Well, it seems I do nothing but bellyache!

(Notes from Alexis: We all wonder what hell may be like, I think Mom has found it.)

April 23. 1992

Dearest Lex,

I sat down at the table with warm sunshine spilling onto me and the table, but Granny got up to eat, and I lit out for the computer room. I can’t take the belching, farting, groaning and grunting. That way may be my fate some day, but I can’t take it now.

Well. I’m sorry you weren’t here for the circus. You would have died laughing. I decided to fix up Mom’s trailer. Dad and I both hated the couch, so we were going to take it out. Sounds easy when you say it fast. We tried it every which-a-way, upsides down and backwards, – no way Jose’.

We finally found one way that was within a couple of inches, and decided if we took the trellis off it would go. Nope, but we gained – just 1” to go…! I even took the doorknob off. The post that supports the roof wouldn’t let the door open flat against the trailer as the door knob hit it.We took the knob off and with brute strength, and ignorance, was able to get it out. We put it on our sun porch, so now we have a hide-a-bed on the new sleeping porch.

We cleaned up the living room of her trailer (not mine, it is still a mess), and it is beautiful. I am going to get a sewing table and set up my sewing machine in her living room so I can sew up those three or four quilts I have cut out. Also, I’m going to clean out that rats nest that Dad has made of the barn. I hate it all junked up, and I’m going to do something about it.

Well, Dad went back to work on the 13th, and what a hassle. First off the computers are Reynolds & Reynolds and totally different from ADP he was used to, not one thing the same. Then there are seven or eight different lines of cars, and he didn’t know six of them. Then they don’t have parts books; it is all on the computers. The same computers he doesn’t know, right?

They were so busy that nobody had time to train him. Just threw him in, sink or swim. Then on top of everything else they set him to returning parts. They have about $30,000 worth of obsolete parts that have never been returned. Now these are not all neat and tidy on shelves. Parts thrown into boxes, so he has to dig through and fish them out, clean them up, and box them, then get the computer to print out a return slip (if he can).

Boy, that first week he nearly died. Then on Friday his boss had time to work with him, and teach him at least how to get in and out of some of the main functions. Now he has decided he can learn it, and he feels a lot better. There for that first week he wasn’t sure. He also sees that he will certainly be earning his wages.

Speaking of computers. Comptalk finally figured out the reason Calcastar & Formsort wouldn’t work. It seems that they were set with a top memory of 512K max so when I upgraded to 640K I went out of their range. Well, weird things do happen!

After walking around the problem of how to replace my data programs, I realized that sorting is one of the things I do really well. When I was a child, we called it ‘filing,’ so I just put them into Wordstar and got on with life. No problem.

Of course, I had lost a week and a half, all told, so I was way behind with my work. During the time off is when I conceived “the plan” to use Mom’s trailer as my rec room. Spending a day or two with her is like hell. At least Hell won’t come as any surprise when I get there -I’m all prepped.

I’m nearly through with “Shipwreck John” I have another five days indexing. Indexing makes me cross and cranky, so I am trying to think of fun things to do. Wait! Wait, I’m thinking!

Today a genealogy-computer friend is coming over, and I am going to show her how to set up her program to do Genealogy. Oh, and I’m cooking rhubarb in the crock pot. Maybe I need some yarn and a knitting project.

Well, it seems I do nothing but bellyache, and I am sick and tired of bellyaching, but like all addicts I won’t stop it until I can replace it with something better.

I have found a new author. Ann Orysdalei, ‘Faint Heart Never Kissed a Pig,’ which I haven’t read because I can’t find it. And ‘Pearls Before Swine’ which is a tad hard to get into, because she is British, but persevere because her stories are just delightful.

Well, Cheerio and all that rot.




Are they really a hobby or the embryo of a business?

Notes from Alexis: I love her “process” for writing a book, and you will love her new hobbies.

Jan 22, 1992

Dearest Lex,

I woke up this morning and thought: I have to tell Lex to stop drinking wine. When I was 25, I had to give up all alcoholic beverages because they gave me such horrendous headaches. I have never liked beer or wine, but I did drink cocktails now and then, but it got to the point where I was having my hangover fifteen minutes after I had my drink.

The thing about wine is it is all chemicals. There may have been a time (back in Ceasar’s day) when wine was made from grapes, but no more. Now it is all chemicals, as I found out when I tried making my own. We watched a program that told all about it and boy; it was enough to scare the pants off you. My advice is to keep off the wine for a month and see if the headaches stop (but, of course, keep up your other programs). Headaches can, and often are caused by more than one thing and sometimes the mix just becomes too much.

I keep checking on S.F. and her new “Gallery” opening.  Dad heard this guy on the radio, who is the photographer that is going to open the gallery with her. I drove by to see it. All her files of index cards had been moved out, and there were a ladder and some buckets. Two weeks later, ditto. She gets all this great media attention, but then doesn’t know what to do with it, and nothing ever comes of her endeavors (notice I didn’t say efforts). Not that I think there has ever been a plan or purpose to anything she does.

I haven’t been able to work on “Shipwreck John” for a week, I will go in today and work on him. I have discovered I have an MO (modus operandi). First, I have to have a name. This is just a working name, and I am perfectly happy and prepared to change it later if it doesn’t fit, which I did with Henry.

Next, I have to do a cover, which I am also prepared to change. Nevertheless – ‘Hello’, there has to be a cover. Now there is a real ‘sure nuff’ book that merely needs to be written and put between the covers. This was true with all my books. It’s as if I have to have something concrete to hold in my hand before I can believe there is a book in the future. I read about writers who write every word in their head before they touch pen to paper or finger to key. Not me. I only have to have a name and cover, and I’m off and running.

So, therefore, there is a “Shipwreck John” but no Dorsett or McGuffin yet, (but getting close), because I haven’t taken the major step of the name and cover. Still too much research.

I now have a hobby. A hobby being something that never can be turned into a business, right? I collect. What I collect has doubled in the past week. I now collect two things. First, I started off with purse wallets, and as you know I have a nice collection. You only saw half of them because at the time I was a closet collector, but now they are out in the open in a box.

My second collection, which I have only just now recognized, is moisture absorbers. You get them in every bottle of pills, and they come in all sizes and shapes. But what to do with them? They lay around on counters and in drawers, and there is the thought underneath; ‘Maybe I should keep them’?

I see things clearly now. A museum of moisture absorbers! Someday in the future, it will attract tourists who will come from all over the universe. Well, that isn’t too far-fetched right, if people would go to see a giant stuffed mouse, why not moisture absorbers? Of course the purse wallets may also be in the same class, however, I keep thinking someday I may actually use one, so there is that to consider. Are they really a hobby or the embryo of a business? Worry and fret. Nothing in this life has been ever simple.

Well, I got all my stuff out of the drawers and into the shoebox to get ready for taxes and that’s step one. Step two is to list everything on a sheet of paper. Step three is working with the form. I am particularly eager to get some money back because Dad gets more disillusioned with his job every day. J. had nothing good to say about J. T. (the new boss and owner of  Honda-Chevrolet dealership) right from day one. But I reserved an opinion until I had met him, which I did at the Xmas party. He made me no convert. He is a slippery eel. He will look you right in the eye and with great sincerity say, I don’t lie. All the time the hair on your neck is standing up. Last night Dad said he was going to start actively looking for another job. It takes him a while to get moving, and he won’t make a move until he is sure, but then he never looks back. So we’ll see.

Well, granny is her usual self. I have had some revelations that I will tell you in person as they are l-o-n-g stories, but anyway, it has helped me cope with the situation.

My chest is feeling better, but I only have half-day strength, while having full-day jobs. About the only way I can manage is to just lie down. Fortunately, I can do that, but I want to get with the program, have things to do.

Well, sweetheart must close as ‘Shipwreck John’ is calling.



I even forget to be thankful for electricity and “self-come water!”

Notes from Alexis: She is a powerhouse of “doing.” Books for genealogy that require enormous “Index’s”, hunting stories, and dreams, fill the winter days.

November 7, 1991

Dearest Lex,

Well, the mole has finally surfaced and is blinking into the daylight. In other words, I have finished the “INDEX” for Henry Tuthill – 16,562 data entries. I tell you it’s worse than taking inventory or weeding onions. I really dread an “Index” and this one took two weeks, and this with the greatest index software imaginable- SKY3. It does most of the work, but still…!

Consequently, I hardly know anything to write about because all I have been doing is the index – day and night.

However, one or two items. Dad’s job situation is getting “curiouser and curiouser.” First the company that bought D. Chevrolet out came down and told L. (Dad’s boss) that they wanted him and all the crew. They said they would build a new building out by their old one and in the meantime; they would rent the building from D. Chevrolet, and they would stay where they are until then.

Then another dealership talked to L. and told him they want him and the crew to come and run their parts department, and would build a new place for them. So all is in an uproar, especially since Co. 1 heard that Co. 2 was dickering. So all is speculation. L. had Dad and P. Z. (the other main parts-man) over last night, to discuss it all. In any case they are leaving it up to L. He always seems to land on his feet, so we’ll see what comes down.

I’ll tell you a couple of dreams because they were so funny. First: Dad had a nightmare up at the hunting camp. He dreamed a big hairy monster attacked him and was biting his finger. He screamed out loud and woke up everybody. O. got up to see what was going on and realized Dad was dreaming, so he stoked the fire, and that woke Dad. He swore his finger was still hurting after he woke up. It sure stirred the guys up and gave them a laugh.

Second: I dreamed that I was baking Oreo cookies, but I couldn’t decide whether I needed six cups of flour, six cups of cocoa or six cups of cornstarch. But the real problem was how to get that design stamped on them. I tell you it is probably a good thing we aren’t able to take the top off our heads and look into the inner workings. What we can see is strange enough.

No, they didn’t get an elk, and the trip was too much. It snowed on them going up, and after they had got there, the temperature was zero practically every night, warming up to twenty degrees in the daytime. They camped in two feet of snow, and all had a grand time. They gave up and came home a day early, vowing no more winter hunting.

Today I will probably go to town and work up my title page for my latest book. Do you realize this is my ninth book to publish, with three more in the works. It staggers me when I think of it. Remember that dream I had where I saw a stack of my books but could not see the titles. Good thing. What do you suppose I would have made of ‘Descendants of Henry Tuthill 1612 -1650” or “Guide Through DataStar/ReportStar?”

You know we need to win the lottery or something as I am about to outgrow my two cubby holes. I really envy your nice big room to lay out your materials and go off and leave it.

I tell you, I am sick and tired of having to move something, so I can do whatever I am doing, and then twenty minutes later have to put it all back. What a waste of time and energy.

See what I mean about doing the index? It makes me cross and cranky and besides that I feel so sorry for myself that sometimes I even forget to be thankful for electricity and “self-come water.”

Well, sweetheart, I don’t know much but am getting ready to print the “INDEX” so must close for now.




I don’t have a “Real Job,” so I have to do my “Unreal Job”

Notes from Alexis: Mom and Grandma will always be at odds. I think daughters and mothers just have that problem. I speak from experience.

Sept.4, 1991

Dearest Lex,

Well, I’ve done it again. I’ve angered the paper – feeding gods; this time on the copier. One of the wheels broke and had to be replaced to the tune of $58. Gosh, publishing is such fun.

Well, of course, I’m teasing and it is fun. Last night I got a call from a McGuffin descendant (not my family), who is going to send me a lot of good stuff. Yesterday, I found out my great – grandfather’s middle name and that is something I have been looking for five years, and all kinds of tidbits from the library. I keep saying it, but it’s true – I am just extra-ordinarily lucky. I must be doing something right, and Lord knows it’s about time.

I cleaned the carpets while you bums were camping and having a good time. Dad helped me wash the windows over the Labor Day weekend, so let it snow.

Remember I told you to put your hard hat on when you ask for something because things just fall out of the sky. I know how you feel about the “learning” part of your business. Sometimes I just get to the point where I can’t bear the thought of learning one new thing. But look at it this way, we both know business IS taxes, so you need to know taxes, so you can help your clients plan their tax strategy. Anybody can fill out the form, but planning is Job #1.

Yes, Mom has moved to her own home. One day I realized she felt better than I did, so I suggested she try spending a night at her home, and see how it worked. I explained that I was wearing out and that if I got sick, she was in BIG trouble.

She was home in a flash, and life has become almost bearable again. She had one attack the other night, but took her Nitro pills, and then slept on the couch and was fine the next morning. I think she felt better knowing she could sleep over anytime she wanted. I believe that will be the pattern. She will always have periods of good, and then have attacks. She will never be healthy again, but she has started painting again so she has something to do, besides bellyache, that is.

We froze forty packs of beans and gave them away to S. and J., and finally just gave up. I told Dad to let them go and we would have a meal of dried beans.

The birds got all the cherries and are working away on the apples, and Dad is working on the grapes. I’ll probably not get a really ripe one, because he likes them sour, and won’t wait. Dad gathered and gave to P. a wash tub of zucchini squash, from across the street. She bakes bread and gives it for Xmas.

Well, other than medical and Genealogical news, I don’t know much.

Well, got to run and do books. As S. says, I don’t have a “Real Job,” so I have to do my “Unreal Job.”



“Looney Tunes” of a friend, and he isn’t wrapped too tight either.

(Notes from Alexis: All about friends, family and saga’s of life! Sad but true.)

 March 1, 1991

Dearest Lex,

Well, finally, finally, I have a day where I can sit down and write. Up until now I have been going at a full gallop, or sick, and not going at all.

I placed my ad in the ‘Genealogical Helper’ for December 15th and with it was just a lovely review of my “Tuttle” books, that I had already published. What I hadn’t realized, until I got the first order, was that everybody would misread both ads. In the advertising game, an ad that goes in a magazine has to be to them three months in advance. In September, I only had “Vol I” done, so that is what I sent, figuring I would send the others along as I got them finished.

I have reread the review and my ad, and it all seems ‘perfectly clear’ to me, that there are four volumes. However, people still seem to think there is only one, so I have had to hold their checks and write them asking for the name of their ancestor, so I can send the right volume.

The upside is that three people have ordered more than one volume. For some reason, Vol IV has been a slow seller, but I’ve had to reprint the other three volumes and will have to reprint Vol IV next week, I think. It’s fun to have the orders and the letters, but it caught me unaware, and I’m glad it has slowed down somewhat.

All along I have been toting and fetching for Dad, Grandma, and the dawg, as well as doing research on the “McGuffins” and working on “Henry Tuthill.” Which means, more letters, and lots of work.

But enough about me. How are you doing? Hope you are well and happy, and sipping tea in the tea house (greenhouse). We were able to have lunch in the sunroom Saturday, which was lovely.

So here is the latest soap opera: the trials and tribulations of J. You may recall that JS., who was living in the garage, and babysitting for J. & Je’s kids, got mad at her son Z. and beat him up.

OK, so J. made him leave and JS’s stepmother, came over and loaded up most of his stuff and put it in a mini-warehouse. About two weeks ago J. found a summons taped to the door of the house. It seemed that JS. was taking J. to court, saying he had taken his stuff.

So family and relatives all went up to the courthouse at the appointed time, but it wasn’t a judge, but a mediator. He was trying to get them to settle the thing without going to court, but JS. wouldn’t listen to it, so they set a date for the next week.

Now comes court day, and you need some background information. JS. suffered a stroke some years back, and one side (forget which) is nearly paralyzed. He doesn’t have good use of his hand or foot on that side, and doesn’t speak clearly. Add to this a long grungy beard and mustache and you get the picture. Plus, he tends to rave and rant unintelligibly, and wave his good hand about. We know that a lot of it is just frustration at not being able to make himself understood, but to others, he appears a wild man. Of course, he isn’t wrapped too tight either. The stroke did affect his brain, there is no doubt of that. He takes medication for the stroke, drinks, and takes dope, so all in all, he not only appears weird, he is weird.

J. thought they were going to small claims court, but it turned out to be circuit court. The judge said since they were there, they might just as well get it over with, and he would hear the case. JS got up and ranted and raved and flailed about, until finally the judge asked J. to explain it all. So he did. He said the cops had told him to get JS’s stuff moved out of there pronto after he beat up Z. He also told him to get a restraining order, which J. did. He told the judge about moving the stuff to the mini-warehouse.

Then he told how J. had taken JS. up to the house, and made him take all the odds and ends out, then he read off the list of things taken. JS. said he didn’t remember going up there and getting anything, but you better believe J. made a better witness than poor JS.

Well, the judge said he would ponder on it and send them a letter giving his decision. When J. got the letter, he called me – he had won. The judge said that it amounted to abandonment, and since J. was not JS’s landlord, he was entitled to keep anything left behind.

End of story? Of course not. There is never an end of looney tunes like JS. J. called Dad today, and said JS. had told his dad, that he was going to sue the judge, which gave us all some comic relief.

Well, guess I’ll stop for now, and write a couple of more letters for today’s mail. Oh, by the way, Dad said to tell you how pleased he was with the mystery series audio tapes. He is rationing them out, so he doesn’t hear them all at once. What a neat gift. You always come up with good ones.



Do you think I offended the paper-feeding gods?

(Notes from Alexis: Well, I’m back from a summer of “doing,” and ready to get back to posting letters. Here are Gwen’s thoughts from 1990, all about genealogy books, bread, and printers, and a wild and crazy dog.)

December 28, 1990

Dearest Lex,

Loved your card and stationery, You always have such good taste.

We were just sure you would have problems of one kind or another with your freezing weather. We had both bathtubs freeze up (drains) but Dad figured out how to thaw them out real quick and easy. Boy, it’s nice to have a handy handyman.

Our neighbors (P.B.’s) waterworks froze up, and Dad & L. got it about halfway thawed out, but she has such a Rube Goldberg setup that it is pitiful. I talked to her at the P.O., and she said the man (plumber?) came out and worked from 7 PM until 3 AM getting the pipes thawed out. Can you picture her bill!

I have had a super response to my Tuttle genealogy ad. So good, in fact, that I have to print up another set of books. I’m sure it can’t last, but it’s fun getting the letters and the money.

I have started working on Henry Puthill. Not exactly Vol 5, but out of the same source. So many of the people who have written, are from Henry or Shipwreck John, so I decided to go ahead and do them. It will mean more sales and make life easier for me.

The McGuffins have responded so well that I am really encouraged. One lady sent me a big envelope full of info – about 150 names. Altogether I have over 700 names now. Not a book yet, but a good start, and lots of clues for further research. Lots to keep me busy.

Speaking of busy, Mom is now working away on two projects. She is finishing up the third quilt of birds & flowers. I decided there was not enough to do another quilt, so got her interested in doing butterflies. These will be on pale blue blocks if I can find the sheets, What fun!

I made up my a recipe for raisin-nut bread, by combining two recipes, and had my first failure. I baked it in the “bakery,” and the center didn’t cook – just dough. I put the dough in muffin pans and baked it in the oven. It tasted super. I’ll try again, and this time bake it in a small bread pan. I dreamed the other night that someone had made this great bread and I just had to have the recipe. Think maybe I’ve got bread mania?

Well, you created a monster with that dog bone for Hanzi for Christmas. As soon as we got the box and saw the bone, we hid it down under everything else. He scratched and smelled of the box. By Xmas, he was growling at anyone who touched the box. When we gave him the bone, he turned into a lion. First he licked it all over, and if anyone even came in his direction, he growled. It was so funny, because he knew it wasn’t safe anywhere. He slept with it under his head or paws. He ate the last of it this morning. I don’t know what was in it, but it sure found his weak spot.

By the way, we love the flannel sheets. Dad said he never slept on anything but flannel sheets, until he was grown. So here is a one-upmanship. I got myself an electric mattress pad. Talk about luxury! My old bottom is always cold. Can’t warm up no matter what, and that pad is heaven! I have slept warm for the first time, ever. I have washed the new sheets, and they will go on the next time I change the sheets. It broke my heart to have to throw out all that lovely fuzz on the dryer screen, wouldn’t that make great paper?

I took the DeskJet printer into Micro Age, and they said it would be about $200 to fix it. It wouldn’t feed the paper through. So I said, “no thanks.” When I went in to pick it up, the young man who worked on it, carried it to the car for me and told me a secret. All I had to do was flip a wheel in there, and it would work fine, and it did. Those bums!

Meanwhile, my daisy wheel printer had broken. The platen knob just fell onto the desk, so the paper wouldn’t feed through it either. Do you think I offended the paper-feeding gods?
I ordered a Diconix printer, it is a nice printer, but in my anxiety I overlooked one vital point -it doesn’t have the same typeface, so of course, I can’t use it. You can see what a dither I was in to ignore something so important. If this printer is something you can use, I’ll loan it to you because, at this time and space. I can’t use it.

Well, got to quit, and go to work printing. Keep us posted as we love your letters.



Well, I wanted something for my old age, I just hadn’t reckoned it would be sewing 47 state birds & flower quilts

Notes from Alexis: Genealogy has taken over, she has worked her way through the Tuttle’s and now is moving into the McGuffin’s. But bread rises and the music plays on.

October 31, 1990

Dearest Lex,

Well Love, here 10/12ths of the year has gone by, and I swear I can’t imagine where it went. Well, actually, I can account for three weeks. I got the flu and was sick for two weeks, and have spent the last week trying to get back up to speed. It irritates me to have to give up three weeks of my wealth (I have always been rich in time) to no good purpose.

I finished Vol 4 of the “Tuttle’s,” all but the binding, and will get to it next week. I have started Vol 5, “Shipwreck John” Tuttle. He is not one of Dad’s “people” but decided to do him anyway.
I am also working on the “McGuffins,” Mom’s maiden name is McGuffin. I decided to do them because I have had no luck finding them. I put an ad in the “Genealogical Helper” and got a couple of nice letters. I also came up with some names to write to, and got the dearest letter from a Major Barry, 91 years old, who would put both of us to shame for his energy and exploits. He sent me a biographical sheet showing his life “doings,” and gracious, it made me feel like a slug.

Anyway, so far my research has shown me that I have been looking in all the wrong places, so I was smart to start this project. Also decided I better write a “How to Write a Surname Book” which I presume will be a booklet, not a book.

I did this to have a cheap item to put in the catalog, and to set out how I do, the thing I do. Believe me, I have to look in the “Guide” to do Datastar if I’m away from it for a while. Thank God I wrote that book, I would be sunk without it.

I am sitting here watching bread rise, and listening to Irish Harp music. It rained a little last night so the pines smell sweet, and I’m caught up enough with all my “must do’s,” to take a day off and write letters.

Mom is already half through painting the birds and flowers for the second quilt, and hinting that she doesn’t know what she’ll do when she’s through. I asked her if she wanted to do another one, and she said she wouldn’t mind, so I guess I’ll cut her out another 50 blocks one of these days. She gets better with each one. I can foresee having to open a shop to get rid of the overflow. Well, I wanted something for my old age, I just hadn’t reckoned it would be sewing forty-seven state birds & flower quilts. I am laughing. The whole thing amuses me no end. God, life is weird!

I saw the best play, “The Three Little Pigs” on Fairy Tale Theater. Unfortunately, I tuned in half an hour late, so couldn’t tape it. It was just the best, it was on PBS, so catch it if you can. I guess there were several others that I missed. I sure hope I get a chance to see them all. Dad & I watched, “You Can’t Take it With You” last night. I’ve seen it three or four times, and have it on tape, but I can’t resist it. We both tee-heed all the way through it.

Well, guess I better quit and get this ready for P.O. Thanks for the glue and material, and I am so pleased with the blouses you did for me.