27 February 2012

It's raining.

I'd planned to take my library books books back and haul back another load. I'd planned to go to the library, then swing down Boyles Close to Aldi's for a bulk bag of clumping cat litter. From Aldi's I would walk up to the Farm Foods where I would load the granny trolley with several kilo bags of frozen veg. Then I would trudge home with my books, my cat litter, and my frozen veg. I would unload it all and then get started on Paul's handkerchief sewing.

But it's raining.

And there is no bus stand running close enough to the house to make it worth using the bus-I'd have to walk almost to the library to board the bus that goes past the Aldi's and Farm Foods. Sigh.

So I am grateful that Paul has a rather large personal library. I finished the last library book Friday night. I should have, could have, gone to the library Saturday morning. I could have made the grocery shop Saturday morning.

Not. I love my children. I love my grandson. But I have NEVER loved being out on the streets or in the grocery or in the library with a great lot of over excited children I am not parenting. I must be honest and tell you, dear readers, that Scottish children for the most part are rather well behaved when in public-it is rare for a Scottish child to 'pitch a fit' in public, it simply isn't done. That said, however, last Saturday morning the last thing I wanted to do was dodge groups of school children in the library, shops, and streets.

So I found myself a book in Paul's home library and started reading. Deer Hunting With Jesus, a book I read soon after it was published. It left an impression on me as at the time (2008) I'd been living in the Deep South for over 20 years, and could relate to the people, places, and situations Mr Bageant was writing about.

Re-reading it this weekend, I am finding my feelings and impressions a lot stronger. I read the author's commentary on how the working class American has been screwed, blued, and tattooed, and all I can see are the faces of my former neighbours, my son, and my grandson. The trouble is that this book (a must read if you haven't already, and if you have, well worth a revisit if it's been a while) could be about ANY First World Country with any aspirations towards Middle Class.

So. It's raining. I can't get out of the house to replenish the library book supply, the cat litter supply, or the frozen veg supply. Luckily for the cat I have an unopened bag; luckily for Paul I have an unopened bag of his beloved brussels sprouts. I just figured that since I'm going out to the library I may as well stock up. Oh well, hopefully it will clear this afternoon.

I still have a small smoking habit although I've managed to cut that down to about 5 cigarettes a day, and this morning as I was standing on the back porch (I don't smoke inside) I got thinking about the things Joe Bageant was saying about education being the key, and how we've priced people out of the educational system in the US. He doesn't mention libraries except in passing, but I've always believed a determined person can find a pretty good education in the library.

I've always had a library card, my first one being granted when I was about five. I would ride pillion with my brother to the Pomona City Library, first on his horse, then, when they took down the hitching rail, on his bike. Once the library ladies figured out I could read they gave me a library card.

I can still remember standing in the children's stacks choosing books, feeling as though I was the luckiest child on the planet. I loved biographies, and read my way A-Z through the outstanding collection available at the time. Back then the children's section of the library was the size of most main sections of your local library today. From the most very basic children's book to what was then called 'juvenile fiction' aimed at shaping the minds of teens, the children's library at Pomona Public Library was Sanctuary.

S'all good, as I wrote above, I have books, cat litter, and frozen veg enough to get by until the sun comes out again. And I have sewing to do. Which leads me to another funny story...

As I blethered on about several times, Paul and I have quite the collection of vintage and antique Singer sewing machines. It's been a chore, but we have collected the service manuals for each machine and were really looking forward to this spring, when we would set up a Singer sewing machine refurbishment hospital in the garage.

I've been sewing on a 513, a late sixties electric that is not a bad little machine, although I am really looking forward to the 6103 being refurbished because it's got an amazing straight stitch and zig-zag (rare for a machine that will zig-zag because usually the straight stitches are just a hair off being straight).

And then Paul asked me to refurbish his Barbour waxed cotton Border jacket. Oh hell. I've never sewn waxed cotton and it took me nearly a month to gather enough information to get the job done from this:

To this:

Not the easiest repair I've ever done, but both hand-warmer pockets are now repaired, the hang loop in the collar restored, and the waxed cotton reproofed.

I cleaned the wax out of the feed dog teeth and got started on a pair of fleece pyjamas. Got as far as half way down one leg seam too. And then the 513 threw the bobbin gear. Again.

You have to understand that when you sew on vintage machines it is not always possible to buy NEW parts for the machines because those parts simply aren't milled anymore. So you learn to keep your eye open for 'parts machines' you can salvage parts from. Which is what the bobbin gear on the 513 was, a salvage part. And I actually have a parts 513, and the service manual.

But Paul prefers I not use power tools. Or non-power tools for that matter. He gets a bit tetchy when I start taking apart one of my machines. We're working on it, but it does slow me down. He took my 513 and added it to the queue for spring refurbishment, and I sat down and cried because spring is about a month away...

And because two weeks ago an old commission of Paul's that had run out of funding was re-funded. This spring has become Spring 2014.


So he said "OK, order a new sewing machine. One with a warranty. One under £200."

I spent a week researching machines on the Internet, and found one that I felt would serve the purpose until Spring 2014, Singer Talent model 3321. It arrived Friday morning. The first thing I did of course was try out every feature, and then I set it up for the stretch stitching I needed to do to finish those fleece pyjamas. OH WOW! Right, I'm hooked.

Then I dug out the stashed four sack towels I brought back from VisaQuest, and after cutting one in half up the middle, sewed a really nice straight stitch hem along the sides, and got a little crazy and stitched decorative finishes on both:

Today I am making Paul several handkerchiefs from an old tattersall shirt. I've promised him I won't use the decorative stitches:)

14 February 2012

I think when the final tox reports are in, the cause of death will be complications of prescription drugs mixed with alcohol causing Whitney Houston's heart to stop. Credible reports are coming out that there was very little water in her lungs, meaning that she was dead before her head went under the bath water; final exhalations more than likely caused a very small amount of water to be sucked back into her lungs.

Other very credible reports are coming out that there were NO illicit drugs found in her suite, and few prescription pills in the bottles said to litter the floor of the bathroom and other rooms of the suite-meaning she either ingested a large number immediately prior to her death, or what I think is much more likely, she just didn't have a huge stash of prescription drugs, period.

I've been reading the media pieces that she was behaving erratically in the days prior to her death, and have to say that I think she may have been showing signs of what is in effect drugs poisoning. It is well reported that she reeked of alcohol several times in the days before her death-mixing Xanax and alcohol can poison a body especially if the mix continues for a period of days. If that turns out to be the conclusion of the tox studies, it is certain that the building toxicity of the combination put an enormous strain on her heart. But it could also have been causing serious liver damage-photographs taken two nights before her death show her belly distended and her fingers puffy, yet her arms were not. This is a clinical observation indicating liver problems, but is also among other possibilities-she could have been having menstrual bloating, for one, although in menstrual bloating the arms are also observably bloated. My thoughts are as written-she was showing several signs of drugs poisoning.

No-one in here entourage could have understood what was going on if that is the case, no-one could have saved her, not even Ms Houston herself. The only way she might have survived would have been immediate hospitalisation Weds or Thurs night. A tox screen would have been done, she would have been treated, and she would be alive.

But it wasn't something anyone without either personal experience or specialised medical training would have seen in time. Whitney Houston was doomed from the first time she mixed the prescription drug and alcohol.

I saw the nightclub photos Friday morning as I glanced through the headlines on several news-feeds, and I will be painfully honest-I looked at those photos and shrugged, "Whitney is back on drugs. What a loser."

And I should have known better-I do have personal experience with prescription drugs toxicity. I've seen it before in the cases I've worked for various law enforcement agencies. I've seen it in a couple family members, although they were experiencing toxicity due to combining two prescription drugs, not drugs and alcohol. Toxicity is a monster, it is deadly if not caught in time. Someone has to be there to keep an eye on the patient, someone strong enough to haul someone to hospital and insist "This is NOT normal!"

But for Whitney Houston, sadly, it was a sort of normal. Too many people who knew her professionally and personally are saying the same sad thing-when she was on illicit drugs she was 'ugly'. So unless someone around her was able to get past the shrug like mine, she was doomed.

Was her death her fault?

I have to say that until I read the information coming out from eyewitness accounts, leaked info, and hacked info, I did blame her. Now? No. I am filled with sorrow for that poor woman. It is clear to me now that more than likely Whitney Houston WAS getting her life back on track, and this is a terrible tragedy. Oh yes, I know, she should not have been mixing the Xanex with alcohol, and I am sure she knew better. But I think it is also going to be shown in the tox reports that when Whitney Houston died, she had very little alcohol in her system-I don't think she was drinking in excess even in the days before her death. I think she was having one or two cocktails thinking it had never been a problem before, but this time, well, this time it killed her. Xanex is a wicked, wicked drug. It's highly addictive, and it works TOO well, causing the patient to lose their sense of judgement. Makes it easier to say to themselves "Well, one drink won't hurt."

The smell of alcohol on her in the days preceding her death is clinically explicable, too-in combination with Xanex the body will rightly try to rid itself of the alcohol via body excretions-sweat and urine, primarily. One highball could have caused the wafting smell of alcohol as the body forced itself to perspire heavily in an effort to get the poison catalyst gone.

But no-one around Whitney Houston understood that. They did the same shrug I did-"Whitney's back on drugs."

I was having a bit of a Sunday morning lie-in, drowsing, enjoying the crackling from the wood stove and the snuggly cat (wow are we going to miss Roo when he goes home to his folks!). Paul came in and leaned over, whispered quietly "Whitney Houston has been found dead in a hotel room."

First thought? "Oh God, strengthen Your Presence for her mother!" Cissy Houston was my first, only thought for hours. I thought about Whitney Houston's daughter for a nano-second because frankly I'm not too impressed with an 18 year old who is photographed snorting coke and burning blunts with a big grin on her face, and those photos were hard to avoid as I stood on queue at the grocery.

But Cissy Houston? I told Paul if it were me I'd be on my knees just screaming until my voice was gone. And later, the news came out that Cissy Houston screamed for hours after getting that horrific news.

She is the mother of a troubled adult child. She was my first thought. She continued to be my only thoughts even as I scoured the news reports. But last night I finally found some compassion for Whitney Houston. Finally.

And all the while since hearing of her death, I've heard Whitney Houston's catalogue in my head. Was I a huge Whitney Houston fan? Nope. I liked her music but had never bought one of her albums. This morning as I woke hearing "I Want To Dance With Somebody" in my head it dawned on me-Whitney Houston's music formed a great deal of the soundtrack of my adult life.

I remember when that song came out, and thinking that I knew exactly what that song was saying. I too wanted to dance with someone who really loved me.

Barbra Streisand said what I've been thinking when I wasn't praying for Cissy Houston. "She had everything". And she did.

Whitney Houston was the Dream, Martin Luther King Jr's dream and The American Dream come true. Here was a woman who quite literally had absolutely everything-the sky could be the only limit for Whitney Houston.

When most of us looked at young Whitney Houston, we saw an American princess and we rooted for her for years. We didn't see a 'black woman' all that often although when we did, we saw her as the embodiment of everything wonderful that came out of the Civil Rights movement. Even recently, when it looked as though she'd lost the fight against drugs, she could still have pulled it all out of the hopper and soared.

But since she died I've read the interviews during which she puzzled over the accusations of race traitor she had to endure, and you know what? In the end, I wonder-is that what killed Whitney Houston?

08 February 2012

Hard to believe it's been five years since Gator went to the Rainbow Bridge. So much has happened in those five years a lifetime ago.

Run free at the bridge with Baer, Gator, and know you are both missed terribly.