F is for Fear

FF is for Fear

For the most part, I am a brave person; I always have been. Everyone is afraid of something, though, and I am no exception. For example:

  • I used to trail run alone and then one of our local girls made national news when she was assaulted and killed while running the same trails I ran. I now fear being alone where there are places for people to hide and potentially hurt me.
  • I’m not afraid of heights… unless my kids are with me. The thought of one of them getting too close to the edge of a ledge, ridge, or cliff makes me panic.
  • I never used to be afraid to die… until I had kids. Now the thought of leaving them for any reason horrifies me.

Healthy Fears

Some fear is healthy. Fear keeps us from doing stupid things… like playing with rattlesnakes, breeding black widows in the closet, and using port-o-potties.

Irrational Fears

Some fear is irrational. My irrational fears are:

  • Storm drains. You know, the kind along the curb? I go out of my way to avoid stepping over those. When I have to, I break out in a cold sweat, my heart rate increases, and I can hardly breathe. Why? I don’t know.
  • Dirty restrooms. And yes, port-o-potties are included in this category. I literally have nightmares about having to use dirty restrooms.
  • Clowns. Okay, maybe this isn’t an irrational fear. Unless you’re a clown, of course.
  • Dolls. I hate them; I know they hate me too and will kill me when they get the chance.

Facing Fears

I’m a firm believer that some fears need to be faced head on. It’s hard to beat the feeling of overcoming fears—it’s exhilarating! Sometimes it’s best to expose yourself to your fear just to show that there was no reason to be afraid. It’s very empowering. Does that mean I’m going to jump into a storm drain that is filled with clown-dolls and requires that I use a port-o-potty to hide from said clown-dolls when they chase me with their sharp teeth and bloody claws? Oh, heck no! What it does mean is that when I fall, I get back up and try again. It means when I want to do something, I try to not let fear hold me back… like writing, snorkeling, and mountain biking.

Fear. We all fear something. Fear can protect. It can hold us back. Some fears are silly to other people. Some are shared. Sometimes facing them can reap invaluable rewards.

What are some of your fears?

Mommy, the Black Widow Spider Slayer

I am going to hate writing this blog but I feel like it needs to be done… regardless of how heevie-jeevie it makes me feel.

Let me start by declaring that I really dislike black widow spiders. When I say “dislike”, I mean hate, despise, abhor, loathe, and detest black widows. I’ve never liked them but it seems like my hatred and fear of them has grown over the past few years. Actually, it’s no coincidence that my black widow hatred has grown since we moved into our current house.

I’m pretty sure our house was built on the Mecca for black widows. Each spring, they make their pilgrimage to our backyard and set up permanent homes. They party, have spider sex, kill their partners, and lay eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. In egg sacs. Lots of disgusting eggs in lots of disgusting egg sacs.

We rarely see the egg sacs but we know they’re there because a few weeks later, those eggs hatch and out come the baby black widows. Fortunately, many of them don’t survive the hatching process because they eat each other. I guess the ones that survive are the ones that a) float away in the breeze to another part of our yard; or b) do the eating.

When Matt and I first moved into our house, we kept noticing these little spiders in the backyard. They seemed to be everywhere in the back. They did not look like black widows… because they weren’t black. Their bodies were usually shaped like black widows, though, so we took a closer look. We noticed these little grayish spiders had whiteish hour glasses on their abdomens.

We did some research and found out that the little spiders we kept seeing were baby and/or juvenile black widows. The information isn’t clear regarding whether or not juvenile black widows are poisonous. Some sources say yes, and some say no. I don’t intend to find out for sure the hard way so I kill any and all black widows.

In case you’re wondering what newly hatched black widows look like, check out this disturbing picture.

I took the following picture yesterday. I was on a black widow spider killing spree in our backyard. This one is not a newly hatched baby. In my unscientific backyard observations, I label these the “preteen” widows.

The widow is in the center of the picture… it’s that roundish grayish thing with the legs.
Sorry for the poor quality of the picture- I was high on bug spray fumes when I took it.

I am pretty sure this is an immature female black widow. The males don’t usually have such round butts. Notice that she is not black. You may also notice that I found this little devil on the underside of the boys’ Little Tykes Picnic Table.

Here is another one I found on the same table:

Based on its shape, this one is probably a female, too. The white stripes indicate that it is an immature spider. My label for this stage of widowhood is “Late Teen”. She’s almost grown up, she just needs to get rid of those stripes and she’s a full-fledged black widow.

Both of the spiders are dead now… along with about 11 of their friends. I mostly find juvenile black widows in our yard but when I do find the full-fledged black widow, I am always happy to kill them with a little extra “umph”. My weapons of choice are bug spray and a croquet mallet.

Here are some black widow spider facts:

  • The males are not poisonous
  • The males are smaller than the females
  • The females don’t always eat the males after they mate- it depends on how hungry they are.
  • Females can live up to three years
  • Egg sacs can hold between 250-700 eggs

If I seem obsessed with black widows, it’s probably because I am. They both horrify and intrigue me. They mostly horrify me. I’ve always believed that in order to appreciate something, you need to learn about it. This may be true in many cases, but I’ve learned more about black widows than I ever wanted to and I only hate them more.

I dream of one day living in a place where there are no black widows. A place where my boys can go out back to play without me having to do a spider check first. A place where we can have spider-free outside toys and play structures. A place where I don’t need to shake, stomp on, and turn inside-out my garden gloves before I put them on.

I know there are dangerous creatures in every place. But believe me when I say I would take rattlesnakes, coyotes, bats, chiggers (whatever those are), ticks, scorpions, and rabid bunnies over black widows, any day!

By the way… I know some of you are thinking, “Why don’t you hire a pest control person to spray the backyard?” My answer to that is, “That’s probably a good idea.” A good idea, assuming it works better than the ant control we used to have done… until we realized we were still getting ants.