A Cat’s Idiosyncrasies

When I was growing up, we had a white cat with black spots. She came from a litter born to a stray. My mother called her Wanda. I don’t know where she came up with that name, but it fit. This was a cat with an attitude.

As I got dressed in the mornings, Wanda rubbed against my bare ankles and without warning bit one of them, not hard enough to draw blood but hard enough to hurt. Mother said it was because I wasn’t giving her enough attention, but when I reached down in an attempt to pet her, she tried to bite my finger.

As Wanda grew older, she developed a nasty habit of urinating in places other than the cat box. Once, Dad sat on the love seat in the music room not realizing it was wet from Wanda’s business. Needless to say, there was a suspicious dark stain on the back of his pants. After doing music therapy practicum sessions and an internship with nursing home residents, I told Mother that maybe old cats, like old people, have problems with incontinence, but she scoffed at this.

Another one of Wanda’s favorite pastimes was removing dirty socks from the washing machine and dropping them on the floor in the laundry room. She usually did this in the middle of the night. The laundry room was on the second floor down the hall from our bedrooms. We often woke to hear her meow a few times. We went back to sleep and didn’t think anything of it. The next morning, someone found the dirty socks on the laundry room floor. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver illustrates this phenomenon.

Sock Ceremony

Balancing on the edge of the washing machine,

Wanda reaches into its depth,

retrieves a dirty sock,

jumps down, places it on the floor.

“Meow, meow,” she says,

as she circles it once or twice.

She walks away,

leaves it for someone else to find.

Did your pets have any strange behaviors when you were growing up? Please share your memories below.

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

This Time Together

I just finished reading a book with this title by Carol Burnett. In the 1970’s, I watched her show with my mother on Saturday nights. Although a lot of her antics with Vicky Lawrence, Harvey Corman, and Tim Conway had to be described to me, I still thought they were funny. When I was in college studying music therapy, I did a required semester of practicum with a group of adults with psychiatric disorders at an outpatient facility. After singing songs and having a few laughs of our own, we ended our sessions by singing “I’m So Glad We Have This Time Together” and pulling our ears just like Carol. I also saw her as the less than kindly orphanage matron in the movie adaptation of the Broadway musicalAnnie and in the comical role of Jamie’s mother in the television comedy Mad about You.

Carol Burnett was born on April 26th, 1933 in San Antonio, Texas. Her parents were both alcoholics, and she and her younger sister were raised primarily by her grandmother. When her parents divorced, they moved to an apartment near her mother in an impoverished Hollywood neighborhood. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Carol won a scholarship to UCLA where she studied journalism but changed her major to theater arts. She performed in numerous university productions. In 1954, she and her boyfriend, Don Seroyan, were each offered a $1,000.00 interest free loan so they could try their luck in New York. This came with the stipulations that the loan would be paid back in five years, her benefactor’s name would never be mentioned, and if she became a success, she would help others achieve their dreams.

She married Don Seroyan in 1955. They were divorced in 1962. In 1963, she married television producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, and they had three daughters. They were divorced in 1984. In 2001, she married drummer and music contractor Brian Miller.

After becoming well-known on Broadway, she appeared on television in The Garry Moore Show. She then moved to Los Angeles where she did her own show on CBS for eleven years. The Carol Burnett Show combined music, comedy, and dance. Some of the sketches were film parodies while others were character pieces. She also did a variety of television specials with Julie Andrews, Beverly Sills, and others. Besides Annie, her films included Pete ‘n’ Tillie, Friendly Fire, Life of the Party, The Four Seasons, and Noises Off. She also appeared in other television and stage productions. In 1986, she published her first memoir, One More Time.

This Time Together is a collection of anecdotes about Carol Burnett’s life growing up and her career as an actress, comedian, and singer. She talks about how as a teenager, she was fired from her job as an usher at a Hollywood movie theater because she encouraged a couple to wait until the beginning of the next run of a film before seating them. She describes how in New York, she and other boarders at The Rehearsal Club staged a review in order to gain exposure, inviting agents and celebrities. She tells the story of how she avoided being thrown out of a posh New York ice cream parlor for violating the dress code by telling the hostess she had a wooden leg and was too embarrassed to wear a skirt. There are poignant stories like the time she and Vicky Lawrence made a recording of themselves singing lullabyes for a little girl dying of cancer and how she was with the child and her family at her death. She mentions her marriages and break-ups with Don Seroyan and Joe Hamilton and her marriage to Brian Miller. She talks about how in 2002, she and her daughter Carrie collaborated to make her memoir One More Time into the Broadway play Hollywood Arms. Carrie died of cancer before the play opened.

I was lucky to find a recording of Carol reading her book on audible.com. When I listened, it was as if she were telling me her stories, not just reading them. She did great impersonations of other actors with whom she came in contact such as Julie Andrews and Joan Crawford. I even got to hear her do her famous Tarzan yell. I wasn’t too impressed the few times she sang on this recording, but that may have been because she didn’t have any accompaniment. She did a better job on stage with an orchestra behind her. I recommend this book to anyone who likes funny, heartwarming stories about celebrities, and if you want a real treat, get a recording of Carol reading it.

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

Chopping Down Trees

Several years ago, the people who bought the house next door decided to remodel the entire house and yard. In the process, they cut down a couple of trees. With the yard being virtually outside our bedroom window, the noise was deafening at times. Needless to say, we couldn’t sleep late while this was going on. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver describes a typical morning in which I get Bill dressed while the tree cutting is going on.


We hear the workmen next door,

as we get ready for our day.

Lying down, we put on his pants,

one leg, then the other,

roll, pull, roll, pull

till they’re up as far as they’ll go.

Sitting on the side of the bed,

we remove his sweaty t-shirt.

His arm encircles my waist.

We tug, laugh,

swear till it’s over his head.

One arm, then the other,

it’s off.

On goes the sweatshirt,

one sleeve, then the other,

over his head it goes.

All the while,

chain saws whine.

Branches and limbs fall,

bring change, welcome or not.

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


When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was Mary Poppins. I loved Julie Andrews’ portrayal of the nanny with the umbrella and carpet bag who held a tea party on the ceiling, jumped in and out of a picture with her charges, and never gave them castor oil or gruel. I almost wished my parents would hire me a nanny.

My mother said she first took me to see the movie when I was four. I don’t remember this, but I do recall seeing it in a theater later when I was older, and I saw it on television a few times. We had a sound track of the movie which I played often. I even had a Mary Poppins umbrella.

I also liked The Sound of Music, but I never saw the movie until I was an adult so it didn’t make as much of an impression. A friend from school had the sound track, and we listened to it often when I went to herhouse. At the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind in Tucson, our choir sang “Climb Every Mountain” for graduation one year.

I just finished reading Home: A Memoir of My Younger Years by Julie Andrews. This book portrays her life from birth until 1963 when she went to Hollywood to start filming Mary Poppins. She was born Julia Elizabeth Wells on October 1st, 1935 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrie, England. During her childhood and early adulthood years, she performed in a variety of theatrical productions in England. Her first Broadway performance was in the 1954 production of The Boy Friend. She also starred in My Fair Lady and Camelot and won Tony awards for these performances. In 1957, she first appeared on television in Cinderella. She made many other television appearances with such stars as Bing Crosby and Carol Burnett.

Mary Poppins was her first film in 1964, and she won an Academy Award for best actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in The Sound of Music in 1965. From 1964 to 1967, she appeared in The Americanization of Emily, Hawaii, Torn Curtain, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. In the 1970’s, her film career slowed down when her performances in Star!, Darling Lili, and The Tamarind Seed weren’t as successful. Her popularity rose with her performances in 10 in 1979 and Victor Victoria in 1982. She received a third Academy award nomination for Victor Victoria. During the rest of the 1980’s, she starred in other unsuccessful films including That’s Life and Duet for One. Her voice was damaged by a throat operation in 1997.

She returned to fame in this century with her performances in The Princess Diaries in 2001 and it sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, in 2004. She directed a production of The Boy Friend at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, New York, in 2003 and at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut in 2005. She also appeared in the Shrek animated films and Despicable Me from 2004 to 2010. She wrote children’s books.

In Home: A Memoir of My Younger Years, Julie Andrews talks about her life growing up in England before, during, and after World War II and her career as a singer and actress in England and the U.S. Hermother played the piano, and her father was a teacher. She learned later that she was conceived by her mother and a family friend.

When World War II broke out, her parents separated and eventually divorced. Her mother moved to London and married singer Ted Andrews and they developed their own act. Julie continued to live in Walton-on-Thames with her father and brother but eventually went to live with hermother and stepfather in London. Her mother changed her name from Julia Wells to Julie Andrews and insisted she call her stepfather Pop. Julie still maintained a wonderful relationship with Ted Wells, the man she thought was her father, even after discovering he wasn’t.

Her stepfather tried giving her voice lessons but decided she should study with a professional. She performed often with her mother and stepfather before branching out on her own. In the late 1950’s, she married Tony Walton who approached her years earlier after one of her performances and became a good friend. In the 1960’s, she divorced him and married Blake Edwards, and she mentions this briefly in her book.

Home: A Memoir of My Early Years left me wanting to know more about Julie Andrews. I found some information on Wikipedia but not what I wanted to know. At the end of the book, she and Tony seem to be getting along pretty well so I wonder why they split up and why she married her second husband and stayed with him until his death in 2010. I’m also interested in her experience with her throat surgery and what it was like to discover that her voice was damaged as a result of it. According to Wikipedia, this is the first of a two-part memoir series so I guess I’ll have to wait for the second part.

Did you have any favorite movies or stars when you were growing up? Did you hang posters or other memorabilia in your room or gawk at pictures in magazines? Did you play those movie sound tracks over and over until the records wore out? Did you ever want to be in pictures? Please feel free to share your memories below.

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

Sleeping Late

Taking care of Bill is a twenty-four-hour-a-day seven-day-a-week job. I try to get as much sleep as possible so I have enough energy to tackle the day to day tasks of his care, housework, and my writing obligations. I often take short afternoon naps. The following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver describes how I lie awake on a Sunday morning, wishing I could go back to sleep and not being successful.


“Just give me one more hour of sleep,”

I silently pray

to my husband, unable to care for himself,

my body, the world in general.

It’s eight in the morning.

I lie with my eyes closed,

enjoy the Sunday morning peace.

It doesn’t last.

When you were growing up, could you sleep in when you didn’t have to get up and go to school, or did you rise early every morning because you lived on a farm or had a paper route or other obligations? When my younger brother had an early morning paper route, he often overslept. Needless to say, when my dad, an early riser, didn’t find his morning paper neatly rolled up outside the front door, he awakened the entire household by yelling, “Ah hell! Andy!”

By the way, you can order an autographed copy of How to Build a Better Mousetrap directlyfrom me through Pay Pal for which you don’t need an account. When you visit my Website, click on the Pay Pal link in the ordering information section at the bottom of my book’s page. If you have trouble, you can contact me by using the e-mail link on any one of my site’s pages.

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