Archive for the ‘From Stress To Humor’ Category

Just Keep Them Alive!

September 19, 2010

Our youngest child is on vacation, so it’s just me and the hubby at home now.  It doesn’t seem so long ago, when the kids were little, and I was expending lots of energy trying to keep up with them.  Here’s a story I wrote back in those noisier days… 

Seeking reprieve from a long, difficult week with the kids, I found refuge in the study and began blissfully tapping away on the computer keyboard.  It was Sunday, my husband was home, and he could have kid duty for a while.  After about thirty wondrous minutes of uninterrupted thought, an eerie feeling crept over me.  Something was wrong.  It was too quiet out there.  If I had heard screaming, I would have played deaf.  But to hear nothing… something was definitely wrong.  I ventured out of the study into the kid jungle.  I found my husband snoring on the couch in front of the TV. 

I don’t ask for much when I leave him in charge of the kids. 

Just keep them alive!  

I had to take a quick inventory.  “Matthew!” 

A muffled “What?” floated out from the bathroom.  

Good, the middle one—the wild one—is safe!  

“David!” 

“Yeah?”  The easy chair swiveled around and there was my oldest, right under my nose.  

Uh-oh, that leaves… “Stephanie!  Where is she?” 

“What’s up?” asked my husband as he started coming to. 

A clattering bang sounded from down the hallway.  

“You left her in the kitchen alone!” 

I darted in to find our two-year-old standing on a chair up against the pantry.  With a frenzied look of guilt, she shoved something back into the pantry and scurried to floor level.  She commenced screaming, her usual ploy to evoke pity after wrongdoing.  When I reached the pantry, I found an empty, overturned little glass bottle of Cracker Barrel pure maple syrup lodged in the crevice of a high shelf.  The thin, brown, sticky syrup was oozing through the wire shelving, glazing food items all the way down. 

“Oh, that’s OK,” I said.  “It could have been worse.” 

Then, as if in an out-of-body experience, I observed myself calmly fetching a dish cloth and beginning to wipe up the mess.  

Gee, I wonder if my crisis tolerance level increases in direct proportion to the number of kids I have. 

As I wiped off the graham cracker box, I recalled the day Matthew dumped a whole quart of pure maple syrup into the living room couch, saturating the cushions.  The big kicker was that the couch had just been cleaned.  

Why did we just have it cleaned?  The week before, the little rascal confiscated the honey bear from the pantry and squeezed it out all over that couch.  

Yes, it could have been worse. 

I picked up a sticky can of mushrooms, surprised that I had a can of mushrooms in there.  

Yeah, maybe I’m finally learning how to handle all this. 

My thoughts drifted to a few weeks earlier.  I handled it rather calmly the day after we got our carpets cleaned, when we found Stephanie holding an empty coffee can in the middle of the living room, surrounded by mounds of coffee grounds.            

Oh, well…I needed to vacuum anyway.  

I didn’t go nuts.  Just went for the vacuum cleaner. 

I recalled another time when our oldest was two years old.  After a rough, sleepless night with him, I made one of those brilliant, first-thing-in-the-morning decisions.  I let him crawl around the bedroom while I tried to get a few more precious moments of sleep.  I woke up in a fog, only to find him covered in bright red.  In one screaming leap, I reached him on the other side of the room.  I frantically held him up, searching for the wound.  Then I smelled lipstick.  Bright, red lipstick.  I looked down at the white carpeting, which was now filled with red drawings…all the way down the hallway.  I had my day’s work cut out for me. 

The paper wrapping on the shredded wheat in the pantry was saturated with syrup.  

Oh well, it’ll give it some flavor.  And yes, I did handle the coffee grounds incident a lot better than the lipstick day. 

I pulled out the bottom pantry shelf with gusto, reveling in the thought that perhaps I was finally getting a handle on this thing called motherhood.  

I do believe my tolerance level for crises is growing.   

I smiled and sopped up the remaining puddle of maple syrup.  

Who am I trying to kid?   

I enjoyed typing this story the first time…and was about to save it, when Stephanie walked into the study, reached up, and pressed the reset button on the computer, erasing everything. 

I went berserk.  

So much for my Increased Crisis Tolerance Level theory.

…Like I Need A Hole In My Head

September 7, 2010

I’m lying on the operating table, procedure finished.  Had a cyst removed from the side of my face.  The doctor had said it was about a centimeter in size.  He and the nurse slowly lift me to a sitting position. 

I look around.  There’s a tray filled with white and bright red gauze.  I’m wired for marketing, and my first thought is, “Man, if I was this guy’s marketing consultant, I’d suggest he have the bloody gauze disposed of before the patient gets up and looks around.  Lends itself to a neater, cleaner patient experience.” 

I’m wounded.  It was a good cut, but a wound nonetheless.  It took something from me.  My spirit is up, but my body is slow. 

The nurse or doctor—I can’t tell who’s doing what—is putting a bandage over the stitches.  It was a rather quick outpatient procedure, right there in the doctor’s office.  I could feel some tugging, but the local anesthetic shielded me from pain.  We were able to carry on a conversation the entire time.  I told the doctor about my son in his second year of medical school in Israel, who is pretty excited about finally getting to work on cadavers. 

“Oh, yes.  That’s exciting,” said the doctor. 

We talked a little more about the medical school experience…why Israel…and how it’s such a shame that generation after generation are fighting the same battle over there. 

And now I’m sitting up, thinking about the blood I’ve lost…over on that tray covered with white and red gauze. 

“So, do I need to change this bandage every day?” I ask. 

“No,” says the doctor, “you can keep it on all week, until you come in to see us again.” 

“And it can get wet in the shower?” 

“Yep.” 

“Kind of like medical duck tape?” 

He chuckles.  “I never heard that one before.” 

“Anything else I need to know, like after the anesthetic wears off?” 

“It shouldn’t hurt much.” 

Key word being “much.” 

“But you’ll probably have a black eye in the morning.” 

A black eye?!  I need that like I need a hole in my head.  Oh…I’ve already got one of those.  Let’s see…how many “hole in the head” jokes can I come up with? 

I’m tired, but I drive home.  I call the hubby. 

“How’d it go?” 

“OK, but I’m not up to cooking dinner.” 

“I’ll cook.” 

I get home, and the house is filled with the pungent aroma of dinner.  Before we partake, my daughter greets me, and notices the bandage. 

“Did you have brain surgery?” 

“Yeah, they took out part of my brain.  Actually, I had a cyst removed.” 

“Is it malignant?” 

Not too much drama, eh?  I need this like I need a… 

“The doctor said it was probably just from a blocked pore.  But they have to test it anyway.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.” 

“Oh.” 

We begin dinner. 

“Did you use jalapeños?” I ask my husband. 

“Yeah.  I got two from the garden.” 

“Did you remove the seeds?” 

“No.”  

Not to brag, but my garden-fresh jalapeños are hell in your mouth…in a good way…if you like jalapeños, that is.  But with the seeds, they’re too hot for human consumption, even for my fiery palate. 

I’ve already eaten several bites…the ensuing “Montezuma’s Revenge” is inevitable. 

I need that like I need a…you guessed it.  Already got me one of those. 

I wake up the next morning with a dull headache.  I look in the mirror.  No black eye. 

Thank you, Lord. 

The medical duck tape is holding.  The headache worsens, and I’ve got an appointment with a client. 

I need this headache like I need a…fill in the blank.  Yep, already got me one of those. 

So here I am, walking around with a hole in my head.  A one-centimeter hole.  I can’t see it, because the doctor neatly stitched it up and covered it with that fancy tape.  But I know it’s there…or isn’t there. 

Is a hole something that’s there…or isn’t there?  

I hope the tape is as good as they say it is.  I can see myself walking around with a dirty white tape flapping, revealing glimpses of stitches…bloody ones at that. 

I need that like I need a…!

Jalapeño Burn Cure?

August 30, 2010

I have a garden in Florida, and if there’s anything we can grow in Florida, it’s jalapeño peppers. 

I planted nine little jalapeño plants, thinking we might get a few good hot peppers this year.  Hooo-eee…we had a bumper crop, and it’s still “bumpering.” 

I have had my share of chopping and slicing those plump, little green demons this summer, and then forgetting to wash my hands…before wiping my nose or eye.  Yeeow!!! 

I’ve been watching my garden for days lately, and knew it was inevitable.  I had to do something with all those jalapeños.  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  So today I marched out to the garden and harvested two very large bowls of rather ripe green, red, and brown peppers.  (I don’t know why they’re so many different colors now, but it’s pretty cool.) 

I cleaned the jars, prepared the brine, boiled the water, and sliced those babies…wearing gloves from the moment I picked them.  My hands started feeling real hot—even through the gloves—so I put on double gloves.  

No matter.  My hands still burned.  They were on FIRE.  I kept slicing and pickling, and ran out of canning jars before I ran out of jalapeños.  

What am I going to do with all these jalapeños?! 

I started calling the neighbors.  I couldn’t give them away! 

“Honey,” I told my hubby, “guess what we’re having for dinner tonight?” 

I de-stemmed and cored a multitude of the hellaciously hot fireballs, shredded and mixed cream cheese, cheddar and mozzarella, and stuffed away.  My hands were on fire the entire time…even through double gloves. 

How am I going to sleep tonight, with burning hands? 

Stuffing all those peppers was quite a project.  We didn’t want to go through all the labor of grilling them, so I tried to stand them up in a baking dish. 

This isn’t going to work! 

Steve (my hubby) dug out all of our barbecue skewers.  I pierced those babies by the dozens, placed the skewers across the baking dish, and popped them in the oven.  The online recipe promised that after 45 minutes at 350 degrees, the peppers would be mellowed out. 

Not these babies!  They were hot, hot, hot, and we cried, cried, cried as we tried to eat them. 

We decided to freeze the excess stuffed peppers, in hopes it would take the bite off…for future snacks or appetizers. 

But I came upon the strangest realization.  After enduring hours of burning hands, and then suffering through a peppery hot dinner, I realized my hands were no longer on fire. 

Strange.  Could it possibly be that eating hot peppers is the cure for the pain they inflict to the skin? 

I don’t know how else to explain it.  I was in fiery pain for hours, but after eating those blazingly hot jalapeños, I have no pain in my hands at all. 

Hmmm…has anyone else experienced this possible cure?  If so, please leave a comment.  Meanwhile, I’m going out to shop for some heavy-duty gloves.

Mommy Overload

August 12, 2010

Many moons ago—when our oldest son was 11, our middle son was 8, and our daughter was 6—I committed a major Mommy blunder.  We had a full-size conversion van, and wherever we went, the kids always piled into their favorite seats.  The boys took the captain seats behind me, and my sweet little girl had the entire bench seat in the far back to herself. 

We had the usual hurried frenzy before departure. 

Get your shoes on, kids.  We need to go! 

I can’t find mine! 

Where were you last wearing them? 

I don’t know! 

Here’s some flip-flops.  Come on, we’re late! 

They’re purple.  Guys don’t wear purple flip-flops. 

No one will see you.  Just stay in the van! 

Finally we’re on the road, heading across town for my oldest son’s piano lesson.  We drop him off, and I sigh with relief.  We’re on time. 

“Make sure your seat belt is on, Sweetie!” I call to the back of the van. 

“Mom,” says my son. 

“Yeah?” 

“She’s not back there.”

I screech to a halt.  I swirl around to behold an empty back seat.  Panic sets in. 

“My little girl!!!”  I scream. 

We’re thirty minutes from home, and I left my little girl! 

Think.  Think! 

I remember the phone number of some neighbors around the corner.  I pound the numbers into my cell phone. 

Hello? 

Michelle?  I can’t believe it, but I left the house without my little girl!  Can you go check on her and call me back?  Please?! 

She senses the urgency and panic in my voice. 

I’m on my way! 

She calls back in a few minutes.  Apparently Stephanie was standing on the front lawn when the van pulled away.  She stood there and cried, until an elderly couple walked by and asked her what was wrong.  They kindly told her to just go back into the house and watch T.V., which she did. 

I wonder if they were angels. 

Our daughter is all grown up now, and none the worse for that hairy experience so long ago.  Funny how we can have such a good laugh now over something that was so terrifying back then! 

How many Mommy blunders do our kids survive?  Not many whoppers like that one, I hope.

The Crazy Things We Remember

August 5, 2010

I energetically get up and walk from the kitchen to the study.  Once there, I stop in the middle of the room.

Why am I here?  What did I come here to get, or to do?

My mind is blank.  I walk back to the kitchen, and suddenly remember the book I wanted to get from the study. 

Can anyone relate?

I recently received an email from a childhood friend.  She mentioned a “Ringo Rango” song we used to sing incessantly on the neighbor’s swing set.  I hadn’t thought about that song in over forty years.  But suddenly there it was…the tune and words flooding my mind…        

Ringo, rango, jinga-jong jango

[Whistle] Hah!

And if I die I ain’t a gonna cry

‘Cause I got me a purty woman’s love

A dollar worth of beans, a new pair of jeans

A woman to cook and wash and sing…

I’ve been trying to get that song out of my head for two days now!  I even found it on YouTube and discovered our ten-year-old minds got the words all wrong.

I don’t even remember learning the song…it was simply there…imbedded in my long-term memory.  I just learned it was a Fess Parker hit from before I was born, so I figure someone in the neighborhood must have had the record.  Back then, we didn’t have many records in our neighborhood.  So we played the ones we did have…over and over and over again…until they were permanently engraved in our minds.

Why is it that we can precisely remember things from 40 years ago or so, and can’t remember why we’re standing blank-minded in the middle of a room?

Why am I here?  What am I supposed to be doing?

I’m sure there’s a perfectly sound scientific explanation, but I hesitate to find it.  It might mean that I’ll have to put forth some effort to change…to exercise my mind.

My tendency is to violently resist change, but I eventually realize that it really is for my own good.  Whether it involves doing jigsaw puzzles or memorizing scripture, I’ve got to do something to keep this brain of mine in shape!

What works for you?  I’d love to hear your comments!

Bagging School For Grocery Checkout!

July 29, 2010

Now, wait a second.  I KNOW I bought a package of sliced cheese the other day.  Where IS it?!

Lo and behold, I finally find it at the bottom of the sack of bathroom supplies upstairs, that I haven’t put away yet.

Maybe nobody will notice, I tell myself, as I sheepishly put the wilted package in the cheese drawer of the fridge.  And I wonder, Don’t they send those grocery people to bagging school?

Do I suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for those who are acronym-impaired), or can anyone relate to wanting refrigerated items together, frozen items together, cleaning supplies separate, etc.?  I actually load the moving belt at the grocery store checkout exactly as I want it bagged, because I have little faith in the store’s policy for Bagging School.  (Of course, the belt isn’t always moving, because that requires a little coordination and thinking ahead, which isn’t always in play…if you know what I mean.)  And they STILL bag my cosmetics with the frozen shrimp!  What a world.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I love grocery cashiers.  I was once one myself!  I lacked many social graces at the tender age of 18.  My focus was speed.  At that age, all I wanted in a checkout line was to get through it fast.  Nowadays I tend to live in the moment, looking for someone to have a conversation with…a laugh, at least.  But back in my younger days as a New York “Yankee,” it was all about speed.

I remember a particularly busy day, working the old-fashioned, push-button cash register.  I was flying people through the line, whizzing groceries along the counter, pecking numbers furiously on the register, only looking up to give change and say “Hello!” and “Bye!” in one breath.

At one point in a moment of looking up, I noticed the cashiers beside me laughing and having conversations with their customers.  Their lines were only one or two customers long.  I looked down my line…ten customers, at least.

What the…?  Ah, the people in my line don’t care for pleasantries.  They just want speed.

I gladly whooshed them through.

When I first moved to the South, I still had this “speed demon” inside me.  Everything had to happen now…and fast.  Surveying the field of grocery cashiers for the one who seemed the fastest became my gambling venture of choice.  Sadly, I was very bad at it.  Every time I thought I got on a fast line, something would cause a delay…a check that needed to be verified…a price check…you name it, I was in that line.

I gradually realized it was a losing game all around.  The cashiers were in no hurry, so why should I work myself into a frenzy over their snail’s pace?  I decided to go with the flow, and started looking around me, to make jokes and conversation with neighboring customers in the line.  I found this to be a lot more enjoyable—not getting agitated—just making the most of my “gambling losses.”

I’m so “Southern” now, I don’t even try to hurry.  There’s no point, and it isn’t worth the frustration.  I’ve actually begun to empathize with the cashiers I encounter.  I know they’ve been standing on their feet for hours, putting up with all kinds of annoyances with customers.

I try to do what I can, to encourage a positive encounter with them.  I try to make eye contact, so I can ask them how they are, and talk about how busy or slow it is, or whatever else comes to mind for a pleasant conversation.  Some cashiers are good at initiating these pleasantries, but most need an encouraging word, to brighten their day.

But most of all, I try to make bagging easier for them, so it’s not a major mechanical engineering challenge!

I’ve resigned myself to saying nothing about their bagging.  I simply rearrange items as I place the bags in my cart.  (I hope the cashiers don’t find this too annoying.)

Just call me OCD.  But I really think they should be required to attend Bagging School, don’t you?

To Drive A Boat

July 22, 2010

My hubby and I have had boats for years…almost 27 years now.  And in all those years, I’ve been perfectly happy to sit in the passenger seat and let him do the driving.

I remember the first time I ventured into the driver’s seat, only within the past several years.  My brother from New York was coming down for a visit.  I wanted to show him the pristine, white-sand beaches and clear emerald waters of the northwest Florida coast.  But alas, my husband was going to be out of town.  If I wanted to take my brother out to the beautiful barrier island we have here, I’d have to move to the driver’s seat…of the boat.

My lesson-in-boat-driving-before-my-brother’s-visit took place on none other than Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest times out on the water.  And, of course, all of our children were on board for the momentous occasion.

“I can’t see!” I cried as I tried to see above the boat’s bow.

The kids snickered.  I stood on my tippy toes.

“There’s a boat!” I shouted.

“Yeah, it’s about a football field away,” commented our oldest son.

“What do I do?”

“Just keep to the right,” said my ever-patient husband.

I kept to the right as we plowed through the passing boat’s wake.

“I don’t like this!”

My kids picked up on that one right away, and started chanting in Dr. Seuss style, “I do not like this, not one bit.  I do not like it on a stick!”

It was a whirlwind of a lesson, but I got through it.  The next weekend, I took my brother and his friend out to the island.  Three-foot waves?  No problem. 

This is what we planned, and by golly, I’m going to do it.

I aimed the 22-foot cabin vessel into the choppy waters, directly into the waves, as my hubby taught me.  Once we got to the serene island, we had the time of our lives, relaxing, and taking in the glorious, sun-salty air and the crystal-white sand crunching beneath our toes.

That was several years ago.  Have I done it again?  Not a chance.  Driving the boat is simply one of those pleasures I’m perfectly happy to leave up to the hubby…while I just enjoy the ride.

Yes, it’s something I can do, but prefer not to do.

Why is that?  Maybe it’s the difference between easily driving a car on a paved road with perfect lines to follow, and the challenge of maneuvering a massive craft I can barely see over, plowing through a moving surface that has no lines.  Nope.  No dotted white line, no double-yellow lines to warn you of the no-passing zone, no shoulder line to help you stay on the “road.”  It’s a whole different ball game out on the water.

I tend to agree with my kids’ assessment of my first boat driving lesson, “I do not like this, not one bit.  I do not like it on a stick!”

Last night I asked my husband for another lesson…in a smaller boat, on the lake.  I was doing fine out in the middle of the lake, till he spotted our neighbors sitting out on their dock.

“Pull up so we can say Hi,” he said.

I pulled up, but stressed out as we neared their dock. 

“Where’s the brake?!”

Water is a totally different surface to ride upon.

Isn’t it so much like life?  We need to roll with it, riding the waves, knowing when to turn to avert danger, how to plow head-on into it at times, and how to slow down and even shift into reverse when we absolutely must.

Sometimes I do not like it, not one bit.  I do not like it on a stick!

At other times, despite my fears and reservations, it’s simply exhilarating!

They Got Me…Right On The Keister!

June 16, 2010

Today I thought I’d clear out some more underbrush in the back yard.  I was happily tromping through the wooded area, chopping away with clippers, loppers, and some really cool electric alligator jaws.  Six-inch-diameter dead tree?  No problem.

I thought the place was looking pretty good.  But every once in a while a wasp buzzed around my head, sending me running for the front yard.  Once the coast was clear, I’d go back to clipping, lopping, and sawing.

The wasps were determined to rid their territory of the large, frenzied intruder…yours truly.  They got smarter.  I wouldn’t be able to hear them if they aimed for the biggest part of me.  I was bending over, trimming a palm, when my rear end suddenly ignited with two, simultaneous needle bursts of pain.

Aaaaahhh!

I’m running and hopping around the back yard, shrieking at the top of my lungs, while slapping my buns to stop the attack.  I sure hope my neighbors weren’t home.  I ran inside, as if wasps know they’re not supposed to come into the house.  Fortunately, these two knew that rule.

I ran upstairs, and realized my heart was racing and my beet-red face was pouring sweat.  My hubby tells me that I don’t know how to pace myself.  Once I start working in the yard, all I can think about is the next bush or weed that has to go.  I don’t even think about stopping to rest.

Hmmmm…somehow I wonder if the good Lord sent those little guys to stop me…before I gave myself a heart attack.  I wonder if we’ll have “Remember when…?” sessions in paradise, where we can sit down and laugh with the Lord as He tells us about things we went through on this earth…from His perspective.

My heart’s back to normal, my face has regained its color, and my bottom is on fire.  Oh, the joys of gardening!  […she taps out on the keyboard, as she gingerly sits on a fluffy pillow.]

Palmetto Bug…Pretty Name…Ghastly Pest

May 25, 2010

We’ve lived in Florida for about 24 years now…practically natives.  We’re what they call “Damn Yankees,” the kind that won’t go home.  Actually we love Florida—the emerald gulf coast and white sand beaches; the glorious sunshine; lush, green, tropical vegetation; the laid-back lifestyle and southern hospitality—it’s home, sweet home.

But, everywhere has its down side.  California is gorgeous, but earthquakes without warning would make me a nervous wreck.  New York has tons of culture, but I’ve been there, done that, and its fast pace is too frenzied for the southern gal I’ve now become.  (I used to honk my horn at everyone when I first moved here.  Now I can’t even find the horn.)  The Midwest is too dang cold for me in the winter…chilling me to the very bone.  And Arizona is too dry for this water lover.

Florida has hurricanes, tornadoes, humidity…and Palmetto bugs.  What a pretty name for a bug!  But don’t be fooled.  It’s nothing but an overgrown, fat, two-to-three-inch cockroach.

I was horrified to find these little, well-armored monsters running across our living room carpet after first moving here.  I called the bug man and had him spray everywhere.

“Don’t worry, Ma’am,” he assured me.  “They don’t breed in the house.  They just come in from the outside.  Best to seal all the openings in your house, to keep ‘em out.”

Don’t worry???

I immediately went to the hardware store and scoured the shelves for something to seal all the openings around my pipes, wiring, and anything else that poked a hole through my drywall.  I had no idea how many kinds of calking were on the market.  My eye caught the words “foam calking.”

Aaaaah.  Just what I need.

My husband came home from work that day to find large “poofs” of hardened foam calking around every opening and crevice in our house.

“So, how was your day?” he asked, with a slight worry in his voice.  Perhaps he feared that if he made the wrong move, or said the wrong thing, he’d get a mouthful of foam calking.

“Very productive.  Our house is now sealed…from Palmetto bugs.”

He didn’t say another word.  Smart man.

But I’ll be darned if those little monsters didn’t know how to flatten their ugly, reddish brown bodies and squeeze their way into our home anyway.  I absolutely freaked one morning while making the bed.  As I lifted my pillow to fluff it a little, there…under my pillow…was a dead Palmetto bug.

What was it doing in our bed while it was alive?!  How long was it crawling around?  Holy-shamoley, what if my mouth was open???

California’s earthquakes were beginning to look pretty good.

I’m not one for drama, but I had to get on the phone and call all my native Florida friends for a solution.  Combat Roach Bait was the resounding reply.

I went to the store.  They had lots of different kinds of Combat.  I snatched up ten boxes with the scariest looking label.  I brought them home and planted the traps everywhere…under beds and sinks, in cabinets, behind TVs…anywhere those creepy fiends could invade.

Now, if we encounter a Palmetto bug, it’s usually dead…and on its back.  Why do they always die on their backs, legs curled upward?

I can hear them now.

Time to die!  Better roll over on my back!

But such wasn’t the case a few nights ago.  I was working at my desk when I spotted an especially large Palmetto bug scurrying over the top of my monitor.  I screamed and lurched back, alerting the hubby.  Trouble is, the little monster flew directly at my face…yes, flew!  And my mouth was still open…screaming.  Not too smart.

Fortunately, it missed my mouth as I went into a frenzied spasm and fell off my chair to the floor.  It landed on the chair as my hubby arrived on the scene.

“Kill it!” I shrieked.  “Kill it!”

Here’s the difference between guys and gals.  I scream with my mouth open, while a large, kamikaze flying cockroach is zeroing in on my gaping orifice.

My hubby calmly asks, “Where’s a tissue?”

A tissue?!  I would need a big wad of paper towels!

He snatches a tissue from his pocket and scoops up the assailant—squashing it—with only the thin fibers of tissue between his skin and the monster.

What a man!

I’m safe once more…and still loving Florida.

Road Warriors

May 19, 2010

Cartoon from MacGregor collection.

I live in a rural area just north of a small city in northwest Florida, nestled along the white-sand beaches of The Emerald Coast.  Our area has two locations—in town, and on the beach.  In order to go from town to the beach (or vice versa), there’s a bridge to cross. 

I have to chuckle when folks complain about having to go from one location to the other. 

“You mean it’s across the bridge?” 

“Yes.” 

“Oh, no.  I don’t go across the bridge.” 

I guess we get used to our little routines and well-traveled routes.  But sometimes I think it’s good to venture beyond our normal day-to-day boundaries. 

Case in point, a friend of mine in a local volunteer organization we’re both involved with recently was invited to speak about our mentoring program, down in a southeast Florida booming metropolis.  She wanted me to come along for moral support, but only one flight would be paid for…hers.  So I figured it would cost the south Florida folks the same if we both just drove down…all 500 miles down. 

Five hundred miles?  Piece of cake.  That’s only ten hours, and I’m usually good for a 12-hour day of driving.  With an early start, we could be there in the evening, with time to enjoy the hotel. 

In a perfect world…right?  We were cruising down the interstate, more than half-way to our destination, when traffic came to a halting stop.  We turned the radio on and scanned for some news. 

“…an accident on the interstate, up around 200, so you may want to avoid that.  Extended delays are expected in both northbound and southbound lanes…” 

Time for a silent prayer…and a good audiobook.  We inched along for an hour and a half.  With traffic, gas, and meal stops, we finally arrived at the hotel after 12 or 13 hours. 

A good friend sure helps the time fly, however.  Wasn’t bad at all. 

The speaking engagements went all right, and in three days it was time to return home.  We took another route, and got to see Lake Okeechobee…and the lovebugs.  They came in droves, splattering against the windshield to the sound of a driving rain.  It was a mass slaughter. 

“I wonder how much of a dent we’re making in their population.” 

We got a close-up look at a pair of lovebugs coupling on the windshield. 

“Get a room!  At the rate they’re going at it, I don’t think we’re making any difference in their population or demise at all.” 

I never heard of lovebugs till I moved to Florida back in the 80’s.  As with all things little understood, they’ve been great fodder for urban legends.  The story goes that scientists imported the bugs to control mosquitoes, but they had no natural enemies here, and soon got out of control.

Scientists?  Experiment gone wrong?  Trying to mess with Mother Nature again, eh?  

It seems like these kinds of stories are so readily believed, probably because of our primordial need to have an explanation for everything.  And if it involves scientists messing with Mother Nature, it’s all the more believable.

It turns out these pesky little flies with black wings and red thoraxes were discovered in Louisiana back in the 1920’s.  Since then, they’ve moved eastward, invading us with their shamelessly open, in-flight promiscuity twice a year, around May and September. 

Surprisingly, lovebugs play a beneficial role in helping plants grow.  Their larvae feed on plant material, converting it into organic matter.  

But that’s no comfort to all the road warrior motorists out there.  If left on your car for more than a day or so, the fatty tissue from the dead, splattered bodies of these little guys will eat away at your car’s finish like acid.  They’ll also clog up your radiator and make your car overheat. 

As soon as we got far enough north where the lovebugs hadn’t yet invaded, we pulled into a car wash.  Five dollars to wash the car, and five dollars to wash off the bugs…plus a tip, which the bug washer guy definitely earned.  At the beginning of the wash, he sprayed the front surfaces of the car with soap, let it soak, then scrubbed all the dead bodies with a brush.  After that, he got the power washer and blasted the windshield clean.  We could actually see through it again! 

The University of Florida EDIS web site (Electronic Data Information Source) says that motorists can ease the chore of removing lovebugs by keeping their cars waxed.  Some folks even spread a thin film of baby oil over all the front surfaces of their cars when the bugs are really thick. 

The site also offers a solution for motorists, to lessen the problems lovebugs cause motorists.  Drive at night, since lovebugs only fly (while “doing it”) during daylight hours, above 68 degrees.  

Gee, thanks for the tip.  Sounds like a scientific solution.  Now if we can only get businesses to operate during the nighttime hours in May and September in Florida. 

Other than the traffic pile-up and the lovebugs, our road-warrior trip went without a hitch.  Nothing a good audiobook and a few bags of sunflower seeds couldn’t handle.  

I can hear my dentist now.  

Have you been chewing on rocks? 

Peace, and love at high speed, from the lovebugs.