Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 24, 2011

Our Christmas Eve Gift 2002

Filed under: At home,Austin,Cats — Janice @ 6:17 pm

Mark and I were thinking today about the wonderful Christmas we had back in 2002. Just like this year, we had decided to just stay home for Christmas and not face the travel and stress. We were enjoying a very quiet Christmas Eve at home. I went to the front door to look out to see the night and the neighborhood and there, sitting right on the doorstep, was a big gray cat. We were already cat lovers, we had had our boy Nathan Jr. for a year and a half. This kitty seemed to need a place to sleep for the night so we let her in and fed her and we named her Miss L Toe (“mistletoe”). She quickly adapted and Nathan didn’t mind her so we had ourselves a cat, it looked like.

A few days into her visit, Mark suggested that she was awfully fat and maybe she was pregnant. I checked with out neighbor Katie and she agreed that, yes, she was VERY pregnant. Any day, we expected to have a batch of kittens.

This was Miss Toe lounging on our bed with a belly full of kittens. Time went on and we began to wonder if she was ever going to have those kittens. I looked up the gestation period for a cat and it is 72 days (I believe). We were entering March and were very close to 72 days from when we got her and she had been obviously pregnant even then. Yet she just grew bigger!

She sometimes lolled around and looked like she was a basketball dressed up in a kitten costume.

Finally, on March 4, we had babies. Mark and I went to San Antonio for him to play a gig with Guy Forsyth at the now defunct Casbeer’s. The gig lasted past 2 and then with packing up and driving home, we came in the door after 4 a.m. A quick look around the house and we discovered Miss Toe and 6 little babies in the box we had set up for her in the closet. She was such a sweet mother and so concerned as we delightfully examined each one against her will.

She was gray and five of the babies, 4 boys and a girl, were also various shades of gray and white. But one little kitten was an orange tabby and was quite distinctive from the rest.

Soon we saw that this little red-headed kitty was treated like a stranger by his brothers and sister and we named him Willie, the Red-Headed Stranger.

The other kittens were named Turbo, Mambo, Pinky, Ringo, and Amazing Grace. They were such fun. They almost had their eyes open when they were born, they were so overdue.

Mark went on a month-long tour of Europe within a few weeks of their birth. We had already arranged homes for some of the kittens, but Mark asked that I not give them to their new owners until he was home and could play with them some more. While he was still home, the kittens were pretty containable and we found that we could corral them easily in the bathtub if necessary. They couldn’t get out. But it seemed like the minute Mark walked out the front door the cats were mobile and could get out and go anywhere they wanted to. I had a house now with EIGHT cats constantly demanding my attention.

I remember standing in the kitchen trying to eat cereal while standing up and having kittens crawling up the inside and outside of my gown as they clamored for that milk. At night I would sit on the couch and try to eat and have a kitten on each shoulder.

And, no, they were most certainly not trained at this point. I was in my office and smelled something pretty strong. I crawled under the desk and on top of all the wires along the back of the desk were little piles of kitty poo in about the hardest place in the house to get it or clean it up. I’d get home from work and have to clean and mop the kitchen floor. They were messy.

So I was making those arrangements to move those kitties on out as soon as the new homes were ready. I made a trip to Waco and met up with a Dallas friend who took Pinky and Turbo. I went to LaGrange and gave Mambo and even mama Miss L Toe to someone that was willing to take her, too. Grace went off to San Antonio to my old roommate. Finally we were down to Ringo and Willie.

They were the cutest little things as they explored and roamed the house. We had found a home for Willie with Mark’s old roommate in Dallas, also named Mark. Sadly, Mark died unexpectedly and Willie was left an orphan. I found a radio station listener that was going to take Willie and then she decided she was allergic and didn’t want him anymore. At that point we realized that Willie needed us. I found a home with a co-worker for Ringo and Willie became our little baby kitten and he and Nathan eventually began to have a wonderful relationship together.

This morning Mark reminded me of Willie’s mother coming 9 years ago tonight and we decided that Willie was maybe the best delayed Christmas present we ever had.

December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Time Off!

Filed under: At home,Austin,Radio stuff,Writing — Janice @ 5:02 pm

I got to get off work early today. This is one of the greatest things about a “real” job as opposed to radio:  I get to get off early! When I was at the radio station, the staff and sales and anyone else usually got to leave at 3 o’clock on the day before a holiday. The place would clear out and be deserted. But since I worked at 3 p.m. and worked until 7 or 8 at night, I still had to do my regular shift every time. No extra time off to compensate anywhere else. It was a drag. Now I LOVE working the day before a holiday weekend because I know I am going to “earn” an extra couple of hours or even an extra half-day of vacation. How great is that?

I did enjoy working on some holiday weekends back in my earliest days of radio. It was truly fun to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and have people calling and wishing me Merry Christmas or asking about my Christmas plans. My sister came in and guest hosted with me on at least one holiday weekend, I remember. And since I often did 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. it didn’t really interfere with any of our Christmas plans. By the time I got to my parents’ house we were ready for breakfast and presents.

Another thing I don’t miss about radio was putting together the songs for the all Christmas music evening and day. It was always a chore to do—trying to get the separation of songs wide enough that the listener wouldn’t be treated to Jingle Bells every hour on the hour. It was a pain to do it then, but now I do it MANY times over with all the different “stations” I program, some that are all Christmas, some 50%, some less than that. But because our songs are better organized and I’ve learned more tricks of the trade, it is not as difficult as it was then.

I am glad to relax and enjoy 3 days of holiday cheer. I hope to get back into this writing habit as the New Year approaches, but I won’t be making a New Year’s Resolution about writing. That’s the easiest way to doom it. One thing I am going to resolve to do when I DO write is to not try to write true essays. I am going to quit making the effort to wrap up each story into a nice beginning, middle, and end. That is ideal, of course, but not always practical. Sometimes my stories are just going to stop.

December 5, 2011

The Addiction Continues

Filed under: Genealogy — Janice @ 10:40 pm

I know I spend more time on my genealogy addiction than most people do on any hobby that they have (unless you count Facebook or television as hobbies). I spent a little bit of time on it this weekend. Mark asked me to do a little research into his family. Yes, believe it or not, in almost 20 years of marriage I have spent very little time looking into his family. This weekend I finally did.

I discovered that other people have fascinating ancestry that equals the Cunningham family. Ha, I’m kidding of course. No one has a family history as interesting or endlessly compelling as my Cunningham family. But, nevertheless, I enjoyed finding some clues to Mark’s heritage.

Mark’s dad has done a pretty good history of his mother’s family and a cousin has done a lot on Mark’s Hays’ family line, so I took what Mark’s mother had given me about her family and researched it for a while yesterday. We knew that Mark’s grandmother was a Cajun. Mark has always bragged about her gumbo and how he has never tasted anything like it anywhere since she passed away. But when I looked into her family history, I could see just how Cajun she was. For generation after generation (five in all), every one was born and raised and died in Louisiana, mostly in the Cajun country. And then the generation preceding those five generations? All from Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond that, France. So these were truly the Acadians that were driven from their homes and made their way around the North American continent to find a home in Louisiana. There’s apparently a little bit of native American blood in there somewhere, too, so I am tracking that down. It is fun. I am corresponding with a woman that would be Mark’s third cousin and she’s done a lot of research.

I love analogies and I decided one day that working on genealogy is like having a big knitted afghan with broken threads. You can never get all the loose ends tied up. The side you are working on (the present) is always going to have those blanks in the “death” and “burial” positions and the past is always going to have another generation you can go back to. If you hit a dead end going backward, you can always work your way out on those loose sides where you’ll find brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and end up with cousins that are down here in your generation.

December 1, 2011

December is here

Filed under: At home,Austin — Janice @ 10:46 pm

December is here and soon my friend Jette will fire up Holidailies where I will swear on the Internet that I will update daily from early December to early January (I will have to learn the exact dates very soon so I can accomplish it!) It is a sacred oath I take each year and occasionally I actually fulfill it. So tonight I should get into practice.

After our wonderful Thanksgiving I am just about ready to get into the Christmas spirit. But the job of getting down the ornaments and decorations from the attic is a two-person job and there hasn’t been two people in this house awake at the same time in a while. I would say this weekend would be a good time for it except that it isn’t. We’ve got company coming to town and you can’t make a mess of the house when company is on the way. And I have a feeling (a certainty) that when company leaves we will be ready to sit and chill for a while. Maybe Dec. 10. Or maybe just not. I would say I could live without the decorations since no one is coming to visit and we aren’t going anywhere, but I do enjoy seeing the lights on my Christmas tree every morning and every night, so we need to at least do that.

We bought a FAKE tree a couple of years ago. I have always been adamant about a real tree, but year after year it became more of a hassle. It is hard enough for the two of us to get the tree out of the attic… try coordinating two schedules so we could go choose a tree, get it home, trimmed, put in the stand, and “installed.” I love real trees, but as my allergies got worse and worse, I opted for the fake tree and last year, lo and behold, we did not get sick. It was a revelation.

An advantage of the real tree too is that we can put it up as early as we want. Not that we’ve achieved that this year, but we can also LEAVE it up as long as we want so I promise this tree will be up for a while and no needles will be dropping to the floor.

I would be getting more into the holiday spirit even tonight if it weren’t so hot. After 70s today and still in the mid-60s here at 11 p.m., it doesn’t feel much like winter is here (which I guess technically it isn’t).  A cold front coming through Sunday may make it feel like winter just a little bit. Then we will figuratively tromp through the Austin snow (our garage) to get to our tree.

November 27, 2011

My Wright Family

Filed under: Cemeteries,Genealogy — Janice @ 8:44 pm

I have had a string of good luck and amazing finds when it comes to genealogy. I will try not to bog it down TOO much with the detail, but I found a whole family that I had never found before.

I know tons and tons about my Cunningham family, but I am always finding more. But I delved into some in-laws to the Cunningham family. I knew my great-great-grandmother Cunningham was a Wright and she and her sister each married Cunningham family members. I knew the names of her brothers and sisters, but didn’t know anything about them except that I had a couple of pictures of “Uncle Jack Wright” that I assumed was her brother Jack Wright. I knew her parents names, but their information was very sketchy and had question marks by everything.

Last week I started Googling anything and everything. And searched on all the genealogy sites to find more info. I am not really sure how the breakthroughs came through, but I did discover that Jack Wright was quite well known in Comanche County and owned the Jack Wright Saloon on the square. That was the spot where the infamous desperado John Wesley Hardin shot down the Deputy Sheriff of Brown County one night, leading to a manhunt and lots of frightened people in the community. I found where Jack Wright had died in New Mexico (which leads me on to find his son that was living in New Mexico at that time).

I also found one of my aunts from that family even though she was listed by her nickname “Polly” on her wedding license. A newspaper article called her by her married name and said she died in the home of her brother Capt. Jack Wright. That led me to find her real name and more.

But the most fun find was finding the grave of the mother of these children. I knew a year and knew that she might have died in Red River County or in Bell County. Luck finally led me to her grave online, but no picture, but I had a location.

On our return from a wonderful Thanksgiving, Mark got me to Belton and found the South Belton Cemetery, the oldest in the city, before it got dark. I knew it had about 400 graves, so I didn’t have high hopes of being able to find her grave and wasn’t even sure it was marked. I really didn’t want to be out there walking through graves for a long time when it was as windy and as cold as it was. But we got there and found a nice big map and legend of all the graves in this historic cemetery…alphabetized. I quickly found her name and then where the grave was. We did have to do some searching, but we at least knew we were in the right area. Then I spotted it. A nice big gray granite monument.

Mrs. E. Lina Wheeler Wright

This adds dates I didn’t have and also firms up the detail that she died young and my great-great-grandmother was only 10 when her mother died and the younger sister only 5. So I still need to find out who took care of them after she died.

I surmised pretty quickly that this stone was not as old as her grave. Graves in 1855 usually weren’t marked like this. I was still puzzling this out when Mark figured out what the last line of the inscription really said. We could read, “She died as she lived, a christian mother.” But then it was odd… We laughed that it said “Put up with her son.” I tried to make it more of the Christian sentiment about “the Son.” But Mark realized, when he was editing the pictures, that it said, “Put up by her son.” I realized the TCW means Thomas Cooper Wright. He was only 14 when she died, so he obviously put this up much later.

I did some research on him and found out that he owned a livery stable in Temple and then went on to turn it into an undertaking business. Lots of access to the monument makers, he created a monument to his mother long after her death. I’m so glad he did!

Her husband preceded her in death in about 1850 and I do not know where he was buried. His name was John Wright and that is so common it makes it difficult to find. This cemetery didn’t begin internments until 1851 so I assume he was not buried here. He may have died in Red River County and then the family moved to Bell County. I don’t know. More research to be done.

S. Belton Cemetery 8

I am freezing as he took this picture, but very happy and warm to have discovered this grave and more of my Texas roots.

November 18, 2011

The Break-In

Filed under: At home,Family — Janice @ 10:24 pm

I guess I need to write about the attempted break-in at our house last Friday night. It has certainly been at the top of our minds for the whole week (and I have a feeling it isn’t going way any time soon).

I was out of town Friday, celebrating my nephew’s birthday on 11-11-11. Mark had planned to go, but got waylaid by work and stayed home. On Friday night he went to see a band play a set late at night. When he was returning home, the alarm company called to tell him our alarm was going off. He told them to call the police immediately. He was not far from home, so he arrived before the police did.

Mark quickly went into “protect and defend” mode and broke open the gate on the side of the house to get to the backyard. He was surprised the gate wasn’t already broken, but that wasn’t how the wanna-be burglars had gotten in, it was still locked. He had his flashlight and could see no one was still at the house so he quickly checked the sides of the house and all the dark bushes and could find no one. He came back to the front of the house as the police arrived.

They quizzed Mark about what they would find in the house, where there were guns, loaded and unloaded, and Mark unlocked the door for them and they went through the house to make sure it was empty. It was, so they had Mark come in and turn off the sirens of the alarm. Mark then went in search of the cats and found them cowering in the garage, scared out of their minds!

On the back porch Mark and the police could see where someone slit the screen to unlock the screen door. There were hand smudges on a bedroom window like they had tried it first and found it locked. Then they went to work on the back door, first just trying to push it in with all their might and then going after it with a crowbar. Mark had taken some extra security measures recently and that had a lot do to with why they weren’t able to get in. But they did manage to bend the dead bolt and mess up the whole darn door. When the alarm was tripped, they dropped their crowbar and were gone.

The next day Mark found cinder blocks piled up like stair steps along the dark side of the house. They hopped the fence easily from their little stairway.

We didn’t lose any property, the cats are safe, we are safe. We are shelling out money for a lot more security on the house. What we had served us very well and I’m glad we had it. There’s no doubt it saved us a lot of grief and trouble this time. Mark might have even walked in on a burglary in progress if we didn’t have it and that might have turned out very badly. Tomorrow a new door is being installed, too. Mark has made all the arrangements and taken care of fixing everything. If I had been living here alone through all of this I would probably have just boarded up the back door, locked the front door, and moved home or something!

November 17, 2011

An Austin Legend

Filed under: Austin,Radio stuff,Spasmodic Dysphonia — Janice @ 10:30 pm

Joe Gracey passed away today. I did not know him personally, but I had a keen interest in his life. Joe was a disc jockey in Austin in the era that I so desperately wanted to be a part of all things Austin – the 70s. That was the era I discovered Willie Nelson and Texas Monthly and read voraciously about the Armadillo and all the fun things, and wild things, people were doing in Austin. I didn’t know about radio and wasn’t thinking about going into it at the time, I just wanted to be a part of this fun musical community.

I did end up getting to play the music of Austin on a station in Amarillo called KBUY-Texas Country. It played Jerry Jeff and Willie alongside Dolly and Conway and even alongside Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was patterned after KOKE in Austin where Joe Gracey was making a name for himself.

I heard of him after I was in Austin radio, but didn’t know much about him. But after I had the diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia and was finding it more and more difficult each day to do a radio show, to talk on the phone, or to even order through a drive-in fast food microphone, I read an article about Joe. He had cancer of the tongue and lost his tongue and parts of his mouth and his larynx as they tried to get the cancer. They did get the cancer, but removed his beautiful voice, his livelihood, and his ability to communicate.

I read how had would buy a stack of the Magic Slates like we all had as kids (where you can write on it and then lift the top page and the writing goes away). He would just those to scribble words and communicate. Having already been scribbling and using sign language or clapping my hands to get someone’s attention, I could only imagine how hard that would be to know that was your fate forever. Joe was voiceless for over a dozen years before the Internet came along and email became commonplace. He wrote that that opened up whole new worlds for him and finally gave him a way to communicate with friends at a distance. Since email came along, it is certainly my favorite mode of communication and I can imagine how joyful it would be to have it open those long silent lines.

My voice, fortunately, got better and I don’t think about it on a daily basis, just occasionally when I have “bad days” that affect it. But I still remember the fear of how it would be to be a disc jockey that can’t do an air shift anymore–not because of being laid off or quitting or the known fears of the world, but from losing a voice and having no control over the situation. I greatly admired Joe Gracey for finding a way through his career changes and life changes. I read today that more recently he was somehow given his voice back with a larynx implant that gave him a voice he didn’t like and didn’t recognize. In a very small way I could relate to that, too. My voice is not the same as it was 10 years ago and I miss the voice I once had. It isn’t noticeable to anyone but me, but it is different.

Joe’s cancer came back in the form of esophageal cancer in recent years. I had not really kept up with his story and didn’t know he was sick again, so it was shock to know that he had died. I want to revisit his story and his blog and see where he was these last few years as he again battled through whatever challenges he faced. It’s quite a story and another amazing, interesting Austinite is gone.

November 10, 2011

Yes, Time Flies!

Filed under: At home — Janice @ 11:55 pm

Wow, over a week since the great Guy Clark show and I haven’t written all the wonderful details for you. Sorry about that. As my body is prone to do with too much excitement, too much fun, and too little sleep, I got sick about as soon as that night ended. Thursday was rough, Friday was torture, and then I laid in bed for all of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I’m back at it and actually felt closer to normal today than I have in a while.

But it is still large doses of Nyquil and early bedtime for me and that is where I’m heading.

November 3, 2011

Slow Blogging

Filed under: Austin,Music,Writing — Janice @ 7:34 am

There is a new trend in blogging called “slow blogging.” The term is a variation of “slow food” that was invented to combat the proliferation of fast food. Slow blogging aims to write thoughtfully and with information and facts rather than a quick link and first impressions and then moving on to another topic.

I try to be a slow blogger. Often too slow. But I need to write this morning my first impressions and thoughts about last night’s wonderful concert at the Long Center to honor Guy Clark. I was given wonderful tickets by fabulous dear people that couldn’t use their tickets. My best friend Denise facilitated it and made it all happen. Mark would have been my first choice to be my date for this concert and I considered not going when I found out that he couldn’t make it. But he encouraged me to go anyway and I invited my nephew Brandt to come down from Waco and go with me. Perfect in every way is only hyperbole when I think about how my feet hurt a bit from the boots I wore last night. Everything from the setting, the before and after parties, the singers, and – of course – the songs made it a night to remember.

My slow blogging urge wants me to first explain how much Guy Clark means to me now and how much he has meant to me since before 1977. I want to tell about the first time I met him and the subsequent time and the interview and the concerts and Mark giving him a “Randall” knife (I say it in quotes because it was a Hays knife and it stunned Guy speechless). That can all wait for another day.

I would not be able to say which was  my favorite performer or my favorite song of the night. To hear songwriters that have written these songs with Guy – Rodney Crowell and Verlon Thompson – or those that would not be here in my world today without the influence of Guy – Lyle Lovett and James McMurtry – and voices I hadn’t heard before, but loved – the Trishas and J.T. Van Zandt. One good song after another. I wanted to lean over to Brandt and give him a full story about every single one and what it meant to me.

When we got home, Mark was home so he was able to tell Brandt about how much Guy’s songs had meant to him all these years. He pulled out the CDs and I pulled out the vinyl I’ve had for 30+ years. Mark started naming off songs to see if they were performed. One no after another… So many great songs were performed (I’ll have to count!) and yet they never even got to Texas Cookin’ or Rita Ballou or Comfort and Crazy and Coat from the Cold…. On and on.

I wish I had pictures and recordings of every moment of it all. I have them in my head and in my mind’s eye. And I will have Guy’s songs forever.

October 31, 2011


Filed under: At home,Childhood Memories,Family — Janice @ 10:26 pm

And another Halloween goes by. I heard the news about some towns in the Northeast canceling Halloween because of their snowstorms. I had many Halloweens canceled when I was a kid (or it seems that way in my memory). We lived on a dirt road out in the country. To trick-or-treat, we would go into my aunt’s neighborhood in Amarillo and “borrow” her neighborhood. I remember one magical night running up and down Lewis Lane and one neighbor having a party in their garage. They had a paper skeleton and they would have you stick your head through his legs and take your picture. There was dry ice in the punch bowl and all sorts of fun and mysterious things going on. That was a good Halloween. But when it was cold and rainy—and that is the rule not the exception for Octobers in the Panhandle—we would be stuck at home. Not the worst thing in the world. Believe me, we would have candy.

I was never an adult who loved Halloween. My old roommate took months to prepare her costume and loved going out on Halloween so I did go out with her some years just because that was the thing to do, but I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. I didn’t even give out candy tonight. I got home late and kept the lights off. As I drove home through the neighborhood, there seemed to be many more tall kids than little ones, and that bugs me. I don’t have any little children in the neighborhood anymore at all (except a sweet one next door who I treated special individually this year) so it isn’t as fun to open the door and see who is there.

I did love seeing this picture on Facebook and I hope they don’t mind me putting it here:


These are three of my three little cousins’ kids. They are standing on the steps of my aunt’s house in Amarillo. The same house that I got to go to when I went trick-or-treating. They know their great-grandmother is going to treat them well every year (and every day).

This is another picture of a fun Halloween more than a few years ago of my favorite boys. I especially like the impish two fingers behind the blue Power Ranger’s head. Happy memories.


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