My first class starts at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. That means I will rise at six, shower and dress to create a proper first impression, eat, scan the Baltimore Sun, and get on the road by seven. I-95 is a horror show during rush hour. It shouldn’t take more than fifty minutes from home base to Mt. Royal Avenue in Baltimore, but these days I need two hours to ensure that I will have adequate time to park, drop baggage in the adjuncts’ office, pee, and be in the classroom looking calm and academic.

First impressions, after all, are first impressions.

A power suit and high heels were once de rigeur for the first meeting. My goal was to look intimidating and mostly it worked. Now I just stand up straight in flats and hope that austere attire reinforces my comments on the importance of following directions, punctuality, regular attendance, and turning in all assigned work. Maybe I should just stop at “following directions.”

Tonight, about fourteen hours prior to my opening remarks, I feel prepared. I drove to campus today to see if the digital platform we are being asked to use actually works in my classroom. It does!  I can demonstrate how to get there, how to scroll through various elements, and open up web pages and pdf files. I can even get to ARTStor and show students where I have stashed images they need for essay assignments. For a technophobe such as myself, this is a signal accomplishment.

I am, in fact, itching to get back to class. Literally. I’ve got a case of poison ivy.

"If leaves of three, then let it be.

Prior to my fiftieth birthday, Toxicodendron radicans wasn’t a problem. I wandered through field and forest largely oblivious to the threats of leaves-of-three. One day, my Dear One pointed out poison ivy growing up a fence alongside a neighborhood sidewalk. In those days and at that house we used to walk to the 7-Eleven in the morning to enjoy a brief constitutional and get the morning papers.

A day or so later I was itching. My doctor informed me that it was poison ivy and introduced me to the corticosteroid prednisone.

When we moved across town to this house, one of our first priorities was reforestation. We are ardent exponents of landscaping with native species and my Dear One suggested we go  collect white pine seedlings in local woods.

the berries

What fun, I thought. And the trees are free!

We found a goodly number of itty-bitty pines that we potted pending transplantation. I went in to   wash up, and enjoyed a luxurious shower with scrubby and scented soap.

I was itching everywhere by the middle of the night. I had poison ivy from my jaw line down both arms, and across my ribcage and belly. Great purple pustules forced me to wear long sleeves and dispense with undergarments. People I encountered did their best not to stare. Even my doctor was grossed out. The financial cost of recuperating from the poison ivy was probably ten times the cost of buying white pines at a nursery.

the furry vine

Now when stricken by Toxicodendron radicans, I call my doctor immediately. I slather myself with calamine in every form I can find. I shower in water as hot as I can tolerate to counter the itching with an alternative pain, especially a night so I can sleep.

As the prednisone eases the reaction, the itch is due more to skin dried by hot water and    desiccating topical treatments. Washing with Noxema® and lubricating with Eucerin Calming Creme® helps.

Thank goodness, however, that the shirt and skirt in becoming earth tones chosen for the inaugural classes of fall 2010 will hide most of the spots.

fall colors