Call Congress: Open Courts for Due Process

Here’s a simple script to call your representative and senators:

Hi, I’m (name) and I’m a constituent. I’m appalled that the expedited immigration courts set up at the border are closed to legal observers, the press, and the public. Closed courts deny the guarantee of due process. Please ask the legislator to do everything they can to oppose this unAmerican practice.

Call Congress: Families are more than DNA

Here’s a simple script to use to call your representative and senators:

Hi, I’m (name) and I’m a constituent. Please ask the legislator to oppose a bill requiring DNA testing of migrants and children because families are defined by more than DNA. Thank you.

Here’s the details:

The End Child Trafficking Now Act is a pair of bills: S. 2420, introduced by Sens. Blackburn and Ernst, and H.R. 3864, introduced by Rep. Gooden. Republicans claim that bills like this and the DNA testing they want to require by law are necessary to prevent child trafficking because they allege that the US immigration system is too permissive in releasing adult migrants who enter with children. There’s no evidence to support their claims that this represents a “loophole” regularly exploited by violent criminals.

I oppose this bill because refugees, people fleeing violence and social upheaval, do not always have their adoption papers handy, and DNA is not the only thing that defines a family. Families may be split up, children may be traveling with second- or third-degree relatives by blood or marriage, may come from blended families and have stepparents or grandparents or godparents…but none of that is reflected in DNA. I am afraid that the pseudo-objectivism of “scientific” proof of biological relationship will be used to split up more families, to traumatize more children, and to worsen the damage to already vulnerable populations.

Mythical Creatures at COSI

This weekend is the last weekend for the Mythical Creatures exhibit at COSI here in Columbus. I loved seeing the exhibit, not least because they had a gorgeous gryphon sculpture! The mythical creatures are divided up by the element in which they dwell – water creatures together, for example, which lets viewers examine different stories of mermaids across time and different cultures side by side. Enjoy the long weekend, everyone!

Pagan Panel will be livestreamed

If you can’t join us in person for the pan-Pagan clergy panel discussion tomorrow it will also be live-streamed, with a link to the stream posted on the event page on Facebook, and the recording will be available afterwards through Three Cranes Grove. I’ll update this with a link to the video afterwards. Looking forward to it!

Pan-Pagan Theology Panel

Three Cranes Grove here in Columbus, Ohio is organizing a Pan-Pagan clergy panel discussion next week, and Grafton and I will be participating:

7-8:30pm Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
It Looks Like It’s Open 13 E Tulane Rd, Columbus, Ohio 43202

Cleveland Pagan Pride Day!

Today I’ll be participating in a panel discussion at the Cleveland Pagan Pride Day. I couldn’t attend yesterday because of work conflicts, but I’m really looking forward to it today!

Magic for the eclipse

Here is the advice I have gotten so far:

Own your shadow or else it will eclipse you.

This eclipse will be a time when secrets about ourselves – maybe even things we try to keep secret from our own awareness – will be revealed, for all of us, for better and worse.

If you’ve been doing the work to get in touch with your own shadow and make an ally of it, then you’ve got a head start. That means you also get the reward of trying to help others cope with the experience and trying to shape this kind of change at the trans-personal level. Ground and center, Witches.

And if you haven’t seen them yet, Hecate’s series on the Magical Battle for America is truly powerful. Give it a try.

Thanksgiving Grace 2016

Gentlefolk, please charge your glass
with water pure and clear

I do not ask to bow your heads
Nor bend your knees today

I ask that you sit watchful calm
And lift your heart with mine

Ready for what is to come
And we we need to do

Today we eat, and yes we drink
Around a laden table

While others fight with prayers of peace
For water which is life

We steel ourselves with joy today
Against the fear and hurt

As each of us in our own way
Will stand for what is life

Today I pray and ask you join
Your will to be committed

To yet uphold our lives and loves
As each of us are able

And next year may we meet again
Around this holy table

American medical SNAFU

NB: I am writing this primarily for people who are not familiar with the American medical and insurance systems, whether because they are generally well (lucky you!) or from elsewhere. I am not looking for advice about how to handle this better, either with my insurance or with complementary and alternative medicine.

I have great insurance. Let’s start there.

My insurance comes through my husband, and we have it for life. Our premiums are quite low, and there is a no-premium version of the plan. We have good pharmaceutical coverage and the insurance company is diligent about trying to offer me additional help to save them money make things easier.

I have depression. It’s probably genetic. Life stress can make it worse. I spent the six weeks between Litha and Lunasa in and out of the ER, hospital, and more doctor’s offices than I can count because of an unrelated non-psychiatric disease. That’s stressful. My depression got somewhat worse. I got some short-term psych help when needed, and waited to have my regularly scheduled meds appointment (since I know the practice is very busy and doesn’t really have urgent appointments available).

At that appointment I was informed that the practice was very sorry, but they are no longer accepting my insurance. I can continue to see the same caregiver and pay $100 out of pocket for each 15-20 minute appointment whether anything is wrong or not. The caregiver was very sorry to hear about my recent stresses, was impressed with the way I was coping, and sent me on my way, signing off on a change that one of the short-term people made to my meds.

I have to get a new psychiatrist. Here’s what that process looks like for me:

  • Step zero: hope that nothing goes seriously wrong during the following.
  • Step one: Canvass my friends, relations, mycelia, and other providers to see if they know of a doctor they like. See if that doctor is on my insurance. Alternatively, take the list of doctors provided by my insurance and throw darts to pick a name at random. Hope that one of these doctors is less than an hour away by car.
  • Step two: Schedule an appointment with my primary care manager (PCM).
  • Step three: Wait 2-3 weeks for non-urgent appointment.
  • Step four: Drive an hour one way to PCM appointment. Ask the PCM to refer me to psych services through the doc of my (possibly random) choice.
  • Step five: Wait until insurance approves the referral, approximately two weeks for non-urgent referral, plus time for the letter to arrive in the mail, unless I want to call the referrals line every day to ask if it’s been processed yet (extra week of waiting vs spending a 15-20 minutes on a phone call every day for a week).
  • Step six: Schedule an appointment with the psych doc. Wait until her or his practice has an open “new patient” appointment, which could be up to six weeks, if they’re still accepting new patients at all. (If not, do not pass go, return to step 1.)
  • Step seven: Hope that I like the doc when I meet with her or him, that she comprehends my current situation, that she agrees with my current treatment plan, and that she will continue to give me the same meds. If not, do not pass go, return to step 1, or take an alternate side trip on the Medication Merry Go Round of Doom.

This is really good insurance. Seriously.

Just to add to the situation, I have figured out that the change to my meds that the short-term treatment people put in place is actually making me worse, so we have failed step zero. I now have to cope with that fact with minimal relevant specialist support. I am capable of doing that, but not everyone is.

Keep in mind that this is happening to me while my psych issues actively need close monitoring and treatment. I’m responsible for completing all the steps above correctly. Nobody else can do these things for me. If I screw up, either I don’t get a doctor, or it costs me a lot of money, at a time when my work schedule is significantly reduced by….you guessed it, the disease that I need treatment for. Adding financial concerns to my load is not going to improve my depression, to put it mildly.

This is only one specialist service. I have to do this for each and every specialist service that I see. Even when one specialist refers me to another specialist, I have to go to my PCM to start this process. If I’m very, very lucky they will decide that some of those things are urgent, which will cut the wait times from 2-3 weeks to 2-3 days at each step. Except that the specialist might not have any free appointments regardless.

This is the American insurance-driven medical system: SNAFU.

NB 2: Before you comment, please note!

None of this has to do with Obamacare. This insurance is exactly the same as it was before the Affordable Care Act went into place, and for what it’s worth I am a big supporter of nearly every facet of the ACA. I also do not want to hear your theories about how Big Pharma is run by reptilian aliens from Vega and that’s why the medical system sucks, and I should just meditate anyway. Comments that I deem irrelevant or annoying will be deleted without apology both here and on Facebook.

Where are my superpowers?

I have been dealing with my food allergies a lot lately, and I want to know: Where are my superpowers?

Food restrictions are difficult to live with at the best of times because food restrictions divide people during a fundamental activity: eating together. Sharing food and drink, and even more so providing food for another person are deeply symbolic acts of bonding. Their widespread role in hospitality laws and rituals shows their importance. In some ways, food restrictions act as the inverse of hospitality practices.

I have long thought that this inversion of hospitality is one of the reasons religious food limitations carry so much significance. They delimit a population very powerfully; if we cannot share a meal, and welcome each other under our own laws of hospitality, then some of our basic ways of building relationships are out-of-bounds, which encourages one to stay with one’s own group. Similarly, in today’s world, it is a powerful thing to make ethical choices about one’s food; that’s why these choices become such a topic of debate.

The difference between allergies and the situation of religious or ethical food restrictions is that in both religious and ethical choices, the person making the choice feels that the choice is meaningful, and this feeling is reinforcement. The choice, and its social consequences, send a message, which is why it can be so contentious. Following through on the restrictions also sends a message to oneself: I am a member of this group, and not that; my choices and actions are in line with my intentions about such-and-such a concern, or whatever is important enough to limit one’s food.

It’s true that those feedback messages can devolve into smug self-righteousness, or looking down on other people, and that’s awful, but whether the self-image is a good thing or not, those feedback messages are part of the reinforcement that helps one make the food choices over and over again, and go through the effort of seeking out certain foods or avoiding others, of navigating the social landscape around eating. However graciously or ineptly one handles the situation, eating differently from those around you takes time, effort, and money, and concentrates social attention on oneself in a not necessarily pleasant way.

With food allergies or other medical restrictions, there’s no payoff,  there’s no deeper message, and there’s no positive reinforcement that helps us keep going. This isn’t like the stories where the protagonist chooses to give up something in order to get other benefits, and it isn’t even like the stories where a protagonist has a hidden flaw that “pays for” the other great skills she has. It’s just a handicap, with no upside.

In other words, where are my superpowers? Don’t I even get superpowers in exchange for all the things I can’t eat, all the times when I am the odd one out, the problem child, the person who everybody else has to accommodate? I’m not even asking for a separate power for every allergy – just one little teeny power, maybe?

Most people have no idea how frustrating these issues can be, and it’s easy for someone inconvenienced by another’s restrictions to resent the restrictions and even the person herself. Believe me, no matter how annoyed you are, you have no idea how much I wish I could relieve you of the burden of dealing with my allergies.

Imagine how you feel when confronted with the most obnoxious type of person whose eating habits are exactly opposite yours. If that person followed you around all the time and interrupted you to criticize everything you think about putting in your mouth, you’d be pretty annoyed by that person, right? You’d get pretty unhappy about her interrupting your routine, disrupting the dinner party, making it difficult to socialize with others, and sometimes even simply to feed yourself.

Now imagine feeling that way about yourself instead of about someone else. I hate my food allergies; I hate that I have to bring them up, that I have to refuse food, and that when I eat practically anything I haven’t personally prepared from scratch I run a calculated risk, over and over and over again, three meals a day. I hate that when that risk goes wrong, I have reactions that impact other people’s lives as well as putting mine at risk. I hate being afraid during such a fundamental activity as eating. I find the allergies as annoying as you find that fictional fanatic. But the allergies are part of me; I can’t get away from them.

And I don’t get anything in return. I don’t get the inner glow of knowing that my choices are contributing to better lives for animals, or that I’m supporting fair trade, or even that my restrictions are connected to anyone or anything besides an accident of biology. I don’t even get cool x-ray vision to tell me when I’m encountering an allergen – I mean, Superman knows when kryptonite is around, right? It has the cool green glow! Allergens don’t glow. They just sit there waiting to ambush me while I’m just trying to have lunch, maybe with a friend, or reward myself for a good day with something delicious.

This harsh reality is why I was so ticked off about the lousy depiction of disabilities in the Percy Jackson novels. In those stories, Jackson and all the other Greek demi-gods have dyslexia because their brains are “wired” to read ancient Greek. Nobody talks about struggling with the day-to-day grind of these issues, because they’re really just a convenient shorthand to make our protagonist the kind of person who overcomes obstacles, which actually turn out to be the root of his superpowers. Another character’s apparent mobility disability is explained away in similar fashion; the wheelchair is just a disguise, you see, and apparently he never gets frustrated with it or anything. It never risks his life, either.

I live in the real world, where things like food allergies, not to mention my other medical issues, don’t come with a convenient side of superpowers that make it all seem worthwhile. They’re not a sacrifice I’ve chosen to make in exchange for something else. They don’t have a deeper meaning or the resonance of generations of cultural practice. They’re not a side detail that the narrator can handwave away by tweaking the plot to accommodate me. They regularly force me to make difficult choices between regular exposure to small but significant risks and limiting my behavior in ways that would completely disrupt my life. They’re just as painful and annoying as any other restrictive food requirements, without any redeeming sense of meaning.

I don’t even get superpowers. Except not dying. Or not spending the night in the hospital. Those are good things – don’t get me wrong – but for most people they’re the baseline, the assumed normal, rather than something that has to be fought for on a recurring basis.

So when you’re dealing with someone with food allergies, please take them seriously, do your very, very best to accommodate the person, and don’t make it more of a social issue than is absolutely necessary to accomplish the goal of keeping the person safe. Because we don’t get superpowers. And sometimes it gets really tiring.