• Donna Brown

Insects, politics, doctors and more



Several nights ago, the first lightning bugs were spotted in the backyard. They were hovering about three feet above the lush green lawn and were beckoning us to the long summer evenings yet to come. My grandkids have an inherited love of insects, especially lightning bugs, and every day they collect as many centipedes, beetles and caterpillars two mason jars will hold.


It seems that everything is growing rapidly, and my husband’s garden has an abundance of spring mix greens and Swiss chard. He has tender young garlic that can be sautéed with just about anything and the blueberries are ripening quickly.


He has been fighting deer for decades and this spring put up a six foot fence from Deer Busters. Finally, the tops of all the tomatoes and peppers are safe from nibbles. The bottom of the fence has smaller holes to keep out the ground hogs. Now I wonder who is going to take care of all those extra zucchinis? Guess I’ll have to resort to leaving them on my neighbor’s front porch in the dead of night.


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Oh, how I want to speak of political issues like the border fiasco, critical race theory, the cancel culture, pipelines, masks, Dr. Fauci, government control and protests both left and right. I want to rant on about education, church, the American flag, patriotism, NASCAR and the NFL. I want to express myself more than anyone wants to hear, but I have decided at 69 that I don’t want any more enemies. So, this is all I will say: My next rescue dog is going to be named Tucker.


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I respect and admire all doctors explicitly, but for the last few months I am beginning to wonder if it is all trial and error. I began with a rash on my arms that was diagnosed by my dermatologist as an allergy to acrylic paint. He has been my doctor for 20 years and I trust him. I had been painting my son’s house, but I gave up painting and it continued and spread everywhere. Seriously, everywhere. The second COVID-19 vaccine enraged my rash so I looked like I had leprosy. I was tested and given steroids, pills and cream. I was given a test for allergies to cosmetics, soaps and cleaning products. I was tested for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Fever, to which I tested positive.


My doctor stressed my allergy to red meat, lamb and pork due to Rocky Mountain Fever. He held my hand and said that was the cause of the rash and to never eat red meat again. I eat it all the time and never have an issue, but I humored him and thanked him profusely, then that night my husband and I went to The Library in Williamstown. I had a New York Strip and didn’t end up in the hospital. My rash remained the same.


Several weeks ago, it dawned on me that 25 years ago I had a very eccentric allergist in Bridgeton who discovered that my hives and itchy tongue were due to a wheat, seafood and sulfites allergies. At the time he did not give me the typical allergy test with serums and needles. No, he had my husband cook a seafood feast and bag it up along with Italian bread and wine. He then scored my back and placed the food on each spot. Hives immediately appeared. He told me that is the way they did it in the old days.


So, I took my rash to the allergist. He said it was skin mites. Gave mite medication to my entire family and me. He told me to bathe daily in Clorox and cover myself in a thick layer of Vaseline before bed each night. The allergist sent his report to the dermatologist who looked dismayed and shouted, “No Clorox! No Clorox!” He also said to use a light cream, never Vaseline. He put me on more steroids. Do these skinny little doctors know steroids make old ladies gain weight? Do they care? The dermatologist insists it’s Rocky Mountain Fever. I stopped eating red meat. I like burgers. Blah!


The rash seems to be subsiding, perhaps thanks to both doctors. Every night I slather Vaseline all over myself. I sleep naked so the pajamas don’t stick to me. OK, too much info, but necessary. I sleep in the spare room with my dog, Jacques, because my evening ritual of Clorox and Vaseline is too much for my poor husband to stand. My sheets are like a Slip and Slide! All I can think of is that with my luck my house will catch on fire and the poor firemen will see a naked, slimy, chubby old woman in the window and no one will want to save me. Getting old is not for wimps!



Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to wescoat@comcast.net.