Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Curing a Rash on the Face

In 1996, I began to develop occasional rashes on my face. I made appointments with dermatologists, who labeled the rashes “contact dermatitis” but were unable to trace the cause. One suggested that I was allergic to poison ivy. I wondered how I came into contact with an ivy vine. As Kiko, one of my cats, often ventured into a neighbor’s yard where poison ivy grew beneath a hedge, I decided that I was transferring urushiol, the plant’s irritating oil, from Kiko to my face.

The rash frequently became so bad that the area beneath one of my eyes would puff up, closing my eye somewhat. The area around my nose would become so red and stretched that I felt great discomfort. The swelling lasted for many days. My dermatologists prescribed steroids and various medicinal creams. Once the rash abated, my face became scaly with flakes of dead skin drifting away like dandruff.

In 2011, I attended a conference as a guest speaker, and—drat the luck!—I acquired a face rash again. It was in full bloom when I spoke to the crowd. One of my eyes was almost closed. I felt deeply embarrassed.

… so embarrassed, in fact, that I rejected what dermatologists had told me and began researching my rash online.

I will always remember the day when I stumbled onto a website with a disgusting close-up of mites burrowing into a pore of the skin on a person’s face. Could my rashes be mite attacks? I read more. The mites that cause mange in dogs can cause rashes on human faces. I had acquired a puppy with mange in 1996. Its problem was cured, but a number of mites probably remained on the dog and were routinely conveyed to my face.

Products Containing Tea Tree Oil

To kill the microscopic mites, I visited a health store and bought a bar of tea tree soap and a tub of cream containing tea tree oil. I applied the soap to my face and—I kid you not—felt immediate relief! For about a week after each shower, I applied some of the cream to my rash, which rapidly went away.

Since 2011, I have had no more rashes! Yes, I have been entirely free of them! Any time I see a small pimple beginning to form on my face, I use my soap containing the tea tree oil and a small dab of the cream.

I am not recommending products containing tea tree oil as a cure for facial rashes that other people experience. I am not a medical doctor, and I know that rashes can result from many causes. I am truly not in a position to suggest that anyone else try what I tried.

… but I rejoice in the fact that I cured an embarrassing rash that my dermatologists could not cure.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Losing Weight by Counting Calories

Twice in my life, I have made it my goal to lose weight, and I have succeeded both times. How have I managed to drop a significant number of pounds? You might say that I’ve done it the old-fashioned way: by counting calories.

Losing Weight by Counting Calories

I limit myself to a daily calorie amount that is substantially under the number of calories that a person of my age and size is supposed to be able to consume without gaining weight. Google a phrase such as “how many calories can I eat to maintain weight,” and you will find plenty of sites that will help you select a number.

Next, I adhere strictly to my low calorie count. I make up my mind that I will feel hungry for the first day or two. My fattened body sends signals that I should be eating more than I am, and I have to ignore the messages, which come in the form of wanting snacks.

When I am unable to resist, I snack on popcorn that I have popped on the stove so as to limit the amount of fat to the smallest amount necessary.

I also must steel myself to the fact that others will try to get me to eat more than I should. For some complex reasons that are beyond me to explain, some friends want to push food onto my plate whenever I have made the decision to lose weight. I am firm with them: “No, all I really want is this salad; no, I am not having dessert; and, no, I do not want a fruity cocktail.”

I exercise regularly. My author friend Eleanor Y. Stewart and I walk 5.2 miles three times a week, and, on many of the days in between, I ride a bike from 7 up to 12 miles. Walking and riding alone will not help a person drop unwanted weight, but, in conjunction with counting calories, such exercise can help the weight to come off quickly.

I also work a half hour of calisthenics into three days per week. I go online to read about age-appropriate exercises that I can readily do to stay in shape, and I will not perform exercises that I feel are going to be harmful eventually. I want my calisthenics to be simple, easy, and free of pain: just enough to keep my muscles responding to what I need them to do each day.

I seek to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and meats while avoiding white sugar and white flour. Essentially, I avoid breads, desserts, and anything that has white sugar as a main ingredient. I am not recommending my diet to anyone; after all, people have vastly different dietary needs. I can tell you only that my diet works for me.

On both occasions that I have counted calories to lose weight, I have lost over fifty pounds, and I have kept the weight off for most of my life. Another way of saying the same thing is that I have been slender far more years than I have been pudgy.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gardening 6 (Last Installment in This Series)

“Lettuce is like a conversation: it must be fresh and crisp, so sparkling that you scarcely notice the bitter in it.”

“I began digging my potatoes, by the way, about the 4th of July; and I fancy I have discovered the right way to do it. … I do not pull them up, and shake them out, and destroy them; but I dig carefully at the side of the hill, remove the fruit which is grown, leaving the vine undisturbed: and my theory is, that it will go on bearing, and submitting to my exactions, until the frost cuts it down.”

My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner

Well, I planted too much lettuce, or it grew too vigorously. Next year, one row will more than suffice. This year, I devoted two rows to “fresh,” “crisp,” “sparkling” lettuce. I understand Charles Dudley Warner’s adjectives and find them appropriate, but I might have resorted to “velvety” and “delightful” to describe the texture and the flavor of the lettuce that grew from the seeds I purchased at Divers in Middletown. Is there bitterness in lettuce? Perhaps in some, but mine is sweet and mildly spicy! I apply no laboratory chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides) to my garden; consequently, a leaf of lettuce that I have grown is as perfect and unspoiled as it can be. As I trust the decaying vegetation of autumn to produce ample fertilizer for the seasons ahead, I need no commercial fertilizers; besides, I improved the soil with horse manure not that many years ago. As for bugs, I permit the garden to groom itself, and I have had no substantial losses from insects or slugs. I keep the garden weeded with meticulous care. Having done so many things right, I still was wrong in my estimate of how much lettuce to plant. My excuse is that the relatively weak production of lettuce in the previous two years prompted me to thickly sow two rows this year. Too much! Stand back!

My Garden Growing Nicely on June 19, 2016

Then there are my plump potatoes. I have dug them gently from the side, as Warner recommends, and I have found that he is right: the plants continue to produce for a much longer season than I would have guessed! Even though I have managed to extend the potato harvest, the life of my garden is a spring and early summer life. By the end of July, baked earth is no longer patiently watered from buckets pumped by hand from the icy depth of my spring-fed well, and weeds—especially grasses—have defeated my sustained effort to keep the garden focused on the plants that I grew. Nature always wins. In those impossibly hot afternoons, flowers riot in the border, but no more vegetables remain to be collected.

Sunflowers Guarding Replanted Beans on June 19, 2016

I have thought about developing a planting schedule that might keep my garden active through the fall and even into the early winter, but, somehow, I always lose interest around June. Maybe I am too tired from pulling weeds. Perhaps the deer flies discourage me. Whatever the reason, I give up and let the garden go wherever it wants to go without my guidance. Only in the dark winter months does my enthusiasm for gardening become rekindled, so that I begin to anticipate the coming of spring and the opportunity to plant anew.

... but this year may be different. As is said, watch this space!

Garden Looking Lovely on June 29, 2016
Produce Beginning to Roll in on June 29, 2016
Sunflowers Surrounding the Garden on July 6, 2016
Sunflowers Bobbing in the Breeze

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Gardening 5

“It was the most wonderful garden in all the world because the flowers did exactly what they pleased. They seeded down and came up and seeded down again and ran into each other’s arms and on past and scattered everywhere, and all the vines ran sprawling over the ground or climbed trees or ran on top of the fence; and all the bulbs spread and grew in clusters, and everything was wild and free.”

The Magic Garden by Gene Stratton–Porter

A year ago, a bird planted a morning glory seed in the corner of my vegetable garden. I did not recognize the plant as either a vegetable or a weed, and I let it grow. That summer, dark blue blossoms of prodigious size decorated vines that truly “ran sprawling over the ground … wild and free.” This summer, dozens of morning glory seedlings have sprouted in that same corner. I have transplanted several around the lampposts by the street, and I have permitted many more to grow among my vegetables and to do “exactly what they pleased.” Others I have had to plow out, so as to have some semblance of order.

Garden After Rain on the 5th of June

“Oh! Blessed rage for order, Pale Ramon,” I remember studying in college for the first time. How often since those serene days as an undergraduate at Indiana University have I returned to Wallace Stevens’ poem entitled “The Idea of Order at Key West,” teasing out meaning after meaning! Now that I have retired after a long career teaching early American literature at Northern Kentucky University, I am prepared to leave Wallace’s meanings alone. In the same way that Wallace’s order roars in and drifts out like waves on a beach, order in my garden is only one of two opposite manifestations of something larger. By continuous cultivating, I impose order in the form of rows, but, by running “into each other’s arms” and beyond, the flowers bring disorder. Now, what is the name for the synthesis of order and disorder? Call it Beauty, for that is its effect! Or call it Glory, to honor the flower! Or call it nothing at all and relish the feeling that order and disorder are finally the same in a summertime garden.

Another View After the June 5th Rain

The squash seeds that I planted at neat intervals have become jungle plants recognizing no boundaries. The beans have crisscrossed their branches until I am unable to find all the slender pods concealed in rich profusion among the leaves. The heavy heads of the sunflowers droop and bob on springy stalks in and out of the floral border. Throughout the sunlit hours, birds and butterflies flit among the sunflowers, tithonia, and cosmos in kaleidoscopic color.

Sunflower Bobbing in the Border of My Garden on June 29th

At Pontiac, Illinois, many years ago, a deep orange sunset made silhouettes at the Central States Threshermen’s Reunion. Brothers Jim and John Haley had been helping me show my farm steam engine and were teaching me how to shut down the machine for the evening. Jim said, “We’ve had about as much fun as we can stand for one day.” His expression is well suited to gardening, too. Every summer, the garden that I call mine gives me more happiness than I can contain.