Matt’s Birthday: I’d Like a Do-Over


Those of you have been following the blog probably have picked up that Matt and I (Ryan) are two very different people. I am extroverted, Matt is introverted. I am the harbinger of chaos, Matt is calm and unyielding. Ryan wanted a Disney costume party for his birthday, Matt wanted a home-cooked meal.

I feel that all of this is important to keep in mind, as today was Matt’s birthday and remember, all he wanted was a simple home-cooked meal. With that in mind, here we go.

When Matt first told me he wanted a home-cooked meal, I panicked. My hours at my job have me getting home around eight every evening. The logistics involved for me to pull off this miracle would have to be something profound. Beware of what you wish for. So I started off my day deciding that I would have to make him the home-cooked meal on the weekend, but would do a “lay away” chore to make it seem less crappy (the man wants a simple home-cooked meal for his birthday you’d have to be a real ass to not give him something so simple).

Presents I left on Matt’s pillow while he was in the shower.

I decided that I would take a quick shower and take the dogs out for a walk. This is usually Matt’s morning chore, and if I did it, not only would it be done, but he could spend some time in the hot shower. And I would feel less guilt (because there’s that).

Since I had already decided to make a change in the routine, I also decided to take the dogs on a walk in the reverse. Instead of finishing in one spot, that is where we started. We were not even thirty feet into this new direction, before Shadow was pulling me to the side of the house. He grabbed something and was chewing it. I grabbed the other side of it and tried to pry it out of his mouth, and that’s when I knew. I knew things no one should ever know. This is the sort of knowing that requires years of therapy. What I knew, was that I was pulling on a large, furless, most likely poisoned, dead rat. It’s leg and tail were in clear view.

The Nora

I dry heaved as I pulled. Then I pulled with both hands. I had to save this dog! (There have been times in the past that I really wasn’t sure if I could hack the less savory aspects of parenting a child, but I feel that no longer is a concern.) Wait. Both hands? That means I let go of Nora, our “runner” (Catahoula leopard dog, believed to have been bred by crossing greyhound, bloodhounds, mastiffs, and dogs native to America- so basically she’s fast as hell and will chase after any sent- greeeeaaat). I looked up just in time to see Nora run behind the line of townhouses in our neighborhood. (Luckily Darwin, our corgi, stayed with me).

I had to make a split-second decision. Do I let Shadow win, to get Nora, or do I let Nora go in order to save Shadow from potential poisoning? I stopped fighting with Shadow. Years on the suicide hotline taught me that overdoses provide hours of intervention time in most cases. I yelled for Nora. She came close enough for me to stomp on her leash and pick it up.

I started running. I figured that maybe if I pulled on the leashes tight enough, that Shadow would get frustrated at not being able to swallow and drop the rotting corpse. I could hear the bones crunching behind me. Then Darwin had to poop. We had to stop.

The acrid smell of death was everywhere. On my hands. On the leashes. On my coat. Permanently affixed to the inner surfaces of my nose. Luckily/unluckily, I had not had breakfast or any coffee, as I started dry heaving all around the foot path. Part of me really wish I could have actually vomited. I just wanted some relief.

When I got home, I burst into the door, to see the birthday boy just unwittingly coming down the stairs. “We have to go the vet! Now!

In all honesty, I have no idea why Matt married me. I mean, here it is, his birthday and the first words I say to him are dripping in chaos, slathered in panic, and dipped in dread. I won’t be surprised if next year for his birthday, if he just asks me not to leave my room. Just spending the day keeping my chaos to myself.

Off to the vet we raced. The smell permeated inside my new car. Yup. The new car I didn’t want to buy, paid more than I wanted to, and just got comfortable with. Yeah. That new car.

The smell was so bad, that when we got to the vet, the receptionist whisked us away as quickly as she could to our own mini room. When the vet came in, she could barely tolerate it. Matt and I struggled to tolerate the dry mouth we were getting from mouth-breathing, but as I say to my clients regularly, “sometimes you just have to pick the least uncomfortable chair in the uncomfortable room.”

Shame. It’s palatable.

The vet induced vomiting, and we got to use the self-grooming station. Shadow looked ashamed. To be honest, good. Those are natural consequences my friend. No lecture needed. You know what you did, and here we all are smelling of death and dog shampoo, dripping wet with dog hair stuck to us.

In all the chaos, I was able to cancel all of my clients for the day, as I had no idea what was going to happen or how long anything would take. Probably one of my better calls of the day, as I was exhausted. This also now provided me the opportunity to make Matt his home-cooked meal. As I sat there blow drying my husky mix, fur wafting in the air, I decided that I would not only make him a home-cooked meal, but a pie as well. Matt likes him some pie AND he likes those fancy dessert flavors- you know, the ones that use herbs. I was going to make him a blueberry goat cheese basil pie! That certainly won’t make up for his first birthday surprise of the day, but it couldn’t hurt.

After paying the over $250 vet bill (which is coming out of Shadow’s allowance), I took Matt home so he could go to work. I changed my clothes and headed for the dry cleaner and then the grocery store. For those of you who may be curious, it takes two weeks to get the smell of death out of a suede coat. Just factor that in the next time you decide to play tug of war with a rotting rat.

I meandered around the grocery store like a zombie. I needed to get things for the pie and the home-cooked meal. For the home-cooked meal, I decided to make chicken and dumplings (this comes back later). As I was considering my pie crust options, I was less than thrilled. I don’t have the counter space to make crust from scratch (learned the hard way- I am sure by now you are sensing a theme), I hate the premade crusts, and they had no pie crust dough. They did have puff pastry dough, which I remembered were two words I heard more than once while watching The Great British Bake-Off on Netflix. I had no idea what it was for, but I was familiar enough with the phrase and knew it was on a baking competition, so what really could go wrong (again, a theme).

I get back home and start making this ever-so-important home-cooked meal (as now it has taken on an apology dinner to boot). I cur up the carrots and the celery, throw in the onions, spices, chicken stock. Now for the chicken. I opened up the plastic-Styrofoam packaging and instantly got nauseas. The raw chicken looked just like the rat. I had visual flashbacks and started dry heaving.

No! You suck it up! You suck it up right now and make this damn chicken and dumping meal!

I plopped the chicken into the crock pot. It touched me! The freaking raw, dead, animal touched me! I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands for now the eighth time today. More dry heaving. I did some of my deep breathing exercises. Did some mindfulness. Wrangled some composure to begin cooking the pie.

The whole pie thing went pretty well. At least comparatively. I struggled to make the pie crust using the puff pastry, but anything worth having is worth fighting for (I hope you read that Matt. See me here, fighting to salvage the birthday I ruined). I also may have made too much filling. But who can tell when your pie crap- I mean crust- looks the way it does?

I popped that bad boy in the oven and then collapsed on the couch to read about the relaxing topic of adoption (Yes, that was sarcasm. And yes, I see that I do these things to myself.).

The results of my pie are as follows:

The results are in! Ryan, you are not star baker.

I managed to completely shock my sister-in-law, who was a pastry chef. I have never seen her appalled before. And now I have.

I will say that my chicken and dumplings, you know, the ONLY thing Matt actually asked for, turned out pretty great!

It all turns out in the end.

Let’s review:

For Ryan’s birthday, Matt put together amazing Jello shots, snacks, picked up an amazing cake, handmade his own costume, and ensured so many people came. No problems to be had.

For Matt’s birthday, Ryan traumatizes himself with a dead rat, almost kills the dog, incurs a vet bill, creates some sort of pie mutant, and does actually pull off a decent home-cooked meal.

Happy Birthday Matt…

I’d like a do-over.

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