Powerful, Emotional Writings: An Aid to Adult Child Abuse Survivors
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Judge Not!

In general, a person who acts on the belief that they know the mind of God or of another man, except in the most basic ...

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What’s an Inner Child?

What's an Inner Child?

It's easier to talk ABOUT the inner child than to actually define him/her. (since we are talking about a part of ourselves I won't use ...

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Logic Is Not Truth!

Logic Is Not Truth!

On my daily walk this morning, I noticed nothing new along my route; nothing new, that is, in the physical sense. Usually I will discover ...

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We The Children

We The Children

We hear adults talking about self esteem. You talk among yourselves, and say that We the Children must have successes in what we do, to ...

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Listening and Trusting Ourselves

Listening and Trusting Ourselves

 I believe answers to our current dilemmas are always found in the present moment through our undamaged, undiluted, unfiltered awareness. I have found this to ...

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Dad Stuff

Anything to do with dad issues.

Spare the Rod?

When I read in The Dispatch, that October is National Domestic Violence Prevention Month, I wanted to write a column about Domestic Violence. When I write, I write from my heart, which means that I feel things intensely while I write. To do otherwise feels like a waste of time to me. So I approached my “task”, looking for my “entry point” into the issue. However, this time I felt stymied. I just felt sort of flat. What specifically should I write about? Then I read Margie Pizarro’s column in the October 16 issue of the Dispatch. I liked her column, she writes very honestly, and I like that. She mentioned the ancient adage “Spare the rod and spoil the child”.

I cringed inside myself, not from what Margie wrote, but from the misuse of that old adage that many adults use as an excuse for their own out of control behavior towards their children when they misbehave.   In families that experience domestic violence, if there are children, they are affected more than anyone else in the family.   If that violence is directed at a child and rationalized as “punishment”, it is still domestic violence, in fact worse than if directed towards a spouse.

Years ago I was taught two very important things about that Biblical quote.   Both are good examples of what that adage truly means.

Long before the printing press, in early Jewish households, families that were well off enough, had religious scrolls, perhaps a copy of the ten commandments, in a holder above the entranceway to their home.   The “rod” may have been a reference to this scroll in a tube above the doorway.   In that instance, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” might have been an admonition to teach our children to follow the ten commandments.   That makes a lot of sense!

Another explanation that was given to me had to do with a shepherd’s staff.   A good shepherd uses his staff to block any escaping sheep, steering them in the right direction, to keep them safe, and close at hand.   The sheep learn to follow his direction in time, trying to go off on their own less often.   They learn to trust and anticipate him.   He does not beat them with the rod out of his own frustration!   That would be a bad shepherd!

What I have learned is, that many adults confuse the difference between discipline and punishment.   The word “discipline” comes from the Latin root “disciplina” which means to teach, or to lead.   To discipline a child, is to make them a disciple!   A disciple is lead by example, and they want to be like the one they follow!   Discipline is not punishment!

  • The purpose of discipline is to correct and promote positive moral and ethical development.
    The purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense, to exact a “pay back” for wrongs.
  • The focus of discipline is positive future behavior.
    The focus of punishment is past misdeeds.
  • The attitude and emotional makeup of the one doing the disciplining is Love.
    The attitude and emotional makeup of the punisher is Anger, or worse, perhaps rage.
  • The reaction of the one being disciplined will be security and trust, and a desire to emulate.
    The reaction of one being punished will be fear, guilt, hostility, or worse, perhaps terror, shame, and rage.

As you can see, both parent and child fare better in discipline than in punishment.   Discipline cannot be commandeered by an out of control parent in order to vent their rage and frustration on their own,  powerless children.  Punishment can.   When it is, we make both more victims, and more perpetrators for a world that already has too many of both.

The Wine Cellar 1

I believe one of the most important things in this Life, is learning about ourselves, and wondering what God wants for us. Who does He want us to become? How do we become more than we are?

I also believe that to move forward to become the person He wants us to be, sometimes we need to look back, to see where we have been injured, and to heal those injuries that keep us from becoming more. All of us have been injured, many have been injured gravely.

I believe, that to heal emotional injuries from childhood, we often need to revisit those injuries with others, revisit and share the sadness, or anger, or terror with others, and find some personal resolution within ourselves. For many of us who were gravely injured, this journey takes a lifetime.

I spent my childhood in a very rural area. We lived in a large farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War. Behind the house were three maple trees, over a hundred years old, too large to climb, although those were the trees I always wanted to climb. They had trunks about 30 inches in diameter, deep ridged bark, the first branches more than 20 feet up. Close to these trees, and adjacent to Brownback Road, hidden in the underbrush, was “The Wine Cellar”. Obviously it was built when the first part of the house was built, but separate from the house, and forgotten for a large number of years, hidden away, waiting for discovery. Covering the outside of this tomb like structure (it reminds me of the story of the tomb that Jesus was in, where he rolled that huge boulder away from the entrance) was an almost impenetrable barrier of Osage Orange. Now Osage Orange, if you’re not familiar with it, is the most lethal thorn bush around. I don’t mean lethal, like it is poisonous or something, but lethal, like a sharp knife could be. Thorns two inches long, needle sharp, and woody strong. Folklore attributes this plant to Jesus’ crown of thorns. This “wine cellar”, that’s what we called it, although it was, in fact, a root cellar, was built with expertly placed stone, to form a Quonset or arch shaped underground room, made entirely of stone. Inside, hundred year old mustiness, the smell of dry leaves, which had found their way in over the years, left over spoiled apple smell, mold, and wet earth smell, like the garden, were prevalent. The stones, perfectly fitted, were kind of white, like quartz or limestone. I kept expecting to find stalactites, or stalagmites, but I never did of course. In the very back of the “Wine Cellar”, about 20 feet back, was a perfectly built stone wall, with a square opening 2ft by 2ft, halfway up the wall. When I was most courageous, I would jump and shinny up until I had my belly on the ledge of that opening, and I would peer down a deep stone lined well, which reminded me of pictures I had seen in fairy tale books. I could see the water at the bottom even though every time I got the courage to look in, I expected to find monsters.
I remember this one time, my father spent a weekend cutting the Osage Orange back, and burning what he cut. It grew right back, though, and he gave up, never trying to keep the entrance to the Wine Cellar clear again. He abandoned it. It didn’t matter that it represented the artisanship and way of life of the past. It didn’t matter that out of the whole property, the “Wine Cellar” had the most character of any structure. It didn’t matter that it was built to last forever. It didn’t matter that it had an aura of mystery and power. He abandoned it. I didn’t. I carry it, and what it represents to me, inside myself. I keep pruning those thorns back, and I’ll never stop like he did! I’ll keep pruning them back so I can keep going down in there, to see if I will find monsters or treasure in that well.

Gone Fishing

Eight catfish were swimming in circles, in the stationary tubs. Around and around, and then huddling in the corner, over the small round white drain plug, somehow avoiding the chain that was attached to it, and to the side of the tub. The water smelled fishy, and there was the overall background smell of the tubs, which was somewhat like the smell of a wet concrete sidewalk. The fish had come from the Schuylkill River, and I was a little afraid of their whiskers, their black shiny skin, and the fact that my cousin Frankie said that they had some sort of spines that could sting me. It’s hard for me to realize, just how young I really was, when I look back at childhood events. I have to do the math, and I start to remember how I saw things, and what I was thinking. I look at my own son to get a handle on what it is like to be a kid of 8 or 10 or 14. If I am lucky, finally, I can remember what I was feeling at a particular time. When I can do that, my myths about my past can fall away, to be replaced by the Truth. Those fish swam around the stationary tubs, inside our 13 room farmhouse, (my parents counted the foyer, the cellar, and the two unfinished rooms in the attic), between hundred acre cornfields, in Linfield,Pa. The place was really wonderful to grow up in, if it wasn’t for the adults who ruined it. We had Such’s Hill, which was 1/4 mile long STEEP sledding hill. Half way down that hill, was where, at 14, I saw Mitzi Ackerman, and Lisa Bernadini dancing in front of the upstairs windows of Mrs Keene’s in their underware, waving and smiling at us. I was confused the next time that I ran into Lisa, that she really didn’t seem to want to have anything to do with me. Funny, how 14 year old kids think. I know now that she was probably embarrassed by what she and Mitzi had done. At the bottom of Such’s Hill lived Mitzi Ackerman. She moved in when Chip Such and his family moved out. Mitzi was the first girl to actually do anything socially with me alone. We went skating on her pond, and I was terrified. She was one of the prettiest girls in the school, and later became the most popular girl in our junior high, but for that one day, when she treated me as a peer, and a friend, and laughed and joked, and genuinely paid attention to me,I knew I would love her forever. We never did anything together again, after that. I don’t remember whether I was too afraid to ask, or whether she turned me down, or what. I do know that I was heartbroken for a long time after that. I thought that be- cause of her, my life would become tolerable. I’m wondering why my father didn’t go with Cousin Frankie, when we got those catfish. I do remember that we didn’t actually catch them; we had gotten them off of someone else, who didn’t want them. The river was really too dirty to eat anything that that could actually live in it. I’m wondering if my father was drunk again, and that was why he didn’t go with us; maybe he stayed back at the Linfield hotel, which was right by the railroad tracks overlooking the river. I wish I could remember. So much of my history, is out of my reach. I hate that.

I do remember some things though. I remember one time that my father got drunk. He made this sandwich, with liverwurst, and onion, and peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, and mustard, after eating a bunch of salted peanuts, and drinking a whole bunch. I remember playing outside, and seeing him on the chaise lounge, a folding lawn chair, with aluminum tubing frame, and 4″ hard foam cushions, covered with vinyl. It had an adjustable back, and my father had it all the way down, so he could lay flat in it. I remember coming up to him, to ask him something. I remember being terrified, because at first, I saw what looked like “guts” on the ground, and I thought that he was dead, that somebody had killed him. I was 6 or 7, he was drunk, and what I saw on the ground was his vomit. No one explained that to me, and even after I figured out that it wasn’t “guts” on the ground, I still wondered whether he was going to die, because I didn’t understand being unconscious from drinking too much.

Those fish, my mother made me pull the plug on them. I’m not sure whether they had died, or whether they were still alive, and if they were alive, what did we do with them.I do remember being made to scrub out the tub. I hated that, and I remember I believed that I would never finish. That neighborhood, with cornfields, and rolling hills, streams, and farmhouses, and Mitzi Ackerman, went the way of the polluted Schuylkill river…adults out of control built a powerplant, and that entire neighborhood is under the shadow of the cooling towers of the Limeric Atomic Power Plant.

1997 KS

The Wine Cellar 2

Since I wrote this piece, I have found a lot of empathy for my father, and what made him so unapproachable.  However, I needed to write this the way I wrote it at the time. :) KS

I wanted to write about the fact, that in some way, my father and Father McNulty were like twins. That’s what my kid is telling me. Both Irish, Catholic, unemotional, judgmental. Neither one was loving, even though they professed to be. Both were angry men with few social skills. Both had a huge amount of power over me and misused that power. Neither one was truly my father, even though both demanded to be called “father”. Both of them hid behind their religion, and behind alcohol.

What this has to do with the wine cellar, I don’t really know just yet. My kid wants me to tell you about the wine cellar, so, that’s just what I’ll do. Back in Linfield Pennsylvania, when I was a kid, we lived in a large farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War. Behind the house were three maple trees, over a hundred years old, too large to climb, although those were the trees I always wanted to climb. They had trunks about 30 inches in diameter, deep ridged bark, the first branches more than 20 feet up. Close to these trees, and adjacent to Brownback Road, hidden in the underbrush, was “The Wine Cellar”. Obviously built when the first part of the house was built, but separate from the house, and forgotten for a large number of years, hidden away, waiting for discovery. Covering the outside of this tomb like structure (it reminds me of the story of the tomb that Jesus was in, where he rolled that huge boulder away from the entrance) was an almost impenetrable barrier of Osage Orange. Now Osage Orange, if you’re not familiar with it, is the most lethal thorn bush around. I don’t mean lethal, like it is poisonous or something, but lethal, like a sharp knife could be. Thorns two inches long, needle sharp, and woody strong. Folklore attributes this plant to Jesus’ crown of thorns. This “wine cellar”, that’s what we called it, although it was, in fact, a root cellar, was built with expertly placed stone, to form a Quonset or arch shaped underground room, made entirely of stone. Inside, hundred year old mustiness, the smell of dry leaves, which had found their way in over the years, left over spoiled apple smell, mold, and wet earth smell, like the garden, were prevalent. The stones, perfectly fitted, were kind of white, like quartz or limestone. I kept expecting to find stalactites, or stalagmites, but I never did of course. In the very back of the “Wine Cellar”, about 20 feet back, was a perfectly built stone wall, with a square opening 2ft by 2ft, halfway up the wall. When I was most courageous, I would jump and shinny up until I had my belly on the ledge of that opening, and I would peer down a deep stonelined well, which reminded me of pictures I had seen in fairy tale books. I could see the water at the bottom even though everytime I got the courage to look in, I expected to find monsters.

I remember this one time, my father spent a weekend cutting the Osage Orange back, and burning what he cut. It grew right back, though, and he gave up, never trying to keep the entrance to the Wine Cellar clear again. He abandoned it. It didn’t matter that it represented the artisanship and way of life of the past. It didn’t matter that out of the whole property in Linfield, the “Wine Cellar” had the most character of any structure. It didn’t matter that it was built to last forever. It didn’t matter that it had an aura of mystery and power. He abandoned it. I didn’t. I carry it, and what it represents to me, inside myself. I keep pruning those thorns back, and I’ll never stop like he did! I’ll keep pruning them back so I can keep going down in there, to see if I will find water, or monsters in that well. And I’ll find out why my kid keeps telling me that Father McNulty and my father were twins.