Ticks, Laundry, and Broken Hearts

Originally published in my secret, anonymous blog on July 18, 2014.

Part I: Ticks

This morning, as I’ve been trying to do every day for the past week, I woke up by 7:00 am. I’ve actually been getting up between 6:00 and 6:30 am, but I stayed up until 1:00 am last night because my husband came home late from playing a music gig. Also, earlier that evening, someone had posted a close-up picture of a humongous sunflower on Facebook, which triggered my trypophobia (fear of clusters of holes). So I had a hard time falling asleep, feeling my skin crawling all over and regretting that I had eaten okra for dinner. (Visualize the inside of one. I refuse to post a picture.)

But I woke up early enough, fed the dogs, made French press coffee, and I was at my desk by 8:00 am, feeling relatively alert and ready to start my work day, considering I hadn’t gotten the best sleep the night before. I was going to be productive, I was going to end my work day at a reasonable hour, and I was going to enjoy my evening and take some time to call my mother who is having heart surgery in a few days.

Then I saw a tick. On my computer desk. It was one of those little, pre-blood-inflated brown dog ticks. Homeless, not yet attached to a host. Meaning that it probably hatched inside the house, along with thousands of other ticks. (At least, as far as I could gather, as I quickly tried to become an expert on ticks via Google searches.)

We had already seen one tick a few days ago. While we don’t let the dogs spend the night on the human bed, we let them come up and snuggle while we’re reading or watching a movie. Well, a few days ago, we saw a tick crawling across one of the dog’s foreheads. I pinched it with my fingers, as it had not yet attached, and dropped into the sink, per my husband’s instructions, so that I could take a look at it.

He further instructed me to slice it in half with my fingernail and then pick it up with tissue and flush it down the toilet. Disgusted and panicked, I ran several gallons of water to drown it down into the sink. He insisted that was a mistake, but I felt confident it was now on its way to China. The next morning, I saw it crawling along the side of the sink. Ok fine, he was right. This time, I properly disposed of it.

So back to the tick on my computer this morning. Having learned my lesson, I repeated the crush and flush approach. But I wasn’t satisfied. Because what was a tick doing on my desk? And was this the beginning of a massive infestation?

I decided not to take any chances. Already behind on my work day, not having eaten any breakfast, and still in my pajamas, at about 10:00 am, I decided I’d vacuum every nook and cranny in the house, including underneath the baseboards, because Google said that’s where ticks like to hide. I also took all four dog beds apart (the two dogs each have two beds because they are spoiled) and started on a laundry rampage.

Well, because we also had not made a grocery store run in a while, and we were totally out of toilet paper and laundry detergent and a few other household sundries, my husband went to the grocery store while I continued purging the house of blood-sucking arachnids. Only having enough laundry detergent for a small load (and I had a big load), I added a bit of baking soda and some very expensive lemon essential oil from a local herb shop.

By the time my husband returned from the grocery store, my cleansing campaign had moved to the back of the house. As I was vacuuming behind the bed (as it turned out, there was dog hair all over the house, so the vacuuming needed to be done anyway), I saw another tick. It was crawling up the wall, on my side of the bed, not far from my pillow.

I called my husband over for positive identification. Yes, that was a tick. He retrieved some tissue paper for the crush and flush attack, but after he crushed it, the tick somehow escaped. It was nowhere to be seen. He speculated the tick had either dropped to the floor and crawled underneath the baseboard, or it had landed on his shirt. I wasn’t convinced of either. I was suspicious that it had landed into a bag of freshly laundered clothing that had been sitting right below where it had been crawling on the wall.

The bag of clothing has been sitting in the corner of the bedroom for over a week now, because I’ve been too busy to fold them and put them away. I threatened to wash all my clothes all over again! My husband suggested I was being paranoid, but I disagreed. I took all the clothes, along with all the other clothes that were also clean and had been relocated temporarily to the bed while I vacuumed, and I washed them again. For good measure, I took all our sheets and blankets (also washed a few days ago) and decided they needed to be washed again, too.

Part II: Laundry & Broken Hearts

The laundry area in the garage was a mess. I had piles of clothes, sheets, blankets, towels, and dog bedding. As I reached across here and there to get all the correct items into washing machine for the first load, I heard glass shatter. Now all that very expensive lemon oil was on the garage floor, with bits of glass swimming in it. So now I had that to clean, too.

I nearly had a meltdown. All the muscles in my body tensed up, and I got the worse charley horse cramp ever. The last time I got a cramp like that, I had unbearable sciatic back pain for a whole day. I lay on the living room floor, nearly in tears, while the sweet female dog lay by my side, trying to comfort me, and the goofy male dog decided to pounce on my face and bite my nose (because this is the game he plays with the female dog, and since I was laying on the floor, I must be a dog, too).

After a few deep breaths, I managed to recover before the meltdown ensued. Now back to cleaning. Except sweeping glass out of oil is messy, and then you have to rinse the brush and the dustpan. At least the concrete on the garage floor is now shiny and conditioned. I returned to the bedroom, obsessively staring at the wall, waiting for the tick to re-appear.

No, I really just needed to stop. Staring at the wall would have resulted in a complete downward spiral of anxiety. I needed to re-start the day. I really needed a shower. So I cleaned up and put on my favorite t-shirt. I was certain my husband, out of sympathy for all the hard work I put in that morning, said that he would make lunch. I even requested a salad with our greens and fruit from the farm stand, along with the cheese and salami he’d just purchased at the grocery store.

With no more fragile items near the washing machine and both the washer and dryer going, I returned to my computer desk to work. By now it was some time after 1:00 pm. I managed to get a couple of hours of work done, dealing with the failing start-up company I work with, and dealing with lazy activists and money-grubbing corporations through the nonprofit I work with, until I realized I was quite hungry. Lunch had not yet been made.

I also realized I’d put some water on for tea, and because our teapot had broken a few ago (during another frantic cleaning spree), I had no way of knowing when the water was boiling.

I ran into the kitchen, hoping I hadn’t burnt the pot, and shortly afterward, my husband appeared saying he, too, was hungry, and was I thinking of making lunch? By then, I’m pretty sure a bomb could have headed my way, and I would have been numb. I thought, I must be losing my mind. I reminded him he’d offered to make lunch and that I had requested a salad. Well, whatever it was, the miscommunication was trivial, in the grand scheme of life, and he went on to make lunch while I tried to wrap up a work project.

Clean, fed, and with chamomile tea in hand, I returned to my desk to work. No sooner had I re-gained some semblance of focus when my husband exclaimed he found another tick. This one was on the dog – at least it was where I expected it should be. So I had to stop my work once more to help with the tick removal. The female dog is squirrely and requires two people, one for holding her in place, the other for plucking off the tick. And then we found a second tick. We searched and searched, but that seemed to be it.

I guess combing the dogs thoroughly earlier during my vacuuming frenzy didn’t do the trick. Because ticks like to hide behind the ears.

By then, I was ready to get all my clothes out of the dryer and start the transfer of our bedding into the dryer. As I was about to load the dryer I saw something tiny and insect-like on the dryer door. Sure enough, that was a tick. Well, at least I was right in suspecting the tick from the bedroom wall had fallen into the bag of my clean clothing. So re-washing them all was not a futile attempt.

I called my husband over for positive identification. Yes, that had to be the same tick. He picked up the tick…and dropped it on the ground. I think that tick was Houdini reincarnated. But I’m pretty sure it was really dead this time. Fortunately, to be absolutely sure, we found it and disposed of it.

So now, it’s 5:00 PM, and I’ve only done about two hours worth of work. I think I will do a breathing exercise my friend recommended, call it a day, and perhaps drink half a bottle of wine. Because isn’t red wine supposed to be good for the heart?

Which reminds me, I need to call my mother tonight. She is having a pacemaker installed in her heart next week. This make me realize that I need to figure out how to calm down and be more at peace with ticks and laundry because I want my heart to beat naturally until I die of old age.

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