Archive for April, 2015

Nontheistic humanists, monotheists and Pagans can all share in UUism

Note: I’m going to use the term “non-theistic humanism” because humanism is technically broader than atheism, in spite of how many people use the term- I also see “secular humanism” and “religious humanism” used to mean various things both in a UU context and outside. By non-theistic I mean people who may be atheist, agnostic, or basically just don’t think God or a concept of the divine is that important.

I am always hearing stories about monotheists who visit a UU congregation and don’t feel comfortable because of the lack of God language, and conversely nontheists who don’t feel comfortable at a congregation that does include God language. Then I hear from Pagans/polytheists who feel uncomfortable with both! (Though I’m sure there’s plenty of others who do feel comfortable in their congregations- complainers tend to be louder!)

A while back I read this interview with Maria Greene, president of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association, and while I empathized with some of what she had to say, other things made me cringe.

UU is a creedless religion, but it was really the cradle of modern Humanism. There’s still a strong core of reason in the UUA, along with a very Humanist set of ethical principles we all agree on. I believe Humanism is the “special sauce” that distinguishes the UUA from other liberal religions, and that UUs need to emphasize and promote it in order to evolve and adapt to the world today. I know that other organizations in the Secular Coalition for America with us think we’re “too religious”—even though they accept that we completely reject the supernatural.

Well I suppose you could nitpick about whether God(s) are supernatural or not- I know many Pagans & polytheists reject that language, seeing the Gods as a part of nature. But still I was kind of like, umm ouch.

Another quote- “Humanism has outgrown its religious upbringing though, just as many of us have as individuals.

In my opinion, the UUA has to get past its traditional, Protestant Christian roots and grow into a collection of communities that value justice and compassion

So if humanism has outgrown its religious roots- there are humanist groups and Ethical societies and such. I can understand if a nontheist joins a UU church in part because they are looking for a welcoming community, and they live in an area where there are few opportunities to feel safe being openly nontheist. But to join a religious organization and then get upset when it does religious things, and demand it change for you- that seems pretty arrogant to me. I am a polytheist- and I joined the UUs with the full realization that they were operating from a monotheistic base. I was comfortable with that, due to my liberal Christian upbringing, and I respect that it has Christian roots. I think it can make space for Pagans, Buddhists, nontheistic humanists and so forth. But for anyone group to try to takeover and demand that only they are catered to is contrary to the spirit and purpose of UUism. Each congregation is self-governing and has its own distinct culture- based on the majority of who is a member, and who is the most active and influential. In my area, we have several UU congregations, so a person has the option of travelling to a different one if they prefer a different UU flavor. But in most places, if there is a UU congregation or fellowship, it is typically the only one for a good distance. In those scenarios especially, members need to be careful to make sure they are welcoming to a broad spectrum of people. But I would say the same of any congregation. If I go to First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, I know I’ve signed up for a Humanist service. But I expect to be treated with respect if I share my religious beliefs. I don’t have that same social expectation when I walk into a non-UU humanist or atheist group (though typically I have found the Minnesota Humanists to be quite welcoming). That is the difference. But heck, even at Unity (which some people tell me is “so traditional and Christian” in a way that I think is rather funny- people sometimes look at me funny for believing in any God, let alone multiple Gods. Oh well, I’m used to having people look at me funny!

Last quote from Maria Greene- “As part of my work for the UUHA, I’ve just started putting together a program that will bring the Secular Student Alliance’s Secular Safe Zone program to UU congregations. As part of receiving that designation, congregations will have to include atheists and other nontheists in their welcoming statement—which will get the conversation going about how welcoming they really are.” OK, so do we now need to have a statement that mentions every theological flavor of UU? I think that should be rather redundant for UUism, but more importantly we need to talk about theological diversity within congregations and not just single out humanists as needing special treatment.

Great comment that very much fits with my own views- Christine Leone Tracy “As a UU minister I have to say I’m a little frustrated by the idea that UU’s should “seek to be more Humanist.” Our polity is exclusively congregational, meaning we place the authority at the congregational level. Some congregations are VERY Humanist and others are not. That’s the joy and challenge of Unitarian Universalism. What I see the UUA moving toward is a more pluralistic understanding of faith — a place where seekers of all theologies can come together and grow, and make the world a better place, bound by our common vision for the world rather than “what’s in our heads.” My congregation in Annapolis has a Darwin-inspired summer camp for kids and an annual Darwin Sunday, and we often refer to science, wonder, and human potential in services and classes. However, we ALSO refer to the Bible, Buddhist teachings, Earth-centered wisdom, etc. UU’s have SIX sources of Inspiration. Not one. Not just Humanism. Not just Christianity. Those are only 2 of the 6. And we seek to be inspired by all of them.

Yes- that is why I am a UU and not just a Pagan/polytheist- I find inspiration in many religions and philosophies- including humanism. But reducing UUism to only one of those influences would be losing what is unique about us. 


April 30, 2015 at 4:00 am Leave a comment

Minorities Who Speak Up & Want Representation are Selfish, Says Autistic Woman…

At this point there have been enough books written and movies made with autistic characters (fictional & nonfictional) that I think it’s pretty reasonable to hope for more representation of diversity.  I saw a link about Autism in Love, an MTV documentary about autistics in relationships, and mentioned that gee, I hope not everyone in this is white and (assumed) heterosexual. I actually didn’t mention gender, because there are plenty of autistic women who have written books and appeared in some movies (even if played by other people). But apparently I burst the bubble for people who are still in “I’m grateful for any crumb of representation, no matter how narrowly done” mode.

CW for “I’m not racist/homophobic but…style ‘splaining…

Comment from someone named Tempest (leaving off last name because I’m not a fiery Social Justice doxxing ninja

“Well, gee, if the majority of people are white and heterosexual (which doesn’t matter because love can also come from a parent or sibling, too bad you feel the need to complain and think that love is only something sexual), and it helps them relate, why would it show something they CAN NOT relate to? I for one have trouble understanding when people of other races speak, I even have trouble understanding when southerners speak because of the accents they have. This is like saying that you’re going to go complain that a nail polish store isn’t advertising to men. Well, when the majority and most relevant customers are females, then why would they need to advertise to men? Same here. Sticking to the things people can understand is the best option, it helps the most people understand. But of course life is all about you and what you think, so go make your own and confuse a variety of people. I’m sure it won’t help as much as you want it to”

My reply– It’s about romantic relationships- not love in general and yes I understand that doesn’t always include sexual activity. (Heck the main reason I’m aware of the asexual community is their heavy intersection with autistic activism!) I haven’t seen the movie, so to be fair I can’t criticize it one way or the other- my comment is mostly in relation to depictions of autism that already exist. Interesting how people of color are always expected to relate to white characters-the global minority. By your argument we also shouldn’t have movies about autistic people because the poor neurotypicals wouldn’t be able to relate. There is actually research to suggest that there is a higher number of autistics who identify as something other than heterosexual- I think that may be partly because we are more honest and less self-conscious in our responses to surveys! Not every person of color speaks with a heavy accent.  Frequently I can’t understand people regardless of ethnicity, because of being in places with lots of background noise. (Insisting that stores & restaurants stop playing music, or lower high ceilings would be totally oppressing the neurotypical majority, of course.) For now leaving aside all the men/boys, and genderqueer/nonbinary folks who enjoy painting their nails…can save that for another day..

Then I went to her FB page…this is just an excerpt…

“People think that documentaries shouldn’t show the general audience. Showing a flaming homosexual African/Asian female autistic person with a thick and heavy southern accent wouldn’t portray the same message as a heterosexual (or just not mentioning sexuality at all because it doesn’t fucking matter) white male autistic person with no accent. Get over your inequality issues, it’s about the audience to which you are speaking THE WHOLE AUDIENCE, NOT SOME SELECT GROUPS. If people see the stereotypes of certain things, it actually helps them understand better because they aren’t distracted from the confliction of their emotions. Every single person can watch the latter example, but only non-racist, accent-understanding, non-sexist, pro-LGBT viewers can watch the first example without feeling any anger or strong emotions. If the world revolved around those kind of people, then that would create an even stronger barrier between the two groups, and would most likely cause hate out of ignorance. If only those groups get to understand the meaning of a documentary because the other group couldn’t watch it, then how is that helping anyone?”

Now, I grok that more white males are diagnosed with autism, but I believe that is due to systemic and cultural biases. Women (of all races) African-American and Latino adults & children who are diagnosed with autism frequently are diagnosed later and after seeing more doctors and going thru more inaccurate labels. Often when they seek a diagnosis of autism based on their self-knowledge and research, they meet with resistance. White males may have to go thru more than one doctor as well, but they don’t get as much resistance to the idea that they could possibly be autistic. So which people and what audience can’t possibly understand that more racial diversity in autism could possibly exist, regardless of whether mostly white psych doctors and special ed teachers recognize it? The only legit real audience that matters, is middle class white people who can’t possibly be bothered with anything outside of their comfort zone.

Coming out as bisexual was for me, a radical act. Not just because many people still don’t acknowledge bisexuality exists. But because I’m autistic, and growing up, the idea that autistic people could grow up and have romantic and sexual feelings at all wasn’t depicted anywhere. We were either perpetual children who couldn’t give consent, or we were nonsexual like Temple Grandin, whose dating advice in her book “Thinking in Pictures” was based on zero dating experience whatsoever. I don’t expect all of us to be interested in, or even capable of romantic and sexual relationships, but I don’t see why she wrote about it all. It’s like the people I know who went directly on disability benefits without looking for work giving employment advice. OK, I’m not judging you for that, goodness knows the rest of society already does enough, but no, I’m not taking advice from you about this! Whenever people with developmental disabilities are depicted in relationships, it’s typically in a way that doesn’t threaten the public’s idea of us as sweet, innocent, overgrown children. Heterosexual relationships are adorable non-sexual puppy love for DD people. That DD individuals are sometimes denied the right to marry and live with each other, engage in sexual activity in unsafe situations due to their lack of privacy and independence and are highly subjected to every type of abuse, from both parents, caregivers and intimate partners- all of these facts get in the way of a sweet innocent story. The parents are always kind and understanding. The teachers and doctors always get the labels, treatments, and therapies and teaching techniques right, maybe sometimes with a little nudging or a lawsuit here and there from the parents, but ultimately they know best. And DD and autistic people are all magically taken care of by their wealthy immortal parents, or the government, and Regular People don’t have to do anything inconvenient, like hire them for jobs, and rent rooms to them, and make accommodations. Or put up with group homes or social services existing anywhere in their neighborhoods.

April 27, 2015 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

BECAUSE Neurodiversity Panel & My responses to Feedback

The neurodiversity panel at BECAUSE went pretty well. I was a little nervous at first, as it had been a while since I’d done a public speaking gig- and this was also the first time I’d put together a panel. We had 3 people, me, Stacy and Mira. After going to other conferences that had panels with as many as seven people, leaving almost no time for discussion and questions from the audience. We got together and did some planning before the event, and I wrote up an outline and questions. We did mini-introductions to ourselves, then I asked attendees to introduce themselves and share what brought them to this session. Part of the reason for that is we could adjust our presentation depending on the knowledge base and interests of the attendees.

Then I went over some definitions of neurodiversity, neurodivergence, concepts of the disability rights movement such as the medical model vs. the social model, and a little history explaining that neurodiversity had been coined as a term by the online autistic teen/adult activist community.

Then we each went thru the questions and discussion our experiences growing up neurodivergent, and how our gender and sexual identities developed and interrelated.

Then we opened it up to questions/discussion from the attendees. Wow! I feel like we had lit a spark and watched it spread across the room! I could tell that there were way more questions that people wanted to ask, some that we couldn’t answer! I collected contact information from interested parties, so hopefully we can get together locally, share information with folks from further afield, and get ideas/input from folks about planning another workshop panel- at BECAUSE next year and other settings.

I am looking thru the evaluations and also had a longer discussion with one of the attendees, so I’ll address some of the comments that were made. BTW- I had 2 handouts- a basic list of Neurodiversity definitions, another of Neurodivergent/GLBT resources. I didn’t know how many people would come so I made 15 copies of each. Some people came in late so they may have not gotten them. One person was sitting on the floor, so likely stuff didn’t get handed to him. I’ll be sending out more resources via e-mail. Most of the resources on this is online, so listing a bunch of long urls does not really work well on a paper handout!

Favorite part of the workshop “The discussion of the need for questioning ones’ caretaker or therapists.”

I could tell that was very revolutionary for some folks! Yes, we talked about professionals who were very helpful, and ones who *weren’t* very helpful! You can indeed fire your psychiatrist! (Though that might depend on how much control you have over your medical care but that’s another discussion!)

Fave part of workshop: Learning about neurodiversity.

This workshop could be improved by: I would like to learn more about info specific to neurodiversity.

Fave part of workshop: Hearing stories of the presenters.

Fave part of workshop: I liked learning about everyone’s unique experiences, esp. Mira’s because I know her already and see her almost everyday

Fave part of workshop: Audience participation

This workshop could be improved by: Put a medical or therapy trained person on panel

Additional comments: Too many personal comments in negative viewpoint

Fave part of workshop: Talking about gender/sexuality/neurodiversity

This workshop could be improved by: More time 🙂

Fave part of workshop: Personal story sharing Add’l comments- Thank you so much!

Fave part of workshop: Stories

This workshop could be improved by: Scientific info in relationship to personal info anecdotes

Fave part of workshop: I learned about myself

Add’l comments: “Turns out, the presenters did not focus on a wide spectrum of neurodiversity, instead on personal experiences. I did like what they were saying but WOW really not the workshop described in the book.”

(Here’s the description of workshop:  Mariah will introduce the concept of neurodiversity- the idea that various mental health conditions, developmental and learning disabilities, learning styles, talents and giftedness are part of human neurological diversity, and a brief introduction to concepts in disability rights. Each of us will then share our own experiences with sexual and gender identity development and how that interrelates with our experiences with the education and health care systems, and society more broadly. We invite participation from attendees in sharing their experiences with neurodiversity and bisexuality.

Another piece of feedback I got (verbally) was that based on listening to Stacy & Mira’s experiences, there was some confusion about being neurodivergent vs. being trans. Short answer: Having a trans identity DOES NOT mean automatically that person is neurodivergent. Long answer: BUT, there is overlap and it’s complicated! Stay tuned for another post (I will link to this one)

Mariah’s responses- 

Some people wanted more time explaining neurodiversity and various examples.

Other people said they enjoyed hearing personal stories. Some liked both.

Re: suggestion of medical/psychological folks on panel, more scientific info

I wanted to center the voices of neurodivergent people, rather than “experts” on psychology et al. since we usually hear those voices the most, they get prestige and profit off of their expertise, whereas “patients/consumers” get stigma and often are not listened to by the public.

That said, I *do* think a panel with health/education/social work professionals would be awesome, that is a good idea for next year.

I also probably should have added the caveat that I am a political science major, and I am viewing neurodiversity primarily as a socio-political movement. I did discuss that neurodiversity has a neuro-biological basis, but I did not have a bunch of data backing that up. I do want to make sure workshops are accessible to laypeople, but I think we can be more science-y while still being intelligible!

Negative comments- well I don’t know which comments that referred to, but likely there was some frustration expressed by panelists (and attendees) towards the medical-industrial and educational establishments. I tried to maintain an overall positive tone, since we are bringing our experiences into the open and neurodivergent people have more opportunities for activism and public education than ever before. But we are going to be speaking out against oppressive people and power structures, so yes that is going to be somewhat negative. However, it would be the same case in any of the other intersectional workshops.

Other feedback I got that is more relevant to the organizers of the conference as a whole- it was too hot, and we needed more time. All the workshop sessions were 1 hour and 15 minutes, which is an amount of time that works better if people already know more about the topic. I think I was trying to do too many things in one session, partly to compensate for years of neurodiversity not being a topic!

April 21, 2015 at 2:34 am 3 comments

I Didn’t Become Pagan to Join a Doomsday Cult

I tried being a socialist in college, a Trotskyist to be specific. When I lobbied or voted or did anything that was part of “the System” they sneered at me and told me it wouldn’t work. And sometimes it didn’t. But sometimes it did. Progress was made. Sometimes it was lost. When I was working at Macy’s, I knew my co-workers weren’t wistfully waiting for the Glorious Proletarian Revolution. They were waiting for better wages, health care, paid sick time, child care. Fresh food that they could afford in their neighborhood. Sometimes, yes the anti-capitalists put on their suits and lobby for those things, or simply create grassroots solutions, like raising money to hand out food to people. Great awesome. But oftentimes they are too busy yelling that socialists in suits that have “sold out”.

Anarchists and Socialists are all about ideology and no practical solutions. I am not naive. I struggle what to do with myself in capitalism, and I rent out rooms to low-income people who often have to choose between repairing their car, or eating or paying the rent. I know we don’t live in a sustainable system. But all John Michael Greer, Rhyd  and others write is filled with despair, not practical solutions. Oh, maybe JMG has a bunch of suggestions about how to be a Perfect Eco-Homesteader Survivalist, I don’t know. But I’m trying to *recover from depression* (that was yes, somewhat related to trying to find a place in “The System”) but reading stuff that rages against it with no redemption- wow why don’t I just join a Doomsday cult? I also personally know both homeless people & wealthy people- so neither one is to me an Evil Other. Among Pagans, I have not found any help or support in finding employment. Just a bohemian version of a ghetto/victim mentality. Same with left-wing groups I have worked with. There’s always someone else with a better resume they can hire.

Whenever I see any Pagans managing to be financially successful, or get a building or anything off the ground, everyone else gets mad and tries to tear them down. Oh no, you’ve sold out to the patriarchy/Christians/capitalists etc. Well look, I am going to go out there and find decent work, and then I am going to help my fellow autistics and other disabled folk find it too. Because guess what? Being a eco-doom blogger does not pay us anything!  I might even commit the horrible selfish crime of having a baby! Because no true activist or spirit-worker could ever do that! Totally fine if you don’t want kids, but I feel like others think I’m selfish and don’t care about Mother Nature if I do. The Pagan movement will die from lack of support for its own and infighting. If anyone wants to join me, I’ll be with the Unitarians. Not that they are perfect but at least they aren’t a Doomsday cult. I am still a socialist at heart and I’m still a Pagan and a polytheist but I will be looking to work with people who will get things done in the near future- regardless of their ideology or religion or lack thereof. I’m not waiting for your damn revolution.

April 16, 2015 at 11:41 pm 5 comments

Re-Framing Autism Awareness

April is Autism Awareness month- or as some of us prefer Autism Acceptance month. I’ve seen many of my fellow autistic activists express frustration with how “awareness” tends to be promoted by a certain organization. While I certainly share their frustration, I think it’s better to promote our own messages- or re-frame messages that others are using for our own purposes. I’ve learn a lot about how to effectively spread messages to a broader audience from political campaigns I’ve worked for- as well as observing how the GLBTQ rights movement has been more effective when it is pro-active rather than re-active in its messaging. Here are some tips-

1) Have fun with “Light it Up Blue” and put your own positive spin on it! Some think the origin of using blue is due to the higher number of boys who are identified with autism. Turn this around and talk about gender diversity in autism, including atypical traits- not as “female pattern autism” but as “autistic traits that are less well-known and recognized.”

2) Re-claim the puzzle piece symbol- it’s widespread, it’s recognizable around the globe- we might as well use it. Personally I see the puzzle piece as symbolizing discovery (I prefer that over “diagnosis”) of an individual with autism and helping them find where they “fit” into the autistic community and broader society.

3) Talk about the history of the neurodiversity movement and the autistic self-advocacy communities & organizations, such as Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, Autistic Women’s Network, Aspies for Freedom etc.

4) Sick of Temple Grandin? If someone brings her up, rather than focusing on her and any views she has that you might disagree with talk about other autistic people you admire- Lydia Brown, John Elder Robison, Ari Ne’eman and things they have done for the community.

5) Don’t mention That Organization (I’ll call it Measles Speaks) it gives them more name recognition and attention!  Talk about other organizations you support (as mentioned above) If someone brings up That Organization, briefly discuss why you don’t support it, then re-direct the conversation to orgs you do support and *what specific things they are doing* Discuss the “Nothing About Us Without Us” principle.

6) Try to calmly re-direct discussions about the cause and rising incidence of autism. “As an autistic person, I’m glad to hear that more autistic people are able to understand themselves at a younger age. I hope to reach out to them more, and provide them with good role models and mentors, and work to create more opportunities for education, employment, housing and better understand and acceptance in our communities.”

7) Don’t draw attention to the vaccine-causes autism nonsense. If someone brings it up, tell them it has been dis-proven and move on, maybe say “I’m thankful that I have all of my vaccines! Aren’t you?”

April 16, 2015 at 3:20 am 1 comment

Experiences with Vocational Rehabilitation in MN

Often when I tell people I am looking for work, and they know I have disabilities, they will suggest that I try Vocational Rehabilitation. I have done that twice. I don’t think I am going to go thru with it again, though perhaps it might be more useful as more money is now going to be spent on Voc Rehab rather than on sheltered workshops. (This article is not entirely forthcoming, but comments on that later…)

The first time I applied for V.R. was in 2009, after I had interned for the Al Franken campaign in 2007-2008, and my next gig wasn’t until next November as a holiday temp worker at Jo-Ann Fabric.

Some things I wonder about Voc Rehab are: Do they ever talk to experts on the labor market?  Or rather the labor market as it really is (as in not the stats that say “X number of jobs were created last year in industry Y” but it doesn’t mention that many of them were part-time jobs that don’t provide benefits. The Social Security people do, as they had a labor/vocational expert testify that I was capable of being a hotel maid, package handler etc. Wow, guys- thanks for the vote of confidence, I had no idea I was able to do such amazing things! *sarcasm* (Applying for SSDI was NOT my idea, by the way) I’m pretty sure the S.S.A. doesn’t talk to state V.R. people because at one time, my counselor told me that she “wasn’t sure I was capable of holding down a job”. At that point, I had been fired *once* and had held various unpaid internships and temporary jobs. But I had experience doing stuff, even if it was kinda random. Like no other 20-something year-old ever! (Sarcasm) I am not sure what this lady was expecting that would make me more employable- she was a VR counselor after all, didn’t she have tons of people with no work experience? Or who had been fired from multiple jobs? Or criminal records? Or simply guilty of the “crime” of being “too old”?

Anyway, the way it works is, you apply and submit various documentation that proves your disabilit(ies) Then you meet with a V.R. counselor and they interview and help you work on an employment plan. This can include evaluations of your skills, classes/workshops on interviewing, resume-writing, or if some miracle you can prove that you *really* need it for your super-specific employment plan, you might even get them to pay for training. This last one is highly unlikely if you are college-educated like me. In the realm of V.R., I was supposed to be an “easy” case, with my education and comparatively mild disabilities- though how “mild” they are doesn’t really matter, if you are competing with a zillion non-disabled people with better resumes and better social skills. I wanted to work in the non-profit field, in some type of entry-level job. I applied for lots of clerical positions. In retrospect I realize that clerical jobs are not really a good fit for me, but hindsight is 20/20. The V.R. person will often refer you to another person who works for an outside organization (a “vendor”) to help you with your actual job search, because the V.R. person is just there to supervise the case in general, and they have a zillion other cases. The first time I tried V.R. they referred me to an organized called HIRED. The lady who worked with me was very nice, though her expectations that I’d be able to easily find a job proved rather unrealistic. I also feel like people who work in nonprofits themselves are more easily impressed by a resume filled with volunteer work. People who do actual hiring don’t seem to be.  In the end I had to leave the program, because I was dealing with health & family issues.

The second time I tried V.R. was in 2012. This time I applied because I had learned of an organization called AutismWorks, that as you can guess by the name specifically works with adults on the autism spectrum. What a relief! I would not have to waste a bunch of time explaining my version of autism. I was already working part-time for Erik’s Ranch, but was still considered eligible. What was odd is that I was later kicked off both V.R. and Medical Assistance after I picked up a *temporary* job that was *up to* 15 hours a week, and was estimated to last a month or two. (November-December) But apparently that made me SOOO wealthy and successful that I didn’t their help anymore. *sarcasm* This job didn’t lead to anything else, it was for a very small company and they just needed help on one project. In retrospect I could’ve challenged both of these. But I have a hard time dealing with bureaucracy just getting the paperwork done right and turned in on time. And it was the worst time of year for my stress & depression- December. Merry Fecking Christmas! But yeah- word to the wise, even if it’s hard & stressful, if they kick you of Voc Rehab for a temporary gig, challenge it. Get a letter from the employer saying that it is temporary, what it pays etc. If the employer has told you that this position is unlikely to lead to another permanent one, and he/she is not actively referring you to other clients or something, include that in said letter. Documentation is always your friend, when it comes to disability bureaucracy.

Anyway back to the actual process with Autism Works- they may have changed how they work since then, as they’ve grown and expanded, but this is how I did it then. They did various evaluations including an adult autism quotient (exact name I’m unsure of..) We did an interesting exercise with a social worker who specializes in “community based social work” in other words she does it from the perspective of how the person relates to their community, not just as an isolated individual which I thought was an awesome idea! Basically I went around with her and Greg my AW counselor and showed them around the Augsburg campus and Dinkytown and talked about my experiences and what stuff was important to me and why.

I thought about working with kids with disabilities, and applied for a bunch of aide positions at various schools. I did get a couple interviews- the one I remember seemed out of my league when they asked me about my “pedagogical philosophy” or something. I actually *know what that means* but I..don’t really have one. On paper this are pretty entry level positions but in reality with how teaching jobs are constantly being cut, I have to compete with actual trained teachers.

I did lots of informational interviews with nonprofit people I knew. It’s true that info interviews are a good way to get experience interviewing in a less stressful setting- because you are asking the person questions, and so you don’t have to prove yourself and all that. Greg was thinking that what works well for people on the spectrum is for someone in a company to recognize your abilities and create a position specifically for you. (That sounds rather pipe-dreamy to me!) Info interviews, networking to more people to interview, and yah you’re supposed to follow up with them, and maybe they’ll “keep you in mind” when something opens up and such. I also haven’t seen much of people moving up within the nonprofit realm, I mostly see people who worked in corporate and then “fell into” it, or they ran into their old college roommate blah blah. I talked to various former co-workers at my campaigns and they seemed to have no actual advice for me- just “volunteer forever” and “keep doing what you’re doing” which is…what? If I did a lousy job, or hell they just plain don’t remember me much and don’t really care, and don’t want to help me find work, then just go out and say it. Stop pretending. Otherwise it’s just as much of a charade as any other job interview.

So anyway, I’ve gotten to the point where I think I need to create some sort of mini-Conspiracy to Employ Semi-Awkward People with Goofy Brains…it can consist of people with said brains (whether officially pronounced by a shrinky-dink or not) who are either working, looking for work, run a business, as well as people with other disabilities or no disability who think employing people with interesting minds sounds like a cool idea. People who I’ve identified as Giving a Crap, not just random people I know who just pretend to Give a Crap.  I want to talk to people who think I’m a cool person who’s capable of doing cool stuff, and aren’t all uptight about whether I have this perfect resume with no gaps or a cheerleader personality. (well maybe cool isn’t the right word…but something!) Anyone who has an idea for a better name, feel free to suggest!

April 16, 2015 at 2:34 am 2 comments

Ecoregions for St. Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, U.S.A.

I will focus mainly on my home in St Paul, Minnesota, however there are a couple of other places that I have spiritual interests in- the town I was born in- Havre, Montana (Hill County) and Dubuque, Iowa where I spent a good portion of my childhood. I will do those in following posts- this one is getting long!
My bioregion is Laurentia bordering near the Prairie. I find there is way more information about ecoregions, so I am not sure why the term isn’t ecoregionalism!

Here is the EPA system:

Level 1 Ecoregion 8: Eastern Temperate Forest, 8.1 Mixed Wood Plains (not sure which)

Level 3 Ecoregion 51: North Central Hardwoods

Level 4 Ecoregion 51a: St. Croix Outwash Plain & Stagnation Plains (ooh what a sexy name!)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) divides us into the Ecological Classification System (ECS) following the guidelines of the National Hierarchical Framework of Ecological Units

In the DNR system we are in-

Province 222 Eastern Broadleaf Forest in the Minnesota & Northeast Iowa Morainal Section and the St. Paul-Baldwin Plains & Moraines subsection which continues into Wisconsin.

“The Eastern Broadleaf Forest (EBF) Province traverses Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas. In Minnesota, the EBF Province covers nearly 12 million acres (4.9 million hectares) of the central and southeastern parts of the state and serves as a transition, or ecotone, between semi-arid portions of the state that were historically prairie and semi-humid mixed conifer-deciduous forests to the northeast. The western boundary of the province in Minnesota is sharply defined along much of its length as an abrupt transition from forest and woodland to open grassland. The northeastern boundary is more diffuse, with a gradual transition between eastern deciduous forests and the mixed conifer-hardwood forests of northern Minnesota.

The land surface of the province is largely the product of Pleistocene glacial processes. The northwestern and central portions of the province were covered by ice in the last glaciation and are characterized by thick (100–300 feet [30–90 meters]) deposits of glacial drift that is highly calcareous and of Wisconsin Age at its surface. Glacial lakes associated with the last glacial advance contributed large volumes of meltwater to rivers that cut deep valleys along the present course of the Minnesota, St. Croix, and lower Mississippi rivers. In the southeastern part of the province, which was not covered by ice in the last glaciation, headward erosion of streams draining into the deepening Mississippi valley dissected the flanking uplands, exposing Paleozoic bedrock and pre-Wisconsin drift. The waning stages of the glacial lakes contributed massive amounts of sediment to the river valleys and provided a source of silt that was redeposited by wind as a mantle of loess over the eroded lands in the southeastern part of the province.

The EBF Province coincides roughly with the part of Minnesota where precipitation approximately equals evapotranspiration; it seems likely that this aspect of climate has an important influence on plants, as many forest species reach their western range limits and several prairie species reach their eastern range limits within the province. Precipitation in the province increases from about 24 inches (60cm) annually in the northwestern portion to 35 inches (90cm) in the southeast, while normal annual temperatures range from 38°F (3°C) in the northwest to 46°F (8°C) in the southeast.”

“The Minnesota and Northeast Iowa Morainal Section (MIM) is a long band of deciduous forest, woodland, and prairie that stretches nearly 350 miles (560km) from Polk County in northwestern Minnesota to the Iowa border. Over half of this area consists of rugged to hummocky moraines deposited along the eastern margin of the Des Moines ice lobe during the last glaciation. Another quarter of the area consists of rolling till or basal till deposited as drumlins. Small sand plains occur locally within the moraines. A rather large sand plain, the Anoka Sand Plain, is present north of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. This level plain is formed from sand deposited by meltwater from the Grantsburg sublobe, a spur of ice emanating from the east flank of the Des Moines lobe.

The presettlement pattern of upland vegetation in the MIM reflects substrate texture and landform topography. These features affected plants directly through their influence on moisture and nutrient availability, insolation, and local temperature, and also indirectly through their influence on the frequency and severity of fires. Sandy flat areas were dominated by prairie, savanna, and oak and aspen woodlands. This is especially true of the Anoka Sand Plain and sandy terraces along the major rivers. In these areas, droughty soils and absence of impediments to the spread of fire promoted fire-dependent prairie and woodland vegetation. A large area of prairie, savanna, and oak woodland was also present on gently undulating glacial till in the southern part of the section, adjacent to the extensive prairie lands of western Minnesota. The low-relief landscape in this part of the section afforded few impediments to the spread of fire, including fires that spread into the section from the adjacent prairie region. Woodland and forest dominated sites in the section where fire was uncommon or rare. Fine-textured drift deposited in hummocky moraines supported mesic forests dominated by sugar maple, basswood, American elm, and northern red oak. Even small reductions in fire frequency afforded by streams, lakes, or topographic breaks permitted the formation of forest on finer-textured soils, and once formed these forests were highly resistant to burning.

Floodplain and terrace forests were present historically along the valleys of the major rivers, the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix, and are still prominent today along many stretches of these rivers. Forests of silver maple occupy the active floodplains, while forests of silver maple, cottonwood, box-elder, green ash, and elm occupy terraces that flood infrequently. These valleys are also characterized by herbaceous and shrubby river shore communities along shorelines and on sand bars, and in some areas by cliff communities on steep rocky river bluffs. Closed depressions that pond water in the spring provide habitat for open wetlands such as marshes, wet meadows, shrub swamps, and wet prairies. Peatlands are uncommon in the section and usually develop following formation of sedge or moss mats over sediments in former lake basins.”

St Paul-Baldwin Plains & Moraines-The northern boundary of this subsection consists of a Superior Lobe end moraine complex (St. Croix Moraine). To the west, terraces associated with the Mississippi River separate the subsection from the Anoka Sand Plain subsection. The southern boundary coincides with the southern edge of the Rosemount Outwash Plain.

This subsection is small and continues into Wisconsin. Although it is topographically low in comparison to other areas in the state, the subsection is dominated by a large moraine and areas of outwash plain. The subsection encompasses part of the seven county metropolitan area and as a result is affected by urban development.


This subsection is dominated by a Superior lobe end moraine complex. South of this moraine is a series of outwash plains associated with the Superior lobe. There are some areas of Ioess plain over bedrock or till in the southeastern portion of the subsection. Topography is rolling to hummocky on the moraine (steep, short complex slopes) and level to rolling on the outwash.

Bedrock geology

Glacial drift is generally less than 100 feet thick within the subsection, with maximum thickness of about 200 feet (Olsen and Mossler 1982). Ordovician and Devonian dolomite (some limestone, sandstone, and shale) is locally exposed, especially in the dissected stream valleys at the eastern edge of the subsection (Morey 1976, Olsen and Mossler 1982). Precambrian bedrock is exposed along the St. Croix River.


Soils in this subsection are primarily Alfisols (soils formed under forested vegetation). Areas of Mollisols (soils formed under prairie vegetation) are present on the outwash plains. Parent materials are mixed on the moraines (mixtures of clay loams, loams, sandy loams, and loamy sands). The outwash plains have sandy parent materials (Cummins and Grigal 1981).


Annual normal precipitation ranges from 28 inches in the north to 31 inches in the south, and growing season precipitation ranges from 12.5 to 13 inches. The average growing season length ranges from 146 to 156 days.


The drainage network is poorly developed throughout most of the subsection. This is due to the nature of the landforms. The Mississippi River cuts through the center of the subsection. There is a well developed flood plain associated with the Mississippi. The end moraines in the northern third have an undeveloped drainage network. The St. Croix River forms the east boundary (as well as the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin). The river flows into the Mississippi southeast of the Twin Cities. There are many lakes in this subsection. Most are present on the moraines.

April 9, 2015 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

What is Bioregional Animism?

Last post I mentioned bioregional animism. What the heck is that you might ask? Well first off-

Animism– belief or philosophy that the world is full of spirits- this may or may not mean that *everything* has a spirit- but at least it typically includes living things, and often rocks and other natural features. It may also include human-made objects, particularly ones that have a lot of significance and history attached to them.

Now to unpack some baggage attached to this label- the term animism has its origins in anthropology, in older and Western-centric view that more “primitive” cultures first had animism and totemism, before developing polytheism, henotheism, monotheism and then (depending on the person interpreting all this) atheism. Some people reject the use of “animism” for this reason. However, with the rising influence of ecological thought, some people have been developing a philosophy of New Animism, that takes this idea of many spirits seriously and has more respect for indigenous worldviews and their regard for “non-human persons”. I would caution that I have encountered some attitudes on new animist websites that seem to have a Noble Savage or Michael Harner-style “Core Shamanism” influences*. We definitely need to be wary of those ideas!

Bioregionalism– a bioregion is an ecologically & geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone but larger than an ecoregion and an ecosystem. It is defined by watershed, soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism is an ecological, political and cultural philosophy that considers the role of bioregions as central to making decisions in the best interests of the inhabitants (human & non-human) and the land. Bioregions cross state/provincial and national boundaries, so they can require international cooperation. In the United States & Canada, the bioregion that has developed the strongest identity- even with its own flag and independence movement- is Cascadia, in the Pacific Northwest.

Now for these various ecological divisions- I’ll start with the biggest, then work my way down to the smallest. There are varying systems used by different governmental and non-profit ecological organizations, so I will consult several.

On this website– Earth is divided into 6 Bio-Kingdoms, 35 Bio-regions, and 156 bio-provinces

Eco-zones– a different system based on plate tectonics

What type of biome do you live in? The same biome can be found in many different bioregions, depending on climate, latitude, soil types etc. For example- desert, forest, tundra though they get more specific than that.

Eco-zones & Eco-regions in Canada

Eco-regions of North America– Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wikipedia

Eco-regions in Minnesota

*A good critique of Core Shamanism by Lupa, a bioregional animist can be found here

April 9, 2015 at 1:56 am 1 comment

Why Local/Regional Spirituality Works Better Than National

So the topic arose on the ADF Facebook group about American culture as a hearth culture. Hearth culture is an ADF term for one’s main cultural focus, since we are pan-Indo-European in scope. There were many different visions & interpretations of what “American” means that came up. People agreed that we wanted to avoid appropriation of Native traditions, while acknowledging we could respectfully learn from them in other ways. We do have an American SIG (Special Interest Group) There is also a Religio Americana group on Yahoo, though like most Yahoo groups it’s probably dormant. I’ve seen in particular a lot of interest from Hellenic & Roman polytheists since there is a lot of Greco-Roman influence on our national architecture, statuary, etc. This post is more general to Pagans/polytheists as a whole, though I will address some ADF-specific stuff. It also applies more globally than to just people in the United States.

I’m going to suggest that we focus on our local areas rather than national themes for several reasons

1) Better for ecological and cultural relevance- we can focus on our local landscapes- geology, flora and fauna- bioregional animism is an interesting idea that can be looked into, and easily adapted to many traditions or simply practiced as its own thing. Consuming locally & sustainably made produce and other items, and advocating protection and preservation of local ecosystem can be part of this as well. Supporting and participating in local arts & culture, and historic preservation.

2) Religion with a national focus has more danger of becoming nationalistic in flavor and uncritically glossing over imperialistic aspects of the culture. Recommended reading- Engendering Difference: the Post-colonial Politics of Goddess Spirituality by Kavita Maya– this about the Goddess spirituality movement in Britain, including discussion of wanting to find a pre-imperial British spirituality, and honoring Britannia as the goddess of Britain (and problems this might entail- very similar to discussions of the figure or goddess Columbia in the U.S.)

3) We need to be honest and take responsibility for our history, even the parts that make us feel uncomfortable. I think highlighting the contributions of people who were ignored by dominant narratives of history (women, sexual/gender minorities, immigrants, indigenous people, enslaved or conquered people, religious minorities, disabled people etc.) rather than just focusing on the conquerors and the ruling classes would be a really cool way of doing this. In addition to personal or group spiritual practice, you can also advocate for teaching history and social studies in a more inclusive manner, depicting history in a more respectful and inclusive ways in museums and historical sites, taking classes or doing your own research, boosting marginalized voices within Pagan communities and movements and within your broader community.

Dver, Galina Krasskova, Erynn Laurie, HeathenChinese, Lupa & many other folks have written about polytheism/animism based in their own localities.

April 9, 2015 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

Yes, Virginia Americans Do Have Our Own Culture(s)

American Culture? by Camilla Laurentine “I cringe a little when I’m told Americans don’t have a culture or worse yet our culture is Consumerism. Yes, modern mainstream American culture holds plenty of consumerism and plasticity, but you guys… We have culture. Historically as a melting pot, we have lots of culture. We may not have quite as long a history as our European brothers and sisters as a nation, but those of us with European ancestry do, in fact, share parts of their culture with them. But as Americans, we do have a distinct identity, and you can either spend your time being apologetic about the not so great things about it or you can decide to embrace the good parts of it and actively work to help change the things that you don’t care for.”

Mariah’s thoughts: Whenever you are tempted to say “generic” i.e. white Americans don’t have a culture, remember all the things you have to explain when you go abroad, or have a foreign visitor. There is also no single “white American” culture, anymore than there is a single American culture. Potlucks are remix of potlatch, a gift-giving Northwest Indian ceremony. Barbecue comes from a Taino word (indigenous Caribbean people who were mostly killed by the Spanish) and entered into both Spanish & French languages. BBQ is the central ritual of most American holidays- at least during the warm months- (Memorial Day, Mother & Father’s Days, Independence Day, Labor Day) I see African-American, Latino and Asian-American families in parks having their own BBQ ritual feasts, with their own twists- eggrolls, tamales etc.

American music in all its diversity, cultural borrowing, outright stealing, blending, glory and tragedy. Complete with icons, fallen idols, pilgrimage sites like Graceland and so forth. Debates about the “true heir” of this or that musical tradition or genre swirl, theories about the tragic deaths of young rock stars abound. The Greeks had a goddess of fame- Pheme, or Klymene the Romans called her Fama. She was also the goddess of gossip. Boy, does she ever have a cult here or what!

Who Are Our American Gods? by Camilla Laurentine “What do I call the God of the railroads that were the lifeblood of the West, which rose in greatness and then fell into obscurity…  And yet this Midwestern Spiritworker living in the heart of Katy Country can’t help but feel the chill run through her as she watches a train cross across the fields of corn in a river bottom.  There’s a God there.  What is Its name?”

April 8, 2015 at 9:44 pm Leave a comment

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