When I Go, by Paula Rose Michelson

~~~~~Reflective Question

Has your family faced a situation that made you believe you were the problem?  If so you know more about Naomi’s state of mind than most. If not, you will understand what I mean when you read a portion of Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in Five Chapters. "I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost…I am hopeless. It is my fault. It takes forever to get out. it isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. Is still takes a long time to get out. I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in…it’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am: it is my fault. I …."

~~~~~~The Text

When Naomi was young, her family had stayed in one place. As she matured, it seemed to her that they moved from town to town. At fourteen, which was well beyond the age when most took their first communion, she looked at her image in her mamá’s chipped mirror, and noticed that her looks were singularly different. My face carries the map of Israel. I need to leave.

She searched for, and finally found, a way to correct the situation. Eager to stop the guilt she felt for leaving without a word, she consoled herself, When I go, my family will have a normal life. And when mi tío and I have saved enough money, we will send for them. Whenever her longing for her family became unbearable, she would remind herself, They are better off without me. In the silence of her room, she would struggle to stifle her feelings of loneliness, loss, and isolation. Whenever her desire to contact her family overwhelmed her common sense, she would weigh the options between the better life they had and the personal hardship she suffered. Then she would shore up her resolve by reminding herself that only by leaving had she been able to give them the life they deserved. She believed her misery to be a small sacrifice to make for those she loved. Yet during Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, when she took time to meet with God, she found no comfort. This isolation and inability to fulfill my plan is what comes to those who pretend to be what they are not—beloved of God.

She counted each day that passed and hoped that the end of her obligation would hasten. Though her tía was kind to her, she yearned to be free. As the months became years, she saw her dreams diminish while Tía’s needs became her priority. Although the old woman had spoken to her about the blooming process, now a few months shy of twenty, Naomi noticed no changes. She was still the same size and had the same feelings, and longings.

However, as the end of her servitude drew near, she experienced a surge of hope. Driven by her desire for freedom, she tried to learn all she could about the outside world, which she felt ill prepared to venture into since her tía, true to her word, had kept her hidden within the house.

~~~~~~Authors Comment
This is Naomi’s Street.

~~~~~~Authors Question
What street are you walking down?

~~~~~Scriptural Insight
Psalm 119:104-106: I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.

Hiding in Plain Sight, by Paula Rose Michelson

Welcome to chapter two, which is aptly titled Hiding in Plain Sight because this is what Naomi’s rash decision to accept the old Tía’s offer, and her fear of being discovered forces her to do. Before you read this posting, I hope that you will remember our heroine planned to find her Uncle and help him raise enough money to bring their family to this land of the free. However, given the horrid circumstance that she encountered, her life is very unlike the one she had envisioned, which leads me to ask you to think about one plan you implemented that did not turn out as you though it would. Now that you have one in mind we can begin.

~~~~~The Text

Naomi’s loneliness was so pervasive that she searched for a way to escape her isolation, thought about the times her mamá had taken her and her sisters to church to light their candles, remembered how they had successfully masqueraded as Catholics, and wished she could do the same. It is better this way, she told herself, her loneliness assuaged by the fact that she did not have to explain to a friend why she had an aversion to all things religious. Yet sometimes, when the church bells rang, she felt closed in by her isolation, and wished her tía would release her from her pledge. Then she would remind herself that if her sponsor thought she was not as she seemed, she would be out on the street, picked up by immigration, and deported. Many nights she lay awake in her room as feelings of guilt overwhelmed her. In the quietness of the casa, she would think about the choices she made that lead her to live a life in the shadows. She wished she could undo the decisions that had forced her into this difficult situation.

She tried to remind herself that her mamá had called it “hiding in plain sight” and taught her at an early age how to blend in. Although she had fled Spain in search of freedoms the Jews did not have there, her lot was very much like theirs. Yet when she remembered the stories of the Jews forced to become Catholic or die during the Inquisition, she breathed a sigh of relief, for she believed that no one in America would do such a heinous thing. As a hidden resident of Spanish Harlem, she knew her omission placed her in daily peril. She feared telling her tía. She feared not telling her tía. She was unable to own who she was. For as long as she could remember, no one had ever stepped from the shadows of their faith into the true light of day. No one had ever spoken of who they were or whose they were.

Naomi was pleased that she did not have to live a life of two faiths, as her tía put no store in “such foolishness,” as she called it. Hiding here was easier. Yet sometimes, when she heard the church bells ring, she would think of her desire to be involved in life outside the casa. If she had spoken with someone, she might have confessed that each time she heard them, her heart leapt for joy. Just as suddenly, the memory of her shameful secret would resurrect itself. Aware that she was not Catholic but Jewish, she would curl into a ball for protection and remember the painful feelings of rejection she had experienced. Tremors would seize her body as she ruminated on the times others had shunned her family on her account. In her mind, the fault was the church’s because it was through her participation in the life of the church that she had heard many things that affected her and left her no alternative but to flee. The words of the nuns followed her across the ocean. “Jesus could never forgive or love a Jew. The Jews killed Him. They are an abomination before God.” Though those who had spoken the words were far away, and she sometimes wondered if she had remembered their words correctly, she assumed they were her adversary, for she did not know that there is one who is unseen who wars against the elect. Although she knew that what the church had taught was a lie, her mind hammered the words at her until she found herself thinking, Jesus could never love me. My people killed him!

~~~~~Author's Definition of Desire

Because Naomi’s desire seems to be important in the opening of this chapter, I believe it necessary to understand what desire is and how it can move or inhibit each of us. For the purpose of this posting, I define desire as: A wish or long for something that seems so needed that an individual believes that they cannot live without that desired thing or person.


Does a desire for something motivate or inhibit you?

If others knew what your hearts desire was/is would they use that information for or against you?

What have you planned, or are you doing to ensure that what you desire will become a reality?

~~~~~~Authors Comments

Although this posting and the questions above may seem like every other that I have posted, let me suggest that at times each of us treats those things that might profoundly impact us as if they were of no import at all. I share this because I have found that the things I do not want to deal with are those very things that, once exposed, give me no rest until I have grappled with them. Just as in the beginning of this chapter, Naomi must grapple with her choice and all making it denies her, each of us must own our reality for only by doing this can make new, and hopefully better plans.

Until we meet again, I pray Gods Shalom (His peace) which transcends all understanding upon you.

Should you wish to order your copy of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing in book from Amazon.com please hurry because (though more have been ordered) there are only three remaining. Since the novel is available in Kindle if you have that device you can always download your copy at http://www.amazon.com/

Tía Reveals her Plans, by Paula Rose Michelson

It has been a bumpy ride for Naomi! We watched her deal with the death of the kindhearted old blind woman she had companioned for a year, and saw her turned over to immigration. While she awaited her interview our heart beat might have quickened. When she was rescued by the old Tía, we might have breathed a sigh of relief, and having felt her safe we might have been as shocked as she was to find herself handcuffed and dragged to the old house. Now all seems well for Tía has stood up for her, so let us conclude the first chapter, A Safe Haven.

~~~~~The Text

While they headed to the kitchen, Naomi considered all she had seen and heard. She believed the old woman could make what she said a reality and smiled. “Gracias, thank you. I have never  been safe anywhere before.”

“I suspected that was the case,” her tía said as she unpacked their meal.

“Why did you think that?” Naomi asked, surprised that she felt comfortable enough to ask.

“Am I a fool? No one as young as you leaves her home and family and travels with others unless there is something painful that continues to occur.” Vida looked at Naomi and smiled. “I do not know your story, but I sense that you have run from something. Perhaps here you will find something worth running toward.”

Naomi nodded as they sat down to eat.

During their dinner, her tía confided, “All I will teach you has a purpose and a plan. Even the clothes I have selected for you to wear.”

“These?” Naomi tried to sound grateful while she glanced at her apparel.

“Yes, my little mouse. I want you to be safe and grow into whatever you are to become. I chose these garments so no attention will be paid to you.” Tía waited for Naomi to respond. When the girl said nothing she asked, “Have you ever watched a flower grow?”

“Well, no … not really.”

“I have,” her tía said, eyes bright with remembering. “A beautiful flower needs to be protected. These clothes are part of your protection. While you are with me, you can develop your unique talents. I will give you as much encouragement as I can. However, to the rest of the world you are to appear as invisible as I can make you. Then when it is time for you to bloom, you will become visible. Do you understand?”

“I think so.” Naomi wondered if her tía might care for her since she had gone to so much trouble on her account. “I will do as you ask. And I will try to show you how much I appreciate all you have done for me.”

Tía sighed and stared off into the distance. “You all say that when you first arrive, but confinement in this house will probably make you resent me, as well as this imposed situation. If that happens, be sure that I do not see you looking forlorn or hear words of regret. Understand?”

Sí, yes.” Now Naomi knew that her tía and Victory had placed themselves in peril to rescue her. “I understand!”

Visibly shaken by the girls affirming response, tía said, “Yes well … Now let us eat and get to bed. It is already after eight, and our day starts early.”

When their meal was over, Tía stifled a yawn while they cleared the table.

“I will finish here. Please go to bed.”

“But I have not given you your instructions.”

“Do you have them written down?”

The old woman eyed Naomi closely. “Can you read English?”

“I can! It is one of the reasons Abuela Sophia chose me.”

“Good.” Tía reached into the pantry and pulled out a yellow binder. “Everything you need to know is in here. Read it all tonight, but be sure to get some sleep.”

Naomi took the binder. “I have done well on little sleep before.”

“I am sure you have.” Her tía yawned as she left the kitchen. “You have probably learned to do well with little of everything. I pray that God will allow me to rectify that in some small way while you are here. After all, everyone deserves to feel valued.”

Naomi stood at the kitchen’s threshold and watched her tía walk down the hall. When the old woman reached her bedroom door, she turned back, looked at her, smiled, and said, “Naomi, welcome to mi casa, and welcome to America!”

~~~~~~Authors Comment and Reflective Questions

Were there ever sweeter words to our heroine than Tía’s “Naomi, “Welcome to mi casa, and welcome to America,” I wonder? And that wondering leads me to ask myself and you, dear reader:

Can we really know another person if we do not know ourselves?

If we know ourselves well does that mean that what we think or believe will never change?

If we change our thoughts and beliefs does that mean that we were unsure before and/or are we unsure now?

Did we change because others or situations threatened us or caused us to change or is change inevitable?

~~~~~Relevant Scripture & Authors Take

One could paraphrase Proverbs chapter 23 verse 7, to say,  As a man thinks so he is.

Or one could remember another Scripture that shows some their folly when they read, Judges 21:24-25 for it says that, …in that day everyone did what was right in their own sight.

Though the above passages sound different, put together as one continuous thought they show mans condition for they read: In that day everyone did what was right in their own sight. Therefore, as each person thought they acted, and their actions defined each of them.

If you are wondering why I have posted these words and my take on how they show us ourselves it is because I believe that an unexamined life traps the one living is. However, the examined life allows one to change, grow, rethink, and move on.

Please contact me and tell me what you think.

Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing available at www.Amazon.com in book and Kindel form.

News Flash! Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing now Available on Kindel

If you have been waiting for Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing to be available on Kindel, your wait is over!

If you have wanted to read a portion of Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing before you bought the novel, go to Amazon, and hit Kindel. Once the Kindel opens use the Search Inside feature and enjoy!

She is Safe, by Paula Rose Michelson

~~~~~~~~Reflective Questions

Have you ever heard someone pronounce you health, happy, or safe and wonder why they thought they knew you well enough to make such a statement?

Have you ever wished that the person making those pronouncements could make them come true?

Have you ever been in such dire straits that you chose to believe that you wished for could become real? If so you are more like Naomi than you might have originally though. If not you might find this posting helps you understand the plight of those poor souls for which Emma Lazarus’s poem The Grand Colossus stands as a beacon for it says, “…give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me …”

~~~~~~~The Text

Naomi roused herself and looked around the room. I am grateful to have a place of my own, she admitted. Surprised that the simple act of admitting how she felt caused her to shudder; unwanted memories of the bitterness she had experienced in Spain assailed her. She knew that her situation could be much worse, tried to find something positive to think about, and told herself, I should have some privacy here. Then she cautioned herself, Remember to do nothing that breeds familiarity.

Aware that she needed to return to the kitchen as soon as possible, she stood and walked to the large oak wardrobe. She ran her hands over its beautifully carved panels. Why is something this fine in a servant’s quarters? she wondered. She opened the large, double doors and peered inside. There were no uniforms, just hangers that held ordinary garments. Each dress was modest but none would reveal her station. Keenly aware that her sponsor had chosen colors and styles that would not cause her to appear a servant and yet not allow her to think more highly of herself than she should, Naomi forced a tentative smile. This Tía is more like mi tía Rosa than I thought. She assumed that she understood the old woman’s hidden message, appreciated her thoughtfulness, and decided to call Tía Vida, her tía. Pleased with the realization that she would not be humiliated in front of others she took off her clothes, folded and placed them in the bottom of the wardrobe. Then needing to assure herself that her uncles letter was safe, she took out her skirt, felt for it, then placed it on top.

When she returned to the kitchen, she wore the mustard-colored dress with the white collar. Because of the formality of their agreement, she waited in the hallway for an invitation to enter. She saw her tía at the sink with her back to the hall, holding a phone to her ear, and heard her say, “Yes, Victor, we arrived home without incident. Do not worry. Naomi understands everything. Yes … yes, I see. No, she will not run away. I scared her just as I do every girl I bring home. Yes … I did … I used the handcuffs, just as you told me to. Do not worry. She is safe.”

When her tía hung up the phone, Naomi cleared her throat. Tía turned in her direction and waved her in. “Let me see you.”

She stepped into the kitchen and waited.

“Good, very good,” her tía muttered. She walked around the girl and nodded toward a chair. “Sit down, Naomi.”

Naomi acquiesced and was pleasantly surprised when her tía sat down across from her. “Naomi, I know our arrangement forces you to delay your plans. However, if you are as clever as I think, all that you learn here will serve you well when you leave. Understand?”

“Yes. I understand.”

“Now, this is our first night together. I always try to help my new niñas feel at home on their first night, so we will eat together and we can talk. You can ask me questions about this situation. After tonight, you will find your position in my home will not allow you to treat me with familiarity, nor will we dine together.”

As Tía finished her last sentence, there was a knock at the door. She stood, walked to the pantry, and brought out some dishes. “Naomi, I believe our meal has arrived. Answer the front door.”
Naomi rushed to the vestibule, turned on the light, opened the door, and saw a young woman who wore a bright orange dress with a matching sweater. She held a sack, which Naomi assumed was their food. The girl looked her over and giggled. “So you’re her new girl.” Her lips curled slightly in obvious disdain. “Let me look at you!”

Naomi stood still, frozen by the brazen attitude of one she did not know, a girl who acted superior to her for no apparent reason. “Come on. Turn around,” the girl ordered. “You aren’t much to look at, so scrawny, with that wild, curly, hair and those big, sad eyes.” She patted her shiny, straight pageboy hairdo, which was so popular. While the girl stared at her, Naomi remembered that her mamá had said, “Only a harlot wears her hair like un hombre!” Not through with her insults, the girl raised her voice, “I heard La Señora brought another beggar home. I also heard you’re Spanish! No wonder you can’t answer! None of you knows enough to learn English before you come here.” The girl glared into her eyes and demanded, “Cómo te llamas?

Naomi saw no reason to offer her name in response.

“No wonder you had to leave Spain. You’re too stupid to know your own language! Probably nobody wanted you around. What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”

La Señora stepped out of the shadows of the living room, into the light of the vestibule. She narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw. Everyone who knew the old woman feared this look. However, the delivery girl did not notice, nor did she hear the tension in Tía’s voice when she exclaimed, “Shame on you for such rude behavior!” She walked to where the girl stood and snatched the bag out of her hands.

The girl shrugged. Then she realized she had to say something and mumbled a halfhearted, “Sorry.” She turned to leave.

“Come back here! I’m not done with you!” La Señora’s icy cold voice stopped her in her tracks.

The girl turned back, her look of arrogance replaced by one of fear.

“Apologize to Naomi!”

The girl stood her ground.

La Señora looked at her watch then back at the girl. “Rochelle, I hired you. Now I am firing you! Pick up your things from my store and do not come back, not even to buy something. I do not want to see you again. Do you understand me?”

“But, Señora, look at her!” the girl whined. “She’s just a little mouse!

The old woman glanced at Naomi. “That may be but this little mouse has more dignity and courage than you will ever have. I am sorry I wasted my time on you. Now, leave!”

As the girl turned away, the old tía put her arm on Naomi’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. “This will not happen to you again,” she promised.

~~~~~Authors Comments

Actions always speak louder than words for they reveal our heart. I believe that God’s Word illuminates this point best. Therefore, I have posted three verses for you to consider.

1 Samuel 2:3 “Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed…”

Psalm 92:4 For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”