Saturday, June 4, 2011


I've recently been having some problems with a cactus spine in my foot, a spine that I originally stepped on when I was in New Zealand in February visiting my father. While I was there, I cut down a huge sagauro cactus in his yard. My father has a fairly large piece of property with beautifully landscaped gardens that he can't possibly keep up with, so every time I visit him, I do a lot of gardening. I don't have a green thumb, but in New Zealand there's only one cardinal rule of gardening, and that is CUT SHIT BACK.

Actually, I take it back. There are two rules of gardening in New Zealand. The second rule is CUT SHIT COMPLETELY DOWN (IT WILL GROW BACK).

Thanks to Liz A for turning me onto, where you can
get free, and occasionally disgusting,
photos for your own use.
Here in Wisconsin, you have to tenderly nurture each seedling, make sure you don't plant things too early or too late, keep things watered, and protect plants from the harsh winter. In New Zealand you just throw a seed on the ground and then go hang at the beach.

Yes, this means that New Zealand is a lush semi-tropical paradise, but before you pull up stakes and move there, you might want to know this: some of the gardening work I did involved cutting down a tree near the bedroom window of my father and his girlfriend, so that it would be harder for cockroaches to crawl up the tree, into their window, and then into their bed while they slept. So don't file for permanent resident status quite yet.

Anyway, I cut down a giant cactus at my father's request. And despite the thousands of spines on the cactus, I wore sandals while I cut it down. Why? I think it comes down to the fact that I was visiting New Zealand from Wisconsin, and it was February, and I was so desperate for any warm weather that I insisted on wearing summer footwear no matter how inappropriate for the job. Seriously, the neighbors are lucky I didn't cut down the cactus completely naked, although now I am thinking that approach could yield spines in worse places than my foot.

Yes, sandals are definitely
the way to go when you
cut down something
with this many spines.
So I cut down the cactus, and in the process got a spine in my foot, which was intermittently quite painful but only intermittently. The pain went away after I returned to Wisconsin, but then when it got warmer and I started wearing my sandals again, I could really feel that cactus spine. I looked at the bottom of my foot but couldn't see the actual spine, so I called my mother for medical advice. She's a nurse practitioner, and I strongly recommend having a nurse in the family because it means you can call for free medical advice whenever you need it. How handy is that?! I also wish we had an IT professional in our immediately family, and maybe an attorney. My sister is still single, and she better marry a plumber.

My mother's medical advice was -- as her medical advice to me almost always is -- "Ignore it and it will go away." So I resigned myself to intermittent foot pain, although I noticed that the spine only seemed to bother me when I was wearing my sandals. The same sandals that I wore to cut down the cactus. Do you know how long it took me to realize that the spine was actually stuck in my sandal, not in my foot? WEEKS! WEEKS! Weeks of walking around, wincing every 20th step because a cactus spine was jabbing into the bottom of my foot!

At first glance, this would appear to be an indicator that I am somewhat intellectually challenged (ie, dumb as a box of hammers). In my defense I would like to say that I did quite well on my GREs. But in addition to being culturally biased, that test apparently doesn't measure whether or not you are a moron.

At any rate, the offending cactus spine has been removed from my shoe after weeks of walking around on it. I hope to blame the kids for having sucked so much brain power out of my head that I couldn't put two and two together. And the next time I go to New Zealand, I'll be sure to wear better shoes, both for working in the garden and stomping on those cockroaches.


  1. I think your mom was right on this one; just a week or two more and the spine would wave been so dull from repeatedly puncturing your foot that you wouldn't feel it and the whole problem would just go away. N8

  2. I love your blog; this one was particularly hilarious, though I think they are usually very, very funny. Keep up the good writing! Also, I think nurse practitioners rule, and I'm going to take your mom's advice re: medical problems. Though now I will pay more attention to the soles of my shoes...


    p.s. Liz A. is my sister, and it's fun to see her mentioned. Especially in the story about your birthday!