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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After The Baby Rabbits Disappeared

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Excerpt from my book, More Than Everything

A year goes by.  A year of life in the fast lane with lots of money, and we finally move out of the rent house in town.  Shane’s paranoia has maxed out.  He is now convinced we are being watched and is sure the cops are listening to our calls, so he finds and leases some property out in the country.  Ten secluded acres in Wise County.  There is an old run-down trailer house, a big barn, a chicken coop, and a huge garden plot.  There is no phone line and Shane likes it that way.  Shane decides that it is secluded enough that we can live there and he can cook his speed there too every few months when we need to make more money.  He and his buddies buy a big, prefabricated barn and put it out there next to the trailer.  We store all of our furniture and boxed belongings in the barn for the time being and live in the old, furnished trailer with the ratty gold shag carpet, a gold crushed-velvet sofa and a heavy, Mexican-style wood coffee table in the living room.  In the kitchen there is a yellow Formica table and two matching chairs that is the spitting image of the one my parents had when I was growing up.  The one that mama would sit at, smoking cigarettes and talking on the phone while she swatted me away like a fly.  One bare light bulb hangs over the center of the table.  One bedroom is empty and in the other one, we throw a double-size mattress on the floor and use a cardboard box for a nightstand.  We stack other cardboard boxes on their sides, so the openings face outward, forming a series of cubby holes, and use them as a dresser for our clothes.

It is great being out in the country, far away from the junkies.  Our dog, a black lab named Dino loves running wild.  A friend brings his dog out there too, also a black lab, and Dino is in heaven.  Those dogs play, run, swim, hunt and have the time of their lives.  For several months it is bliss; just me, Shane and the dogs living quietly, taking long walks in the woods and going fishing.  Shane and I have never spent so much quality time together.  It is nice.  We are relaxed out here away from the city.  Shane actually talks to me and hardly ever yells.  He tells me things I’ve never known about him and I fall in love all over again.  We sit in lawn chairs under the stars and listen to the crickets and the hoot of an owl.  We sleep soundly and make love loudly and shower together every day.  Shane finds an old tiller in the barn and after a day of tinkering on it, has it running like a top.  He tills up the huge half acre garden plot for days and the earth is rich and fragrant; I sit in the big middle of the loose dirt grabbing handfuls and letting it sift through my fingers like all-purpose flour.  We plant every kind of vegetable you can think of and revel at each tiny, green shoot that sprouts from the ground.  We buy rolls of chicken wire and patch up the pens and fill them with chickens, turkeys and geese.  We spend the spring mending fence, planting flowers, and sprucing up the place.

One day I am the only one home and I’m mowing the front lawn barefooted.  I decide to go inside and put on some shoes before I try to mow the backyard where the grass is six inches high.  I turn off the mower, run inside, grab a pair of socks out of the sock cubbyhole, and my tennis shoes from the closet and sit on the edge of the bed to put them on.  As I’m tying the last lace, a large plastic thermos suddenly tumbles down from a shelf in the closet and lands at my feet.  I jump up and look into the closet to see why the thermos would have fallen and I’m eye to eye with a huge chicken snake, as big around as a can of Coke, coiled and stacked on the shelf like a garden hose. Continue reading

That Time Charles Bronson Offered To Rub Suntan Lotion On My Back

village inn

When I was in high school I worked as a waitress for ninety cents an hour plus tips. On top of going to school, I worked seven days a week at the Village Inn Pancake House. Monday through Friday it was just me and the cook from 3p – 10p. On the weekends, I worked the breakfast shift with several other waitresses (one being my older sister), serving eggs over easy and buttermilk pancakes to GI’s from the nearby Air Force Base. On a good Saturday I’d bring home $60 in tips. For a sixteen year old in 1976, that wasn’t too shabby.

On the occasional Sunday I’d work a double shift. After working from 6a – 2p, I’d pick up the 2p – 6p shift and literally work all day. One such Sunday, driving home from a double shift sent me through the windshield of a Volkswagon, but that’s a story for another day.

In the summertime, there was no school, and I didn’t have to be at work until 3p during the week so I could sleep in and still have a few hours of down time. I had recently gotten my driver’s license and had my own car – an orange 1973 Chevy Vega – and had been promising my younger sister that I’d take her and some friends to the lake. They wanted to swim and I wanted to lay out and get some sun, so we packed up the Vega and headed out one morning.

There was only one other car parked in the beach area when we arrived at around nine. There hadn’t been anyone at the guard gate to take our three dollars and I found that odd. The other car was a dark green Chevy Corvette. I’m pretty sure it was a ’72 because I noticed the two rectangular exhaust pipes and split bumper. Daddy taught me a few things about cars, including how to tell what make and model I’m looking at, fueling a lifelong admiration for design and details.

I zipped the Vega into a spot a decent distance from the Vette because there was a big burly dude standing next to the car with his arms crossed. I glanced around and saw one head bobbing in the water a short distance from the beach. I figured they were together and didn’t think too much about it. Continue reading