Saint Dymphna; My new favorite Martyr


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Last Sunday, November 3rd, 2013, was All Saints Day and also Dia De Los Muertos, (Day of the Dead.) It is a time in many different faiths to recognize your lost loved ones, and some even create a shrine to those they cannot have forgotten. I have learned a lot this year about faith, grace, and love… and I truly have a new respect for this tradition that has not been acknowledged before in my family of “true Lutherans.”

This year I learned about a Saint I can really get behind. Saint Dymphna, the patron saint of nervous disorders and mental illness. It’s really a sad and twisted story. Dymphna was born in Ireland during the 7th century. Dymphna’s father Damon, a petty king of Oriel, and a pagan, but her mother was a devout Christian who grew up in wealth. When Dymphna was 14 years old, her mother died suddenly. Damon really his wife deeply, and in the aftermath of her death, his mental health deteriorated very quickly. He pretty much went mad. When he finally decided to remarry at the request of his closest advisors, Damon sought to find a woman who resembled his deceased wife, both in beauty and in piety. When no such woman could be found, Damon began to desire his daughter, because of the strong resemblance she had to her mother. When Dymphna learned of her father’s intentions, she fled his court along with her favorite priest Father Gerebernus and two trusted servants. Together they sailed towards the continent, eventually landing in Belgium, where they took refuge in the town of Gheel.

Once settled, Dymphna and her priest built a hospice for the poor and sick of the region. She helped the people without want of payment, and thanks only to God. Ironically, however, it was through the use of her wealth that her father would eventually find her whereabouts, as some of the coins used enabled her father to trace them to Belgium. Damon sent his agents to pursue his daughter and her companions. When their hiding place was discovered, Damon travelled to Gheel to recover his daughter. Damon ordered his soldiers to kill Father Gerebernus, who was then bound and his head was cut off by a sword. He tried to force Dymphna to return with him to Ireland, but she resisted. Furious, Damon drew his sword and struck off his daughter’s head. She was 15 years old when she died. After Dymphna and Gerebernus were martyred, the residents of Gheel buried them in a nearby cave. Years later, they decided to move the remains to a more suitable location. According to tradition, when workmen entered the cave to retrieve the two bodies they found that the bones of Dymphna and Gerebernus had been miraculously interred in two stone sarcophagi, one of which bore a red tile with the inscription “DYMPHNA” Credit: Wikipedia

It has also been said that once they erected the church the the burial grounds of these Martyrs, people from all over the world started showing up and praying for healing for mental health issues and nervous disorders… And it worked! Testimonies from the people who have been there say that they have been cured of OCD to Turrets to Bipolar disorders. I have never been one who believed in the magic of deities and what not, but it is nice to think that maybe these disorders are not as bad as we can make them out to be. Maybe it’s like the placebo affect, where we take in something that you have already convinced yourself is gonna work, and whether it’s real or not, it works because you believed. The science of faith.


The Brother That Wasn’t but Is


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For someone that cannot connect with others, within a family that has not always been my own, I certainly was sent a true gift…named Casey. 

It was the beginning of 1999, and I was a loud, blustering, angry tornado of a 14 year old girl. Everything pissed me off, and I could take down anyone with so much as a dirty look. But if that didn’t work, my teenage hormonal imbalance mixed with a temper that would make a greek god blush would take care of the rest of it. I was unstoppable. Teachers loathed and feared me, while peers stayed their distance with respect.

Then one day in February, everything changed. My mother picked me up after school, but didn’t start the car once I jumped in. Something was wrong. She was misty-eyed and frazzled. I thought my dad had died, and I braced for impact. She started to tell me about a letter she had received in the mail that day. It was from a young man by the name Kent, AKA: Casey, and he was searching for his birth mother who had given him up for adoption 32 years prior. She showed me the letter and I read it like it was my own letter that I too had written over, and over again. We were the same, only HE had found the courage and the balls to actually send the letter to several possible “mothers.” I was stunned. It was the first time in my life that I felt that powerless feeling that comes along with speechlessness.

He wrote with such polite conviction in his letter, stating in part, “It is not my intentions to disrupt your life. I would just like a chance to know everything about you, but I would also like to know my family and it’s history. More than anything, however, I would like to thank you for giving me life.” Oh man, If nothing else… I was gonna pump this guy for tips on my making my letter even greater. At the time, all the other adoptees I had met were around my age, and didn’t have a clue on how to write THE letter, so I was on my own up until this thing fell into my lap.

My mother wrote back to him, and I watched, as she was clearly tormented in the fact that she now had to reject this poor guy, and he’d already had too much rejection for a lifetime. She was afraid of leaving a scar, knowing her own child, and the scars that were left by my birth mother. After telling Casey her story, and how she came to be in adoption records, she wrote, “I have truly agonized over having to wrote this letter to you. I know some of the anxiety you are experiencing, (as my daughter tells me, “How can I know where I’m going, if I don’t know where I’m from?”) …I would truly like to know how your search turns out. Please don’t give up trying to find her because of this disappointment  I can tell from your letter that you are a wonderful, caring young man and I feel sure she would like to hear from you. I only wish that I was her.”

Casey wrote back again and promised to keep in touch, and over the next year they did. I wrote to him myself, feeling a connection could be made over our common ground. Not long after, he and I became pen-pals, and I sent him my life in a letter. Poems, feelings, pictures and questions. At 15, I was having phone conversations with a man more than twice my age. A man I had never met, but loved like I had never loved anything before. I called him my brother, and it felt like the first contact I had made with my own species. He understood me on a level that no therapist, no doctor, no friend or family member could ever get, and I would have followed him off a bridge back in those days.


He always ended his letters making me smile and laugh out loud. One in particular I have read a thousand times ended, “….Your mom really loves you, thats so cool. I guess it’s harder for adoptive parents to have a friendship with their kid because they have so much pressure to prove themselves to not only you, but themselves as well. Anyway, enough ramblings, this was only supposed to be a short note. Take care. Love ya, but don’t make me come up there and kick your ass. I will. (oooohh…tough guy!) -Casey” I can still hear his voice in my head saying the last part. 

I regret losing touch with him while my oats were sewn and I exploded through my teenage years, doing everything he told me not to do. Drugs, promiscuity, hitchhiking, jail time, and most of all…disrespecting myself. I filed his letters away, and we both stopped writing. I didn’t want to have to lie to him when he asked how I was doing, and I feel like he was doing the same to me. We chose different roads, both sloping down hill, I chose to barrel roll and tumble the rest of my path.

But the roads met up again in 2006, when I looked him up after moving near to San Francisco and finding Casey also in the bay area. We met in person, but it was public and awkward. It didn’t feel right and so it didn’t last long. I hated leaving him, but the magic and chemistry was gone. I had fallen out of the feeling, and couldn’t get back in. Casey was this different entity entirely and I was the same to him. We had to go back to the start. So, we began writing again. Emails, and soon Facebook too! We could reconnect without even having to try! But Casey, (Now KSea,) had become ill, or was always ill, but never had the heart to tell me. I felt like I had found out too late because it seemed he was on deaths door. I was ashamed that I hadn’t known or cared enough to ask. My brother was dying, quickly. 


I told my boyfriend, Joseph, at the time, that I needed to go see my brother, for it was the last time I would ever get to see him again. We planned a trip with the little money we had saved, and drove 400 miles. When I got there I told Joseph to hang back, that my brother was very weak and probably not mobile, and might not even know me. Then, here comes Casey strolling down the hallway with the biggest smile on his face. I made introductions and we welcomed us into his own personal room, which turned out to be in a hospice ward. (Again, I was clueless.) 

We spent the day together, the three of us. He showed us where he had lived before, on the other side of the city, with the magic of other artists around. He was the very definition of cool, slick, and amazballs. Everything KSea did was with chaotic purpose, like there were too many creative ideas flowing inside his head, yet…he was a picture of calm and carefree. It’s so hard to describe!!  That day, I felt the spark ignite and once again…. I completely loved this crazy, poetic man. He was my brother, my mentor, my own self. But he was sick, and I could do nothing about it but smile, instead of cry and curse God. 

Of course, in true KSea fashion… he soon found his own cures to his many ailments that western meds couldn’t do. He came back from the brink of death, just to spite the people and doctors that said he couldn’t live through this. KSea didn’t stop there with the amazing show of strength. He moved on with his life, and did what I believed could never happen. He found his birth mother. I couldn’t believe it, and was even jealous of him at first. I felt like our story had come to an end. I was his family only because he simply had no family. I was ready to be happy for him and silently grieve a loss of my brother. But KSea wouldn’t have it. He wrote me again letting me know that he will always love his original little sis. I had my place set in stone, and I am still grinning like an idiot. A true happiness could be found in the comforting words of my brother, Casey. 

To this day… in the last 15 years, I have only met him in person 5 times.

My mother always sends her love with me to him.


Holiday Countdown


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I feel ya kid. It’s that time again, and we all feel it. The weather starts changing drastically, (except in SoCal,) the days get shorter when really we could use a few extra hours, and relatives start coming out of the wood works. Everyone starts humming christmas carols and mowing you down while speed walking through the mall. I hate it. We as American people have lost our way. The real meaning of a holiday itself has lost it’s true identity. Now it’s all about shopping, the latest trends, decorating, and how to cook the biggest and best turkey you have seen! I don’t need a friggin’ holiday to make me donate clothes, food, and blood. I do it once a month! What I do need the holidays to tell me…. It’s time to start anticipating my upcoming birthday. January 6th. UUUUGGGHHHH!! Grrr.

Everybody hates their birthday, I get that, totally normal. But for a selected few of us, it is the one week out of the year that is most painful. The 4 to 7 days of pure unadulterated depression and grief and raw anger. I’m talking about Adoptees and Foster kids. We HAAAATE this “special” time for us. But everybody seems to notice when I lock myself away in a hotel room with a bag of coke and bottles of malt liquor in my luggage. Just leave me alone for a few days, I know exactly what I’m doing and then i’ll be fine for the rest of the 51 weeks left.

How would you handle it, if the first hours of your life, the only person you knew existed pulled you out of her body and gave you away. If you were lucky and pretty enough, you got picked by a family that looks nothing like you, and tip toes around you and your feelings until your an adult. If you didn’t get picked within the first 10 months… you were a foster kid, most likely for the next 17 years. You get thrown from house to house, nothing to call your own, and ever-changing faces that are tired, mean, sad, or sadistic. Your chances of getting mistreated are 97% and your chances of being dysfunctional as an adult are 99.8%

For me… I was a lucky one. I got a great family. But I still feel the pull of this knowledge, and it started today. The slow downward spiral into madness. Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told her I wanted something called 23 and me. It’s a swab test that you send in and they analyze it, sending you back information that an adopted kid can only dream about! Race, ancestry, markers for diseases, genetics, and  a whole list of other stuff. For Christmas… I wanna know ME. I would still mourn the loss of my unknown birth mother. Then curse her very existence. Then day dream about what my life could have been like if…..if if if if if if if. Thats what the liquor is for. I really don’t think when I’m drunk. I just have fun.

It always starts after Halloween. Got it a little early this time around. If only I didn’t get asked, “What’s wrong?” I so hate that question. If I felt like telling you whats wrong, I wouldn’t be sitting here avoiding everybody, would I?

The last of the elders


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Everybody has or had grandparents, and everyone knows the important loss when they are suddenly gone. They can inspire us, lead us down a pathway of the past, they love us unconditionally, and are our biggest cheerleaders. So what happens when that leader of the family gets too old, and starts needing around the clock care, moves in with you, and is a shell of what they once were? You accept the responsibility and change your lifestyle, because thats what your grandparent would have done for you.

My grandmother married her high school sweetheart in 1945, and my mother came along in 1946. They lived on a farm in North Dakota raising wheat and small animals. A hard but fulfilling lifestyle. They moved to California some time in the late 50’s  and settled into city living. Moving forward through time… My grandfather became ill with cancer and later died in 1991. Now, this was a shock to me! I was 6 years old and nobody had ever died before. It wasn’t something I ever thought would happen. My grandmother was inconsolable. I now know that it was the beginning of the end for my strong, loving grandmother. It was like all the life and love slowly drained out of her body over the years. A wound that never healed. After a couple of years, she moved to Arizona and met another man. A rich, but nasty man. He was good to her… not so good to me and other relatives. He hated us! We got in his way. Fine. So I grew up all my essential years with Nana.

Now nana was my fathers mother, and she was the Colonel wife. Strong and self-sufficient, because she raised her family on the backs of the U.S. Army. Her husband died when I was 2, never letting me get to know him. I’ve been told we would not have liked each other anyways. Nana lived a hard life too, but she never showed it. Aches and pains were suffered in silence and nothing but amazing stories came out of her mouth. She danced with Frankie Roosevelt, a clothing stealing deer, Pearl Harbor, a swimming cat! She was amazing. While I was in High school I spent every afternoon with her. Those were the good days. But as she got older, dementia set in and it all happened so fast. A hospital, hospice, holding her hand and telling her it’s okay to go. We said goodbye…. and she was gone. Her essence haunts me still.

By the time I was 25 and well on my way into Adulthood, Grandma from Arizona had lost yet another husband, and wanted to come back home and live amongst her family. This was… inconvenient. Stopping for a polite conversation over the phone was one thing but, seriously? I hadn’t seen the woman in years! So my family drove to Arizona, picked up all her stuff and tried moving her into a home for the care of elders. After two months there, she was NOT having that. Nobody dresses for dinner! The food is all mush and bland! People are dropping dead everyday! It smells funny! Okay okay okay. Then she moved in with my uncle and his wife. They proceeded to milk her like a cash cow until the tit shriveled up, never even cooking dinner for her. After two years of that madness…….. Here we are.

Due to unforeseen setbacks, I live at my parents house. And now grandma needs to live here too. So I gave up my room and all of my belongings to make space for her. The woman who didn’t seem to mind that she hadn’t seen her family in years. I was angry. But I did it for her anyway. It’s going nicely so far, except that she can’t do anything for herself. She complains all the time about how much pain she is in, about her dead cat, about how much money she has, about how cold it is all the time. So I go with it. I seem to have the patience of a saint when I with old people and little kids, (It’s the rest of you I can’t stand.) So every morning I wake up, make coffee, toast, and oatmeal and park her in front of the only t.v. in the house. She got me into her SOAPs now and I can’t stop watching them. I wait for her to go lay down again because of the pain and then we all walk on eggshells till she wakes up again. My mother keeps saying, “Who took my mother and replaced her with this complaining old lady?!” She control our lives now. We schedule things around her. She is oblivious to everything. And the worst part of all of it is, she so nice and kind! Her answer to any problem you have is JESUS. You can’t hate her because she is by definition, a sweet, little old lady! She drives all of us insane!

But for some reason… I have never raised my voice at her, I do her laundry when I don’t even do my own, same goes with making her bed and taking out her litter bin. I don’t understand my own actions anymore. I guess I love this woman who was never there for me like my nana was. I guess my bitterness towards her absence has found a place to hide deep inside me, and my capacity to forgive is bigger than I thought. I do drink more now… but that could just be a coincidence.

Dancing with Insanity


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As long as I can remember, I have had this thing; what I’ve have come to call my monster. It’s an angry ball of annoying, selfish, fever that bounces around in the pit of my stomach and tears at the tight muscles in my limbs. It’s always there. Even when I am happy, sleepy, or completely thoughtless while I lose myself in television. He tells me that the world is against me, and I am alone, forever. These thoughts use to be disguised as my own, but I now know better, as I start to creep up to my 30’s. I have private conversations with the monster I’ve seemed to have subconsciously named, Mike.

Mike and I battle mostly at night… when I lay in bed and my thoughts turn on me. I start scrolling through all my bad decisions and regrets of my past and wish for something different to happen. Mike is always laughing, letting me know how stupid I’ve been. I shake him off. I think happy thoughts. My unborn nephew, my mentor talking over coffee, fishing in a wild pond, my dog… my dog running into the street and getting run over by a speeding SUV AAAHHHHHHH!!!

Thats what Mike does. My dog is fine, by the way. Never got hit by anything other than a rolled up newspaper. My thoughts are not always my thoughts. The anger wells up without cause and suddenly it’s morning and I wake up. Pissed off. Now… My poor mother thinks she’s done something wrong and has learned to not make eye contact, physical contact, or speak of anything other than, “Would you like some breakfast?” I always feel terrible about the way we worked out this dance over the years. I don’t like to be touched. It’s a physical aversion, repulsion to human contact. It makes my monster flip out! Like he is doing backflips in my stomach, then racing up and down my extremities. I grind my teeth and wiggle my toes, sweat and flinch until it passes. I’m exhausted afterwards. Christmas get-togethers are a must-be-drunk situation. Makes Mike whisper, “Who could ever love someone like you? Freak.”

I’ve seen doctors, my mother had me in therapy since I was six. I’ve been committed once and on all sorts of pills for this illness or that illness. I don’t have an illness. I have Mike. I have anger, rage, and I fight to keep him inside me… So we dance.