DIY Is Full Of Danger: A Cautionary Tale

posted by on 12/14/2012 | 440 comments (leave one of your own)

I am extremely honored to have read this post at the BlogHer ’13 Voices Of The Year keynote in the Humor category, pretty much securing the fact that I will forever be known as that chick that gave herself poison ivy all over her entire face. You can watch the video here.


I’ve always wanted a decorative wreath for our front porch, but I never found anything that said “BUY ME”. This past December when we pulled out the Christmas decorations from the garage, I noticed that we had a few of those fake, plain green wreaths and I decided to make a jazz it up.  If there is one thing we have an abundance of in Colorado, it’s pinecones.

The kids and I went outside and gathered pinecones from the woods around our house, we were crafting off the land. It was pretty much just like Little House On The Prairie except no one was blind.

I had no plan, no directions, just a glue gun and sheer determination to make my vision come to life.  I started gluing the pinecones on the inside edge of the wreath working my way around.  I ran out of pinecones quickly, I kept going back out and I filled a box up three times. I glued, glued, and glued some more.  It was like a gigantic pinecone puzzle, you know, if puzzles were sharp, pointy, and gave you splinters and burns all over your fingertips.

It turned out lovely and totally free. All the supplies that I used I had lying around the house and in the woods and free makes my wreath a gigantic win.

Pinecone Wreath

But as we know, all magic comes with a price.

The next day, the back my right hand developed a weird rash.

A few days later, the rash had spread to my face, ears, and neck. I figured it was a reaction to something I had eaten.

I called my doctor’s office and they told me to swing by.

My doctor mentioned the rash did not look like it was brought on by food or drink and proceeded to ask all sorts of questions. He was certain it was some sort of reaction to shampoo, detergent, lotion, or perfume.

I’ve used the same shampoo since high school, I make my own detergent, I don’t use lotion, and I’ve worn the same perfume for at least five years.


He then brought in his doctor co-worker friend and this guy was all, “Well, I don’t think it is shingles and probably not scarlet fever. If it was lupus, the rash would be located on your joints.”  HUH.

They told me to go home and take some allergy medication for my hives and to call them if anything changed.  I was concerned for the well being of my face, but I felt confident enough to put my hives on blast via Instagram because everyone finds hives amusing when they aren’t happening to you.

This is the face of poison ivy.

I should have titled the photo “Bitch, you don’t even know”, as this was just the beginning.  Later that evening, my entire head was bright effing red and on fire. I stayed up all night with a cold washcloth on my face, consulting Dr. Google, convinced that I was suffering from a rare medical condition and about to receive the cutting edge diagnosis of being allergic to my husband.

After a full night of being miserable and not sleeping, I was inspecting my red, patchy, burning swollen face in the mirror and noticed there were tiny blisters forming on the rim of my lower eyelid.

I called my doctor’s office AGAIN freaking out because Hi, no sleep and because Mary went blind on Little House and they were all, “Please come to the office immediately, we are concerned for your vision”.


Twenty minutes later, I am back in the exact same exam room from the day before.  My doctor informs me my skin is blistering and it looks like my lymph nodes are swelling. He inquired if I could have possibly somehow been exposed to poison ivy.

Oh, you mean like maybe when I went into the woods and picked up 200 pinecones by hand?

Pinecone Wreath

And then painstakingly glued those 200 super speshul FREE pinecones to a tacky wreath with nothing but my glue gun and a dream?

Pinecone Wreath

He informed me that even if the poison ivy dickface of a plant is dead it could still infect you for up to a YEAR with its super demon plant powers.

So, I picked up pinecones lying in field of dead, poisoned plants, came inside, glued said infected pinecones of death to a wreath, touched my iPhone a whole bunch of times while making the wreath, and then used the said contaminated phone like a boss while working the next day and gave my entire head the worst case of poison ivy my doctor has ever seen in the history of his practice.

I was prescribed steroids to prevent my eyes from swelling shut, my face looked like it was sunburned to a itchy, infuriating crisp that I absolutely could not scratch, and I had blisters all over my entire head, even in the creases of my ears.

While the best things in life are indeed free, apparently they can also rage and disease your entire face with their poison oils. My free wreath cost me two doctor office visits, $16 in drugstore relief, a co-pay for my prescription, and my dignity.

I straight jacked myself up all in the name of crafting.


After my family offered their love and support in the form of laughter, my sister pretty much summed up this entire experience up with one sentence:

No truer words have ever been spoken.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Oh sweetie, I am laughing SO hard, but I am SO sorry! You do tell a good story….

  • Erin

    I love how you can make shit that sucks into such a hilarious and entertaining story. I should have you rewrite the last month for me.

  • MissCaron

    Oh. My. Lord. You poor thing! I would never have even thought of poison ivy or poison oak or anything and would totally have made something crafty if I had a thousand pinecones lying around. DANG. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  • Leslie

    Your sister is correct, and you should make a t-shirt to remind yourself of this next Christmas. Target sells wreaths.

  • Jade @ Tasting Grace

    Oh God! I’m so sorry! I’m laughing and sharing this with my husband, but I’m also cringing and sorry for you and I hope you get better soon. At least the wreath is pretty to look at though, right? … Just, you know, use a 10-foot pole and heavy duty gloves to take it back down after the holidays.

  • Amanda

    Your sister rocks. It’s totally unfair that dead poison ivy gets to keep on poisoning stuff.

  • Rebecca

    Poison Ivy is the devil, I was never affected until after I had my first kid. My only suggestion, smack the itch, don’t itch the itch…ya know?

  • Melissa

    OMG. Dude.

  • KMW

    YIKES! I’m now regretting my choice to craft salt dough handprints of my child to give to the grandparents… God punishes crafters… I’ll patiently wait for the other shoe to drop.

    Hope your demon poison oils go away soon.

  • oh Holland

    I know it’s so unkind to laugh at another’s undeserved misfortune, especially at this time of year.

    Bwaaaa ha ha. Hee.

    • oh Holland

      Had to come back to clarify it’s only your comic genius that’s laugh-worthy — and I hope that devil-poison-ivy rash gets gone fast.

  • Issa

    Oh my god friend. THIS IS WHY I DON’T CRAFT! Your sister is too funny.

    Oy. And I’m so sorry.

  • Kim

    It takes a certain amount of talent to turn something as icky as poison ivy/rashes/hives into something we can giggle over… and you have that talent in spades.

    Sorry about the grossness.

  • Xae

    LOL. I’m so sorry this happened to you but it’s hard not to laugh. This story made my day.

    The wreath does look amazing though, but I guess it was not worth it.

    Feel better 🙂

  • Ami

    Poison ivy is the worst! My daughter gets it every year and her face swells up horribly. She likes to be crafty too…..there may be a connection.
    We’ve used Technu in the past on her. It’s a topical soap/cream that gets rid of the poison ivy oils. It works great if you can find it at your local drug store. Also, benedryl helps with the swelling along with the steroids you’re on.
    Good luck!

    • Ami

      Also, change your sheets and pillow cases everyday to help get rid of any oils that may have rubbed off while you were sleeping.

  • koreen

    Good lord woman! Stop while you’re ahead!

  • erin

    In solidarity sister. Cheers to foolhardy ideas and hopes for a very speedy recovery.

  • Sarah

    Oh good grief. Poison ivy covered pincones?! What is the world coming to?? Hope you are less crispy feelin’ soon, ma’am.

  • tara

    Oh my god I thought the wreath fell down and I was prepared to be all “I told you so!” but this is way worse. And hilarious. But bad.

    That is the best slogan ever, you should totes put it on a t shirt.

  • ~Michelle~

    Oh Z dub! Get well soon!

  • Chris

    poison ivy sucks – and don’t even think about burning it – the toxins can get into your lungs and attack there.

    Anyhow – one method I use – and it hurts like hell – to get speed up poison ivy healing is to blast the skin with warm air from a hairdryer for as long as I can stand it. I read about this method on the the internet so it’s got to be true.

  • Deb


    I can’t even.

    I am pinning this as a cautionary tale.


  • merlin513

    holy shit sweetie! and I thought ‘I’ was allergic to poison ivy, you win this competition HANDS DOWN!!!

    might wanna handle that wreath with a 10 ft. pole and heavy duty rubber gloves when it’s time to take it down…

  • Robin Jingjit

    That’s the worst!! Are you freaking kidding. But didn’t you send your kids out for boxes of pinecones, too? Thank goodness they didn’t get it. As bad as it is, you would hate your life if it was your kids. Everytime they’re sick I think, ” I wish it was me!!” Not because I love them so much I can’t see them suffer (also true) but because I know I would be able to suck it up so much better than them!

  • Five Monkeys and a Chick

    Okay, first have Jeff remove the poisoned wreath after the holidays. It’s a known fact that Asians are impervious to poison ivy.
    Secondly, beg forgivness of the man you love because I totally lied on that.

    So sorry for your crafty troubles and your sister is hysterically clever!

  • r

    I am laughing so hard, but I feel your pain. I had poison ivy over most of my body when I was 7/8 months pregnant. It took 6 weeks and a month of prednisone to get rid of it. Icing the rash helped the itch quite a bit. It was significantly worse than labor.

    I would give birth 10 times before I have poison ivy again. I now keep Technu in the house and wash with it when I am within spitting distance of the woods. I also always wipe down my boots with it.

    I hope the steroids bring you some relief quickly. There is nothing physically worse than this. I think poison ivy would get all the secrets out of terrorists if used as a torture device. for real.

    • r

      I should add that the reason it was so bad was that I did a photo shoot (I’m a photog) wearing capris in the woods in the early evening. I then went home and wrapped my poison ivy oil covered legs around a body pillow. I cuddled that friggin pillow for a week before I realized what had happened.

  • Stephanie Precourt

    Oh my goodness this would happen to me… I do love that wreath though!

  • Sarah A.

    Sweet baby jesus, that is scary. I am so sorry for your facejacking, but I am also very thankful for you sharing so we could have a much needed laugh.

  • melissa

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it today, and I am so sorry for your pain! Hang in there!

  • Gaylin

    Holy crap! The wreath looked so awesome and the skin results not so awesome.

    To help rid yourself of the oils stuck on your skin. A warm bath with 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in it will help get the oils off your skin (the residual oil really hangs around). It doesn’t hurt to use some apple cider vinegar in the laundry as well.

    Rinse well in the shower after the apv bath unless you have some desire to smell like salad dressing . . .

    Heal quickly. Also hives that bad can leave a ‘stain’, red marks on your skin that can take awhile to go away – I know, more awesome news.

  • Susan from GA

    I know it is horrible to laugh over someone’s misfortune. But..I about peed my pants reading about your situation. I think your sister was right. And…God hates crafters. ‘Nuf said.

    Hope this experience is behind you soon (I mean that figuratively not literally).

  • Susan from GA

    And I forgot to add..Did you learn nothing from the rocket suncatcher debacle?

  • Kayt

    I’m so sorry for your pain, but thank you for the hilarity. I needed that today.

  • Ana

    Oh my goodness. Hope you’re better soon. The wreath does look awesome but not really worth the pain you’re going through!

  • KamiKaze

    Oh man, I’m so glad that your kids didn’t suffer the poison ivy too! Sucks that you have to trek it alone and how the doctors didn’t realize it on the first trip.

    After having eczema, hives, and a lovely ant bite–I know all too well the burning, itchy feeling of which you speak. I think I would fair pretty poorly on the poison ivy front–as I am really great about scratching in my sleep. I need one of those newborn mittens to keep me from scratching. I now carry Benadryl all the time–just in case something stupid happens to me.

    Feel better soon! Maybe an oatmeal bath would make you feel better? Quell the itching.

  • Paige

    That really sucks, but that wreath is badass.

  • Jill

    O.M.G. I didn’t even know poison ivy could survive the hellish dryness Colorado provides. Wreath is awesome. Poison ivy bites.

  • Rebecca

    WOW. Poison ivy is a evil bitch. Still love the wreath, but dude poison ivy is from hell.

  • Shannon

    Zakary, you KNOW I’m sorry but–NOW I’m laughing.

  • Jeanne'

    I am soooo sorry you are going through that. However, you have me cracking up. I do not craft…I am prone to accidents and the last thing I need in my hand is a hot glue gun that I just know will give me 3d degree burns on my face legs and hands…It would happen…believe me. I hope you feel better quickly, the pine cone wreath is gorgeous!

  • the wise hummingbird (Marina Gallovitch)

    Holy Cow!! The same exact thing happened to me about 6 years ago. We cleared out some buckthorn on our property and I had the worst poison ivy ever. I had to go to the ER twice!! I feel your pain. I hope the steroids worked and you are back to normal.

  • Pat

    Well, first thing I thought about when I read your story was “Poison Ivy” . Not to be a smartaleck , but has happened to my kids when we lived in the country and had to figure out why they broke out.It can also last on your clothing…It is a lovely wreath tho! Hope you get well soon!

  • Karla V Muntane

    Glad youu are doing fine now.. but gosh your wittiness made me laugh big time! AND the Martha Stewart comment! lol
    Get better my dear 🙂

  • Karen G

    I get poison ivy badly too. One of the only things that helps me is topically applying echinacea tincture on my skin. You can’t do this near your eyes obviously but is really has helped me. I’m so sorry. Poison ivy has hairy roots when it climbs up trees. Once you know what that looks like, you can avoid it. Unfortunately, it grows along the ground too and is hard to distinguish. I’m so sorry for you. I know how miserable it is.

  • Marjie Kemper

    OMG, I feel for you! Hope things are settling down. No more DIY in the woods!

  • Sharon Valle

    Forget the Calamine. Get Sarna Lotion, it works much better to kill the itch. Because of the Camphor and Menthol in it, it will not smell the best, but trust me it will work within minutes. Also get Aveeno Active Naturals SKIN RELIEF body wash fragrance free which will not only help sooth the itch before you apply the Sarna, but will help your skin recover from any scaly patches after the hives go away.

  • ChiWei

    I’m so sorry to hear this! Make sure you have enough steroids to kill kill kill the devil oils, though. I got it last summer and didn’t get enough steroids and it came back from the dead and mutated into Erythema Multiforme and my entire back looked like an alien planet with dark red blotches from my neck to my waist. Hope you feel better soon!

  • Shannon

    your way of telling the story had me cracking up … I got into poison ivy this past summer when we were clearing through our forest so we could run fence … it was the first time ever and the whole right side of my face and eye swelled up, I knew what I’d look like if I gained 200 lbs! I hope you had a quick recovery

  • Shannon

    Oh! I forgot to mention that I used rubbing alcohol to keep it cool and to help dry it up … I ended up in the ER and they put me on prednisone for 2 weeks

  • Susan

    WEll, I have been wanting to make a wreath just like what you did! I found a cool idea for a Christmas wreath! You idea was wonderful and I think I will still do it! BUT with rubber gloves and watch where I get them! Hopefully there is no poison ivy in the yards of our neighbor hood! I was hoping to gleen the fallen Pinecones off everyones yards!
    Sorry you had such a yucky experience! But know you really made a fabulous wreath!

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from Daily Awesome 01/03/13
    Thursday, 3 January, 2013

    […] I don’t think any of my crafting mishaps can compare to Zakary from Raising Colorado’s “DIY is Full of Danger: A Cautionary Tale”; I get all twitchy just *reading* her […]

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