Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stirring Up a Hornet's Nest

This is NOT a hornet. This is a sweet little Bee Patrick (with big bro Evan)
We’ve all heard that saying, right? When someone instigates trouble, or adds fuel to a fire that is already burning. Hornets are some of nature’s nastiest creatures, bees with an attitude, bad bold bugs that actively dive bomb humans. They may not be disease transmitters like their fellow insect horror shows the mosquitoes, but their stings are doozies nonetheless. Disturbing, much less stirring up, a hornet’s nest is an activity to be avoided at all costs.

So we didn’t. Honest. Yet a hornet’s nest found us anyway early this morning, around 3 AM. Steve was restless and awake, reading, with his bedside light on. Well, the lamplight must have caught the fancy of a hornet who had escaped its abode right underneath our bedroom window, and found a way through a small hole in the screen. With zero warning, Harry the Hornet made a bee-line (sorry) for Stevo’s arm and went in for the kill. There was much shouting and leaping around on our part, as Harry darted all over the room. Yet, when Steve finally located something with which to smush the little stinker, it was nowhere to be found. Although I am a million times bigger than an insect, I am no match for one with a stinger. Hubby and I soon conceded defeat and decamped for the family room, hastily closing the bedroom door behind us.

Later, while I was at work, Steve leaned out the window (carefully) and sprayed the nest several times with Raid Flying Insect Killer. As a result, a bevy of poisoned bugs soon staggered from the nest, and plastered their dying bodies against our windows and doors. We still need to get rid of the nest itself, of course, but for now we feel pretty safe.  

These days it seems like waaaay too many folks are deliberate hornet’s nest stirrers, from the people of influence who appeal to the very worst in human nature, to the online trolls and websites inciting discord and spewing verbal garbage. There have always been times and places in our world (and in our souls) that are dark and ugly—and there are certainly times we need to take a metaphorical stick to these nests of evil in order to get rid of them. But when those nests are disturbed merely to enliven the haters, just to further polarize an already polarized society—well, that is unconscionable.

It is fairly easy to take down an actual hornet’s nest. It’s much harder to disable the angry, stinging words and actions taking place all around us right now. The solution may be slower than we’d like, but in the end, hopefully, more effective. Let’s overwhelm hate with love, even if it takes time (and it will). Set an ongoing example of kindness and caring. Refuse to take the toxic bait that’s meant to trap us in a quagmire.

And maybe someday, we’ll look around and realize that all the hornet’s nests are gone at last.

That is my prayer.

Not our hornet's nest. We were afraid to get that close!!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Normal? Or What?

My goodness, someone is a happy busy bee lately! The last few weeks I have been buzzing around my hives (Lewes and here in Oreland), productive as heck and “high on life.” Tidier than usual, accomplishing entire “to do” lists in a single bound, keeping up on the exercise and my correspondence. My often-fuzzy memory is sharp as a tack again, and I feel confident and contented. 

Before that, in late spring, I was definitely in a bit of a slump. Just generally cranky and uncomfortable in my skin. Maybe because work was super busy and I was a little burned out? While I got everything done, I was often irked by the people in my life—and life in general. I often identify with Lucy from Peanuts, and I was certainly channeling her “crabby” most of the time. Then came summer and the switchover from life in a minor, to a major chord.

One of the most unfair things about being bipolar is no longer trusting that my moods and emotions are normal. My radar is so attuned to signs of a relapse that even a totally understandable frame of mind is seen by me as a symptom of my disease. My doctor is pleased with my progress, my meds are regulated (and I faithfully take them), and by rights I should be enjoying the regular ebb and flow of life. But I distrust my ups and downs, and don’t know if I can ever go back, emotionally, to the old days.

I feel a real kinship to someone suffering from a chronic physical ailment. That stomach pain…is it a medical crisis? Or just the three tacos you ate last night? A headache after a day in the hot sun? Logical or worrisome? I totally get it! Whereas John or Jane Doe thinks nothing of that nagging cough or brief spell of sadness, we know better (or so we imagine)! We are hyperaware of our brains and bodies, 24/7, and I tell you it’s NO fun.

Getting out of my head helps, I find—that running/walking thing I did on the boardwalk every morning at the shore, taking time to pray and meditate—the mental static recedes, and I can deal with things logically again. But my head is a place that is always beckoning me back…”Whooo ooo! Come in here, Elise! Let’s just dwell on everything! Life is one big problem and it’s your job to wrestle with it all!!”

This afternoon, the sun is shining, and there’s a hint of lovely breezy Fall in the air. It’s my day off, with nothing pressing on the agenda. It’s been such a good summer, for me and my family, and I’m so tired of borrowing trouble. Here is my prayer, for today and every day: May I learn to love the gift of exuberance, and not fear some sadness. Joy is not a pathology, nor are the occasional blues.

Don’t worry, I tell myself. Be happy.

Hey, that’s catchy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I am scooped more often than a quart of Ben and Jerry’s. And I hate it.

Every now and again, I come up with a marketable idea before everyone else on earth beats me to it. A couple of years ago, I wrote a humor piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer about breaking up with my Fitbit, and the editor bought it within 15 minutes. That, my friends, is not my norm. My norm is either a) coming up with an idea only to quickly discover the nearly identical thing published already (usually in some stellar publication like The New Yorker, which sends me into a deep funk because IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME) or b) staring, clueless, at the computer screen for hours while all around me other writers are typing away, bursting with the inspiration I obviously lack.

Where, I wonder, is the wellspring of wonderful story concepts that slakes the thirst of my fellow authors? I seek this magical fountain, but instead only find a dry and barren riverbed, with random vowels and consonants lying there, gasping for breath. I ponder my (few) areas of “expertise”: parenting, mental health, church work. There are websites that cater to all of these subjects, and use freelancers to boot. But when it comes time to pitch an essay, I most often come up empty. Why did So-and-So score big with her so-so story about her son’s first lost tooth? Among my five offspring, I dealt with 100 baby teeth lost over the years! And I named the Tooth Fairy Dentina! (clever, eh? Apparently not clever enough for The Christian Science Monitor!) How about the touching saga of Writer B’s struggle with depression and anxiety that went viral? Hey, buddy, I struggled too! I just didn’t write about it fast enough!!

Seems I am always behind the literary 8-ball. Nothing like discovering that it’s National Canned Food Month on the last day of said month (February, BTW), way too late to sell a funny article about the 50 cans of beets I’d stockpiled in advance of Y2K (we all hate canned beets; what was I thinking?) Sometimes I am scooped when a particularly timely topic appears in the news, and I miss the window of opportunity. There’s an annoyingly prolific woman who posts all the time in a writer’s Facebook group about her many “gets” for CNN, The Guardian, etc. She can muse about one episode of a hot new Netflix show and spin it into two or three sales. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of pop culture, to put it mildly, and any swell program I “discover” turns out to have aired back in 1994.

But I am determined to get a scoop one of these days! I have pen in hand and am ever-ready to scribble! There must be something or someone that hasn’t already been exhaustively covered, right?

For instance, who is the President these days? Anybody know?

That might be an idea for a story.

I know who this is!