To Tell or Not to Tell

One of the most stressful things about sexual abuse, besides the abuse itself, is the taboo against telling someone. Abusers tell victims (children and teenagers), that they must not tell anyone, and that they will be hurt badly or killed if they tell. The abuser also may tell the victim that a loved caregiver will hate them because they are so bad.

Often the victims of this crime grow up with a terrible secret knocking constantly at their consciousness. It’s like throwing a ball against the wall and catching it. You wish you had someone to catch it, but you alone keep catching the secret and throwing it back into your mind, because you believe you will suffer grave consequences if you tell.

According to psychologists, eventually the secret abuse settles somewhere in the child’s sub-conscious and cannot be retrieved. Sometimes the secret remains hidden years after the abuse is over. My secret, the sexual abuse by a maid, was not revealed until I was middle-aged. I went to a mental hospital and my therapist helped me remember my abuse. With that came the realization that I had wanted to tell my mother very badly at the time, but did not, because my abuser told me she would kill me with the butcher knife if I ever told anyone.

Therefore, these secrets, the secrets of sexual abuse, eventually hid in my subconscious. Along with that, I developed alternate personalities that didn’t even know about the abuse. It was only when I had the courage to tell my therapist that the stress of hiding the secret was released.

If you are suffering from abuse, it is very important to tell someone. Telling is a key to healing.

My story has been told, but there are millions of stories out there that have never been told. Every year the Children’s Advocacy Centers in the United States help over 100,000 children who have been abused. These children may be battered, beaten, starved, locked up, berated, or forced into having sex with an adult or sibling. This is not acceptable in our American society, where we value each life. We must pass stronger laws to stop it.

We must address the needs of girls who are being abused by their fathers or step fathers. Often the first thing they do after being assaulted is tell their mothers. Unfortunately this disclosure is often met with retaliation and disbelief. How many young girls have been slapped in the face, yelled at and told they have dirty minds. They are accused of lying. If Mom won’t listen, I strongly advise these girls to tell a teacher or responsible caregiver about this incest. To tell can lead to release from this situation.

A little known fact is that mothers are committing a felony in most states if they don’t report the abuse and do something to stop it.

If YOU are being abused or you are suspicious that a child is being abused, please call the Child Advocacy Center or Children’s Services in your area. It is their job to investigate and RESCUE ABUSE VICTIMS. Their phone numbers are on the internet. Or you can call 1-800-4-A-CHILD, the national number for reporting abuse. My prayers are with you if you decide to tell.

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Protecting A Child from Sexual Abuse

Was this child abused?At this time child sexual abuse is rampant in our society, but we are learning how we can protect our children from abuse. When a baby is first born, we mothers are usually ecstatic to see our precious newborn and to hold and protect it. We feed the baby conscientiously and care for their every need. We almost become obsessive in our efforts to protect the child from harm.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sex, many parents remain mute, and figure they will discuss it when the child enters puberty. This Victorian idea is a mistake, and keeps the child vulnerable to abuse. We need to start explaining sexuality as soon as the child can understand, and over time hopefully we can defeat much child abuse and incest.

A group called RAINN has published a blog about teaching your young child about sex and sexual abuse and I believe if we begin to follow their suggestions we can eventually turn the tide on abuse.

Here is a list of the things RAINN suggests we do to protect our children, with a few additions:

1. TALK to your children openly and directly about sexuality. This teaches them it is okay to talk about it.

2. Teach children the CORRECT NAMES for their body parts, so they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about their body parts.

3. Teach children that some parts of their body are PRIVATE. Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to provide care, such as by a doctor. Let children know that a trusted caregiver should be there too.

4. Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should TELL A TRUSTED ADULT as soon as possible.

5. All children should be told that it’s OKAY TO SAY “NO” to touches that make them uncomfortable.

6. If someone is touching them in uncomfortable ways, THEY SHOULD TELL YOU OR A TRUSTED ADULT as soon as possible.

7. Talking openly about sexuality and sexual abuse also teaches children that THESE THINGS DON’T NEED TO BE “SECRET.”

8. Tell the child that THEY WILL NOT GET INTO TROUBLE if they tell you this kind of secret.

9. DO NOT PUT ALL THIS INFORMATION INTO ONE BIG TALK ABOUT SEX.

10. When you EMPOWER YOUR CHILD TO SAY ‘NO’ TO UNWANTED TOUCH and TEACH THEM THAT THEY CAN COME TO YOU WITH QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS, YOU TAKE CRITICAL STEPS TO PREVENT CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE.

For more information go to:

RAPE, ABUSE & INCEST NATIONAL NETWORK, http://www.rainn.org

 

A Time-saver for the Thanksgiving Hostess

Why does Thanksgiving seem like such a warm fuzzy holiday until it actually arrives? You picture yourself around a big table of smiling relatives and friends before a huge, perfectly browned turkey and five or six sumptuous side dishes.

Unfortunately, if you are the hostess, one by one these ideal fantasies disappear as the actual day approaches, and the reality of bringing this feast into fruition begins to weigh on your mind. The first bubble pops when you enter the grocery store to purchase the last few items you’ve forgotten. Suddenly the list seems very long and you begin to feel like a blind sardine pushing a half ton truck through a crowded stream.

When you get to the checkout, the second bubble pops when you faint as the checkout girl tells you the bill is over $100. A kind older man who is not fixing thanksgiving dinner helps you to your feet so you can put the groceries on your credit card. As you leave the store you notice other shoppers who are audibly crying in the check out aisles.

After you get home and put away all the groceries and sundries, you are exhausted and fall onto the sofa in relief. As you are resting the third bubble pops when you realize you don’t have enough chairs, so you quickly phone your nearest relative who has some folding chairs they can bring when they come TOMORROW!!!

Suddenly you are back on your feet beginning your preparation for two pies. Now the remaining bubbles are popping simultaneously, as you realize you will be spending the entire day tomorrow baking the turkey and making the stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce. What in the world are you going to do?

My tip for the exhausted hostess: Do thanksgiving backwards. PUT THE TURKEY IN THE DISHWASHER!

Sarah Gets Her Own Room

SarahI have been in therapy for multiple personalities since 1992. During that time I have discovered more than 13 alters in a system I call the Vortex. This is a circular system in my mind that organizes my personalities, so they can be remembered and accessed. My therapists and psychologists have identified and spoken to most of my alters, and we knew about Sarah but she had never revealed herself except during hypnosis in 1993. She is four years old.

At my most recent therapy session, Dr. Foster suggested we have a conference for all the personalities, where they come out and talk to each other and try to solve their problems. Everyone agreed with this idea, except Sarah.

“No, no, no!” she cried. She squeezed into the wing chair, and hugged the side for protection and to make herself seem smaller. She writhed in the chair, as though she was being attacked by snakes.

“Who are you?” Dr. Foster said. At first she would not identify herself, but after whining for several minutes she answered. She is carrying a lot of shame.

“Sarah!”
“What’s wrong Sarah? Why are you so upset?” the doctor asked.
“Because I don’t want to go to a conference.”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t want anyone to see me.” There was a long pause.

“Why?” the doctor asked.
“Because I’m so ugly.”
“I don’t think you’re ugly Sarah,” the doctor answered.
“I am ugly. I have to live in a black hole so no one can see me.”
“Tell me about the black hole,” he said.

“I had to go in there to get away from the Green Girl (my abuser). She made me all slimy and hated me, so I disappeared. I went into the hole so she couldn’t abuse me any more. I need to go there now, so no-one finds me.”

“Sarah, the Green Girl can’t find you because she is dead. And, I think Nancy is looking for you,” my therapist said.
“I don’t care. I don’t want anyone to see me, because I’m so ugly and sticky,” Sarah answered. “I have slime all over me from the Green Girl.”
“You still have slime on you from 68 years ago?” Dr. Foster asked. Sarah thought about that. It has been 68 years since my abuse.

“Yes, it feels bad. And my hair looks awful and smells bad,” she said.
“Doesn’t it look like Nancy’s hair?”
Sarah was really thinking now. She said, “No it’s black and kinky like pubic hair.”
“Are you sure about that?” asked Dr. Foster. “It looks to me like it is brown like Nancy’s hair.”

Sarah relaxed a little in the chair, realizing the doctor was right.
“It’s not black and kinky?” she asked.
“No, it’s pretty like Nancy’s hair.” There was a long pause, while Sarah thought about her self image.
“I still don’t want to be around people,” she said, “because my skin is so sticky and slimy.”
“It doesn’t look sticky or slimy to me,” said Dr. Foster. “It looks like Nancy’s skin.”
Sarah looked at her hands. She straightened up in the chair and said, “Do my hands look like Nancy’s hands?”
“Yes!” Sarah relaxed even more and she started accepting her position in my body. “You’re saying I look just like Nancy?”
“Yes, Sarah, yes!”

After a long pause my therapist said, “Would you like to live in a room like everyone else instead of going back to the black hole?” All my alters have rooms in my imaginary house in my head.
“Yes!” Sarah was getting excited about having her own room. “And I want a pink ruffley bedspread.”
“Okay. You have it.”
“And I want a big blue elephant in the room with me.”
“I don’t think there’s room for an elephant in your room, do you?”
“No. I want him to be stuffed!”
“Okay.”

Dr. Foster and Sarah talked about her new room. The doctor said she only had to come out if she wanted to and he gave her a little square window in the door, so she could see if anyone came to see her.
“What if someone comes that I don’t want to see?” she asked.

“I’ll give you some cannonballs. You can shoot them at the window if someone comes who you don’t want to see.”
Sarah smiled, perhaps for the first time in 68 years. “I know,” she said, “I can have the elephant shoot the cannonballs at people through his trunk.” She laughed about that. Sarah was feeling much better.
“I’d like to play,” she told the doctor. He got out some crayons and some paper and gave them to her.
“I’m going to draw my new room,” she said, with enthusiasm.

 

Image

Heavy Purse Syndrome

As a hippie at 30 years of age, I hitchhiked for months carrying only a backpack. I went with two young men and we hitched from LA up the West coast to Vancouver, and crossed over into Newfoundland, a trip of more than 4,000 miles.  I did it without a purse.

How is it that as an older woman, I can’t go anywhere without my huge purse? It measures 15”W X 9”D X 5”H and weighs 4 – 5 pounds? At what point in life did I decide to carry a purse? I know the answer to that. I was 31 and I got a job. In other words, I went straight.

Believe me, it’s not the money that makes it heavy. It’s everything else that has found its way into my handbag. Apparently as I got older I needed more stuff, and I have inadvertently become a victim of heavy purse syndrome. By the way, punching a whole in the bottom doesn’t work. Even though the weight of the purse hurts my arm and my back, as soon as I take the smallest thing out, I need it within the first hour of leaving the house.

If I take out my comb, the wind comes along and tangles my hairstyle beyond hope.

If I take out my compact, my nose suddenly looks like a traffic signal.

If I take out my cuticle cutters or my Band aids, I get a hangnail that bleeds on my white sweater.

If I take out my day planner (which is the smallest one available) I am late for everything and miss my appointments.

If I take out my Kleenex, my nose begins running like a faucet.

ARE THERE OTHER WOMEN WITH THIS PROBLEM?

I know I’m complaining, but I don’t know what else to do but tell the world about my heavy purse dilemma. Maybe someone has a solution. I know African women carry things on their heads. Has anyone else tried that?

The worst part of it is that the older I get, the more stuff I need with me to stay reasonably alive until I return home. Of course I need to carry my cell phone, my keys and my wallet, and I’m just not comfortable without my hand lotion, a nail file, and lip balm. I mean they are necessities. Call it stuff ad infinitum (stuff that multiplies infinitely).

And now for the final admission of guilt. I am continually thirsty and I usually carry a bottle of Aquafina in my purse! All I need now is a sandwich, and … but hey, I have to draw the line somewhere!

 

Crying

It is much easier to start crying than it is to finish.

Radio Interview

My radio interview is now available online. I have installed a link to it on my home page, and I’ll jot it down now for those who want to go to it immediately:

http://namiathensohio.org/radio-program/

When you get to the page, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), you will see Conversations from Studio B. Scroll down to the box that says Nancy DeLaval Miller. Click there to hear the interview.

I’ve received many compliments from those who have heard it, and I’m planning to do more speaking on the subject. I am proud to be able to shed light on dissociative identity disorder with multiple personalities. It has been a mystery for too long.

I also was able to talk about my Savior, Jesus Christ, who delivered me from many of my symptoms and led me to the psychologists who discovered my personalities.

Thank you for reading itsmindbloggleing and I really appreciate your comments.

 

Look for the Good

If you look for the good in others you will help them find it.

The Joys of Summer

The joy of warm sunny days is upon us. We can finally relax and sit in the sunshine and drink iced tea. We can lay back and think about nothing. After all, what else is there to do?

I could do the dishes, but why spoil a lovely day over the kitchen sink, or anywhere near the kitchen sink. I could do the laundry and hang the sheets out to dry, but the clothesline fell down during the last rain and was never put up again.

I decide to put on my swim suit and lay in the sun, hoping the kids find something to occupy themselves. While I am putting on my suit, which reveals a few unsightly new bulges, I realize I am out of sunscreen. This is an emergency, because I burn right away and can’t risk lying in the sun without SPF 400. If I continue with this plan, everyone has to get dressed and go to the drugstore. For some inane reason, I don’t trust the kids to stay out of trouble when I leave home to do a simple errand.

Perhaps a fun activity is the answer. We can play badminton, but the net is still in the garage, tangled up from the derecho.

How about going to the lake and renting a canoe? Perfect. I can stop by the drug store and pick up the sunscreen on our way. The kids are onboard with the idea, and we get dressed for boating, including our hats, and drive 45 minutes to the lake. By the time we get there, we are hungry and grouchy, so we stop at the concession stand for $25 worth of hot dogs, candy bars, potato chips and drinks.

Hoping I still have enough cash to rent a canoe, we stand in line for 15 minutes. I notice the cost has been raised since last summer and they are now charging an arm and a leg for a one hour rental. I guess canoe robberies have escalated since last year and are now a big time operation, but I wonder how you can steal a canoe in broad daylight.

We finally rent a canoe. Our first challenge is actually getting in the canoe. Did you ever see a boat that tipped so easily? I sit in the front paddling the craft through the peaceful waters, while my 12-year old son, Jay, sits in the back, steering. He learned canoeing from his father last summer and is ready to show-off his skills. I am not as confident as he is.

My daughter who is eight, sits in the middle yakking about everything she sees. Doesn’t she realize the joy of canoeing is the peace and quiet of still waters? Jay is fairly quiet, only complaining occasionally about everything from being hot to getting his new tennis shoes wet.

Suddenly, we see a pontoon boat coming around a bend toward us. It is quite large and seems to be hogging the middle of the lake pretty well. Jay and I both see it at the same time and prepare to move the canoe to the left. However, Jay gets confused and moves the canoe to the right.

We are starring frightfully into the eyes of the man steering the pontoon boat, when he blasts an extremely loud blare from an air horn. It scares Jay so much he drops his paddle in the water. We are hypnotized, watching it sink. While I scramble to steer the canoe from the front, it bangs into the side of the pontoon boat.

Wham! There is a moment of terror while the canoe tips dangerously and we all nearly fall in the water. I wonder if we will survive. In my panic, I drop the other paddle, which seems to be in a hurry to join its partner at the bottom of the lake.

To my amazement, the man in the paddle boat doesn’t even stop to help us. He says a very nasty word and his party hardly notices us, as they grow smaller in the distance, leaving us up the creek without a paddle!

When we finally make it home, wet, disgusted and grumpy, I face a terrible truth. Tomorrow may be no better. The terror of warm sunny days is upon me.

 

 

 

Reading ‘The Yard Gnome’

I wrote a very comical series called The Yard Gnome. I should not have divided it into parts because it made it too hard to read.

If you would like to read it, you have to go to my blog and start on the blog from May 24th, My Neighbor the Yard Gnome, which is the first section of the series. Then you would read the blog from May 26th, Yard Gnome II.  If your not laughing by that time, you can read the blog from May 27th, Yard Gnome III. I hope you can still laugh after all this confusion.

Sorry about that.  D.I.D. I do that? Nancy

Yard Gnome III

gnomeThe Yard Gnome Part III

I didn’t think things could get any worse, when Jessie devised a plan for catching her husband. She had found an old dolly in the shed. It wasn’t a baby doll, it was one of those gizmos men use to move heavy items. She thought we could pick up the gnome and move him back to the house on the dolly. It wasn’t a bad idea, considering the problem.

I wish you could have seen us trying to move that stupid gnome. We had a terrible time getting it onto the dolly, and when we did, neither of us had to strength to push it over the grass. We were groaning and moaning.

“Paul’s fallen off the dolly!” Jessie screamed after the gnome slipped and crashed onto the grass.

“How will we ever get him to the house?”

It was a predicament. The gnome was the heaviest thing I had ever tried to lift and even together we could hardly get him right side up. He was at a weird angle and pretty far away from the bird bath.

“He’s leaning over too much,” Jessie whined. “I hope he doesn’t notice.”

After our dolly folly, neither Jessie nor I could figure out what to do. Since I didn’t really believe Paul had turned into a yard gnome, I decided I needed to spy on him at night. I didn’t mention to Jessie that I thought he was seeing another woman, but she thought he must be moving around at night, doing the yard work by the light of the moon.

The next night we hid outside behind the bushes near the bird bath and watched the gnome. It was back in its original place, with the hose in its hand. Nothing happened for awhile and I almost feel asleep, when we heard a funny noise and something whizzed past us into the woods. The yard gnome had moved!

“Did you see something whiz past us?” Jessie whispered.

“Yes I did, and I heard it too. Do you think it was………could it have been…..Paul?” I couldn’t believe it. How could he move that fast. I must have been asleep.

I couldn’t see Jessie’s face, but I knew she was excited. We began calling out Paul’s name into the darkness, sneaking through the yard quietly. Jessie handed me a flashlight and I lead the way, as we walked round and round the bird bath and through the yard. She was calling Paul in a plaintive voice.

“Paul……Paul, please come in….Here Paul…..I’m sorry I made you do all the housework…” She repeated it like a mantra for awhile. Finally she screamed “Come here you idiot.”

The situation was getting scary. Was Paul a ghost? Suddenly, something touched me on the shoulder and I jumped and screamed.

“I’m sorry I scared you,” Jessie said. “I see something in the woods. Turn the flashlight to the woods.”

“Of course,” I whispered. I pointed the light toward the woods, checking out the trees and the bushes, but no Paul. There was a slight glow coming from behind one of the larger trees, and suddenly I saw the top of a pointy red hat. I grabbed Jessie by the arm.

“Look over there,” I whispered. We both saw the red hat. We moved closer and I turned off the flashlight so Paul couldn’t see us. Then we saw the tops of more than one hat.  My thoughts were running wild. Could there be more of these little men? More yard gnomes? Was this a meeting?

“He has friends!” Jessie whispered.

There was a small fire in the middle of the group and we heard quiet laughter. We slipped up closer to the little fire and counted the gnomes. Six in all, and sure enough, there was a female gnome standing next to Paul. She looked almost the same as the other gnomes, but she had blond hair, no beard and she was wearing a skirt. Jessie was really mad by then, and I hoped she knew better than to make a scene.

I was wrong.

“Paul!” Jessie cried. “What are you doing out here?”

“I’ve met some other gnomes,” he answered. “This is Tiny and this one’s Cutie, and……”

“I don’t give a darn what they’re names are,” she yelled, piercing the quiet night. “Are you coming home to bed, or not?”

“Not!” he said. “I’ve met someone else.” He nodded his head towards the cute little female gnome. “You know what they say, gnome, sweet gnome.”

I was astonished, but I had the sense to make Jessie turn around and leave the woods. Soon after, the glow went out and the laughter stopped.

On the way home, despite her anger, a tear ran down Jessie’s cheek. “I had no idea my husband would become a yard gnome. Do you think I forced him into it? I miss Paul, and I am so lonely sometimes. It’s just not that nice at home anymore.”

I finally had the answer she needed. “Well, at least your yard is beautiful! The lawn seems to be perfectly groomed, and I got you a subscription to Gnome and Garden magazine.”

 

 

Yard Gnome II

This story becomes sadder and sadder every time I tell it. Jessie was coming over to my house every morning to discuss her problem. As I sat with her, I realized she was slipping over the edge.

“Perhaps you should see a psychologist,” I suggested.

“What!” she gasped. Oh, oh, I had offended her.

“You think I should go to a psychologist?” Jessie was definitely insulted and she got up and left, slamming my kitchen door so hard, I thought the glass was going to break. I felt bad about it, but I breathed a sigh of relief.

I didn’t see Jessie for several days and then one morning she was back. She had mellowed a bit and she said, “Wouldn’t it be better if Paul saw the psychologist?”

“Yes, but he’s not even able to speak anymore, Jessie. I think you need to get help for your own sake.”

“I guess you’re right. Do you have the name and number of a psychologist?” I gave her the number and she left. When I drove past her house I saw that the yard gnome had not moved and was still holding the hose, smiling. I was amazed that Jessie’s yard still looked perfect. How could that be? I asked her if she was doing the yard work.

“No, I haven’t done a thing. It still looks good though, doesn’t it?”

“Yes it does,” I agreed. Over the next few days I really tried to figure it out. How could a man turn into a yard gnome, I kept thinking. There had to be some explanation. Maybe Paul had put a stone yard gnome in his place and was sneaking off to see another woman. It certainly made sense considering the way Jessie treated him. But how could the gnome look so much like him?

Later that week Jessie knocked on my door. “Oh no, here we go again,” I thought. I was glad to hear she had visited the psychologist, but sad to hear the results.

“That psychologist is a nutcase. He kept asking me about my feelings. How did I feel about my husband turning to stone? Had I done anything to offend him? How did I feel about doing his household chores? Was I willing to give up my soaps? It was just hopeless. When I got home it was dark. I hoped Paul had returned to being a man, so I ran in the house hoping he was watching TV, being his normal self. He wasn’t.”

She started crying again. “It doesn’t matter how I feel about it, it only matters that he’s not around any more. He’s not around to do the dishes, or take out the garbage or wash the car. He doesn’t do the vacuuming, or dust. He’s just standing in the yard. I knew he’d find a way to avoid doing his chores.”

My Neighbor, the Yard Gnome

gnome A Three Part story by Nancy DeLaval   Miller

Part I

When I first met Jessica and Paul Yardley I thought they would be great neighbors. They were polite and friendly and their place looked like a picture from Home and Garden magazine. Often, during those first weeks after they moved in, I would see Paul working in the yard – mowing, planting, pruning, watering – he did everything with a pleasant smile on his face. He seemed very happy.

However, I soon learned that Jessie wasn’t happy at all. When we got together for coffee one day, she expounded on her husband’s faults. He was lazy and stupid, shirked his chores in the house, and all he wanted to do was work in the yard. I came away realizing she was very bossy and quite dysfunctional, even crazy perhaps.

Friday, she came rushing over to my house and knocked loudly on the back door. “Can I talk to you?” she asked, pushing her way into the house. I agreed and we sat down at the kitchen table. “Paul won’t come in the house!” I had no answer for this and she went on. “Paul went out to work in the yard on Wednesday and never came back in. He finished the mowing two hours later and I kept expecting him to come back in the house, but he didn’t. I didn’t really care at first. I needed my nap and I had to watch my soaps, plus I had to prepare dinner. It seems like the work never ends.

“When dinner was almost ready, I went out to call him. I saw him standing by the bird bath with the hose.

“Paul,” I called out.

“I’m over here,” he yelled back. His voice sounded a little weaker than usual, but I didn’t think anything of it. He was some distance away.

“It’s time for dinner.”

“I’ll be in soon,” he said smiling at me. I thought his smile was a little stiff, but I was too far away to get a good look. I was tired from a long day’s housework and I went back inside. I called him two more times that evening, but I finally ate dinner alone. I even ate some of his, but I left him some on a plate. Then I did his job, washing the dishes. That made me really mad and I called him several more times to come in, but didn’t get an answer. That evening I fell asleep in front of the TV, alone.”

Unbelievable as it seems, Jessie told me that Paul never came in that night. In fact, he never came back in at all, and it made her very angry. The next day she went out to find him. He was still standing by the bird bath with the hose. She decided she needed to check him out carefully, so she trekked all the way out to the bird bath to see him.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Making sure the flowers and the birds have enough water.”

“I see that, but what about you? Aren’t you hungry?”

“No, I’ve just been sipping a little water from time to time.”

She noticed that he looked shorter than usual. “Aren’t you going to come in soon? I’m sure the birds and the flowers have enough water by now!”

“I stop sometimes and wait for the birds and squirrels to get a drink. A deer came by last night with two fawns and……”

“I don’t really care if the president came by,” she screamed. “I need your help in the house!” She was finally losing her patience with her husband. Didn’t he know that he had responsibilities in the house? The dishes were piling up and he forgot she needed help with the vacuuming. And why would she care if the wild animals had enough to drink?

After an uncomfortable silence she said, “Well, I’m going ahead with my day. If you want to stay out here all day, I guess that’s up to you!” She was mad and stomped into the house.

The next morning she called me and asked me to come over and try to convince Paul to come back in the house. When I saw him I was shocked. He seemed much shorter than I remembered, so I looked down to see if he was standing in a hole. He wasn’t. His white hair had grown longer. His face looked the same but his body was much smaller than it had been. Paul Yardley seemed to be morphing into a little yard gnome. Even his clothes and shoes must have gotten smaller, because they still fit the same way. And somewhere he found a long pointy red hat.

“Take that hat off,” Jessie demanded. “It makes you look stupid.” He just looked at her and laughed. She didn’t want the neighbors to see him wearing it. She grabbed at the hat, but then grimaced.

“Feel this hat,” she said, giving me a direct order. To my surprise, the hat was as hard as a rock. I was taken aback. Jessie and I couldn’t pull it off. We looked at Paul with total bewilderment. Then I touched his shoulder and it was hard too.

“What happened to you?” I asked. He just stood there watering and smiling and didn’t answer. I wondered if he could even talk. Could his mouth move if it was stone? His eyes were still alert and moved around, looking at me and the lawn.

“Quit turning into stone and come in the house,” Jessie demanded, but by noon Paul had turned completely into a yard gnome. All the yard work was meticulously done, but we never saw him move a muscle or a stone arm or leg, or give a toss of his hard head. He was as hard as a rock, and couldn’t talk, so Jessie turned off the hose and went shopping.

“I knew he would figure out a way to avoid doing his chores,” she said.

Stay tuned for Part II of  The Yard Gnome

The Iron Cage

I often dream that I live in a giant cage made of iron bars. Inside the cage is a circular iron staircase, and I start climbing. Step by step I ascend the stairs and as I climb I can hear the sounds of people moving around and talking. I climb higher and stop at a landing and look around. If I look down I get dizzy and I realize that the iron bars aren’t very stable and that I might fall at any time.

There is a wooden door on the landing, so I knock and soon Nola Peters answers the door. Nola doesn’t like me. She thinks I’m dirty and spoiled, and she hates me when I scream.

“Please let me in, I’m afraid I’ll fall,” I say.

“Okay, come in, but watch out for all these boxes. I’m unpacking.” She waves her hand around the room, which is filled with dusty boxes piled on top of each other.

“What’s it like to live up here inside the cage?” I ask her.

“Oh, it’s not bad. I have lots of friends in here.”

Soon I remember that I have a purpose in climbing the stairs. “I’m searching for a way out of the cage. Do you know the way?”

“No, sorry. I just got here,” she answers and turns back to her boxes. “If you look through the bars you can see Bonnie across the way. Maybe she knows the way out.”  I looked hard and realized that Nola’s room didn’t have any walls, just bars around it. A few yards away, past another room, was Bonnie, my old friend from college.

Suddenly, without walking or climbing, I am in Bonnie’s room.

“Nancy, come in,” she says. “I’m sorry I’m very busy sorting the clothes in my closet.”

Bonnie likes me and talks to me about serious issues that affect our lives, like grades and what we will do after college. I think she may know the way out of the cage.

After a few minutes she says, “Would you like to see the sky?”

“Yes, I would love that.” It seemed like I had not seen the sky for a long time. I guess I forgot to look up.

“If you come over here and stand on the chair, you can see it,” Bonnie continued. She holds the chair and I climb onto it and I am thrilled when I look up through the bars of the cage and see blue sky with puffy clouds moving along slowly.

“It’s so pretty,” I say. “It makes me feel good.”

“Me too,” she says. “That’s why I am going to be moving,” Bonnie told me. “I am getting an apartment a few blocks away.” I am astounded that she will be leaving the cage.

“That is very exciting,” I say, “but I’ll miss you.”

“Why don’t you come and visit some day for lunch?”

“I would love that,” I answer, but I am wondering if I can find a place that is outside the cage.

I suddenly realize it’s time to go, and I run back down the iron steps to the ground floor and wake up. I am not in the cage anymore, but I feel like part of me is still inside.

 

AFTERWORD: The iron bars symbolize the place where my abuser lived. She was a juvenile delinquent and lived at the Gumbert School for Wayward Girls north of Pittsburgh. My parents took my sister and me to see the home one day when they had an open house. The school was home to many girls and had a tall iron fence around it. To get to the house we had to park far away and walk through a very tall iron gate.

Today I am wondering what my dreams would be like if my mother and father had not chosen to hire one of these girls to move into our house and babysit for my sister and me during the summer of 1946. Would I still dream I’m in a cage made of iron bars?

 

 

 

 

 

Throwing Away Women’s Lib

Thinking about our coming holiday, Mothers Day, reminds me of how much women lost because of the Women’s Lib movement. In order to understand my unpopular opinion, we have to look back in history to the role women played before Women’s Lib became popular.

During the fifties and early sixties, most women didn’t work. They stayed at home and were housekeepers and mothers, living useful, comfortable lives. They kept the home looking nice, cared for the children and prepared nutritious meals. And they had time leftover for pleasurable activities. How many women have that today? Are the Housewives of Hollywood the only ones?

Now, women have to be housekeepers, mothers and have jobs. They had idyllic lifestyles and threw them away, insisting women be given jobs that were traditionally filled by men.

The men said, “Okay, then work!” I think at the time women were aiming to get good paying office jobs, and they wanted paid the same amount as men, something that has never really materialized on a national level. I know there are exceptions to this lower pay scale, but for the most part I think men still earn more.

The worst thing about it is that we didn’t only lose our easy lifestyles, where we could spend a little time in recreation during the day, but we lost a lot of respect from our husbands. Women began to feel “equal” to their husbands and insisted they be considered for all kinds of labor intensive jobs, such as factory workers, highway workers and soldiers. I don’t know how these women do it, unless they are in excellent physical condition.

I’m sure there are many of you who believe Women’s Lib was really a great liberation for trapped woman. I welcome your opinions in my comments section. Are you happy with the changes that Women’s Lib made in our country? Or do you agree with me that we lost more than we gained?

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