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Yesterday afternoon I asked Ray to help me remember the saying:

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

“Is that it?” I asked. “Is there a third?” He said, “If they fool you a third time, you need to quit and go home.”

Well, what I needed to do on Saturday was quit and go in the house — before I even got started.

There are cream puffs, cranberry puffs, chicken nut puffs, and supersize pizza puffs. There are Jet-Puffed Marshmallows and Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme Spread. There are Plum Organics Baby Super Puffs and Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Baked Rice and Corn Puffs. There are Boom Chick-a-Puffs and peppermint candy puffs. There are Churpi Micro Puff Chew Dog Treats and Purina Friskies Party Mix Cat Treat Puffs. There are Covergirl Makeup Sponge Puffs and Puff Tissues. There are powder puffs and puffed sleeves. Okay, okay, I’ll quit!

On Monday and Tuesday at my house there was a Charlene Puff!

A couple of years ago during homeschool convention season I got a rash on the back of my neck and I wondered if it might have something to do with working in my garden. This past spring during homeschool convention season I got a rash on the front of my neck and again I wondered if it might have something to do with working in my garden.

Since that second rash, I have paid a young friend to weed my garden — until Saturday that is. Ray and I were having special guests that afternoon whose ancestors are buried in the gorgeous cemetery out back. Here’s a picture:

Unit 11 Gore cemetery oldest grave 1856 cn Isn't it beautiful? The oldest grave is 1856. Four descendants from the person buried in that grave were at our house on Saturday!
Isn’t it beautiful? The oldest grave is 1856. Four descendants from the person buried in that grave were at our house on Saturday!

A mother and daughter who are descendants had visited the cemetery a few months ago while we were away. The daughter sent us a letter, then we had a great phone conversation, and then we began emailing back and forth. Ray and I were anxious to meet her and her family and she was anxious to see inside her family’s ancestral home, which is now our home.

My garden was atrocious because it had been a while since my young friend has been able to come. Take a gardening hint from me: don’t ever, ever plant hummingbird vine in a garden. If you must plant this vine with its pretty green foliage and beautiful, tiny, red, trumpet-shaped blooms that attract hummingbirds, plant it at least an acre away from any other plant you don’t want to be attacked like kudzu. If you don’t know what kudzu is, ask a Southerner. It was someone’s bright idea many decades ago to plant a Japanese plant that grows 18 inches a day as ground cover by roadsides — not, it turns out, a very good idea. It covers whole trees! I remember often the white envelope of home-packed hummingbird seeds I bought at a craft sale. It looked so inviting and sounded so wonderful.

Anyway, I digress. I thought about my rashes, but I put on long sleeves, gloves, long pants, and boots and I enlisted Ray’s help for thirty minutes which turned into about an hour and a half. My garden does look wonderful and Ray was so sweet to trim things and haul away the piles.

Everything seemed fine even after I had a little red spot on the outside of my left eye on Sunday morning. As they day progressed, that eye swelled a little and I got a one inch long red patch on that cheek. By bedtime, my eye was definitely puffy and the area under it, too. I took a dose of Benadryl, got sleepy, and went to bed early.

On Monday morning, it was even worse. Before Mary Evelyn brought her children down for our regular Notgrass crew lunch, I called her to warn her children that Little looked pretty weird. I noticed two tiny patches of poison ivy, one on each hand. I tried some natural remedies. My face continued to worsen as the day went on. That night I took another dose of Benadryl — at bedtime so I wouldn’t get drowsy.

Oh, you should have seen me Tuesday morning. I called two friends who know a lot about natural remedies and tried their recommendations. My lips weren’t swollen. I was breathing fine. But I was getting worried. In mid-afternoon, I asked Ray to drive me to the walk-in clinic thirty-five minutes away.

I walked up to the receptionist and said, “Can you guess why I’m here?” She looked at me for several seconds and said, “Ingrown toenail?” I love funny people.

They got me into a room very soon and the nurse immediately said, “I know what they’re going to do. You are going to have an IV.” I thought, “Do what?” or something like that. Well, after they checked me over and over and asked me a bunch of questions, like “Do you have asthma?” and scary questions like that, the nurse’s prediction came true. “We’re going to give you three meds by IV and you should begin improving almost immediately.”

They did, but I didn’t. Then they tried a fourth medicine and the improvement began. I still looked like a monster yesterday morning, but I have steadily improved. Of course, I’m on steroids, which I hate, but, hey, what’s an organic girl like me going to do when her face looks like, well, a combination of peppermint candy puffs and Churpi Micro Puff Chew Dog Treats? I’ve never actually seen one of those dog treats, but it was the grossest sounding puff in that list. Think I was going to include a picture? Not a chance!

I always end with a Bible verse, so I searched for one about weeds. I found this one about the characteristics of a sluggard. There are great lessons here. Don’t let your child grow up to be a sluggard.

I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
Proverbs 24:30-34

And teach your children not to do foolish things a third time. Tell them to quit and go in the house before they even get started.



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  1. Oh my, I certainly hope you are feeling better! I once ate too many of those pastel colored mints with the little white balls on them. I broke out in hives, quite badly. It took quite a few years before I would touch them again, and only a couple.

  2. Oh Charlene! I do hope you are better! I have not had anything quite so bad as your experience, but I can relate to poison ivy. I don’t even get into poison ivy and I break out with it! I think I get it from doing the laundry of my little men after they evidently have been in it or near it. Or maybe I just looked at the vine!

  3. I need to look for hummingbird vine seeds!!! I have tried to do feeders but I am terrible about keeping it clean and full and it seems like a teaser to hang them out and have nothing in them when the “hummies” come to visit.

    And where are the pictures?! I thought we would get to see puff pictures 😉

    I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything in the garden and have weeded poison ivy with my bare hands (I didn’t pay attention and just grabbed it) but there’s always a first time for everything.

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