My 7 year old gives a warning, and I get the point – eventually.

The project looked simple enough. I had no reason to believe that, in 2008, I would set a chain of events in motion that would find me across an examination table, in full moon, awaiting the business end of a hypodermic needle filled with steroids.

Plants had begun to grow over my air conditioning condenser, threatening its operation and my comfort. After mowing the grass that morning — an operation that normally causes me much humiliation as I fire up my self-propelled, gas mower for a postage stamp of a lawn —I climbed over the waist-high vinyl fence I installed three years ago to keep my kids out. My enemies were clumps of greenness on all sides of the condenser and I was armed only with a set of hand-clippers, and my wit. Some might say I was outgunned on all fronts.

I spent the next 20 minutes cutting and pulling until I had removed every green thing from around the condenser. About 90% into the project, Aidan (my oldest son) walked by with a look of concern and asked “Is there any poison ivy in there?” — Poison ivy?!? Silly boy, I mused, of course there’s no poison ivy in there. Poison ivy wouldn’t dare lie in wait to coat my arms (and later my face as I wiped sweat away). Poison ivy announces itself like a gentleman and politely requests my presence in combat.

After clearing the brush, I moved to power washing my deck in an effort to restore its luster, and small part of my sanity as I put off the decision on hardscaping in my backyard. That chore took about a two hours during which I thought about lots of good “life lessons” — fodder for future blog posts about there being no shortcuts — and I left the day of work prepared to write one kind of blog post.

And then 8pm rolled in.

I felt a little itching in my arms, but nothing that required real scratching. I flicked on the light in my living room as was greeted by, what can only be described as, an army of red dots advancing on my elbow. Magically, the itching intensified and spread to my other arm.

My wife, who I am obligated to call a “saint”, ran to CVS to get me some calamine lotion and an anti-histamine. I contemplated the complex set of lies I’d have to tell Aidan to explain that, while it may look like his father is an idiot disfigured by poison ivy, in actual fact the rash was the result of something perfectly logical and understandable, as soon as I could think of what that might be.

I dabbed my arms with the pink solution and passed out for the evening. About 5am, I woke up to thunder and rain, but I couldn’t quite focus on my surroundings. My eyes felt heavy. I stumbled to the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the light. The face that greeted me was swollen beyond recognition. While I’ve never experienced a bee sting to my eyes, I’m pretty sure I’d look similar to what I saw this morning.

I went 3-for-3 on family members laughing at my appearance over morning coffee. I would tell you who laughed in what order, if I was capable of seeing out of my swollen eyes. If only. Instead, I made an appointment at the after-hours care center and explained to the receptionist that I don’t normally look like a boxer after 9 round of using his face as target practice. Not sure he bought it.

After diagnosing my condition as a reaction to poison ivy, the doctor left the high-skill work to the nurse, who returned shortly with a filled needle and instructions for me to drop my shorts.

That’s all of the story that’s worth retelling. To his credit, Aidan didn’t rub it in…much.

In searching this foolish story for a business lesson, this is the best I can come up with: what looks like a simple project can sometimes turn into a pain in the ass.

Posted by Victor J. Medina,
Medina Law Group, LLC
The New Jersey Estate Planning Center