Once upon a time, I was kinda smart. Mostly book-smart, I guess, but more in a “love to read/hate to study”-kinda way. I mean, you might not know it to look at me, but I actually believed, for several years, that I was halfway intelligent, even.

The older I get, the less I cling to that belief. In fact, by the time this next decade of my life comes to an end (God willing), I fully expect to have regressed completely back to the state of being blissfully unaware of almost everything around me that I no doubt enjoyed when I was, like, a couple of months old.

My sister decided to come visit me last Saturday. I was excited about this because she hasn’t been down for a while, and we’ve gotten to the point that we basically see each other only during major holidays. Over the past few months, though, we’ve been spending lots of time utilizing our free long-distance minutes by calling each other, so that’s been very cool.

Anyhoo, I decided to get (some of) my spring cleaning done (yeah, I know: so soon?!) so the house would, at the very least, be presentable for Delra and her pal, Karen, who also was coming down — in part to see me, too, but also to visit one of her friends who has recently moved to the area. I also decided that I would grill steaks for Debra and me (Karen had lunch plans with her other friends).

Come Friday evening, I was in good shape. I’d gotten (most of) the cleaning done, and I’d also found some ribeyes to go with the pasta salad I’d made the night before. Everything was going exactly according to plan.

Once work was done and all my running around was finished for the night, I returned to mi casa and decided that I also needed to trim the branches that were hanging in my usual path to the kitchen door. I didn’t want Karen to scratch up her Highlander trying to park under the leaves, nor did I want my guests to get smacked in their faces while they were making their way toward my house.

I ventured into the back yard, armed not with a machete or anything like that, but with some utility scissors that I was pretty certain were adequate for the job. Ten minutes and 5 or 6 branches later, I was back inside the house, cranking the AC and settling in for the night.

Saturday morning went according to plan: I showered, dressed, ate breakfast and made a quick run across town and to Wally World, then returned home to watch the Wimbledon women’s championship match. Venus Williams was just finishing her victory over Marion Bartoli as Debra and Karen arrived. Karen soon left, then Debra and I headed over to The Lovely’s to have lunch — including the aforementioned steaks, which Debra proclaimed as “the best ever.” Afterwards, we hung out for a bit, drove around some, went and got ice cream, talked and laughed a lot. Later, Karen returned, and we took a drive out to a nearby lake.

Sometime during the afternoon, I noticed my left wrist was itching. And my left eyelid.

“I think I’ve got poison ivy again,” I told my sister, who had battled a pretty nasty case of it herself, way back when we were kids.

I tried to put it out of my mind, but by the time Debra and Karen left and evening rolled around, I was itching pretty good on both arms. I tried to tell myself that it could be some kind of allergic reaction to the strawberries I’d eaten earlier; after all, I did have a very slight bump on my lip immediately after eating that strawberry sundae Sandy at work bought for me for my birthday a few months ago.

When I woke up Sunday morning, my left eye was swollen almost shut and I had splotches on my arms, neck and thighs, as well as on my forehead and just above and below my lips. I started self-medicating with my beloved Benadryl and spent most of the day in a half-conscious state — I swear I even missed the end of the second set of Roger Federer’s triumph over Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon men’s championship match in all my grogginess!

Monday morning, I had gone from bad to horrible. Now both eyes were swollen, and the thought of staring into my computer at work was more than I could bear. I knew I had to get to the doctor, too, so I called in sick at work, popped a couple of Benadryl tablets, passed out for an hour or two and then called the doctor’s office. Nurse Renee called me back, asked where all I had the rash, then told me they could squeeze me in at 1:45.

On my way to the car that afternoon, I took a closer look at some of the branches I had trimmed. Seems they weren’t exactly tree branches — Oh, no! They were mostly thick brown vines entwined in this big tree (an elm, perhaps?), hanging down, all of them with clusters of three leaves.

I. Am SUCH. An IDIOT!

See, I know right where the big patch of poison ivy is in my back yard, so I go to great lengths to avoid it, always. However, did it ever occur to me that the vile weed or vine or whatever the heck it is might be growing next to and all throughout a tree? Again: Oh, no!

The moral(s) of this story:

1. As I mentioned before: I’m not as smart as I look.

2. It’s a good idea to look UP once in a while … if for no other reason than to pay a speck of attention to your surroundings. (I will never make it as an outdoorsperson; it’s probably a blessing I quit Brownies after a few short weeks and never attempted the whole Girl Scouts thing.)

3. When you think about doing something nice for someone else — for example, trimming branches: Resist that urge.

So, now I’m on my fourth day of Prednisone. Which, I have to say, has pretty much kicked the poison ivy’s ass. Apparently, Prednisone is a steroid — not the kind of steroid that will grow hair on my chest or make my voice lower or get me kicked off the tennis team, but one that suppresses the immune system. Which sounds like a bad thing, in most cases, but when your skin is being ravaged by poison ivy and you are driving yourself crazy because nothing will sooth the itch, it’s like almost instant relief.

My doctor put me on a nine-day, 6-6-4-4-2-2-2-1-1-1 course of medicine. The good news is the rash has mostly dried up and the itching is almost gone; the bad news is, according to Dr. Latta, any time I get poison ivy from now on, my reaction to it will be even worse. (Something about antibodies and T-cells and stuff that would probably make sense if I were as smart as I used to be — which, clearly, I am not.)

He also told me that Roundup makes an herbicide specifically made for getting rid of poison ivy in the ground and on trees, and he encouraged me to get some. Pronto.

And I will, of course. Knowing me, though, I’ll probably manage to set the back yard on fire or something.

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