09 September 2015

165 years ago today California joined the Union to become the 31st US state.

94 years ago today my father was born in Fontana, California.

16 years ago today my divorce became official. (9-9-99 at 0909h).

This morning Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth II became the longest reigning monarch England has ever known. HRM is keeping it low-key and would have liked it to be even lower than it is but her loyal subjects are wishful of more overt celebration and are politely disappointed at the lack of pomp being doled out today. 

I am a second generation Californian and I left it forever 41 years ago (6 September 1974). I've lived there a few times since, including in 1977 when my daughter was born in San Francisco - not a mile from where her great-great-grandfather is interred at the Presidio National Cemetery (a Scottish-Canadian expat who served as a US Marine during the US Civil War). So she is a 3rd generation Californian - but she lives in Idaho and has zero intention of ever living in California. We moved back to the Eastern Seaboard in '79. The last time I lived in California was 1984 and '85 when I took care of my dying father - he died at 9:21pm on 21 December 1985, was interred 2 Jan 1986, and by that afternoon we were driving across the Arizona state line on the way to Florida where my then husband worked.

The last time I was in California was September 1999 (just after my divorce was final) when I went out for two weeks to help my best-friend-since-high-school's husband tell her he had lung cancer. He died five years later and I couldn't make the funeral because the financial nightmare the divorce plunged me and Fox into made eating&heating dicey and certainly didn't extend to air-flights to attend funerals.

And now I live in Scotland where today the celebrations (regarding HRM) are so muted as to be utterly absent. About the biggest thing I'm planning today is finishing up a crocheted quilt (winter cometh!) and getting started on the crocheted candy corn trick-or-treat bags for the grandchildren. I'm going to use thick muslin to line the bags so none of the treats fall out. Oh, and I have a dentist appointment this afternoon, and Paul is calling in at an architect friend's office to finalise the details of what I'm hoping will make this semi-detatched cramped little bungalow far more comfortable and considerably less cramped.

News wise, the huge-huge-huge-huge item is the increasing 'migrant' crisis. And it is HUGE - this morning the 'president' of the EU announced distribution quotas will very likely have to be made compulsory as so many EU member states are reluctant to participate in what they consider to be an illegal and overwhelming onslaught of people so culturally different to the indigenous as to almost guarantee there will be 'extreme civil unrest' sooner rather than later.

Anyone not willing to have an entire family of 'refugees' billeted on them are being 'named and shamed' as racist bigots. The EU is saying they're going to impose economic sanctions on any EU member state not willing to accept thousands of these 'refugees'. Any common sense proposals are being dismissed as lacking in compassion and basic human decency; several Germans who've openly protested the insanity displayed by their frau leader have been arrested - here in the UK, a Tory party MP has been pilloried for having made a joke about the sort of 'refugee' he thinks will turn-up at the Scottish First Minister's house (which she claims she will gladly open to a refugee family '...if that's what it comes to...' in an echo of the equally loonie Labour-leader wanna-be ditz whose husband was made redundant by voters in May 2015). Apparently it's not allowed any longer to be honestly realistic or to have a sense of humour.

Our Prime Minister is under enormous pressure from the leftie-luvvie self-hating Brit brigade to fling open our borders to countless thousands of 'refugee's. He's stated we will accept a total of 20000 over the next five years (working out to four thousand per year) with granted five-year limit visas, but ONLY from the camps, and ONLY after careful vetting from the UN, and ONLY to be supported by the British treasury for one year.

I'll be frank - I wish we weren't taking any but if we MUST take in any 'refugees', I want the 20K to be Christian or Jewish only. Britain has too many muslims as it is - even the former Archbishop of Canterbury has said this. But we can probably absorb 4K per year without it being an impossible strain on social and physical infrastructure - any more would be disastrous in ways too numerous to list here.

Many are worried that given some of the arrests and other retaliations, forced billeting in on the cards sooner rather than later - there is a cautious joke making the rounds that we should all immediately downsize to avoid having our homes invaded, er, I mean having the opportunity to share our quarters and financial resources with people we've never met and frankly never wanted to meet in the first place.

Meanwhile, these poor downtrodden and suffering 'refugees' are not only spurning the safe-havens they'd already reached (Turkey) but are throwing down, stamping on, and otherwise scorning any aid being doled out by Christian Red Cross volunteers at the various checkpoints these wonderful migrants, er, refugees are forcing their way through.

And yes, I'm worried this blog post, as obscure and barely read by even my own loved ones (FOX - CALL YOUR MOTHER!) is going to have the polis at the door in a few hours after publication. I've been scornful of Merkel (personally I think she's either got a very sinister agenda or she's gone completely insane and I'm hoping she's 'merely' insane rather than sinister but one never knows until it's too late, does one?), extremely scornful of fascist wanna-be Sturgeon, and none-too-complimentary about any of the leftie loons.

So, yeah, I'm going to be self-censoring in a self-preservationist way going forward. So's ya know. I've been doing it for a while now but will be far more serious going forward - the most controversial thing I'm going to blog about, when I bother to blog at all, will be my growing preference for HiyaHiya crochet hooks (and if you crochet and love aluminium hooks you REALLY have to try a HiyaHiya, they are AMAZING!).

Ah yes dear reader, I'm going to be boring all of you to the ground with my crochet blogging from now on. Politics, local and global current events...you won't be hearing about it from me!

30 August 2015

Ten years feels like a lifetime ago. I remember the preparations we were making 'down in Dothan' for Katrina to turn and hit our area of the Gulf Coast at the same time we (I was an ARC disaster relief vol at the time) were gearing up to shelter evacuees and deliver disaster relief to the hardest hit areas.

The song 'Louisiana 1927' played continuously in my head for days before the storm, and months after.

'...six feet of water/in the streets/of Evangeline...Louisiana!/Louisiana!/They're tryin' to wash us away/they're tryin' to wash us away/six feet of water...'

And then the storm hit.

I remember having an ominous feeling when I heard the initial 'We've dodged a bullet...' over the news feeds - I knew instinctively (like countless thousands of others) that simply couldn't be true - for one thing reports on storm surge hadn't come in yet so how in hell could anyone responsibly say 'We've dodged a bullet'?

29th August is my real birthday. Long story - too long and frankly too typical of my dysfunctional family to tell here or anywhere short of a counsellor's office or St Peter's Gates. Legally my birthday is the 27th but the real day is the 29th and frankly since 29 August 2005 I've not really felt like celebrating. 

Yesterday I 'turned' 59 - oh my! Suddenly 'pushin' 60' isn't a joke I make and saying 'I'm too old for this' isn't the joke it once was either. But I'm good with it - beats the alternative, now, doesn't it? We had a lovely, quiet day - a ride in the country and a sausage supper on the beach at Carnoustie. Emailed birthday greetings from adult children and closest friends. Lidl special carrot cake. Young Montalbano on the box to avoid the Katrina anniversary programmes. More blocks and rows crocheted on the latest blanket. Considering, it was a perfect day even though at the very back of my mind that song kept playing and the images kept up a continuous slideshow in my mind's eye.

As the day rolled on and the levees failed and the streets filled with water, we knew. People were dying. And over the next week the news just got worse. And worse. And worse. And worse.

NOLA. When I lived in Lafayette and would take the occasional trip down to the French Quarter, the approach to New Orleans from Baton Rouge never failed to make me uneasy. It always seemed to me a dark, evil miasma hung over the city. I really never liked it, preferring the good honest Cajuns who'd opened their homes and hearts to me those too short years I lived in Acadiana - something dark and wrong enveloped NOLA in my mind. When I left the state in November 1981 to move to NW FL I drove out of my way to avoid the city.

But I NEVER wanted to see what happened 29th August 2005 and the weeks that followed. The awful images from NOLA...

In the first hours of the rescue effort I was never so proud to be a former Coastie as I was at those moments seeing the USCG rescue helicopters plucking survivors from rooftops. As the hours ticked past and it became clear the Coast Guard and a growing band of determined locals were the only ones trying to save people, I was proud and horrified at the same time - WHY was there such an effort to keep rescues from happening, WHY did the USCG and those local men and women have to shame the rest of the world into coming to the aid of their fellow humans, WHY?!

I looked around at the people I knew in SE AL and knew should the same awful devastation happen (and it nearly had a year before with Hurricane Ivan) there, the response and behaviours would be the same if not worse...

By 3 September 2005 I'd found a new job in Atlanta, given my notice to the owners of the storage facility I managed, and began packing to leave the Gulf Coast area. By 5th October 2005 I was in Metro Atlanta finding out my new job had been given to a Katrina evacuee. I shrugged and after a few weeks found something else through a temp agency. And by 18th August 2010 I was in Scotland - with no intention of ever living back in the States again.

The ten years since Katrina have been a lifetime, so many changes - the very last thing I EVER expected was to find a new mindset shredding what was left of the USA much less a new husband and a new home in the country my family left (but never really broke all ties with) in the early years of the 19th century.

'Louisiana! Louisiana! Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline!'

04 July 2015

Happy Birthday, America.

I've been in the UK for the last five years so for me, the 4th is, uhm, low key. This morning I dialled up Hawkshaw Hawkin's Soldiers Joy (I highly recommend this tune on the 4th) on YouTube but really, listening to the 50+yo song just made me sad.

It's a toe-tapper but listening to the words for once didn't bring up a grin and a swell of pride at the mental image of a gang of rag-tag Colonial lads standing up through a brutal Valley Forge winter against the might of the red-coated British Army. The world is in such a mess, America and Britain especially so - it's hard to be proud of either just now, and harder still to not become incoherent with anger at the hows and whys of what has happened.

I left the US five years ago because after long and careful consideration Paul and I knew the best place for us would be the UK - his cancer had already come back twice and so access to the NHS is very important; he owns the house outright, his pension goes farther here and if we'd moved to the US he would have been liable to onerous taxation (yeah, go figure and yes, we do see the irony), and finally the reasons swung back to his health as we realised he would never be able to survive the terrible heat and humidity in the US. There were, of course, other reasons but none as important as the aforementioned.

I love the UK. Scotland is going through some depressingly worrisome political upheavals (OMFG! Roll on May 2016 when hopefully the SNP will be sacked by the people and things can get back to normal around here!), but for the most part, I love living here and I don't give much if any thought of returning to live in the USA. That makes me VERY sad.

But really, I don't miss America. I miss my now-adult children and of course their children, but the other things about America that I would miss are things I already missed long before leaving in 2010.

My America died in the mid-and-late 90s. It's not coming back. I can rail and curse and lament and bemoan but it's not going to bring back what was great about America. Only the people can do that and the 'status-quoers' are making sure The People are so damn disenfranchised as to make it impossible to bring back a country where Americans really did strive to make the country a great place for EVERYONE to live. The powers that be embraced the insanity of throwing the baby out whilst making the bathwater into a nightcap, and until the people wake up and stand up together, the USA has so lost its glory it's pointless to try discussing it.

To be clear, the UK is as disappointing as the US at this point. Both countries are teetering on the edge of the Abyss and right now it wouldn't take much at all to topple either or both over the side.

I am American. I am British. There is no dichotomy. Only sadness at how low our so-called leaders have dragged us.

27 March 2015

Yesterday was Fox's birthday. I telephoned to wish him a happy one, and we talked for over an hour. During the conversation I said 'I was telling your sister the other day...' and it hit me, it really, really, REALLY hit me - I was having a normal Mum-Son telephone conversation, a conversation so mundane and normal it included the utter normality of mentioning something I'd been talking with his sister about.

Something that happens every day with 'normal' intact families - 'I was telling your sister...' father/brother/cousin/aunt...normal. Mundane. Happens all the time in 'normal families'.

If you've followed this blog from DayOne you'll appreciate how incredible THAT moment of realisation was because really, my family is pretty far from normal. I hope that, any road, because I'd hate to find years long estrangements are the norm for most families! No-one should have to endure what we've endured, and comparatively speaking I do know there's far worse other families endure on a daily basis.

 Fox's sister decamped when she was 16 (long story and you, dear reader, would have needed to have been following along for the details. If you're new here, suffice it to say she went to live with her father in Hawaii after I found her boyfriend in her bed one early morning and to distract me they stabbed the waterbed with a steak knife just before he made his escape via bedroom window). Assured by her and her father she hated me forever, I merely made sure she'd be able to find me if she ever wanted to, and then for so many long years I put the hurt and worry away in a private part of my brain and heart. Doing so was the only way to get through each day.

Doing that 'compartmentalisation' with Fox was harder. Not that I loved his sister any less than I did him, by any means. I think the difficulty was Fox was the youngest. When his sister left I still had him to raise. When he went through his 'I hate you and blame you for everything' period there was no other child at home to focus on getting through to adulthood. So the shock of loss was worn a bit closer to the surface than it was when she hated me.

All that is behind us but the scars seem to remain, for me at least. Fox and his sister seem to have no scars - we've talked about since the circle closed and we can all talk again. Both have said 'But you're Mum, of course we feel horrid about the way we acted but we knew you'd always be there so really, we have no scars besides the self-inflicted ones caused by stupid things we did when you weren't there to keep us from the stoopid.' Good to know my children managed to keep their trust in me all those years.

I told Fox's sister, and him yesterday, that sometimes I feel soooooooooooo guilty that I honestly sometimes 'don't know how to act' - if I send a parcel, will it be 'the wrong thing' and cause yet another rejection? If I send a letter will it even find (insert name of adult child here), or will (insert name of adult child here) have moved without letting me know the new posting address/have taken issue and isn't accepting communication? If I email, will (insert...) accept/read/reply? And so I don't send the parcel or letter, and I sit on my typing hands to avoid bombarding them with email.

So, scars. With Fox it's been almost five years since the end of the estrangement and my scars still haven't really healed and it's been less than a year with his sister so of course those scars haven't even begun to heal.


Because last week I was able to talk with my daughter about the issues my scars create, and yesterday the same with Fox. Clearly I need to see that as a step forward, healing-wise.

So, yesterday, last week, normal. Blessed normal. Blessed mundane.


07 February 2015

Whoa, what?! It's 7th Feb 2015 already??!! But, but...

I've been busy. Busier than usual:) Between the sudden increase in grandchildren from one young lad to a total of four (two boys and two girls), working on building inventory for my 'egg money' sales at the car boot fair (simple beaded strung bracelets, dang things go like hot cakes over here!) to sewing with the 11yo and beading with the 7yo girls next door to my REAL project (more on that in a sec), I've been B U S Y!

Yes, all that on top of the daily housekeeping and maintaining (a former life-long bachelor) the husband in the manner he's become very quickly accustomed to (imagine, he wants food at regular intervals AND clean laundry and is STILL telling me how great this is! I love it:), AND three broken toes...yeppers, I broke the big and next two toes on my right foot a bit over a month ago. Ahhhhhh, yesterday was my first day back in shoes and that was fab!

Father Christmas was incredibly good to me at Christmas and brought me 99.9% of the things on my Dear Father Christmas list. Laugh if you want but that steam mop with 5 extra mop pads, and the separate hand held steam cleaner made me cry with joy. Oh wow, I knew I'd missed my steam mop left behind in the US when I came to Scotland but WOW WOW WOW it's sooooooo good to have FINALLY convinced Mr 'I'm Scottish and Don't See The Need For a Steam Mop' that yes, actually we do need that steam mop. He's known as Mr 'We Don't Need That', no matter what 'that' is.

But lol, he is SOLD, baby, sold! He was really shocked to see the dirt on the mop pad after the first use. Especially because I'd done a hands and knees clean of the kitchen floor (oh. my. gods. My knees still ache!) before doing the first pass with the steam mop. Shocked and surprised enough to say nothing but 'How long 'till that gets here?' when I mentioned the hand held steamer - and OH MY STARS, once he saw how great a job that gadget does on the oven and microwave, he cleans up after himself now!

Which is nice because I'm obsessed. Completely. Utterly.

My obsession?

I FINALLY learned how to crochet in the round (Google 'Cherry Heart crochet blog'. She's a genius!). Which led to making my first real crocheted blanket. Which about ten blocks in led to the AmazonUK purchase of Crochet For Dummies. Which pushed the obsession into addiction range in spite (despite?) of the not-as-helpful-as-they'd-like-to-think layout of the book. Thanks to the book, by block 150 I was smokin' hot at crocheting single crochet blocks with the most square corners you've ever seen! Looking through the rest of the book (by Chapter 4 I was cookin' with gas, honey!) I knew the truth - I was completely, utterly, totally addicted to crochet.

It took me four months to crochet those 150 blocks because, you know, really, Life goes on even with a benign addiction like crochet. I got a lot of other things done in those four months besides crochet but every night in front of the telly there I was muttering to myself, making those square corners more square with every new block. And then after catching myself losing count of rounds even though I used a stitch marker, I'd stop the blocks and shift to another chapter of Crocheting For Dummies.

Which also led to simultaneous blooming interest in the two main forms of thread crochet. So Father Christmas' elf (my husband) was handed quite the list - Boxing Day at my house was spent sorting all the amazing pressies - balls of yarn and wool (yarn being acrylic and wool being, well, wool), crochet hooks of all sizes in steel and aluminium including WOOT Tunisian hooks! Little baglets of multi-colour stitch markers (TWO TYPES!!), booklets on how-to make stitches including cables and Tunisian, thread primers on filet and doilies and bedspreads and beach cover-ups, pattern booklets for hats and gloves and mittens and scarves and jumpers and leg warmers and afghans and...

SOCKS! Yes, yes, yes, YES! Now that I can FINALLY crochet in the round, my TRUE crochet obsession is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo close to being more than a mere dream - it's about to become reality!


But I cannot get ahead of myself! I'm finished crocheting the big blanket that will defy the his-hers blanket hogging that happens here at our house every night, and am awaiting delivery of the flannelette (Brit-speak for flannel, like PJs and sheets back in the US) backing I've ordered. Because this piece of crochet magnificence is now going to be quilted down to a flannelette backing to increase stability and hopefully ensure automatic blocking after the 40C machine washing this will get.

I call it Falling Leaves. I'll post a pic in a future blog post, until then think rustic 6"x6" grannies all in single crochet (for warmth) with a green centre and orange, red, oatmeal, tan/rust, chocolate brown rows around that green. I joined using the single crochet join so each block is framed.

Meanwhile (come on Postie!) I'm about to start the one thing EVERY real crocheter MUST crochet before she (ok, yeah, I know, guys crochet too, lalalalalalalalalala with hands over ears, and?!) can proudly proclaim herself A REAL CROCHETER! And what is that? Oh, if you're asking, clearly you don't crochet...

I'm using the accidental and non-returnable purchase (how was I supposed to know those two colours would be so, erm, vibrant, so, well, LOUD in real life!) of several (oh hey, lookie there, just enough!) gosh-awful balls of orange and green to make (oh, come on, you crochet, and you know what I'm about to say here...) a...


It's a rule. You simply cannot say you crochet until you've made one. A shockingly ugly ripple afghan. It's a rule. Every crochet who wants to hold his/her crochet hook up with pride at the next Crochet Guild meeting knows this rule.

'Before a novice crochet newcomer can move into true Crocheter status, he/she must complete one bug-ugly ripple afghan. Bonus points for ferreting out the most super ugly cheap yarn available on the Internet!'

Because nothing any crocheter has ever done with his/her ripple afghan has ever saved it from being the most 'Incredibly ugly-hideous-OMFG I can't believe you made that on purpose!' crocheted item.

Be honest. Really, really, really honest - ripple afghans are U G L Y and nothing, not even doing one in beautiful colours or (best of all if you for some insane reason find ripple afghans appealing) a single colour changes that basic truth of crochet - ripple afghans are ugly. It's also a rule. End of.

So, go whole hog with yours, and no, you can't steal my orange and green idea. Besides, I'm pretty sure I bought all of this particularly eyeball twistingly hideous colour set ever milled, so you're out of luck there anyway.

I'm going all out on this baby! Green and orange, and boy howdy are those green and orange balls of cheap acrylic yarn GREEN AND ORANGE or what?! I'll offend your vision with a posted snap of that, too. Soon. And as soon as that photo is taken, that bad boy goes in the boot of the car! I know already I will not want that nasty thing in my house:)

Then it's a hat, a Tunisian hand towel, and a jumper. AND then, only then, can I go on to make socks.

Expect to see my first socks around, oh, say, Feb 2016!