Source: Of Mice and Malaria…
I loathe bugs and rodents. I am a city girl, born in Utica, raised in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania…..I went to art school in Philadelphia. Everything about me was city until I moved, with my first husband, to Schaefferstown, also in Pennsylvania. I don’t recall a single incident of rodent infestation in our childhood home, but I can tell you a horror story or five about my brushes with death upon my arrival to the country. I am exaggerating, yes, but a heart attack can kill a girl, and let’s just say my cholesterol? Off the charts. It’s hereditary, otherwise, a former anorexic-I haven’t eaten a morsel of fat since 1976, when I banned its’ existence from my life.
Karl and I moved into a quaint half of farm house in 1989. It was situated next to the Schaeffer Farmstead in historic Dutch Country. My ex husband travelled quite a bit, and I remember the first time I heard scurrying and frantic scratching in my kitchen: late at night, after watching the Late Show with David Letterman, I sauntered down the steps to retrieve a glass of water. To my utter and complete horror, there were not one, but a gaggle of rats on the counter. I don’t know about you, but when I am scared stupid I run like a banshee in the other direction. (Once, while living here, I saw a Copperhead snake in the back yard, approximately one mile from the house. I ran like a cartoon character, at warp speed, through the yard, into the house and up the stairs, then into the attic-until I could run no further.) Karl tried to tell me they were mice, but I wasn’t having any of it. Turns out they were coming from the creek behind us, and into our muddy cellar, having midnight cocktail parties at my expense.
When I met Dwain, I told him I was straight out petrified of any and all rodents, spiders, opossum, you name it………apparently, he didn’t believe me. One evening, his son sleeping in the other room, I stepped on a mouse in my bare feet. For reasons abundantly clear to me, I now bring my water to bed, as I can no longer muster the courage to forage through the house after 10 p.m.
“OhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhmyGodddddddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!!,” I shrieked at volume one thousand, waking not only my step son, but the dog next door and a neighbor who called to ask if she should phone 911. My husband lay fast asleep, until the moment came when, due to my hysteria, Brad woke his father up-he was seven years old, what else could the poor kid do?
When Dwain came downstairs, he found me on the kitchen table, still blubbering, still screaming.
“Honey, what the Hell is going on?,” he stammered, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
I told him the mind numbing facts: “I stepped on that dead mouse and it freaked me out, I told you I’m afraid of critters!”
“You probably killed it when you stepped on it,” were the last words I heard, as I ran out the door and down the street, to a destination unknown.
I was reading my bible the other day, and the scripture about not being of this world, or worldly, if you prefer, hit me like a ton of bricks. From very early on in my life, I have stood out, in pretty much every venue of my life. As a child, I would pack my green suitcase and travel the neighborhood, trolling for adults (not children, they pissed me off with their weird Barbie dolls and tea parties) who would dare to “come and play with me.” I can only imagine what they were thinking, when they answered the door and looked down upon the oddity standing in front of them. Chubby, red curls and not a shred of inhibition-I would prance into the home of unsuspecting, stay at home mothers , open my attaché, (full of odd pens, crayons and doll heads) and ask them to make me chocolate chip cookies. This worked about 85% of the time, and to be sure this was done to appease the weirdo and get her the hell out of dodge.)
I would go to the bar in Avalon, NJ with my father-when we could sneak away from mom-sit with dad, eating clams and drinking Shirley temples, playing Mr. Bojangles on the jukebox as many times as my stash of quarters allowed it. I was 5 years old. As I grew, my mother would go to these random thrift stores and buy the strangest outfit she could find, then proceed to argue with my until I finally caved and wore it to school. The stand out? A purple, velvet set of knickers with a poufy top and cameo at the neckline. The white lace boots up to my knees added to the hilarity…….but my peers at Upper Merion Junior H.S. didn’t get the joke. They gawked, pointed, and called me names until I cried. I believe my courage began developing way back then, in spite of the meanies, I grew weirder by the hour, and to this day I am thankful……….
I have never, ever followed the fashion scene, (I am dead serious when I say I am only now, at the age of 56, learning how to put on makeup) and my outfits have been raising eyebrows for decades. I care not what others think, never have, never will-and somewhere in the mix I suppose I owe my lack of inhibition to Mary Lou, my mother and fashionista extraordinaire. She went to a dress shop to design her own clothing, and I have to say that she was profoundly beautiful………but she was ahead of her time, she was ahead of my time for crying out loud.
Just the other day, while trying to avoid the dreaded tick bite, I put on my grey long underwear, hiking boots, camo shorts and gardening hat, then proceeded to the local grocery store where I turned heads and caused more than one shopper to slam her cart into the food displays. I walk blithely to the tune of my own accordion, immune to the whispers and laughter. I have been told by friends, and enemies alike, that “Only you could pull that off, Michele….” I never try to be a fashion success, yet my style impresses more people than it offends. And to this day, I don’t get it. I am 5 feet tall in stocking feet, have blonde hair down to my waist, and even on a good day, well….my husband usually has to carry me to the truck because my shoes are bought at the Humane Society Thrift Store-it has never been of any consequence to me how the shoes fit, as I am a size 5 1/2 and finding any footwear not of the girls’ department is a total coup.
Another quirk I have? If I pick something out of my closet (say a dress I’ve had since my freshmen year at Villanova, circa 1979) I am going to wear it whether it fits or not. Just last week, after purchasing last year’s Vera Wang at Kohl’s with my 30% off coupon, I stood there stumped and provoked, as I tried to figure out how the hell to put it on. It was a three-part debacle, copper and black sequins cascading down the front. I finally took my scissor to it, and voila-right over my head it went.
I have been known to garden, in a teddy and sweat pants; to hell with what anyone thinks. It’s my own yard, my own territory-if it doesn’t suit you, look away. My best friend will not walk with me in our neighborhood because of the attire I choose to exercise in. Last winter, and I kid you not, I wore a stunning pink Elmer Fud number to lunch in Lititz (where the snobs and starving artists mingle amongst stores only the very rich can patronize.) I was with my nieces, who love the fact that I am, well, unique to put it kindly. Men and women were walking right up to my face and laughing. Poor manners? Yes. Do I blame them? No.
I simply cannot be bothered with worrying about the Joneses. I’m too busy living in my own private Idaho…..where I am the queen of the outfit faux pas.
This blog is clearly written for the female persuasion-WARNING: this material is graphic and unsuitable for children under the age of 35.
Ok. Every woman on planet earth knows this to be true: if we find a good gynecologist, we hold on to him/her like grim death. And so it was, when the receptionist told me that Dr. Burrows was no longer with my family practice, I flinched. I have a history of cervical cancer and I can’t put off the annual pap smear. We didn’t have insurance until May, so I was long overdue when I booked the new nurse practitioner. Actually, in all honesty I became unhinged. Let me tell you a little story about my experience with new gynecologists.
Two years ago, I had a lymph node the size of an orange, and that is no exaggeration. The brainiacs at my doctor’s office were stumped. I also suffered from fevers, lethargy, pain in every crevice of my body, and migraines. My husband and I showed up the day after Christmas, I in my tattered white robe and bunny slippers, dripping sweat and wincing in pain, and Dwain in his usual hiking boots and camo. We meant business. I had been suffering for three months, and at first? The doctor wouldn’t even look at the lump on my groin. He didn’t even ask me to take off my pants-“Oh, you probably overstretched your groin muscle…….” Ten visits later, we were on a mission with a capital M.
“Michele, because of your mother’s history of ovarian cancer, we are going to send you for an ultrasound.” They had to give me a shot of toradol in my butt to have this procedure done, I was that far gone. Two days later I received a phone call from Dr. Burrows: “We are alarmed at the findings, and the other doctors and I agree, we are sending you for a uterine biopsy.”
Friends, there is also a history of hypochondria in my family. My faith has taken care of that, but back then? That news was about as welcome as a frontal lobotomy.
“Who, who are you sending me to?” my voice quivering, I had to sit down.
“Dr. Brown’s wife is a gynecologist, would you like to see her?” Having had just about enough of the poking and prodding, I agreed. I showed up at her office twenty minutes late, as the directions were ridiculous, and even my VZ Navigator took me to the wrong place, twice.
As I entered the office, I saw the most beautiful woman I have ever seen in my 50 plus years. She was breathtaking…..perfect everything-and her portrait hung on every inch of those office walls, leaving me a bit unnerved, and a tiny bit jealous. (Ok, I hated her.)
“You are late, we don’t do late here. Would you like to reschedule?” Mrs. Dr. Brown spit out.
Maybe you don’t do late, sweetheart, but I don’t do bitch. I went home and talked to my husband. I rescheduled for the next week, only this time, Dwain was coming with me. We arrived early that morning, and the smiling receptionist took me back to a room at the very back of the building. In hindsight I believe this room was chosen so the patient’s screams were not heard in the waiting room.
Enter Dr. Butcher, er, Brown……..stage right.
All I could manage to say was, “Is this going to hurt?” She proceeded to insert the speculum, and responded, “Only if you have endometrioses.” No lidocaine, no general anesthesia, not even a hesitation, and I am screaming like a banshee, so loudly that my husband heard me in the lobby.
“Hmm. Looks like you have endometrioses,” she smiled that condescending, I have all the power here smile, and I dry heaved in protest. My God that was the worst experience of my life (ok, maybe not the worst) and I told anyone and everyone who would stand still enough to listen. Bitch. Sadist. Gynecologist.
I ended up barging into my family practice a week later, but this time armed with information. I told them to put me on doxycycline for 30 days, as I had diagnosed myself with Lyme, and I think they knew enough not to argue with the sweaty Medusa standing in their office. So, that is how that story ended.
Yesterday? I was not surprised, nor did I blink an eye when, after ten full minutes of provoking my uterus, the nurse practitioner, peaking through my legs, said, and I quote:
“I can’t find your cervix.”
I have spoken of the ties between narcissistic personality disorder and the Jezebel Spirit before. I am learning that, at least with a large percentage of narcissists-they are, at the very least, demonic. They are psychopaths. Some are sociopaths as well. Jezebel raised hell in her day, the epitome of evil, the personification of the Anti-Christ. She devoured any one who stepped in her field of vision, and she died a horrendous death…to be sure. And we are told in the bible that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but evil entities and the powers that be (Satan.) That fucker can have his fun now, (I get beet red just thinking about the evil I see every day, the news, the internet, my cat Damien…) but, as we all know, he’s going to Suckeyville where he will burn for eternity, yes, but in a special place, reserved just for him. Even he knows how the story ends.
Twenty-four hours ago, I hung in limbo after sending my brother 3 videos on NPD, and my entire life story that I had heretofore kept to myself, rather than burden him. The entire gist-leaving out large parts of the story-in a Reader’s Digest version. It was incredibly sad, yet incredibly mind blowing when I realized John did not know my story, because, in some sick victim of Stockholm Syndrome way, I not only wanted to protect my sister, but had a strong gut that when I did confide in him; well, Sarah had already been there and as early as a week ago he could not, for the life of him, understand what was happening. Neither did my husband, but he was schooled, you can take that to the bank.
I was sick with worry about reading his response. It was a busy weekend, one that included being the photographer for my friend’s lesbian wedding. I had kept busy with a Father’s Day cookout with my in laws, and swimming in the pond afterward. And then it came: the moment I could not put off or excuse one more second…..First, I read his email response…which touched my heart and soothed my soul.
“Michele, it looks like you have been through so much tragedy in your life, and that you are still dealing with this grief, this may be the hardest time yet…….I read everything, I hope that you can trust enough to call me.”
And that’s just what I did, and I am feeling a bit beyond blessed this day…….ladies and gents….I have family….and I will tread lightly, in hopes that he will not tread on me.
So, in keeping with my almost-daily writing, which is healing and cathartic and joyous and validating my journey through recovery. For way too many years my sister, who convinced my brother and my husband that I was a liar, an exaggerator extraordinaire, if you will, no one in my family or home believed me. I was literally told what to think, how to act, what to like and dislike…….if my emotions or concerns were appropriate. I don’t know how she did it, but she insinuated her way into my husband’s experience of me….and, in doing so, convinced him that I was not to be trusted, my feelings were borne of a sense of hysteria and depression. Alcoholism, opioid addiction, CPTSD-it was all fair fodder and it was all behind my back.
It has been a week since the melt down; five days since my relapse-which consisted of a small bottle of vodka and a splash of cranberry juice. Sweet Jesus, no wonder I was hammered. Today is my sister’s birthday. It will be the first time in 50 years that I did not sing happy birthday to her. I can’t, I just can not be a hypocrite, and more than that I am in fear of her thinking this a peace offering, or that she could ruin our first, last and only family vacation my hard working husband and I had so looked forward to; made it impossible for me to see my own brother at his concert in Philadelphia last weekend-and simply wait it out until I forgave her. Not so fast, Sweet Baby Jane. Every time my brother flies in from LA, she makes good and sure she keeps him to herself. God forbid I have a relationship with my brother.
And so, it was with a freedom I haven’t felt in eons, that I went to visit my homeless friend, Marcellina. I have been bringing him food and clothing for about 2 months now. Sometimes I miss him, but when I do catch him- we pray, he tells me he loves me in broken English, and I was really hoping that if I win my disability case that I could help him get back to his home town in Puerto Rico.
I always visit him on Fridays-that’s Market day in PA Dutch country. He lives behind a phone booth ((NO I DID NOT KNOW THEY STILL MAKE PAY PHONES)) adjacent to the building that houses some of the best food and produce you can find in the tristate area. I was running late when I saw him standing by his boxes. He was talking to himself, and flinging his legs back and forth. “Hmm. He seems really, really happy. Something must have changed,” read my thought bubble. He was happy to see me, bubbly even. I brought him some bedding and asked what he was craving, as I intended to buy him lunch. “OJ, I am really dried out, man.” I proceed to order a whole chicken, a raspberry scone, and a half gallon of OJ. As I approach him, I notice a young man, thirty something, standing beside him.. Marcellina and he exchange words in their native tongue, so I am pretty much clueless as to what they are saying. And then I see it……..the small white bag. My Christian brother, my poor boobelai, my hero as of late appears to be selling drugs. I am shocked. I am disappointed. I am an idiot magnet. As I turn to go, he smiles and says,
“I can’t go back to Puerto Rico until the authorities say I am welcome back. When you come next? We talk about the Psalms.”
To put it simply, I am a recovering people pleaser. Richard is right, it comes from my need to please, no matter what the mood, my mother-a fruitless endeavor at best. I remember buying her cards as a teenager, and I found one just last year, in my neurotic collection of cards I have received since the first grade. I was apologizing, but even back then I didn’t know why. I just knew that she would go for days and days without speaking to me, a trick my sister has used-very successfully I might add.
I would go down Brownlie Road, and pick her lilies. At one point the house was full of them, and my mother couldn’t have cared less. I learned early on that people could make or break you, and thus, I became the obsessive people pleaser from Hell. I would go to great lengths to make people smile, even laugh, often at my own expense. In sixth grade I had a gym teacher, Mr. Aisles. I had a nickname for him, and I used it regularly, just to make my girlfriend laugh. One day, (unbeknownst to me he was going through a messy divorce) I ran out into the hall and shouted out “Hey Mr. Styles, how you doin’?” I was knocked down to the ground, breathless and in shock; he literally put me in a choke hold and threw me to the concrete flooring. Mortified, I returned to my classroom, brushing off hall dust, crying and disheveled. The whole class laughed, and so began my venture into stand up comedy. I was on the local channels, The Gene London Show and Take 12. I practiced Lily Tomlin’s Edith Anne until I was actually channeling her. When it aired on television, I was horrified: am I that heavy? Was that even funny?. Oh My God what if Tom Schunder sees it? (My secret crush who ended up being my first love years later.) He went from shooting his BB gun at me when he found me stalking him, to kissing me one evening whilst our parents partied in another room. I was gone, completely and madly obsessed with the poor dude.
Nowadays? I am still kind and loving, and I do care about people. But you better be homeless or the underdog, or I will walk right by you as if you didn’t exist. I had to get to that point to protect myself-I was bringing home hippies and psychopaths-to be honest I had faith that everyone had my heart as I never, ever learned boundaries in childhood. I once worked with men and women with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism and Down Syndrome. I couldn’t, or wouldn’t discipline them. I wanted them to be happy, and I became so close to one of the gentlemen in my house that I was called to the main office:
“Michele, it has come to our attention that you have befriended Jonathan. I’m sorry, but we are going to have to send you to Boundaries Classes.”
Now, this was three years ago and I had worked hard to prepare for this abomination; how could they think I needed BOUNDARIES classes? It was to my immediate amusement (I think I laughed out l oud, as a matter of fact) that Doris couldn’t find a boundaries class, and I was dismissed, forthright.
Those of us who are recovering doormats may still attract the occasional sociopath, shoe salesman or mangy dog: but know this-eventually we will come to our senses, and leave your sorry asses behind.