Monday, April 29, 2013

Dooley & the squirrel

A peculiar phenomena of the 70's and early 80's were shows featuring actors paired with sidekick primates. Some were just quirky and weird but BJ and the Bear is probably the quintessential "omigod they actually made a TV show out of this!?!" (exclamation and question marks may be reversed per reader preference). The too handsome 70's feathered haired guy, a female named "Stacks", a monkey named "Bear" and an ostentatiously painted semi truck , the plot... "how about they just drive around and get in and out of trouble." What the thematic concept? Then again, a unique form of vehicle, a social outcast(s) and driving around getting in and out of trouble; that was almost every quasi-action sitcom of the 70's and 80's; The A-Team, Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazard.

A short season spanning 1979-1981 and they were churning out models. Star Wars X-wings and Tie Fighters are cool, the Battlestar Galactica mother ship is awesome and the Enterprise, still cool in the 80's.  A semi and a monkey though competed.

"Dooley and the squirrel" have no relationship to each other, however, idiosyncratic names and animal references apparently always pique curiosity. 

We had no idea who "Dooley" was until arriving at LPCH (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital).  At LPCH we had seen multiple Doctors and several mentioned they enjoyed reading Dr. Womack's charts as he was an entertaining writer and his personality showed through in his report writing. I think it might have been after the echo cardiogram when one Dr mentioned she would send a copy to "Dooley". We had just been talking about Dr Womack so I inferred the two were the same but inquired to validate. I mentioned "This is the first we've heard of him being referred to as such, I'll have to ask him about it when we get home."

We've liked Dr Womack since our first visit with the  Chuck Taylor wearing Doctor. From the get go we figured he was OK, a little off but that just makes someone more interesting. If I were to distill his demeanor (which I am) I would describe him as a grown-up sandlot kid, the nice kind. He always seems ready to break into a joke or tell a story or laugh at yours; you know laugh lines at the edge of the eyes always poised and ready to crinkle (critical potential humor). Except when he's at bat or building a fort or doing something else equally as critical and requiring extreme focus, like looking at a baby's heart in utero or something. I think our first visit was about 2 hours (twice as long as what we'd expected). When Beth initially jumped (maybe sat on after stepping on a stool) onto the procedure bed, Dr Womack told us he didn't like to talk while conducting the echo cardiogram and we could all discuss the results when he was finished. We figured that was OK as we really wanted him to focus and see if it was a curve or a slider coming at him. About an hour later he did crack and mumbled "I haven't spent this much time on an echo in years, this guy's tough to get a picture of." Another 1/2 hour and he finally decided to call it quits and sat back and talked to us. He didn't administer a prognosis and depart, he sat and engaged in a verbal discourse (with us) for another hour. He told us what he thought he had found but confided he wasn't positive and we would need to look again. He also volunteered the worst case scenario and then just talked to us. His significant vocabulary lost us a few times but we could glean what he was talking about via the context of the conversation. His speech wasn't intended to ostentatiously impress though, this was just a smart guy talking his talk about his walk and if you're going to walk your walk you might as well talk about your walk in the manner in which you speak. The really delightful part of being technically and linguistically overwhelmed is that he assumed we were grasping most of what he was saying, he thought we were as intelligent (or close to) as he was! That's a pretty incredible way to treat people! It worked too, the more he talked the more we grasped and fathomed fairly semi-adequately.

As near as I can tell the guy either has no ego or has realized how to place it in check (probably the latter as you can't be that capable and intelligent and not realize it). Bottom line is it's not apparent and shouldn't be for any of us but that's damned difficult to do. This was blatantly evident on our last visit prior to heading for Stanford. Dr Womack thought the septal defect was looking better but wasn't absolutely sure and stated "I'll just send this to my colleagues at Stanford and let the most nervous person in the room make the call".

For those of you reading previous editions/dates/pages of this blog you might remember the red converse, Dr Womack's footwear of preference. Gabriel ended up with multiple pairs of Converse socks (red and non-red varietals) so Beth and I thought we should emulate the lad and honor Dr Womack.

Powell photographed our shoes and Gabriel's at our first Doctor's appointment after returning home.
We told Dr Womack we were members of the Dooley fan club and just wanted to pay tribute. After Dr Womack checked out Gabriel physically he examined the little guy's heart via an echo cardiogram. Dr Womack gushed about Dr Reddy's handiwork, "the beautiful curves of that new aortic arch" and "those suture lines are gorgeous".  The comments sounded more like those emitted by a Freshman ogling their first sweater wearing cheerleader.

After performing his evaluation and declaring Gabriel as "fantastic" I had to ask where "Dooley" came from. You can't help liking to say "Dooley" and it suggests a familiarity and kinship  and immediately makes you a better person if you have a friend named "Dooley" which is why I understood the LPCH Doctors referring to Womack as Dooley, but where'd it come from?

Dr Womack stated "I've actually been named Dooley twice." This story was improving before it even began. He talked of a Jr High School gym coach who had played minor league ball, coached baseball and wrestling and threw a mean dodge ball (which Womack had caught in the face a few times). I don't know if dodge ball is still allowed in schools and if it is I'm sure the gym teachers don't get to peg kids like they used to. We played with the big red playground balls augmented with just a few of the small light blue balls, those things seemed rocket propelled and when hurled from an adult arm into a child's face were awe inspiring but character building. The gym teachers never hit the girls hard or in the face, but the boys... it was their job to toughen us up. If you could take that ball in the face or really anywhere and not bleed or tear up... that was a rite of passage. You knew you were something and the other kids observed that you had chutzpah and the self discipline to keep your blood and tears to yourself.  The saving grace was that you were out and could stand on the sidelines and breathe and work at holding onto your composure, I don't think any kid could have taken two of those in a row. The gym teacher had played minor league baseball and therefore was an expert on all things baseball and immediately labeled Womack "Dooley" after the Major League pitcher Dooley Womack.

Dooley Womack pitched for 14 years, 5 of them in the bigs. After Jr High our Dooley left his nickname and moved on to High School and College and work and returned and completed medical school. While in his residency the Chief Surgeon (a Yankees fan) said "Hey Womack, you ever hear of a Dooley Womack?"

So our Dooley embraced the name and continues to be referred to as such by people who love to know they have a friend and colleague named Dooley. A bit of his writing is available at Michael S Womack MD blog.

The squirrel though can be referred to by many other names, most of them non-mentionable as my Grandmother and several of my daughter's 3rd grade classmates read this blog. Rich called me in mid February and told me a squirrel had gotten into the house. He stopped by for his weekly check (Rich not the squirrel) and observed the blinds in severe disarray so ventured inside to investigate. 
The little bugger confronted Rich and darted furtively about the upstairs of our house. Rich opened the front door and moved to a guarding position at the top of the stairs and backed the squirrel toward the opening to freedom. The squirrel darted past Rich and under the stove, Rich pulled the stove out from the wall and looked around, behind and under and found no squirrel. He banged on the stove and received no response, on opening the drawer under the stove though he found the squirrel curled up in a ball in the back corner, Rich poked the squirrel with our long handled feather duster and the squirrel shot straight up in the air and sprinted for the front door. Rich followed stomping and yelling bad words directing the squirrel towards the wide open front door. The squirrel retreated and shot straight past the open door and into the fire place. Rich searched the fireplace and couldn't find the squirrel and then noticed the fireplace clean out located in the hearth, a little metal door on a pin hinge that allowed it to open with the slightest pressure. Rich ran outside and observed a squirrel angrily chastising him from a limb just above the chimney and thought he had best block the clean-out so the squirrel could not get back in. Rich grabbed a concrete base out of my studio created for a sculptural piece used in my installation Fugaciously. He placed the concrete half sphere on top of the clean out opening inside the hearth to keep the squirrel from re-entering the house.

After surveying the damage he gave me a call. As soon as I heard "squirrel in the house" and "damage" I stepped out of the guest cottage to field the call. When I returned Beth inquired what the call had been about and I replied "Just Rich catching me up on things, figured you wouldn't want to hear just my end of the call." Which was true, I knew she didn't want to hear any of the story.
The little #@**% ate his way through 3 and 1/2 nice wooden blinds. The half I can repair by replacing a few strings, the other 3 though he treated as a buffet.
He also ran amok on shelves and tables and the mantle knocking over and shattering some of Beth's porcelain pretties. 
 Beth has always liked china teacups and porcelain ware and therefore our living and dining rooms have a lot of both.
 They came in handy a few years ago for Isabella's 6th birthday. She wanted a tea party so we invited all of her kindergarten girl friends over, they wore formal attire (super fancy pretty princess dresses) and behaved fabulously while sipping hot cocoa from Beth's teacups and nibbling snacks on fine china.
Beth has collected teacups for years, admiring the beauty and femininity and refinement; both dispelled and referenced in each cup. She's a strong woman (she's helped me lift things that were too heavy, but not that kind of strong), a capable independent woman with a significant feminist bent, the type of woman I would love to have as a role model for my daughter. Actually she is the type of woman all of us should have as a role model for our sons. I am so fortunate to have a strong, intelligent, take no shit, I'm not the primary cook  but I am the main lawn care/mower type person and love to garden and don't want to drive but will, sexy, capable, prudent, awesome Mother of my children--- especially my boys who need to see what a real woman should look like, a partner. I don't understand chauvinists and sexists, a mate is awesome. I mean this in the truest Aussie sense (regarding the term and not the gender as they are even worse than we are, regarding such). Lover, friend, confidant, partner; I have two friends in graduate school that embody this concept and are really completing their MFA as a singular unit (which is something really cool to observe and is challenging for some of the faculty personages in grasping this phenomena occurring). Soul mate is bandied about and romanticized and hollywood-ized (by which I mean  churned into fantastical crap laden jargon represented by pretty persons who echo reality and and the sentiments of creative persons). A real soul mate though.... is significantly visceral whether in the bedroom or arguing over the behavior of a child, the talk is all encompassing and drivingly personal. So mutual self-preservation is probably why I kept the squirrel from Beth. There was nothing we could do about it, no reason for her to have one more thing to be upset about and I really didn't want to hear her complain. Over the next few days I fielded several more calls from friends that had driven past the house and called to let me know we had been broken into or vandalized. They all got a nice chuckle when I told them about the squirrel. I later discovered that numerous notes were left inside the house by the many different friends who were keeping an eye on things. I would have loved to have glimpsed the conversation regarding the squirrel and the clean-up efforts but unfortunately the notes are long gone. I did hear from my friend Kim who had stopped by the house with her husband and was inside cleaning up when they heard a truck pull up outside and the doorbell ring. Kim decided to answer the door, since her car was in the driveway and she couldn't deny being there. The man at the door immediately stated "I'm Scott, who are you?"
Kim replied "I'm Kim, I'm a friend of Earle's." Scott eased and stated "Me too." and they worked together cleaning up some of the squirrel's trail of mayhem.
My folks travelled home with the kids several weeks before we returned and Mom notified me it looked like we had a mouse problem. Really!!! I was beginning to lose all hope, until she restored my optimism by stating "Probably not just mice but rats, I think they're bigger than mice." I grasped the size differential and after determining her train of thought and investigative means that had lead to her conclusion I offered, "Squirrel, Mom, we had a squirrel in the house." 
"Well that makes sense then, I'll have your Father get rid of all the traps and poison."
There was no hiding the damaged blinds from Beth on her return home.

She was even more upset to find the box of broken porcelain.


Within a week after returning we found a chewed up cushion on the couch after we had laid Gabriel on it and realized we needed to have everything cleaned. Kim told us the squirrel had also made a trek downstairs knocking over photographs in our basement family room. I scheduled a good cleaning of our carpets and furniture and we cleaned every surface in the house. The incident though had evidently traumatized Beth as she couldn't get past focusing on an imagined smell. She went on for several days about this "sewage smell" and showed me where it was strongest in our living room to hall/bath intersection. I did not smell a thing. This was beginning to look like psychosomatic influenced behavior. I had experienced the exact opposite after my incident, on my first day returning to work after spending several months off of work we responded to a non-responsive person who was such because she had no pulse and wasn't breathing. She was a code blue so we began to "work" her. The first thing we always do is bare the chest so we can place the defibrillator pads and have good hand placement for compressions. I ended up doing compressions on this woman just a few years older than I was. I was still having issues with death and mortality and found myself fixating on her open dead blue eyes staring up at me. I compressed her chest using my shoulders and therefore the weight of my torso, not bending my elbows so I could give good strong compressions. After staring into her lifeless eyes I yanked my gaze to the center of her chest, observing my hand placement and then realized my gaze was focused on her nipples. Feeling inappropriate but also knowing no one else could see my gaze and they were all extremely busy with their life saving tasks I still averted my eyes and looked back at her face and of course her eyes. The eye-nipple cycle continued throughout our life saving efforts until a Paramedic finally called the ER Doctor and we received authorization to stop. We picked up our gear and returned to the station. As we were exiting the rig one of the guys mentioned "I hate it when I get shit on me."  I asked what he was talking about. "She shit all over the place man and I stepped in it." Often when people die they become incontinent and defecate and urinate themselves and if they aren't that way when we arrive our actions often induce them to relieve themselves. As soon as he stated his disgust the smell of human feces assailed my nostrils and I marvelled at the power of the mind to completely block my olfactory sense. Beth was now doing it in reverse. The next day she stated the smell was worse and called me over and I finally smelled the odor, it was foul and disgusting. I really did not need a busted pipe or leaking sewage! I checked and double checked our drain and waste pipes and couldn't find any leaks and planned to check the vents and see if maybe one was blocked and sewer gases were backing up through a drain....
Beth said "It smells like the squirrel that died in the window well a couple of years ago". I offered the kids a $5.00 bounty to whoever could find a dead animal and sent them outside to search the bushes and window wells. Two years prior to almost the month we witnessed a broken legged squirrel dragging himself up a tree trailing his disabled limb, evidently the victim of a PSD (poor squirrel decision) while crossing the street. A short time later Beth had smelled something bad and I found the guy half rotten in the window well. On my way to the garbage can Isabella had stopped me and asked if we could save the bones, she's wanted to be a paleontologist since she was young. I thought I would indulge her as she had some bones we had found camping and on hikes but no complete skeletons. Researching on-line I discovered flesh eating beetles were the most rapid and simplest method but their name bothered me and I had no idea what to do with them when they were finished consuming the squirrels rotting flesh. The second place Internet solution was to bury the animal for several months and allow all the local critters and worms and moisture and rot to fell away the tissue elements, but she needed the skeleton for show and tell prior to the end of the 1st Grade school year, 6 weeks away. So option 3 was hydrogen peroxide. We soaked the entire guy in a Rubbermaid filled with peroxide and weekly dumped the contents, trimmed some flesh and muscle away with scissors (Isabella was on it) and refilled the container with peroxide. I almost vomited from the smell the first time because it was primarily liquefied organs but after that things improved. Isabella worked diligently and recorded her work and observations in a log and managed to take her skeleton for show and tell the final week of school.  She thought it was really cool because she grossed out some of the boys, who thought it was weird! So Beth is well versed in the aroma of putrefying rodent. Beth suggested I check the clean-out. "No way he could be in there, Rich blocked it off so he couldn't get back in." I told her and then thought about the disappearing waterfall I had created for Beth the previous summer and seemed to remeber how I had placed rocks specifically to block the clean-out on the outsid so no little critters (like squirrels) could ever possibly use it as access into the house. Once outside I removed multiple rocks keeping the clean-out door shut and discovered inside the door a dead, smelly squirrel. So the angry guy Rich had seen in the tree a month earlier had been admonishing Rich for incarcerating his little buddy in an inescapable dungeon without food or water. Pretty severe price for breaking and entering.

 The outside cleanout,
RIP little squirrel.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Normal life

Prior to spring break Powell attended the Washington Grade School Kindergarten orientation. He was quite creative in his description of the alphabet. This is a smart little guy, he can tell you the name of every transformer or decepticon and what they turn into and who they are allied with and if they have ever changed that alliance. When describing this stuff he uses terms like "alliance" and "affiliation" but when confronted with the letter "D" he responds rapidly; b, r, 6, 8? Hopefully we'll have some success over the summer convincing him the alphabet is almost as important as the transformers or all the superhero's and villains (he also knows well).
 Traveling with Gabriel during chow time is an adventure and fortunately I still have my adventuring stuff, a prussig and carabineer came in quite handy.
 Powell introducing Gabriel
 to some mild crude humor.
 Shortly after returning home, the clothes dryer we had nursed along for the last year finally went the way of the vacuum (the day we returned) and died. The mathematics of the laundry situation elude me. Somehow an 8 lb. baby doubles the quantity of laundry normally produced by 4 people (I'm sure part of it is his use of a force multiplier; he waits to vomit until he's held, that way he gets himself, the burpee and Dad).
 A couple days after the dryer deserted us the washing machine tried to follow suit and cracked its holdy thing that keeps the door shut and water off the floor. Isabella said, "Dad there's water all over the laundry room floor."
Dad yelled, "Which of you...? What did you two do now....? What the?" and realized the washing machine had almost successfully framed his children. 
 A little epoxy nursed the disloyal beast along until the replacement part arrived a week later.
 Beth was having a particularly rough night so I drew a bath, with refreshments (the cheese in the martini is a tribute to my Great Uncle Merritt.
 I love being home in my own private Idaho; but come on guys, do you have to reissue the exact same plate every few years whether it's needed or not? Which I think would always be in the "not" category unless there are some folks out there that routinely misplace their license plates?

 I love Beth's sticker humor.
 Then the ants invaded, of course.
 They went marching two by two and ten by ten and none of us sang "Hurrah." I did try a home remedy (found on the net so is that a computer home remedy, home computer remedy, internet ant cure?) Cleaned and mopped everything with diluted vinegar and dusted the cracks with baby powder. It works. Each day there were fewer ants until after 4 or 5 they had moved on.
 We had made it home in time for me to play in the annual Guns-N-Hoses Hockey game, our annual fundraiser for the Fire and Police Memorials. No skating in the last year left Earle very tired but I was able to skate on the same line with buddies Scott and Alberto.
 Earle and and buddy Rob Christensen
 The Cops won it this year but I think we're still up one game on them.
 Beth and Isabella found another form of stress relief with a Mommy/Daughter pedicure.

Gabriel's first immersion bath was met with some displeasure.
 He warmed to the concept a wee bit.
 ...and Mom swooped in at the perfect time to be the rescuing heroine, saving the lad from the horrible fate of bath night.
 The kids prepped for Easter, filling candied eggs with the treats they would be searching for and devouring.
 Gabriel has joined in with the rest of the clan and makes great sport of messing with his Father. "Come on Dad, find the egg. You're getting warmer... just turn around..."
 Isabella (also not at the Powell level of bath enjoyment) consoles her little brother and I believe conspires with him against their parents, I know they're doing something. I'm not sure if children grow into their name or somehow get named appropriately.  But I'm thinking that naming your children after a queen and an archangel might not have been the best idea. I mean you're going to have to deal with some serious ego and attitude and entitlement; we're simply mortal peasants in their eyes.... pffft!
Now time to color the eggs...

waiting is probably not Powell's forte'

 coloring many eggs

Gabriel not really getting the egg thing, zygotes and mitosis,
 but crayons, glitter and vinegar colors?

 and chasing after the elusive eggs
 a high rate of sped allows the kids to outpace the retreating orbs.
 and consumption...
Gabriel doesn't sleep well and is fussy a lot! Beth says he's a good baby. He hasn't stabbed or beaten anyone and rarely uses profanity so maybe he is good. I think Powell was a good baby, he slept and ate well and was cheery when awake and giggled when he farted, that's a good baby. Gabriel is tough.
We know much of the reason is because he oxygenates at 78-82% and the human body is designed to burn oxygen (fuel) at 95-100%. It's running your car on E-85 if its not designed to do so; it'll sound like crap and run poorly, so then you start dumping in additives to compensate until you can get it back to the mechanic to get fixed for real. This is Gabriel's star cluster of additives he gets each day so he'll run less crappy and less poorly, not well just not bad. Some days are better than others, but the nights are never good. This would be ok if sleep wasn't Beth's form of problem solving and stress relief. I on the other hand have spent a lifetime in careers that focus on sleep deprivation and have learned that when sleep deprived and exhausted you focus on the mission and GO! You might not go nicely or tactfully or kindly but that doesn't matter, mission accomplishment matters. There is no time to cry or whine in the middle of a firefight, on patrol or at an emergency scene and if anybody else is doing so, well a Marine Sergeant or Fire Department Captain's job is to "nip that shit in the bud right now!"  So I have and it is not a good thing when the mission is the baby and the perceived "whiner" is the baby's tired, loving, caring Mother. Not a good path to follow, just thought I'd throw that "pearl of wisdom" out there to any other Dads. So we got caught in this perpetuating death spiral of tension and anger. Somehow we broke free of this cycle of vicissitude, probably one of the advantages of being an older parent. The ability to realize when you're being an ass to your mate (because you've done it a lot) and have just enough  wisdom to stop it.
 Crazy having a little baby at all, let alone one like this guy, but we are lucky to have him and are stumbling along.
 Angelic when sleeping, and OMG... downright aristocratic when awake. This kid believes he is of regal blood! If Prince Charles could master this look people would think he actually deserved the throne and wasn't a....
Can't leave Gabriel on a negative note. While driving Isabella to school this morning I read a bumper sticker "Life is not about avoiding the storms, it's about learning to dance in the rain." So I think we need a Hurricane Party!