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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing a Lesson Learned

Quite recently, I discovered the value of conducting thorough research when writing.

Those of you who read my two Shelby and Henry vignettes may remember that yesterday I had Henry washing his hands daily with Fels Naptha, an old fashioned bar soap that really exists. I know, because it’s the miracle elixir my grandmother recommended when a head-to-toe case of poison ivy threatened to turn me into a screaming, itchy maniac the summer I turned eighteen. Scrubbing with the bar dried up my festering rash faster than anything else on the market.

Several years later, I worked with a woman who swore by Fels Naptha to calm the effects of Poison Ivy exposure, and to eliminate her most difficult laundry stains. Since the timing of that information coincided with the purchase of our first home on a hillside lot erupting with the shiny three leaved vines, at that time I bought my own bar. These days, although we use it for Poison Ivy rash prevention more than anything else, scrubbing with it when we accidentally encounter the insidious plant in our garden or yard, we are never without it in our home. And head's up--along with drying the itch, it does a spectacular job curing "ring-around the collar."

Therefore yesterday, it seemed logical to me when I was trying to get Henry’s hands clean, that I use the same yellow soap. I was pretty sure I had spelled the product name wrong when it came up in my draft, and while I kept on writing, I reminded myself to go back at the end to check the proper spelling before publishing the post--which I did.

My mistake though, was that I didn’t read anything else about Fels Naptha. Having felt its drying properties personally, late last night it occurred to me that regular use on the skin may not be a good thing. Turning to my best buddy, Google, I investigated further and decided that it would probably be a lot better for Henry if I scrubbed his muddy hands with a different soap. Something about the name “Naptha” being another word for benzene solvent, a possible carcinogen, didn’t feel right.

For more information, click here: Ehow.com and if I inspired you to think about scrubbing up with the stuff every night, you might want to revisit that idea. I have apologized profusely to Henry, and he’s OK with it, because although his hands are pretty grimy right now, he knows that this exercise taught me that if in the future I want to be trusted by my reading audience, I’ll check these things out first.

So, you can rest assured, if Shelby and Henry become long term characters for me, I’ll make a change in his grooming habits. That said, you can’t scare me. I’ll continue to use the soap when I accidentally yank up Poison Ivy, because, like Henry, I have a hard time keeping my gloves on, and avoiding that particular nightmare itch is worth every bit of the risk.


Tamika: said...

Glad to hear Henry gave you some slack! I look forward to reading more about him!

glnroz said...

slack here too.. I will imagine LAVA the next time Henry washes his hands. you did good. Stephen King says do a lot of research, but we dont have to become scholars of the research to enjoy the tale.. I did enjoy..

Helen Ginger said...

I had never heard of Fels Naptha, although when I read it, I was wishing I had known about it when my son was younger. He could just look at poison ivy and welt up.

Isn't the Internet fabulous? It makes researching so much easier than before.

Straight From Hel

J.Q. Rose said...

Coming very very very late to this post as I hop around your site. I completely understand the unrelenting itching and dread when I see PI spreading on my skin. I've had several bouts of it but never heard Fels Naptha will do the trick to stop the itching. Yes, you can learn a lot from Dr. Google AND from reading people's blogs too!!
JQ Rose