Dancing, a Poem

The girl across the street was learning ballet.

I wanted to, though I couldn’t see.

At the age of eleven,

with a private teacher young and energetic,

I learned to plie, sashay.

 

With a cassette tape she made

that contained music and her instructions,

I jumped, kicked, skipped across our Arizona kitchen floor.

 

We moved to Wyoming a year later.

With a different teacher, old and crabby,

I tried a class with other girls,

couldn’t tell what they were doing,

dropped out, moved on.

***

The above poem was recently published in The Pangolin Review. Click this link to hear me read it.

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir and am currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, Magnets and Ladders, and other publications. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. I also taught braille, facilitated a support group for the visually impaired, and served on the advisory board for a state trust fund that allows people with low vision or blindness to purchase adaptive equipment. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

Talking Dirty by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanks to the Magic of Stories for inspiring this post. Karen J. Mossman talks, in a way, about creating a balance between being realistic and providing an escape for our readers.

Can you think of any scenes where people go to the bathroom? I’m going to be vain and tell you that in my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I talk about going to the bathroom a lot. In one scene, I’m making oatmeal, and my husband Bill, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes, is sitting at the kitchen table in his wheelchair. Suddenly, he says, “Oooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.” This gives my readers an idea of what I went through as a caregiver.

What about farting? In Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, there’s a scene in which a high school football coach flatulates while lying in bed, reading the newspaper, much to his wife’s annoyance. This gives you some idea of what kind of guy the coach is. Bill also liked to expel wind through his posterior, but I couldn’t find a way to bring that into my story since it wasn’t related.

How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she belches for emphasis. Again, I’m showing you her character.

Eating is another bodily function often portrayed. One great example of this is in the book, Prizzie’s Honor. Charlie, a mafia crook, is eating lunch with his boss. It’s an Italian ten-course meal. This emphasizes the irony that evil people enjoy the good things in life.

I suppose we ought to talk about sex, but I’d rather not. None of my work has vivid descriptions, and frankly, such scenes bog a story down. Hand holding, kissing, and embracing are enough to show the reader two people are in love.

What do you think? Do bodily functions, including sex, enhance a story or slow it down too much?

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir and am currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, Magnets and Ladders, and other publications. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. I also taught braille, facilitated a support group for the visually impaired, and served on the advisory board for a state trust fund that allows people with low vision or blindness to purchase adaptive equipment. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

Where’s Your Happy Place? by Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

Believe it or not, even though I live in Sheridan, Wyoming, my happy place is a beach in Jupiter, Florida, where my brother and I often go when I visit him. I sometimes swim but am mostly content to walk alongside the ocean and feel cool waves wash over my feet, cleansing them of the tension from which I’m retreating. I also enjoy sitting in a lawn chair with a picnic lunch or lying on a blanket. Once when I got sick during my visit, my brother and his family encouraged me to accompany them to the beach. I went, against my better judgement, and to my surprise, the ocean breeze and the roaring waves plus the occasional cry of seagulls made me feel better.

I recently red an article entitled “5 Ways to Re-Start a Bad Day.” One suggestion given here is to think of your happy place. This could be a place where you went as a child with happy memories associated with it. It could be a place where you’ve never been but would like to go. It could even be a made-up place. Now that summer is waning and fall is approaching, I want you to think of your happy place and tell me about it.

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir and am currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Weekly Avocet, Magnets and Ladders, and other publications. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes soon after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist, working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities. I also taught braille, facilitated a support group for the visually impaired, and served on the advisory board for a state trust fund that allows people with low vision or blindness to purchase adaptive equipment. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

Is It Time to Step Away from Your Work?

Feeling burnt out? Have a bad case of writer's block? Maybe it's time to step away from your work for a while. How do you know when you need creative rest, though, and when to apply butt to chair...? | creativity | productivity | writing advice

 

 

Cole Smith Writes | creativity | productivity | writingby Cole Smith

 

 

“Apply butt to chair.” That’s the ubiquitous advice. Write, no matter what. Even when you don’t feel like it, WRITE. But how do you know when it’s really time to step away from your work for a little while, and when you’re just making excuses to your internal editor?

 

 

True burnout goes deeper than fatigue or writer’s block. When, instead of writing yourself out of a funk, you write yourself deeper into one, you know it’s time to step away.

 

“How am I supposed to get any work done?” wrote a blogger in one of my closed Facebook groups. Then she went on to describe several truly terrible situations she and her family were navigating. There are seasons of life when self-care has to take priority over goals. Don’t give up on your work; just give it grace. Several members of my group were quick to support our friend. And maybe that’s what she was really asking, the underlying question beneath the surface: “Is it okay if I stop for a bit?”

 

 

Burnout is bad for creativity.

The Muse is real! Ancient creatives used the archetype to conceptualize the spirit of creativity. If you try to push through burnout with brute force, you’ll drive away your Muse and your subconscious won’t burp up those wonderful ideas any more. So how do you woo back your Muse?

 

 

Rest is good for creativity.

Remember good ol’ Archimedes? According to legend, the Principle of Buoyancy came to him in the bath, and he was so overjoyed he streaked through town to tell everyone. Okay, so that story’s equal parts myth and fact, but it’s still very true, isn’t it? Suffering burnout, it was only when Archy settled down for a little relaxation that inspiration struck him like a suckerpunch. (And if streaking through town isn’t a sign of a burnout-addled brain, I don’t know what is…)

 

 

A full cup = greater impact!

The old adage, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is true. If you’re feeling starved in any area of your creative life, the inspiration that flows to you only serves to fill you up. But when you’re fulfilled, confident, and rested, you’re able to overflow into others. Your readers, accountabilibuddies, and community will benefit from what you’re able to generously pass on. And that’s no small thing–the world needs encouragement, inspiration, and joy.

 

 

Schedule a personal retreat, a day of creative rest, or just get away from your WIP for a while. It’s not selfish or weak, but necessary! If you need permission to step away, you have it. Your work is too important not to take care of yourself 🙂

 

********

Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for writers and other creatives at www.colesmithwrites.com. Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, is available here.

 

Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest

 

Waiting forJacob, a Christian cozy mystery

 

 

 

 

 

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Running Through the Sprinkler, a Poem by Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

The following poem was recently published in The Weekly Avocet. This is a haibun, a poetry form that combines a paragraph of prose with a stanza of haiku. You can click the link below to hear me read it.

***

Running through the sprinkler.mp3

***

RUNNING THROUGH THE SPRINKLER

I stand on the sidewalk, a jet of cold water in front of me, my impaired eyes unable to find a way around it, as cars whoosh by on the busy street. The ninety-degree sun beats down. A tepid breeze caresses my face. I remember how fun it was to run through the sprinkler as a kid. Why not, I think. With a hearty “Yahoo!” I dash into the water’s inviting coolness.

a hot summer day
cold water sweeps over me
I’m a child again

***

What did you do to cool off in the summer when you were a kid?

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. I’m currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

 

My Most Precious Possession by Abbie Johnson Taylor

During a memoir writing workshop at the Wyoming Writers conference I attended a couple of weeks ago, one of many story ideas we were given was this. If your house was on fire, and all the people and animals were safe, what would you take with you? This reminded me of a conversation I had with my sister-in-law years ago after they evacuated their home in Los Alamos, New Mexico, as a result of a forest fire that threatened the small town. Thankfully, their house remained in tact, but something my sister-in-law said made me want to strangle her.

She explained that since she and my brother didn’t know if their house would survive the fire, they’d crammed as many of their earthly possessions as they could into their mini-van including two small children and two cats. She’d insisted on taking their photo album, although there was little room. I wanted to tell her that more memories can be made and more pictures taken, but you can’t replace yourself or a loved one. Being a mother, she should have focused more on making sure she and her children were safe.

If my house were on fire, I suppose I might try to rescue my tablet and SD card containing some of my writing. Then again, call me vain, and maybe it’s my fear of fire and death that are talking, but my most precious possession is me. Photographs can be re-taken. Computers can be replaced. Writing can be rewritten. You can bake a cake again, even if you don’t have the recipe. Life, on the other hand, is the most precious possession of all.

What about you? If your house caught fire, and all the people and animals were safe, what would you take with you? I hope I’ve convinced you that this is a no-brainer, but if I haven’t, I’d be interested in reading about any treasured items you might try to rescue and the stories behind them. That’s the point of this exercise, anyway. You can share your stories on your own blog with a link here or in the comment field below. In any case, I hope to hear from you.

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. I’m currently working on another novel. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

My Downtown Memories by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanks to Mike Staton’s post  here for inspiring this. When I was growing up in the 1960’s, my family was living in Tucson, Arizona, and a trip downtown was exciting because we had to drive through a large tunnel in order to get there. Dad or Mother kept honking the horn, as we drove through, and I loved the way the sound reverberated.

Once downtown, I enjoyed shopping in department stores with escalators and elevators. During the Christmas season, visiting Santa Claus was the highlight of any shopping trip. We often ate at a cafeteria, where my favorite meal was turkey with dressing and sweet potatoes. On my eleventh birthday, my parents took me and my younger brother to dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we ate outside on a patio.

The Tucson Community Center opened downtown while we were still living there, and Dad and I heard such performers as The Carpenters and Sonny and Cher. This facility also had a music hall where we heard performances of such works as Benjamin Britton’s A Celebration of Carols and Karl Orf’s Carmina Burana. We even heard a production of Rosini’s The Barber of Seville.

After we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, going downtown wasn’t nearly as exciting. The only tunnels were underpasses on the freeway. None of the department stores had escalators. One had an elevator, but it was old and creaky and had to be run by a human operator. However, there was a café where I enjoyed drinking milk shakes after school.

Now, that café has since been replaced by another that doesn’t serve milk shakes. The department store with the elevator is gone, as are other stores that were there during my childhood. I still enjoy walking downtown from my home in favorable weather to do banking and other errands.

***

Now, in celebration of National Poetry Month, I’ll conclude with a poem I wrote that was inspired by a childhood memory of downtown Sheridan at night. This is an acrostic in which the first letter of each line spells “downtown.” You can click on the title to hear me read it.

***

MOONLIGHT MADNESS

 

 

Dancing lights from cars pass

on busy sidewalks

with stores of all sorts to delight shoppers who have

not a care in the world, as they stroll

to Penney’s, Woolworth’s

on streets that are crowded

with babies in strollers, children, and adults

needing nothing more than to shop and enjoy.

 

***

 

What do you remember about downtown when you were growing up? What has changed since then?

 

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

 

Let’s Talk by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Here are twenty-five fun questions I picked up from blogger Amaan Khan. I triple dog dare you to answer these, either on your own blog or in the comments field. My answers are below.

***

Q1: Do you have any pets?

A: No, although I like cats and dogs, after being my late husband Bill’s caregiver for six years, I’m still not ready to care for another living thing, even though it’s been five years since he died.

Q2: Name three things that are close to you.

A: My computer, my Braille tablet, which I’m using as a display at the moment, and my closed-circuit television reading system.

Q3:  What’s the weather like right now”

A: Here in Sheridan, Wyoming, it’s sunny with a blue sky and 47 degrees Fahrenheit. The multitude of snow we’ve accumulated in the past couple of months is melting.

Q4: Do you drive? If so, have you crashed?

A: No, I don’t drive because of my visual impairment. If I did, I would crash.

Q5: What time did you wake up this morning?

A: About six thirty.

Q6: When was the last time you showered?

A: This morning.

Q7: Do you participate in any sports?

A: No, for the same reason I don’t drive, but I work out regularly.

Q8: What does your last text message say?

A: That I don’t remember since I haven’t received a text message in a couple of days.

Q9: What is your ring tone?

A: It’s simply called “harp.” It’s one of about twenty that were already on my phone when I got it.

Q10: Have you ever been out of your country or traveled by plane?

A: Yes, I traveled to Mexico with my father when I was twelve. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, at the time and studying Spanish and thought it would be fun to go there and practice what we’d learned. I came home with a bad case of Montezuma’s revenge. I’ve also made many trips by plane.

Q11: Do you like sushi?

A: I’ve never had it, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. It sounds disgusting.

Q12: Do you have a desktop or a laptop?

A: I have a desktop computer, but I also use a braille tablet.

Q13: How old will you be turning on your next birthday?

A: I’ll be fifty-seven.

Q14: Do you wear glasses or contacts?

A: No, they don’t do anything to correct my limited vision.

Q15: What is your favorite pizza topping?

A: I like everything on a pizza. My late husband Bill, on the other hand, only liked meat and mushrooms and a little cheese. WhenEver we ordered a pizza, we always got half and half. Because of my  limited vision, after I served each of us a slice, Bill often took a bite and said, “Oooh, this is your half.”

Q16: Flight or invisibility?

A: I’m not sure I’m a fan of either.

Q17: Which is your favorite book of all time?

A: I don’t have any favorite books.

Q18: Are you married?

A: Not anymore. I was married in 2005. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. After six months of recuperation in a nursing home, I cared for him for six years until he passed in 2012. You can learn more about that by reading My Ideal Partner.

Q19: What is your favorite drink?

A: Dr. Pepper.

Q20: What was your favorite subject in school?

A: English.

Q21: What’s your favorite movie?

A: The Wizard of Oz.

Q22: How do I bring you to your knees?

A: Chocolate ice cream.

Q23: What is your favorite color?

A: Blue.

Q24: Did you graduate from high school?

A: Yes, in 1980.

Q25: What is the last thing you bought?

A: An iGoku Bluetooth speaker.

***

Now, you know almost everything there is to know about me. As I said before, I encourage you to answer any or all of these questions, either in the comments field or on your own blog. If you answer the questions on  your blog, please include a link to this post. I look forward to reading your answers.

***

I’m the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My work has appeared in The Avocet and Magnets and Ladders. I have a visual impairment and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Before that, I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home and other facilities that served senior citizens. For more information, please visit my website and blog.

***

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.

 

 

3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring

Cole SmithThis post by Cole Smith

 

Looking for a few quick, easy ways to shake up your routine in the new month? Are you feeling creative cabin fever after weeks of winter? Since I work in a school, my patterns are cyclical: summer is sweet freedom, fall means migrating back to classes, winter is rest and self-care, and spring is time for awakening and energizing!

As the trees form buds and the green leaves of the lilies push out of the soil, I find this time of year to be perfect for shaking off winter’s slower pace. I like to find new inspiration. Check out these three ideas to freshen up your work and super-charge your creativity for spring:

 

3 Ways to Welcome Creativity Into Spring

 

Take a one-day retreat.

Even the busiest among us can find time to take a day to dream, plan, and create. A little preparation can ensure you’ve got an entire Saturday to yourself!

 

 

Get outside into nature.

Many recent studies have proven what we all instinctively understand: time spent in nature has a restorative quality. Immerse yourself in the great out-of-doors and reap the rewards.

 

Host a luncheon for other cooped-up Creatives.

If you’re feeling cabin fever, your fellow Creatives feel it, too. Opt for easy and have your pals over for a laid-back snack buffet. Or just meet at a local restaurant, preferably one with lots of windows 🙂

 

 

We spend so much time indoors, it can feel like an endless stretch from New Year’s to spring. Energize your creative routine by treating yourself to one or more of these fun activities. You’ve been working hard—now take a step back, a deep breath, and look at how far you’ve come. What’s your favorite way to revitalize your work routine?

 

* * * * * * *

 

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Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com. Her cozy mystery, Waiting for Jacob, will be released on March 20.

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Oh my, Valentine!

Cole Smith

 

 

Have you ever wondered about the origins of Valentine’s Day? Where did our favorite romantic holiday find its many symbols–the pink and red, the cards, the sweets, and the hearts? Is it really, as some suggest, a holiday cooked up by greeting card companies?

 

Valentine’s Day is an old holiday, with roots extending all the way back to third-century Rome and a Roman Catholic presbyter named Valentinus. Most of the facts have been lost to history, and all we really know for certain is that Valentinus was martyred and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. His alleged skull, ringed with a crown of flowers, is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It’s both creepy and Valentine’s-y, no?

 

 

Valentine's Key

 

Legend has it that on the night before he was to be martyred, Valentine sent a card to the daughter of his prison guard, for whom he’d performed a healing miracle. He signed the card “your Valentine”. Did that simple letter start the tradition of sending cards with the words “from your Valentine”? We can’t know. Some sources claim this young woman planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave. Its pink blossoms have endured as a symbol of love and friendship.

 

Probably, the St. Valentine we remember on February 14th is a composite of two or three men named Valentine, who were all active in the church at that time. There are many unverified legends associated with this figure. One is that he performed secret weddings for active military soldiers who were forbidden to marry during times of conflict. (It’s been argued Claudius never issued such a ban.)

 

Soldiers who were keen to marry their sweethearts in a holy Christian ceremony would recognize Valentine by the amethyst Cupid ring he wore. Since Cupid was an approved symbol of love during the marriage ban, the ring was a safe secret sign. It’s probably one reason the amethyst became the February birthstone, since it’s believed by some to attract love!

 

Another legend is that Valentine also cut parchment paper hearts and presented them to soldiers and other persecuted Christians as a reminder to uphold their serious vows and to remember the greatest love from Heaven.

 

 

Oh, Valentine!

 

 

It wasn’t until Chaucer published the Parlement of Foules in the fourteenth century that St. Valentine’s Day became associated with “courtly love”, and many of the traditions we celebrate today. That’s right, writers. Chaucer and his following created a holiday. Now that’s the power of a great story!

 

Romantic courtiers started to apply themselves to Valentine’s poems. The now-cheesy “Roses are red…” line first showed up in 1590, in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen!

 

 

Be My Valentine!

 

It didn’t take long to match sweet words with sweet treats, and the Cadbury candy company claims credit for making the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1868. Mass-marketed paper valentines showed up around 1847. And so it goes, even today.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or Pal-entine’s Day, I wish you all the joy, sweets, and sentiment the holiday has to offer. What’s the best valentine you’ve ever received?

*****

 

Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.

Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest.

 

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