Forever is Never Too Long

Thanks to Rhonda Partain for inspiring this. I believe that if you truly love someone, forever is never too long.

Most marriages aren’t fraught with the turmoil that ours was. When my late husband Bill and I were married in the fall of 2005, I was in my forties, and he was nineteen years my senior. Three months after our wedding, Bill suffered a stroke that paralyzed his left side. A year later, he suffered another stroke, just as we were thinking maybe he’d get back on his feet again. That never happened.

For six years, I cared for him at home. With the use of only one arm and leg, he could do little for himself. Nevertheless, I loved him, and it never crossed my mind to leave him and find another. I would have cared for him for another twenty years, but in the fall of 2012, he started to decline, and it became difficult for me to lift him. I had to move him to a nursing home where he died a month later. You can read more about this in My Ideal Partner.

Some young people nowadays look on marriage as if they were buying a car. They move in together so they can test-drive the relationship. I don’t have a problem with this, but years after they’ve decided they’re right for each other, they toss the marriage aside like an old car that is no longer of use to them. Not only is this heartbreaking for the parties involved, but it’s also not fair to any children they may have had during that time. These children didn’t choose to be born and deserve a stable family environment.

If a spouse is abusive or unfaithful, that’s one thing, but simply falling out of love with your significant other should never happen. If you’re considering marriage, be sure. Be very sure you two are compatible and that you really want to spend the rest of your lives together. A marriage isn’t a car. You can’t trade it in for another model when you get tired of it. If you truly love the one you want to marry, forever will never be too long.

***

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.

 

 

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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A Valentine Song and Poem by Abbie Johnson Taylor

I know it’s a day early, but here’s a poem I wrote for my late husband to commemorate Valentine’s Day. You can click on the title to hear me read it and sing a related song. I hope that tomorrow, you do something special with the one you love.

***

TO MY DEPARTED VALENTINE

 

 

Dearest of hearts, most gentle of souls,

you are my only one,

always remembered, never forgotten.

 

With you, I soared to unimaginable heights.

Now you’re gone—I still fly

for you’ve given me my own wings.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a novel, two poetry collections and a memoir. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders and Serendipity Poets Journal. She has a visual impairment and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes. Please visit her blog and website.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

How I Fell in Love with My Ideal Partner by Abbie Johnson Taylor

In the winter of 2002, I was single and living here in Sheridan, Wyoming.  A couple of months after subscribing, I decided to pose a question on Newsreel, an audio magazine where people with visual impairments could share ideas and music and trade or sell items. Being a writer who attended workshops away from my computer on a regular basis, I wanted to know if there was any way to transfer a document from a braille note-taker to my computer. At the time, most note[takers didn’t use standard word processing formats, so the answers I received weren’t satisfactory.

 

One of these came from Bill Taylor, who lived in Fowler, Colorado, where he grew up and where he owned a computer store for twenty years. I don’t remember his answer, but I do recall him asking me about my writing. I responded that I wrote fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and that I worked as a registered music therapist in a nursing home. He then wrote back and said his mother lived in a nursing home. We had a little something in common.

 

Over the next couple of years, we corresponded, mainly by email but occasionally by phone. He’d downloaded over a hundred songs on his computer, and he sent me some of these on cassettes. I emailed him some of my writing. In the spring of 2003, when I started work on my first novel, We Shall Overcome, I sent him chapters, and he responded with feedback.

 

In the spring of 2004, on our way to visit my brother and his family in New Mexico, my father and I decided to stop in Fowler to see Bill, although it was a bit out of the way. Bill and I visited for about half an hour, and I discovered that he, like me, was a fan of Dr. Pepper. The following December, we returned, on our way to New Mexico for Christmas, and took Bill out to breakfast. At that time, he suggested we kiss under the mistletoe in his living room, but I thought he was joking.

 

In January of 2005, I received a braille letter from him in the mail and the shock of my life when I read it. He was asking me to marry him. At first, I thought he wanted me to move to Fowler, an idea I didn’t like, since I’d lived in Sheridan for years and wasn’t about to start from scratch in a new town. However, when I spooke to him on the phone after receiving his letter, he told me he wanted to move to Sheridan. He was tired of his home town, where there wasn’t much to do. Although I still didn’t know if I loved him, this was definitely a game-changer.

 

A couple of months later, he came to Sheridan to visit and proposed to me officially at a restaurant in the presence of family and friends. Something clicked, and I said yes.

 

In July, he moved to Sheridan, and I quit my job at the nursing home. In September, we were married. I wish I could say that was the end, and we’re still living happily ever after, thanks to Newsreel, but that was not to be.

 

In January of 2006, Bill suffered a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair. He spent nine months in the same nursing home where I’d worked, and I brought him home in September of that year. We’d hoped he would be back on his feet some day, but in January of 2007, he suffered a second stroke, not as severe, but bad enough to set him back to the point where he could never walk again. I cared for him at home until he passed in October 2012.

 

Despite the trials and tribulations of him only having the use of one arm and leg and me being his caregiver, most of our time together was happy, and we both looked forward to the arrival of Newsreel each month, first through the mail on cassette, then via digital download. You can read our complete story in a memoir I published in 2016, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

 

If I hadn’t met Bill, I probably would still be working forty-hour weeks in the nursing home and may not have published four books. If not for Newsreel, I wouldn’t have met Bill. I hope this audio publication continues for at least another sixty years.

 

Now it’s your turn. How did you meet your ideal partner? Was it love at first site, or did it take a while? Maybe the song you hear when you click below will inspire you. It’s one I wanted to sing at my wedding but didn’t think I could.

 

Annie’s Song

 

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.

 

 

Giving Care with Love

I’m Abbie Johnson Taylor, and I wrote this post.

 

Last week, I heard, on NPR, one of many reports about the sentencing hearing for the U.S. Army sergeant who went AWOL in the Middle East and was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years before being released. During that day’s proceedings, Shannon, the wife of one of the soldiers injured while searching for the missing sergeant, said that her husband’s severe injuries impacted their interactions, and she felt more like a caregiver than a wife.

 

My heart goes out to Shannon and others in her situation. For six years, I cared for my late husband Bill, who suffered two strokes and became partially paralyzed. However, I showed him my love all the time, and he showed me his in return. After dressing him in the morning and transferring him to his wheelchair, I put my arms around his waist and held him for a moment, then kissed his cheek and positioned my cheek in front of his mouth so he could do the same, which he did. At mealtime after I put food in front of him or gave him his pills, I put my arm around his shoulder and kissed the top of his head. He often put his good arm around my waist, and we both held each other momentarily. Of course Shannon’s husband may not be able to return her affections, but he can surely feel hers, and at a time when he can do nothing else, it’s important for him to feel loved.

 

In My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I explain other ways Bill and I showed love for each other during the years I cared for him at home. Through this book, I hope to reach out to Shannon and others who are caring for loved ones at home. If you’re in such a situation, you’re not alone. No doubt your community has a support group, and the Internet is full of blogs and other resources for caregivers. I hope Shannon and others can find a way to put love back in their relationships.

 

***

 

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.

 

 

SUCCESS

Post (c) Doris McCraw

Doris

What is success?

Seeing-Underneath-Conceited-Concepts-Expressing-Self-Sincerely?

Many times we have achieved success, but because we are looking at societies view of what is successful, we miss the joy of what we have. This thought came up again this week on the anniversary of my mother’s death.

Was my mother successful? Perhaps not by societies standards, but in so many ways she was gifted. She had a loving family that extended out to non-blood relations. She had the ability to make everyone feel like they were important, but didn’t suffer fools gladly. She succeeded in creating a life from challenging situations. From years of foster homes she learned how to support and love people. Perhaps she knew how successful she was somewhere deep inside, but she was always surprised at how people viewed her. How much they appreciated her.

sweet-reality
Success is sleeping with a clear mind and heart

When we reach for success, when we want to go for the gold, a clear picture of what that really looks like is necessary. But, sometimes just living a life of joy, love and helpfulness can be more rewarding than the gold medal. Taking the time to see what society has deemed success and what our hearts tell us is the reality can bring peace of mind.

We all are really much more successful than we realize. Taking stock of just that fact can bring a peace that allows us to follow the dreams we still have. We are never to young or too old to be happy, to express ourselves sincerely and share the success of being alive and loved.

flower-723-fisheye
Happy Valentine’s Day – photo (c) Doris McCraw

While I have waxed philosophical, the truth is we need to let others know they are special, that their just being alive and in our lives is a success of the first order. So to all of you, you are an inspiration and a success in my eyes. Happy Valentine’s Day and love to all who read this. As Bacharach said “what the world needs now, is love sweet love”

Doris McCraw, pen name-Angela Raines, is an author, speaker, historian who specializes in Colorado and Women’s History.

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Click Here 
Photos and Poetry:  Click Here
Like Angela Raines on Facebook: Click Here

 

Bill’s Birthday

Abbie J. Taylor 010

This Post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Bill would have been seventy-four years old today. I wrote the following poem four years ago on his birthday while he was in the nursing home almost two weeks before he passed. It appears in my new book, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds. Click on the title to hear me read it.

***

BIRTHDAY

Gray hair against white pillow,

lips caress my cheek,

his good arm encircles my shoulder.

The odor of peanut butter

scent of his shampoo comfort me.

Seventy years old today, he says he loves me,

kiss soft against my cheek,

as we hold each other,

for who knows how long.

***

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.

 

Summer Strawberries by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

I love to eat them year round, not just during the hottest months. When my late husband Bill was alive, he would buy them fresh, rinse them in cold water, remove stems, slice into bite-sized pieces with a sharp knife, then sprinkle with sugar and serve warm over ready-made angel food cakes. When two strokes left him partially paralyzed, most of the work involved in preparing this sweet treat fell to me. To my amazement, with only one hand, he was still able to slice the strawberries and add the sugar. The first few times, I couldn’t help wondering if some of the red was blood, but he didn’t appear to be bleeding, and the dessert didn’t taste bloody.

After my husband died, I continued buying fresh strawberries and shortcake and preparing them the way Bill liked them because this made me feel closer to him. In the following poem from my collection, That’s Life, I illustrate this. Click this link to hear me read it.

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The Art of Eating Strawberries

 

 

I eat them the way you like them,

feel close to you when I rinse them in cold water,

remove stems, tear into bite-sized pieces,

add sugar, let sit in the refrigerator,

heat in the microwave over shortcake,

so sweet, so warm,

wish you were here to enjoy them,

but you’ve gone to a better place

so I must eat strawberries alone.

***

Then I discovered whole all natural strawberries from Schwann. They’re already in bite-size pieces, so they don’t have to be sliced. They’re pretty sugary, as they are, and I don’t need the extra calories in angel food shortcake. Now I just put some in a bowl to thaw overnight, and they make a great breakfast treat. I think Bill would have approved. You can read more about other foods Bill liked and my cooking disasters in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Do you have a favorite summertime fruit? How do you like to eat it: plain, with vanilla ice cream perhaps?

***

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.

Lessons Learned From NOLA

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This post is by Joe Stephens

As you all know, I got back relatively recently from a visit to New Orleans. I won’t bore you with more details on that trip, but I do want to share some lessons of which I was reminded as a result of my time there.

  1. Time, Money, Horizontal, Speculate, Crisis, DecisionTime is better than money. Most summers over the last several years, I’ve taught summer school. I did it for the money. So what did I do to decompress from a satisfying but long and stressful school year? I did more school. This year I decided that I needed time more than money. Granted, this is easy for me to say in my circumstance, making more money than I need to live. For the first time in my life, I don’t live from paycheck to paycheck, so I have the luxury to make that decision. But my point is that many of us choose money over time because we’re either living beyond our means or we’re just accumulating wealth for no reason other than to have it. I’ve been saying to Jenna, whom I love as a daughter, that I would visit her for years, but for various reasons I just never took the time. This year I decided that I was finished with that and just bought that plane ticket. And when I got there, I spent more money than I probably should have, but I did it without guilt because I got to share some wonderful experiences with someone very special to me. Speaking of which…
  2. 20160706_194525
    Take that trip you’ve been putting off!

    Experiences are way better than things. In fact, other than the small number of things we need to keep us alive and healthy, practically the only reason that things matter is to remind us of great experiences and the loved ones with whom we shared them. I used to try to find happiness with stuff. A new car every couple years, a newer, faster computer, the latest gadget–but they never made me happy. And I sacrificed the ability to do things with friends and family to get them. That’s something I don’t want to do anymore.

  3. Now is better than later. This summer has reminded all West Virginians that bad things come out of nowhere and you never know when a day is your last. So take that visit, make that phone call, stop saying maybe next year–do it now. I’m not saying to go into debt so you can take a cruise. I’m saying that we often choose to put things off because we’re tired or stressed or we’re just too plain lazy, thinking that we have plenty of tiGraffiti, Colorful, Now, Street Art, Mural, Facademe to get around to spending quality time with those we love and seeing the places we dream of someday and, for many of us, that someday never comes. So make someday now.

There you go. I hope you find those edifying.

 

sunrise cover option 7Joe’s newest book, Dawn of Grace, just debuted on June 9. It’s available on Amazon.

ITS Cover ArtCheck out his third book, In The Shadow on Amazon

kindle cover

Take a look at his debut book, Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at his second book, Kisses and Lies on Amazon

A Caregiver’s Last Day by Abbie Johnson Taylor

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

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

***

FOR THE LAST TIME

 

Your leg jerks in pain,

as I put on your socks and underwear.

You wince when I roll you over,

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

I put on your shoes, pull you upright,

haul on your hoody, fasten your gait belt,

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

We embrace–you’ll begin a new life

where others can more easily care for you.

We’ll always be together.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

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

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems