*Kindling Friendship* Abbie Johnson Taylor

Friends,

It’s been about a year since I joined Behind Our Eyes (BOE), a 501(c)3organization which promotes the writing of blind and disabled individuals by way of a virtual writer’s group, as well as its own magazine, Magnets and Ladders. And I am privileged to find myself in the midst of some pretty amazing people. While we sometimes share common challenges, issues around disability are not our only creative focus. We are writers after all, writers like writers everywhere, whose inspiration is multifaceted, and whose efforts result in poetry, memoir, fantasy and much, much more, spanning the veritable cosmos of ideas.

Today as my guest, I welcome Abbie Johnson Taylor, newly elected BOE president. Abbie delivers soft-spoken compassion through a straight forward communication style, in her writing, as in her life.

Me: Abbie, how nice of you to drop by.

Abbie: Thank you for having me. You have a lovely home.

Me: Thank you. As we chat, would you like a cup of tea, or coffee, perhaps? And I have a few tidbits to nibble. How about a cookie or maybe a
piece of fruit?

Abbie: Actually, a glass of water would be good. Thanks.

Me: And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?

Abbie: The living room sounds good.

Me: Ah, now that I have my peppermint tea and we’re all settled, tell me a little about yourself. What part of the country do you live in?

Abbie: I live in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Me: Have you been there long?

Abbie: Yes, my family moved there in the summer of 1973. My paternal grandfather had recently passed away, and my grandmother needed help with the family’s coin-operated business. My dad felt obligated to do this since his siblings weren’t interested.

Me: What do you like best and least about living there?

Abbie: Although Sheridan is a small town, it has some perks. There’s an excellent transit service, and the senior center has a great help at home program. The downtown area has plenty of curb cuts, and some intersections have audible crossing signals. This makes it easy for folks like me with a visual impairment to cross streets safely. There’s also a nice walking path by a creek that I use often for exercise when the weather is good. I can’t think of anything I don’t like about living in Sheridan .

Me: Sounds wonderful. Is your writing influenced in any way by living there?

Abbie: Yes, my first novel, We Shall Overcome, is set there, and I’ve written some short stories where the action takes place in Sheridan.

Me: Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?

Abbie: I do most of my work in my office. I use a PC, and because of my limited vision, I use text-to-speech software that helps me navigate the screen, reads material, and tells me what I’m typing. I also have a braille tablet that works with my PC as a display. It also has a word processor, email, and other programs, so at the end of the day, I work in my recliner or outside if the weather is nice. On weekdays, when I’m not at my water exercise class at the Y or other obligations, I’m usually either writing or editing something, whether it be a story, poem, or blog post. I’m currently working on a new novel.

Me: What got you started writing?

Abbie: Well, that’s a good question. I’ve been writing off and on my whole life. As a teenager, I wrote stories and poems but never saved any of them, although I shared them with family and friends. In the earlier part of this century, I was a registered music therapist, and I’d been working with senior citizens in nursing homes and other facilities for over ten years. After taking a creative writing class at the Wyoming Lions Summer School for the Visually Impaired, I started to take it seriously and even wrote a novel. It was
frustrating, though, because I was working forty-hour weeks most of the time, and it was hard to fit writing into my schedule.

Me: Whew, I can only imagine.

Abbie: Then there was Bill. I’d been carrying on a two year, long-distance relationship with Bill Taylor, whom I’d met through a magazine called Newsreel. He was living in Fowler, Colorado. In January of2005, he sent me a letter in braille, asking me to marry him. This was a shock, but long story short, I accepted his proposal two months later when he came to Sheridan. He moved here three months after that, and I quit my day job and started writing full time. In September, we were married.

Me: Awww, what a sweet story!

Abbie: Three months later, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side.

Me: Oh, no, I’m so sorry to hear that. What did you do?

Abbie: I cared for him at home until he passed in 2012. This is the subject of my latest book, a memoir entitled My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.

Me: Oh my, that must have been such a challenging time for both of you. So what keeps you writing now, Abbie?

Abbie: I write to inspire and enlighten others.

Me: Well, all that you’ve gone through…I’m sure readers benefit from your example. Do you mind a few somewhat offbeat questions, so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person. What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Abbie: When I’m not working, I enjoy reading and listening to podcasts.

Me: What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? What do you think that says about you?

Abbie: I don’t go out shopping for food much anymore. My groceries are delivered weekly from a local supermarket, and I order from Schwan every two weeks. This may tell you I’m a recluse, but actually, there are other reasons I go out. As I said earlier, I attend water exercise classes at the YMCA, and I sing in a women’s choral group and participate in a couple of local writers’ group meetings.

Me: I think it says more about your resourcefulness, Abbie, you found an efficient way around the challenge of grocery shopping, that’s great. And you are involved in a wide variety of interests which express your creativity. Oh, look at the time, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you
leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?

Abbie: Sure, 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 Magnets and Ladders, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. To learn more about me and my books, you may visit my website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com and my blog at
http://abbiescorner.wordpress.com.

Me: Thank you so much for visiting with me today, Abbie. I hope you’ll come back very soon.

Abbie: Thank you again for having me, Joan, it was nice visiting with you.

Gratitude eases into me as I hug my guest goodbye, close the door, and ready myself to welcome Shabbot–gratitude for the week, its purpose, and its blessings. I carefully arrange two candles on the mantle, flick the switch on the candle-lighter, and bring the flame to the wick. Then I close my eyes and sigh:

Blessed are you Beloved One who enables us to kindle the Sabbath lights

And let us say: Amen
***
PS- If you would like to be featured in an upcoming *Kindling Friendship* please contact me at jmyles63@gmail.com

Blessings!

Frost Comes

frost comes

grass stiffens

and I’m wondering where’s my mittens?

frost comes

birdies fluf

got my mittens where’s my muff?

frost comes

wildflowers fading

woolies on my shelf cascading

frost comes

foggy glass

cloak my eyes when homeless pass

frost comes

earmuffs muffle

frozen strangers by me shuffle

frost comes

then the snow

if I don’t feel

I’ll never know

*Kindling Friendship* Patty Fletcher

Friends,

This afternoon, I welcome author, Patty Fletcher as my very first guest because I find her to be such a genuinely open and real person, someone whose life challenges don’t keep her down forever, whose faith and optimism are inspiring. Now in middle-age and self-employed, Patty long ago lost the little sight she had at birth, has been diagnosed as bi-polar, has endured the loss of employment, family, even food security, and yet continues to reach out to other people–to encourage, to instruct, to kindle a rare light of blessing and friendship wherever she goes.

And today is her birthday!

***
Me-oh, Patty, how nice of you to drop by on this beautiful autumn afternoon! And Campbell, too, Ari and I have been waiting for you.

Patty- Nice to visit here with you, Joan.

Me- Well, please make yourself at home. Would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you’d rather have coffee? And I have a few tidbits to nibble. How about a cookie or maybe a piece of fruit?

Patty- Thank you so much for the kind offer, coffee and a cookie would be most wonderful. I know I should probably have fruit but oh, I’m afraid I do have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Me-And where would you feel most comfortable: here at my kitchen table? Or would you like a comfy chair in the livingroom?

Patty- Your kitchen table would be fine, that way you can write comfortably while we snack and chat.

Me- Ah, it looks like Ari and Campbell are warming up to each other…and I have my lemon-ginger tea…now that we’re all settled, tell me a little about yourself.
What part of the country do you live in?

Patty- I live in the Northeastern corner of Tennessee in a wonderful town called Kingsport.

Me- Have you been there long?

Patty- I was born there but during my teenage years I attended school at the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville. Then fora short time, my daughter, a friend of mine and I lived just across the state line in Virginia but that didn’t work out very well, so we came back home.

Later, when I was married my husband Bill, my daughter and I lived in a town not far from here called Johnson City. However, that didn’t work out as I’d hoped either so once again I returned home. It seems as though no matter what I’ve done or where I’ve gone I’ve always been drawn back to the town where I grew up.

Me- That’s interesting. What do you like best and least about living there?

Patty- I think what I like best is that my Guide Dog Campbell and I are known and loved by so many incredible people. Though he and I see very little of my family we’ve many magnificent friends and it is such fun when we go out on the bus to run errands, or to get muffins and coffee at our favorite grocer’s deli, because we’re greeted with such cheer, we always feel welcome and loved. Right from the very beginning my Campbell was accepted by the people in my town, and now no matter where we go, people are very glad to see him.

Me- That’s wonderful.

Patty- And I suppose my least favorite thing about living there is the lack of night and weekend transportation. While we’ve a couple of good Taxi companies they have few available drivers and the cost is such that it makes going to events happening during times when our busses aren’t running difficult. But the good for sure outweighs the bad.

Me- I know you write quite a bit. Is your writing influenced in any way by where you live?

Patty- Oh yes. Many times I write of the adventures Campbell and I have while we’re out and about. Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes sad, sometimes we have such calamities that even though they can be quite annoying, and at times a bit stressful while they’re happening, they give me such great subject matter that my fire for writing is quite well fed.

Me- Can you describe your writing process for me? For example, do you have a certain time of day you find most productive? Or a special place where you find inspiration?

Patty- I find I write best late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve some trouble with sleep, so when I find myself lying awake in bed unable to drift off, I sneak quietly out of my room so as not to wake Campbell, make myself a good strong pot of coffee, curl up in my favorite chair and let my muse take control.

Me- And just what got you started writing?

Patty- From the time I was young I knew I wanted to write. I loved making up stories, and always kept some sort of journal. My first real story was inspired by my mother’s gift of a typewriter for Christmas when I was but 12 years old.

Me: Awww…

Patty: Later, when I went to Guide Dog school at The Seeing Eye, my experiences were such that I simply knew I must write them down. I’d kept a journal the entire time I was in training and then when I returned home so many things both wonderful and terrible happened my first book was born.

Me- And I wonder, what keeps you writing? I mean, if you could sum it up in a word or in a simple statement?

Patty- Well, I wrote my first book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, to tell the story of how going to The Seeing Eye™ ,and learning to love, handle, and work Campbell, then coming home and adding him to my life, gave me true freedom. In the book I tell of how changing from being a 31-year cane user to being a guide dog handler taught me things about myself I had never known before. I tell of the wonderment I experienced when I finally took that chance.

Another thing I have attempted to show in these many years of writing is how, in certain institutional settings, attachments can develop—and how those attachments can become unhealthy for all concerned if they are not handled correctly. Most simply, I want others to know more about me.

Me- Well I certainly have enjoyed getting to know you over these last few years. And I know I’m not the only one who has gained insight and inspiration from your writing.

Patty- Thank you. I think, the only thing I love more than writing is reading. I don’t own a TV and while many assume it is because I’m blind and don’t enjoy it because I can’t see what’s happening on the screen, they’re wrong. Reading is like traveling to another land. If the writing is good you get to feel what the author feels, see what they see, taste and smell just as they do and go all the places they go. A good book can cure so many of life’s problems

Me- A good book can certainly provide a kind of escape, or even a different perspective.
And now, do you mind if I ask a few, more “creative” questions so I can get a better glimpse of you as a person?

Patty- No problem.

Me- What’s your favorite part of going grocery shopping? And what do you think that says about you?

Patty- Even though I have had many calamities while going grocery shopping, my most favorite thing about it is the independence I feel while getting there and home. While some see riding the bus to and from the store as a noisome chore and even for me at times that can be so, I love doing it because it is something I can do all on my own with no help. I just gather my backpack, or a large shopping bag, whistle up my pup and off we go. There are always interesting people along the way and when we arrive just getting inside and to the service desk can be a wonderful adventure. Then there’s the shopping experience itself. Even if we get a shopping assistant who doesn’t know quite how to work with Campbell and me I have the joy of teaching them and that allows me to educate yet another person about Guide Dogs and the work they do. We always have the most wonderful conversations with folks as we go along picking out our groceries and most times by the time we return home I’ve another fabulous story to share. Me- Here’s a funny question: What is your favorite punctuation mark?

Patty- Oh boy! This question will bring a frown to some of your readers I’m sure, because I like the exclamation mark. Though some don’t think it should ever be used and in fact, I was told once that people don’t take one’s writing seriously if it is used I think that’s nothing but so much rubbish. While I know it can be over used, I simply can’t think of any better way to express great joy, excitement, or raging anger without it. So to all the nay Sayers to the
exclamation mark I just have to say…
POO! ! !
Me- Oh, I know you need to be going before it gets too late, but tell me where I can learn more about your work.

Patty-Here are a few of my links
http://¬www.campbellsworld.wo¬rdpress.com/
https://¬www.amazon.com/¬Patty-L.-Fletcher/e/¬B00Q9I7RWG
http://¬www.dldbooks.com/¬pattyfletcher/

Me- Thank you so much for visiting with us, Patty…and you , too, Campbell. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.

Patty- Oh My! Thank you for having us today. This was great fun. Campbell and I will for sure be back to visit any time you’d like to have us.

And as I hug my guests goodbye, close the door, and ready myself to welcome Shabbot, I can’t help feeling grateful for the week, and its blessings. I carefully arrange two candles on the mantle, flick the switch on the candle-lighter, and bring the flame to the wick. Then I close my eyes and sigh:

Blessed are you Beloved One who enables us to kindle the Sabbath lights

And let us say: Amen
***
PS- If you would like to be featured in an upcoming *Kindling Friendship* please contact me at jmyles63@gmail.com

Shabbot Shalom!

Getting Real

Okay friends, I’m usually a bit shy about answering personal questions on someone else’s blog, or even reposting someone’s blog. I’m still finding my way with all this, just claiming my writer’s voice and finally mustering the nerve to share my heart. Maybe, too, it’s my lack of tek savvy—I don’t want to misrepresent anyone else’s work, or bring my mistakes to near them…

But Abbie has nudged me like a good writing colleague to share my responses to her blog here, on mine, so I’m giving it a whirl. The questions below can be found at the following link:
https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2018/11/06/lets-talk-the-tmi-questions-tag

Ready? Here we go.

Q1. What are you wearing? Well, it’s about 9 in the morning…you caught me…still in my jammies and robe, getting ready to change for yoga practice.

Q2. Have you ever been in love? Oh yes…still am with the man I married 39 years ago.

Q3. Have you ever had a terrible break-up? Nothing I couldn’t get over.

Q4. How much do you weigh? Too much I’m afraid, but I’m working on it.

Q5. Do you have any piercings? Not any more I’m not much for jewelry.

Q6. Do you have any tattoos? No, but two of my grown children find tattoos a real means for expressing their artistic sides…and I’m okay with that.

Q7. How long does it take you to shower? Depends…

Q8. Have you ever been in a physical fight? No,thank goodness.

Q9. What turns you on? The miracles of Life and Love evident all around us…sun breaking through misty clouds, a child’s embrace, kindness between people…so many things!

Q10. What turns you off? Prejudice and racism, greed and selfishness, and the little hurts people inflict on one another without even thinking, or attempting to heal them afterward.

Q11. Do you prefer loud or soft music? I like Classical music best, which is certainly a mixed bag.

Q12. Do you have a favorite quote? Yes, it’s a twist on Descarte’s “I think, therefore I am”, by a poet named Paul Lavery, I think: “Sometimes I think, and sometimes I am.” So remarkable to honor the brilliant reality of Being…without all the baggage of human ego.

Q13. What’s your biggest fear? Big water terrifies me…you know, the ocean, a river, the deep end of a pool. I don’t know where this came from, but someday I hope to conquer at least the swimming pool.

Q14. What’s the last thing that made you cry? Hard to pin down since I don’t shrink from shedding tears over a moving song, favorite line in a movie, or a sweet long-distance conversation with my parents.

Q15. Who was the last person you spoke to? Probably Ari, my retired guide dog who likes to snore beneath my desk as I write. And yes, he is a person.

Q16. What are the three qualities in a best friend? The ability to laugh at oneself, kindness, loyalty…my husband in a nutshell.

Q17. Do you like your name? Most days.

Q18. If you could pick your own name, what would it be?Something like singing child…because that’s how I generally feel.

Q19. What makes you happy? Times with family, writing/reading good poetry, sharing a sunbeam with my retired guide dog, Ari.

Q20. What are five random facts about you?
I don’t like ice cream.
I love windy days, and on such days, you are likely to find me standing in our garden, my long hair flying, smiling up to the sky. Cats make me a little nervous…they’re so superior.
I learned Braille at the age of 30 so I could read to my four kids. Five is my favorite number.

Q21. Is there any religious persuasion? I believe in Life, and Love, and Divine Goodness which embraces all Creation, and continually invites us to join in blessing the world and its inhabitants…in a kind of Jewish framework.

Q22. Have you ever given or received a hicky?*blush* I was engaged.

Q23. What do you think about the most? How to spend each day in a meaningful way…whether writing, interacting with family members and friends, doing household tasks, teaching my remaining Hebrew students.

Q24. Is there someone you really hate right now? Oh, no…such a waste of time and good energy.

Blessings!

*Kindling Friendship* After Pittsburgh

Such a beautiful day here in Salem. Despite early morning mist and rain, today has settled into a dazzling expanse of shadow and sunlight, thanks to brilliant, swirling cloud-play. And once more we are drawn together by the call to kindle the Sabbath lights, to sanctify time and space by designating them holy through our intention and mindfulness.

And despite the heart-shattering events of last Shabbot morning, the unthinkable massacre which took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, despite the tears and grief we share with fellow Jews and open-hearted non-Jews across the country and around the world as these sacred souls are laid to rest, we are once again called together to kindle the Sabbath lights. For in doing so we assert more than our longing for unity within our communities, our nation, and the world. We are claiming our role as Light, in times of darkness, as Hope in moments of despair. We are asserting that Shalom is attainable, within our very grasp—if we will only reach out to one another, across the room, across the street, across the aisle– understanding each of us has a need, each has something to contribute to the need of others, and that it is in one another that we find wholeness, completeness, Shalom.

So let us come close, my darlings, close enough to see each other’s faces, to blend the tears upon our cheeks, to embrace the Light and one another as we wave the glow of illuminated candles heavenward and inward, as we say together:

Blessed are you Beloved One, Who enables us to kindle the Light of Shabbot.

And let us say:

Amen

A Year Without Halloween

It’s time you knew: I don’t like Halloween.

I know, I know, Halloween is the time of frivolity, when kids can dress up as the monsters who scare them sleepless the rest of the year, or as the beautiful fairy princess/dynamic super hero their parents claim them to be. It’s a time to express your imagination to co-workers, to bring out your inner mad scientist or rock star, to simply walk around the neighborhood getting reacquainted with your neighbors.

I actually liked Halloween as a kid, even once I was too old to go begging for candy myself. I delighted in handing treats to the little ones who came to the door, to hear their jokes and songs, to see their cute little faces light up greedily when I invited them to take another Snicker bar.

But when I became a parent, my perspective changed dramatically. Suddenly the idea of walking through the streets at dusk or later took on ever more ominous sensations. The kid next door wasn’t merely too tall for his age, he loomed overhead like Frankenstein himself. And in my mind, little ones, especially my little ones, were simply too impressionable to endure Halloween without irreparable damage to their innocence.

So one year I took matters into my own hands. When my children ranged in age from 5-8 years old, I invented Harvest Day. My family was underwhelmed.

“You mean we’re not going to celebrate Halloween like everybody else,” our daughter squawked.

“Nobody else knows about Harvest Day yet,” I said cheerily, “It’s brand new, just for us.”

“So what do we get to do?” our middle son inquired with big, expectant eyes.

“Oh, we’ll have a wonderful time,” I stalled, my mind reeling with possible holidayadventures and treats. “You can come home early from school, and we’ll go to the zoo and have the whole place to ourselves—won’t that be fun?”

“Yeah,” middle child said dreamily.

“Hurray,” said the youngest who was barely even in school

But our daughter frowned skeptically, and said, “What else?”

“Okay, so Dad takes the day off, and you come home early, and we all spend the day at the zoo, then we come home…we come home and eat…all your favorite vegetables…you know sweet potatoes, and corn and I’ll make that green bean glop you like so much…”

“Yummy!” squealed the youngest.

“…and we can make ice cream sundaes for dessert…”

“Oh boy!” the middle child was in.

But my daughter was no fool. She knew what she would be missing. More than that, however, she could sense how important Harvest Day was to me at that moment. She also probably guessed that it’s nearly impossible to overturn an American tradition like Halloween.

“Okay,” she said at last, “Let’s try Harvest Day.”

So we did. The kids came home from school just about the time the festivities were starting—the costume parade and candy swap—and we really did have the entire St. Louis zoo to ourselves. The weather was crisp and autumnal, and it was kind of a treat to walk among the animals without dodging runaway toddlers.

Once home, we feasted on roasted veggies, potatos, and that awful green bean glop, with ice cream for dessert. And it was a special day after all, the first and only Harvest Day our family would ever celebrate.

So enjoy your candy and costumes, but as you tuck your little goblins into bed for the night, don’t forget to hug them close, to whisper into their ears how special they are, to wish them sweet dreems and love forever.

Blessings

Juggling

She said it’s like juggling

one child for me

one for his father

and the third

the third is always flying

up in the air somewhere

just out of reach

for both of us

and I smile

realize it’s just like human existence

there’s the sun and the moon

and there’s reality

the sun counts my days

and the moon traces my months

but reality is the third child

left flying

just out of reach