I've given up trying to find the non-toxic, all-natural bug repellant. Believe me, I've tried it all, but my reaction to mosquito bites are probably much different than yours. We're talking elephant-man-swelling here. There's always someone who suggests I try: Eating a banana everyday! Stuff dryer sheets in my pocket! Avon Skin So Soft! Stay inside! The only thing that leaves me bite free is the stuff with DEET in it and I always have a container of Off in my purse during the warm months. Well, wouldn't you know that the late summer mosquitoes, aka Satan's little helpers, found the goodness of my face that was fresh and clean this one night in Albany. It itched slightly but I went to bed thinking nothing about it. I woke up the following morning with that all-too familiar feeling of "my face feels funny" and when I looked in the mirror, my whole right side under my eye was puffed up. "Jim, would you happen to have any Benedryl?" (I can't believe I still don't carry this with me at all times! ) Jim searched through his medicine cabinet which was conveniently above the coffee pot in the kitchen, "No... no Benedryl. Do you want a Hydrocodone?"
I found it pointless to make myself up that morning since I looked like a carnival attraction so I pretty much tossed our things, our dogs and my kid still in her pajamas, into the car and we drove back home. I do say that I was testing the waters by going a little too fast on I-75. I was almost positive that if I was pulled over, the cop would take pity on me: swollen eye, kid in PJs, dogs frantically barking in the backseat, an opened suitcase thrown haphazardly in the back. I would be let off with a warning- "Poor woman was fleeing an abusive relationship!" And since I was driving, it was probably a good thing I wasn't jacked up on Benedryl (or Hydrocodone).
This made me recall the moment two years ago when I discovered in Albany that I was allergic to fresh tomatoes. I knew I was allergic to something all summer but couldn't figure it out. When I had my first allergic reaction, I had been broken out in hives, high on Benedryl and sipping wine at my hair salon that evening. I don't know how I made it home. Benedryl makes me feel good. But in Albany that summer, I was broken out and itchy all over and still didn't know what to blame it on- the coffee creamer, the laundry detergent? Jim & Eva like shopping at Harvey's and that place has some off brands I've never heard of. I was sure I had an allergy to generic shit. Meanwhile Jim's tomatoes from his garden were sliced and on the table at every meal and I was just popping them like an old person pops pain killers. We had left Albany and stopped at a convenient store by I-75 for road trip staples like pizza flavored Combos and Funyuns, but after days of eating unhealthy, I opted for a whole f*cking tomato that Jim had packed for us to take home. I ate that sucker like an apple with it's juice just dripping down my hive-y chin. A good 20 minutes later, I was itchy all over and I thought my lower lip felt funny and then, my face feels funny... I quietly popped open the passenger side visor mirror and my face was unrecognizable- everything was swollen. So at this point my heart starts racing and because I'm having a mild panic attack, it feels like my throat is closing up- or was I going into anaphylactic shock? "Hey Boyd?" I said calmly as I was choking on my tongue, " I think I know what I'm allergic to..." Probably not the best thing to surprise a driver with. He flew to the nearest drug store. After popping a few Benedryl and feeling a bit calmer, we continued home and the swelling didn't fully go down until the next day. I had even nurtured several tomato plants in my yard that summer but after this realization, watering and continuing their growth seemed useless- you little orange and red assholes, I raised you for what? You turned on me!
When I called my Mom the next day and told her about this, she had me worrying, "Oh my God, Kristen! You should've gone to the hospital! You could have died!" I had Bells Palsy when I was pregnant with Breana and my Mom was the first person I called then, "Hey, Mom, my face feels funny and I can't move the entire left side- can't move my mouth, blink with my left eye, nothing on the left side..." Mom sat there planning my funeral while she listened to me and my facial paralysis problem, "Oh my God, Kristen! You've had a stroke!" After a trip to see my OBGYN and then to the neurologist, I was told the virus would go away in about 4 weeks with some antibiotics. I don't know how many times I asked, "but is this safe to take with the baby?" And the answer was a unanimous "yes" but still I had conjured up this idea that it wasn't. 3 days into not moving my face, Boyd asked if I had been taking the antibiotics, "No," I expressed with only the right moving side of my face while the left side was completely dumb and droopy. I explained to him that I was going to forge through life with a half working face if it meant my baby was okay. I was that selfless and I had already bid farewell to a reflection I once adored. I cried hysterically and that's an ugly thing when only half of your face is crying and the other half is just sitting there chilling out and doing nothing. Boyd somehow convinced me to take the antibiotics and that it was not okay that he continue living with a freak.
Anyone who has ever camped out with me in my early 20s knows (if they were sober enough to know) that I love the outdoors but the outdoors don't love me. Like that time my hand was bit by some cow ant bulldozing across the blades of grass and my gigantic, swollen hand and I nestled up to a massive rotting mushroom for the night. Or the time I stepped in a nest of yellow jackets while wearing flip flops and had to endure the weekend so desperately wanting a steak knife to scrape against the agonizing itch of my foot. Sure, the Bells Palsy thing was a freak incident and all of those snorkeling times when jellyfish would swarm near just me, only me, stinging me several times. Boyd would hear a blood curdling scream as I fell behind from the snorkeling group in Curacao. He would lift his head up from the water to see me flailing my arms as I was getting electrocuted and he'd give me a look that said, "Calm the f*ck down or get outta the water" and then he'd dip his head back under again, just swimming along, further and further away. And someone on the boat would be shouting at me, "Ma'am?! Do you need a noodle?!" Back on the boat, the group would all be gushing over that cave and that blue lobster while I was clutching onto a red foam noodle and trying to hide the trail of welts on my legs. I must be prone to anything that makes me balloon up and look funny. But I have noted that these only happen during the summer months. Usually when the weather cools down I morph back into a more pleasant-looking version of me. My hair calms down, my skin doesn't act up, my body doesn't hoard salt, and mosquitoes die. And I know now to avoid such terrors like pregnancy, fresh tomatoes, summertime camping excursions and anywhere the Portuguese man of war is present. So good riddens to Summer in the South, to oily skin, frizzy hair, insect bites, and buckets of sweat from merely checking the mail. I love this time of year when I can sit on my porch again. I've only been peering at it from the front living room windows for months, just waiting to emerge again.
Bows & plants: Scottsdale Farms in Milton, Ga
Cornstalks: Cherokee Market in Freehome, Ga
Upside down tree: www.christmascentral.com
Orange twinkle lights: Hearts and Flowers in Cleveland, Ga
Thanks for stopping by!