Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Performing with poison ivy

I don't advise it. If given the choice, I'd say no to poison ivy. The problem is, I rarely am aware that I've been in it, so I don't take the recommended actions of washing well right after being exposed.

A week and a half ago, I decided to buckle down and do yardwork. I began to rip little trees out of the front beds. No, not poison ivy trees, just some redbuds, hackberries, maybe a few silver maples. I was on a roll, yanking them out by the roots. I must have left my brain inside, because I wasn't wearing gloves and by the time I noticed how I'd ripped the skin on my fingers, it was too late. At one point, I pulled what looked like poison ivy out of the ground. Nah, I don't have any of that here. I've lived in this house for almost seven years and have never seen any in my yard.

I washed my hands well, not realizing there was poison ivy oil on my arms and legs. I didn't see the first red bumps until the next day, when I noticed a few on one arm. Then on my leg. Then on the other arm...

This was the worst case I've ever had. Legs, arms, neck, mostly, some patches the size of saucers. I tried lots of remedies, one after the other: Zanfel (hugely expensive, but it didn't do the trick), hot air from the hair dryer, baths in baking soda and Epsom salts, homeopathic remedies, Caladryl, Benedryl ointment, Benedryl pills, Chlor-Trimeton.

All through this, I had performances. My puppet Trixie begin scratching, so I told the kids we both had poison ivy. I asked them to do me a favor: if they saw either of us scratching, they should tell us to stop. Trixie immediately began to scratch and they yelled at her.

The good thing is that when I'm performing, I rarely am aware of physical discomfort. I can have a raging headache before I start a show, but once I'm in it, I don't feel it at all. It was that way with the poison ivy. It may have been swollen and oozing, but I didn't scratch while performing.

Last Thursday I had shows at my hometown library. (I got to walk to work!) After the first show, I walked home. Before going back to the second show, I changed my trousers--the nasty rash on my legs had begun to ooze through them (right, too much information).

In the end, I got a shot, pun intended. On Sunday, a full week after being exposed, I could stand it no longer. I went to the walk-in clinic, where the doctor agreed that I needed treatment. He gave me a steroid shot and two prescriptions, as well as advising me to get Fels-Naptha laundry soap to wash my skin next time.

It's much better. Still a little itchy, but no longer disgusting. Though I prefer not to use chemicals in my garden, I've done a little spraying of those front beds. I've got the bar of Fels-Naptha in the shower just in case. I'm ready.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Keeping fit and my love of a deal

The longer I do this (nineteen years in all, fourteen full-time), the more I realize that I must keep myself fit to do my best work. The idea for this post came to me today when I was on an afternoon walk. The tricky part of being so busy this summer is getting enough exercise--I can't take my regular yoga class because I have performances every week at that time. I do my best to do a bit of yoga at home, walk, mow the lawn, and occasionally ride my bike. (This last is more of a gas-saving effort, to tell the truth.)

What I eat also makes a difference. I've always had a healthy diet, despite my quests for the best pie and chile relleno. I love fruits and vegetables. When I'm on the road, it can be tricky to eat well. Sometimes I get food at a grocery store instead of stopping at the nearest--or cheapest--restaurant.

Now for my love of a good deal and how that intersects with keeping healthy. A couple of weeks ago, I went to an auction with a few friends. I love auctions. You never know what anything will sell for. There's a chance you can get something for almost nothing. A good auctioneer is highly entertaining (and Chris Paxton is good). The people-watching is phenomenal.

This was a rainy-day auction, even better. The auctioneer just wants to get through the stuff outside, and there aren't as many people at an auction in bad weather. The first thing I bid on was a box of kitchen stuff. I saw a couple of things in it I wanted. Paxton tried to get five dollars. I bid one dollar. Paxton gave me a sideways look, "One dollar. I hadn't thought of that..." Nobody bid against me, so I got it for that (and resold some of it for three dollars!). Next I bid on a cast-iron frying pan for a friend, and got it for her for two dollars. We were moving down the table towards the thing I really wanted: a Champion juicer.

There were two juicers, the Champion and another that had even more features (you could even grind your own flour). The Champion sells for around $200 new. I began the bidding at five dollars. A couple of other people jumped in and the price went higher than the $20 limit I'd set in my mind. I was out. We were bidding for "choice," that is, the winner could choose one or both and pay the winning amount for each. The guy who won took the other juicer. The auctioneer asked if I wanted to start again at five dollars. Yup.

"Five, gimme ten, gimme ten, anybody got ten, you buy it, you love it, ten, ten, anybody, ten, ten? Sold! Five dollars to number seventy!"

My friends were cheering. I got this Champion juicer for five dollars! Almost every day since then, I've enjoyed fresh juice. Today it was a combination of carrot, apple, beet, lime, ginger, celery, with a few grapes thrown in for good measure. When I drink this stuff, I feel the vitamins coursing through my veins. YUM!!! One more delicious way to keep fit as I do my work.

P.S. I got one more thing: a splitting maul with a fiberglass handle, also for five dollars. I guess this too is for my health, because in the winter I split some of my own wood and always consider that I'm getting good exercise.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sumer is icumin in

Those of you who know this song may be thinking, "Lhude sing cuccu." I may be loudly singing cuckoo at the end of the season! I've begun the wild summer ride, having done five of the sixty performances I have scheduled in June and July.

The first was story night in my backyard. Very fun, as it was my friend Janelle's birthday and she brought family, friends and cake. Afterwards, some of the kids told stories. One of my favorite moments was when Z. (maybe five years old?) was telling a combination of The Three Pigs and The Three Bears. He'd told the first two sentences or so and suddenly said, "Oh! Look!" He stood up, reached for a firefly in the air, and was gone. That was the end of storytelling for the evening.

It has been a great season for fireflies (lightning bugs here in Kansas). Last night I was in Mound City, MO where there were thousands on the walk I took down a country road with my friend Cynthia after my campfire performance.

Back up a bit. On Saturday I had a fun performance of scary stories for teens in Marshall, MO. I really love telling those, though I start to wonder why I have so many stories which feature severed fingers, hands or limbs. Odd.

On my way home from Marshall, I stopped in Independence at Cargo Largo, a closeout store that is like Big Lots times four. I found some great material there that I think will be perfect for my Punch and Judy stage. I'd been looking for red and white striped fabric that would do well outdoors. The roll I found is a little more maroon, but I think it will work.

This morning in Mound City, after a delightful breakfast with Cynthia on her sun porch, I did a show for the library summer reading program. Because the library doesn't have much space, I did the show at the senior meal site. That went well, because not only did I have some of the people waiting for lunch in the audience, the women in the kitchen listened. Some of the folks from last night's scary story performance around a campfire at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge (complete with s'mores) turned up, too. Most of the kids were up front and seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I'm sure I've written about this summer's library theme before: Get a clue @ your library. It's going to be okay, I think. You can read my rant about themes on, but I do work up a program to fit the theme each year. As for this one, every story is a mystery, isn't it?

This morning I told Alligator Baby by Robert Munsch (with huge thanks for the permission he gave me years ago to tell his stories), The Small-Tooth Dog (an old English folk tale), The Ghost With the One Black Eye (I promised one young fellow that I'd tell the old favorite), Now I've Gotcha (a campfire story on one of my recordings). We also did Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar. It turns out that Mavis the monkey puppet stole the cookies, though the evidence has disappeared.

Five more shows in libraries this week, one in my backyard.