Rocking along day after day

Notes from Alexis: Interesting ways of finding a books story line. Plus being 55 does tend to make one stop and look at life.

4-12-84

Dear Lex,

I haven’t been able to write this last week as I have had a problem with ‘Tangled Webs.’ I have walked all around it, and finally saw that the problem is that I know the whole story. When I saw it from what the reader knows, then I was able to resolve it. This is such a complicated plot I have to be careful not to reveal too much too soon.

I have fallen in love with Simon and Garfunkel, got their ‘Concert in Central Park’ album. Also got a couple of Gheorghe Zamfir’s records and they are so lovely that I’ll tape them for you.

Loved to hear about your cats and mice stories. I hope bus driving smooths out and becomes as natural as rain, of which we do seem to be getting our share. The earth loves it so who am I to complain? Gwen that’s who! And Gwen bitches mightily about every inconvenience! Not to mention it has been snowing off and on for the past four or five days.

The canoe is coming along nicely. We went to a fiberglass seminar and now we feel quite a bit different – not so scared. I can’t get over the lines of it, they are so lovely. I think that boat has been a Godsend for Dad. Work has just been so hard for him lately. He goes out and works on the boat and forgets all about the job.

I can almost picture your house going up. You know you guys are going to have to plan on a greenhouse so you can control the rain. Just think, we are eating lettuce and radishes out of the greenhouse. We need it to protect against the cold and you need it to protect against water, although we have had so much rain lately that we are protecting against water, too.

I really hate it when I just rock along day after day without feeling creative and with no enthusiasm. I am so used to being hyper, that being calm is more like being becalmed, lost in the doldrums. To me the daily routine is a stagnant pool, and just think, that is the condition of most of the world and they are happy as larks.

I am grateful that I don’t have to go to work, for I barely have enough energy to get up in the morning. I feel I need to lay down and rest, and yet I am not sick. Actually I feel as if I am recuperating from a long illness, and I’m getting damned tired of it. And yet I’m not depressed or even blue. There really is no way around it, I am cruising at 55. Tell that to the Indy drivers, 55 is really just standing still.

Well, it seems I have done nothing but whine and cry around. Dad says I need some spring, but I think I’ve had about all the spring I can take. What I need is some summer.

Love,
Mom

P.S. Boy are writers weird folk. I looked at the way I was feeling and realized I had a part of the story that I needed, just that kind of feeling, and went in and wrote about it. Is nothing sacred, not even pseudo—depression?

The Blue Rose, an IBM Selectric III changes life as never before!

Mouse bites

Notes from Alexis: The photo of the “Mouse bites” corners is what happens when you store letters for over 30 years!

3-29-84

Dearest Lex,

I suppose you didn’t even notice the difference in the type. Well you should have for this is on the new darling. I ended up buying the IBM Selectric III, dual pitch, self-correcting, BLUE, Model #670S for, get this, $685 (with dust cover)! It is such a fantastic machine that I can hardly stand it! It is quiet and it does all the things a machine is supposed to do like TYPE, and the correcting part beats all the memory I have seen, all to hell. What it does is correct and then sits there and waits for you to type over. Isn’t that smart! What I learned in school is that any dummy can remember but it takes ‘smart’ to think.

So here is your mother in heaven with a new darling. It will never replace a daughter but it sure helps. I’m not admitting that I talk to it, and at this point in time it is still an IT but you will know that things have deteriorated when I start referring to it as SHE.

You will be delighted with Dad’s comment when I told him about The Creative Writing Class. He said, “Whatever possessed you to write a play?” Don’t you just love it! And he sure enough is right, I have no answer.

I am still in great spirits but the flesh has fallen prey to some kind of stomach upset. However, I am so thrilled with the Blue Rose that I am sitting here typing away with half my mind looking at my interior.

Even with this lovely typewriter I seem to be making some mistakes but I suppose that is because I am writing in such haste. I am always behind or ahead of my thinking. It would be such a relief if I could compose on the typewriter but I know that I never shall. However, it is great that I love re-typing them at least.

I got a flat tire on the way to the post office Tuesday and made it on in to the garage, and had my studs taken off and road tires put back on, just in time for the next snow. I was telling Dad that I didn’t know how to change a tire, and he said it was because I was a woman, which is certainly true, but imagine his amazement when I said that it might also be because I have never had a flat. I have really led a sheltered life. The powers that be know my limitations, don’t they?

Well here I sit, heavily in debt, without a care in the world. I charged the Kirby Vacuum and the Blue Rose on Visa and now all Dad has to do is pay for them, don’t you love it? Poor man, he would love to believe that I am going to make a pile writing, but he really believes it will fall from the sky out of a plane before there is a chance in hell of me making any money from writing.

I have run out of things to say and as you have so much to read because of the other things I am sending, I will just stop for now.

Love,
Mom

The fun of making up words!

Notes from Alexis: We both have a tendency to create our own words. It was always a toss up of who was better at it. But it is all good for a laugh!

3-15-84

Dearest Lex,

I laughed all through your last letter and I needed a laugh. Dad had taken some time off (home 5 days) and I was about ready to scream. However some good came of it. We hauled 50 to 60 bales of rotten alfalfa (gold) for the garden, and another limb for a bird house. Those limbs from the Laurel Street house make a lovely place for birds, the quail love them.

I have been drafted to help Dad with building a canoe, and then I remembered another long forgotten wish. When I was in high school I dreamed, plotted and planned, of building a boat. I was obsessed with the whole idea, but reality reared its ugly head and I gave up the idea. So here we go, 35 years later! I’m being more or less forced to build it or at least help Dad, because nobody else will. Ponder that one over for a minute.

I’ve made another step forward with the Frameworks art project. You know how I have been having second thoughts, and all more or less centered around ‘worth’ but of course worth is entirely out of my hands, isn’t it. Value is something so intangible that it can only be measured by time, maybe. But any-hoo, I decided to go full steam ahead, but by golly to do it in as professional a manner as possible. I am really amazed at what ONE person has conceived and executed (meaning myself). Many other large art shows are generally a multiple-person show, or a life-time collection. But I haven’t seen or heard of the kind of thing that I have with my Frameworks. That encourages me.

My body has said it wants two months down-time, and is going to get two months, come hell or high water. I have been trapped here in the ‘Sargasso Sea’ by the Doldrums. Of course I have been writing steadily (minus 5 days) thank God! So at least the mind is free but the body is set on no-go. And I get such a kick out of the byways that my writing takes me down.

I agree with you about the book ‘Blue Highways.’ The poor man was so caught up with his troubles–wife, job, drinking, pain–that he drove all those miles inside his own head, and never left home. I would love to go somewhere and do something, but am anxiously awaiting teleportation, so I can stay home while traveling. There are folks out on the road right now in motor homes who think they are doing just that, but I don’t agree. Being home means the view doesn’t change, but thank God neither does the bed!

I bought the wife of the book I sent you. It is called Quilted Clothing by Jean Ray Laury and is just ‘droolable.’ (droolable is a first cousin to grossity). She and her husband, Stan Bitters must be the most interesting people I have ever heard of (excluding thee and me, of course).

I plan to make a summer covering for patio out of woven willow branches. Dad says B. has 40 acres of willows and he will help me get a load, or a ton, whichever comes first. I will build a loom on the patio with a frame and weave it in place.

Just heard and saw the first Meadow Lark, love them dearly. The Killdeer came last week. Our spring is marked by birds not buds, and Dad, of course, wanting to plant the garden. He has planted mucho in the green house and their little ears are sticking up. We ate lunch out there one day when it rained. Nice.

Well, I’ll clean the house today and maybe I’ll become inspired to do something ‘figment-ly.’ (Don’t you just love it!)

Love,
Mom

Finding a new hobby!

Notes from Alexis: She may have found a new hobby. This one is actually funny!

2-13-84
Dearest Lex,

Happy Valentine’s day

Would have written before but this has been a bad week. Funny how you immediately suspect something physical about me when I bitch, don’t you? I always expect something emotional from you. Now if we could get your physical strength and my emotional strength together all we would need would be a brain.

Wednesday I hurt my back putting my clothes on to go to town so I have been moaning and groaning around feeling so sorry for myself.

Then along about Thursday I began to have another thought–kidneys. The pain is right where it should be for that, and the pain has been of the spasm variety sometimes and absolutely breathtaking. Got out dear old Adelle Davis – ‘Get Well, Stay Well’ book and looked up what to do, and started doing it. Now I am feeling somewhat better, but then a pulled back gets better too, in time, so there you have it.

I went down and tried out an electronic typewriter, so that is another avenue to approach. Came home unsure and don’t know if it was the typewriter, or me, or my back, or what, but was not all that thrilled, so will let it slide for now.

Writing has been going like Amtrak (on and off the track) but now at least I have my armature (plot) and I’m excited about it. I have had some trouble with names but now I think that is solved too. Here are the two main characters–Roberta (called Bobbi, Robbie and Roberta at various times in story but for all practical purposes is known to us as Robbie) and Walker (Walk).

A lot of “Webs” is from a man’s point of view (Walk) which I swore I would never do, but then I had to because of the plot. So I have been reading books from the man’s point of view. So far all the books I have read have dealt with male sexuality. I just may have found a new hobby!

Let me tell you a funny dream Dad had; He dreamt I decided I was going to make some money so I went down to the radio station and got a job singing on the radio. He said I wasn’t all that bad. We laughed until we cried. Just a neat dream.

So how is the job situation with you, or shouldn’t I ask?

Tried the bread again and it was just as easy and even better tasting. I made French bread and rolled it in poppy seeds, and made cinnamon rolls, and a pineapple coffee cake. Can I quit now?

Just got through reading “Blue Highways” and liked it so much I got us both copies. Also have been re-reading Ludwig Bemelmans books. I consider him a master writer and my guru. Of course, what he wanted to do was paint and as a painter he ranks with the least of them. Aren’t we fearfully strange beasts? We always yearn for something else. Well my back is giving me fits so will stop for now and look forward to seeing you.
Love,
Mom

When you can do it better, you can criticize!

Notes from Alexis: The winter “doldrums” that we both tended to get are beginning to pass. Life looks a little brighter for many reasons.

2-1-84

Dearest Lex,

Please note the date–this means I am now out of January and I can feel that upward swing of good vibes. I do believe I am well on my way to developing a phobia about winter.

I got up Monday and thought, “I have to call Lex.” But since I couldn’t figure out why I had to call, I didn’t. Same thing yesterday, so decided to write today and find out why I should have called.

Have written seven or eight chapters of “Tangled Webs.” Well, actually they can hardly be called chapters, but at least I have most of my thoughts down. And now I guess I have run out of steam.

Yes, I did get the tapes and love them. I have been taping a lot of my records, I have some lovely records and most are unusual. It has been fun to look through them and tape them.

Someday perhaps we can sit down and have a long philosophical discussion about M. If such a thing is possible. At this point it’s about like having a hole blown through your house and being able to be nonchalant it all.

One funny thing, I have always said “When you can do it better, you can criticize.” Of course I always meant it for the other fellow. Then I found I wanted very badly to criticize, so I am in the curious position of having to do it better.

What I wanted to criticize was A’s bread. I have lost count of how many times or types of bread she made, and I hated them all with just two exceptions. Such a dilemma, laying down precepts is just fine, but abiding by them is quite another. So I just gritted my teeth, got out one of my bread books and started reading.

I guess I am just lucky for the book I picked was one with all kinds of shortcuts. So I picked one called “Coolrise Method” and set forth. It was fast, easy and fun. The two loaves turned out like a photograph in Betty Crocker. Not only that, I found myself chewing and chewing, the flavor was so good. However, I cut the salt in half because I use sea salt and believe now the bread would have been tastier with full amount. Now can I bitch?

We gobbled the candy down that you sent, but have come to the conclusion we have been on carob so long we don’t properly appreciate chocolate any more. The thought was lovely though, and much obliged. Sure did like that candy you gave Dad at Xmas and would like to know the make and name.

Also got so homesick to spin that went in and tried it. Haven’t lost the magic touch but got headache. Came up with idea of an air purifier so got one, and didn’t get a headache the next time. Furthermore got up today with an edge of headache so turned it on and began to get better. Maybe I’ll use it and Kirby vacuum to keep me going.

Dad says he is going to build me a proper desk (big enough, etc.) and then will turn Studio I into a writing room, and move everything out that is sewing, into Studio II. I have been weaving a little and plan to get all of that warp woven off the loom and then take loom down and probably move it into Studio II, which will certainly make the front room look larger.

Well, here I sit with sun shining on my head, full of coffee and homemade bread, and not another thought in my head, so will stop for now. I am looking forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks or so,weather and whatever permitting.

Love,
Mom

My God How the Money Rolls In!

Notes from Alexis: The song at the end of this letter is truly funny – a must see!

11-8-83

Dearest Lex,

Well it is snowing here now so you know what it is doing in the passes. I’m worried about those F’s–no snow tires—and don’t know how to drive in the snow.

I got both studios cleaned out and Studio I is now ‘The Office’. I wanted to empty (and did) Studio II, so the kids could stay in there and not hurt anything or get hurt (by me if they hurt anything). I put everything in the Barn and the Dye Shop so I can lock them up.

I’ve put an ad in the newspaper trying to sell the large loom. Have decided that if it sells–fine and if not, will take it down and store it until it’s new owner wanders by.

I bought another green couch, second hand. Dad and I cleaned it up as good as it gets, and think it will work fine where the loom was.

I went down and closed the bank account and the tax account for Spinning Wheel. Boy, has this been a traumatic experience. I have been attached to the idea of a business for so long–about ten years and it has been hard to let go. I don’t let go of attachments easily. Places, yes. I seem to be able to move without too much stress, but people and ideas hang onto me, or I hang onto them. Now, of course, the truth is I don’t want to be in business, so why all this fuss? I really do want to get the computer and get on with the books and have the Frameworks be my hand work.

I finally told Dad about how hurt I am that he has never found my work interesting, but would want to buy someone else’s work. He was all defensive saying he had always liked my work. He did not convince me, but an interesting thing came out of it. He said I didn’t have a goal and this bothered him. This stopped me cold. It is true I have never had a goal, but I have never found this to be a handicap. If I had had a goal and stuck to it would I have turned aside for Frameworks and then EAB, or would I have missed them?

Peter Collingwood wrote an article on weaving years ago and said that sprang was an interesting form, but one couldn’t go hareing down every trail. This amuses me so much because since then he has:
1. developed the form beyond anything done before
2. had shows
3. written a book and
4. become the world authority on sprang.

So much for goals! Then later I got irritated all over again when it hit me that Dad has never had a goal in his life. Neither have any of the C’s. Some nerve! How come Gwen has to have goals? Maybe if you do nothing but watch TV it’s OK not to have goals, but if you get up off your butt and do many, many things, then you must have goals. Do you wonder that I consider the world mad?

Now if all this sounds cranky, it is. I went to bed cranky and I got up cranky. Yesterday I was testing cooked tomatoes. I didn’t get hives, but I did get cranky. Is that the fault of the tomatoes or what? I think this whole past summer was just a lot of factors all at one time, and they got me. However all is not bad. I have found that potatoes and beef are bad-headache givers, and that Alka-Seltzer helps get rid of it. So far-so good, I have never been a big beef and potatoes man.

I finally knew how to finish “The Fishing Expedition.” For some reason I have just been blocked and then I just went and did it, exactly as I had planned in the first place. Weirdly weird! My goodness but that piece touches me, it and ‘Windows.” (Framework pieces)

Am going to see little J. today- -his second month anniversary. Understand he sleeps with them, and now likes it so much won’t sleep alone. I started out saying if we could keep him alive until he was four that he could take care of his parents. Then I cut it down to two, but it would appear that he has the situation well in hand.

Just writing to you has improved my outlook. I’m up from cranky to miffed. I remembered that song I tried to sing for you and it amuses me so (always has) that I decided to send you a copy.

You will be interested to learn that one of my goals is to cut down on my activities to a manageable number. I’m down to four:
(1) EAB
(2) Frameworks
(3) Quilting
(4) Genealogy
But not necessarily in that order at any given time. I hope you are laughing.

Just finished reading “Tracks” by Robyn Davidson, a funny, good book.

You notice nothing about EAB. I’m thinking, I’m thinking about it, it is stewing in the back of my mind all the time. By the way, many, many thanks for the pens, but only a dozen! Isn’t it funny how attached we get to something. I’m really under the impression I can’t write without my pens.

My God How the Money Rolls In

My father makes counterfeit money,
My mother makes bathtub gin,
My sister makes love for a living,
My God how the money rolls in, rolls in, rolls in.
My God how the money rolls in.

My brother’s a false missionary;
He saves little girls from their sins.
He’ll save you a blond for five dollars,
My God how the money rolls in, rolls in, rolls in,
My God how the money rolls in.

The cops came after my father,
My mother ran out of gin.
My sister married my brother,
My God what a predicament we’re in, we’re in,
My God what a predicament we’re in.

Love,
Mom

The Thrill of Rejections!

Notes from Alexis: Pretty funny, being thrilled about being rejected. The woman always had a funny side.

11-16-83

Dearest Lex,

Well I hope this finds you smiling for I sure am. I sent an article to “Handwoven Magazine” which they rejected: “The article itself seems too dated to use in Handwoven, but what struck me is that you really write awfully well….. etc.”

I was thinking of having the letter bronzed but I’ve just about worn it out looking at it. I mean if you have to be rejected that’s the way to go!

I have another fun one for you. I saw on the news that a guy had a brush with the law that was a beauty. It seems he went to a print shop and wanted them to print him up $100,000 worth of food stamps. Don’t you love it! They got hold of the FBI and printed them up, and when he came to collect them the G-men got him. He got six months in jail and two years’ probation. I have to tell you I’m still laughing.

I haven’t heard a word from those F’s. It’s mighty hard to second guess those folks, but Greyhound will start running tomorrow at half-fare so may see them this weekend—or whenever. After a two-week hiatus, I finished writing a chapter that I felt had to go in EAB, and finally knew how. The hardest part of this re-write business for me is knowing how. I don’t mean the piddling little business of a word here or there, I mean how? As in the old joke: Two Indians were out fishing and one caught a mermaid and threw her back. The first Indian said “Ugh, why?” and the second said, “Ugh, How?”

It seems so simple now to write the book in the first place and now I’m into the Ugh How? phase – which drives me nuts. Frankly a lot of it seems secretarial, and I suppose I’m not up to it just yet. For one thing my typewriter is not right for a finished product (it is elite and I need pica). I am considering checking on renting an IBM for final manuscript, which may be far, far in the future.

I seem to have lost a lot of grey cells lately for I can’t remember what we decided you would bring for Thanksgiving. Me turkey, you?

Will go love on little J’s bones. He is the strongest little baby I have seen. Ironman Campbell! Last week he was trying to fake cry to get us to leave him alone so he could sleep, but we pestered him anyway, poor kid.

Am hot into genealogy and I tell you it is so exciting. Of course with my usual modus operandi – I am going at it like killing snakes. I have found so much history that I should have learned in school, and didn’t. If I were teaching history I would do it the genealogy way.

Well, see you in a week, and am really looking forward to it. We won’t get to talk I’m afraid but at least seeing you will be great.

Love,
Mom