Laughing Spiders

My dad saved my life when I was a little girl, or at least, that’s how I felt. My parents, sisters, and I were at our cabin for a weekend getaway in Sugarloaf, California, just south of Big Bear City. Sugar pines surrounded our little bungalow on the big corner lot in the mountains. We had just finished Mom’s lasagna dinner and everyone was relaxing in their own way for the rest of the evening. I was engrossed in a book, sitting on our coffee-colored sofa by our gray stone fireplace, and that’s when Dad noticed the spider heading for me at lightning speed. He caught it just before it began the climb onto my leg. In those days, any spider who found itself inside our home didn’t live to see the sunrise the next morning. For a little girl, this moment was traumatic, so these little pests have been the bane of my existence ever since. Even as I evolved into my teen years, they seemed to follow me everywhere.

These wee beasts spent much of their time in my peaceful and cool bathroom with the sky-blue walls and plush soft matching rugs. Never did they tour my parent’s bathroom. My mind drifts to the morning when I was about to take a shower, getting ready for another day of high school…as I turned the knob and looked up with eyes wide open, I watched a spider ride the waves of the cascading waterfall down, down, down. I jerked my head back just in time, and I cringed thinking of that eight-legged creature tangled up in my long hair.

Mornings began to fuel unfamiliar anxiety as spider social calls manifested soon after the crack of dawn. The sun brightened the sky and another high school day was on the horizon. I grabbed a towel to dry off after showering when I felt something unnatural. Looking down, I watched in horror as a brown spider scuttled across my chest. I jumped, avoiding a nasty fall in the tub, and brushed the spider off not caring where it landed. I just wanted it off my skin.

These creepy-crawlies seemingly watched for me so they could plan their next prank. During another shower with my head full of shampoo suds, I spotted a black spider near my feet. The dance I did wasn’t a happy one. With a swish here and there, my foot managed to nudge the scary intruder down the drain with ripples of water, as I imagined it whirling into the dark unknown of the water system. I quickly rinsed the suds out. Just as I felt calm run through my body, I looked down and saw that damn spider climbing out of the drain. This could only happen to me.

I’m not afraid of fangs digging into me. It’s the spider’s startling presence that makes me jump high enough to tap the moon. They appear when I least expect it, so any hope of building armor to avoid fear taking control is hopeless. And they have too many legs; this, combined with their sudden movements of jumping or crawling at high-speed, send me into a tizzy as my dad used to say. Also, from my view, spiders are not pretty. The visual doesn’t compare to reveling in the beauty of a swallowtail butterfly. In fact, their creepy looks propel me into a panic as much as their sudden company.

Even after five decades, I haven’t been able to shake my skittish reactions. Even though I’m a giant compared to the spider, with any fear, the source becomes magnified. So, I’ve diagnosed myself with arachnophobia. And the tale continues…

One unforgettable incident took place later in life. I’m now a wife and mom with two little children. On an evening like any other while my family was getting ready for bed, I walked through the house locking the front, patio, and kitchen doors. I turned the lights out in the living room, but noticed a dark spot the size of my palm on the carpet. I almost – almost – reached down to touch it, but a bell went off in my subconscious warning me not to. I turned on the light and staring back at me was a black hairy tarantula!

     “Oh, Shit!” I screamed, backing up slowly.

     “Uh, oh! I think Mom found a spider,” my husband, Matt, said to the kids. But he silently questioned the kind of spider that would cause me to shriek. This scenario sounded different from all the rest.

After I managed to widen the space between the tarantula and me, my feet felt like two cement blocks. Fear crept into my veins like a drug. I had never seen a tarantula up close, although I was thankful it stayed put. It didn’t budge at all. It wasn’t afraid of me. What a fiasco the night would’ve been if the tarantula had run. I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about the thick-legged, ominous-looking intruder finding comfort beneath the sofas (that I would never again sit on).

Matt was taken back when he saw the reason for my shriek. He was also surprised I hadn’t passed out! My daughter instituted the trend of saving spiders with a glass and a paper plate. So, by grabbing those two items, Matt scooped up the uninvited guest while I held the door. Per my request, he walked far enough away from the house before setting the big guy free in the yard. No tarantula was killed in the telling of this event. Our front door had been open earlier in the evening with the screen door closed. Spiders can maneuver through any cracks, but I see homes on our block with front doors open all the time. Don’t spiders find their way into those homes, too, where prime opportunity awaits?

Several days after Matt had introduced “Harry” to his outdoor residence, my phobia eventually quieted down. Until, just recently, when I sat at the kitchen table typing on my laptop. I noticed a spider crawling over the top of the screen. It appeared like out of a horror flick, magnified by the white backdrop, growing to an enormous size – my skewed perception – as each leg made its way over the top. Since Matt was home, I yelled for his help. He grabbed the saving tools, but was too slow for the speedy spider. He’s off to the races! So, Matt lobbed the glass to me like we had teamed up for an egg toss.

     “Oh no, I missed him, too!”

     “Hon, it’s just a spider,” Matt said with a smile and a pinch of courage. He knew Harry’s disturbing image had been ingrained in my mind, and no matter how much effort I exerted, it was stuck there forever.

I couldn’t believe Matt said, just a spider, but I knew he was teasing because he always comes to my rescue. As it happened, this little fellow was faster than lightning, so maybe he fled the household.

     “He’s on the floor…hand me the glass!” Matt tried again. “Ahh, now I can’t see him; he blends into the tile.”

     “It’s time for the vacuum then; I’m so sorry, I said out loud. When I finished pushing the vacuum back and forth many times, relief washed over me because I assumed the spider had been swallowed into oblivion. Then guilt followed because we usually tried to save the creepy creatures. I sat down at the table again, but not before examining my laptop with eagle eyes to ensure no more spiders needed screen time.

Five minutes later, I saw the spider again!

     “Oh my gosh, Honey, he’s following me!”

     “Who’s following you?”

     “Who do you think is following me?!

I ignored Matt’s teasing, but without him hearing, I let a chuckle escape. All I wanted to do was send an email. I grabbed the glass but missed the spider again. Good thing Matt and I weren’t on a baseball team. The spider certainly had an agenda – still racing to who knows where and surely faster than us. My eyes stayed focused on the little pest as it made its way to the living room. I was sure he was having the time of his life – the furniture would turn out to be a guaranteed playground.

     “Just watch, I’ll find him on my chair in the morning,” I said.

     “Could be. Should I make a bigger pot of coffee?” Matt replied, as he took a step back hiding behind a grin.

It seemed I had survived yet another spider episode, and so I had! We didn’t see the eight-legged visitor again and extra coffee wasn’t needed.

Now that I’m approaching another decade, my eyesight isn’t as sharp. And yet, I’ve memorized a few spots on the carpet that just won’t disappear with any amount of scrubbing. So, I can distinguish between a spill to a creepy unwanted visitor. Admittedly, I don’t shower without a peek behind the curtain. Fully overcoming this fear most likely won’t happen. However, if I can save a spider and watch it skitter around in a glass, then make my way to the door to give it freedom, that’s progress. Amazing progress! Once outside, I gently lay the glass down and with leg synchronicity, the spider crawls out heading to the roses and lantana, making us both sigh with relief.

I never had a green thumb in the garden; the last thing I wanted to do was deliberately put my hands in a spider’s haven. Nowadays, I’m more in tune with the blooms in our yard than I’ve ever been. I don’t worry about the creepy-crawlies when I’m offering a drink to the thirsty blossoms. This evidence shows the fear doesn’t have the firm grip that it had in years past. I haven’t conquered arachnophobia one hundred percent, but I realize this phobia doesn’t prey only on me. Knowing I’m not alone while learning to exist with arachnids and acknowledging they’re not out to get me, is a work-in-progress. I’ve come a long way since that evening at the cabin when Dad saved my life. Maybe his reaction incited fear. Yet, if the spider had begun its ascent onto my leg, fear would’ve hurled into full force regardless.

And so, I wonder, had the spiders been laughing at me when their presence whirled me into a frenzy? My intentions were always good; I simply didn’t want to be roommates. Laughing with me would’ve been perfectly welcomed.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020
Please note: No images are included due to the aforementioned phobia.

A Glance

The pocket-sized community in Marin County became home twenty years ago. This town of deep-rooted cottages and newly modernized homes is tucked away nicely among the rolling hills. A variety of trees dot the neighborhood streets and as I look out my living room window, deer saunter by. This infers in me comfort, knowing nature and people can coexist in harmony.

Anywhere I go, whether it be to the local shopping center or to downtown for delicious dining, I am likely to run into a familiar face. But even in this cozy community, the streets can turn into a cluster of blinking lights. Regardless of its charm, this town succumbs to crowds and traffic jams.

When respite is needed, my husband and I take advantage of the beautiful outdoors in “our backyard.” This means a journey into West Marin – a favorite place on our map for day trips. In only a ten-minute drive west, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard takes us over White’s Hill where we exhale into relaxation. We pass what once was the shimmering emerald green lawn of San Geronimo Golf Club and cruise towards one of our favorite stops, the Lagunitas Deli, for a mouth-watering sandwich. This little market provides a few outdoor umbrellaed tables where patrons can sit, chat, and watch cars go by. Occasionally, we order our sandwiches to go, setting out for another favorite destination, Samuel P. Taylor Park.

After making a left turn into the park, we drive to the ranger station to check in, handing over a few bills for the day-use fee. Then we continue further into a magnificent redwood forest as though entering into a magical paradise. After parking the car, we unfold our legs and stretch, tipping our heads up to match the awe-inspiring Redwoods’ height. We stand in a world where breathing is easier.  Our eyes search for a picnic table by the Papermill Creek so we can be soothed by the sound of gentle flowing water – perfect music for unwinding. After the last bite of our sandwiches, we stroll around hand in hand, delighting in the laughter of children playing and the mesquite aroma of the barbecues. The group picnic site evokes special memories as we approach: birthday celebrations and college graduations with barbecued meats, bean bag tossing, cake, and camaraderie.

But the deli and park aren’t exclusive to pulling us out of the stop and go traffic back in town. We detour off Sir Francis Drake Boulevard by turning right on a side street, driving at the posted fifteen-miles-per-hour speed limit through the blink-of-an-eye town of Nicasio. This town is where the Rancho Nicasio restaurant and concert venue resides. The “barbecues on the lawn” find their way onto our summer to-do list each year: great food, a margarita or two, the tree-lined scenery, and band of the day. But when the sun sets, the atmosphere takes on a new alchemy – enchanting strings of lights and stars in the night sky twinkle to create an unforgettable evening.

Passing Nicasio and nearing Bear Valley Visitor Center where we’ve hiked and picnicked, our eyes notice the cows grazing in the pastures. They often lift their heads to see who’s passing by. We arrive at the center and wander through, reading displays on all types of wildlife: deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, bobcats, gopher snakes, and great blue herons – education at our fingertips. I always manage to find something appealing in the gift shop: another t-shirt or bandanna to add to my collection, or one more book to keep others company in my bookcase, waiting to have their pages turned.

If we don’t plan to hike or picnic at the center, we head less than ten minutes away to the delightful town of Point Reyes Station. First stop, I spoil myself with a latte from Toby’s Coffee Bar. Toby’s is our favorite store in town. From chocolate, nuts, and jams, to shirts, jewelry, greeting cards, and books, this inviting store has everything! We mosey around, never walking out empty handed.

After finishing up at Toby’s with bags in hand, we enjoy one more spree and it’s for cheese! Stepping into Cowgirl Creamery, we hesitate, unsure of what delectable variety our palates crave: an Aged Sharp Cheddar or Gouda, a crumbly Goat cheese, or a Soft Brie or Camembert. When minds are made up, we add to the shuffling of bags with cheese in hand, and look for a table to savor it. If we didn’t lunch already, we may head to the Palace Market’s deli for a sandwich, saving the cheese for later. A bench suffices while we satisfy our hunger and watch regulars and visitors amble by. We then immerse ourselves into perusing each little shop with gusto. Point Reyes Station offers enjoyment for all. It’s a quaint town for a shopping expedition, to simply wander and window shop, or to satisfy appetites. It is the texture of Bay Area country living – a leisurely embrace of life.

Marin County brims with cozy and tranquil destinations where life is unhurried. These lovely locations offer reprieve from idling on crowded streets with frustrated drivers. We pause, crossing the threshold into a simpler time. Choosing whatever journey’s-end we prefer, Marin County is full of magic. We transport to where the air is refreshing, birds delightfully sing, trees welcome our company, and since the pace is easy-going, we actually have time to “smell the roses.”

This was written pre-Covid, but I’m optimistic that we’ll have the chance to repeat this adventure when life enters into a another new normal – one without masks and social distancing, when hugs and handshakes are welcomed, and smiles are seen again.

I hope you enjoyed! Lauren 💗
Photo credit: Google images for Samuel P Taylor picnic ground
& Pt. Reyes. All other photos are mine.

           

Jewels

I found this photo
while browsing the archives.
In 2014, we vacationed
in Bend, Oregon,
which seems like
a million years ago.
A time of large gatherings,

not worrying about
what we touch,
and no mask-wearing.
It was a different world.
Sisters, Oregon was a

fun day adventure
and a destination
for beautiful
sightseeing.
I thought this
would make
a good Monday post.
So, I send wishes
of peace
for a new week,
and I’m grateful
for all of you
who stop by

my little piece
of blogland.
I hope you

continue to find
inspiration here

that keeps you
coming back.

Lauren 💗

4/24/20

The world suffers.
The patio is

our shield.
Wine fills

crystal
we’re careful
not to shatter

like human lives
across the globe.

The dog snores
without a care.
Hummingbirds

fly like
the Blue Angels.

A warm breeze
winds its way
in between us
and the roses
.

Silence –
a soothing
melody.

And yet,
we know
what lies
on the

other side
of silence.

The world aches
where peace
is far removed
from day-to-day.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

Just Yesterday

Dressed up in satin and lace, I walked slowly down the aisle of the church sanctuary. Strolling arm in arm with my father, I loved hearing the swish from my dress with each graceful step. My eyes focused on my to-be-husband standing in front of the sanctuary. He looked quite dashing in his black tux. Wasn’t this special occasion just yesterday?
Yesterday that transported into thirty-one years of marriage.

Well, it was just yesterday when I saw the item sitting on the shelf: a gift from my bridal shower in 1988. I recall opening the box and pulling out a white mini food chopper. A great gift, but did I expect to keep it for three decades? I thought for sure it would’ve been replaced with an updated version sometime between then and now. Yet, over the years, it has stood the test of time, still working, and the only change is its color; instead of a glossy white, it’s now faded into a pale yellow.

The question is: should I replace the little food chopper because it looks weathered? If so, shouldn’t anything old be swapped out for a newer version? Think about cars. They may have all the parts, their engines may roar when the key is turned, but if they’re scraped up and bruised, shouldn’t they be traded in for shiny new models? Let’s expand our thinking even further: Should spouses sprouting gray hair, wearing mazes of facial wrinkles be substituted with younger partners? Is the end-all goal a better-looking copy?

Let’s do the math: if that mini chopper has aged, so have I and I am not going to be traded in. Buying brand-new, shiny, and flawless is exciting and I won’t lie and say that I never have, but sometimes the memories deep within are more valuable than the “itemitself. Regarding life partners, what about the good memories: the laughter, tears, adventures, intimacy, and the love both partners felt in the beginning when that spark ignited? This is why my faded chopper still sits on the shelf, rather content with the cookie sheets and mixing bowls.

I don’t know how long the chopper will stay in the family, but as long as it does, I’ll remember that Saturday afternoon: women gathered to celebrate my upcoming wedding day. Silly games brought fits of laughter, deep conversations evoked precious memories, words of wisdom were spoken by women who had lived through the cracks and crevices of life. Most importantly, my faded gift reminds me of when my mom and mother-in-law were still in my life. They were two amazing women with more stories to tell and wisdom to share and I miss them more than words convey.

Mom on my right and
my mother-in-law on my left.

So, if you’re questioning whether you should toss that old worn-out item even though it functions perfectly, allow yourself to pause in the moment, to reflect upon the wonderful memories.

January 21, 1989

The answer could just be in one of them.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

Room 506A

As sudden as an earthquake, I ended up in the emergency room several years ago because of severe abdominal pain. It turned out to be pancreatitis. I didn’t know anything about this condition but later learned it could be life-threatening. Pancreatitis is often caused by excessive alcohol consumption, but since I rarely drink alcohol, this wasn’t possible. The culprit turned out to be a gallstone found in the bile duct and the pain felt like a million knives doing the twist. Since my gallbladder was removed decades ago, gallstones never again entered my mind. Apparently though, if the gallbladder is gone, the gallstones have nowhere else to go.

It was an autumn Friday morning and I had just enjoyed a good cup of coffee with my husband when those knives started dancing. My husband comforted me as I laid down, but he felt helpless unable to take away the pain. After a couple of hours, I knew I wouldn’t be going into work. Maybe stubbornness played a role in my decision to ride it out. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I wanted to enjoy my morning routine and have a productive day at work. Later I’d celebrate that it was Friday and the weekend was just around the corner.

However, things don’t always work out like we plan. That afternoon, I took in the sight of the emergency room where an IV was started, blood was drawn, and questions asked such as, “Are you allergic to any medications?” and “How would you rate your pain?” In full agony, I barely whispered, “It’s a ten.” The nurse gave me medication through the IV; soon the dancing knives ended their performance, although I wondered why it began in the first place.

While I waited for results, I couldn’t help think about the auto-immune liver disease my daughter was diagnosed with several years back – Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). So far, my symptoms were parallel to hers. Could it be that I’ve had PSC all these years? As hard as I resisted, tears welled up. I kept thinking I had passed this horrible disease on to my daughter which made my heart ache. I was letting my darkest thoughts grab the reins and spiral me into a deep emotional funk. I fought back though, sliding these thoughts under the hospital bed. I had to remain calm and continue to breathe deeply, otherwise, I’d turn into a big mess.

If anyone has ever spent the night in a hospital, they’re aware of the constant nightly interruptions. Just when I fell into a soothing sleep, the nurse would come in and cheerily say, “Hi Lauren, time for labs,” or, “Hi Lauren, I need to check your vitals.” I know they’re only doing their jobs, but when I’ve fallen into a wonderful, deep sleep and woken up abruptly, it’s like entering an alternate universe. I’d roll over, hold out my arm with eyes closed while they poked and prodded. Then I’d fall back into my much-needed slumber.

By Sunday, I was raring to go home. The noise had taken its toll; a headache was coming on like a tidal wave from the high-pitched beeping. That deep longing for my own bed would not vanish. I woke up early and walked a few laps around the hospital floor. I had to prove to the doctor I was in good enough shape to be discharged, so I took each step slowly in a forward fashion. I was decked out in my blue hospital gown, tied securely so as not to put on a show. The red, traction hospital socks were the final touch to the classy ensemble. The venture was successful.

When I returned to my room, the nurse came in to share some bad news – that I was slightly jaundiced. This fed my anxiety because I thought jaundice was an end-of-liver-disease symptom. I’m right; it is, but it’s also a common indicator for other causes. Regardless, I was still well enough to go home, but since we still had no answers, I had to endure more tests. The most logical was an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography (ERCP). This procedure is risky since I’ve had pancreatitis, but it was the only method that could detect different causes, including cancer. Even though I was hesitant because of the risks, I agreed to the ERCP. On a stormy day in October, I walked through the hospital doors for the 1:00 pm procedure.

One memory that remains vivid from this procedure was the seconds of sedation consciousness. One of the medications slowed down my heart rate which concerned my doctor enough to halt what he was doing. It was during this time that I felt something down my throat, thought I was going to choke, and tried to get my doctor’s attention. In my mind, I tried to lift my hand but it wouldn’t budge. Just when panic was setting in…so did the sedation. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in recovery. I was happy to see my husband, who was relieved the procedure was over, and then my doctor walked in to share the results.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get the camera all the way down, Lauren…your bile duct was heavily scarred…I’m so sorry,” he said.

What? I felt my shoulders drop. The bottom line was to repeat this procedure, but I had to wait until the end of November, a six-week wait. I wasn’t about to tempt fate, so I dealt with the anticipation as best I could. The nameless cause morphed into an elephant in the room. Everywhere I looked, there it was. I had to maneuver around it in order to live life.

The clocks on the hand seemed to move at a slower speed, but the day of the procedure finally arrived. I felt relieved, but as I sat in the cold hospital room, surrounded by machines and medical staff, nervousness overpowered my relief. To calm myself, I said a silent prayer – that the doctors would have steady hands and sharp eyes to bring solid answers, for strength on my part, and for a “third time’s a charm” not to be necessary.

Once again, my thoughts returned to the days of numerous tests my daughter underwent when the doctors remained dumbfounded as they were unable to come up with a diagnosis for her. It took three years for one doctor, who was head of the Gastroenterology department, to finally give it a name. During those years, my husband and I lived in a cloud of disbelief that our daughter could be very sick; everyone has that invincible thought at some time “it won’t happen to us.” And while sitting in the office listening to the doctor speak, I felt time stop on the spot. The world may have kept spinning, but our family’s world became suspended.

When I waited for my diagnosis, was I afraid I could have cancer? Was I scared of having PSC? Sure, but mainly, I wasn’t concerned about myself. I simply didn’t want to be a burden; I wanted to be healthy so when my daughter needs me in the future, I’ll be able to comfort her. That has been my primary wish – that nothing happens to my husband, my son, or to me, so that when her disease progresses and becomes life-threatening, she knows her family is right beside her. Although bile duct gallstones can be serious, this is the primary reason I was grateful that neither cancer or PSC weren’t found.

Because of this painful experience, I’m reminded of just how fragile life is and that no day is guaranteed. I was fully aware before, but this fact became even clearer. It’s so easy to take even the simplest of tasks for granted. I even had moments when I could’ve easily lost sight of optimism and hope if it weren’t for the support circle of family and friends. I admit to still getting annoyed at little things, but my moments of annoyance don’t linger as long. My perspective is changed because I’ve tiptoed on the other side. Moving forward, I am grateful for the blessing of these positive results and hope for many tomorrows ahead.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020

Her Offerings

Harmony lives in each flow of a breeze
In each gentle embrace of evergreens
The clear blue enchantingly shields
Let nothing stay concealed.

Blooms tender their affable smile
Leaves listen in for awhile
Birdsong soothes the whirling mind
A landscape perfectly designed
.

Nature’s lessons are plentiful
Shall our choices be flexible?
We are not ignorant to her offerings
Receive them for relief of suffering
.

A painting of beauty and brilliance
Mesmerizing even in distance
Can you deny the splendid view?
Allow serenity to fall into you
.

Lauren Scott (c) 2020
Photo: from our backyard

Tiny Nuances

The circle stretches miles long
Hands held, leaving no room
Baring the strength of steel

Some things cannot be forced
Tiny nuances glow in time
The truth, clear as pure water

Emotions flood out
Frenzied with freedom
The agony is extreme

Floatingdown, down
Falling reckless
Into arms open wide

To guide and to calm
Into moving forward

The circle remains as
is

Lauren Scott (c) 2020