Stardust Reflections

“Mom, this is crazy! How does this even work?” Louis looked up at me, his cereal spoon suspended mid-bite and mid-air. “Have you read this? It really is talking about me here.”

Not only had I read the astrological report in which he’d been completely absorbed (while simultaneously eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch) but I’d familiarized myself with his natal chart since the month after his birth. I’d intentionally set these particular pages on the table that morning, next to a glass of juice and a cereal bowl, so that he would spot them when he emerged in his bathrobe for breakfast. It felt like the right time. Lou needed and deserved a sprinkling of stardust in his life right then. It was the Fall semester, 2014. Enrolled in Psychology 101 at Clackamas Community College, he’d remarked a few days before, “Well, this month we’re covering childhood trauma, addiction, death, and the stages of grief. I should do great on the exam, don’t you think?” Somehow, he smiled. His grandmother was in hospice care in our home. He’d returned one year earlier from months of dual-diagnosis treatment for complex childhood trauma and substance abuse. He was in a very shaky period, oscillating between recovery and relapse. He’d learned that his biological father, his abuser, was living in Oregon, not France. PTSD had come roaring back in his life like a runaway train threatening to derail everything in his life.

A good astrological reading allows us to feel seen and understood.

A reading of the natal chart by a gifted practitioner helps us to accept the gifts and the failings of our lives. It causes us to wonder. It challenges a person to keep growing and offers invaluable suggestions about direction and timing of our choices. An insightful reading at the right time can encourage a person to hold on to hope through a dark night of the soul. Though he was only seventeen years old, it was already abundantly clear that Lou was living out his own hero’s journey, the one charted in the map of the stars and planets at the moment of his birth.

Learning Astrology with Kelly Surtees
Astrology University, Webinar 2020

Here is a sample from the report Lou was reading. “You are an imaginative and sensitive individual with a strong wish to be allowed to live in a world where harsher realities fade into the background. You are very talented and it is vitally important for you to find a channel for all of your creative energies. Otherwise, you may find yourself slipping into a world of unreality and apathy, even drawn to the world of drugs as a form of escapism. You need to set aside time each day for artistic pursuits.

“In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually obtain a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I very often found the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand.”

C.G. Jung, 1947, letter to astrologer V.B. Raman, cited in “Jung on Astrology,” Selected and Introduced by Safron Rossi and Keiron Le Grice, Routledge Press, 2018.

“You are apt to feel overwhelmed by the injustices of the world. You may lose sight of your goals, become confused about your direction. It’s possible your confusion stems from childhood experiences with your father; perhaps he was weak or unable to support your development. With the Moon in the sign of Capricorn, you may have had to grow up too fast, to be a ‘little adult’ when you were a child, learning painful lessons at a very young age.”

If you knew Lou, you’ll be able to imagine him reading these paragraphs and what he must have felt. Utter amazement. Bewilderment. Something akin to delight too. The irresistible urge to keep reading. And if you know Lou’s story well, I expect you may be sharing some of those same feelings even as you read over his shoulder.

“With the Moon and Pluto connected in your birth chart, you will be prone to extreme highs and lows. Mercury and Venus making contact in your chart indicate that communication and learning are sources of joy in your life. You are amiable and charming, usually expressing yourself in a loving manner. You are a good talker and listener. You are at your most powerful when using your insights for positive purposes. Your insights and honesty, combined with your compassion and other gifts can be useful in a counseling situation or can make you a powerful advocate in any field.”

The planet Pluto is in the fourth house of your birth chart, indicating that you may have been affected by early childhood traumas, either by one particularly disturbing event in your family life or by a series of upheavals. Perhaps one of your parents or a father figure was an overwhelming, powerful figure in your life. With Saturn and Mars in a tense aspect in your chart there may be troubles and discord with authority figures, especially older men. On a more positive note, you are confident and ambitious, motivated by the thought of achievement.

Some day, we’ll look back at this time, when psychology is practiced without the vision and insights astrology provides, in much the same way we look back on that time, not so long ago, when astronomy was practiced without the aid of a telescope.

Dr. Richard Tarnas, author of “The Passion of the Western Mind” and “Cosmos and Psyche

What Louis didn’t know was that, in addition to the 12 page report he was reading, I also had a sizeable collection of audio recordings of astrological readings done for us between 1997 and 2014.

When he was just two years old, Mara Freeman, author of Grail Alchemy and Celtic Spirit, read Lou’s natal horoscope for me. “It’s an amazing chart. He’s a healer. He has a calming, soothing presence that’s unusual in a small child. He was a psychiatrist in a past life, serious, scientific, compassionate and gentle. That was in Europe, not in the United States. He’s come here to take more risks, to expand beyond academic theory, to learn about people and relationships.” She pointed out the difficult aspect of Mars (conflict/anger) opposite Saturn (father) in his chart, but didn’t dwell there. She added, “He might become a psychologist in this life. Or he might become a musician.

Mara Freeman, Wales
www.chalicecentre.net

That was in 1999. Fourteen years later, I’d hear my son — who had not heard Mara’s predictions — tell the academic advisor at Clackamas Community College “I think I might want to study music therapy, maybe at Marylhurst College.” Mara holds a counseling degree; she is also a gifted musician and writer. She brings great sensitivity to her work as astrologer/clairvoyant. “He’s like a ‘little professor,’ wise beyond his years,” she observed in 1999 about the soul whom she’d never met in person. “But he can also be a bit of a clown, very funny. Quite unique, really. There’s a also a sensitivity, a fragility here. He may react to excessive emotions with allergies. [He did.] Help him to learn what his feelings are, to name them, ‘sad,’ ‘glad,’ ‘mad’ and so on, so that he can identify them. Otherwise, he will retreat. He is a dreamer with a poet’s soul. With Venus on his Sun, girls are going to want to be his friend. Lots of girls!”

Sun conjunct Venus

Mara wasn’t the first astrologer to interpret Lou’s chart. My late friend, Khafiz Wrobel, longtime astrologer in Humboldt County, had calculated, drawn by hand, and read Louis’ chart when Lou was only a few months old. As an undergraduate, 23 years old, I’d traded Khafiz some calligraphy (a flier for a Sufi dance event) for my first astrological reading.

“Libra Sun in your tenth house means you’re a natural born teacher,” he said of my astral map. “Ninth house planets show an interest in foreign travel, other cultures, spirituality, philosophy. Your rising sign is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter. This can give you tremendous optimism toward life, one that might even attract others to you for guidance. You have a mind that will want to read whole libraries. Friendships with women are going to be very important for you throughout your entire life. You would do well to turn your living space into a kind of retreat, maybe an art center or place where women could gather. But that may come later in your life.” So far, so groovy. These tendencies were already beginning to play out in my life.

But then …. we landed on the Moon. “You see how your Moon is sitting all by itself below the horizon line? This placement makes it jump out in your chart like a splotch of green paint on a red canvas, and this means it will have added significance in your life. The Moon signifies mothering, children. It’s placed in your fifth house, the house of children. This says to me that children are going to be terribly significant for you in some cycle. The problem is, the Moon is in a tense T-square with Uranus, the planet of disruption and upheaval (in your eighth house of shared resources/other people’s money) and Neptune, the planet of deception. If this were a man’s chart, I’d say it looks like a custody fight and disputes about child support.”

Khafiz was looking at a kind of roadmap for my Soul in this incarnation. Those squiggles (glyphs) and colorful lines (aspects) all spoke to him.

Many astrologers might shy away from sharing with a client what Khafiz chose to share with me.

He called it as he saw it. He warned me of “a possible cycle of fraud,” involvement with someone who was nothing but a con, becoming entangled with a man who was not at all the ideal partner he appeared. “With this chart, and all that idealism of your air and fire signs, I wouldn’t go looking for a prince charming!” he said. I might possibly be “just too damn idealistic and romantic;” it could get me into trouble. “I’d be worried about getting involved with some kind of lover or friend who promises you a thousand but comes through with only fifty. Or you wake up and he’s split with everything.” But I was 23 and none of this really made sense to me. And so, it was easy for me to forget about it.

Ten years later, I married a man who had no desire to have children. When our marriage was starting to show signs of real strain, I suggested we have our charts read for our birthdays. A local astrologer, Roxanne, had been recommended to me in circumstances so bizarre that I felt compelled to consult her. (My supervising administrator at school had welcomed me to my first teaching evaluation by showing me a chart and notes on his desk. “I just had my horoscope read for the first time and I can’t stop contemplating this!”) Roxanne told me I would very likely find myself pregnant within the next several years. I laughed aloud. “That was your husband’s reaction too,” Roxanne said with a smile. “Because I saw the same thing in his chart….” Three years later, we had divorced. And, as Roxanne had predicted, I was pregnant.

Waxing Gibbous Mooon (photo by Tim Wozny)

The man Khafiz had tried to warn me about had appeared in my life at last, showing up at the very door of my classroom where I taught. Charming, brilliant, a PhD in physics, fluent in four languages, he could sing German opera from memory. He was French. He cooked. He wrote me long, romantic letters. He took me to Oaxaca in the Spring and then to France in the Summer. If only I’d bothered to find out then what the astrological transits were signalling in my life at that moment. It was written in the skies. Astrological hindsight is also 20-20. Or if only I’d listened again to Khafiz’ reading from eighteen years prior. Would that have made a difference? I was moth to a flame, drawn to a man in whose chart, I would later come to learn, there was an excess of Fire: a deadly combination of irresistible charm and hidden, combustible rage.

Astrology is an ancient science. Though it is now, as researcher, author and astrologer Dr. Richard Tarnas says, “The gold standard for superstition in our modern western culture,” it is not so in all cultures nor has it been so for most of humanity’s history.

According to C.G.Jung, astrology operates via what he termed Synchronicity. A term that has gained some traction recently, synchronicity refers to an a-causal connection between two events, a coincidence holding deep personal meaning for the one experiencing the emotionally charged phenomena. The ancient Chinese book of Wisdom, the I-Ching, works on the same principle and logic. The fact that Uranus (planet of sudden disruption) sits in my 8th house (shared resources and other people’s money but also — for the ancients — the house of sex, power struggles, transformation, and death) did not cause me to lose all of my savings and my pension through my long saga of struggle to protect my only son. It did not cause the archetype of masterful con man and sociopath to show up. Its placement there has a non-causal relationship to the unfolding of these fated events. It points toward them, illuminates them far in advance. And it does so with remarkable clarity.

Both western science and western religions look upon astrology with equal, unequivocal disdain. And yet, in some Eastern cultures, a child’s name is not chosen until after his birth when his natal chart can be read for clues to the child’s nature and destiny. In the extraordinary film “Unmistaken Child,” Tibetan monks consult the stars and planets through astrology to help a modest young monk named Tenzin Zopa in his quest as he seeks to find the child who is his master’s reincarnation. (Spoiler alert: the child is found and the film will leave you wondering if we’re not being cheated of something with our purely Cartesian, rational, de-mythologized world view.)

Night Sky Mid-August 2020

I was in Athens, Greece when I realized I was pregnant. Greece is home to the temple of the Goddess Pallas Athena, now a named asteroid, a prominent player in my chart. Home also to the Mysteries of Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, symbols of fierce, protective mother love and the mother-child attachment, vital for Life. Symbol of a mother’s inconsolable grief when her child is taken from her, abducted into the underworld. Symbol too of the lengths to which a mother will go to rescue her only child. The goddesses Demeter (Ceres) and Athena (Pallas) and Juno (Hera) and Vesta (Hestia) grace the heavens as asteroids. Discovered and named in the 1970’s these planetary bodies are central in the work of Oregon astrologer, Demetra George.

Synchronicity: At her first astrology conference, feeling awkward as a novice and outsider, a very young Demetra struck up a conversation with a nice looking woman standing next to her. It happened that this woman had just completed the first ephemeris of the new asteroids. These “dwarf planets” had all been named after Goddesses so as to add some gender parity to the heavenly pantheon. This woman was so taken with Demetra’s given name that she decided their meeting must be kismet and offered Demetra a copy of a precious manuscript: her unpublished ephemeris of the asteroids, These asteroids are the subject of Demetra George’s fascinating book: Asteroid Goddesses: the Mythology, Psychology and Astrology of the Re-Emerging Feminine. She is currently offering webinars exploring the charts of women and events in the three waves of feminism of this century.

The Signs of the Zodiac & Traditional Planetary Rulerships
  • In 2002, Mara suggested that if there were someway to postpone the next family court hearing, scheduled for three days in August, I should do so. Jupiter (planet of good fortune, the ruler of my chart) would be entering my ninth house: the domain of legal matters. It took some clever behind the scenes maneuvering on my part, but the trial was moved to January 2003. It was only because of this that Judge Gregory Milnes was assigned to us, the judge who kept Louis safe until 2005. Mara saw true.
  • In the 1980’s, my mother, suffering from a crushing depression, set out on a healing road trip along the Oregon and California coast. She stopped to consult with Khafiz. Over coffee in Arcata he told her that if she could hold on just 18 more months, the clouds would lift and there would be a new chapter of good things ahead. “It was the only thing that kept me going on many days. And he was right.”
  • Roberta asked in October 2014 for Mara to do another reading for her. Mara looked at Roberta’s chart. “Let me move to my meditation room,” she said to us on the phone from Wales. It was time to shift from “progressions” to final transits. She recorded an extraordinary guided meditation to help my mother lay down her body with ease (“not now, but when it is time….”) pointing the way from this life to the next, assuring her she would meet her friends and family on the other side and that she would still be able, after “death,” to be connected with us, all of her dear ones left behind here on Earth, in Spirit.
  • Plunging into astrological studies over the past several years has been the most effective grief therapy I can imagine. As I’ve come to see and appreciate the trans-personal factors at play in Lou’s chart and in mine, I’ve tapped into a level of serenity born of wonder at the Mystery of life that I could not otherwise have known.

Ask anyone smitten with the practice of astrology and they’ll tell you. It is a constant source of fascination and awe, a repository of comfort and guidance. It’s an endless course of study as the art-form presents layer upon layer of complexity, a variety of schools of thought and approaches. On a practical, interpersonal level, it helps one to see that each person has strengths and weaknesses that are “hard-wired.” Even just a passing knowledge of Sun signs (the tiniest sliver of a fraction of all that is in a chart) makes it easier to let the Cancer friend be “overly” emotional at times, to appreciate the need of the Capricorn sibling to turn every outing or activity into a “project,” to accept that the Scorpio colleague is not suspicious of YOU or withholding from YOU but is guarded with everyone. That young person whom others see as aloof although you know him to be warm and funny? Of course, he’s an Aquarius! Once he learns this about himself, he will gain in valuable self-awareness. Once we know this about him, we’re less apt to think, “Why he is so stand-offish?” Astrology is helping me to become (finally!) a less judgmental person.

Some knowledge of astrology helps a person to move more easily with the ebbs and flows of life. One begins to feel viscerally the waxing and waning of the Moon, the retrogrades and progressions of the planets, the intersecting orbits of asteroids with the outer planets in ones own chart. How is this so? Not even the most gifted astrologer can explain the “how” or the “why” but she knows that it is so. I love this about astrology too: hearing the practitioners with decades of experience and published treatises behind them, still expressing their delight and wonder that it works, this “as above, so below” nature of things etched in the stars.

I’ve thought for months about writing something like this: a very personal reflection on my growing appreciation for the magical/practical, ancient/ever-new, art/science that is Astrology.

We are, after all, all Stardust.

~ by Rhonda, under the New Moon in Virgo, September 17, 2020

A CLOSING VISION

Occasionally, over the years, Lou and Roberta, his grandmother, would sit on her front lawn, side by side, in folding chairs. Wrapped in blankets, they would stare together at the heavens, waiting for shared glimpses of predicted meteor showers. As Comet Neowise blazed spectacularly close to the Earth last month, I pictured the two of them, side by side, gazing toward our little planet, whispering to each other, as they watched the light show from the Other Side.

Perhaps they’re picking out their next astral roadmap for their next big Earth Incarnation Adventure.

Sample Heart-Art-Earth Chart
Available by special order
$30 for 1 hand-drawn, personalized art-chart
A lovely gift for yourself, a friend, a family member and/or new parents

$50 for chart plus 30 minute intro walk through your chart
contact rhondaleecase103@gmail.com

If you’re thinking about scheduling your own astrological reading, I can highly recommend Mara Freeman in Wales (www.chalicecentre.net) and Michael Barwick in Canada (https://michaelbarwick.com/astrology/) You’ll need to provide your birth info: (1) date (2) exact time or as near a guess as possible and (3) city of birth. Mara will arrange a time for a phone conversation/reading of either 30 minutes or 60 minutes. She’ll then send you an MP3 audio file of the reading. Michael‘s readings are done via ZOOM. He will follow-up with a recording of the session and will send you the set of slides from the power-point he will create for your natal chart session of one hour. (And as of this writing, he is offering a 50% discount from his already very reasonable fees, a gift for new clients in the time of the COVID pandemic.)

Loaves & Fishes & Cheesecake

I promised her: I would pray. I would contribute my “widow’s mite.” I would spread the word. “Cheesecake and social work!” And here I am. There are only a few more days remaining for Jen’s Kickstarter Campaign to reach its goal. How do I know that your contribution will help bring this single mother’s dream into reality, for her and for her sons? Because my own journey as a survivor through the underworld of intimate abuse and family court trauma taught me that miracles are possible. My own Kickstarter experience with “Free As The Sun” reinforced my belief that our angels are the humans whose belief in us inspires them to offer us some wind under our wings.

With only a few days remaining, your contribution to “Beloved Cheesecakes” will be matched! Click here.

We’ve never met, yet I feel I know her like a sister. Jen is a single mother. She loves her boys more than anything. For their sake, she made the difficult/necessary choice to leave an abusive relationship with their father. That choice led her straight into the revolving door of family court: endless hearings, endless stress, endless expense. Still, Jen refuses to give in to despair. In her own words:

My name is Jen. I’m a recent Social Work graduate from Portland State University. I came out a domestic violence marriage 5 years ago, with this past May 30th being my 11th time in court. In the midst of my survival while raising 3 boys and attending school, I found therapy for myself in the form of baking cheesecakes. I started with gifts for Christmas in December of 2015 and by word of mouth have made over 400 for individuals, businesses, schools, churches, etc.
I had never dreamed of owning my business but life has a funny way of throwing curve balls. I hit this curve ball and have followed through. I am now opening up a storefront cheesecake shop in the heart of downtown Silverton, Oregon.
Making cheesecakes is my therapy. It’s where my mind stops racing. I put my heart into each and every one of them. I have also found that cheesecake is a gatherer of people. People sit, talk, eat, and enjoy. I’ve found the power of cheesecake! 

Jen’s Kickstarter (crowd-sourcing) Campaign “Beloved Cheesecakes,” has raised over $17,000 toward her goal. Somehow, she managed to have a “soft opening” of her shop just last week, despite the fact that it is under construction, that she is not yet funded, that the plumbing hasn’t been repaired! Jen is Kick-ass.

Again, from Jen: “We received a very generous offer from a very generous person who is willing to match dollar for dollar up to $7000.00!!! 😱 Seriously! If another $7000 is pledged by Wednesday July 10th, this generous person will donate the last $7000 to reach the goal!! Since we have 100 backers now (woo-hoo!!), we calculated that if each one of you either increased your pledge by $70 or asked someone you know to pledge $70, this will actually happen!”

“Beloved Cheesecakes” has until July 11, 2019 to meet its goal.

Undaunted by the “before” Jen just keeps moving forward!

In 2012, I was introduced to a young protective mother like Jen. She was desperate. When she left her husband whose violence had escalated to strangulation, her family loaned her money to hire an attorney. Still, she was facing an uphill battle in family court to keep her daughter safe. (A bloody battle from which I still have my own scars and in which I lost my son.) “I’ve hired a fierce attorney,” she told me, “but he won’t listen to my concerns. He tells me I’m being unreasonable.” She named him and my heart sank. The man was a “father’s rights” lawyer, unscrupulous, who had represented my son’s abuser as his fourth attorney in Oregon family court and had prevailed. “You can’t be represented by this man,” I told her. Even if you have to sacrifice the $5,000 retainer fee you just paid him, you need a real advocate.” Still destitute from my own family court financial abuse, a cousin had gifted me with $3,000 to help me stay afloat. “Listen,” I said,” I’ll give you $300. It’s a tenth of the gift given to me, so that you can consult with an attorney familiar with domestic violence issues in child custody disputes.” Since I no longer contributed to the Catholic church, I would tithe to a much better cause, a child’s safety. Maria took my check, found a new attorney and today ~ after years of uphill battle and a dozen court hearings ~ her daughter is safe.

Your contribution to “Beloved Cheesecakes,” no matter how modest,can be the one that brings Jen’s miracle into being. Be an angel. Make a contribution by clicking on the Kickstarter link above.

Hard work pays off!

3 R’s for High School Students: Reflect. Resist. Refuse.

In 1986 I was thrilled to land a teaching post at Abington Friends’ School in Pennsylvania, home to the oldest Quaker meeting house in America. Quakers have a long tradition of civil disobedience, refusing to pay taxes as war resisters, offering sanctuary to immigrants, facing arrest as they work for social justice. They are a reflective people.

Abington Friends Meeting House (Quaker, Society of Friends) Jenkintown, Pennsylvania

Sometime during that first week on the job, as my students worked quietly at their desks, a revelation came to me in the form of a question. It was terrifying and wonderful. “I wonder if they are aware that if they were all to walk out of the room, en masse, there would be nothing I could do to stop them?” It dawned on me suddenly and very clearly: they held a power of which they might be unaware. As a high school student in the radical 1970’s, the thought of such personal/collective power had certainly never crossed my mind. Though I respected many of my own teachers, I’d suffered with my classmates through more than our share of crass, indifferent, stupid, under-qualified, incurious, bored, boring and lecherous instructors. Not once did it occur to me that we could have stood up and voted with our feet.

1968 Student Protests to end the U.S. war against the Vietnamese people

There were no school shootings to speak of in those days. Not coincidentally, there were no Junior ROTC programs. No military recruiters on high school or college campuses. No armed school resource officers. No militarized police in city streets. No gestapo-like check-points in airports. No battalions of armed guards at the Mexico/U.S. border whose only proven function is to make all hispanic high school students in the U.S. feel targeted as “the other.” No specially male-youth targeted video-games developed by the Pentagon to make the spilling of blood more “real” and yet entirely unreal. We were not yet desensitized to violence. Everyone cried when JFK was killed. And again for Dr. King. And again for Bobby.

In 1991, I was teaching honors and A.P. French at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr. One day, a handful of my best and brightest pupils from the previous year rushed into my classroom as I was dismissing my own students for lunch. Talking over each other, laughing gleefully, one blurted out, “We just did something SO bad!” Their bright smiles and laughing eyes told me otherwise; it wasn’t a true confession they wanted to spill. “We went on strike today in Mme. Lowrey’s class!” said Alix. “We decided we couldn’t put up any longer with her treating us with so much disrespect. Her outrageous demands!” “And her arrogance,” her friend Alex added, “like she knows it all!”  She never listens to us when we try to explain why we hate her class.

National School Walk-Outs now planned for March & April 2018

So, Krissy helped us get organized…” Krissy?! I quickly turned my gaze to face the instigator of this brave boycott: a Girl Scout; a faculty member’s child; a girl of modest means in a sea of wealthy students, and by far the most respectful, quiet girl I’d ever taught. Her eyes met mine and her smile told me that she was hugely proud and more than a little surprised at her newfound inner power as leader of the Resistance! ) “…and so we agreed we’d all show up early and just lie on the floor of Lowrey’s classroom with the lights off. When she walked in to start class, we all just played dead! She didn’t know what to do. She yelled at us, but we didn’t move. We didn’t even open our eyes. It was great!” Brilliant.

But they were only playing dead. No one had shot them dead in their classroom. They would open their eyes again. They would rise from the floor and be able to demand that their teacher listen, really listen, to their stated needs, all entirely reasonable.

Though I retired from high school teaching in 2012, I have been thinking all day today, February 15, 2018, about what I would have wanted to say to my high school students this morning, the day after the Valentines’ Day Massacre in Florida.

Gays Against Guns (GAG mobilized after the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Florida)

February 14th, I would want to tell them, doesn’t have to blur along with all the other dates where classrooms became battlefields, bleeding into one bloody red smear where school names and victims faces can no longer be recalled. Not if you take action. Not if you make this your line in the sand. Demand there be no more child executions in classrooms and on playgrounds or in clubs or movie theaters. You don’t have to endure this obscene reality any longer. Remember Alix and Alex and Kristi and the Quakers and the war resisters.

You can reflect. You can resist. You can refuse.

With everything the so-called “grown-ups” have done to threaten your collective future on planet Earth, the very least we owe you is a good education. But to learn anything, you need to feel safe in your classrooms. No one can be expected to concentrate while waiting for the sound of gunfire to erupt at any moment, anticipating the screams of classmates. Worried that little brothers or sisters might be targets tomorrow. Reflect. Resist. Refuse!

You have unfortunately been born into a country where the sale of guns and drugs turn enormous profits for the financial portfolios of the adults in power. Instead of banning guns to end this preventable American public health epidemic ~ this massacre of the innocents ~ the so-called adults who run this country will just keep prescribing more anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication … for you!  Big Pharma and the NRA know. Wall Street knows. The Dow Jones gets high on pharmaceuticals, nuclear bombs and assault weapons. Reflect on the absolute evil of such market-driven madness. Reflect on why adults can easily picture the annihilation of Earth but not the end of capitalism.

Resist their attempts to attribute mental instability to you when your reactions to the insane world they have created are perfectly sound and sane. On that day, when you walk out of your classrooms as part of a nation-wide high school boycott / strike, you will be walking out of their crooked reality.  Refuse to be part of their collective madness!

The so-called grown-ups are already saying it is your responsibility to be watchful, your job to keep yourselves safe, your duty to be suspicious of each other. How dare they?!  Refuse to listen to such disgraceful nonsense. It is the the sacred duty and legal responsibility of adults to keep children safe. Don’t let them shift the burden of their responsibility to you. Reflect. Resist. Refuse.

Maria Montessori, M.D., first woman to receive a medical degree from the University in Rome; author of “Education and Peace” and founder of the Montessori International Association

Emma Gonzalez hugs her father, José, after her extraordinary speech (The crowd chanted, “We call bullshit!” on adult lies and cowardice; a chorus of young truth-tellers)

You deserve to be healthy. You deserve to be educated. You deserve to be safe. You are right to feel utterly betrayed. All children in this country are victims today, not only of direct and vicarious trauma from repeated school massacres, but victims of Institutional Betrayal Trauma too. The adults around you have collectively failed you. We are guilty of criminal neglect and should be held accountable for our failure to protect you and to provide for you and your brothers and sisters.  

 

In so many ways. You and I are victim of the personal addictions of our national leaders. You’ve seen this and you know it to be true. They can’t help themselves. They are addicted to money, addicted to power, addicted to careers and campaign contributions, addicted to hearing themselves talk in circles in front of microphones. And like all addicts, they suffer from twisted thinking. I ache knowing and saying that this is true, but I know that none of it is news to you. High School students have incredibly reliable built-in bullshit detectors. Trust yourselves! You see clearly.

I taught high school for nearly 30 years because I love you and believe in you. As a collective being, you see truer, feel more deeply, have higher energy and greater hopes than any other group of humans. You have taught my generation how to understand our computers and smart boards, how to set up a Facebook Page, how to load our Kindle. You will figure out how to turn the world right side up again. Adults will follow your example.


 “How come we’re always learning at school about revolutionaries who stand up to oppressive systems but if we’re tardy to class we’re in trouble?” ~ Cameron, WLHS years ago. (I laughed. He’d nailed it!)

Models of Refusal for Inspirational Boost

  • In France, students sometimes stage walk-outs alongside their teachers and administrators to protest overcrowding in classrooms. They know how to mobilize!
  • In the 1960’s it was the peaceful Montgomery Bus Boycott that kicked the civil rights movement into high gear.
  • It was young people walking out of classes, occupying administrative offices on college and high school campuses that helped bring an end to the Vietnam war.
  • In Québec in the late 1960’s it was French speaking poets and singers who started “La Révolution Tranquille.” The peaceful revolution overthrew the entrenched power of the minority Anglophone business elite (and their partners in the Roman Catholic Church) — and in no time brought sweeping, lasting and positive change in education, social programs, jobs, and women’s rights.
  • And don’t forget those great teachers of non-violent revolution: Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez; they’ll be marching out the door along with you, in Spirit.

Epilogue ~ February 20th. You ARE amazing. You ARE inspiring. You’ve got this!

 

Free to Tell: Child Abuse & Addiction

Free To Tell: Lou’s Writings Shine a Light on Child Abuse and Addiction

“Don’t let the truth become disguised,” in the words of the bright and sensitive and doomed young author, is the theme of this heartbreaking and inspiring volume.  Free To Tell  is a monument to a creative spirit, a celebration of his life, and an illumination to anyone wanting to understand child abuse, trauma, addiction and despair.

– Gabor Maté, M.D., Author, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction; When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection

I was traveling north on Highway 101, headed to Portland for the 43rd Annual Conference of the Northwest Institute of Addiction Studies.  Dr. Gabor Maté was the featured keynote speaker for the first day of the three-day symposium. En route, I stopped to watch the sunset. Lulled by the sounds of the crashing surf, the dance of fiery light on the blues of the Pacific Ocean, I felt the inner waves of emotion rising and falling.

I was awash in gratitude. Gabor had read the draft manuscript of Free To Tell. He had offered to write an endorsement. I felt wonder at the synchronicity of the NIAS Conference happening in Oregon that week, the opportunity to meet Gabor, to network Lou’s CD/book project, and to reconnect with places and people dear to us when Lou was alive on Earth. I felt a quiet joy and satisfaction. How amazed Louis would be that his poetry, essays, journal writing and lyrics had been reviewed by Dr. Maté, internationally respected for his groundbreaking insights concerning the link between childhood trauma and addiction. Gabor leads, inspires, uplifts, while tackling the most difficult human experiences. He is doing what Lou himself had hoped to do one day.

Beneath these feelings was the intimate and ever-present undertow of the dark emotions: sorrow, loss, grief. I’ve learned not to struggle against these powerful tides. Let them wash through. Breathe in. Breathe out. Surrender. As the Sun sank from view, a sense of peace came over me. This warm, life-sustaining light was not disappearing forever, only hiding for a time behind the limits of our ability to see. Before heading back to the car, I checked my phone. Gabor had just sent his endorsement. My eyes filled with tears. I sat down again on my rocky perch on the cliff above the ocean. I breathed in deeply the salt air, exhaled prayers of thanks. Before setting out again, I pulled from my luggage a small vial containing some of Lou’s ashes. I released the earthy dust into the waves, into the sky.

Everyday Attachment” was the theme of the 2017 NIAS Conference. Researchers and clinicians such as Gabor Maté, Christine Courtois, Joyanna Silberg, Eli Newberger, Bessel van der Kolk and Boris Cyrulink are unanimous and unequivocal in their conclusions. The essential role of safe, loving, nurturing childhood attachment in human development is no longer controversial. It cannot be overestimated. Dr. Courtois, Dr. Newberger and Dr. Silberg are additionally familiar with and outspoken about the plight of single mothers who attempt to keep their children safe when they are at risk of abuse. To say that family courts do not favor us is the mother of all understatements. If Yosemite were run like family court, the park rangers would warn the campers, “We have some mother bears in the park suffering from serious anger issues, but we’ve come up with an innovative and effective solution. We’ll be taking their cubs away and giving them to predators.” Problem solved.

“Attachment Theory” is not theory. It is reality. Attachment is the only means for all mammalian creatures to survive and thrive, especially for us “upright,” big-brained primates. Humans require consistent, positive, loving connections to our caregivers as infants and throughout childhood if our brains and bodies are to develop optimally as Mother Nature intends. The human child remains biologically dependent (and therefore extremely vulnerable) longer than any other species on Earth. Abuse in early childhood – especially chronic trauma of long duration, perpetrated by an adult to whom the child looks for protection, will cause long-lasting or even irreversible damage to a child’s developing neurological system.

“There are certain characteristics that define a good chimp mother. She is patient, she is protective but she is not over-protective – that is really important. She is tolerant, but she can impose discipline. She is affectionate. She plays. And the most important of all: she is supportive. So that if her kid gets into a fight, even if it is with a higher-ranking individual, she will not hesitate to go in and help.”
~ Jane Goodall

 

Dr. Maté stepped down from the stage. A long line was forming at the book table behind us. Gabor gave me a warm embrace before looking me in the eyes. He paused a moment before speaking. “What I am about to ask is in no way a criticism.” In his eyes I saw what everyone sees: the Light of compassion. “Why is it, do you think, that it took Louis two years before he could start to tell you about what his father was doing to him?” I suddenly felt faint; my heart raced. The physician had just touched my deepest wound, the source of my own dis-ease. (Pain. Fear. Terror.) I began to stammer out pieces of the unspeakable truth as Lou had shared it with me at ten years old, the terrible threats woven into his perpetrator’s abuse. No one had ever before asked me this question. Nevertheless, I had turned it over in my mind and heart, examining it from every possible angle (or so I thought) for nearly ten years. Silence. Child victims rarely disclose their abuse in real time if the perpetrator is a close family member, I added. (Yes, in my pain, I was actually beginning to lecture the expert about data he knows all too well.) “But Rhonda,” he continued, never breaking his gaze, “… and I don’t ask this to hurt you, how was it that your attachment to Louis became broken so that he suffered so long in silence before he could say, ‘Mama, my daddy is hurting me?'”

Dozens of people were now patiently waiting for a few moments of our Teacher’s attention. It was not the time or place to launch a discussion about the ways in which the family court system in America routinely forces children into relationships with their abusers.

It never is. Did I miss my chance?  Should I have taken the stage, picked up the microphone, found my voice? Should I have broken Lou’s silence for him in a new and powerful way?  I could have enumerated the myriad ways the system works to sever the child’s healthy attachment to his protective parent, all in the name of the child’s best interest. Exposed how the judicial process conspires to enable child abuse, abets the pervasive and deadly silence, sows the seeds of destruction and despair in the lives of thousands of good mothers and their children every year, shamelessly bankrupting us in the process. I could have told them exactly what complex PTSD looks like in me and in the crowd I hang with, my warrior woman friends. I could have made a heartfelt plea to everyone refilling their coffee cup, asking them to support the current Congressional House Resolution 72 in support of trauma-informed family courts. I could have hijacked the computer and shown the documentary, “Small Justice” by professor/filmmaker Garland Waller, or “Domestic Violence Continued: Contested Child Custody” by sociologist Dr. Sharon Araji.

Instead, I murmured my heartfelt thanks, gratefully accepted a second hug, and left the Conference for the day, my heart broken open once again.

 That’s how the Light gets in.

“Et à toi-même une épée te transpercera l’âme, afin que les pensées de beaucoup de coeurs soient dévoilées.” Luc 2:35 ~ Version Louis Segond

Mothers Day 2018. I’ll be in Albany for the Battered Mothers Custody Conference. I was there in 2015, distributing copies of Lou’s CD. Mothers Day 2015, I was also in New Jersey at the BMCC. Lou had died six months before. No one understood my particular grief so well as my sisters and friends at the BMCC. 2013 was the Tenth Annual BMCC. It was held in Washington D.C. at the GWU School of Law.  Louis called me from residential treatment in Arizona on Mothers’ Day. I was standing on the steps of the National Gallery, looking out over the National Mall. I asked his permission to share some of his story the next day in lobbying on the Hill. He said yes; said he was proud of me. I said that I was proud of him too, and that we were both incredibly brave.  Our bond, broken when he was young through no fault of our own, was on the mend in the last few years of his life.

The theme for this year’s Battered Mothers (Child) Custody Conference  is “Custody Litigation, Trauma and Recovery.”  One of our key legal advocates is Dr. Joan Meier, Clinical Law Professor at George Washington University and founder of DV LEAP (Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project.) We hope that the recent publication of Dr. Meier’s pilot study, “Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation,” funded by the National Institute of Justice and published in the Journal of Law and Inequality, will be a tipping point.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

 

  • #2 Take action. Contact your Congressman and the members of the Judiciary Committee US House of Representatives, to register your support for House Resolution 72, co-sponsored by Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.)

 

 

“Mother Earth” ~ Lou’s Poem (2014)

Shea & Lou at the Lewis River (2010)

Mother Earth

We sow our young with seeds of doubt,

with hopes that they will never sprout.

~

We tell them not to lie and steal,

then rape the Earth for cheaper meals.

~

We kill the one who gave us life,

with pesticides, no guns or knife.

~

Pollute the waters, slay the trees

as Mother Earth begs on her knees

for us to stop, at least slow down

remove our plastic man-made crown

begin to smile, remove the frowns

the dissatisfaction brought all this around.

~

And still we sit here in our human made shelters.

When will we see what we’ve done?

I’m tired of waiting for you to stand up.

The right time for action has come.

~ Louis Raymond Case Debruge

(May 2014 / Nature Writing / Clackamas Community College/ Prof. Davis)


Last month, Oregon’s Land Board voted 2-1 to sell the State of Oregon’s oldest pubic forest.  The Elliot State Forest is home to towering Douglas firs and to the Umpqua River. It is prime habitat for the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, coastal coho salmon and other species.  According to The Oregonian, “the forest is no longer doing its stated job: raise money for Oregon’s schools through its timber.”  The forest is no longer doing her job?  Her job is to raise money for schools?  Evidently, our science texts need to be rewritten to reflect this new reality.  Formerly, children around the world were taught what scientists long ago concluded, that a forest’s “job” was to sustain life of all kinds, including the dangerous species called “human.”  And yet Secretary of State Dennis Richardson voted in favor of the sale, opposing the Governor and Board Chair, Kate Brown.  “My obligation,” he stated, “is to live up to the schoolkids (sic) in Oregon.”

2017:  The year the water protectors were forced to leave their sacred camp at Standing Rock so that pipelines could be built.  The year the U.S. government decided that environmental protections are no longer necessary and put a gag order on climate scientists. The year Oregon decided to sell its oldest forest to pay for a fraction of what it costs to educate the State’s children for a year.  Meanwhile, it’s yet another year in which the United States will spend more on wars and weapons, on death and destruction, on violence to our planet and to people, than any nation on Earth.  It’s the year Lou would have turned 20, on this day, March 4th.   “March forth!” we used to joke together.  An activist’s birthday.


Trinidad Beach (photo by Greg Nyquist)

I moved last year to Humboldt County, California, home to some of the world’s most ancient and beautiful forests.  I have been on a healing journey for the past year. In the Redwoods, I’ve been cultivating the courage needed to complete Lou’s book of poetry, essays, and song lyrics,  Free To Tell:  Lou’s Writing Shines a Light on Child Abuse & Addiction.  Much of Lou’s writing is dark and difficult to read.  As in this poem, his own traumatic abuse and betrayal as a child often bleeds through.  Prophets’ voices have always been unsettling. They call us to turn and reconsider. They beg for a change of heart and they call us to action.  Woe unto those who turn away from the prophetic voice.


Jay Z was interviewed by Amy Goodman at the Sundance film festival in January about his upcoming documentary series, Time: the Kalief Browder Story. (Click to watch the trailer.)  Kalief was sent to Rikers Island at the age of 16, without trial, on suspicion of stealing a backpack.  He endured 800 days of his three years in prison in solitary confinement.  Once released, he suffered all of the post-traumatic stress symptoms associated with childhood trauma.  He committed suicide at the age of 22. Amy asked Jay Z, “You call Kalief a prophet.  Why?”

“Well, you know, we’ve seen prophets come in many shapes and forms.  And we’ve seen, you know, sometimes tragedy happens for our prophets: Martin Luther King.  I believe this young man, his story, will save a lot of lives.  You know, what was done to him was a huge injustice.  I think people (will) see his story and realize like, man, this is going on. This is not like one case that happened.  This is happening to a lot of people, you know.  So, it’s very important, his story.”

Jay Z’s reply is incredibly powerful.  A young man who hangs himself or dies of an overdose of drugs, alone in his room, may yet be a prophet.  Any child, every child, who suffers grave injustice at the hands of adults has a story that must be told.   Our children deserve a bright and hopeful future, not a barren nightmare of slow asphyxiation.  Their personal future possibilities are not separate from those of the Earth, as Lou’s poem suggests.


Bandit and Lou (2006)

On the EP of Lou’s music produced by Marv Ross in 2015, Lou and his friends Tristyn and Shea sing his song “Change.”  The refrain repeats like a mantra and a prayer for peace.

Let’s try to make a change, for our daughters.  Let’s try to solve our problems without pulling out a gun.”  

One day, in the last spring of their lives on Earth, Lou sat on the edge of his grandmother Roberta’s bed and read aloud for her his latest poem.  “Consistency” is a reflection on the maple tree in the backyard of the home the three of us shared in Oregon City.  Consistency is what Lou’s grandmother provided him through the outer and inner storms of his life. Consistency is what Mother Earth longs to provide for all of us, her creatures, her children. Let us return to the wisdom of our true Elders, the native peoples whose cultures were all but destroyed by blind ignorance, arrogance and greed.  Let us kneel in reverence together on the Earth and ask her forgiveness.  In her health and balance, cradled in her roots and her branches, is our only hope for renewal and healing.

Link:  Lou Reads to Roberta 

Consistency

In a very unclean world, my back yard is a place of sanctity.

A tremendous broad leaf maple tree is first to greet the eye, inviting my attention,

if only for a moment.

Her leaves change with the seasons, slowly turning from green to yellow to brown

as the year goes on.

In the winter months, my tree has no leaves at all.

It is as if the roots are waiting for the sunlight to shoot their ancient energy to the tips of

the branches and bring out the wonderful yellow flower indicating that spring

has finally arrived.

When I was younger,

I hung a tree-swing rope to a low branch, six or seven feet off the ground.

I would push back and forth for hours, enjoying all the pleasures my tree had to offer.

The happy emotion was plenty for me.

I swung and laughed in my own favorite tree.

The maple tree has been there my whole life,

sitting, waiting, watching silly humans go in and out of my own backyard.

The tree means something to me.

May 2014

 

Feel free to leave a comment on this post.  

Lou’s Songs of Life: A Lenten Reflection

Louis Debruge - First Communion - First Grade at Saint John the Apostle Church
Louis Debruge – First Communion – First Grade at Saint John the Apostle

The season of Lent begins today, Ash Wednesday.  It culminates in a celebration of new life, Easter. Between the two, we remember the extraordinary life of a good and innocent person who endured physical abuse (“Jesus is scourged”) emotional and verbal humiliation (“Jesus is crowned with thorns”) and who was left alone to walk his path, carrying the heavy burden on which his life would end (“Jesus carries his cross.”)

Today as I prayed these Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary, I reflected on the significance of this season in Lou’s life.

On Ash Wednesday 2013, Louis was nearing the end of a 30-day stay in residential treatment at Northwest Behavioral Health Services, a clinic for adolescents suffering from addiction.  It was his second experience in rehab, but it was the first time he had asked to be admitted voluntarily.  “I need to go back, mom.  I’m losing everything I care about.  I need help.” The courage of admitting we are powerless!  It’s a gospel kind of heroism, this surrender. It’s Jesus in the Garden of Gesthsemane saying, “Let this cup pass from me, yet not my will but Thine.”  Calling on a Higher Power to light our way in the darkness, reaching out our hand to others for help, stepping into the power of vulnerability, these are not signs of weakness but of great strength.

It was there, with the support & encouragement of his therapist, Bruce Zufelt, that Lou designed and led a workshop for his peers.  It was entitled, “Using Song and Poetry to Heal From Trauma.”  This experience surely contributed to Lou’s later interest in music therapy as a possible career. He was only 15 years old, yet he was doing instinctively what is currently cutting edge trauma therapy.  (1)

Lou began by playing one of his own songs, The Game of Love.  He then shared how writing music and lyrics helped him.  “Songwriting was irreplaceable for me. It was truly magic to see the sounds and beats in my head transcribed onto paper and then turned into actual vibrations which other people could hear.  It was a three step process that could turn the ugliest of memories into the most beautiful creation.” (2)

Next, Lou asked the workshop participants to write a journal entry about a difficult memory of betrayal or loss.  He asked if some of them would share and they did. Then he played another song to help heal their hearts. Afterwards, Lou walked into Bruce’s office for our session together.  He was beaming.  He was also shaken.  He was every bit as moved as were the staff and other clients by what had just transpired.  In his humility, he had not anticipated the flood of thanks, tears and congratulations from staff and clients alike.  He hadn’t realized the healing he would find for himself as he began to open up about the pain of his past.  “I even got three marriage proposals, mom!” Later, I was told that several other clients subsequently made important disclosures in therapy about their own childhood wounds.  Louis had the natural gifts of a wounded healer.

The vision of this project, with the publication of the CD “Free As The Sun” and the companion book, “Free To Tell,” is that Louis’ voice can and will continue, posthumously, to inspire and to gently/powerfully move other young people to tell their stories, to themselves and then to others.

Utah Lou's Rebirth Ceremony (Trapped)
Lou’s “Rebirth Ceremony” sculpture-walk begins with this image of being trapped as a child, in a prison of thorny abuse (Second Nature ~ EVOKE Wilderness Therapy, with Dr. Matt Hoag, PhD. Santa Clara, Utah ~ April 2013)

Several days later, it was Bruce who had the difficult task of giving Lou the news.  This time, he would not be coming directly home from rehab as he had expected.  Instead, a trained transport guide would be accompanying him on a flight from Portland to Utah. There, in the desert, he would be spending eight weeks in a program of adolescent wilderness therapy with twelve other young men who were battling inner demons.  “Hmmmm,” said a dear friend of mine when she learned about what lay ahead on Lou’s path, “Forty days in the desert during Lent and into the Easter season?  Sounds to me like God might have something in store for Louie.”

May his memory be a blessing and may we each walk into new life in some way this year.

(1) See “Why Your Story Matters: the healing power of personal narrative” by Deborah Serani Psy.D. LInk:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/two-takes-depression/201401/why-your-story-matters

(2) “Melodies and Me” (essay) by Louis Debruge, Writing 121 at Clackamas Community College, included in the book Free To Tell:  Lou’s Writings Shine a Light on Child Abuse and Addiction (to be published March 2016) 

2005 students at the Music School
2005 students ~ the Music School (West Linn, OR)

Note:  Video performance of Lou’s song, “Crucified” recorded in Portland, Oregon by Max Shearer on November 27, 2012.  Recital for the Music School, Inc.  Lou (age 15) on lead guitar and vocals; Shea Mackinnon (14) on vocals and djembe; Jerome Couture, Lou’s music teacher on bass. (December 2012, Lou entered residential, dual-diagnosis therapy for the first time but did not begin to disclose the full extent of his childhood abuse until after his release in January 2013.)

Free As A Son – on the Feast of the Holy Family

Free As The Sun ~ Free As A Son
Free As The Sun ~ Free As A Son

The title track of Lou’s CD is Free As The Sun.  The version Shea Mackinnon has so beautifully recorded is the one he and Lou sang together.  Based on an earlier version of the same song, the lyrics are poignant & personal, but they are not full of the private pain that was captured in the original chorus, where Lou sings again and again:

“Now I am…finally…free as a son.”

What caused Lou to reframe the song so as to “refrain” from revealing to much?  This question is included in the chapter of study questions for the book of Louis’ prose and poetry to be published in early 2016:  Free As The Sun: Lou’s Writing Shines a Light on Child Abuse & Addiction.  

Some part of an answer may be found between the lines of a letter Louis wrote to Governor Kulongoski in June 2010.*  At age 13, Louis chose “Child Abuse” as the topic for his social studies research paper. His letter begins this way:

Dear Mr. Kulongoski,

I was a victim of child abuse.  For about 3 years, I would dread going to visit my father. (…)  Christmas of 5th grade, December 24th, my dad and I had gotten in a huge fight.  When I said, “I’m never coming back,” I meant it.  The next day was the best Christmas that I could ever remember …

Well, I think I will always remember the night when we were driving home from church and my mom and I got into a conversation about how life isn’t always fair.  About halfway into the conversation, I broke down and told her.  I spent that night describing how my dad had abused me, emotionally and physically (….) and after that wave(s) of anxiety poured off my back, and I knew that what had to be done had been done. However, there was still a massive aftershock.  I suffered from depression…and had insane flashbacks every once in awhile. Sometimes, it would get so bad I would feel anger that wasn’t mine.  I guess you can call this post traumatic stress.

Now, I don’t know if you were abused as a kid, but I’m guessing that you have heard or read about many different types of abuse.  If you look at the statistics of how many people in jail were abused as children, it is 36% for women and 16% for men.  And when you think about how many people said they weren’t (abused) just so abuse wouldn’t seem as big an issue, you could probably estimate that if abuse was stopped, maybe half of the people who are in jail wouldn’t be there.  (Italics added.)

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family, just as it was that Sunday which Lou recalls, December 30, 2007.  We had been to evening mass.  The priest’s homily was a typical Holy Family shtick.  It had stressed the importance of family as the place where we learn about true love and respect for each other.  This priest, Father Somebody-or-Other, kept stressing how children must obey their parents because an earthly father models the Love of God the Father to whom we, as His children, must be obedient. Louis doodled on the envelopes in the pew. He drew a devil being devoured by flames.

As we drove home, Louis was silent, lying down in the back seat.  I felt compelled to add a commentary, a sad and simple truth which we both knew too well: that the family the priest had been talking about is an ideal one that is not the experience of all God’s children on Earth.

Christmas Eve morning, Lou had called me from his father’s house.  He was sobbing as he said, “I really need to come home NOW mom.  Will you come get me?” Sadly, the only thing that surprised me in this was that his father allowed him to make that call. Though Louis went back that evening to collect his gifts and to see his half-brothers and nephew, he took a friend with him as witness and protection.

Isn’t it ironic?  A homily, delivered on the Feast of the Holy Family, preaching the need for children to obey their parents, is what would set Louis free to begin to speak his truth so that he could be truly “free as a son.”  All it took was a simple reality check (not all children are given wise and loving and respectful parents) for Lou to bravely exchange his fearful obedience for liberation. To dare to disobey commands such as, “If you tell what I have been doing, I will kill your mother and your dog,” is no small thing for a child.  I think that teaching children to offer blind obedience to their parents or to any adult is sinful.  We need instead to teach them to trust their own inner voice.

Pope Francis ~ December 27, 2015
Pope Francis ~ December 27, 2015

In Rome today, Pope Francis gave a special homily for the Feast of the Holy Family. He speculates about the family conversation that might have taken place after Mary & Joseph finally found their 12 year old son, Jesus, who had stayed behind in the Temple and was eventually found talking with the teachers there.  Francis says, “For this little ‘escapade’, Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents.  The Gospel doesn’t say this, but I believe that we can presume it.  Mary’s question, moreover, contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt.  Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience.  Moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience.”

Alice Miller, in her book The Truth Will Set You Free, is clear on this point.  A poisonous pedagogy is one that stresses blind obedience, one which expects children to “beg forgiveness” of their parents. Her clients in therapy tended to justify and to minimize the abuse they had suffered, rationalizing the beatings and the verbal violence they had endured. They felt they must have been at fault in some way for their own abuse.

If I were to write a Sunday homily for this feast day, I would write one about the film Spotlight.  I’d write about the courage it takes for a man, young or old, to stand up that first time to say, “I was just a little kid.  I thought I had to obey.  I had been taught that this man, this so called ‘Father‘ was someone who wanted the best for me, and so I believed it.  When he said it was the only thing I deserved, I believed that too.”

But nothing I can write would be as powerful as Lou’s own words. These are from a journal he kept while in residential treatment in 2013:  “Abused by my father for a good part of my childhood.  My sense of self was diminished  as I was told I wasn’t worth anything for such a long time.  It was difficult for me to learn to love myself and I still struggle with it to this day.  I viewed myself as less than a human and I genuinely thought I wasn’t good enough to have a sense of pride at all.  My sense of security was severely diminished.  I felt like I wasn’t safe in my own skin.”  

The book, Free As The Sun:  Lou’s Writing Shines a Light on Child Abuse & Addiction will be available in March 2016.  “Like” the Free As The Sun Facebook Page to receive updates about ordering the CD and Book.

Note:  The Pope isn’t asking me to write sermons, but my Christmas Day journal entry from 2010 (& Christmas Eve 2014 postscript) was published January 4, 2015, one month after Lou’s death, on the “Stop Abuse Campaign” website.  Andrew Willis and Melanie Blow of the Stop Abuse Campaign have contributed essays to Lou’s book.  Please consider making a year-end contribution of $5.00 or more to their excellent work to abolish child abuse.  stopabusecampaign.com/christmas-day-2010-a-journal-reflection/ 

 

God Winks In Mysterious Ways

I’ve been marveling this evening at the countless “coincidences” since Lou’s death on December 4th that have brought  Free As The Sun to this point.  Both CD and Book are going to be complete in December 2015, just one year after Lou’s death. How did this happen!?  Call them miracles, coincidences, synchronicity, kismet, or whatever you like, says Deepak Chopra — the important thing is to recognize them as signs that you’re on the right path.  When God Winks is the title of a book on this very subject.

Memorial Celebration for Louis Raymond Case Debruge 12-13-14 Oregon City "Parents of Murdered Children Memorial Garden"
Memorial Celebration for Louis Raymond Case Debruge at Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City ~ Parents of Murdered Children Memorial Garden ~ December 13, 2014

Wink 1:  If videographer, Delphine Criscenzo, had not offered to tape Louis’ memorial service, then Marv wouldn’t have been able to view the beautiful recording of Shea performing Free As The Sun.  It was that video that inspired Marv to say “Yes!” to serving as Music Producer for Lou’s CD. In the project video for Kickstarter ~ filmed in May at Rob Stroup’s 8 Ball Studio ~ you can watch Shea playing Lou’s Martin acoustic, just as he did at the memorial, singing again the song he had heard Louis sing many times. This time, he sings under Marv’s direction, with Marv accompanying him on 12-string guitar.  It was Shea’s first studio experience.   Marv was amazed. Shea sang and played a perfect first-take.

“…and the children in the dark, the children in the dark…” Goodbye Uncle Buzz by Quarterflash (Marv & Rindy Ross)

Wink 2:   Randy Ellison, my colleague, friend and mentor, followed a hunch one day in March.  He called me to say, “Hey, I think maybe you should go hear this famous singer/songwriter, Marv Ross, tonight.  He’s giving an interview for a radio series, right there in your neighborhood.” Of course, I went. That night, Marv spoke with an honest vulnerability that reminded me of Louis — about his own difficult family circumstances as a teen and how he dealt with the pain by retreating to his room to write and to sing, to express and to soothe the pain.  So, thanks to a friend’s faithful guidance, I’d been led to the exactly the right people to whom I could entrust Louis’ story, his gifts and his voice.  There’s also a bonus wink:  Marv’s wife and musical partner, Rindy, just happens to be a licensed clinical therapist.  She is serving as advisor to the book portion of the project.

Moody Little Sister Wild PlacesWink 3:  Coincidentally, Moody Little Sister (Rob Stroup and Naomi Hooley) held their CD Release Party for Wild Places on the evening before our launch.  Naomi, like Louis, has a soul connection to Owls.  Like Louis, Naomi experienced childhood abuse.  And like Louis, she has turned the coal of her betrayal into diamonds in her music.  The MC for the evening on October 17th gave a “shout out” to Lou’s project during the sold-out concert.  Lou’s CD cover art was included in the program and Free As The Sun was listed as an honored sponsor.

“Love is a Road” is the title of the latest Quarterflash CD. The many uncanny coincidences without which Free As The Sun simply wouldn’t be, are signs for me that we are being led on a road together.  Love RoadI feel Lou right there with us in Love & Spirit. Marv & Rindy have donated their powerful, transformational song “All Diamonds” from that CD as the last track on Lou’s five track CD, Free As The Sun: Lou’s Songs of Life.   It’s a perfect fit. Thank you, Marv and Rindy Ross, for believing in Lou and for bringing his voice back to life, set free to speak his truth to power and to do the healing work so needed in our world!  Kismet, miracle, answer to prayer, coincidence, — whatever it is, you are transforming Lou’s sad past and making it “All Diamonds!”  

All Diamonds

When I look into the eyes of a newborn baby,
When I look into the skies of a new morn… maybe,
Everything is intertwined, interlocked
In a language long forgot.

When I recognize love in a cat’s eye,
Recognize longing in the song of the magpie,
Recognize genius in the tumbleweed,
I recognize you and I recognize me and…
Love… all love. Love… all love.

We are… one flame. We are… one arc,
We are… all embers from the same spark,
We are… all god. We are… one soul,
We are… all diamonds from the same coal.

When I contemplate the life of the redwood,
Contemplate the seed in the weeds where it once stood,
Contemplate the trunk contemplate the limb,
Contemplate the fact that we’re brothers in the wind.

When I open up my heart to the red deer,
Open up my heart to the fox and the kildeer,
Open up my heart to the blood that we’re sharing,
Open up my heart – open up my heart to…

Love… all love. Love… all love.

We are… one flame. We are… one arc,
We are… all embers from the same spark,
We are… all god. We are… one soul,
We are… all diamonds from the same coal.

  • by Marv Ross © 2013 Narrow Dude Music All Rights Reserved

GodwinHatWeb2.jpg--BLK-UC

  

 

 

“Wanna’ Kick It?”

Hey, wanna’ kick it?” This was one of my son Lou’s favorite lines.  It’s the cool teenager’s version of the five year old’s, “Can you come out to play?” It’s full of relaxed excitement about what unexpected joys might be ahead if we just get together and then see where the Spirit leads!

FATS Kickstarter Poster 10-14In that Spirit, I want to invite you to Kick It with us in bringing Lou’s CD and Book to life with the Kickstarter Campaign for Free As The Sun.  It runs October 18th to November 16th.

Kick it for awhile on the Free As The Sun Kickstarter Campaign Page – where you can “kick it” in the 8 Ball Studio with Marv, Shea, Rob and the magic as they record the first track, captured in the Project Video.

Kick it for awhile at this website, checking out the lyrics page, the Bios of the CD artists and Book contributors, and the first blog post about the project.

And then help us to kick this project into a beautiful high-energy high gear so that we can exceed our funding goal.  Yes, some projects fund at 150% or better!  When we exceed our goal, our next project will be either a music video using Lou’s song Facade (The Devil) or a training video.  Our Backers will get to decide.

Click here to watch Shea & Lou “Kick it” for real at the West Linn Skate Park (2009)!

As you tell your friends and colleagues – and the folks on the bus or at the bar – about this project, here’s what you want to know about Kickstarter:

  • This campaign goes “live” on October 18th and the more early backers we get the more the momentum builds toward success!
  • Your credit card will not be charged unless the Funding Goal is met and until the campaign closes. 
  • The Kickstarter Campaign lasts only 30 days.  Ours closes on November 16th. 
  • Kickstarter, like the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter, relies on the noösphere of social media – your shares on Facebook, Twitter, via Email and so on are what will bring this beautiful project to life. 

Bring Lou’s dream to life.  Help break his silence about childhood abuse as the real cause of so much addiction, depression, self-harm and despair in people of all ages.  Help Lou be the healer he was born to be.  Lou’s voice – so powerful in his music & poetry – will allow others to find their voice.

May his memory be a blessing.

Owl - Hope

 

 

 

Free As The Sun: Lou’s Songs of Life

It’s nothing less than a miracle.

Just a little over one year after Lou’s death (December 4, 2014) a CD of Lou’s music and a book of his poetry, song lyrics and essays, both entitled “Free As The Sun” will be published.  Louis was born to be a teacher and a healer and so it will be.

“As above, so below.”

Silver-Lining

Marv Ross, Portland singer/songwriter and music producer, has put together a beautiful five-track CD featuring four of Lou’s original songs.

Two tracks bring Lou’s voice & guitar back to life & two more shine with Shea MacKinnon as lead vocalist.   Marv plays guitar and bass; Gregg Williams (the Trench Studio) engineered three tracks and plays drums. Rob Stroup (8 Ball Studio / Moody Little Sister) engineered the title track. Marv & his wife, Rindy (Quarterflash) have donated a perfect fifth track – All Diamonds from their recent CD Love is a Road.

Marv & Rindy

The book manuscript is being edited.  The Kickstarter Campaign to fund the project will launch one week from today, on October 18th.  As Shea says in the Kickstarter project video, Lou surely has a hand in this from the Other Side.

Love is a road.   

Two years ago, on October 6th 2013, Lou came home to Oregon City after spending nine months away in three different residential dual-diagnosis treatment programs.  Two months in the Utah Wilderness from February to April had – most of all, he said – been transformative.  In a three day solo quest, during Lent, Louis found his voice at last.

Santa Clara, Utah / Second Nature (Entrada)

For the first time, with therapists Bruce and Matt, he had begun to speak out about the sad realities of his childhood.  He started to piece together a trauma narrative:  the memories of abuse that had haunted his days and caused him to suffer from traumatic nightmares for over half of his life.

Louis came home!

Lou attended the OAASIS Conference with me on October 26 (Oregon Advocates and Abuse Survivors in Service.)  He enrolled again in school.   He wanted nothing more than to be a triumphant survivor, to find new ways to cope with the unbearable pain he’d sought to relieve with drugs and alcohol and self-harm.

He attended AA Young People’s groups, met nearly every week with his trusted out-patient therapist, Donny. He meditated, read about recovery, wrote music, prayed, worked out at the gym, spent endless hours in perfect harmony with his best friend, Shea, and cherished the moments of natural peace he found in snowboarding on the slopes of Mount Hood.  And he wondered why he could not find the resilience he heard so much about while in treatment.

Lou & Shea - Timberline
Lou & Shea – Timberline

One year ago, in October 2014, Lou was enrolled full time at Clackamas Community College.  He had already completed eight college credits (Nature Writing, Algebra), earned his driver’s license, and worked part-time for a landscaping company.  And he had decided.  He wanted to be a counselor. He talked to the Early College guidance counselor about Marylhurst College’s Music Therapy program.

Tawnya, Lou & Candice Freshman Orientation at Clackamas Community College
Tawnya, Lou & Candice
Freshman Orientation at Clackamas Community College

 

 

Lou spent time with friends – especially Max & Shea – and had girlfriends galore.   He was loved by his friends’ parents – as he had been since pre-school!  His teachers appreciated his depth of soul and his gifts of self-expression.  All the while, Lou’s epic battle with depression, with anxiety and PTSD, with addiction, with nightmares and migraines – was continuing.

Louis was still walking a perilous tightrope suspended over a dangerous abyss, again using drugs and alcohol to dull his unremitting pain. He wrote furiously – music, poetry, journal entries, essays.  He was bleeding onto paper and into song a pain that would finally be more than he could bear. Sometime in the night of December 3rd/4th, an overdose of heroin brought an end to a brilliant life. Overnight, Lou’s sunny bright smile was gone.

Lou April 2014 Silver Falls
Lou April 2014 Silver Falls

Let’s talk about resilience.  

We live in a culture that believes that power and force are strength.  But brute force can be and too often is turned against women, children, the elderly, the disabled, even against our animal friends.  And what is more despicable than cruelty toward those who are “weaker” — that is to say, more vulnerable?

What if the kind of sensitivity Louis showed in his writing and in his music, to his friends, his classmates and his beloved dogs Bandit and Fergie are the real power?  What if Brené Brown, who writes about the power of vulnerability, has stumbled on a gospel truth?  “Except ye become as a little child…”

Lou & Fergie 2008
Lou & Fergie 2008

And what if those who are so deeply sensitive that they find it impossible to rebound from their soul trauma are in fact the “higher” souls in our midst?  As adults we can sing, “I’m gonna harden my heart” and we can mean it.  As children, we are vulnerable because we trust and we love without conditions and when our love is returned with indifference, cruelty, or violence (not to speak of abuse tantamount to torture) — Love itself has been betrayed.

Please share this post, share the Kickstarter Campaign for “Free As The Sun” when it launches on the 18th of October and help us share the Light and Love of Louis Raymond Case Debruge.

May his memory be a blessing.  

Camino - Oregon 2012
Camino a la Playa 2012

by Rhonda Case (Louis’ Mama)  Netarts, Oregon

with gratitude to Shea MacKinnon, Tristyn Meek, Marv & Rindy Ross, Mick and Charlotte Wilson, Gregg Williams, Rob Stroup and Naomi Hooley, Gretta, Bruce, Matt, Donny, Melanie, Barry, Andrew, Tyler, Parfait, Rachel & Andy, Neal, Karen, Riane Eisler, Jeff Cumpston’s family, Susan & Christian, and my cherished colleague and friend, Randy Ellison.