Janice Williams Loves Austin And sometimes I write about it.

December 9, 2014

Holiday Visits

Filed under: At home,Family,Normal Life,Travel — Janice @ 10:14 pm

There are many things to love and hate about the holidays, but one thing I do love it the feeling that you NEED to visit people you love and people who you love feel the need to come visit you, too. I don’t know why I get in that frame of mind more in the holidays when everything is busy and crazy instead of in maybe February when we’d have time for a good visit, but that is the way it is.

Sunday I went down the street and visited the new little baby boy Jack who was born in July. He’s a precious little thing. His parents are incredibly sleep deprived and deliriously in love with their little one. That made me happy. I hope Santa is very good to him.

Tonight my cousin Alisa was in town from Italy. I met her a couple of years ago via Facebook and my Cunningham family page and we began a bit of a correspondence. Last year she was in Texas on Halloween and we went out to dinner and got acquainted really well. She is a missionary, which is about as far removed from my life as you can get, but she is a writer and a lover of life and interesting things and we find plenty to talk about. She came by tonight and we just stayed at the house and had pizza and wine and visited a bit. It was lovely.

I can’t wait to see who drops in next…

December 8, 2014

Yesterday’s Genealogy and Cameras

Filed under: Childhood Memories,Family,Genealogy — Janice @ 8:51 pm

This display was up a couple of years ago at the Austin Genealogical Society holiday dinner:


This was the old days of genealogy. I could relate to a whole lot here. I typed a lot of family trees on a computer that wasn’t much newer than this one. Ours was a big heavy Royal. I don’t see the silver handle on the left on the typewriter above. How did they return the carriage and move it to the next line? I think it would be a fun experiment to put a computer savvy teenager or young adult down with a typewriter like this and ask them to reproduce a letter. I think they would think it was easy, but would have no idea how it operates:  how you could change the color of the ink or even cut a stencil for the mimeograph machine, how you set tab stops with little metal pieces around the backside, how you could make it space one, two, or three lines, and how you used the small L for a 1 and to make an exclamation you had to use the apostrophe and backspace and put a period under it. We used a lot fewer exclamation points when they took that much effort!!! And I would bet young people don’t know how you put the paper in to get it in straight, how you straighten it if it isn’t, and then how you WHISK the page away from the platen when the page was done.

Fortunately, our family “inherited” a nicer Selectric typewriter before I had to start writing a lot of papers in high school and college. I use “inherited” because I’m not certain the statute of limitations has run out.

The camera in the box above is a great example of a Kodak when the word “Kodak” meant camera to most of us. My grandmother had a Kodak like this one. The little blue bulbs fit into the top so you could take a flash picture. She must have been an early adopter because she had the only flash camera I ever saw until the revolving 4-flashes flash cubes came along. I don’t remember Mamma taking LOTS of pictures, but she always carefully took a few with her precious camera. Then she would carefully put it back into the box (like above) and put it away after every use. She did love that camera and I have many of the square format pictures it took. I don’t know that Mamma ever had a NEWER camera than that one. She might have been like I am: as long as it still works, why would you replace it? I remember her using it less and less (when others had plenty of cameras to record the moments and give her copies). Now I also recall that she always said “make a picture” instead of “take a picture.” As in, “Let’s get everybody together and make a picture.”

The camera on the right is like no camera I ever experienced until I took photography in college. Mark recently inherited several cameras of that era that belonged to his grandfather and his father. He really did inherit them, it was legit. No quotation marks. These were cameras he loved to hold when he was a boy while his grandfather explained all the rings and settings.

I am definitely coming down on the side of NOW IS BETTER when it comes to typewriters versus computers and cameras with film versus digital cameras. But I’m glad I experienced the old kind so I can appreciate the new kind.

The fact that you are reading this possibly moments after I have typed it is still astonishing to me.

December 7, 2014

December in Austin

Filed under: At home,Austin,Bluebonnets,Garden — Janice @ 8:58 pm

We have had a couple of really cold spells already this winter, which is early and unusual. Our typical first freeze is mid-December and we’ve had several minor freezes. I say minor because, so far, not all of my plants that die back have died back. Some of them are in a very protected spot and they are still happily living, oblivious to their future destruction.

I was out today appreciating my garden. I needs a lot of cleaning. I even had a landscape guy give me an estimate this morning, but I haven’t decided if it is fair or if I trust him to not destroy my baby bluebonnets.


I always forget the name of this plant/wildflower, but I know it is a Texas native and doesn’t mind a little drought. It is a huge bush of bright flowers and, in person, you hardly notice all the dead things or overgrown grass.


I always forget the name of this plant, too. I have taken a picture of the tag at the garden centers over and over, but never put it somewhere where I’ll remember where it is. But this is a nice happy plant, too, that looks good all year round and just put up these beautiful winter blooms.

I have bulbs to put into the ground and a dozen bluebonnets that need to go in, too. I have this idea of myself as an avid gardener. That image only shows up when I’m buying plants or accepting bulbs from generous people. When the weekend of opportunity is here, Gardener Janice tends to vanish.

December 6, 2014

The Tree is Decorated

Filed under: At home — Janice @ 11:21 pm

This is an uninspired, dull-colored snap of my Christmas tree tonight:


It is really a lot prettier than this. Notice that it is sitting up on a big bass drum. That makes it super tall this year. I had to get a stool to decorate the top parts. I’m glad to get the decorating started. Mark did his part of bringing it down from the attic a week ago, but I was slow to act this year. But now the tree is up and decorations are around the house. I think there may still be a wreath that has not appeared, but otherwise we are good.

I also have my Christmas mugs in the dishwasher to they will be ready for us in the morning. As much as possible, I use my Christmas mugs for coffee in the mornings. I have Christmas plates and I hope I remember to use them for some meals this month. We aren’t having company so I won’t have to plan a holiday meal. I bought a beautiful new/old vintage tablecloth with poinsettias on it at an antique mall in Tyler over Thanksgiving. I’m thrilled with it. No stains, no holes. It is bright and beautiful with a centerpiece of the real deal poinsettia.


I waver between being excited about Christmas and looking forward to all the events coming up in the next two weeks, then I totally forget it is the holiday season and I am surprised when I see something that reminds me. Hopefully the tree and poinsettias will remind more often that the season is here and it is a time to be joyful!

December 5, 2014

Old-Fashioned VCR Stuff

Filed under: At home,Normal Life — Janice @ 11:03 pm

We got to laughing at work this week about the way the world was back when video tape recorders came along. I was the only one in on the conversation that was an adult when this all took place. They were all just kids at home that don’t remember all the details of life back then.

I am NOT an early adopter. My friend Jamey had a massively HUGE Betamax machine. I don’t think I ever saw a real movie on it unless it was just rolling during a party. He was the one that kept me abreast of the latest innovations and how I needed to move forward and get a VCR.

I did finally get a VCR in about 1984, I think. It was a VHS tape player and had a remote that had to be plugged into the VCR so I had a long wire draped across the living room to the remote on the coffee table. I never did mind it because I didn’t lose the remote that way.

My favorite thing about a VCR was that I could tape TV shows and watch them at a different time. I was working a morning show and if I could tape something and go ahead and go to bed, that was a big plus to me. Jamey and others used their tape players more for watching new movies. Back before video came along, if you had a life at night (like a night time job), you missed out on a lot of monumental television. I still haven’t seen Lonesome Dove, for instance.

On my birthday, probably 1985 and I was 26, Jamey and the guys on my staff gave me a membership to a video store. My coworkers were laughing about the ways video stores began. Only one other remembered the days when those stores began. My group gave me a membership that cost $30, I think. Although I feel like everything today is just about as expensive as it was back then, I do realize that $30 then is a LOT more than it is now. That was quite an investment (and 4 guys pitched in on this gift). For the $30 I got 10 rentals included.

I have no memory of what I might have rented with that membership. I really don’t know that I took good advantage of it. I have never been an avid renter or buyer of movies on tape or DVD. Now that we can stream movies I would be more inclined to watch them, but I find myself on the internet or finding TV shows to watch.

Last weekend I actually threw away a lot of VHS video tapes. Since we don’t even own a VCR anymore, they seem rather superfluous. I did save the ones that have my nephews on them as kids. I saved a few of Mark playing on TV. I threw away all examples of me being and actress or newsreader and previous jobs. I know no one needs to see those! I threw away some old TV shows that are probably available on Netflix.

I love how quickly we move from one technology to another. I really like the technologies that let me throw away old things and not replace them with something new. I throw out the VCR and the videos and their replacement is just information in the air.

December 4, 2014

Shopping Adventures

Filed under: Normal Life — Janice @ 11:35 pm


Holidailies 2014 Badge

I am participating in the Holidailies challenge again this year, by the way, which is my incentive to write each and every day until December is done. Sometimes I think Jette should have a ____dailies in May or another month that is less busy.

I went shopping for some new clothes tonight. I am not a shopper. I don’t know why anyone wants to be a shopper. It was hot and I made three trips to the dressing room, which might be a record for me. My goal was to have something new and Christmas-y to wear to a dinner I’m going to tomorrow night. I was invited this week to the dinner and I remember his party last year where everyone was wearing pretty festive clothing and I thought to myself, “I want to make sure and get something new for this party next year.” I went to my favorite store, Kohl’s (okay, I realize that maybe that is part of why I am not a fan of shopping, I don’t go to the “good” stores). I only wanted to find a nice long top/shirt/sweater to wear over tights in a festive red color. Easy, one would think.

I discovered tonight that the festive Christmas colors of 2014 are black and gray and black-gray and gray-black and maybe blue. Green does not exist in the world anymore and red was barely visible. I ended up with a festive BLACK sweater to wear. It does have some sparkly sequins that I hope make it look a cut above all of my other black sweaters. I bought some pretty festive jewelry to dress it up. Again, NO RED. Believe me, I’m not just saying I didn’t like the reds this year. They truly were not there.

Apparently sweater shawl things are really big right now. I liked them and would happily wear one, but it does require that you wear something underneath it. Since I had nothing to wear under it, I couldn’t make myself invest in a black or gray or gray-black or black-gray shawl.

All of this is coming from a woman with an entire wardrobe made up of black and gray. But it is CHRISTMAS, right? Even a holiday purple would have been welcome.

December 3, 2014

Recommended Reading

Filed under: At home,Reading — Janice @ 11:11 pm

I resisted getting a Kindle for a long time. It wasn’t that I was against technology, I just didn’t think I needed one. When I did finally get one, the first book I read was a super long book by Stephen King’s 11/22/63. When I tell people I read a Stephen King book, I always feel compelled to add, “I don’t read everything he writes, just the non-scary stuff.” I don’t want people to think I like horror books, because I don’t. I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot in college and it scared the bejeesus out of me.

But the Kindle was a terrific way to read such a huge, cumbersome book and I also got a great deal on the purchase and I was pretty sold on the Kindle right there.

Last month, Kindle offered their Kindle Unlimited plan where you can pay 9.99 a month and get all the books– no, scratch that, all the Kindle-Unlimited books — you want (there’s a big difference – you’re not going to find MOST of the books you want to read on the Kindle-Unlimited list I’m discovering). They offered me a free month of the service so I took them up on it and started hunting for a book.

I found the book Wool by Hugh C. Howey fast and snatched it up, thinking this would be an easy way to read a few chapters and see if I liked it.

Wool had been recommended to my be my 27-year-old nephew a few months ago. He told me he had read this book and it was great. But he said it was about a post-apocalyptic world and THAT didn’t sound good to me. I liked science fiction when I was a kid, but I haven’t been a fan in a long time, so I ignored the suggestion (even though he said it wasn’t that kind of a post-apocalyptic-world book) and forgot about it.

A few weeks ago I was at his birthday lunch and his wife mentioned the book Wool and said it was so good. She is a voracious reader and has her Kindle in her hand when she is brushing her teeth. That made me think of Wool again so when I saw it on the Kindle Unlimited site I thought I would at least give it a go.

I read one chapter and already could not put the book down. The second chapter ended with a cliffhanger even more intriguing than the first. And on and on… I couldn’t stop reading. I breezed through 500 pages before I knew it. I got up early in the morning to read. I stayed up extra late to read (no falling asleep with it in my hand), and I took the Kindle with me so I could squeeze some in if I could. I finished it last night. It even ended on a cliffhanger, so I hope there is a sequel.

There may already BE a sequel. I haven’t read enough about the author to find out or find out what other books he has that I should read. In fact, I’m not sure if I read ONE book in the last week or if I read FIVE. That’s one little issue I have with a Kindle. I forget the title of the book I’m reading because I’m not seeing the cover every time I pick up the book and it is harder to figure out things like whether it is five books or one. It appears that Wool is just the first of a five-book series called “The Silo Series.”

Basically, what I am saying is that Wool and/or The Silo Series is really good reading. Like my nephew tried to tell me, it isn’t “all that” post-apocalyptic. It is still about real characters in a real world, but the parallels and allegories are very eye-opening. And I love those books that you can’t put down. Read it if that sounds good to you. I still don’t think I’m going to jump off and start reading a lot of sci-fi (or Stephen King), but the joy in reading a really good GOOD book is a great feeling.

December 2, 2014

The Beginnings of My Blogging

Filed under: Reading,Writing — Janice @ 11:10 pm


This is what my computer looked like when I moved to Austin in 1999. Packard Bell. Does it even exist anymore?

I read an entry last night on the Holidalies as I try to keep up and write every day in December (and read some new blogs, too). I read one that made me remember my earliest days of blogging so I thought I should share.

When we lived in Dallas I worked at ABC Radio and we had a computer in the control room. We weren’t supposed to USE it for anything (seriously, we didn’t have email for us on it and they didn’t want us doing any show prep or looking up news while we were on the air…. it was the EARLY days of Internet in the control room). But, like all the jocks on the air, I was using it and exploring the Internet because it was very new to us all.

Somewhere along in there, I discovered blogs. They weren’t called that then, they were online journals or online diaries mostly, I think. Somehow or another, I started reading several on a regular basis. I went back to the beginnings of their blogs and read every entry. I loved the feeling of eavesdropping on someone’s life. It truly was like a slow moving soap opera with some laughs and some interesting stories. I particularly liked Astrofish by a guy named Kramer and Anhedonia by a girl named Jette. I guess it later became Celluloid Eyes. Part of what I liked was that they were in Austin so I could relate to the Texas part of their story.

Only a little bit of time went by as I read their journals and others. I sent a note complimenting Jette’s. I don’t know if I did for Kramer or not. Then, boom, suddenly I am offered a job in Austin and we are moving there. Wow. I wanted to write Jette and say, “Guess what? I’m moving to Austin!” but I thought that would be way too creepy and stalker-y so I did not. We just moved and I continued to read.

One of the things Kramer often wrote about was his long walks around town, especially around Town Lake as he went fishing, exploring, or just to lunch. He also posted some pictures on his blog so I One day I was driving to my job and was on Barton Springs and who did I see walking along the sidewalk with his shirt over his shoulder? It was Kramer. I wanted to honk and wave, but I realized he wouldn’t have a clue who I was.

I truly don’t remember what happened between moving in May and November of 1999, but somewhere in there I did let Jette and Kramer know I was a reader and now I lived in Austin. They, along with other writers of the community, decided to have a get together at Texpresso (one of the great bygone Austin businesses) of writers AND readers of the Austin blogs. I was so excited, I would finally get to meet these interesting people.

Early November we got together. The three of us and maybe a dozen others. It was really to meet these cool new people in Austin and see what they were like in person. During the chatting and discussion, Jette said that I really needed to write my own blog (journal). I wanted to, but had NO idea how things on the Internet worked and how you got an online diary. They were all much more tech savvy than I was. She told me about Diaryland.com. I checked it out and soon my diary was launched.

FIFTEEN years later, yes FIFTEEN, I still have that online diary. Somewhere along the way I quit telling people about it and I don’t often write in it, to tell the truth, but it is still there as my true DIARY of what goes on day to day with a little more explanation in case someone stumbles upon it and needs to know the major characters. A few of those people from those days might be able to hunt it down if they wanted to. I don’t go passing the address around because I don’t know what I wrote 10 years ago. Maybe I wrote about YOU and I don’t want you finding it!

I started THIS blog in 2007 when I was laid off from my job. Initially I thought it would be part of a bigger picture I had for myself and my post-radio future. I would write about local music and events and have a calendar, too. Sadly, I didn’t get too far with that idea. It’s still a good idea, but others are running with similar ideas and doing them much better so I won’t be trying that again. I’m still not tech savvy enough to make it really good.

I found out I enjoy the blogging. I always either over think and don’t write because I’ll never find the right examples or express things just the way I want or under think and just jump in here and write stream of consciousness. But at least that puts up an entry.

Jette started Holidailies a long time ago and I have participated sporadically. I think I ALWAYS say I’m going to participate and then (like my NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo ambitions) I fall apart 3 days in. Jette, by the way, has moved on to new endeavors, like her amazing blog Slackerwood, and Kramer is still doing what he does, being my personal astrologer and cheerleader and blogger at Astrofish. I thank them both. What a great welcome they gave me to Austin and encouraged me to do something I love to do.

December 1, 2014

Christmas Gifts

Filed under: Radio stuff — Janice @ 10:22 pm


I didn’t draw this picture, it was a gift to me. You almost need to see it in person to see how intricate it is, all drawn in pen and colored in. What is even more amazing (I think) is that it was drawn by an inmate in a prison in California (if I’m remembering this right).

I was on the radio all across the country in the 90s on the ABC Satellite Radio Network. I did nights on the adult contemporary format. I had to do dedications each night, “Love Notes” we called it. Personally, I hate dedication shows and I did my best to make mine more palatable than that saccharine-sweet Delilah. I frequently had dedications to prisoners. I remember Penny who called frequently and dedicated songs to her husband in jail. She was very pleasant and I tried to do them from time to time and she was nice enough to know not to call too often. Over time I learned more about their situation and learned that she had met him WHILE he was in prison. It was a blind date, a set up! Why in the world would you let yourself be set up on a date with a man in prison? I think her friend was married or “dating” someone in prison and thought Penny would like this guy. Sigh. So she married him while he was in prison. I asked when he might be able to go free; when would she be able to count on him as a husband.

“Uh, maybe never,” she said. He was in prison for life. The initial crime wasn’t that serious, but then he had killed a guard while in prison.

Those were the people I talked to.

But, when Christmas rolled around I would sometimes get nice little offerings like this Christmas tree from a prisoner and I did think that was nice. I never sent them a thank you. I hope their lives are all better today than they were then. Especially Penny.

November 30, 2014

Creativity Boost

Filed under: At home,Normal Life,Writing — Janice @ 9:07 pm

I have been feeling particularly inept when it comes to creativity this weekend. It is a real frustration. I see myself as a creative person. I feel like I am the kind of person that can DO things. But I’ve been stymied on the most minor things.

I had to make a trip to Home Depot yesterday so I was thinking of what I might need from there. Well, one thing I thought of was the little ceramic caps that go over the bolts on the base of the toilet. We had our bathroom remodeled over a year ago and that was one thing they didn’t do when they finished. So for a year those bolts have been there, ugly, taunting me. I would do something about it.

I looked high and low at Home Depot, but couldn’t find what I needed because they were hidden among a gazillion other little plumbing needs on a big wall. I had to get a clerk to help me find what I need. Well, first off, he says, they don’t make them ceramic anymore, they are all plastic. Yuck, I didn’t want plastic, but that’s all there is. I bought them and brought them home.

The installation of the little caps was pretty straightforward, but still more than I had anticipated. You are supposed to remove the nut and the washer and put down a piece it has included and then put back the washer and nut and then put the cap on and it will CLICK and stay firmly on that first plastic piece. The first bolt had the nut on tight so I moved on to the other side. The nut there was loose (and I was smart enough to know that it probably shouldn’t be loose). I could loosen it completely with my fingers. I put down the plastic part and put back the washer and nut and twisted the nut. And twisted and twisted. Then I realized that the bolt was turning just as much as the nut. I needed tools.

I know my father or Mark could walk into the garage and pull the perfect tool from a toolbox and be back in the bathroom in a minute. I had to look high and low and figure what would work and finally settled on a pair of pliers and a pair of vise grips. I went back at it and finally got it tightened enough to satisfy me. So I was going to push on the cap and then move to the other side. I tried, but the bolt was too long for the cap to fit down on it completely. I’ve googled around about this since then and find that the bolts do need to be hacksawed or cut after the toilet is installed. Fine.

By this time I was already frustrated beyond my tolerance and I just balanced the other cap on the bolt and called it good. At least it looks okay until you try to mop around the toilet and it goes flying off. But I’ll worry about that the next time I mop . . . May?

I had a couple of other instances of those simple tasks that I thought would take a minute and be an easy fix and it took way longer than it should or I couldn’t do it at all. I don’t know how these do-it-yourselfers can choose a project, make their list, go to Home Depot, come home and get to work, and by the end of the day they have a whole new closet or painted living room or landscaped yard.

So, to get my creativity in gear, I have done 2 things. Tonight, I signed up for Holidailies, the web portal that encourages bloggers to post daily in December. With that obligation and my rule-following nature, I hope I can get in gear and write some of the things that come up in my head each and every day. I WANT to live up to the titles I give myself in my head (WRITER and STORYTELLER).

The other thing was a little bit of clearing. I have an office that makes it LOOK like I am a hoarder. I am not, in any way shape or form, a hoarder (okay, except for genealogy stuff. And family related stuff. And books.). I was, however, at the home of a hoarder recently and it is enough to scare me into a little bit of clearing. For over a year I have had a huge bin of tapes in my office. These were reel-to-reel tapes of my earliest days in radio, cassette tapes for the next 30 years of me in radio along with cassettes of music and interviews and who knows what, and video tapes of TV shows and family events and my graduation from UNT, etc. The bin also had about 100 little records.

I “inherited” a reel-to-reel player and my plan was to move the tapes that were reel-to-reel to digital so I could preserve them and listen to them. I had a dickens of a time making it work and getting the sound to the computer. I did get one tape moved and boosted and edited. I wasn’t sure it was worth it. So today I went through and threw things away with abandon. I threw away almost all the reel-to-reel tapes because I really can’t stand to hear me in my earliest days anyway. Why go through that? If I did get them moved to the computer I would probably never allow anyone else to hear them so what’s the point? I threw away hundreds of cassettes, too. Many of them were completely unlabeled, so how important could they be, right? I kept a couple dozen that I might throw away at some future point, but I got rid of a lot.

And I threw away video tapes. I once worked for a video production house and I acted and did news on a few projects. Again, I don’t want to see them and I don’t want anyone else to see them, so they went into the trash. All in all, I filled up the recycling bin (I hope they all count as plastic) and I downsized the pile of stuff to a much smaller box (that can be lifted, unlike the bin). I didn’t do anything with the little records… I wasn’t ready for that yet.

Next on the list will be to get this giant reel-to-reel player out of the house and delivered to someone else with this brilliant idea of dubbing off their tapes to the computer.

I am hoping that that little bit of clearing, the little bit of free space on the floor in my office now, and the commitment to creativity, will make December a little bit brighter when it comes to the neurons in my head.

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