Given that yesterday was a somber anniversary, I had originally planned to write something serious and reflective for today. But then by evening, I was actually a bit overwhelmed by all the coverage and thought perhaps y’all might be ready for some smiles too. I mentioned on Facebook the other day that the more stressed I am, the more shallow I get online and it’s true. Faced with reminders of September 11, 2001, I wanted to do was peruse shoes online and watch TV sitcoms.
So today I’m going to tell you a story that is lighthearted and perfectly illustrates why I should never be trusted with anything that could hurt myself or others.
First off, a week or so ago, I posted this on my personal Facebook page:
Early this morning: Grace, “What do you think would happen if you set styrofoam on fire?” Me, “I don’t know, why don’t we try it some time?” Pete, “Uh, we’ll all die from toxic fumes.” Me, “Never mind.”
One of my friends commented:
Where’s your sense of adventure? Just have Pete do it outside, and the toxic fumes will dissipate to the neighbors :-)
I’d be all for it, but would probably only accidentally poison myself. I guess I should blog about the time I foolishly gave myself poison ivy through unconventional means…
Naturally, I’ve been encouraged to share this tale of folly with you all, so that you can go about your days, secure in the knowledge that you could not possibly be as stupid as I am on occasion.
Back when we lived in Old Jenworld, I was constantly waging battle against poison ivy. There was one spot in particular where it always cropped up — the area between our driveway and our neighbors’ driveway 20 feet away. Between the two was a hedge and plenty of other shrubs and trees. And poison ivy. Lots of it.
Actually, the poison ivy problem was over on our neighbors’ side. They were lackluster gardeners at best and once let their grass get so tall that other neighbors called the city department that enforces these sorts of things. I’m not talking about grass that was a foot tall. Oh no. This stuff was savannah height — entire herds of lions and wildebeests could have hidden in our neighbors’ front yard. This slatternly approach to yardwork also included dealing with poison ivy when it popped up in their yard. Which it did, regularly.
This family had a daughter the same age as one of my girls, so one day when I walked over to collect said daughter from a playdate, I was standing in the neighbors’ driveway making chitchat with them when I looked over and noticed poison ivy in the area between their driveway and mine. It was also right next to the garden gate the girls had been running back and forth through. I pointed out the poison ivy to the neighbors, then took my child home and gave her a Silkwood shower, on the likely chance that she had run through the poison ivy while playing.
Weeks later, I was once again retrieving a child from a playdate and noticed that not only was the poison ivy not gone, but it had spread further. I once again mentioned it to our neighbors. They never dealt with it. In fact, over the years — years, I tell you — the patch got larger and larger. It got to the point that I wouldn’t allow my girls to play in the yard next door because the stuff was everywhere.
Because of the apparent neighborly efforts to encourage poison ivy to grow wherever it wanted, the plant felt free to attempt to colonize my yard too. When I saw the familiar leaves-of-three, I dealt with it immediately. I’d get a plastic grocery bag and put it over my hand, glove-like. I’d pluck the offending plant with my plastic-encased hand and then use my other hand to pull the bag closed, knot it off, and then toss it in the trash can. And then I’d go inside and scrub my hands with the same attention to detail as Lady MacBeth, only my line was, “Out, damned plant oil!”
In 2005, at some point early in the summer, I somehow allowed a single poison ivy plant to escape my killing clutches. It spread and spread willy-nilly until I was faced with an actual patch of the stuff. For some reason, I felt that pulling it by hand would be too much work, so I set about looking for a non-toxic, non-chemical way to deal with it. And somewhere online I read that pouring boiling water on poison ivy would kill it dead. I now know that it does, but there’s a caveat:
Never, ever pour boiling water on poison ivy.
Let me repeat that for you in a very loud, stern voice, so as to make my point:
NEVER, EVER POUR BOILING WATER ON POISON IVY.
I went out there with a gallon or two of boiling water and I poured it onto that patch of poison ivy. Almost immediately, steam rose from that spot and engulfed me. Steamed that was infused with poison ivy oils.
Several days later — on the day we were leaving for vacation, in fact — I woke up and discovered a rash on my chest. Within a couple of hours, it had spread to my arms and lower abdomen. By that night, I had a rash from my neck to my wrists to my ankles. By the next morning, it was blood red.
And we were in the car heading north toward Boston.
Now let me stop here and ask you a question: When something goes wrong with, say, your kids, your dog, or your significant other, do you haul them off to the doctor/vet that day? But when something goes wrong with your very own personal body, do you wait days, weeks, or even months to get it checked out?
Yeah, I thought so.
[Side note: Speaking of waiting far too long to deal with medical issues, I did have the MRI on my knee and it confirmed that I have a cartilage tear. I’m seeing an orthopedic surgeon today to find out what’s next. And by what’s next, I guess I mean what kind of surgery and when and how much TLC I’m going to need from Dr. Pete.]
Here’s the thing about poison ivy: It spreads via oil, so until you wash that stuff off your skin, you risk sharing the love with other people. Once you break out, however, you can roll around in a three-way or whatever and no one else is going to get that rash. (They might get another kind of rash, but that’s a different story…)
So I did what I do best and that’s ignore my health. I should have gone to an urgent care place and gotten whatever drugs and ointments prescribed to me, but instead I coated myself with calamine lotion and went about my vacation. Surprisingly, I didn’t itch too much.
I just checked our photos from that trip: There are none of me. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Either I never once handed Pete the camera or the ones that did get taken showed too much of my horror movie rash.
Luckily, I got plenty of photos like this one:
My rash lingered for several days, then faded away. Since then, I’ve been especially wary about poison ivy (hand picking only, thank you very much) and haven’t gotten it again. We moved two years ago and our new neighbors are much less slatternly in their approach to yard care, so I haven’t had so much as a single leaf of the dreaded leaves-of-three in our new yard.
I can’t possibly be the only person who’s done something so incredibly foolish, am I? What have the rest of you done that will show me I’m not alone?