Thursday, July 7, 2011

Keep a Cool Head

Depending on who you ask, you may or may not learn that I am prone to overreaction.  To some, I am deserving of the epithet of "laid back."  I believe this is largely due to the fact that I am a bit reserved in general.  Even shy if the mood strikes me.  It is true that I do not not obsess over things like germs, fashion, dust, hairstyles, decorating, etc. 

This is not to say that I do not care about anything.  Grades are important.  Being able to pay bills is right up there as well.  I also really care about Dansko shoes.  OK, so you don't really need a list of my likes, dislikes and don't cares, right?

I have been able to maintain the appearance of nonchalance for such a long time probably because I do not have children.  As long as my primary safety responsibility is for me and me alone, I think I have it pretty much under control.  I know now not to eat dirt.  I know that the water in the puddle is not for drinking.  I know that sharp pointy objects can hurt me.  Babies do not know this and children are in the process of learning these things.  This makes me a bit nervous to be around babies and kids at times, but I am pretty good at keeping these fears hidden from others.

Now that I have a dog, it has become a bit more difficult to keep the appearance of sanity at all times.

My dog is lovely.  She is usually very sweet and loving and despite her bouts of hyperactivity and Yoda/Cujo/Grover-like vocalizations, I think she is fantastic.

I do not really know the right way to phrase this, but Lena is also a bit "mouthy."  That is, she likes to pick things up in her mouth and carry them around.  Occasionally she will eat the object, but often she just likes to act like she is eating it.

This is fine for most things - socks, tissues, sticks, mulch, pinecones, etc.  Unfortunately, I discovered the extreme downside to this habit recently.

As I was preparing for work one morning (at my parents' house), I noticed that Lena was doing her usual routine when she has something foreign in her mouth where she rolls it around on her tongue and spits it out on occasion.  I heaved a sigh and went to see what the objet du jour would be, and to my horror and dismay, it turned out to be a straight pin.  If you are unsure of what a straight pin is, it is the kind of pin used by tailors and seamstresses the world over - a long metal pin with a small plastic ball head at one end.

After retrieving the pin from the floor, I examined it.  The pin was not bent, but the plastic end was indented as if with teeth.  My mother was not home to consult in the matter, but I set the pin aside to ask about later.

When I finally was able to show my mom the evidence, she was as shocked as I.  I honestly am not sure where Lena picked it up, but I did not find any more, so I was hopeful that this was the last of them.

Move ahead to last weekend.  I believe I have told you how I have tapped the domestic part of my skill set to embroider a cross-stitch sampler for my friend's soon-to-arrive baby girl.  Yes?  Good.  In order to complete said sampler before this baby's due date in two weeks, I have been working furiously in my free time and I am happy to say I am nearly done.

In order to keep this pace, I was forced to bring my stitching supplies to my parents' house.

If you have any knowledge of embroidery, you know that it requires a needle to pull the thread through the fabric to be embroidered.  It bears some resemblance to a straight pin in that it is small, sharp and metal.  It is usually a little bit thicker than a pin, and instead of a plastic ball at the end, there is an opening, or "eye" through which thread is, well... threaded.

With this in mind, picture this scene.  I was sitting in an armchair in my parents' basement.  I have a blanket on my lap, and Lena is on top of said blanket, napping.  I am working on my sampler.  My mom is in bed already.  My father is upstairs working on his computer.  All is peaceful.

Got it?  OK then.  Next, picture me finishing a section and preparing to place my needle on the table while I regroup.  Suddenly, something upsets my balance and the needle slips from my grasp and falls towards my lap.  Lena does not sense this and continues to slumber. 

At this point my brain flashes into alert readiness.  I carefully examine the area where I think it should be, but I see nothing.  My next thought is to get Lena out of there ASAP, so I gingerly pick her up and escort her out of the basement and shut the door to keep all canine investigators at bay.

Then the insanity starts.  Actually, no.  I think I was pretty calm at first.  I checked the expected places - the chair, the floor, the blanket.  Nothing.  Of couse it didn't really help that the carpeting in the basement is the color of dead grass, about 20 years old and not always thoroughly clean.  When my initial search turned up nothing, I had the momentary brilliant idea that I could perhaps use a magnet to help find what my eyes and fingers could not. 

A magnet.  Great.  Now where would I find one of those?  Maybe greater minds than mine would have thought of a better idea, but my first thought was the refrigerator.  I quickly proceeded up to the kitchen and selected what appeared to be a good specimen:  an orange square magnet with a black and white photo of a small child with the caption:  "Like most politicians, my pants are full of crap."  A former gift of mine to my mother.  Perfect.

With an episode of NCIS playing in the background, I laid on the floor and systematically swept the magnet across the ground.  Result?  Nothing.

At this point, I was starting to get worried.  And sweaty.  Our basement is usually a bastion of cool in the heat, but not that night. 

Anyway.  As I believed that I had exhausted the floor as a potential location for my needle, my attention turned to the chair.  It is a nice chair.  Comfy, etc.  My parents have owned it for many years, and I believe it came to us during the "Wisconsin Years."  The seat cushion is easily removed, but as no needle was immediately visible, I turned my eyes to the nether regions of the furniture.

I soon discovered that at the edge of the seat base there are deep indentations that can be accessed only by forcing one's hand deep into the dark reaches.  My preliminary expeditions gave evidence that there were indeed "objects" to be found in the depths, but I was not 100% sure my needle was among them.

What I needed now was something to prop open the crevasse to allow me to search with a flashlight.  But what to use?  After many failed attempts with a remote control and dust buster (useless piece of junk) I discovered that the dogs' Gumby rubber chew toy was perfectly designed for the task.  Armed with this setup, I retrieved about 42 cents in change, a safety pin and two pieces of ancient tortilla chip.  No needle.

By this time, I was really getting frustrated and even more sweaty.  How would I ever be able to let the dogs safely roam the basement ever again?  Would my parents disown me for negligent stupidity?  What would my veterinarian brother and his veterinarian girlfriend say? 

In one last effort to search the floor, I lay prostrate on the ground while all these overdramatic hypothetical questions ran through my head.  Finally, with my hands full of dog hair and dust (and goodness knows what else), I sat up and forlornly gazed at the magnet I had left sitting on the couch. 

GASP!!  I swear, I nearly fainted when I saw what was stuck to the backside of my little magic finder tool.  It was the needle.  I know you're thinking that I need to have my vision checked out right about now because I honestly did NOT see it there before.  So I have no idea when or where it picked up the needle during my search, but the important thing to know is that I FOUND IT. 

I triumphantly opened the basement door and Lena came rushing down to join me.  I apologized profusely and promised never to be such a klutz again.  I contemplated laying down a tarp around the chair while I sewed, but I nixed that idea quickly because I sensed that my mother would not go for it. 

So far, I have kept my promise.  Mostly.  I did drop the needle one more time a couple of days ago, but I was able to find it in two seconds because I actually saw where it went. 

The good news is that I am almost DONE with the project.  Until Baby Girl arrives, that is.  Then I will need to enter her name, birthdate and weight into the designated spaces.  But THEN I will be done.  Forever?  Quite possibly.  Or at least until the next baby comes along.  Hopefully my parents will have replaced the basement carpet with something that renders objects more visible.

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