Accepting the unexpected stings of life

Sharon Kennedy

My garage sale was a bust this year so I called my niece who lives in Sault Ste. Marie and asked if she wanted to add my stuff to her sale. Her answer was affirmative so last week she drove to my place and picked up the golf clubs, etched glassware from the 1950s, lots of Nancy Drew books, a set of craft ideas in eight three-ring binders, and various odds and ends.

When I opened the main garage door, we were assailed by a swarm of wasps. I hadn’t opened that door in a week and was totally unprepared for the onslaught of insects. They appeared to have materialized from nowhere. As we batted the air, I reached for a can of wasp spray. Before I had the cap off, I was stung on my left leg. Most of this summer it’s been cool enough to wear jeans, but as luck would have it, that afternoon I was wearing cut-offs.

Lindsey headed for her vehicle while I dashed for the trailer. I got out the Bactine I keep above my kitchen stove and sprayed some on the sting. Then I made a paste of baking soda and water and covered the affected area. Thankfully I’m not allergic to stings from wasps, hornets, bees or any other insect so I wasn’t worried about anything except closing the garage door.

I went back outside and realized the swarm had built a nest in my outside light, the one that hasn’t been plugged in since 2003. When I moved into this place, my bedroom faced the garage. As soon as dusk fell, the light came on and stayed on until daybreak. I darkened the room with blinds and heavy drapes, but eventually I pulled the plug and had a sensor light installed.

Two summers ago wasps built a multi-level apartment complex above the back door of my garage. I didn’t know it until I pushed the door open to get out the riding lawn mower. I was stung two or three times and did the only prudent thing a woman can. I closed the door and left the insects alone. All summer I parked my car in the driveway. Every week I used the front door to drive the lawn mower in and out as needed. But this time I’m forced to try a different tactic. The wasps have to go.

I know they eat spiders and other insects and that’s a good thing, but being attacked every time I walk out my front door is not. Keeping the grass cut around the garage is an unending task. Should I abandon it completely and let the wasps have their way? Or should I drive my car as close to the nest as I can get, stick my arm out the window, aim a can of wasp spray at the nest, and hope the No-Pest promise of a 20 foot jet spray does the job?

I don’t know how long it takes a colony to build their nest and I didn’t bother to check Google but it can’t be more than a few hours. Otherwise I would have noticed the construction going on when it started and I would have discouraged the project. I wish I could find hired help that work as fast and efficiently as the wasps. This place would be in tip-top shape in three days. Routine maintenance would be a breeze. Simple tasks like trimming a few lower limbs from spruce trees, raking leaves and tamarack needles, whacking weeds and tall grass, and slapping a coat of paint on the back porch would be completed in a jiffy.

But into every life unexpected stings must come. We get stung by guys who promise to be here at 8:00 a.m. and don’t show up until hours later. We hang around all day waiting. Just as we’re about to meet a friend for dinner, in pulls a rusty old truck and a couple of teenagers stagger out. They tell us we can have an hour’s worth of work but they don’t have any tools. We send them on their way.

We get stung when the roofer shows up and throws the new roofing face down on our gravel driveway. When we suggest he spread a tarp on the ground so the stones won’t scratch the metal, he says he can’t be bothered. We’re stung when the plow guy takes three inches of topsoil as he pushes the snow aside even though we’ve asked him a dozen times to be more careful. We’re stung when the neighbor’s dog leaves his calling card on our lawn and the neighbor gets mad at us when we shovel the dog’s business into a plastic bag and return it to the owner.

Life is loaded with stings. Some go deep and last a long time. Others hurt for a moment and are quickly forgotten. Some we never forget. Others are quickly sprayed and slapped with homemade paste and not given another thought. Some can be avoided by changing our routine.

Instead of opening the front garage door, I can easily go around to the back. Instead of cutting grass near the nest, I can wait until cold weather descends and the wasps disappear. But if they get too annoying, I can stick to my original plan and give them a lethal shot of No-Pest spray.

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Snowbound Books on North Third Street in Marquette.