can also read it on my Website at


A funny thing happened a year ago when I was a sophomore in high school. In my English class, we read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck which is about a poor southern family who moves to California to find a better life during the Great Depression. We were assigned to write an essay about the book. One of the family members had just gotten out of prison, and his sister was pregnant. Although we weren’t poor and nobody in my family had been in prison or was pregnant when we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, the year before, our situation was similar.

Before we moved here, we were living happily, I thought, in Tucson, Arizona, where my parents taught English at the university. But my folks decided they couldn’t take the heat of Arizona and they no longer wanted to teach at a big university. They quit their jobs and sold the house. We loaded all our earthly possessions into two cars and a U-Haul and hit the road. My older brother Karl and I didn’t want to leave school and our friends. Since Karl played the guitar in a rock band, he didn’t want to leave that, either, but my parents prevailed and off we went.

Mom and Dad thought it might be nice to settle in California by the ocean. Karl liked this idea because it would put us closer to Los Angeles where there was sure to be a rock band he could join. But for some reason, our parents didn’t like any of the towns including L.A., which they said was just like Tucson so we headed north.

For several days, we drove through towns in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, but Mom and Dad still weren’t happy. We finally arrived in Sheridan, and there was something about this town they liked. Karl and I weren’t thrilled because there were no shopping malls and only one movie theater, but Dad and Mom decided that this would be our new home.

We bought a three-story red brick house and the entire third floor became Karl’s domain. He met a boy his age who played the drums, and the two of them formed their own little rock band. Dad and Mom both found jobs teaching English at Sheridan College, and we soon started school and made new friends. About a year later, here I was, writing an essay on John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

I wrote a paper describing the similarities and differences between the family in the book and our family. Mom rewrote it. It was a perfect paper except for one flaw.

“You can’t use the word pregnant,” said Mr. Hilton, in his smug, British accent, as he handed my paper back to me.

I sat at my desk and stared at him. “What’s wrong with the word pregnant?”

“It’s just not an appropriate word to use. You can say that she was in the family way or that she was with child. But you just can’t say that she was pregnant. You’ll have to redo the paper.”

“Redo the whole paper just because I used the word pregnant?”

The room fell silent, and heads turned to look at us. “Will you please keep your voice down? You did this on a computer, right?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“You saved it, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I said again.

“Then all you have to do is open the document, delete the word pregnant, put in something else, and print another copy.”

“That’s ridiculous! There’s nothing wrong with the word pregnant. We use it at our house all the time. Not that anyone in my family is pregnant. What I’m trying to say is that nobody in my family was pregnant while we were traveling across the country looking for a better life.”

People snickered, and I felt my face grow red. I wished my best friend Gwen Curtis were there to stick up for me, but she was in a different class.

With a sigh, Mr. Hilton turned and walked back to his desk. A few minutes later, he returned with a handwritten note. “Please give this to your mother. You have until tomorrow to make that change in your paper. If you don’t, you’ll get an F.”

As Mr. Hilton walked back to his desk, I glanced at the note. It said what he just told me and also that I was arrogant and disrespectful. I didn’t know what to think. Technically, it wasn’t my paper. I was tempted to march up to his desk and tell him that my mom, a college English professor, wrote it for me. But I figured I would get into even more trouble for not writing my own paper. It would be better to do as I was told and leave it at that.

Word of what I said to Mr. Hilton spread like wildfire. Whenever I walked into a classroom or even into the girls’ bathroom, other kids turned and looked at me and snickered. Boys who passed me in the hall said, “Stephanie, I hear you’re pregnant. Congratulations! Who’s the father?”

When the bell rang to signal the end of the last class, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. For once, I was the first one on the school bus going home. As I walked in the front door, Mom was hanging up the phone in the front hall and looked upset. “Honey, I just got a call from Mr. Hilton. He said he sent a note home with you. Could I see it, please?”

My heart sank. I hadn’t intended to show her or Dad the note. I was just going to sneak to the computer while Mom was fixing dinner and make the change. If she happened to notice what I was doing, I would just tell her that Mr. Hilton said I needed to revise the paper.

“Mom.” Before I could continue, I burst into tears.

“Oh sweetie,” Mom said, as she took me into her arms. It felt good to cry on her shoulder and smell her perfume.

“I made a big fool out of myself in English class today. I don’t know if I can ever go back.”

“Honey, it can’t be that bad. Why don’t you tell me what happened and show me the note?”

I told her everything including the fact that I said nobody in my family was pregnant and how other kids treated me after that. I got the note out of my back pack and handed it to her. After glancing at it, her face turned red and she tossed it into a nearby waste basket. “That arrogant fool!” she said. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the word pregnant, and I intend to write him a letter and tell him so. You’ll give him that letter tomorrow with your paper the way it is. If Mr. Hilton doesn’t like it, that’s too bad.”

“But Mom, he’ll give me an F if I don’t change the paper.”

“If he does, I’ll go to the principal. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go to the school board. What Mr. Hilton is doing is just not right, Stephanie, and that’s all there is to it.”

“Mom, I’m already the laughing stock of the whole school. This is just going to make it worse.”

“Stephanie, we have to stand up for what we believe. Besides, we may not even have to go to the school board. I’ll bet when Mr. Hilton reads my letter, he’ll see my point and give you a passing grade. Also, there are girls your age who actually get pregnant. That can be a lot worse than what happened to you today.”

Mom was right. When I thought about it, I realized that at least I hadn’t given birth to a dead baby like the woman in The Grapes of Wrath.

Gwen called before dinner and when I told her Mom might take my case all the way to the school board, she said, “I don’t think it’ll get that far. Miss Rutledge doesn’t like Mr. Hilton so I’m sure she’ll side with you and your mom on this.”

“How do you know that?”

“Last year, Mr. Hilton and Miss Rutledge had an affair that ended bitterly.”

“Get out of here!”

“I’m serious. I overheard Dad telling Mom about it last year. As the school superintendent, he didn’t think it was appropriate for a principal and a teacher to be romantically involved. He went to Miss Rutledge and asked her to break off the relationship. Miss Rutledge refused, saying she loved Mr. Hilton and she’d go back to teaching if that would make their relationship more acceptable. She said she hated being a principal anyway. Dad went to Mr. Hilton and he broke it off. Miss Rutledge was really mad at him.”

“How do you know this?”

“Dad told Mom they were both at a school board meeting soon after this happened and Miss Rutledge wouldn’t even speak to him.”

“So Miss Rutledge could fire Mr. Hilton if he gives me an F on my paper.”

“Not exactly,” said Gwen. “You can’t fire a teacher for something like that. It has to be more serious. But she could make his life so miserable he’d quit.”

“She hasn’t done anything to make his life miserable so far, has she?”

“Not that I know of,” Gwen answered. “She still hasn’t found a way to do it. Your situation could be it.”

“What if it isn’t? What if my mom takes this thing to your dad and the other school board members?”

“Trust me. It won’t get past Miss Rutledge. She’ll find a way to deal with this that will satisfy your mother. You wait and see.”

Gwen and I were close friends. If she said it would be all right, she was probably right. It was with a sigh of relief that I went downstairs for dinner.

During the meal, Mom told Dad what happened and I told him about how the other kids treated me afterwards and how embarrassed I was. Karl, the loving older brother that he was, snickered and said, “In nine months, some brat’s gonna be calling me Uncle Karl.”

“Shut up!” I said, as I hung my head.

“Karl, I think Stephanie has had enough humiliation for one day,” said Mom.

“I’m sorry,” said Karl with a shrug.

When Mom told Dad she was planning to write a letter to Mr. Hilton, he said, “That’s a good idea, honey. What he’s doing, in a way, is censorship.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“In some countries, the government won’t send people’s letters if they don’t like what those people have written,” said Dad. “Sometimes they’ll cut out parts of a letter they don’t like before they send it.”

Although I wasn’t writing a letter, was Mr. Hilton censoring my English paper by telling me I couldn’t write the word pregnant? If that was the case, Mom and Dad were right. Government was not one of my best subjects in school but I knew about our right to freedom of expression and I realized that my right was being violated. I decided that I didn’t care who laughed at me or made jokes about me being pregnant. I was going to fight, along with Mom and Dad, for my right to free expression as an American, even though I didn’t write the paper.

After dinner, Mom wrote the letter. It said that by giving me an F on the paper because I used a word he thought was inappropriate, Mr. Hilton was going against a value she and Dad were trying to teach us, the American value of being able to write what we want without persecution. As a college English teacher, Mom said she didn’t judge a paper on whether inappropriate words were used. She only determined whether the point was well made and she paid particular attention to grammar and spelling. Mom said she read my paper and she believed I made some good points and there were no grammatical or spelling mistakes. In conclusion, she said she thought my paper deserved a passing grade.

The next day at school, some kids still looked at me andsnickered, but I ignored them. When I walked into my English class that afternoon, I put Mom’s note and my untouched paper on the desk in front of Mr. Hilton. “What’s this?” he asked, glancing at the note.

“It’s a letter from my mom saying why I won’t change my paper,” I answered, standing before him with my head held high.

He looked at the letter and said, “Stop by after school, and I’ll have another note for your mother. You now have until tomorrow to make that change, or you’ll get an F, and that’s all there is to it.”

During the bus ride home, I read his letter. It said that teaching college students was different from teaching high school students and that there were certain words that young people in my age group shouldn’t use and pregnant was one of them. It also said that Mom should mind her own business since Mr. Hilton never told her how to teach her classes. By the time I got home, I was fuming and Mom was waiting. Without a word, I handed her Mr. Hilton’s letter and went upstairs to do my homework

After dinner, Mom wrote two letters: one to Mr. Hilton and one to Miss Rutledge. The one to Mr. Hilton said that Mom and Dad still didn’t agree with his decision to give me an F if I didn’t make the change he wanted and that they were appealing to Miss Rutledge. The one to Miss Rutledge told the whole story and said that Mom and Dad hoped she would do the right thing. Both Mom and Dad signed the letters. When I told them what Gwen said about Mr. Hilton and Miss Rutledge, Dad said that was nobody’s business but theirs.

The next morning when I got to school, I went straight to the main office. The school secretary, Miss Evans, smiled when I entered. When I told her I needed to give Miss Rutledge a letter from my parents, she pointed to a nearby doorway and said, “Go right on in. She’s free.” When I hesitated, she laughed and said, “She won’t bite you. She loves to talk to students.”

Still feeling a little unsure of myself, I went to the open doorway and peered into the office. Miss Rutledge was sitting at her desk. When she saw me, she rose and said with a smile,“Come in.”

Feeling a little more at ease, I walked into the room and up to the desk. We shook hands. “I don’t think we’ve met,” she said.

“I’m Stephanie Andrews. I’m a sophomore this year.”

“Hello Stephanie. What can I do for you today?”

Never before did a principal ask what she could do for me. With confidence, I said, “I have a letter for you from my parents. It’s about this paper I wrote for my English class about John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Mr. Hilton doesn’t like me using the word pregnant. He says if I don’t change it, he’ll give me an F on the paper, and my parents and I disagree with that.”

I put the note on the desk. She picked it up, and as she read it, I thought I detected a ghost of a smile. “I see. Do you have a copy of this paper with you? I’d like to read it.”

This was another surprise. No principal ever took an interest in my schoolwork before. “Sure,” I said, as I took it out of my back pack.

“Do you have a free period today before your English class?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have third period free,” I said.

“Good,” she said. Instead of going to study hall, come here. We’ll talk about your paper.”

“Thanks,” I said. As I headed for my first class of the day, I couldn’t help thinking what a neat principal Miss Rutledge was. She was going to take time out of her busy schedule to read my paper and talk to me about it. Technically, it was Mom’s paper, but what did that matter?

During the next two hours, I could hardly concentrate. I kept wondering what Miss Rutledge would say about the paper. Would she agree with me and my folks that it was okay for me to say that the character in the book was pregnant, or would she take Mr. Hilton’s side? If she did, what would happen?

When the bell finally rang at the end of second period, I hurried through the crowded halls. I slowed down when I reached the main office. It wouldn’t do to look too eager. Miss Evans smiled and said, “Go right on in, Stephanie. She’s waiting for you.”

When I stuck my head in the door, Miss Rutledge rose from her desk and smiled at me. “Come on in, and please close the door,” she said.

I did what she asked and took a chair opposite her desk. I braced myself for what might come next.

Still smiling, Miss Rutledge said, “Stephanie, I think you have written an excellent paper. You have made some good points and I see nothing wrong with your use of the word pregnant.”

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” she answered. “In fact, although it’s been years since I’ve read The Grapes of Wrath, it seems that John Steinbeck also used the word.”

“But wasn’t he older than me when he wrote that book?”

“Yes, but I don’t quite understand what Mr. Hilton has against you using that word. I’ll talk to him, and I’ll see that you get a passing grade. You have worked hard on this paper, and you deserve it.”

As I left Miss Rutledge’s office, her last words struck me as funny. She said I worked hard on the paper. Actually, Mom wrote it.

That afternoon, I walked into Mr. Hilton’s English class as usual. While the others went to their seats, I stopped by Mr. Hilton’s desk and put my untouched paper on it along with the letter from my parents. “What’s this?” Mr. Hilton asked.

“My parents and I still think I deserve a passing grade for this paper,” I said. “I talked to Miss Rutledge about it, and she agrees.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Mr. Hilton.

I was ecstatic as I walked to my desk and sat down. Mr. Hilton closed the door and walked to the front of the room. As soon as he opened his mouth, the door opened and in walked Miss Rutledge with a broad grin on her face. Mr. Hilton glared at her but she only smiled and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Hilton. This will only take a moment. Class, it has come to my attention that Mr. Hilton doesn’t like you using the word pregnant in your writing. Is that right?”

“Yeah,” some of us muttered, and heads turned in my direction but I didn’t care.

“We’re going to see if we can’t change his mind,” she said. “Are you guys willing to help me?”

“Sure,” a few people said. Others just stared at her.

“On the count of three, we’re all going to say the word pregnant together. Ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant,” we mumbled, and there were a few titters.

“Come on,” said Miss Rutledge, laughing. “Don’t be afraid of that word. It’s not going to bite you. Again, ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant,” we said, this time with more assurance.

“That’s better,” said Miss Rutledge. “but I don’t think we’ve convinced him. Let’s try it one more time and this time, let’s see how loud we can say it. All right. Ready, one, two, three.”

“Pregnant!” we yelled.

Mr. Hilton glowered at Miss Rutledge and then at us and said, “Fine. Use any damn word you want. I don’t care because I quit!” He turned on his heel and walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

Miss Rutledge picked up my paper. She scribbled something on it and walked to my desk and handed it to me. She still had that broad grin on her face. I looked at the paper. At the top, she’d written, “A+.” It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Here I was, getting an A+ for a paper my mother wrote.

Miss Rutledge took over Mr. Hilton’s classes and the vice principal took over the running of the school. Later, we heard that Mr. Hilton got a job driving a truck. The following summer, Miss Rutledge and Mr. Hilton were married. By the start of the next school year, Mrs. Hilton was, well, in the family way.


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Losing Battle

Before I started writing full time, I worked for fifteen years as an activities assistant in a nursing home. Most of the time, I worked with residents suffering from Alzheimer’s’ disease. The following poem reflects on how frustrating this disorder can be. It can also be read on my Web site at


My get up and go
just got up and went.
I’m feeling so down.
My whole life’s been spent.

I sit in my chair
day in and day out.
Sometimes I cry.
Sometimes I shout.

I don’t know one soul
from the next, don’t you see?
I can only smile
when they talk to me.

I need help each day,
unsure what to do.
Everything’s jumbled.
Everything’s new.

Although I can walk,
I don’t know where to go.
Nothing’s familiar.
There’s nothing I know.

Sometimes it’s hopeless.
I see no light
at the end of the tunnel,
no daybreak in sight.

But it’s just as well
that there’s no forthcoming dawn—
for my get up and go’s
gotten up and gone.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Anatomy of Two Hands

Because of my visual impairment, I rely on my other senses more than most people do. The following poem illustrates how my sense of touch compensates for my lack of vision. It was first published in the spring 2005 issue of Voicings from the High Country and can also be read on my Web site at


These hands are soft and gentle.
They can turn the pages of a book.
They have never flung a stinky diaper
into a dirty clothes hamper.
They cannot run or chew
and they’ll never steal anything
that doesn’t belong to them.

These hands could plant taupe flowers if they exist.
Would the moon feel wiggly?
That is hard to say

but these hands have known the touch
of many things
because they have compensated
for eyes that have never known
the sight of many things.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scent Story

When I was in the sixth grade in a public school here in Sheridan, Wyoming, the school board bought me a closed-circuit television reading system which was set up in my classroom. I hated it at first because my eyes kept getting tired, but my teacher kept encouraging me to read with it. After I got used to it, I realized that I could read print books just like any sighted kid.

At the end of the school year, I was allowed to take the machine home for the summer, and that was when I discovered Nancy Drew. For the next few years, I was hooked. In the following poem, the scent of a toilet tissue in a public restroom takes me back to those lazy summer days when I was either buying the latest Nancy Drew books or spending many happy hours at home reading them.


The smell of new books permeated the store’s interior.
As an excited girl of twelve or thirteen, ,
I made my way to the Nancy Drew section.
I was already in the convertible with Nancy and her friends,
as they headed for their next adventure.

Forty years later,
I sit in a toilet stall at the YMCA.
The tissue’s scent takes me back to that bookstore
when I couldn’t wait to get home and read.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Monday, October 10, 2011

Invasion of the Upside Down Cats

When I was growing up, my family had its share of dogs and cats. As an adult, I don’t have any pets because I don’t want the added responsibility of caring for them and for Bill who is partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. I’ve always enjoyed other people’s pets.

It’s funny how animals react to certain objects. One evening when I was single, I left my apartment and went down the hall to visit my friend Becky who had just acquired a cat named Princess. I was wearing cat slippers at the time and didn’t even think of it. When I first saw Princess, I was struck by how much this tiger-striped cat resembled Howard, a female cat we had when I was a little girl. Howard had long since passed away, but maybe her spirit had come back to me in Princess’s body. I approached and said, “Hello, Princess.”

But the first thing Princess saw were two upside down cats invading her territory. She snarled, hissed, and spat. I dared not pet her, but continued talking to her. “It’s okay, sweetie. I’m a friend of your new mommy’s, and I want to be your friend too.”

“Maybe she thinks your slippers are going to attack her,” she said. “Why don’t you take them off and see what happens?”

I sat on a nearby couch, removed the slippers, and placed them on the floor. Princess came over and sniffed them. I think she then realized they were harmless, but she still wouldn’t have anything to do with me. Needless to say, I never wore the slippers again when I visited Becky.

During the many years of Princess’s nine lives, I tried everything I could to develop a rapport with her. Becky bought her a myriad of toys, and whenever I visited, I tried tempting her to play with one of these, but she would have none of that. When Becky was out of town, I visited Princess twice a day, fed her, and changed her water, but although she knew I was the one supplying the sustenance, she showed absolutely no gratitude.

One day while Becky was gone, I bought a can of tuna at Wal-Mart. I used half of it to make a sandwich for myself, and brought the other half to her. I put the can on the floor next to her food bowl, and she saw me do it. Since tuna was one of her favorite foods, I thought surely this would bring her around to me. But that evening when I came back to check on her, the can of tuna was completely empty, but Princess performed her usual growling, hissing, and spitting routine when I approached and greeted her.

I gave up after that. Maybe I should have given her the whole can, but I doubt it would have mattered. When Princess first saw me, she saw two upside down cats. First impressions mean a lot, even to animals.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome

Friday, October 7, 2011

National Poetry Day

October 15th is National Poetry Day. Many writers’ groups hold events in their communities. Here in Sheridan, our monthly poetry group is planning a reading at the local senior center for the 20th. If you’re not a poet but like poetry, you can still celebrate. Find an event in your community. Read a poem to yourself, a friend or family member, or even your cat.

There are many Websites that promote poetry. Your Daily Poem is one of them. You can browse the poems on the site and search for material by a particular poet. You can sign up to receive a poem a day via e-mail, and you can comment on the poems you read. Check it out at

Now, in celebration of National Poetry Day, I’ll leave you with a poem. This appeared in Wyoming Fence Lines, an anthology of poems about borders: physical, mental, or otherwise. It’s one example of what happens when such boundaries are crossed.


The branches of the evergreen tree

on the other side of the fence are covered with snow.

A barking dog scoots over the fence and towards the squalid house,

skidding on the slippery ground.

The cat in the window sill squeals

and jumps to a nearby chair.

Her paw hits a vase of wilted flowers

that falls to the floor with a loud crash.

A shot rings out, signaling the canine’s demise.

That happens when borders are crossed.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome