Little Bastards: Deja Vu…Again

 

Heat and humidity have drawn out the gazillions of itchy, bitey, stingy and just irritating little bastards that make Southern summers challenging.

It’s early June and I’ve already run afoul of a red wasp.  Ugly thing.  A refugee from a 1950s Japanese horror film with a sting as fiery as Godzilla’s breath.  Popped me right on top of the hand and sent me inside for a poultice of chewing tobacco and baking soda.

Chewing tobacco and baking soda?  The old-time remedy draws out the poison…maybe, I don’t know.  As I create this masterpiece of literary art my hand is still swollen, red and itchy…and painful…did I mention painful?  Did I mention I hate the taste of chewing tobacco?

Why Noah?  Did you have to bring the little bastards on board two by two?  Couldn’t you have replaced them all with a couple of unicorns?

Challenging it is.  Wasps, yellow jackets, Russian hornets…are Russian hornets payback for winning the Cold War?  “Big bastards they are,” said Yoda in my head…or was it Dr. Suess.

A memory flashes from a decade ago.  On an early morning run and despite the low light, I saw the B52 sized insect invading my airspace.  I zigged. It did too.  I zagged.  The hornet followed my movements like a GPS led, nuclear-tipped cruise missile and exploded just as hotly.

My upper lip and its stinger intersected at a point some two miles from my home.  By the time I returned to my recliner and my too familiar poultice, I could see my upper lip poking out beyond my nose and felt the fire from a thousand dragons burning hotter than a Game of Thrones episode.  The pain was exquisite…and long lasting.

Some of the little bastards of summer don’t sting.  They are just irritating.  Gnats…Gah…zillions of Gah…nats.  I just returned from my early morning walk with the remains of thousands of gnats strained through my teeth, rubbing gnats out of my eyes and sneezing from gnats snorted up my nose.  Challenging…yes, and I’m ignoring mosquitoes and deer flies.  They are irritating too.

Nothing matches my war with yellow jackets.  The original little bastards.  They lie in wait in high grass, under the pile of matted leaves I should have raked up last fall.  They buzz in looking for moisture…and anything they might sting…usually me.

They remind me of the villainous Borg from Star Trek fame.  Yellow jackets…and the Borg, are of one mind, a hive mentality, and seem to have my DNA on file.  If one little bastard gets angry, they all become angry…all angry at me.  A buzzing, stinging cloud of pain and agony with one intent, to cover me in baking soda and chewing tobacco and put me to sleep with Benadryl.   Resistance is futile…just run.

I remember stepping into a yellow jacket’s nest soon after we moved to our little piece of heaven.  Satan’s spawn rose from the ground, I slapped and ran.  They go for your legs trying to take you down before moving in for the kill.  I decided slapping was futile and ran to the house howling at the top of my lungs.  My wife locked the door in my face.

“Don’t bring them in here!”  she shouted.  Thank you, my darling.  I guess love doesn’t conquer all when it comes to stinging insects.  More chewing tobacco and baking soda.  Later, calamine lotion and Benadryl.  “Little bastards you are,” said Yoda.

I turned into a pacifist and conservationist in my old age…except for my personal war with yellow jackets, wasps and hornets.  With most animals, crawley things, and insects around my little piece of heaven, I tend to “live and let live.”  Not yellow jackets.   “Die you little bastards, die!”  Huh, that wasn’t Yoda.

I’m girding myself for battle despite the knowledge Mother Nature’s minions will ultimately win in the end.  Mother Nature always wins.  Nevertheless… spray cans of wasp and hornet killer are locked and loaded.  Despite the futility of resistance, I will go down fighting…

Note to self: Check your hoard of chewing tobacco.  May the force be with you.

For more of Don Miller’s wanderings, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LOo22BkM94

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Trippin’ Over a Root Revisited

 

I love days like today.  Spring ain’t quite here but it is close enough to see.  Jonquils and have popped up and shown their yellow heads, turkeys are active as are the red tail hawks, a pair of nuthatches are building their nest in the same box for the third year in a row.  A beautiful day.  Just the kind of day to fall flat on your ass.   I saw four Canadian geese and was reminded of a similar day two years ago when I fell flat on my ass and my front side too.  Enjoy the rewritten post from this time two years ago.

At exactly one point eight-three miles into my workout, according to my GPS app, I kicked a freakin’ root.  I wasn’t paying attention to the rock and root strewed path…I was paying attention to a half-dozen Canadian geese who were stopping by from…Canada?  When they landed, I watched and tripped over the root banging my arthritic toe.  The geese didn’t stay long, instead, they took off to another part of the lake.  It might have been the loud cursing erupting from my mouth.

As I hobbled on and gazed heavenward contemplating my pain and the distance my expletives might have traveled, I kicked another root.  Same foot, same big toe…the big toe I’m trying put off surgery on until winter comes around again and I am worthless…ah, more worthless.

The second kick was even more solid than the first.  Mortar Forker!  This time I bent over, hands on knees, in agony and stood still, waiting for the pain exploding from my toe to ebb along with the tears the pain it had brought.  I’m still waiting…sorta.  The neurons responsible for pain have abated from the torrent exiting through the top of my head to a trickle of electrical charges radiating outward and surrounding my forefoot.  Four hours later, the pain is still there letting me know…it is still there!

Did I mention, it’s cold.  Late March, less than a week from Easter.  A moist, northeastern wind makes it seem colder…not tongue stuck to a flagpole cold but it’s not helping the throbbing in my toe or the way I’m reacting to it.  No, I am not going to put an ice pack on it.  I just shivered.

Earlier in the story, just after I had kicked the second root, I finally straightened up and again looked heavenward.  I found myself peering, jaw slack and agape, at a hornet’s nest the size of a medium watermelon less than three feet from my face.  You might guess where this is going and it ain’t a good trip.

Despite knowing it was too cold for hornets, I backed up quickly…tripping over the initial root I had banged my toe on.  This time I went down hard on my butt, jarring my teeth, and decided to stay there.   As I sat, I contemplated…how badly was I injured and “Help I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up!” briefly ran through my mind.

Mainly, I contemplated, how had the nest survived the winter and how had I not seen it?  What?  I’ve walked this trail a hundred times since last spring…why am I just now seeing this thing?  It’s hugeeeeeee!

I pondered on the pain the little suckers could have wreaked…and the providence that kept them from causing pain to me or the hundreds of kids attending the camp at Lookup Lodge.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the name of the camp instead of looking down at my feet…then that hadn’t worked out well when I watched the geese.  My thoughts didn’t help the pain in my foot but did take me down a pig trail memory.

On a very cool, late fall day during my early teaching career, I was startled when an entire class exited their room as if the devil himself were after them.  Kids yelling and screaming, slapping at themselves and each other.  Seems a “Little Johnny” had found a hornet’s nest and brought it to school for show and tell.  Probably should have waited until the hornets died.  As the room heated up so did the little bastards.  Ouch.  Some students were treated for stings, others for bruises caused by over exuberant classmates.  I laughed and laughed and laughed…until my toe reminded me of why I was sitting on my butt having the memory.  Fother Muck!

Image from http://goalorientedrunner.blogspot.com/2017/02/blog-post.html

For more of Musings from a Mad Southerner https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

“SOUTH WACKO-LAKI”

 

An early morning thunderstorm has jarred me out of a sound sleep.  Sleeping soundly is unusual for me lately.  My sleep seems pain-filled, both from arthritis making its presence know if I lay in one position too long and from the dreams tormenting my mind.  Don’t feel too much concern and it’s not the point of this post.  Compared to many of my friends and family my age, physically I’m doing quite well.

The dreams…the dreams are due to my fragmented mind, torn asunder by depression and anxiety.  Some chemical in my brain has gone wacko, taking the rest of me with it.  I now reside in the state of “South Wacko-Laki” just across the river from “A-Kook-Among-Us.”

Could it have been triggered by diet; the sausage biscuits I should ‘never’ eat, the bee sting or a thousand other triggers that may or may not be the reason?  God how I hate asking, “Why?”  Maybe it’s just getting old.  Maybe there is no reason.  It is what it is…I hate ‘it is what it is’ too.

Anxiety is a new adversary while the depression an old enemy.  I have too much going on, too many things I need to be doing.  Plenty to be anxious about…but I’m retired, I have plenty of time to go forth and be productive…NOT.

My retirement has taught me one life lesson.  I am not a very good steward of my own time.  My lack of self-discipline explains why I’m failing in my early morning attempts at writing while simultaneously NOT really watching a rerun of Bobby Flay, staring at my computer screen wondering where my last thought came from or went to, all the while worrying about the lightning, thunder, and rain washing away my plans for the day.  What plans?

A checklist…that’s what I need.  Little square boxes to check as I complete small tasks.  I wonder how many trees would have to give their lives to create my checklist.  Okay, a few easy things to begin with like “Just get out of bed!”  Sometimes, even that is not easy.  “Walk three miles.”  Why has my walking become so much harder?  Not physically…MENTALLY!

A harder one, “Stay away from social media!”  Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook along with WordPress fits nicely with my fragmented mind…and probably contributes…not probably.  I can’t totally stay away because I use social platforms to advertise my books to people who are NOT buying them.  I must come up with a better plan.  Maybe write something people WANT to buy?  Purchase an advertising service? Quit entirely?

I have four stories I should be working on.  Should be an indication of how fragmented my dried up gourd of a head is.  If I shake my gourd does it rattle with dried seeds?  The seeds are not germinating, I can’t finish the stories.  I’ve reached a point in each…a barrier of some sort.  I can imagine the end but can’t quite find the rain-shrouded path to take me there.

Maybe a hiatus is in order.  Something to recharge my over-used but underutilized brain.  Go hide in a dark cave for a while…no, I’m already in a cave it seems, and the light from the computer screen doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Buffett’s lyrics echo in my fragmented head, “but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.”  Could it be as simple?  Well, wishin’ sure ain’t gettin’ it done!  Fishing…maybe.  Probably should wait until the storms pass or maybe just embrace being at rock bottom in the state of “South Wacko-Laki.”

For a saner Don Miller, one should probably go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If interested in “Mommy Porn” with a twist, you might also consider Lena Christenson at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image is from “Rule the Wasteland”  http://rulethewasteland.com/?page_id=28

 

FOR LAURA…AND ME

 

I’ve tried to write this tribute a thousand times.  In my head, as I put it on paper, the words never come as easily as I would like and never seem to do her justice.  You asked simply, “Tell me about my mother.  I never got to know her.”  Laura, it is a huge task because I never got to know her as well as I would have wished either.  I empathize because I lost my mother at an early age and wish I had time to know my own mother better.  I do know where your question comes from.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, specifically the week of September 10th and I feel led to write about the woman who prevented one suicide and possibly a second, one at the cost of her own life.  I need to write it for both you and for me…maybe more for me.  I remember that terrible morning…and still feel the sense of loss accompanying it.  I can only imagine the loss you feel and the hardships that go with that feeling.

Laura, I have suffered from clinical depression for the past forty years…this year.  In the spring of 1977, I had no idea what was causing my anxiety and despair.  I feared I was just going “crazy.”  Had your mother not interceded in my “craziness” I may never have been diagnosed, or worse, may have followed through with a terrifying, soul-searching debate involving myself and a pistol.  It was she who consoled me, quieted my tears and suggested I go to my doctor.  Suggested is not a strong enough word but the only word I have.  She gave me a fighting chance, one I have not squandered…yet.

I remember her deep laugh and somewhat gravelly voice due in part from too many Virginia Slims.  It was a different time.  A pixie in stature and butterfly in personality, she never-the-less cast a huge shadow over all those she touched…and not because of the awards she had won but because of the person she was.  As a second-year teacher, I was terrified of her until she disarmed my fear with her laugh…and her care for an immature, twenty-four-year-old child.  Your mother was never too busy to give council.  She was a mentor, a friend, and a mother figure.

I remember so many conversations, many involving you.  I remember those first few years of my career, dutifully reporting to the storage room behind the lab that contained her “very cluttered” desk.  Asking questions, trying to understand how electrons could be both a particle and a wave, or how I could have such a good life and feel so depressed.  She, teaching me right before I had to teach a class that could have cared less about quantum mechanics or why all objects fall at the same rate regardless of mass.  Somehow making it all understandable to a history major masquerading as a physical science teacher.  Until the afternoon after I had fallen apart.  The afternoon after my conversation with my pistol.  She cried with me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain what I was feeling…despair, hopelessness, and desperation, not realizing she was living on the other side of suicide until a morning when it was too late.

She was proud of you, that you can be assured.  More importantly, she would be proud of you now.  I remember an impish or elfin little freshman from so long ago…so much the image of her mother I now realize.  Your mother was so very delighted and content to have you close by.  Lugging a huge musical instrument from class to class, from our conversations I realize, as a grown woman, you have been lugging around a huge burden all your life.  In some ways, the same burden your mother carried around, never letting on.

Your mother was a loving person and person who was loved…by students, her teaching peers, and her administrators.  She was respectful to her classes and her classes were respectful of her…not to say she didn’t believe in tough love in some, necessary situations.  She looked for the best in people and I believe she was rarely disappointed.  In many cases, you get exactly what you look for, something we should all remember.  The most important thing you need to remember about your mother is that she loved you and she was proud of you.  I believe she is proud of you now and the sacrifices you have had to make.  You have been a loving and dutiful daughter.  She would also be sad because of those same sacrifices and would tell you to unburden yourself.

Laura, your mother had a very profound effect on not only me but everyone she mentored, and most assuredly those students she encountered.  I am saddened you didn’t get to know her as well as I did as an adult, but I’m also confident she taught you lessons you don’t even know you learned.  I believe the best way to learn about your mother is to consider the “metaphorical” mirror.  If you gaze into it you will see more of her than you realize.  I believe you are a lot like her…in the most positive of ways.

With love, Don.

This is National Suicide Prevention Month.  To learn how you can support suicide prevention, please use the following link:  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide and you feel you have no one to talk to please call their life line at 1-800-273-8255

To read more from Don Miller please use the following link to his author’s page:  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

IT’S THE WHAT?

The face looking back at me from the mirror is almost unrecognizable. Tiger Wood’s most recent mug shot is a glamorous compared to what I see. I wish I could blame it on poor lighting…OR A MONTH-LONG BINGE. Gray and strained, my watery and bloodshot eyes belie the fact I rested a full eight hours…rested? I slept for a full eight hours, awakening not to relieve my bladder but from strange dreams. Every hour and a half I awoke to wonder…where did they, the dreams and the people in them, come from and why do they haunt me so? As I contemplated my dreams I fell into another dream tossed slumber only to awaken and begin the process over again. A bizarre “Groundhog Day?”

The dreams are surreal. Picasso and Dali would be pleased. They are in technicolor with disjointed bits of brilliant color reminding me of light shining through a broken kaleidoscope…or maybe an LSD driven trip. Nothing quite fits, they are not nightmares, simply the misfiring’s of a troubled brain. People from my past involved in situations from my past…but situations they had no part in during the waking hours when the friends and situations were real.

I have had nine months of personal hell. Drugs and muscle relaxers to “NOT” relieve sciatica pain, antibiotics that have not cured a sinus infection and the resulting salivary gland infection. Then the shingles on top of it all. More drugs, some are “self-prescribed” for my own self-medication…none very effective. I try to tell myself it could be worse. It could be chemo or radiation…it could be “knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” It is still my own personal hell and everything is relative including “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

The blisters are healing but the pain is still there, radiating from around my right eye to the forehead and scalp above. Every night when I attempt to sleep the fiery pain is an unwanted bed partner and every morning when I awake it’s there to remind me of the day to come. My scalp seems to want to crawl off my skull.

How can I be so tired, I slept for eight hours? The dreams, it must be the dreams. I haven’t exercised in a month; my back yard is on its way to becoming unreclaimable. An hour and a half of garden weed pulling left me spent and trembling. I struggle to my recliner. I grow tired from contemplating it. At least when I doze during the day there are no dreams…sometimes.

I have weened myself off the drugs. The steroids and Valtrex have run their course along with the antibiotics. I fear my addictive self even though I doubt Alka Seltzer Cold Plus is addictive. I also wonder why it seems only a cold medication takes the edge off the pain when the called for Advil doesn’t remotely affect it? I have leftover hydrocodone from…I don’t remember. It is a good thing to have leftover hydrocodone I guess but I know it’s there… behind the closed counter drawer… calling to me late into the day. So far, I have not heeded the siren’s call…so far.

The shingles. How innocent they sound. I survived a heart attack, walking through a glass door, a chainsaw to the face…and a thousand paper cuts. I thought I was so tough. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

For stories or essays of better days take a little time and go to Don Miller’s Author Page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM