Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Pee-Wee Posting

Last Tuesday, while doing a bit of rearranging in the studio, I found a journal I started in 1986… It started as an exercise in calligraphy, with an account of my oldest daughter Nikki’s cleft pallet surgery, and ended with the birth of my son, Max Sept. 18, 1988. Not a lot of entries, but I think Nikki, whom we fondly referred to as Pee-Wee way back when, will get a kick out of this.

Wed. October 22, 1986—Cabrillo Marina

A fresh beginning and a fresh hand. A new book, and a new style of writing. (Except this pen is seemingly against the idea.)

There – re-inked, now let’s try again. [I was using a nib tipped calligraphy pen dipped in India ink.]

Anyway, I’m learning calligraphy – the proper letter forms. It’s very difficult to switch from my own style to formal, but I will and the only way is to practice, practice, practice – and we can tell, I have a long way to go. Anyway, back to our story…

Nikki, my daughter, is 15-months-old now. She had her cleft palate surgery last Oct. 2nd—It was awful! That poor little pumpkin so worried when we got to the hospital that morning. She cried and cried. She couldn’t eat anything since midnight the night before and they didn’t even take her into surgery till almost 10:30! It was so hard to keep from crying myself. [But I maintained a chipper and cheerful front.] We arrived at the hospital at 7:30.

They had us waiting in a cozy little room with a TV so we could be alone together and try to keep our poor baby calm, she wasn’t.

When they finally took her away, I didn’t cry [but I wanted too!].

Alex [her dad] and I sat quietly in our little room for a few more minutes then went for breakfast in the coffee shop. We had a long wait ahead of us.

Well breakfast and coffee went down fast, and well—with a few [more]hours to wait, finding things to do to occupy us was difficult.

I seemed to be more anxious than Alex – we went quickly through the gift shop then back to the waiting room. Alex was able to sit still, but I could not—I paced the “short stay” surgery there at Long Beach Memorial at great length. [Oh, a pun!]

Finally at 1:45, Dr. Hickman, the plastic surgeon, came in, “Nikki is doing fine, but her surgery was much more difficult than expected.”

They had to draw so much skin (tissue) that he had to leave a tiny hole, which, he said, “May grow over. If not, and we won’t know till then, it could be repaired at the age of four.” He told us we would be able to see her in recovery in about 30 minutes.

“Okay, just as long as she’s okay,” [was my reply].

Now this was a really anxious time – and after watching every god-dammed soap opera between the pacing, we still sat there for another hour and a half. Finally we heard, “Will the parents of Nikki Palumbo please come to the main desk.”

We were sent to recovery – pediatric recovery was way in the back – there must have been 200 or more people in there “recovering” in a warehouse-like room. [It was enormous!]

We finally made it back to Miss P. She looked awful—such a shock [to see her]—she was on her tummy, pale as pale can be, blood running from her nose, and a black string hung from her mouth that was sewn to her tongue to keep it from flopping back. She looked drugged [duh].

The nurses seemed caring, calm and confident she was doing well. It was difficult to keep composed but we stroked her hair and reassured her mommy and daddy were there. The nurse gave her some Demerol to knock her out and we wheeled her upstairs to her room.

That kid’s a fighter. As the drugs wore off, she became worse and worse, she screamed and cried constantly, although who could blame her? So she was kept drugged most of the time.

I felt so sorry for her. She had to wear arm splints [to keep her hands away from her mouth], which didn’t help her disposition one bit. Her mouth hurt, and she was mad.
She lay there in a prone position (she had to lay on her tummy those first couple days so any blood or oozing wouldn’t choke her) staring at us with a look like, “I’ll get you for this. I’m remembering all your faces.” She was scary. [I had forgotten about this.. she really was scary; a classic case of "if looks could kill!"

Alex and I were wrecks. We felt helpless. We couldn’t pick her up to cuddle or reassure her (she was not the cuddle and reassuring kind anyway). We just sat close by her, talked to her and held her little hand.

The next day, Friday, we got some apple juice in her (she had to take a lot of clear fluids so we could take the I.V. out. She took a little about once an hour, but not enough to sustain her. Poor kid must have been starving – she wasn’t sick, there was nothing wrong with her tummy other than it was empty! Alex and I took turns eating where she couldn’t see. [It was miserable.]

Saturday she was beginning to get her strength back; she kept getting out of the arm splints and managed to pull out the I.V. The nurses left it out, thank God.

Nikki hated the nurses; she’d throw a fit if one so much as looked at her—just taking her temp under her little arm was a fight.

On Sunday, all she wanted to do was leave. She kept crying and pointing toward the door. Well she got her way this time—she got to go home! She also got to have formula from a cup; she liked that [much better] instead of that nasty syringe we used to squirt the juice in to her mouth with. The formula helped fill her tummy.
[End of entry.]

Nikki obviously survived that traumatic event, and did have subsequent surgery to repair the hole when she was 10. She is happy and healthy but still worries a lot.

Hmm.. I wonder if she still holds the grudges against those poor nurses?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bakersfield (Part Two), the Back Way

The second time we went to Bakersfield to visit Uncle Cooky was later that summer of '07.

This time, we did the smart thing and went the back way. It was so much prettier, and much more pleasant than that ugly old Grapevine. And we made it there in record time—what should be three-and-a-half – four hour drive only took eight hours!

This time, via my wonderful fella friend’s recommendation, we went up the coast to Ventura and turned inland to follow the 33 up, around and over the mountains and into the central valley.

Like always, just getting to the 10, the Santa Monica Freeway, from San Pedro took well over an hour… the San Diego Freeway is always so backed up, no matter how many thousands of lanes it has. But once we got to the 10, we were finally on our way.

Daughter Nikki had never driven up the coast through Malibu and Pacific Palisades; she loved it. Roxzi and I always went the coast the full way up to see Brother Max in Santa Cruz. We love it. Screw the Grapevine!

It was so pretty that morning. When reached Ventura/Oxnard, I was sooo tempted just to turn around so we could do the coast again.. but, sigh, we needed to head inland. Uncle Cooky awaits.

At this point, everyone had to go potty, but the stop Rox and I used before in the freeway transitions, was shutdown. “Can we all wait another 10 miles till we get to Ojai?” I shouted over the engine noise and the ska music CD we were bee-bopping to.

“Yes,” we all agreed, crossing our legs.

I had never been through, or even to, the town of Ojai. It was beautiful! And it was lunch time! Well, we found a cute little place on the outskirts of the other side of town. The first thing we all did was run in and use the facilities, then found a table outside in my beloved sun.

The menu was a little too gourmet for the girls’ taste; nothing looked good to either of them. Oh well, it looked great to me, so we got up and putted off.

The countryside was beautiful! Green, lush and well kept ranches and spreads. We weaved our way up mountains looking for the 33 turnoff, that I was getting suspicious wasn’t going to happen if we kept on our present course.

We stopped a wonderful lookout that oversaw the Ojai Valley. Awesome. At the stop, I popped open a refreshing beverage. Heck, it was after noon.

As we wound around the top of the shaded highway, we passed a take-out hamburger place called The Summit. I might not have even noticed it if not for the half dozen giant American flags planted out in front.

“We’re eating THERE!” I shouted as I wheeled the van around. There were several “big pimpin’s,” Roxzi jargon for big manly-man pickup trucks, and lots of Harleys in the parking area. I couldn’t be that bad.

Well, it wasn’t exactly fast fast-food, we had to wait a long time, and it was greasy-spoon kind of food that I don’t normally eat so I declined getting anything, saying I’d just have a bite of theirs, if they didn’t mind.

I waited in the van popping open another refreshing beverage. After about a half hour, the girls had their food and we were back on our way again, It sure did smell good, and the bite from each sandwich was delicious, but super greasy… not my preference. They loved them! Fries were good too, I had a few.

We wound our way to the friendly town of Santa Paula, where we got gas and I went into the station to ask where the turn off to the 33 was. The attendant didn’t speak much English, but I got my point across.. he basically said, we have to follow the yellow brick road back the way we came to Ojai and try again.

Grrrr.. at least it was a beautiful drive and the girls loved the Summit (it did have a great atmosphere). So just a couple hours lost while we gained an excellent scenic tour. Really, it was well worth it.

As we moseyed back into Ojai, we passed a ranger station. “That would be a good place to ask directions,” I commented looking over my shoulder as we toodled past.

Roxzi turned into the mom, shoved a piece of gum in my mouth and demanded we turn around, go back and ask. We were all giggling as I did as I was told.

We explained our dilemma and where we were trying to go and where we’d been. The stone-faced but extremely nice, never-a-care-in-the-world ranger, slowly drawled, “Oh, the back way to Bakersfield, eh?”

“Yep, that’s pretty much the size of it.”

“Welp, the turnoff’s way at the beginning of town,” he said pointing in that direction. “You’ll see a big Von’s shopping center then go right at a three-way intersection. The sign for the turn is kind of blocked by the bushes coming the other way, but you can’t miss it coming from this way.” He smiled (I think), and wished us luck.

On the road again..

Just as he said, we found the turn easily and quickly realized we were now approaching the middle of a new nowhere, climbing up the enormous mountains I knew Huck would safely transport us over. It was pretty, but unlike the lushness of the mountain road on the other side of Ojai, it was barren. We were basically alone on the two-lane highway.

Both girls fell asleep as I happily drove along not having to contend with too many other, faster cars. I don’t think we passed (or were passed up by) more than five cars the whole way. We went up and over. It was a little scary at times as there were terrific vistas, tremendous drops, and often, no guardrails.

As we came down the other side of the mountains, I could see the long straight flat roads in the valley ahead, breathed a sigh of relief, and knew Bakersfield would be ours soon. But gee, I sure had to pee.

This side of the mountain, the southern portion of the central valley was velvet painted in glorious shades of gold, yellow and brown. It was fire season, so even the sky glowed yellow in the late afternoon sun.

The girls had long woken up and also needed to empty their bladders too. There really was nowhere to stop, so I pushed ahead on the long, flat, straight highway.

It wasn’t too long until we drove into the hole-in-wall town of Maricopa. We pulled into a crumby little convenience store parking lot. The girls ran in first. I waited with Huck (the population looked a little, well, not great). When it was my turn, I asked Nikki to pour me a nice cold refreshing beverage in my special cup. We were almost there, and all roads were straight ahead and flat and from this point, I knew the way.

Well, Roxzi took on the chore but while she was doing the deed in the back of the van with the side door wide open, a cop pulls up. Nikki, standing guard, warns Roxzi who, panic stricken, tries to cover up her action and the silver can.

He gets out of his car, walks straight over to the van and strikes up a conversation with Roxzi, a minor, who was sitting practically red-handed with an open container and sweating bullets. (I wonder… couldn’t he smell the fresh hops??)

Geeze! When I came out of the store (and it took a few minutes cause I had to wait in line), both girls, perspiration dripping from their whitened faces, fired at me what happened—

“Mom! A cop came right up to the van as I was pouring your cold one! I’ve never been so scared in my life!”

“Let’s just get out of here!” Nikki pleaded repetedly looking around warily.

I hustled them in the van and tried to quiet them down. It was obviously okay, there were no cops now.

“Mom! I was sitting there pouring YOU a BEER, and the dumb-ass cop comes right up and asks me, ‘Is this a REAL Volkswagen van?’”

Well, I did see the very young officer she was talking about cajoling with a group of teeny-bopper girls who were hanging out when I came out of the store He was perfectly harmless, a nice guy… the kind who wants to be a policeman to do good and help people. A peace keeper.

I reassured my girls of that fact, as we high-tailed it out of there. I secretly hoped that they weren’t waiting for me down the road apiece. They were not.

Mercy in Maricopa—thank you, my Angels!

We made it in short order to our motel in beautiful downtown Bakersfield without any further incidents. Once again we choose the Quality Inn.

This time we had a second floor room with a view of the pool, but alas, no grasshopper greetings. Shucks.

And once again, the best part of the whole trip was getting there.

So, I want to leave you all with the idea, that the goal is great, but the journey is the most exciting part.

Love to all!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not Niceties ~or~ The Valentine’s Day Massacre

This past Valentine’s Day afternoon, my handsom son, Max, came in the studio to ask me if he could borrow the van, Huck, to run a quick errand.

“Okay, just be careful.”

Moments later, he was back.

“Um, Mom?”

Yes, I’m your mom! Why do they always have to ask?

“Someone spray painted all over the side of the van.”


“Yup, in pink, bright pink.”

I jumped up and ran outside to assess the damage, wondering if the insurance company would paint the whole thing because of a little bit of pink paint?


A “little” pink paint was a-whole-lotta pink paint all across the driver’s side. Very large fluorescent letters filled the purple space from top-to-bottom and extended the entire length of the vehicle. (Nice lettering, I might add—this person has practiced.)

But the message was very disturbing. It was not your typical Valentine’s Day love note. No sweet little hearts lovingly painted on either side of the text. No flowers left wedged in the wipers. Not even a cool hippie peace sign.

Then I get this story from Max…
Late the night before, Max’s girlfriend, the mouseketeer, went out on the porch to smoke a cigarette. She thought she saw, or heard, someone in the driveway, went in and told Max and his buddy, Keaton, who immediately ran outside. The interloper, a large dude who was hidden on the other side of the van, must have heard them coming and was already walking away when they got out there. Max shouted at him, but the guy ran down the block meeting up with four or five of his cronies.. and they were gone.

The smell of spray paint hung in the air, but they did not put two-and-two together till the evidence presented itself the next afternoon.

I wonder what else the creep might have done had he not been interrupted?

I immediately called the police. Officer Perez was very kind, and took the report over the phone. I guess this did not warrant public police appearance, which I would have preferred cause I don't want anyone to think I'm a weenie. Perhaps they'd have come if it had just happened?

I was told that to call back in 24 hours to get a case number to give to the insurance people.

He also suggested I try taking the writing off with a little paint thinner, and he said, sometimes cooking oil will work too. Worth a try.

I phoned my brother, Luckey, the painter. No he didn’t have any thinner (what’s with that?), but he’d see what he could do.

Gosh, I couldn't help but worry, How in the heck am I going to be able to drive Huck to the insurance people and/or to the auto body shop with that horrible, very noticeable and legible branding on the side?

Welp, to make this long story short. The van sat overnight again letting all that pretty paint set in, but first thing Sunday morning, brother Luckey got out a little TSP and scrubbed the pink paint off. Max put in his share of elbow grease by using rubbing compound to smooth out the abrasion, then did a great wax job.

When I went out to look, I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t even tell there was ever any damage done! WOW, good job, fellas! Huck is once again a clean canvas!

(Shhh… don’t say that!)

Naturally, I didn’t get any pictures. I figured that paint wasn’t going anywhere too fast. But it did and now, there’s no proof other than a bit of pink on the outlet cap. Not that I’d show you any pictures anyway (because it wasn’t nice, nor true). I can’t imagine who those words were aimed at or why?

Gee, I wonder if I would have been happier if it said, “Will You Marry Me?” or “Be My Valentine,” or some other such nonsense…. Naw.

So that was my Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day debacle.

All’s well now. Thank you.

Maybe it really didn’t happen?

Hmmm.. ?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bakersfield (Part One)

The first time we went to Bakersfield…

Excuse me? Why would we want go to Bakersfield?

Well doesn’t everyone want to visit Bakersfield?


Well, we wanted to go to see my dear friend, Cooky, who is the kids’ unofficial godfather.

Uncle Cooky used to come out and see us a couple-three times a year, but developed a medical condition that made it difficult for him to drive long distances; so, we went to him. And heck, we were sure in need of an adventure.

Well, the first time we journeyed to Bakersfield, it was a very hot spring day. I went the way you’re supposed to go from LA to Bakersfield, through the grapevine.

I hadn’t been over it in several years, and as we proceeded along with all the big-bad trucks buffeting us as they pushed past, and head winds flinging us from side to side, I realized that I had never personally driven over the dang thing.. and, I had forgotten how long the distance was. Sheesh! By the time we got to the little place at the top there, Gorman, I was a nervous wreck and I swore, I’d never go that way again.. if at all possible. It was scarier than heck!

Before we got to Gorman, the potty place and where I let the girls some lunch, I noticed a big-rig Target truck was pretty well mirroring us off the passenger side. I’d slow, it’d slow, I’d try to get ahead of it, it’d speed up. Though it was very windy, it was also very hot, and VW vans of Huck’s vintage, do not have air conditioners other than roll-down windows. (The kind you have to crank yourself, remember those?).

Roxzi had taken her black tank-top off in order to stay cool, and was wearing her cute little black with green polk-a-dot bikini bathing suit top with her shorts. After a few minutes of jockeying for position with this bozo in the Target truck, it dawned on me, he was ogling Roxzi who was riding shotgun.

“Roxzi, is that guy looking at you?” I asked nodding off to her right.

“Ewwww!” she yelled trying to rub off her heebie-jeebies. She immediately put her shirt back on and yelled out the window, “Pervert!”

She threatened to flip him off, but I subdued her. Nikki, who is a fair bit heavier, suggested they switch places to really scare him. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings… but the difference would be startling.

I settled the score (I thought) by slowing drastically. (How much slower can a VW go on an uphill climb? I think I can… I think I can… I think I can…) Downshifting, I got behind the creep. He apparently figured out my maneuver and sped on ahead.

Soooo, I don’t know, about ten minutes later, lo-and-behold, we pass the Target truck pulled off to the side of the freeway, and the driver out of the truck seemingly checking his tires.
We toodled on by waving and wishing him good riddance as we passed (and made sure he didn’t see our jestures).

Oops, it wasn’t long before the truck with a big red target symbol on the sides and back, was behind us again. I got in the slow lane and stayed there so he’d have no further view at the passenger seat. I think he got that we were on to him, and he sped off never to be seen by us again.

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. We stayed at the Quality Inn, which was okay except for the 400-pound grasshopper that blocked our way out the sliding glass patio door that led the way to the pool for the first hour or so.

I finally got up enough nerve and shooed it away with a length of rolled up newspaper.

(Here I come to save the day, Mighty Mom is on the waaaay… )

The pool and Jacuzzi were well welcomed and utilized by the girls.

Nikki finally talked me into getting in the pool by saying, “Come on, Mom, you know you’re hot.” It was hot, but dry; I liked it. “And if you don’t think so," she added, "just ask Jim.”

Gotta love that kid!

Uncle Cooky was great and gave us the “Best of Bakersfield” tour… ummm, which was a bit unexciting; but all-in-all, we had a great time just visiting with him, as always.

Life's a journey... the fun is getting there!

Don't miss our second trip... "Bakersfield the Back Way!"


Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Twitch in Time ~or~ The Nose[hair] Knows

Ladies (okay, it happens to men too), let’s face it, growing old in many respects isn’t really so bad, but there are some grim realities we must face! As years gather, so do wrinkles (I prefer “character lines”), unwanted whiskers (I’ve been known to say, you know you’re getting old when you start plucking more hairs out of your upper lip than your eyebrows), age spots, graying/thinning hair…

But practically nothing is more unpleasant than having to pluck those unsightly nose hairs.

Using a magnifying mirror only multiplies the discomfort by over emphasizing the other aging symptoms, such as the sagging, and doubling areas of the face due to drooping (especially if you are looking down at the image). Ugh! Is that what my lover looks at… ewwww!

AND to add extra insult to this blown-up reality shock, suddenly you get a glimpse of an arsenal of flapping upper and under arm flesh. Eww..gross! That’s not me, is it? And I thought I was in good shape?

[She drops and does 20—whew!]

(Aren’t we all glad I don’t have a digital camera to demonstrate proof of this point?)

So, in order to avoid as much of these nauseating vistas as possible, I suggest picking the mirror up, or having it mounted on the wall at eyelevel.

Then yet another drawback to plucking under high-power is the number of flaying follicles forming a moustache from boogerville is now highly visible and also need to go.

Now you may cringe and twitch at the mere mention of plugging those unwanted bad guys, and comment that most people, when nose hair becomes a problem, trim rather than torture. Granted, just using that mirror is torture enough, but plucking? Ouch!

Yep, it hurts like heck, your eyes water and sneezes will abound. But, trimming I find only leaves the blunt ends of the cut hairs itchy for days… way too uncomfortable for too long.

Of course, after you’ve plucked the same hair two or three times, it doesn’t hurt that much anymore… kinda like plucking eyebrows, remember when you first did that?

And the nose lashes take much longer to grow back (I think).

But, it’s almost inevitable that under high-power, you’ll get one or two virgin pluckees and wind up doing the "pluckee chicken" dance.

Just don’t look in the mirror while all your fabulous flab is bouncing up-and-down!

C’est la vie!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII

I actually watched the Super Bowl yesterday. Well, half of it. I turned it on just in time to see the pass interception and the 100-yard return touchdown. I even watched Bruce Springsteen during halftime (I’m not a fan). But the rest of the game was exciting. I really hadn’t planned on watching, but I’m glad I did. I wasn’t cheering for either team, but I found myself wanting the Cardinals to win—hey, I just happened to be wearing red (I don’t look good in yellow).

And HEY! What happened to St. Louis? Since when did the Cardinals migrate south? And when they play in Arizona, what city is the stadium? Do they flit around, Tucson one game, Phoenix the next? How ‘bout Sedona? Now that would be interesting!

I liked the Clydesdale Budweiser commercial. Can’t remember any others ads right off hand. :-/

When I was in junior high school (just a few years ago), and up through the first few years of being a mom (a day or so ago), I was a tremendous football fan. I totally knew every team and player. All the plays and rules. I watched, bet, talked and loved it! (Same with basketball… GO Lakers!—and baseball… Dodger Blue, all the way!) But, motherhood sidetracked me, and I lost interest in sports, plus it was getting out of hand commercially.

And, I miss the Rams.

Nennyway… These past few years I do look on at the “big” games—World Series, Basketball Championships, Super Bowl. I almost always surprised at myself for knowing how much I know about how these games work.

So, congratulations Steelers.. good game!

Oh, and by the way, when I was 10-years-old, my mom and dad went to the first Super Bowl game at the LA Coliseum between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. Yep, 42 years ago. (It’s okay, do the math… )

My brother and I got pennants and a baby sitter.

Thanks for reading!

Laterz Gaterz

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Slapping the Ego

I want to write something for this Blog… but alas, I know not what. It seems that suddenly being in the blogging “spotlight” puts a damper on my creativity.

So okay… don’t look. (But please do! And leave a comment so I know you did—cause I really want the recognition!).

I have a mere 250 (the limit) poems and writings on my space that are extremely intimate in a revealing yet non-revealing kind of way. But I feel less spotlighted there even though most of my work is well received.

I prefer not to disclose the intimate on this Blog… only the amusing and amazing. I do want to be noticed… yet it’s much more comfortable hiding in the woodwork.

I need to dismiss the ego and be noticed.

Bring it on people. (Did I not just disclose my worst fear.. being noticed??)

Look at me. (No, don't!)

If I confess to my fear, will it help?

Hopefully so. Rightfully so.

Thank you.