Decidedly Undecided

Oh hey, I cut more of my hair off this week. More accurately, my sister cut more of my hair off.

And also, my sister cut more of my hair off than I wanted her to.

This is mostly my fault, as I consistently turn into a complete idiot when faced with someone aiming those special hair-cutting scissors at my head. “I’d like it less straight across. Kind of choppy. Or chunky. Should I try bangs? No, forehead’s too big. Wait, maybe that’s a pro-bangs argument…” And the hair assassin just stands there, staring blankly, while I ramble myself into a bad haircut. Sis is in cosmetology school and I’m convinced they taught her this trick the first week in.

So I kept talking: “Okay, so let’s just take a little more off, all over. But not too much. And make it sort of messy but cool and easy but deliberate-looking. Oh here, I have a picture, but it’s not quite what I want, but kind of close…” Of course, this is all said in place of screaming “Do you see [insert celebrity with good hair here] in this picture?! That’s what I want! Make me her! Oh, god, just make this (gesturing wildly at body and head) better!!! So the world will love me again!”

Sister went to work with various tools and I watched more hair than I thought I could spare fall to the kitchen floor. My limp, baby-fine strands floated down in chunks, covering the tile. What was left on my head is a cross between A Right Choppy Mess, and The (sort of) Hip Soccer Mom, perhaps with a little 80s feather job sprinkled on top. I think I just need to accept that I’m not an edgy, punk-rock-y kind of girl. Part of me is still holding on, waiting for the day I quit this corporate gig and can paint bolder streaks into my hair, not worry about the tattoo(s) showing, and put all my earrings back in.

But for now, this particular haircut and I are warily circling each other, not sure whether to attack or be friends. Off-kilter. Every morning this week I’ve left the house wondering whether it was a Good Hair Day or a Bad Hair Day, and then not having the option to pull it all back if the verdict landed on Bad. Perhaps in a week or two I’ll decide it’s not a terrible look for me and keep it on my head for a while, but for now, it’s like making pasta without garlic- decent, but there’s no kick to keep me interested.

Probably just needs a few purple stripes.


Wrap it up, Spotty

I went to the clinic last night to discuss my continuing education and massage practice options. Have I mentioned that the clinic near the office unexpectedly shut its doors during our beach weekend and left me blindsided, with no way to contact my regular clients, and no record of my hours, continuing education credits, or tip money owed to me? As interesting as all that was, I had no time to really ruminate, as the State Exam was haunting my consciousness like an obnoxious ghost, or that friend we all have that we never call, and never return their calls, and never send them a birthday card, and yet they keep popping up, never getting the damn hint… Okay, it really wasn’t like that at all, but whatever. It’s a little tricky to write about stuff while practically being in a vegetative state from fatigue.

There’s another clinic near our house which is actually the Original Clinic, started by the owner before she branched out. Original Clinic is where I went last night. After being talked at for 30 minutes by the newly-appointed business office manager, I walked out knowing only that she thinks God is amazing and also that she can see my aura. I’m assuming everything will work out smoothly when I go in next week to put myself on the schedule. I understand this is a pretty large assumption to make, and we all know what happens when we assume, but there you go.


Does anyone know how the hell a person is supposed to plan a baby shower when normally she avoids them like The Herpes, isn’t too fond of babies in the first place, and the guests aren’t RSVP-ing the way they should? And the two people that have been pestering her to let them help out are impossible to reach?

One has laughingly told me that her son unplugs the answering machine a lot (ha ha ha, that’s hysterical how often this keeps you out of the loop and interferes with your life on a daily basis! Kids are great, aren’t they?), and the other’s number has been disconnected.


In the wee hours of this morning, I had a dream about living in an episode of Full House, but the Tanner family was actually half human, half beast. The show was titled Houseful of Wildebeests. There’s really nothing I can add to that right now.


Also dreamt about playing soccer for hours. The ball was red and sticky and as we kicked it all over the field (I’ve never looked better in shin guards, nor displayed such fancy footwork by the way) it became smaller and smaller until it was about the size of a dot from one of those laser penlight things, and only half as bright.


I had about 5 other rapidfire dreams that I won’t detail here (and don’t think I didn’t hear that collective sigh of relief). I’m pretty sure this is what happens when you hit the Snooze button about 9 times before finally rolling out of bed, collapsing on the floor next to the dog, dragging yourself to the bathroom, lurching into the shower, etc. etc. etc.

Right. Time to make a coffee run before I really get the rambles and we're stuck here all day.


Correction: We have many, many problems.

Monk woke me up at 5:15 yesterday morning: “We have a problem.”

Long story short (I know, how out of character for me), our new water heater is being installed as I type. And because our house, a.k.a. The Money Pit is a piece of crap wrapped up like Christmas morning, there were all kinds of adjustments and extra equipment and consequently additional chunky charges to get us up to code. Of course when the garage flooded, the room that sits in front of it was thoroughly soaked (I hadn't thought we needed further motivation to replace our carpet), but the good news was finding, behind the old water heater, another previously unnoticed point of entry for our rodent friends. And by friends, I mean Impudent Bastards That Have Gone Too Far This Time: Last night, as I was sitting outside enjoying the Tornado Watch conditions, a big fat mus musculus (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a rattus norvegicus, as I would have promptly passed out right there on the patio stones) scurried along the top of our fence to the edge of the garage, paused to stare me boldly in the face (as I weakly stepped towards it, in an impotent attempt at defending the castle), then gleefully scampered into a crack in the wall that no doubt leads to a trendy rodent nightclub in our attic. But right before the gleeful scampering, I swear that little fucker gave me the finger.

So, it’s on (again). This time, no more half-hearted glue traps tucked sporadically around the house. The Great Rodent Massacre begins tonight. Monk’s assignment is to scatter some sort of dehydrating rat poison all over our attic this evening; mine is to stand at a safe distance, wincing in anticipation of any scuttling or scurrying. Then we will board up the garage wall and other potentially weak areas of the fort. In a few weeks we can dance on up to the attic and blow away the ashes of all the mouse carcasses like we’re wishing on dandelion puffs.

It makes more legal sense than simply torching the place, which was my first choice.


Test Anxiety

Time to come up for air. Monk’s been on a business trip in California since Sunday morning, which made freaking out and studying for the state exam a little trickier. I did turn off the phone, reward myself in the evenings with a beer ("well-studied, girl, good job on the last three hours"), and basically achieved a level of self-absorption that I haven’t seen since I was in class. But at the same time, I was monitoring the dogs’ interactions, feeding them (greedy little beasts), walking them (needy little beasts), cleaning up the house, taking out the trash and WHERE THE HELL IS THAT GUY WHO USUALLY DOES THIS STUFF FOR ME? Oh yeah, not here. Stupid work-sponsored seminars.

The weekend before last I tapped into my inner Procrastinator and re-did the “landscaping” in front of the house. Two nights ago around 9 p.m. I looked up from my textbook, mentally patted myself on the shoulder for being so dedicated to my studies, turned the page to move on to the respiratory system, and promptly went out to buy some shelves for our front hall closet, which had been a total disaster for quite some time. Apparently, there is no time like right in the middle of studying for a Very Important Test to get out the power drill and bring harmony and organization to one’s closet.

Last night I decided I was up to the gills with neurons, organs, etc., so I grabbed a beer and sat down to enjoy the sounds of what I suspect are mice, scurrying around in the attic. But I refused to think about this rerun of a rodent problem, the same way I mentally blocked Monk's stories of new business software and strategies when he called from his seminar yesterday- couldn’t allow any additional information into my consciousness, for fear of a brain implosion.

I planned to arrive early to the exam this morning and review the muscular system once more, but as I sat through four light changes in horrific traffic, I realized that was not meant to be. I showed up with a minute to spare, and the test anxiety showed up about ten questions into the test.

Now, besides doing all the studying (and filling in for Monk, dammit) over the last few days, I’d also calculated how many correct answers I had to give in order to pass the state exam. Passing the test, according to the State of Texas, is a minimum of 75%. This is unfortunate, since I was fairly confident in my ability to answer 60% of the questions correctly, a percentage I’d always thought of as a low, but still passing grade (at least it was in college- mom and dad are so proud). I also calculated how many questions I could answer incorrectly and still pass. Because this was apparently a necessary and brilliant use of my time over the last few days, I performed these calculations many times.

Once the test anxiety reached full throttle and my hands started shaking, I did the calculations again on my official-issue scratch paper. When the sweating started, I wrote down an estimate of how many I’d probably gotten wrong already. And then I wrote down how many of my answers were just wildly-thrown guesses. And then I got angry at how incomplete the test review from class had been. And then I remembered the review book I’d purchased outside of class to help me prepare, which had turned out to be nothing short of amazing.

About halfway through, frozen in the glare of The Big Exam, some fight-or-flight (this is a reaction that occurs in the Sympathetic Nervous System, by the way) switch was flipped in the ol’ noggin and instead of sobbing and throwing things and running out of the exam room into traffic, I kicked the remaining questions’ asses. And then I went back and kicked the asses of the questions from the beginning of the test. And god I love mixed metaphors and applied knowledge applied incorrectly. But anyway. We were told we wouldn’t get a number grade, just whether we passed or failed. Wrong (like so many other bits of information dumped on us during class and internship, tra la la). I did, in fact, receive a number score along with my pass/fail result. And if that number score were to be translated into a letter grade, it wouldn’t just be a ‘P’ for ‘Pass,’ it would be an ‘A.’ For ‘Ass-kicking.’ ‘Awesome.’ ‘Another beer, please.’

Next stop, the practical exam in Austin, where I prove I know how to lube and stroke like a true professional, while taking direction from -and maneuvering around- the cameraman. This is how I plan to explain the practical exam to my relatives, by the way.

On that note, I'd like to send a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY public internet shout out (shout-out?) to Skyhawk and my dad (public internet shout-outs being the ultimate sparkly bang in birthday wishes, of course). They not only have the same birthday, but also something even better: my obnoxious presence in their lives. Happy Birthday!!!


My head is empty

Any of you planning to spend 20 concentrated hours studying for a little thing called a State Exam this weekend? No? Just me then?


I was going to post earlier and tell you all about Sister's dogs and how they're so out of control that, after another evening of stopping in to feed and water them while Sister was out of town (when what is supposed to be a 20-minute visit stretched beyond 45 because her dogs decided to be assholes and make a game out of running away from me, instead of going back into their pen after they ate), I came home covered in mud and dog shit, thanks in part to the rain shower earlier that day and also because, have I mentioned? Her dogs can be such a bunch of assholes sometimes.

But then I thought, wow, detailing that episode would take so much time, and I was already putting everyone to sleep with the dog training talk- who wants to read another dog-related post in the same week, even if the second one involves a bunch of asshole dogs essentially putting on a Benny Hill sketch in their backyard?

So I didn't mention it.


Another belated story: After two years of living next door to them, I've finally had a full-on conversation with the neighbors. Well, an exchange of pleasantries at least, which was fantastic, considering all I've received from them in the past were hostile looks and silence. A tree trimming extravaganza took place in our neighborhood over the weekend, and out of the blue they offered to cut down the dead one that's been decorating a corner of our yard for the past year. Monk thought they were being nice, but I know better. They were so sick of the gnarled black deadness peeking over the fence at them that they figured Making Nice was a decent exchange for Making It Go Away. Now I'm wondering what else I can uglify to the point that someone else comes and deals with it. Our broken hot tub perhaps? The cement pieces stacked up against the fence? I think this is a plan worth considering.


But I really can't focus on anything except the fact that I'm about to flunk a big test next week- still being the Reigning Champion of Procrastination, I have not studied nearly as much as I thought I would over the last several weeks. I have excuses, just (like my stories) not very good ones. For the next couple of days you can find me tied to a kitchen chair with the ticking bomb of Tuesday's test duct taped to my back, sweating and shaking and mumbling obcenities at the central nervous system, the path of blood circulation, muscles and range of motion, and who the FUCK CARES WHAT YEAR HIPPOCRATES DIED?

Wish me luck or whatever.


In training

As I’ve shared before, Monk and I have a little problem we call The Foster Dog. It was hard enough to take her in so soon after our little trooper died, and after a month of fostering, we began to see that a three-female-dog household was not going to run smoothly. After a few growls and snaps (including one that landed the foster in the emergency vet clinic), we moved on to a daily routine of separation and rotation. The two permanent canine residents grew tense, more excitable as the months progressed. With the foster we tried love, we tried ignoring, we tried discipline, we tried exercise, we tried deference training (which is actually very effective for most dogs, just not if your pet makes a strong argument for being the spawn of Satan)… Nothing seemed to get through to her; it was a rare and brilliantly beautiful day whenever she displayed even a moment of something close to calm or quiet.

Seeing as how I’d bumbled through Boomba’s puppyhood and somehow ended up with a pretty friendly, responsive and loyal dog, and Blockhead was doing pretty well (although admittedly still had some freako kinks to work out), Monk and I gritted our teeth, continued to watch The Dog Whisperer every chance we had and hoped that someday, somehow, we’d have a breakthrough with the foster. Or (even better) someone wonderful would come along and adopt BabyGirl out of our house.

No one came along. BabyGirl seems to be gathering her paperwork to establish residency. We eventually came to the conclusion that we needed outside help in the form of a professional dog trainer. And that is how it came to pass that we spent most of the afternoon on Saturday learning what we’d been doing wrong with BabyGirl, as well as getting some bonus advice for Boomba and Blockhead. Although it may have been the most expensive afternoon in the history of Monk-and-Quinn, I do believe it was worth it. Imagine the sweet wave of relief when BabyGirl actually started to pay attention to us. Imagine the bliss of walking a dog down the street at a decent heel with only a training collar, instead of the usual harness-choke-chain-halti contraption Monk had rigged together in the past.

(But also imagine, if you will, the self-consciousness involved in having to growl loudly at your dog in public. The trainer believes in communicating with your dog as other dogs would. I’m not 100% sold on this, which is probably why my growl is kind of... beige, and Monk, having no inhibitions at all, ever, has a growl that makes me take a few steps back. I’m working on it, dammit. But I’m also sneaking in a few other, less conspicuous sounds that we’ll hopefully be able to transition to, and soon. Meanwhile, it’s nice for the neighbors to know exactly when we’re approaching, based on the symphony of growls, beeps and clicks that now accompanies us everywhere we go.)

A less-than-joyful moment in the afternoon came when the trainer accused me of being a “softie” with the dogs, which raised my hackles and spurred a fantasy of shouting in her face about the time I stopped a fight between Boomba and Blockhead by reaching out lightning-quick, firmly clamping their snarling snouts shut with my bare hands! and telling them I would. not. put. up. with that behavior, then I pulled the trainer’s hair and broke the coffee table over her head and now do you think I’M A SOFTIE? HUH? NOTHING SOFT ABOUT CRACKING YOUR SKULL AND STOMPING AROUND IN YOUR BRAIN LIKE I'M MAKING WINE NOW, IS THERE?!!

Whew. Anyway, it was a good Saturday that resulted in all three dogs chilling together that evening as Monk and I watched a movie, glanced around occasionally, and smiled giddily at each other and our happy family. The next day was more of the same and I have to say, just being able to end the separation-rotation business and have the foster/new resident dog actually listening to us after a year of chaos- That trainer earned the big fat check I wrote at the end of the session.

Of course, we’ll have to work daily at the doorbell, leash, aggression, submission and rage issues, but I think we’re going to be fine.

Okay, that last one is my issue. Hey, the trainer walked out with a hefty check and her skull in tact. I’d say we’re all making progress.


What I did on my summer vacation '06

Another Labor Day lazy-fest down at Surfside Beach. There's something to be said for trying new things, but I'd also argue there's something pretty fantastic about the tradition of heading to a cheap little beach house for our birthdays. Hell, if this plants us firmly in a rut, I don't want to get out. If you're into these things, you'd be jealous to hear how many books I read (9) or movies we watched (7, I think), hours spent lounging around with the waves as our background music (lots), walks taken along the water (about 3/day), and dips in the ocean (okay, not many of those- especially not after the crab attack that was launched on my heel the first night we were there).

(I don't think Monk believes me that a vicious monster crab tried to slice my foot to shreds when I went frolicking with the dogs in the waves. But I stand firm in my claim, especially since "vicious monster crab" sounds so much better than "sharp-ish, possibly metal, piece of trash buried under the sand.")

You'd also be green with envy knowing how many brain cells died a violent death at the hands of many beers and all the vodka cocktails. And FYI: In a pinch, or just to shake things up, raspberry and orange vodkas mix pretty well, especially when you use Coke as the glue that holds it all together.

(If you were Monk you'd argue that we didn't really kill any brain cells, but you'd be wrong. You'd just be very, very wrong and we'd possibly get into an argument about brain cells and what alcohol does to them and the difference between meaning something metaphorically or intending it to be taken as a technical truth, and your wife would have to put a stop to the discussion by stating that since you DID! INDEED! kill more brain cells than usual over the long weekend you are obviously in no position to grasp the concept or understand the technical pointblank fact of the matter, and in no way do you have the mental capacity to be even arguing the issue anyway thank you very much and we're done here.)

(There may have been a bit of a nicotine fest over the holiday as well- the withdrawal from which, now that we're back to real life, could possibly be contributing to some of us being a bit crankier than usual.)

But if you're not into any of those things I've already mentioned, you probably will not be interested in our other activities like

1) Watching the ocean from our deck. And being disappointed when more and more neighbors showed up as the weekend progressed.

2) Not wasting our time building a sand castle, that's for sure. And if we did build one, it would have been wayyy better than this piece of shit. Stupid kids.

Oh geez, you know I'm kidding about the kids of course. For all we know, this could have been created by a group of highly intoxicated adults.

3) Laughing at how tired the dogs were from all the walks on the beach...

3.5) Or maybe it was all the beer.

4) Being impressed at how adept Monk was at capturing our sunrises. I'm pretty sure all the truly beautiful sunrise photos this year were his.

5) Being even more impressed (appalled?) with how quickly I've become the opposite of photogenic over the last few years. It's a hard life, people, and I'm starting to realize that Youth, she is fleeting. So I figured I'd cover myself in white terry cloth and a floppy hat- if you can't beat it, join it. Or something like that.

You know it's bad when one of the dogs seems embarrassed to be seen with you.


Party's over

[edited: that damn cat from Shrek was getting on my nerves for some reason, so he had to go. Besides, I am sad, but my eyes aren't so big and full of yearning. No, in all their bloodshot, wrinkly glory they are more reflective of the massive wave of fatigue that hit when the alarm went off this morning.]

Sad to say goodbye to the beach, sad to come back to work, sad credit card balance (okay, that one's more ridiculous than anything), sad birthday wish from a distant friend, sad to hear of the death of the Crocodile Hunter (but what a way to go for that guy), sad that the pictures took wayyy too long to upload this morning, sad that I look terrible in all of them, sad that I'm older, sad that I had to put on regular clothing and makeup this morning after going nearly 6 days without.

(Hmmm... I think I've just figured out why I look terrible in the pictures.)

The worst thing about a vacation is when it ends. The worst thing about someone else's vacation is when they bore you with all the pictures. Stay tuned, suckers.