My New Weekly Journal without a Name

Once upon a time, I joined a blogger who started a “Secret Life of Bloggers” blog party. I liked the concept of taking one picture a day. I didn’t stick with it for very long. πŸ™ I just looked at the website and nothing has been posted since 12/21, so I guess that party is over.

When the pandemic started, I began posting my own themes: “Pandemic Photo Journal” and “Pandemic Pantry Potluck. Those lasted for a few months and then I stopped. I started the photo journal with this introduction: I am trying a weekly photo journal of my life during this stay-at-home pandemic. The idea is to post on Sundays and include one photo for each day of the week with some text. I may not limit myself to one photo because I have a hard time with rules like that. It seems a perfectly logical thing to do on a family history blog. This is certainly an historic time.

I just re-read my early entries and I’m really sorry I stopped. It certainly brought those early pandemic days back to mind.

So here I am again, ready to give it another try. What theme/name/tag shall I give it this time? We are still sort of in the pandemic – COVID-19 is not over. Hopefully we will someday be post-pandemic. If I keep up my blog journal, the name would no longer fit. I think I’ll try to post journal entries on Monday, since I’m often still trying to finish up Sepia Saturday posts on Sundays. I’m open to suggestions for a name. Leave any suggestions in the comments. If you’d like to join me, we’ll have a party!

I’ll start with the past week (well, mostly the past week) to get me going.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

* Celebrated late birthdays – my husband and his cousin Harriett. We tried a new-to-us restaurant in Round Rock – Milano’s. The Italian waiter was like family by the time we left. If you know my husband, you will know why. We all had Osso buco – one of Harriett’s favorite Italian dishes. It was a first for Martin and me. Besides the lovely presentation, it was very good and provided three meals – I ate some at the restaurant and Martin and I shared my leftovers for lunch.

Monday, August 8, 2022

*Kind of a rough day. People on edge or dealing with insomnia.
* Did some planning for fall ESL classes.
* Taught my asylum-seeking friend, who from this point forward will be known as R.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

* Sat in on a zoom presentation by the Library of Congress on Sanborn Fire Maps. Picked up a few tips I can use.
* FUMC Mercy and Justice book group. We started reading and discussing Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America.
* The FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lag0 yesterday. Whoa.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

* Dreamboat had his first ever teeth cleaning. We put it off for a few years – we lost sweet Lola a couple of days after a cleaning a few years ago – I think because of a complication from the use of a pain medication. I have a some anxiety about cleanings now. At least it is August and not May. Both of our previous dogs died in the month of May. I don’t like that coincidence, silly as I know it is. I got worried about Dreamboat about 9:30 at night because he had been getting over the anesthesia pretty well, but suddenly toppled over when a leg went out from under him. I called the emergency vet to calm my fears and know what to look for if there was really a problem. He’s okay, but he keeps licking his shaved leg where the IV was.

* I went to Texas Oncology for a port flush – a maintenance thing. I also took the port pillows that some ESL students and I made last week. I haven’t been able to take any for over two years because they stopped taking anything homemade once the pandemic hit. On this trip, things were closer to the old normal. There was no temperature check or Covid questions at the door, although they are still using the side door as the only entrance …? Everyone still needs to wear a mask, but I could just go up to the infusion room and knock on the door and state my business as in the past. I asked the nurse who flushed my port if anything was changing about letting someone accompany patients. Not much change, only on your first doctor visit or if it is medically necessary. The infusion room could get crowded on days when everyone had a person with them and you can’t really enforce distancing, so I understand, but I just hate this. I know, know, know that having my friends accompany me on those long chemo days was medically beneficial. It kept me occupied and laughing and well-cared for as opposed to worried, stressed, lonely, and bored. I wish someone would do a study of patient emotional health, treatment issues, and treatment outcomes comparing patients who can have someone with them and those who cannot.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

* I’ve been reading Holes with a group of ESL students on zoom. I thought we would finish today, but we didn’t get to the very end. They have enjoyed reading it, but the pace I set is a little intimidating for some of them.
* The news!
* T said I should watch Little Forest because it is very relaxing. There is a lot of cooking, not much action. Calming indeed. I recommend.

Friday, August 12, 2022

* My other ESL book club is reading The Boxcar Children #4 – Mystery Ranch. I’m glad I have had these two book clubs for the past few weeks while our regular classes are on summer break.
* Made pizza for the first time in many weeks.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

* On the 2nd, I went with a friend to Black Pearl Books. We had not been to their new location. It’s really nice compared to the closet-sized store they had previously. We also picked up a Beto sign and t-shirt for me while we were out, and my friend gave me the Love sign. I have started all of the books. The signs went up today.

* Actually finished my Sepia Saturday blog post early in the day. Of course, I had made it an easy one. Eveline’s Senior Year – In Search of a Back Story.
* Watched the little mini-episodes of I Am Groot.
* Finished a puzzle I found in the closet and now it gets posted to my Buy Nothing group.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

One of my goals for August is to start getting myself ready on Sunday mornings as if I were going to church in person. You know … showered, dressed, and so on. Now that we don’t use zoom any more and the only option is watching the live feed, I’ve been a Sunday morning slacker. Today was the first Sunday I was actually ready before church started, but not early enough to have driven to church. It’s a start.

And I decided to start this journal …

* The week has been hot. I’m not getting my walks in. I don’t care for the treadmill, but most days at 8:30 PM, it is still uncomfortable. August hasn’t been quite as bad as July, so there’s that.
* I find that I am in a stage of risk assessment when it comes to getting out of the house and being with people. I get out a little with a small group or a meal in a restaurant, but usually not more than once a week. I missed a dear friend’s surprise 65th birthday party this week. I could see that 47 people responded yes to the evite and the party would be at her house, so that was a no for me.

I’ve been rather wordy with this first journal entry. I wonder what kind of routine and form will take hold. And how long I’ll stick with it this time.

Suggestions for a name/theme for my journal entries?

Austin Stories B. C. – It Was a Zoo

My attempt to share stories for each letter of the alphabet featuring our life in Austin B.C. (Before Children) 1975-1985. The 70s were a long time ago. 26 stories were a stretch for my brain, so I cheated and left out X and Y, meaning I have FINALLY made it to the letter Z!

The prompt photo features a young couple.

Perhaps they are recently married and have just rented an apartment in a new city where they are looking forward to an exciting new life together.

My husband and I were not really looking for a place to live where there was “never a dull moment,” but it seems we had our share of moments while living at River Hills. There was The Clown Next Door, Breaking and Entering, and the final “moment” for us – the Bats.

But well before the bat incident, there was the guy with the cougar and the chimp and whatever else he had in his apartment.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, Tx), 21 Oct 1977

We already knew about the cougar. My husband had seen it chained up on the ground level patio of an apartment in another part of the complex. There was no fence or any kind of barrier – just a cougar that anyone could walk right up to. Besides the story in the newspaper, the owner of the cougar, Ted Wenk, was interviewed for the local news stations. I distinctly remember an emphasis by the reporters that the thieves should be very careful with the poison darts and consider turning them in.

A similar article with a different family portrait…

Austin American Statesman (Austin, Tx), 22 Oct 1977

Just a few days later, Ted was in the news again.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 26 Oct 1977

It is hard to believe that the apartment manager didn’t know there were wild animals about. I mean, my husband saw the cougar when he was just walking around. And imagine the noise made by 40 parrots, a chimpanzee, and a cougar!

We didn’t live close to his apartment, so other than talking about the novelty and idiocy of the situation, we didn’t keep up with the guy – didn’t remember his name, didn’t know anything else about him.

I didn’t find a followup story about lawsuit over the biting chimp, but I found some other information about our former “neighbor.” Turns out, Ted Wenk had quite a story.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 07 Sep 1978

We don’t remember anything about a renters’ strike or going without water. I guess the water issue didn’t affect our building. Ted won this case.

About a year later, someone was accused of trying to steal two black leopards from Mr. Wenk.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 23 Oct 1979

River Hills Apartments were on streets that intersected Riverside Dr. Sometime before 1980, Mr. Wenk was keeping his animals farther out Riverside Dr. in a less populated area. It seems law enforcement may have been familiar with him, or at least with his animals. Ted denied that the big black cat was one of his.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 21 Jun 1980

By 1982, Ted Wenk had moved east of Austin to the town of Bastrop and opened Wild World Animal Park.

Austin American Statesman (Austin TX) 28 May 1982

A few months later Ted Wenk was featured in a lengthy article about people keeping large cats as pets.

“Oh, they’re as tame as a house cat,” said Ted Wenk, owner of the Wild World of Cats near Bastrop. He owns 28 exotic cats. “But consider they are a 600-pound house cat. You step on its tail and it might disembowel you. They are big and they are mean.”

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 19 Oct 1982

I seriously don’t understand people.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 24 Sep 1983

In early December of 1983, Ted was showing off two extremely rare white tiger cubs born at his zoo.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 04 Dec 1983

At the end of December, Ted posed with his children and was the subject of columnist John Kelso. One might conclude that Mr. Wenk didn’t shy away from media attention.

The article included another photo, this time with a python and a baboon.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 27 Dec 1983

Remember those rare white tigers cubs? They went missing. Were they sold? Or eaten?

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 24 Jan 1984

Wow! Another litter of rare white tigers.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 29 Apr 1984

Things took a turn for the worse in Ted Wenk’s life. He was arrested on a drug charge … and those expensive white tiger cubs he sold to a zoo in OK turned a darker hue.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 16 Sep 1984

The crime committed by Mr. Wenk seems not to have been as serious as first thought, but he believed he must move because he had lost community support for his zoo and he was losing money.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 13 Nov 1984

I guess Ted changed his mind about moving. A newspaper article published in 1986 about a veterinarian mentions Ted and his zoo, located between Austin and Bastrop.

And then things really took a turn for the worse. Ted Wenk was reported missing by his 17-year-old son.

Austin American Statesman (Austin, TX) 23 Jul 1

Ted Wenk was never found. His zoo closed in disarray.

Austin American Statesman 14 Oct 1990

This isn’t the first time that I started writing a post for this series and chased the story well beyond my little memory. I don’t remember hearing about Ted Wenk’s death, or if I did, making the connection to our shared time at River Hills.

I have to say I am glad to be finished with this series. I tired of writing so many stories in a row based on my own life and not writing about the ancestors – or at least others in the family. But now a few of our stories are documented bits of family lore along side older stories.

I began with the young couple in the prompt photo and I’ll end with a photo of the young couple who were the characters in this series – my husband and me.

Please visit other Sepia Saturday bloggers by clicking here: Sepia Saturday

Austin Stories B. C. – The Walls Went Up

My attempt to share stories for each letter of the alphabet featuring our life in Austin B.C. (Before Children) 1975-1985. The 70s were a long time ago. 26 stories might be a stretch for my brain. I am behind, but intend to make it to Z! Today I have made it to W.

After we had both completed grad school and were gainfully employed, we started itching to own a home. On weekends we would drive around neighborhoods under construction, go to open houses, and peek in windows. We looked at a lot of houses that were beyond our means, but they were fun to dream about and gather ideas.

At one open house, we approached a builder whose houses we liked in a neighborhood we liked, but they were all way too big for us. We told him we were thinking of something more along the size of the houses another builder was constructing in that neighborhood. He told us that if we liked the other guy’s houses we should get him to build one for us. No! We like your houses! Just smaller. Please?

He told us to find a plan with a square foundation and no hallways and he would see. It would need to be a plan that he could use more than once. We found a plan in a magazine that was the right size that we thought would work. He made a few changes and we agreed. We still have a sketch of how the house sat on the lot. The foundation is pretty square. And there were no hallways.

I’m not going to use the builder’s name because he is still building locally. Let’s call him Big House. The name of his company was Big House & Son. Son was about two years old at the time and the youngest of five. Yup. Four daughters, then Son. Now that “& Son” was on the company logo, they could stop having kids, we assumed. “& Son” is no longer part of the company name and it looks like one of the daughters is listed in some management role. While Big House was building a house for us, he was also building a new house for himself. He laughed and told us that our house would fit in his attic. He was a piece of work.

Although we liked his construction and many of the touches in his homes, we were not fans of the decorative selections in his spec houses. His wife was the decorator, so we made sure not to insult her and were thankful we could choose the wallpaper and flooring ourselves. I grew to understand why people say building a house can strain a marriage. Fortunately, the process took a toll on my sleep rather than our marriage as I looked through wallpaper book after wallpaper book after wallpaper book both while awake and in my dreams. We ended up with these selections. Not too tacky for the 80s, right?

We handed over a down payment in October of 1981. I don’t remember if anything happened before the end of the year, but we moved in during the spring, maybe by the end of March. Neither of us had ever watched a house go up before. I checked the progress nearly every day. It seemed like it took forever, especially toward the end.

This photo was obviously taken a few years later. Mini van in the garage. Stroller in the driveway. We still aren’t great landscapers.

Our first house

Our house seemed so big when we moved in with our apartment furniture that didn’t fill the space. The older photos show some of that apartment furniture. And the first curtains I made.

Celebrating a birthday with my husband’s parents and sister

Some photos are lopsided and barefoot and pregnant.

A random photo shows a kitchen much smaller than we are used to now – just the right size for a young Cinderella in furry teddy bear slippers to clean between nebulizer treatments for asthma. The little details in a picture like this … the lunchboxes stacked on the fridge, the tiny television that kept me company while cooking, the chair from the kid’s table and chairs inherited from my husband’s family, the dining room through the doorway that was never used as a dining room…

Some photos show sweet love and random shoes.


We eventually added a big room in the back as a playroom/sewing room as well as a nice deck to accommodate our family of five plus dog.

1995 Another birthday celebration

In 1996 we built another house in the same neighborhood. Not having a hallway or a bedroom for each kid started getting a little cramped. Now we don’t need this bigger house. Sometimes I think about moving back into our first home if it ever goes on the market again. I haven’t convinced my husband that it would be a good idea – the bathrooms are small, the kitchen is small, and so on. We don’t know what updates and changes the subsequent owners have made. Maybe they made improvements we would like. Or maybe not.

Big House used this plan two more times in our neighborhood with different roof lines. I don’t know if he built it any where else.Β That little three bedroom, two bath house with no hallways we paid $88,000 for would likely sell for a number in the upper six figures today.

I will end with another memory from this house. I didn’t think I would be able to match the prompt photo, but I did!

Friend’s baby on our horse

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