The Outer Limits…

Sixteen years ago, my father and then girlfriend Pat (I like to call her DOOM) invited the entire family down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We went down a day late, as I had to work. Dwain, Bud and myself-we put our suitcases in the Jeep at 5 a.m. Poor Bud sitting in the back, for all 10 hours of the trip. We were hopelessly lost in Washington, but used to my husband’s utter helplessness with directions, I drank beer and laughed at the absurdity.

It wasn’t just the Elkins/Hoffman/Malinowski clan gathering at the bi-level vacation house in the dunes, au contraire-Pat and her four perfect children AND their children were said to be coming as well. Dwain and I anticipated the vacation with utter dread, and the only reason we participated at all was so I could spend time with my father, who was quite ill at the time.

The drive was harrowing. As we arrived at the house, I saw my siblings coming toward us-not to greet us, mind you, but to run. To run for their very lives, as they knew with utter certainty that I was about to BLOW MY TOP. You see, DOOM had miscounted the number of bedrooms, and it appeared that Bud, my husband and myself would have to sleep ON A PULL OUT COUCH IN THE KITCHEN.

While my siblings partied on the beach, I went directly to my father.

“Are you SERIOUS?” “Where is she, let me at her,” and UNFUCKINGBELIEVABLE were a few of the comments I spat. Dwain, who had assessed the situation in a matter of seconds, headed for the beach. I poured a gin martini and sat on the deck with my father, who was so heavy hearted, so upset on what would be his very last vacation.

“Daddy, it’s not your fault, really. I guess we would have stayed at a hotel if we had a head’s up, but it is what it is,” I stammered. Meanwhile, at the beach, my husband was busy telling my brother and sister off in seven different languages, which helped…..a little.

Realizing that part of the problem was hormones, I took a hot shower and emerged stronger, calmer if you will. What happened next is legend in the Elkins family-and if you weren’t there, well, you might have trouble believing the pure insanity that followed. When the gang returned, they found my father and I on said deck, drinking what had to be our fifth martini. The following story is true, and it is with incredulity that I write, not sanguine acceptance.

At some point in the evening, I ended up at the tippy top of the Widow’s Walk, screaming at my sister. Over the years I had held a few things in, and for whatever reason, her ass was GRASS in my book. I don’t remember what I said, but I can imagine. My brother tried to calm me, but I had unleased a momentum that was only stopped by the State Police, and here’s where it gets good.

My husband was at the bar downstairs, with my father. He heard a knock on the door, and before he could answer it, two state cops-guns at the ready-demanded to know where the screaming was coming from. They had received more than a few complaints. As the Keystone Cops looked through the home, my father, now drunk as the proverbial skunk, sat watching television-he had no idea that a circus was enfolding in front of him and to this day, I think he knew alright. I also think he didn’t want to deal with it.

So, they find me on the fifth floor deck, and immediately go to arrest me. Balking, my brother pleaded with them. “Just a family argument,” he begged.

“Ma’am, do you know your voice could be heard at headquarters, five miles away?,” one of them asked me.

Before I could answer, my brother rushed me down to the living room and put me to bed. When I awoke the next day, things were a blur, but no one and I mean NO ONE was talking to me.

The moral of the story? Speak your peace. Don’t let things fester. And for the love of God, keep your voice down when all hell breaks loose.

My Name is Michele, and I am a THUG….

In an effort to be completely transparent, I thought I would come clean about a certain aspect of my personality that rarely surfaces, but when it does? LOOK OUT. I have a zero tolerance for bullshit of any kind, I hate to be lied to, and I HATE bullies-the type that troll, tease kids on the playground or make it impossible for others to be around their toxicity. Recently, while working on my recovery, I have been known to tell folks off-if they violate my boundaries, dismiss me in general, or treat me like rubbish.

I have been this way since childhood. For a time, in Elementary School, I would attack my brother from behind, and throw him over my shoulders. This was quite effective, and I wasn’t doing it to hurt him (I thought that rather funny at the time) but the practice came to a screeching halt the day he turned it around on me, and I lay breathless in the grass…….humiliated.

Then in High School, I would jack up neighbors or “friends” for introducing my sister to booze and cigarettes. I kicked my brother’s peer down the cement stairs in front of St. Augustine’s for calling Craig an “Egghead;” Mark lost a tooth that day, and more than a little self esteem. It was my pleasure really. I was teased mercilessly in grade school and Junior High. I could handle myself, (don’t get me wrong, it hurt, it hurt so much-but I would never, ever let them see me upset)but you messed with my siblings? Oh my, I pity the fool…….

In my twenties I was as badass as badass gets. NOTHING frightened me, unless it was my health-I was a full blown hypochondriac. I remember my sister and I in a bar one evening in Conshohocken, dull evening at the local bar….when this big old dude came up and grabbed my sister’s ass. It took me five minutes in the bathroom to calm down-but I emerged a stronger woman, and I grabbed HIS ass as hard as I could and screamed DON’T TOUCH MY EFFING SISTER. Literally, five feet in stockings and I am quite certain that I intimidated quite a few people. My sister’s friends would literally hang up if I answered the phone. Part of this was due to anorexia and the fact that I was malnourished and deranged with fear; but the other part? Had to be Jesus, because as psychologically sick as I have been in the past? I had zero fear until the age of 32, when I realized I was terrified of driving on highways and bridges, but that’s another story for another day.

From early on in life I learned to pray for my family.

“Dear God, please let my family be healthy, happy and safe.” Seriously I was five when that started. I remember this conversation with my brother years ago. I was telling him about some recent problems at work, and he replied:

“Well, Michele, you can’t really blame people, it’s the way you come off. Snooty and ferociously confident.”

I spent the next hour clearing up those misnomers. I was never snooty, just hated social situations. And “ferociously confident?” And, if I am to be honest, despite my upbringing my relationship with my father is what gave me that confidence. I have always been a Daddy’s girl, and I am proud to say that neither of my parents took any proverbial crap-and everyone in the neighborhood knew it.

One year, my mother went out to collect the newspaper and as she opened the front door she emitted the most blood curdling scream you can imagine. After I changed my pants, I went to see what was going on. There was a tiny little mouse on our doorstep. My mother wasconvinced that Charlotte Demig had put the rodent on our doormat. I never truly understood why she would think that, but next thing I know? She is walking up the street with the mouse in a bag. Yes, you guessed it. Mom returned it to Charlotte, and the ensuing war was made even more hilarious when she phoned the house and my father answered:

Why Charlotte? (said in a really bad Southern accent) whatever do you mean? My parents were convinced that Charlotte’s southern accent grew worse each year, thus the accent-I remember crying-laughing.

I lived with excruciating fear for the next twenty three years. Anxiety and depression, combined with drug and alcohol addiction took its’ toll. I was a shell of the person I wanted to be, the person that I have again become.

Secret Agent Man

I had no choice, really. The local bent and dent did not have my Nicorette gum, and I NEED my Nicorette gum….I actually (not proud of this)left my cart in the store and walked out in disgust. It drives me bonkers when a store carries something religiously, then, for no apparent reason whatsoever, pulls it from the shelves. If I was irritated at BB’s, I was going to commit Hare Kari up the road.

I always use the garden entrance. Always. Wally World is located in Lebanon, the city-and let’s just say I don’t like leaving my golden retriever in a jeep, let alone a Wrangler-they could just unzip the damn thing. So, the adventure begins when the garden entrance doors are not only shut, but blocked by carts, as if for extra measure. So, not closed. But CLOSED. I begin a conversation with the elderly woman behind me, we groan and moan about the newest fresh hell at the big W, blissfully unaware that we were headed for trouble, and with a capital T.

So, I finish in a record ten minutes: that included buying dog treats, checking out the newest bedware, (hideous) stressing over which storage containers were better, buying two new shades of nail polish, and, thankfully-picking up my nicotine gum. 🙂 I live almost thirty minutes from town, so it royally pisses me off when I forget the gum, and don’t notice until I am in my home, relaxing. I was on a roll and I began to feel something akin to hope burgeoning in my heart. Could it be that I was making too much of this love/hate relationship with a chain store? And then, in horror flick slo-mo, I began to notice that there were no aisles open for checkout. I actually had one cashier mumble that she was closed, after I began placing my items on the conveyor belt.

I ended up in the longest grocery line I have witnessed in my entire fifty-six years on planet earth. Out of 25 lines, only three were open. A very tall man, good looking and fit, wearing sunglasses walked up to me.

“Are you fucking kidding me???,” he asked, a wry smile spreading across his oh so lovely mug. He moved on to the next aisle, with his friend, their cart ominously full of products in bulk (paper towels soap)-so much so that the woman behind me commented:

“I bet you they’re a rescue mission, or maybe even a church group.” Now, this is how my mind worked at that moment: “Yeah, SURE, a rescue mission, that dude looks like secret service-or a body guard.” I chastised myself for my cynicism. Just because I don’t trust anyone, doesn’t mean there are no good people out there. What is wrong with me? How did I become so jaded?

So, I nod at the woman in the pink Elmer Fud hat, check out and run to my pooch, Jesse. In just moments we are on the road, to our hiking trails….Jesse showing his disapproval that I spent an entire hour
away from him (I think he thinks I go into this building and play with all of the other dogs in the state, throwing them bony treats and petting the crud out of them) Dogs…….paranoid creatures are goldens.

So, I pull on to Route 422, make a left and head towards Middlecreek. As I pass the Tasty Freeze I see them. The two men I had seen at Walmart, with cart overflowing. The secret agent man was carrying the paper towels.

Into the Endzone, where naked women pole dance and the Mad Dog flows like water…..

A Reason to Cry…

Emotional or stress-related tears are thought to help us through difficult times in a number of ways. Physically, they are thought to wash toxic chemicals out of our bodies, while psychologically giving your feelings a good airing is thought to be a healthy tonic.

I used to cry….and often. Crying is essential to building emotional muscle-a good bout of weeping replenishes us in so many ways: the tears ebb and flow, you often tire out, and after the headache and tears are gone? Voila, a new you, as we all know holding things in, well, not good amigo. Not good.

I rarely cry because I am literally and figuratively all cried out. I managed a few tears on Christmas Eve, but quite frankly I was with my husband, and if there is anything I hate more than bawling, it’s bawling in front of a loved one. Strangers are okay, because you might get a pat on the back or a few encouraging words….but your homeboy? Nada. Men hate to see a woman cry, no doubt. But watching their wives cry is another dimension of reality they can’t abide….it makes them feel helpless, if not hopeless.

So, it’s 2 degrees in Kleinfeltersville. The ground is frozen and I am wearing many layers, a facemask and hoodie-for whatever reason I, for the life of me, cannot find a pair of matching gloves. This happens every Winter, and it drives me crazy. You’d think I would put on my big girl panties and buy a pair, but growing a pair is far more likely.

I hunt antler sheds. Every year, after the mating season, and prior to Spring the deer community sheds their racks, and leave them laying for the mice, rabbits and other forest dwellers to munch-they derive calcium from the bone, and if you are lucky and hard working? You may just find yourself coming upon a big old 12 pointer, not an easy task as they blend into the scenery, snow and cornfields quite well, as God intended.

Last year was an extraordinary season, and I expect no less of myself this Winter. As I approach the woods I mentally prepare myself for the melee: briars the size of my body, limbs lying mercilessly under the freshly fallen snow, terrain so rough you’d be a fool not to take baby steps, ensuring your safety, and that of your golden retriever, who follows you no matter the danger.
About twenty steps in I stepped on some uneven ground, and bent my knee almost completely backwards…..

“Mother FUCKER!!!!!!!,” I scream, but carry on, limping yet steady as she goes. As I turn to check on Jesse, I fall backwards over a tree stump, landing directly on my head. Adding insult to injury, the dog leash I have wrapped around my neck snaps off, and the metal part hits me square in the eye. The tears come then, salty and softly they fall down my face and into the snow covered grass. I remain there, in the fetal position, until I have cried the proverbial river, then pick myself up, brush myself off, and retreat to the environs of my cottage house, where I will put this all behind me, for now.

“Cat-Shit Boots”……(and other inhumanities)


My husband happens to be the funniest man I know.  Depending upon my mood o’ the day, he can have me bent over with laughter, or bent…..period.  This morning, while getting ready to hike, he passed by me in the kitchen:

You can tell Miss CatShit Boots that she’s walking on thin ice……her days are numbered…..,” he (half jokingly) announced.

My poor husband has been a beleaguered victim of felines for 26 years.  He loves cats, don’t get me wrong…he loves animals, period.  But he has no patience for their loud roars of protest over not being fed for five minutes.  His feelings are hurt when they snub him and run like they have seen the Tasmanian Devil himself……..and they have their reasons, about a million of them.

Shortly after we were first married, I snuck a cat into our pet-free home.  I decided to tell him about Tajia when he was sleeping, just in case…..knowing he told me NO INDOOR ANIMALS, I was caught up in a struggle between the adorable kitten at the Humane Society, and, well, my marriage.  Dwain was smitten, and we both loved her beyond reason.  She was fur and myrrh and everything cat-and Dwain had a questionable habit of scaring the life force out of her.  I remember one time, he lay in wait for more than fifteen minutes- Tajia had no idea he was behind her, waiting for the perfect time to pounce.  Just as I began walking away from the crime scene, he made his move-that poor cat jumped ten feet into the air, and whilst up there did a complete 360 and ran for the laundry room.  If you were a cat, you would have run too.  He laughed for hours……….but the cat never forgot this, and she had a few tricks up her own paws…….just for Dwain.

It was about ten in the evening, whilst watching ‘In Living Color’ and eating an ice cream sandwich (don’t ask me how I remember these details, as I can’t remember things like, say-my car being in reverse after backing up for an 18 wheeler, and the ensuing nightmare that followed when I backed into a crazy lady in a pink Cadillac) I must preface this tale by telling you that Tajia was pure black, with a white freckle on her nose.  My husband is Pennsylvania Dutch, and very, very thrifty when it comes to electricity.  This is what I heard from the living room:

“Ho-ohah!!!! What the F***, and then, thump, thump, thump, thump…….thump, followed by REOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW and finally, silence.

I knew only that my husband had fallen down the stairs.  Because I have the Elkins blood, I am prone to laughing at others’ calamities….and I remember falling off the couch, sideways, ice cream in hand-and laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.  My poor man, my boobelai…….he could be seriously hurt.  And it turns out, he was.  The following is my husband’s version of the incident:

I turned the hallway light off (peculiar habit, as we have steep farmhouse stairs, at the time covered in shag carpet-I myself would have turned the light ON, but hey, whatever floats your boat) and when I took my first step I felt fur, so, to avoid hurting the cat, I overstepped.  Honey, I rode that cat the whole way down the stairs…….is she okay?

Tajia was, indeed, no worse for the wear.  Her tail was fluffed up like a skunk’s, and her eyes as big as saucers.  Dwain walked like a duck for weeks, brush burns and bruises…and every time I saw him I broke into hysterics-for months.  I told this story around a camp fire in Potter County one Fall, to eager ears and felonious hysteria.  But this time, Dwain gave me the icing on the cupcake……

“That poor cat thinks I tried to shove her up my ass on purpose.  She won’t even look at me.”

And with that line, we roasted my husband……don’t ever change Charlie……..Don’t you dare.