Friday, June 24, 2016

A Most Unwelcome Immigrant

We are all God's creatures, that much cannot be disputed. But some of us were made on a a day when God was in a good mood, possibly a Friday, while others were obviously made on a Monday at the start of a grim work week when He was not yet up to speed despite his preceding rest the day before. (I hope this is not the case with my orthopedic surgeon since my upcoming hip surgery is scheduled for first thing on a Monday morning.) 

Anyway, the browntail moth caterpillar is surely a Monday creation. It's bad through and through, and this year in Maine things are even worse than usual with double the population of the little buggers, something about last winter being relatively mild. (A clear example of how there's no such thing as a free lunch.) 

What makes them suck so much are their invisible-to-the-naked-eye poisonous hairs that cause a blistery, itchy skin rash on sensitive individuals. This is a result of either direct contact with the caterpillar or from contact with their airborne hairs, which are dislodged from the living or dead caterpillars or from cast-off skins when the caterpillar molts. Put plainly, the damn hairs are everywhere there are trees, and if you've ever been to Maine you know we have plenty of those.

Most people develop a localized rash that can last for a few hours up to several days, but on some sensitive individuals the rash can be severe and last for several weeks or longer, as the barbed hairs become embedded in the skin. Respiratory distress from inhaling the hairs has been reported and can be serious, especially affecting people with asthma. These days an annoying cough can be heard throughout the state.

Which reminds me, we coughed up $250 early this spring to spray for the moths on our property. Almost all of our neighbors did the same, so we are living in a somewhat safe zone on our street. Alas, many things cause me to leave our street, for example going to buy food or see the dentist or dine out or go to a movie or to the doctor or to visit family or to pick up the dry cleaning -- you know, living my life. Being a sensitive type I currently itch from head to toe all the time and have for weeks, except when I'm in the shower or sleeping.

Not a native, the invasive browntail moth arrived in the United States in the 1880s in a shipment of roses from Europe. They then spread through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Nova Scotia before the population collapsed, and are now only found in North America on the coast of Maine. They obviously have never heard Maine's state motto, The Way Life Should Be, 'cause this sure ain't it.

A Brexit Exit

Why can't we have one of these? (Benjamin Netanyahu, Angela Merkel, David Cameron)

Brexit, shmexit -- all I know is that David Cameron is resigning his position as Prime Minister and I'm bummed about it. Besides being so handsome, intelligent and articulate, he's always great fun to watch on C-Span when they broadcast the British Parliament having a rowdy time of it, which is just about always. Now I will likely never see David anymore after next October and I will miss him sorely. My list of "World Leaders I Admire" has been cut by a third, and neither one remaining is American. But of course you knew that already.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Who's That Smell?

If Dogs Were People
It's taken decades but I finally know what's wrong with my life: I have not yet figured out my fragrance statement. According to a newspaper article on the subject, this is key to knowing who you are and letting other people know who you are too. No wonder nobody pays any attention to me and my one and only child does not answer my texts -- I never use perfume or cologne. I always buy unscented deodorant, laundry detergent and shampoo. In fact, my goal has always been to have no smell whatsoever. (Unless you are in a bakery, smells are bad.)

Bottom line: I have no fragrance statement. Put another way, I lack a fragrance statement. Thus, I am lacking. Wearing a fragrance can fix that, since according to this particular article, it gives you a "quiet confidence boost." It goes on to say that "there are fragrances available for people who want to own the room." That's never been a goal of mine, but it would be nice for people to acknowledge that I'm actually in the room. I wonder if they make one of those.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Art of the Deal

Always stressful, but grown-ups don't cry until they get home.
While I understand that my head is a blank canvas for the person who went to beauty school and got certified and now creates in hair for a living, I find that unacceptable. Thus, for much of my adult life I have cut my own hair. This practice has had varying results, soliciting a range of reactions from "Ooh, cute haircut!" to "Jeezus, what the heck happened to you?"

For me, having feral hair is far less painful than enduring the small talk with the stylist, the Naziesque brutality of the shampoo girl, and the final indignations of hair spray application and painstaking blow-drying of the mass of protein filaments growing from follicles in the dermis of my scalp into something it will never, ever look like again, just for the sake of "art."

But then I found At Last Salon. (Aptly named, to be sure.) My stylist, Denise, was a dream come true. She actually did what I asked at the outset and my hair ended up looking fabulous. She spoke very little, and when she did her observations were intelligent, meaningful and interesting. We didn't chit-chat, we conversed. Since I was having my color done too and would be there for awhile, and it being lunchtime, I was offered food! An appetizing array of salads from a nearby health restaurant was proffered, much like those rolling dessert trays in fancy restaurants; I chose the yogurt with fruit and nuts and bottled sparkling water.

Now I'm hooked. I already made my next hair appointment, and even one for a pedicure, something I haven't done in at least fifteen years since seeing a report on 60 Minutes about a woman who contracted a staph infection from a pedicure and eventually had to have her leg amputated at the knee. I shared this story with Denise and she swore up and down that I would be fine, taking me on a tour of the facilities and showing me how they sterilize everything between customers. Her final promise won me over: "If you do have your leg amputated because of a pedicure you got here, I promise I will come to your house for the rest of your life and cut your hair." Now that's what I call a deal.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Hope and Change

I am looking out at my pansies on the side deck. I have pots and pots of them in lavender and yellow and deep purple and blood red. Colors aside, what they all have in common is everything: I certainly couldn't pick one out of a police lineup should such a thing be necessary, under what circumstances one cannot even imagine but you get my point. People, however, are all different in hundreds of ways, maybe thousands, which makes comparing ourselves to others dumb, or at least fruitless.

Nevertheless, there I was last evening trolling the Internet for evidence on just how horrible or maybe really easy my upcoming hip surgery will be. I hit pay dirt on a medical website that asked patients to rate their experiences; each of perhaps a hundred respondents had the exact surgery I will be having. I settled in and started reading. About 45 minutes later my husband walked in the room and asked why I was crying.

One patient described having no pain at all following surgery, she simply felt great! Two days later she was walking on her own, no cane or anything, and she's 80! The next wrote about how his new hip failed after a couple of weeks and he needed a second surgery and he's still a mess and now it's months later and he simply doesn't know what he'll do. A third said it was the best experience of her life and she wished she had done it sooner. Another reported excruciating pain and his operated leg is now shorter than the other. This man got an infection, that lady went to a second surgeon for hip revision. Then another one......

Which one am I?, I wondered. Then I realized that I am me and the only me, and what happens to me hasn't happened yet so of course I won't know in advance since it's not written down anywhere. Pisses me off, but I guess I'll just have to let things play out and hope for the best. That's the hardest part, since as we all know thanks to Obama's last campaign, hope is a pointless exercise and change is a sure, but not always good, thing.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Truth About Aging

It's difficult to understand or even accurately imagine what being old feels like until you get there yourself, since the fantasies fed to us through TV commercials and the Botoxed, tucked, lifted and implanted Hollywood elite gloss over the harsh realities. Having turned 70 fifteen days ago but who's counting, I am happy to tell you the truth about a few things based on my own experience and that of my peers.

1. You Can Run But You Can't Hide: Yes, many oldsters can still run. You see occasional news articles about them following marathons, those 96-year-old ladies or 88-year-old men who defy comprehension out there on their skinny stick legs, still going strong. Good for them! But I'd hate to see them that night, or the next day, or the day after that and the day after that. Our bodies don't lie even though other parts of us do, and I'm here to tell you that when arthritis comes a-callin' somewhere around your 60th birthday, then moves in around 65 and starts redecorating, things start to go downhill from there and I don't mean on the ski slopes.

2. Not Tonight I Have a Headache: Or a backache or heartburn or a hernia or hip surgery or knee surgery or gum surgery or my tendonitis is acting up not to mention my bursitis, so let's not have sex right now, check back with me next week. Or don't. I am not naming names but based on my independent research I can report that many older women would way prefer to binge-watch "House of Cards" than get naked in the same room with their husband, or even your husband.

3. The Good Old Days Really Were Better: Everyone knows that. So even though the caption under the photo says, "Goldie Hawn, 70,  rocks a bikini on her St. Tropez vacation last week," if you don't have cataracts you can clearly see that she does not, whereas the old Goldie, meaning the young Goldie, did.

The new old Goldie.
The old new Goldie.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

F*** Facebook, Again and Forever

Wow, am I late to this party! This morning, for no reason I will identify, I concluded that my Facebook account -- actually I have two -- was adding to my unhappiness rather than expanding my life in any positive way. Once I was sure about this I deactivated both accounts. I have taken that bold step before but always returned, feeling sure I was missing out on something. But today I  researched the subject and found, to my amazement, literally dozens of articles about how spending time on  Facebook exacerbates, and in some instances even causes, unhappiness, depression and even suicide. And not just in impressionable teens and young adults but older people as well. Who knew?

I certainly don't need to go into the reasons here; just Google it and find out for yourself in articles written by psychologists, psychiatrists and other experts in the mental health field. They're out there for the picking. As for my decision, I simply got tired of reading about how much fun everyone else is having, making my own limited existence seem bleak by comparison. Even though I know that people often fake it to make their lives enviable, still there were enough nuggets of truth infiltrating my "newsfeed" to increase my feelings of inadequacy.

Last week I visited a friend confined to a mental facility who is currently enduring a really bad phase in her life. No details, but let's just say things suck for her right now and will likely continue to suck for a very long time, barring a miracle. She no longer posts anything on Facebook.  I left feeling deeply sorry for her plight and much better about my own. I'm not proud, but it's a fact: We compare and contrast our lives with others automatically. So all you folks who are out there having a ball and living the good life, go right ahead. I just choose not to know about it anymore.