Turning Around an Existential Crisis

daves-50th-in-vegas

A few weekends ago Payam and I headed out to Las Vegas (our 2nd trip in November) for our friend Dave’s 50th birthday party. There are going to be a lot of 50th birthday parties in our friend group this year since both Payam and I are turning fifty. It’s our year, 1972 people.

I’ve always been optimistic about turning fifty. I figured I’d rock it like I’ve rocked all the other years but lately, I’ve been starting to doubt myself. I hate it.

While we did have a great time celebrating I felt sort of out of sorts the whole trip. It’s weird when you are having a good time externally but inside your head, you are listening to a running commentary of negativity. This is nothing unusual for me I just feel like documenting it because I’ve been feeling a little freer on this blog lately. (One of the perks of falling off the mainstream radar.)

I want to say it started at the ax-throwing place we went to (Ax-throwing!) but really it was already brewing before we even got there.

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Ax-throwing was a riot. Drunk people throwing axes. That seems like a disaster waiting to happen but it turned out to be really fun and mostly safe if you follow all of the safety precautions, which I did of course. My anxiety loves to follow rules. I was terrible at ax-throwing like I am at every sport. Dave, Erika, and Payam racked up fifty or more hits each and several bullseyes while I managed to make the ax to the target a big whopping three times. I was pathetic. Everyone made fun of me and said I threw an ax like I was giving it to the target. If a herd of zombies was chasing me it was like I was saying, “Here Zombies, have an ax from your good buddy!” But it was all in good fun and when I did actually make contact with the wooden target my friends cheered me on like nobody’s business. We can’t all be athletes. At least some of us can draw. Heh.

Of course, the entire time I was berating myself internally with a barrage of insults about my weight and old-lady skin and how hard it was to bend down every time to pick up the ax I’d thrown. It’s pretty amazing that I could keep a smile on my face and fake it while a full-on war was being fought inside me. We took photos which I hated of course because I could not see past the width of my shoulders and the stockiness of my legs but I smiled and pretended everything was fine.

Please know that this is not me fishing for compliments. I’m just being pathetic. I know better than most how to fix this sort of thing.  Pain is a signal that things are not right. It’s time to fix some things.

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But back to our Vegas story: We stayed in a nice (and super clean) timeshare that belonged to my friend, Erika’s parents that just happened to be right next to, get this: A rodeo!  Of course, Payam and I went exploring. How could we not?  We watched some bulls bucking around and being lassoed by real cowboys and we found a western wear gift expo going on in a large ballroom. We are not country-western-wear types but we got a real kick out of walking around the booths looking at all the crazy things. Belt buckles the size of your head, bedazzled camouflaged dresses, stiff wrangler jeans, hats of all shapes and sizes. It was a hoot but we stood out like liberals at Trump pep rally.

Payam put on a cowboy hat as a joke but it suited him so well I made him buy it. Then I found this sort of edgy, rock and roll black suede fringe jacket and before we knew it we were a hundred dollars lighter. When in Rome, right? When else am I going to come across a suede black fringe rock and roll jacket?! No pictures yet, it got so smokey from the casino I immediately put it in the dry-cleaning bag and haven’t touched it since. But soon I’ll break it out. It’s going to be one of those fun crazy fashion moments I can just tell.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean timeshare, my existential crisis hung on. I tried taking photos of myself to see if I really looked as bad as I thought I did. This is a fun game I play with myself all the time. I call it: Narcism.  Except instead of thinking I’m so great and I don’t care what everyone else thinks of me, I think I’m not great at all and I care about EVERYTHING anyone thinks about me. It’s a vicious circle of doom and gloom.

I should have been basking in the dry sunshine of Vegas and loving my little mini-vacation from kids and life but no, I was wallowing in self-pity. Hard eye roll.

tough-mother-trucker

Even when we got back from Vegas I was still walking around in a cloud of negativity. Everything is ugly and I hate everything! But you know what happens when I get like this? I realize I need to make some changes.

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When we got back home I decided to stop drinking for the 47th time and cut my calories by a third. I hate to share this because every time I start on a path like this, I always fall back to my old ways and eat my words. But it’s still good to try, right? Is it good to share? I don’t know. Let’s just hope not that many people read this post.  I’m just going to say: No promises. No lofty goals. Just day by day.

On day two of my new regimen, Bug and I had pizza and I bought a cheesecake bun from this new little cafe I found. I love a new mom-and-pop cafe. I wanted Bug to try it for me and I thought I’d live through her vicariously but then I had a bite. Half the cheesecake later…I was still “trying it” you know, just to make sure.

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I’m going to slide another story in here before I finish up my existential crisis thread. Cody still stinks from the skunk. It’s terrible. There’s an odor that wafts up from him when he stands next to you and it breaks my heart because he is so cute and loveable but it’s impossible to pet him with this wretched smell that lingers and lingers and lingers! You have to wash your hands constantly.

I researched local dog baths and found one that lets you bathe your dog for fourteen bucks! What a deal! Paying a groomer to de-skunk your dog costs $200. So off to the bark bath we went.

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I brought tomato soup in hopes that I could wash him there without him shaking tomato soup all over my bathtub but they wouldn’t let me. So I washed him in de-skunk shampoo, regular dog shampoo, conditioner, and water about a thousand times. He was such a good dog, being so patient. Sadly, when we got home I think he seemed even worse. It’s almost like I washed off the deodorizing shampoo the original groomer had put on him to mask the smell and now the skunk smell was even stronger. The really nice guy at the dog bath place told me there’s really not much you can do, it just takes time. Probably about a month.   Tomato soup is starting to look better and better.  rasta-taco-for-lunch

After I took Cody home I took Bug and her boyfriend out to lunch at Rasta Taco (my new favorite client) which is in Laguna Beach right next to the beach.

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I let the kids hit the beach while I journaled. I’ve been journaling obsessively lately and it’s helping with my mid-life crisis. I’ve not mentioned it here but I am working out regularly with a personal trainer two times a week now. It’s a huge luxury and my budget is barely fitting it but I’m starting to think it’s worth it for my mental health alone. Between that, not drinking, and trying to keep a caloric deficit going, I have hope that I will rock fifty by the time it gets here. I will. No matter what I look like I’m going to get the inside of my brain right because that is the best first step.

I know I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for having patience with me while I work this out.

Skunked!

skunked

My life is ruled by dogs. While I love them to pieces, they are HUGE pains in the butt and complicate my life on the regular. As they say, Pets our our children now and plants are our pets. What does that make my real children? I don’t know, maybe the overlords who demand obedience in the form of taxi-driving and ATM services?

I thought I’d share the story of Cody getting skunked. Yep, it happened. Everyone has a skunk story and now I finally have mine.

It was three o’clock in the morning and Cody sat by my bed panting loudly. This isn’t because he’s hot. Nah, it was probably 66 degrees (F) in the house and we were all snuggled comfortably under our comforters. Not the dogs, they sleep in their beds but us people had our comforters pulled up to our ears which means it was NOT hot in the house. (As opposed to summer nights where we have feet hanging out of the covers or in my case: lay completely naked sweating from all crevices.)

Cody pants because it is a form of communication for him. He has many voices: the loud alerting bark, the loud yelling bark of excitement, the low grumpy grumble, the outflow of air when he flops himself down onto the ground in defeat, the wheezy wine when he wants something but we’re ignoring him and the standing pant. He just stands there in your face and pants loudly. This is probably because he has learned that if he is too loud Payam will wake up and yell at him. He doesn’t like that. He likes it when I wake up and do his bidding without waking the other master who is more strict. The loud pants wake me up but not Payam. I am a light sleeper.

I can’t figure out what Cody wants but I go through the checklist like you do with a child. Thirsty? Nope, you’ve got water. You need to go outside to pee? Nope, you insist on standing next to the front door and not the side door to the backyard. If the dogs are really desperate to pee, the backyard will do. Hungry? Well, that’s a dumb question. Golden Retrievers are always hungry but we don’t eat in the middle of the night and he knows this. It’s got to be because he wants to go out into the front yard to pee, where we have real grass.

A little backstory: Payam stays up later than me. He’s a night owl and will go to bed anywhere between 11pm and 2am. That’s just the way he’s wired. One of his nightly rituals before he finally turns in for bed is to let the dogs out the front door where they run freely without a leash into the dark to some spot in the greenbelt next to our house to pee. They love this moment of freedom and always come back without much trouble. Letting your dog off leash is strictly forbidden in our over-zealous HOA-run neighborhood but we do it sneakily at night when nobody else is looking. A guilty pleasure. Usually this is no problem. One time our dogs stopped at the end of the driveway and curled up their lips in a growl. We figured it was coyotes hiding just out of our vision and they came back in of their own accord. But that’s really the worst of it.

Until last Wednesday when Cody came to the side of my bed and panted. Like I said earlier, I ran through the checklist and figured out he needed to pee but insisted on going out the front door. This must mean that Payam didn’t let them out that night. Maybe he went to bed early and threw off their rhythm, who knows. Anyway I was tired and figured, whatever dude. Go out the front, just get it done so I can go back to bed.

By this time Whiskey was right behind Cody and as they sauntered down the driveway between our parked cars, they spotted something that I couldn’t see. Cody perked his ears up in full alert and before I could figure out what was happening, both dogs were running full-speed down our street. Then I saw it. A small black undulating hair carpet with a white stripe down the middle. The dogs were right behind it and I was frozen in horror watching the whole thing go down in slow-motion, Nooooooooooooooooooo-oooooooooooooooohhhhhh!!!!!!! CODY WHISKEY COME HERE!!! CODY! COME BACK! It was horrible and it was like I was stuck in the body of an old lady who had no hope of ever turning this around.

I finally jolted out of my stupor and cracked into action and chased them down the street in my pajamas and bare feet. I felt the slice of a small piece of glass going through the ball of my left foot but kept running after them until I could see the skunk cornered between the curb of our neighbor’s house, their cars and my two barking dogs. Whiskey still had his cone on from the surgery he had from being bit by a neighbor’s Australian Shepherd. (Did I share that story already? No, I did not. I’ll have to get to that but it just proves that these dogs are a pain in the butt regularly.) So when the skunk backed up and squirted them from what I could see from a safe distance, Cody got it full in the face and Whiskey got just the mist of it since he was protected by his cone.

Cody immediately backed up and started trying to wipe the spray off his nose onto the asphalt. He whined and rubbed his muzzle on the ground on both sides. Somehow I got both dogs to follow me back to the house without touching them, Cody stopping to wipe his nose repeatedly as we walked two houses back to our house. I stood at the front door not knowing what to do. Bring this stench into the house? I couldn’t leave them out here. Wash them with a hose at three am? Did we even have tomato soup??? I needed help.

Without thinking it through clearly,  I brought them into the house with intentions of taking them directly to the side yard but before I could stop him, Cody proceeded roll all over the floor to wipe his nose on our tile floor and then the expensive Persian rug in our living room. I grabbed him as quickly as I could by the collar and drug him to the backyard via our side door. What a mess.  How many things did he touch on his way to the side yard? Me, the ping pong table legs, another rug in the dining room, the dining room table and chairs, the sliding glass door and screen… you get the picture, he’s a big dog. Every surface was touched by that awful stench and would have to be cleaned for weeks to come. It was a nightmare.

The funny thing was it didn’t really smell like what I remember skunk smelling like. In fact, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Maybe I was already nose blind from the trauma of it all. I remember it smelling like a combination of burnt popcorn and burnt rubber. Still foul as hell but not that sickening stench you notice three miles away when you’re driving down the highway and there’s a dead skunk on the side of the road. Maybe it sours with time like cigarettes. I’m thinking that’s what happens now that it’s been several days and we are still living with it.

I woke Payam up and told him the bad news. We decided together that there was very little we could do about it at three in the morning so I drug the dog beds outside and put them near our bedroom slider that exits to our backyard. The dogs were going to have to spend the night outside but at least they were close to us so they could still feel like they were part of the pack and not excommunicated, even though at this point I was thinking they deserved to be excommunicated.

The problem with this new situation though is that being outside meant being on full-time guard dog duty for Whiskey and he does not take that job lightly. Nope, he was not going to sleep a wink when there were so many night noises to alert us about. Every little scritch of a mouse or tweet of a bird was going to be announced and investigated. He was barking all night much to our horror. The neighbors! They are going to kill us! But that stench! What could we do???

We lit every candle we could find and then Payam went back to bed. I tried to sleep but you know how well that will work with me when I struggle with 3am insomnia anyway.  I stayed up on google researching every possible solution.

It turns out there are a lot of methods to get rid of skunk smell and none of them are quick or easy. The first obvious one is tomato juice: you can rub it in their fur and eventually while you scrub to get the red out, you’ll get the skunk oil out too. Kind of like those coloring tablets you take to see where you need to brush your teeth more.  We didn’t have any tomoto juice on hand and there was no way I was bringing the stench back into the house to muscle through that at 3am. I figured I’d try that when it got to be a reasonable hour.

Then there’s a concoction of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. I also read about putting out pans of vinegar and boiling vinegar on the stove. I got up and washed the tile floor where they’d tread three times. First with vinegar and water and then with some pine-scented cleaner I got from the hardware store ages ago and then lastly another round of just plain water. It helped a lot. Boiling vinegar on the stove helped a lot too. I set out pans of vinegar on the ping pong table hoping it would absorb the stench or at least mask it. Then I went back to bed and researched some more.

Around six am I got up and baked some old gingerbread cookie dough I had leftover in the freezer.  Then I baked banana bread. It all helped. I took Bug to school and started researching groomers. I knew if I tried to bathe Cody (who is HUGE and strong) it would be a colossal mess of skunk AND tomato juice all over my bathroom and house. Maybe I could find someone and pay them to do it for me. That seemed like the best solution but if you remember we have been having the worst time finding groomers lately —see story of me shaving Whiskey myself. Somehow I got super lucky and called a mobile groomer who just happened to have a cancellation that morning.

PROVIDENCE!

The mobile groomer showed up and took Cody off to be bathed. Whiskey couldn’t be bathed because he still had stitches from his surgery and getting water on his stitches could complicate the healing process. Thankfully, Whiskey was the least of our concerns. He has a faint stench of skunk but nothing like Cody who got it full in the face. The groomer washed Cody three times with the strongest deodorizing shampoos made for dogs. Cody came back two hours later three shades lighter and fluffy as a cloud. It was a 500% improvement but there was stiiiiiiiiiiiiiil just the faintest scent of skunk under the strong floral smell of the shampoo and conditioner that the groomer used.  If you got really up in his face and scratched his ears it was still there but we figured that was a win.

Two days later the smell of the shampoo and conditioner have started to wear off. We’ve thrown out our front and side door doormats. We’ve thrown out the dog beds. We’ve washed their collars and leashes with every kind of foaming deodorizing powder and detergent we have. We massage dry shampoo into Cody’s mane nightly and then brush him out while wearing gloves. We’ll have our Persian rugs professionally cleaned as soon as we can budget it and that’s pretty much the best we can do. It is a lot better. It’s not horrible but it is still there. We still need to power wash our front porch and the pavers in the back yard but it’s manageable. We burn incense and candles regularly. We run our whole house fan when it’s not too cold outside. It’s fading.

You know what we don’t do anymore? Let our dogs out the front door unleashed. Especially around Halloween time when skunks are feasting on rotting jack o’lanterns. Lesson learned.