Balancing Act

person wearing black low top sneakers standing on railing
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

You know those twenty minutes of euphoria that happen twice a year if you’re lucky? That brief, beautiful moment where everything is done and you feel like you’re winning at life?

The refrigerator is full, the dishwasher is empty. You’ve gone to the dentist, the doctor, gotten the oil changed in your car, the registration is up-to-date, your taxes are paid, there are no presents to buy, no parties to attend, nothing that needs doing because you did the work, paid attention, got things done, and have everything under control?

I experienced this joy last Sunday, when for a small window of time, everything was done. I danced around the house like a superhero, patted myself on the back, drank a glass of wine and took a bubble bath in celebration.

But the universe has a way of keeping us in check. Showing us the other side of the coin.

Reminding us nothing lasts forever.

Monday brought me a runny nose and a cough, Wednesday’s gift was back spasms that had me like: you didn’t really need to stand up today, did you? and then came Saturday. Saturday morning with its sunshine and promises. Still coughing, still feeling like crud, but excited by warmer temperatures and NO RAIN, I made myself a cup of coffee and went out on my back patio to enjoy.

Things were looking up.

Within minutes I got stung by a venomous caterpillar and spent the next twelve hours in excruciating pain. Yep, the universe reminded me who’s boss. It decided that five days of fighting a cold, slogging to work when I felt like staying in bed, enduring rainy day traffic and cranky co-workers wasn’t enough. The universe, in all it’s wisdom, decided yesterday was the day I needed to be introduced to this fuzzy fellow.

Puss Caterpillar with log

Meet the Southern Flannel Moth, a/k/a the Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern Stinging Caterpillar, or Puss Moth Caterpillar. They are a bi-annual (spring and fall) phenomenon found from Virginia to Florida to Texas. They love shade trees (especially oaks, pecans, elm, and citrus) and if you’re allergic, their sting can send you to the ER faster than you can say fuzzy wuzzy. These guys are fuzzy, but ferocious.

Above is my picture of the actual culprit. Here’s a better photo I found online:

Gardening-Asp-caterpillar

On my patio, the lime tree my daughter got me for mother’s day looked like it needed rotating, so I bent down, hugged the container and turned it. When I did, I suspect this creepy crawler moved from the plant to the front of my sweatshirt. Or it fell out of a tree. I didn’t see it.

When my arm brushed against it’s back there was an instant stinging, burning pain. I looked down and saw him there, stuck to my shirt. My husband used a stiff leaf to fling it away. My arm was on fire … like a thousand fire ant bites or a dozen wasp stings.

The stung area didn’t look like much, just some redness, but it felt like hell. We washed my arm with soap and water. Poured bleach on it, scrubbed it with mechanic’s de-greaser, and made a baking soda paste.

Nothing helped.

 

 

Except ice.

I set up camp on the couch, and over the next few hours, switched out an ice pack every thirty minutes while I watched the first four episodes of The Romanoffs on Prime Video to take my mind off my misery. It kinda worked. But not really. But wow! What a show.

Romanoffs

Hubby scoured the internet looking for anything that might help. Between episodes, we tried different remedies. Scotch tape to remove the poisonous hairs from my skin, vanilla extract, aloe vera. Tylenol did nothing for the pain. We tried anti-itch cream, pain relief rub, even magnesium oil. Nothing put a dent in my discomfort.

I’m not a baby. I survived 25 hours of labor and gave birth without medication. I have a high pain tolerance. But after six or eight hours of bone crushing, burning, throbbing agony, I questioned whether it would ever stop. I questioned my sanity. I questioned the existence of God.

Most of what we read online said the pain would subside within an hour or so. But then we read an article that said, in some cases, the pain lasts up to twelve hours. And that’s when I knew. The universe was going to make me suffer even longer.

The pain continued. And, after the skies grew dark, my mind grew numb, and my body grew exhausted, it was time for bed. The sting occurred at 10:00 am. It was now 9:00 pm. Still in misery, I brushed my teeth, put on my jammies, and crawled into bed.

And magically, within minutes, I felt an easing. A loosening. A promise that this pain, just like the euphoria of feeling on top of the world, and in control of everything, would not last forever.

As I drifted off to sleep, it was with the knowledge that this too had passed. I survived a week that started off bad, got worse, and then ended with unbelievable pain.

Life is a balancing act.

I lost a beautiful Saturday. Gained a healthy respect for caterpillars, and am kinda afraid to go outside right now. But I’ll keep getting up every day, going to work, doing all the things, and one of these days, I will be on top again, if only for a few brief moments.

Everything has an opposite. One cannot exist without the other. Good. Bad. Love. Hate. Euphoria. Pain. Control. Chaos.

And nothing lasts forever.

Not the common cold, not bad weeks, or rainy months … not even autumn, when the Puss Caterpillar invades Texas.

Have a great week.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

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When Your Waterbed Explodes

Note: This is an excerpt from my book, More Than Everything – the true story of my life on the run from the FBI. This scene takes place in Chapter 2. My husband (at the time) and I have just moved into an apartment in Fort Worth after living in Cleburne, Texas for a couple of years.

This is me (age 22) Cleburne, Texas
This is me (age 22) Cleburne, Texas

Shane’s cousin, Robert, helps us move from Cleburne and then Shane has to take him back home around midnight when we’re finally finished.  Shane and Robert set up the king-size waterbed when we first get to the apartment and it has been filling up for a couple of hours.  Before they leave Shane says he’s turned off the water, but instead of turning it off he has mistakenly turned it on full blast.  Continue reading

Let’s go to Wig’s Wag-a-Bag for an ICEE!

My three sisters and I often spent summers in Oklahoma with aunts, uncles and lots of cousins. The excitement of summertime filled us with so much light and joy we thought we might burst.

The days were barefoot lazy, and except for meals, blissfully structure-less.

We’d get up early and put on yesterday’s bathing suits – sometimes still damp from being washed out in the sink the night before. Hours were spent running through the water sprinkler, laughter filling the air. Later we’d ride bikes, play games, lay under a shade tree making whistles out of blades of grass.

Once a week Aunt Cookie would load us all into the car and we’d go to the laundry mat down the street. In our bathing suits, we found ways to occupy ourselves while the clothes tumbled in the machines.

After the clothes were dry and folded, we’d go across the street to Wig’s Wag-a-Bag for tiny brown bags of penny candy and an ICEE!

Barefoot, bathing suits, crazy hair and an ICEE. Those were the days.

Trucker’s Knot

Writing 101 – Assignment.

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

Write this story in the first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

 

It was a couple a weeks ago – bout supper time. I was out on the porch here. The sweat kept runnin in my eyes, and I had ‘ta use the bottom of my shirt ‘ta mop it up. I was practicin my Trucker’s Knot with a piece of rope Gramps give me last time we was visitin him at the old folks home. Gramps always has a present for ya but not many words. I already have my merit badge for tyin knots but I want to get good at the Trucker’s Knot cause my daddy’s a trucker and next time he’s home I’m gonna supprise him!

After about the millionth time tryin the Trucker’s Knot is when the cop car showed up. Usually when one a them comes ‘round, the lights are flashin and the sirens are a wailin, but not this time. It pulled up nice and quiet and didn’t make no ruckus.

Two men got out and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door. While they waited for her to answer, they turned an saw me on my porch. We’ve lived across the street from the Pauley’s since before I was borned. The Deputy waved but Mr. Grimley didn’t. Mama calls Mr. Grimley a slumlord – whatever that is. All I know is nobody likes him and when things get broke he takes his sweet time a fixin ‘em. Continue reading

Just Breathe

 

Writing 101 Assignment. Go to a local café, park, or public place and report on what you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind. Don’t use any adverbs.

 

She blasts past me on the sidewalk leading to the yoga studio – in her perfectly purple Lululemon ensemble, opens the door and rushes in – the glass panel slamming in my face. Anger and irritation threaten to bubble in my veins as I reach for the handle, but I take a deep breath and remind myself why I’m here.

Whoosh. A blanket of suffocating heat washes over me, stealing my calming breath. ‘Ugh…it’s sooooo hot in here.’ The tired, whiney little girl in me has been looking forward to a cool, easy, yin class. I quickly check the schedule and realize I’ve just entered a 90 minute hot power-yoga session. ‘I’ll die in here. I should probably just leave.’

“So good to see you today,” the instructor chirps, flashing a bright smile my way. I call her toothy smile and raise her a double-eyebrow lift. Continue reading