Real Q-tips are better than fake Q-tips.

This feels like one of those life lessons that I have to learn every five years or so, but this time around I’m learning a new lesson, too: it is better to throw away the cheap swabs than suffer through using the whole box of them.

I think I might be finally learning this life lesson because I’m getting rid of so much other stuff. It’s ridiculous to walk away from a $400 gas grill but struggle to discard a product that cost less than $2, which I bought in order to save $1. And yet, if it weren’t for the fact that I think these cotton swabs are making Zelda’s life unhappy, I probably would still use the box. Penance for a bad buying decision? Frugality as self-torture? Why choose to suffer? I don’t know, but I know I usually would.

Now, however, I am resolved to throw away the box as soon as I finish writing this post. And then I’m going to go to the store and buy Q-tips, real Q-tips, with plenty of cotton, so that when I’m cleaning my ears, it feels like I’m cleaning them with a cotton ball instead of poking them with a stick. And, more to the point, when I’m cleaning Zelda’s ears, which is how the vast majority of my Q-tips get used, she will feel the same.

Why so many Q-tips for the dog, you ask? Because she loves to swim. Swimming equals water in the ears. Water in the ears equals breeding ground for bacteria. Bacteria equal ear infection. When Bartleby has an ear infection he makes it immediately clear as strongly as he can — he gets grouchy, snappy, hides in corners, resists being touched. If he were a kid, he’d whine loudly and take to his bed the moment his temperature hit 99 degrees. Z, on the other hand, is a stoic. I haven’t realized that she’s had ear infections until she’s done damage to her ears, so I try to be hyper-vigilant about getting water out of them after she’s gone swimming. Of course, in 10 days, she will be swimming a lot less, so maybe I don’t need to worry about this.

But that thought is too big to contemplate. Today, I’m going to focus on Q-tips and shelf liner and triple A batteries instead. A run to the post office to return some products I shouldn’t have bought. A check of the battery in Serenity to make sure it’s charging properly. Writing this evening with my friend J. And if the thought keeps creeping into my head that this is the second-to-last Thursday I will ever spend in the house that I thought I would live in forever… well, that’s okay, too. Because two weeks from today I will be in Pennsylvania, I hope, eating blueberries and counting my blessings.