Friday, December 21, 2012

Dar's 2012 Christmas Poem

A Christmas Poem Doesn't Have to Rhyme


The trees are blowin'
and the wind is spinnin'
the snow covers everything

it is white, white, white.

It's a white, white world
decoratin' all
the colorful lights at night

and we'll wake up early in the morning.

The wind will bring joy
it will bring joy through the air
the little girl will sleep after Christmas

in her mother's bedroom.

We'll eat very well
pancakes and pies
our teeth is gonna have to go

to the dentist.

Our tummies are gonna go to the couch
to take a little nappy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jane Austen was my First Love and Lay

I'm am so full of ideas today, I could make an fMRI scanner go wild and scream for more! To anyone who says sites like Twitter and Facebook are mind-numbing, I won't beg to differ but I will say this: "Like, no way!"

The invigorating and educational nature of the Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/andTheLike experience all depends on the Twitterer/Tweeter/Facebooker/Pinterestian/andTheLiker. These budding outlets/inlets are opening up a whole new kind of intellectual world for brains like me. A whole new art world, too. Egads. It's the multi-media mainstreaming of Western culture. The flood, it cometh. Why resist?

That's the thing about The Unknown; even though you may feel flooded by it, chances are you can only come to know it a little bit, inch-by-inch, piece-by-piece, at a time. Who knew that I would open up my "Twitter Feed" (kind of like corn feed for cows, only newsfeed for newsies) and see my brain suspended in dark matter (or against a black background) next to an image of Jane Austen with her mustache of an upper lip and her scrunchy bonnet (to be technical). Just when ya start to think life ain't worth living, there's the smug and defiant toddler face of Twitter, Tweeting you a revelation:

"Your brain loves Jane Austen"

I knew it, I knew it. How did Laura Miller know it, too?

How did she know that I drew hearts all over my copy of Sense and Sensibility in high school? Who's she been talking to (and how can get in on that conversation)? Oh, wait, I know, she must have called my h.s. b.f.f. (big flaming firecracker), Heather, who couldn't have cared less that my brain was loving Jane Austen in the backseat of her parents' red Saturn because her brain, along with the brains of her parents, was, and were, too busy loving J.K. Rowling via the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. I don't know how we ever made it to Cedar Point with all the brain-love in that car!

Yes, it's true, my brain loves Jane Austen. And if you write (Tweet, FBook, Pine/ter) something provocative, or even something mundane that I can use for my own strange and creative purposes: my brain will love you, too. It's incredible - what happens with one's brain. What love can do. Actually, what Jane Austen can do. She can make love to your brain, that's what. I don't know that she will, but she can. I do know that she can because she did. She did me.

I said it: Jane Austen was my brain's first love and lay.

She was no crap-shag; she was Shagianity itself. Jane Austen, yo-literally, brought love into my brain. She brought love into my brain for the first time, at the right time and when I was ready. She was so kind, my brain will never forget her and will love her infinitely and will write to death of this love. Brain be damned, and all else, too. Jane is a tender brain-lay.

I never knew anything about love (i.e., sense and senseless pleasure) until Jane Austen read Sense and Sensibility to me. She read it to me, not on audio cassette or on CD but, to and through my brain. Jane Austen changed my brain. And, guess what: after reading Laura Miller's interview of Michigan State University assistant professor of English, Natalie Phillips, my brain is feelin' the love, once again. Not only that, but the light bulb in my teacher-brain (that arbitrary but ubiquitous segment of the brain) is shining brightly. The alarms are sounding. The Price is (no doubt) Right! Jane Austen must love my brain, too, 'cause she keeps coming back for more.

Reading this article, on the effects of pleasure versus close reading on the brain, has altered my brain intensely (for today, at least). Which is nice, because I was about to go to a snack machine in search of some Rold Golds and Cherry Twist Twizzlers but now I am saving money and feeding my loving little brain instead (I'll deal with the empty stomach later: My stomach loves Enriched Flour, which doesn't bode well for a long-lasting romance).

Natalie Phillips told Miller, "Really the biggest surprise to date is just how much the brain is shifting in moving between close reading and pleasure reading...With pleasure reading...we did see some unique regions activated. That suggests that pleasure reading is not just some more lax or dormant state. And we're seeing the whole brain activating for the close reading state."

Now I'm no neuroscientist (this should be a song), but I know someone who is and I know she will be skeptical about there being only one subject who has, to date, been fully evaluated. I mean, so what if Miller's jumping the gun and reporting on a study that is not yet significant enough to be unleashed on the masses. So what if the Love in your Brain for JA is only based on Natalie Phillips' preliminary work. Even with my Brain of Janelove, even in my perception clouded with pleasure fog; Phillips' casual report that "with pleasure reading, at least in the one subject for whom we have been able to fully evaluate it so far, we did see unique regions activated" had me, fortheloveofAusten, ...wondering.

Fortunately, my brain loves Jane so much that it shut down that rational wonder immediately and replaced it with memories of sleepless summer nights with Jane. That's what happens: your brain loves Jane Austen and it's over. Rationality, that is. Even the safeguard of intelligence dissipates. But I feel good 'cause my brain has a love! Brainlove is irrational. I don't need to know the experimental factors: I'm an Instant Believer (like instant coffee, not the best out there but convenient, easy and available). I don't even need to know any more, at this point, to be convinced. That's what blind belief's all about. And if Jane Austen loves my brain, I'm not gonna let my brain be held back by the trivialities of scientific skepticism. No, my brain would be a fool and my brain won't have that any more. My brain is through with loveless skepticism, my brain wants the wonder of belief.

Watch out World, 'cause my brain is gonna go to town and do what it has always wanted to do: engage in mutual love relations with Jane Austen.

(!)

Hey, hey, hey now. My brain isn't here to convince anyone else's brain of anything. Doubters be doubters. To brains everywhere, I say, "Live and let live."

According to Miller, "neuroscientists who have studied such things in the past have rarely distinguished between types of reading or observed subjects engaged in the protracted reading of complex texts." Yeah, I'm with Miller. Who cares what those neuroscientists have studied. Who cares what "such things" might be. Whatever. Our brains don't care. Our brains are in love. With Jane. I don't even care whether or not Miller has done "adequate" research on this subject before interviewing Phillips. For what hand can research lend the brain of love!

"I don't know much, but I know I love you-ou-ou. That may be all I need to know..."

...

Sing it, Lionel, but sing it to my brain. As for Jane, I'm afraid she's a no-brainer.

Calling all ye disbelieving neuroscientists. See, here. See, here:

A lot of good can come from love. In the name of (brain) love. Your skeptical brain can love (Jane Austen), too. Consider the wonders my brain has done for me (wow-wee...).

You want proof. Well, fine, then. It isn't any cell off my brain. I'll appease you.

1. This article inspired me. I am now going to "spread the love," like Nutella on a rock hard brownie, on Thursday and read it aloud to my Composition class.

2. This article inspired me. News Alert. News Alert. Bureaucratically Incorrect Warning: "Teacher Plans to Pleasure Students(' brains) with...Texts." From now on, I will incorporate pleasurable and pleasuring reading activities at the beginning of class in order to activate parts of the brain that I know nothing about (like the somatosensory cortex and the motor cortex). I will do this with the blind, unscientific, romantic belief that it will somehow productively affect their critical/close readings and engagement with information throughout the entire brain-pleasuring (in idealistic new-teacherly delusion, I hope) class experience.

Do I dare mention my new Pedagogy of Brain-Jacking-Off in the Classroom? No?! Oh, don't worry, ye of little faith and with your panties in a bunch: We'll call it "Janing-Off in the Classroom." Surely, that way, the Brains Without Love (i.e., Bureaucrat Brains) will never notice. Since when do the BWLs ever turn their attention to womanly pleasure, anyway? Our brain-pleasuring experiments in the classroom will just slip under the radar and work their pioneering magic spells via the underground, grassroots way of all of the great radical teachers of the past! The sinister goal (my unscientific theory): that pleasure, somewhere/anywhere in the brain, will increase students' (and teachers' - they matter, too-oo!) receptiveness to and ability to think analytically.

3. This article inspired me. I plan to revisit and finish Roland Barthes' "The Pleasure of the Text" during my "break" in December so that I might be able to use it as the base (or brain) of my Composition court(ship)/course for semesters to come... Ever so slowly or ever so abruptly, I plan to use the Pleasure Principle in teaching composition courses from now on. Anyone who tries to stop me clearly has no love in his brain.

If your pleasure-deprived brain is interested, do it a favor, immediately, and check out the article:

http://www.salon.com/2012/09/19/your_brain_loves_jane_austen/

"Who does your brain love, who does your brain need...when your brain comes undone?"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Send Wisevibes: Adanna, my Latest Poetry Publication

One of my poems has been published recently by Adanna: A Journal For Women, About Women.

The poem's title is "Reading Artvoice before an Eight O'Clock Performance of A.R. Gurney's The Cocktail Hour." In order to see the poem, you have to order a copy of the journal - a fine feminist journal that I, myself, would support if I were able to do so. I suppose supplying the art (a piece of it, at least) is a important form of support.

The link:

http://adannajournal.blogspot.com/p/about-our-issues.html

You won't be hearing much from me for the next couple of months, unless by some freak occurrence I have extra time.

I'm a teacher, writing center consultant and full-time graduate student. (...)

So, yeah, see you on the other side.

Stay wise (and send wisevibes my way, when you have some to spare)!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Scald-A-Miss Makes Stuffed Banana Peppers

Tonight I did something I've never done before. I'll give you three clue-words, and you can try to solve the riddle:

1. Hot

2. Wet

3. Banana

What did I do? What did I do?

Oh, you devil, you. You guessed it. I spent an hour in a tanning salon and seared my skin down to the reticular dermis. This is the embarrassing part: I slathered myself in so much Banana Boat tanning oil that on my way into the neon Parthenon I slipped and fell down on my ass into a pool of piña colada. I couldn't see a thing because when I landed my knee impaled the Super Sunnies into my eye sockets. I swear it was Rome on Speed with all the neon columns. I was tripping until I looked in front of me and saw an alien. A Roman Goddess Alien. She was suspended in the air in the lotus position, and she was naked. But she didn't have any sexual characteristics. No nipples, no breasts, no pubis. She had six rows of ant eyes. And stared at me with all of them. Didn't move an inch. I couldn't move either. Face to face. Freaky deaky.

Now don't you go assuming it was the injury that caused me to spend five hours in the sizzler. Don't be jealous of my natural glow, I'm sure there's a tanning salon right around the corner from where you live. No, the burn was not AT ALL from the long hot summer in the salon; it was from Scaldemis (that is what SHE told me her name was - NOT making this up...). It was Scaldemis, the Roman Goddess Alien in the tanning booth -with that freaky patch of orangutan hair on her pin head, who set up all the circumstances so that I would fall on my ass. She had something to tell me, and she seared it into my skin. What she had to tell me was not nice at all. I cannot tell you, though. I wish I could. It's just that I've learned my lesson well enough already. Once in the hot seat is once enough for me! To think what she could do to me if I messed up again. Nope. I'll never go in a tanning booth again, and I'll never doubt The Unknown again, and I'll never, ever, go within sixty yards of a bottle of Banana Boat. The stuff could have freed Prometheus.

The story is completely plausible - it's what you guessed from the clues I gave you, right? Well-put, well-put. I'm afraid it's off-put, too, though. Because tonight I did something far less likely to be long-lastingly superstition-inducing. Prometheus is still bound, while -ontheotherhand- I made something edible.

Yes, I made something of the edible variety. And we ate it. And it didn't poison us or elicit a case of irritable bowel syndrome or cause us to hallucinate about alien goddesses. We ate it and said...yummmm. THE SHOCK!

(As Willy Wonka would say, "Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.")

In real life, tonight I made Sue Mason's Stuffed Banana Peppers. Susie's 'Nana Peppers. Well, not exactly Sue's.

Let me try again: In real life tonight, I made Scaldemis' Stuffed Banana Peppers. Scaldemis is the daughter of Susie Q and the housemate of Sandra Lee. It ain't easy for a girl (amiss, ascald, a miss). No it ain't easy bein' Scaldemis. SanLee and SueQ give a girl a lot to live up to. In the kitchen, if ya know what I mean. And Scaldemis just ain't cut out for that kind of lay-bore. Though her intentions are warm and her skills are almost medium rare and her efforts at cooking are in good-faith (and in slow-motion), Scaldemis often scalds the ones she loves.

The love of Scaldemis has been known to burn the kitchen, everything in it - sink and all, right off the house. Scaldemis knows her...power, and she tries to keep it in check by minimizing her time in the kitchen. But now Scaldemis cannot do this (Avoidance Dance) any longer, she must face her destructive nature and try to make something productive out of the scald-'n'-mess.

Scaldemis knows how she wanders around the kitchen during the day, not knowing how to use what's in it. She opens the cupboards and the freezer, and looks inside. Then she closes them, and goes to the fruit drawer in the refrigerator to find something she can do that does not involve the mixing of ingredients or the use of special gadgets and equipment or the ... heating devices. She peels apples, cuts them into slices, and sprinkles cinnamon on top. Round of applause, please, for the girl does what she can. No one asks her to do what she loves best to do: light the candles. Scaldemis has never had a kitchen of her own, THANK GOD/DESS. She's always been in one of two kitchens, SanLee's or SueQ's, opening cupboards and looking for candles that she cannot afford to light (even if they weren't locked away from her for the time being).

Alright, Scaldemis aside for a moment: let's get SEAR-ious.

Tonight I tried to make my mom's recipe for stuffed banana peppers. I tried, and I suck-seeded. I even added my own scaldtastic, tunarific spin on it. My mom, Sue, is a natural in the kitchen. And Sandy is a pro. (As in: a proficiently trained cook.) It flows out of Sue. And Sandy lays it out methodically. Both are naturals, really. As for me, I'm a natural ... picky eater. Both Sue and Sandy accommodate my narrow dietary regimen. It's not a regimen, though I like using that word because it makes me feel like my Great Grandma Walsh, who followed a daily bathing/dressing regimen and spent two hours in the bathroom following it (she was ninety, who can blame her?). It's actually more like this: I don't feel like eating most things, but there are some things (including almost ALL vegetables, legumes and grains - and FISH) that I love. Some things are on Scaldemis', I mean my, No-no List. On the island of No-no, Scaldajessy eats alone. Sue and Sandy love cilantro, for instance, whereas I cannot stand the stuff. If I even so much as get a whiff of it I feel nauseous and make boisterous wails of disgust.

(What? No transition?)

My mom's kitchen has been, historically, a lively place. I love my mom's kitchen. It's comforting to be there. It's lively because it mirrors her: SHE is lively. Her food is lively. Though she throws a lot away, one of the things I love about her is that she makes massive amounts of food to SHARE. Her kitchen is WELCOMING. She is welcoming. Her kitchen is INCLUSIVE. She is inclusive. I love being in her kitchen because, for the most part, I can be myself. She takes a fast and effective but easy-going approach with food. Generous portions are a must. Excess is a must. Fat-content is a must. Yum-content is a given. She doesn't measure much and she cannot tell you precisely how she makes things - she just FEELS it, and it works. She is a talented cook, and I sometimes wonder why she doesn't make money doing what she seems to enjoy and is so good at!

(Transition, fo' real.)

I, on the other hand, am a far cry from my mother when it comes to being in the kitchen. I do have an improvisational tendency (I won't call it a technique- Bwaaahaaa), but I don't have the confidence or the talent or even the interest to do it regularly. Tonight, however, I did venture to make one of my mother's recipes (the banana peppers I used were from her garden in Buffalo, after all). Here is what I found - I found that I really am capable of enjoying the cooking process and am capable of making something (other than ham rolled up on a toothpick) that is edible and perhaps even (Scaldemis, strike me down in bales alight for saying so!) yummy. All of the forces were aligned for this to work, it seemed. The girls were playing (a cooking game...on our bed), I was in a calm mood and not feeling a pressing urge to do anything else, Sandy was working on class preparations on the computer, and my mother was very encouraging over the cellophone when she reviewed how she makes them. These are the exact notes I took (in the exact order they came) while holding the phone to my ear, listening to her describe how she makes them and trying to get her to be more specific:

"Mash cream. Drizzle olive oil into mixture with breadcrumbs. 1/2 block & 1/2 crumbs. 1/2 Parm. Evoo 'til moist. Take seeds out. Garlic and onion powder. Cook peppers 'til soft."

I had to ask for just a couple more details. You know, to avoid burning down the how-se.

I got: "45 min. 375. Broil for 5-10 min."

That was it. My mom and I said our goodbyes, and it was just the BPs and me. Eight of them (and they were small) and me. Scalding company?

What did I do with my BPeeps?

The first thing I did was soften and mash up 1/2 cup of cream cheese in a bowl. I added a tablespoon of parsley, a teaspoon of onion powder, and teaspoon of garlic powder. Then I added 1/3 cup of bread crumbs (Italian seasoned) and 1/2 cup of Parmesan. I whipped that up, and while I was whipping I had an idea. What could make this better? Why tuna, of course. So I drained a can of tuna and added the "meat" to the filling. It was dry and hard to mix, so that was when I pulled the Extra Virgin off the shelf (a new lass, too) and poured two tablespoons of her into the mi(n)x. My fork was bothering me, and I had an epiphany. Some voice in my head said, "Use your hands. Like when you used to help Grandma Mel and Grandpa Adam make their raisin meatballs. Use your yous-less hands. Work it like a meatball."

Work it? The hand business got me all excited and over-confident. I started thinking about how Juuuuuulia Child would have commended me for realizing that it's important to be fully present in the cooking experience - and that feeling the food, testing it with my hands, shaping it with my own hands (as opposed to the hands of the fork?), was a wise decision. It felt so good making the ball of tuna cheese. Then I washed my hands and approached the BananaPs. I remembered how my mom told me NOT to touch my eyes while I was de-seeding. Then I, again, recalled the time that Sandy touched her nose while she was cutting up some scotch bonnets. THAT was traumatic. Poor Sandy. It was incredible, as well. Her nose burned like hell, she couldn't breathe. She was in so much pain, I think she cried. Some kind of red boil formed on the end of her nose, too (unless I am making that up - but her nose was definitely red and her eyes were definitely watering and she was definitely crying out in pain). (Gotta be careful with them there peppers, yuh just never know.)

I sliced the peppers in half and brushed out the seeds with a grapefruit spoon. Then I laid them out and filled them (you-sing MY FINGERS) with the tuna filling. I sprinkled more Parmesan (as The Mother Cook ordered) onto the peppers - with my fingers. And I filled a spoon with some more EVOO (like evil if you speak with a cockney accent) and kind of flicked it (with my...fingers, I didn't blow it out) from the spoon over the peppers. I know this is a little late to mention this, but I did preheat the oven early on before I started slicing the peppers. That was it. I covered them in foil and baked them. The temp and time my mom gave me didn't work very well, a couple of them were black and crispy on the bottom (but still consumable and "yum-able"). I recommend 350 and checking them around 40 min. There was no point in broiling them, they were done enough. I had to laugh when I took them out.

They were so unattractive. Hideous, even. It looked like some non-human animal's soft stool served up on a urine-leaf platter. Sandy even told the kids we were eating poop. We offered them some, but -shockingly- they declined. I had to take a photo, despite the ridiculousness of the act. I don't feel so ashamed, though, after looking at Google images of stuffed banana peppers. Go ahead and check them out. Does that (do any of them) look like something you would want to eat? Hell no! The smell in the house told a different story, though, fortunately. My memory of my mom's banana peppers, matched with the familiar smell in the house, told a very different story. I couldn't wait to pop one of those soft stools into my mouth. (You guessed it: I eat poop!) It was goooood, too. So good. And, best part, I made them (and no one was hurt in the process, and no kitchen was destroyed). Even Scaldemis was proud.



Sunday, July 1, 2012

"Brave," A Preliminary Feminist Commentary and the Story of the Brave Little Tampon that Could

*Note: This post was made possible by my high quality tampon. Always ensuring long-lasting support without leakage or discomfort.


A Blog (post) about "Brave:"
An accompaniment to my forthcoming (eminent, as in TOMORROW) review.


Are you brave? What kind of inner demons have you slayed today?

As for me, I managed to keep my tampon in while having a constipated bowel movement. And I'm proud. Truly proud. Thank you for being happy for me (for us, I should say). She, saint that she is, is always happy to help.

There you have it: bravery. Or was it something else, like perseverance.

What the heck is bravery, anyway? I understand it to mean doing something despite fear.

I've been brave before. Take, for instance, the first time I used a tampon. I was eighteen. I had already been having periods for two years, and had been dousing pads in blood, ruining jeans, creating dot art on the tulip sheets. Then I met... a tampon. I was introduced, very kindly, to one. Laugh all you want, I did not know or want anything to do with tampons prior to my eighteenth birthday. The first time I met a tampon, I was scared to let her in my house. She had a hard exterior, and I was afraid she would rough up my clean living space. I looked her up and down, felt her casing and, with a witness by my side, allowed her to come in.

When she entered, my brow was furrowed and I made a sound like "eeeahhhhnnnniiiihhhhhhaaayyy." Once she made her way through the entrance, though, we were fine. We hit it off, and she made herself at home. From then on she came for week long visits every month (except for when I was pregnant and breastfeeding, but I sent her on a vacation to Budapest, where my ancestors welcomed her and did what they could to make her feel at home), and now I don't know what I would do without the comforts of that darling gal. I tell her each time she comes to my door, "Be a dear, now would you, and get in here before you catch a cold."

The only time she ever caught a cold was a couple of months ago, when one of my daughters took her coat off and sent her into some cold vacated cabinet. I didn't know what to do with her after that. I mean...in that state. I had to send her off to repair herself. She really does well, considering the circumstances. She always comes back like new, in the best shape. It's almost as if she had a thousand twin sisters. She never looks a day over sixteen. The girl never ages, I swear! She's a doll, though, she never says much of anything about all of the changes in me that she has witnessed (even, shhh, the changes to my entryway - and, let me tell you, that area, particularly the foyer of my house, has undergone some MAJOR renovations...She especially likes to tell the story about the time the original woodwork was dismantled by that freak earthquake...).

So the moral of the story, which is actually quite linear, is that I was scared of the tampon when I first met her, but now she's an important part of my life. I'd even go so far as to say that there are times when I ...love... her. I even sometimes...er, how do I explain this...miss her when she's off taking care of other business. Of course I love My Pad. My Pad is always there, too. I love My Pad, but sometimes I worry that I rub her the wrong way. Still, however deranged and inexplicable, there you have it: love is love. It comes when it comes (in...my house).

Bravery is quite simple, like a tampon. It's either there or it's not there. But when it IS there, describing it - in context, in detail - and understanding how it affects and is affected by internal and external circumstances and conditions are not at all simple.

I had my tampon over my house yesterday, and we decided to go to the movies together. She went along with the whole McFadden family and our two friends (yes, we have two), Cat and Ton-E, to see Pixar/Disney's latest animated film, "Brave." Of course from the title I expected it to be about being brave, but bravery was only one component in a complicated non-linear storyline about the difficult nature of relationships, the power of acceptance, the need for evolutionary advancement, and the importance of being true to who you are. Bravery is required for those to exist, don't you think?

I wrote a review of the film for Gender Focus today, and it will make its way into the cyberlight tomorrow morning. My tampon was instrumental in making this happen, for if she wasn't with me for the film I'm not sure I would have made it through all the laughter and tears. She provided the tissues and moral support, I couldn't have done it without her. When I'm dead and gone, and all the bravery in me has run dry, just remember that inside every great woman is a tampon (staying put, soaking it up, just doing her part because she cannot help but help).

Tampon aside (actually, she's still in), there are a few things pertaining to the film that I did not have a chance to say in my formal review that I will say here, where I'm allowed to be dirty, crude and overflowing. These are kind of like the outtakes from the article I wrote. I still think they are worthy of your attention:

"Brave," as I said, is about bravery. Doh! Not just thaaaat. It's about the kind of bravery that is called for in problem-solving, in mending broken relational bonds, in restoring peace and in working toward our own individualistic personal evolutions (which serves a greater purpose in advancing humanity's evolution). "Brave" is not a fairy tale, at least not the kind you might be used to. It's a survivalist's tale and a progressivist's tale.

I'm always talking about ripple effects, yes it's true. That's because I'm a believah in The Ripple (like I'm a believah in The Tampon). When one person experiences a moment of realization and growth, there is a ripple effect that is produced. For instance, when you have that Aha! moment in which you say to yourself for the first time: "Ohhhh, the tampon slides in and doesn't hurt when you're bleeding heavily...I gehhhht it, that's why tampons are for heavy days..." those around you might see your relief or hear your words and be changed by them...forevermore.

When Elinor, the queen-mum of the Scottish clan, first realized that she had to listen to her daughter, Merida, in order to survive - Merida, along with her mother, was deeply affected by this. In turn, Merida saw another side of her mother that, in turn, deeply affected her mother. And the growth just went on and on, ripple to ripple to ripple. The domino effect, anyone? I never liked dominos because if you messed up, you really messed up. Case in point: if you put forth love, the love spreadeth! The advancement of one individual affects, and adds to, the advancement of the whole (community or culture or species).

Isn't the ripple effect, when it carries with it bravery or any other virtue, what education is all about? Survival and living are educational - through struggle we improve our understanding, of ourselves, of each other and of humanity, and can pass along or spread that knowledge in a variety of ways.

I liked this film for so many reasons that I cannot even begin to describe to you. Only my tampon knows how I feel (deep inside) about this movie. I am so glad it was named after a virtue and not a character. That was a good start. I also enjoyed the film short, "La Luna," that was played before the movie. My tampon gave me extra support during "La Luna," since she knew it was almost a full moon and that I hadn't been to a movie theater in a long time and that I get all dreamy and feel all magical when I see a movie (I need a super absorbent tampon whenever I come face to face with a giant glowing yellow moon...).

There's also the whole feminist thing. The thing that appeals to my senses. Maybe not to my tampon, she's sometimes unsure whether she wants to be a feminist or a man. But to my woman-centered mind. Hell yeah I loved seeing a princess possess agency and act on her own behalf...as a survivor and thrivor...as someone who tries to do something to help herself instead of helplessly standing by and obeying while someone else, some past patriarchal law, dictates her destiny. Merida ends up having to fight against something, in a survivalist way. The plot takes off, though, when instead of trusting in herself to find a way to freedom, she doubts her own abilities and turns to the outside/to magic/to the witch for easy help. Turning to magic is just as bad as turning to her mother to dictate her freedom and happiness. It just won't work in the long run. Merida goes on a journey, with her mother, in order to find this out (to find out that she has the resources within her and to find out that help from others and control from others are two very different things).

"Brave" did a good job using a traditional patriarchal institution, the family, and doing something a little different with it. Traditionally, the father would take on the role of the family protector (and be the one to fight the battles); however, here mother and daughter go off on an adventure without the patriarch. They, the two women trapped by patriarchy's long line of confining roles for women, find a way to come through for one another and to face the wilds within and outside of themselves- they save the family (their individual family and maybe even the institution of family) by transforming it and changing it from the inside out. Without transformation and progress, the family would self-destruct.

Not fitting into a convention often requires not only the unconventional individual but those around her, in her family and community, to be brave - to face the dim realities of the day, to see what traditions are no longer working and what needs to be reevaluated and changed. Before any kind of break with tradition can occur, there is usually some kind of upheaval, some kind of battle that ensues. Progress is not a new (!) theme in Pixar films, but progress is relative and infinite. As long as there is life, there is evolution. Stories, like "Brave," are still necessary and educational.

And, knee-me-in-the-shin-right-now, it's still a new thing to see princesses -girls and women in general- as complex and role-defiant entities (not to objectify, just to describe...). Being a princess isn't exactly relevant to Western culture, yet the princess prevails in the strangest of propaganizing ways. Princess Mania. I'm a co-mother of two young girls, and though we ward off the excesses of Princess Mania and try to keep it all in check - we still recognize and sometimes scoff at its pervasiveness in our daughters' lives.

We, as parental guides who are sensitive to the heteronormative prescriptions of gender stereotypes, appreciate the reinventions of The Princess. We appreciate dynamic portrayals of princesses - the idea that a princess is not some pre-packaged cookie-cutter character, that a princess can come in all shapes and sizes, that a princess can wear pink or black, that a princess can dress for the ball all day or she can hide in her closet and read books all night. We appreciate films that, if they do include a princess, attempt to expand our (and our daughters') concepts of gender.

It is not just her love for and skill with archery that makes Merida an unconventional princess, it is her confidence and the way she trusts herself (at least by the end of the film) to know that it is only she who can know the path that is right for her. Early in the film, it seemed quite evident to me that Merida recognized, on some level, that living freely as herself is the only way to live. To do otherwise would be a kind of certain death.

If you consider historical figures who have challenged the gender norms of their times, such as Annie Oakley, who not only developed and practiced her sharp-shooting skills but also entered the playing field with other men and beat them at their game; there is a common theme of having to struggle to straddle the borders in order to find a place for yourself and in order to stretch the boundaries of social convention as far as they will allow. Whew, gees, that was a long sentence. See, I'm just that kind of queen - the kind that likes to write long, convoluted but mostly coherent sentences. Did you know that there are such queens, and that some of them tell stories about their tampons? Each woman is a pioneer in her own right, just by virtue of living in a patriarchal world.

Annie Oakley, who probably could have used a good tampon, was a great teacher. She taught her skill to many. Oakley's efforts to follow her passions and pursue her ambitions still teaches us now about ourselves, our culture, our ideologies and out humanity to this day. Yes, to this day. I say that because I often have a little voice in my princess-infected/infested head that tells me to do what's right, to do what's best, to please others and be self-sacrificing. I know Sandy, my wise parenting-partner, has that voice in her head, too. The woman can do anything, I mean anything, yet she would sacrifice all of her pleasures to fulfill her "duties." But do we ever question our duties or do we just become buried within them so much so that we forget, or never even figure out, who we are? Ah, well, that's a question for another blog post.

On an unrelated note, Mor'do, the demon bear holding hostage the ghost prince who was ruined by his pride (iye, yeah, it kind of has that effect in the film, too), might represent the ways in which certain traditions and our histories hold us, as families and communities, hostage - and hold us back from embracing the now, embracing ourselves and progressing. Mother and daughter (yay!) defeat this beast-demon by overcoming their own pride and freeing themselves from the binding and destructive dictates of the past.

There are two prominent perspectives in the film: old and new, past and present. They quarrel, as do Merida and Elinor. They hurt each other and nearly destroy each other in the process - one wishes to usurp, the other to rebel. They, in their pain, recklessly lash out and attempt to destroy what is precious to the other - daughter slashing the familial tapestry and mother burning her daughter's bow. Each tries to thwart the other's identity because each sees it as a threat to her ability to live in the present. Elinor, because she cannot make her daughter fit convention. Merida, because she cannot fulfill her role and her mother's expectations.

There is no magic nor are there tricks to following our own path, even if it is one not-yet traveled. It must come from within, from that place within us all that wants to be in its element, that wants to free itself from all pressure and expectation in order to be fully present in the now, that wants to maintain inner and outer states of being that are in harmony with one another.

One of the most powerful scenes takes place early in the film, when Merida rides on the back of her horse through the woods, freely shooting at every target. In this scene, she's in her element, free to be herself and be completely one with her joy. It's magical in and of itself, no magic from outside sources - only within. Also powerful is the scene in which Elinor, as a bear, discovers a part of herself that she previously had not known existed - the scene in which she allows Merida to teach her to catch fish for herself in order to please...herself (to fulfill her own hunger). Here, Elinor is not bound by convention, she is free to be one with the animal part of her nature.

Improving relationships by working together is certainly a commendable attribute of the film, but I would argue that it is more nuanced than reviewers are denoting. It is not about what's on the surface, it is all about what is bubbling beneath - the things, urges and impulses, within us that we try to repress and that by their repression bring about hostility, violence and destructive impulses.

I was scared there was going to be some sort of romantic love story involved, or that Merida would meet some dude along the way or pick someone in the end. She didn't, thank Goddess. What a relief. Her sexuality and romantic nature were left out of the story. Refreshing, I tell you (and that's coming from someone who loves a certain variety of sexual and romantic film portrayals...in other words, I'm a romance junkie, but I felt romantic without romance when I watched this film...I felt romantic about BRAVERY itself...). Self-acceptance, communal acceptance, coexistence might just be the most romantic thing of all.

Peggy Orenstein argues that "Brave" doesn't delve far enough or provide enough of a longitudinal example of non-traditional womanhood; however, I think the film sets the stage and leaves it up to the viewer to imagine the possibilities for Merida's future. Why do we need to know her future anyway? It isn't ours, it's hers. Isn't that what the film is about, that her future cannot be determined by any outside entity? We are not to know. It's hers, damn it.

By leaving it open, the screenwriter leaves it open for viewers to imagine. Imagining her future is better than writing it, because it always remains open. It also provides an open space in which young girls who watch the film can imagine a future for themselves. If the screenwriters had given an ending or conclusion in which we saw Merida's destiny, it would become another box in which young girls are prescribed what it is they should become. This way, any girl on the edge of youth can envision her own destiny.

A note about the lights in the stone circle. They can be interpreted as another force outside of Merida telling her what to do, as nature itself leading her down her path or as her own inner light leading her down the journey of her fate. If I am correct, by the end of the film, she did not need the lights to know where to go - she only needed herself, her intuition.

I think "Brave" is a realistic film. It doesn't matter how empowered we are, we will always face challenges - often ones which come from within ourselves and from within our closest circles. While not without its bumpy plot lines and a quick race to the end, not without having to appeal to various audience demographics (children, young adults, adults of every variety and persuasion), and not without the inevitable all-over-the-board critical banter ("You didn't do enough for the feminist cause, you should have done this, you should have done it as we would have done it"), the film does a lot and is notably and educationally progressive.

When it matters most, Elinor and Merida find that they possess some of the same qualities: above all, bravery. Bravery that stems from a deep empathy and love that they share. Merida is as flawed as her mother and through her journey with her bear-mother realizes this. They both see each other's flaws as well as the flaws within themselves yet choose the power of love over the power of their failings in order to save their relationship. It seems that each realizes individually her limits and flaws but that they discover collectively that their strengths, while not capable of eliminating their flaws and differences, ultimately can overcome them when it matters most.

What a beautiful love story. Mother and daughter. Person and person. Whomever and whomever. It's a romance. There, I said it. A mother-daughter romance. Not sexual at all, just exquisitely deep. Kind of like the way my tampon is loving me right now. Now that's what I call BRAVE.





Monday, June 18, 2012

Repertoire of Emotion: To the Lightness, Next Stop: Graduate School

To say that I often find myself feeling agitated and down in the dumps might be an understatement. I need a lot of healing in my life. Healing sources. And I welcome them, I go to them, I give myself to them in the fullest as often as I am able. Life, for me, is a ride. A really long, crazy ride. At least I hope it's long (undecided about the crazy part)! Sometimes it feels like my one-of-a-kind Grandmother (call her Mel because that's what I call her) is in the front seat and I am just a powerless rosary-reciting underling in the back. At other times, I start to worry that I am both the underling AND the Grandma Mel-Toad taking my underling self for one wild ride. My restlessness, agitation, despair, dissatisfaction, anxiety and stress come when they come. Then they go when they go. I'll never be rid of them. Fortunately, I also have other qualities (I think they're somewhere in the car of me...). Like contentment, peacefulness, jubilation and pleasure.

The balance in the car has sometimes gone to the dark back-side of me, and at other times to the light. I'm either hurting or in healing. Hurting moments add to hurting, to the great continuum of hurt that it is possible for me to experience. Healing moments add to healing, to the great continuum of healing that is possible for me to experience. And thus you have it - my life of hurting and healing. The balance was tipping into the hurt this morning, BIG time, and I felt I was just barely hanging on. Then, around lunch time, I sat down by the computer and saw that I had an email message. It was from the director of graduate studies in English at WIU, and she wrote to let me know that I have been accepted into the program and that I am being offered a full teaching assistantship for the 2012-2013 year (this means: a monthly stipend of $1060.00 -for eight months- and a tuition waiver). I read both messages, the one about my acceptance and the one about the T.A., aloud. Then I jumped up and down slightly, in a demented fashion. One moment earlier I was twisted up with self-judgment and self-criticism, the next: total shock and -dare I say- happiness. My whole body, including my face, was kind of reminiscent of a person who is paralyzed throughout half of their body. When they smile, only half of their lips rise so that no matter how happy they are they always look sad at the same time.

So yes, I jumped up and down, pathetically (because I was tired out from all of my hurting and elated and relieved at the same time), and said, "Yay" three times. Slowly, with a distressed smile and wavering tone of voice. "YaaaAy." "YaaAaay." "YAaaay." I think my face looked sad but more than anything I was feeling relief and gratitude. The load was lifted, for a moment. Gratitude sent it to the ether. Gratitude is one source of healing - when I experience gratitude, I feel a lightness and ease come over my body. As for relief, that also feels like a heavy load has been lifted. I think those might be two of maybe four or five of the best feelings in my repertoire of emotion. After I jumped and awkwardly hugged Sandy, while saying my "yays" of relief, another wave of emotion came over me. I sat down at the table to read through the email, and I just cried. It was like the universe just threw me a bone. Something to spend my day chewing on. Something to live for. I know that sounds dark and overdramatic, but I'll be the first to admit that I struggle with life. When something I hope for actually comes through, it's overwhelming to me.

I guess part of me, maybe subconsciously, just assumed that this (Grad School), too, was just going to be another thing that would fall through...another rejection, another failure, another hope dashed. When it wasn't, all I could feel was relief and gratitude. I also have been placing a lot of hope into the grad school pot. Grad school is like a lifeline to me. There are a lot of things in my life that I wish could be different or that I wish I could do differently. There are a lot of things about myself that I regret, wish were different, feel guilty about, struggle with, etc. I am trying to do whatever I can now to make my life better, instead of just being swallowed up by my own helplessness and misery. Grad school is my opportunity, my ticket to something - to an unknown, to a change in direction. Also, I have been wanting to realize some more of my independence more than ever. Being a stay at home mom has affected my perspective on practically everything - gender roles, relationship roles, heteronormativity and its effects on homosexual couples, everything. I have been more aware than ever of how much my upbringing, being extremely dependent on others and also very privileged, has affected where I am and how I am today. I want to go beyond myself, beyond my status quo.

I want to go higher and live a better life. I KNOW, and you cannot convince me otherwise, that my daughters will benefit from me at least TRYING to make my life better. I realize how often they see me frustrated, stressed and miserable. It's okay for them to see me like that, that's a significant part of how I am at this juncture in time. I also want them to know that there is more to me than that. I want them to know other parts of me - confident, passionate, calm, happy and fulfilled parts of me. I know that going to graduate school is good for me, good for them, and good for those around me. I cannot change any decision I have made in the past, I can only do my best to make my life work from here. And so, when I read the news, I cried. I didn't sob, I just read silently and let the tears fall. Tears falling is so much more relieving than all of my self-protectors building inside - guilt, anger, frustration, and so on. I am on my way. To where I don't know. But to somewhere, to something. That's hope. Feeling a sense of possibility and flexibility for the future.

Logistically speaking, I have a lot to do now. I have the rest of June and July to get my act together. It's gonna get crazy in a flash, I predict. I am waiting to hear back about the egg donation thing. Apparently the couple isn't sure about proceeding because they did not realize I live so far way (read: in the middle of nowhere) and they aren't sure they want to pay the extra fees to have things done in a city near me (read: Springfield). I have been dealing with a complicated case of writer's block in regard to my book, and the plan was to finish it this summer. Not sure what will happen on that frontier. I am supposed to visit Buffalo in July for my ten-year high school reunion, which was planned to take place at Salvatore's (I know, talk about your stereotype fulfillment - but we have a class member whose father owns it), but now they are thinking of canceling it due to low enrollment. I wonder if I was the only one who enrolled. Just kidding. There were about twenty of us. I'd still be happy to see one or two familiar faces from my glory days...yeah. Oh well. Guess no one else had the great time I had. That aside, I need to start reading and planning to teach in the Fall. That's not mentioning the kid-related events and everyday kid-care going on. That's also not mentioning poetry. Though I would love it, I am not in a Creative Writing program. Western got rid of their CW program a short while back. That's that. I might have to abandon my poetic ship entirely for a while. This saddens me, but I always return to the ones I love. I'm not one to get lost at sea permanently, I'm always on alert for lit ports.

Do forgive me if I suddenly become distant and neglectful. I will be taking a crash course in August, and I'm positive I cannot prepare or be ready for it. My days will consist of taking graduate courses, teaching English 180: College Composition 1, holding office hours, working ten hours a week as a consultant in the writing center, visiting my kids at the campus preschool room whenever I can, spending three hours of quality time a day with my McFaddens (5-8), and completing reading and writing assignments for classes (8-?). I anticipate that when I am not in my graduate cubicle or teaching that I will be working my ass off at the library. No, this won't be like my first semester at Hampshire College, when I spent half of my time doing school work, a quarter of my time worrying and another quarter escaping in music. Nope, it's gonna be me using every second of the day possible to get work done. Procrastination is a thing of the past (dear God, I hope) because it has to be. I won't have time to think. Just do, do, do. And can I tell you how much I am looking forward to that? Thank Universe!

I will be teaching in a computer lab, so I guess I'll have to be creative about the personal component. I'm excited that I get to choose a theme for the material we read. Gender and sexuality, anyone? Oh you bet I am plotting right now...heh, heh, heh. I will teach those mortals how to write AND how to re-conceive some of their ideas about gender. I may not be able to immortalize them or transform them, but I -will- ruffle their feathers and dishevel them. I will have to ask, on my first day of training, if we are allowed to listen to Philip Glass during writing periods. Yes, brainwash them using hypnotism into forming positive associations with writing! The English Department shares Simpkins Hall with a theater, right? I don't think this should be too much of a problem. At least I won't have to worry about...projection...

Wish me well, wish me luck. Or, better yet, wish them well, wish them luck...
 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Starting the Egg Donation Process

This just in:

I was notified by my egg donor registry that a couple has "selected" me as a donor (i.e., they want me to give them my eggs so they can produce a little baby). I was SUPER excited about this, because I am getting up there in age - and agencies have limits on the ages of donors (I believe the limit is 29 with my agency). This will likely all happen between now and August, if it ends up happening, so we're in for a ride.

Now I am reading through and signing documents, and tomorrow I will send them in and wait to hear what happens next. It's very interesting. Go and check out what egg-donation is all about. We do have a couple of concerns - one, regarding health complications and, two, regarding the financial and legal ramifications of health complications that might arise. The documents I have right now suggest that the agency is not responsible legally for issues of pain and suffering. While serious complications are not likely to occur, I want to be sure that I will not be held financially responsible for any emergency or other medical procedures that I might have to undergo as a result of the donation.

Some potential complications: structural damage to organs, adnexal torsion, OHSS, or an allergic reaction.

Look 'em up if you're interested. I'm sure if I have any serious complications I will either be blogging about it or dead. Give me blogger or give me death!

In a very small nutshell, this is what essentially will happen: 1. I go through all the hoops (medical and psychological exams, blood tests, etc) and sign the documents to make this happen. 2. I take medications to synchronize my egg cycle with the recipient's cycle (undergoing ultrasound exams and blood tests). 3. While that is happening, I take birth control pills to regulate my cycle. That will be a first for me, since as a nearly purebred lesbian I have never had to take birth control. That will be interesting, I'm not looking forward to it. But I will blog and all will be well. 4. I begin injections of a drug called Lupron. I take Lupron for 2-6 weeks by subcutaneous injection. Now, I must say a word about Lupron, 'cause I'm a little scared. I just read about three interesting side-effects of Lupron: severe depression, acne breakouts, and -my favorite- the growth of facial hair. Ah, facial hair. I'll finally be able to grow a beard, and I might even commit suicide when it's fully grown! I'm all for trying something new. A beard. I think I'm up for that. I laughed for a full minute when I read the side-effects. Don't worry, I will post a bunch of photos of me and my facial hair if and when it happens - and I'll likely look severely depressed in all of the photos. Oh, and don't forget to watch out for the acne. This is good for me, right. I'm always talking about how the physical is transient and superficial and doesn't matter. Let me put my money where my mouth is. Yes, this will further put to the test all of my internalized beliefs about gender. I was struggling with the leg-shaving issue. A beard just blows that triviality right outta the water. WOW! I might chronicle the whole thing on You Tube. Don't be surprised if I do. I'll definitely do it if I grow facial hair.

Okay, 5., I begin taking stimulation medications, injectable gonadotropins, once or twice daily. They replace my FSH and stimulate my ovaries to produce more than one egg. I might have to inject myself. EEK! And all the while I have appointments involving ultrasounds to track the number and size of follicles (and blood work to determine my estrogen levels). I'm feeling a little like a meat-industry whore (aka, a cow) right now. Me, the piece of meat that no one wants to eat. I must be tough, 'cause if I was fatty and juicy someone, if only a crow, would peck at me. Ohhh well. 6. I stop taking the drugs and thirty six hours before the retrieval I will be injected with hCG. I also start taking additional medications to prepare my body for embryo transfer. Gee, I'm gonna be a human science experiment. I feel like an alien abducted by humans. Do I value my life? Well, marginally I suppose. Just as much as the next abducted alien. I'm gonna make some beautiful alien baby for someone! I think I actually have superhuman genes, and I'm delighted at the idea that someone other than me will raise the baby alien. Back to the actual procedure: I think I have to give myself the hCG intramuscular injection. OUCH! I'll do it on camera. I like to share my pain with you, The World ('cause "it's a small world, after all"). 6. After the final hCG injection, I will have my retrieval procedure. DA DA DAah. The moment you've been waiting for...7. I will undergo an oocyte (egg) aspiration. In other words, a needle will be passed from my upper vagina into each ovary in order to extract the eggs.  I will receive intravenous sedation for comfort. Whew, I was getting Faaaareaked out there. Sedation. Sounds good. The older I get, the less I value life. Isn't that backward? Sedation, yep. I'm out.

7. After a brief recovery, a companion takes me home where I must rest for a day and refrain from unprotected sexual intercourse for the remainder of my cycle. Hmmm. That shouldn't be too hard. I think I can manage. I think I decided I was done having kids anyway (ha, notice the deliberate "I think" - like it's still foggy in my mind...did I say that, or???).  8. I take a four-day course of antibiotics to preclude infection. That's pretty much all of it, for me. Oh, 9., I get paid. Somewhere around $5,500. What could I possibly do with SO much money. I would so be a prostitute if I didn't have to encounter men. I wouldn't touch a penis with a ten foot pole if you paid me a million bucks. HA! Did that sound like load of B.S. to you? I like that part of me. I don't like male-ness or man-ness (cover sex and gender!). However, I would touch a penis for money. I've got balls, I know how to clean a toilet with a toothbrush. I was made for low-paying and filth-infested labor. Plus, I have experience - three or four penile encounters for the purpose of pregnancy and, God love our donor for accepting my bare bones accounts of our enounter, he let me try to make it work. It worked, I got pregnant. The prostitute who acted the part, that's me. I don't orgasm easily, but I'm a five-star orgasmic performer. And I like easy money. My Grandma Mel started me out right by paying me for TRULY odd jobs. So, 5,500 buckaroos. Earned by my next sexperiment. Finally, the wardrobe of vests, scarves and tunics I've been waiting for. Or maybe a semester of graduate school instead. If they will...have me.

It's all still up the air -the donation, that is- but it won't be for long. I'll be scanning in my documents tomorrow morning. Let the journey begin. I did scare myself when I read a woman's story about donating at 19, and then hitting menopause at 28. Now she wants to have kids and cannot because she doesn't have any eggs. But that's just one story, and I don't have all the details. Maybe she went was with a bogus unscientific basement agency. Maybe she had her eggs extracted by a butcher.

Wouldn't it be funny if I hit menopause early because of this? That would be fitting and possess its own INCREDIBLY ironic humor, wouldn't it? I'm fine with menopause at thirty, except for the fact that I'd like to stay ridiculously horny for at least another fifteen to twenty years. Where do you think my poetry comes from. Yes, Poetry of the Loins, that should be my first book. At least I've had two children already, just in case I have to remove an ovary because of this.

The worst thing that could happen is that I'd lose my life, but any number of things might cause me to lose that... Wait, we don't "lose" our lives. It's not like we experience the loss of our own lives. It would be YOU who would lose my life. So I guess I'm willing to take that risk, since I've weighed the factors and considered the costs. Funny, to think about death as I am preparing to help create life. I always think about death anyway. Death and me, we go together like birds without feathers.

I don't know yet about how the couple (the ones who said: SHE IS THE CHOSEN ONE) feels about anonymity. I'm all for openness, but I'll do whatever -sideways, doggie style, hanging from the rafters- on that account. I think I'd rather have my last name withheld until the being turns eighteen, but I wouldn't mind having contact throughout with the parental unit or units. I just don't want them to get a load of my You Tube channel, if ya know what I mean. I don't think they want a word whore for a donor. Speaking of that, maybe I should go get rid of a few videos...incriminating ones, like the ones about Paxil. It looks like I'll be needing some Paxil just to get through this procedure (JO-king).

I've had babies break open my VAG. So, to all of this, I say, BRING IT ON!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Advice from your Spinster Auntie, "The National Enquirer"

If you want to smell divine, open a bag of Bengal Spice tea (Super Powerful Sublime and Subliminal Spice Tea!) and rub it all over your unclothed body. Let the chaffing begin! This method might also be effective if you want to have an allergic reaction (to the cinnamon) - at least you will smell good when you arrive at the hospital.

If you want to get rid of your smelly waxy deposits and clumps of cradle cap, then rub baby oil all over your waxy, clumpy body.

And if you want to solve all of your worldly problems, rub five thousand dollars cash all over your completely naked body, focusing especially on your ass-region, and send it in the mail, without a return address, to any psychic listed in the back of "The National Enquirer." You should see the miraculous results in a matter of weeks.

If my Spinster status and your faith in the moral authority of "The National Enquirer" aren't enough to convince you of the ABSOLUTE EFFECTIVENESS of this simple and easy SOLUTION to ALL of your life's problems, then let me cite (SIGHT) my sources (my one sourcE -). She (The Source) is a POWERFUL wolfman who will LIVE FOREVER and who may or may not leave you in her will.

A FORCE of Nay-ture by the name of Biddy Bel, the Fork-licking Crone of Paradise Road, one day did these very things. Why, yes, she became one with her Spiritual Guide (Goddess CHA-CHING $*$*$). Biddy Bel CONNECTED with one of the very psychics I mentioned (one of the LIFEsav-iors in the Holy Pages of the Ultimate Guide to the Universe, "The National Enquirer") over the All Powerful Tele-Phony. Biddy Bel spoke to Her Guide from Beyond and Her Guide told Bel Bazzaglia to rub five thousand dollars cash on and around her PURE and EXPOSED loins, legs and leftovers.

Biddy Bel's Guide instructed her to send the CLEAN (?!) cash in the mail (to her). Believing Biddy Bel did as the Psychic Medium, Goddess Cha-Ching, asked and sent the money TO Her. The G-Cha-Ching GUARANTEED that all of Bel's family and health problems would be SOLVED. Can you guess what happened to Bel after she completed her co-urse? Biddy Bel met Baul. AND ALL OF HER PROBLEMS were Solve(nt). Just ask Bel, and Bel will tell you how Baul was sent to her from Gethsemane. Baul LOVES to CASH-IT-IN at the casino, and he cashes in all of Biddy Bell's Sexy Money. Do-ho-hon't ask ANY of Biddy Bel's family members, for they DON'T KNOW Baul the way Bel knows Baul. And no one knows Bel and Baul the way "The National Enquirer" knows them...

However, we all have Biddy Bel on our hands because we're all big spenders. Credit cannot protect you from the powers of Goddess Cha-Ching and her Assy-cash.

As for you, my Believing friend, I would not be surprised if you are undressing right now in anticipation of the rites of cashage. Go to the bank first, of course! Five thousand, it must be. For cabbage leaves will NOT do for this. Cabbage leaves will only bring you crucifixion...I mean, cruciferous vegetation. You must know by now that CASH, hand-counted, skin-coated, cold hard cash, is the key to conservation (salvation with a C).

The moral of the story: Do NOT wash your hands after you handle cash. You do not want to wash off the MAGICAL BODILY JUICES and GREASE that might have been pressed into that greenback by Bitty Bel herself. You don't want to disappoint G-Cha-Ching. Take the cash you carry in your hand(!)bag home and rub it where it matters most. Put your money where your mouth is, if you must.

This is a TRUE story. Bel is real. As real as "The National Enquirer." Do not doubt the power of the Goddess C-C.

Get thee to a supermarket aisle. Pronto.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Our Dearly Depleted Mother Earth

First, an F.Y.I. Gender Focus published a feminist response review I wrote about the docu-film, Vegucated. Read the article, here: http://www.gender-focus.com/2012/05/30/watching-vegucated-with-a-feminist-eye/

And, if you're so inclined, check out some of the Outtakes (Edit-outs) from the original, much lengthier, version of the article.

My one major "flaw" as a writer: writing too much. It still stands as true as ever. I like that about myself, but it threatens to push me and my work further into obscurity. Luckily, an editor can cut me down to size and make me (i.e., my work) more suitable for the masses.

But for you, my intimate audience (and those of you who ended up here because you were searching for "she stomped on his penis"), I will -pretty much- allow myself to be at liberty. At liberty, to write and write to my heart's content when its content is to write!

The Edittakes, not necessarily in order:

Whew, MotherofGod.

And I mean, a lot.  

A plant doesn’t have a brain, and therefore does not possess a form of consciousness similar to animal consciousness.  

Their shoes? Oh, well, it does require a little suspension of disbelief to relate to the chicken but not much.

It’s all just growth and decay.  While I look upon the human relationship with the earth through a dimly lit lens, I'm not afraid to preach about human rights.  I think humans, some of them at least, have the ability to seek a more advanced way of living.    

As a feminist, I will be the first to proclaim that the ways of the hunter are not for me.  I am a gatherer, and I think the way of the gatherer is the way of the future.  Ursula LeGuin, with your carrier-bag-of-fiction and your futuristic feminism, by all means, lead the way. 

But to Hell with my thanks, the only reason I get to survive is because I am bigger and smarter.  The animal doesn't want my thanks; it only wants its life. How I dream of the day when the deer and ducks rise up against the hunters, and say, "FUCK YOU, STARVE YOU MOTHER FUCKER."
What a shame it is that humanity is the parasitical adult baby that just won't GROW (!) UP.  

We inhabit a style of living based in service and community rather than in materialism and individualism.  We plant good seeds to replace what we take from the earth (for our consumption).    

There is logic and purpose in this: Mother Earth has given birth to us much in the way that the lemon tree gives birth to her lemons.  For our growth, let’s just say.   

She doesn’t walk up to us and offer us her teat; she has to be imprisoned and coerced into providing milk for millions of humans.    

But my hairy mammal sister, The Cow, is an abused mother.  As a mother with a dried up teat of my own, I want to help her out.  

Privilege and hierarchy are huge contributors to the disease of consumption that is plaguing Mother Earth, but that’s an issue for another article.   “Vegucated” might not effectively speak to a wide enough audience and I predict that those who are not the products of privilege and affluence might not find it all that charming.    

I identify with all prey –all potential victims, all non-violent beings, all peaceful creatures who have the capacity to coexist in harmony.  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another Poem (Informally but Emphatically) Published: I Met a Basic Me and I Adhered to Her Form

I am thrilled and honored to share with you the Daily News (not Snooze!) that a poem of mine is included in The Countess of Flatbroke's Treasury of Poems. Mary Meriam's Treasury! Wow! I wrote my first formal poem in the form of Basic Me. I wrote a sestina, which was quite challenging and fun, but it has yet to see the light of print-day. Mary Meriam, whose chapbook, The Countess of Flatbroke, was published by Modern Metrics, invented the Basic Me form. Meriam, graciously, has included my Basic Me, "Startle and Scram," in her Treasury of (Basic Me) Poems. Please check it out, and learn about the form as well as about Meriam's work at http://home.earthlink.net/~marymeriam/Countess/basic.html.

Meriam is the editor of Lavender Review and Filled with Breath. She is a blogger at Ms. Magazine and her poems have received much-deserved attention from both the Poetry Foundation and the New York Times (http://home.earthlink.net/~marymeriam/vita/).

Where is an MFA program when ya need one? No wait, sometimes communication with One Person can be like an MFA program, or at least like an MFA course. I know from previous experience because my wife has acted as the chair of several degree programs that I have either passed or excelled in with honors and flying maniac colors.

I like learning, what can I say. I did marry a professor, a scientist and a psychologist. I didn't marry for the purpose of learning. Wait. Yes, oh yes, I did.

I cannot say people don't come to those types of weddings. I can say sometimes people aren't invited, though.
 

Monday, May 21, 2012

International Live Readers' Society Update (It's been a while, I know, but we've grown): Self-Therapy, by Jay Earley

Dear Kindred,

It has been a delightful day. I've showered, shaken my hair dry, cleaned out the closets (!), baked oat bran muffins with the girls, laughed with my therapist and learned that one of my poems has been accepted for publication by a feminist literary journal. I received a rejection from the journal last week, but I guess it changed its mind because one of my poems is slated to appear in the summer edition of the journal. I will send more info. along as it presents itself. The best part about the ACCEPTANCE is that I actually felt it. I did not minimize its significance, I did not act as though I am not thrilled about it. I jumped up and down and squealed about the news to my wife-partner - who was happy and joyful WITH me.

I am joyful now, but I was rather joyful before I received the e-news. I was rather joyful because I am rather content. I am on a Joylightenment path. I am reading a book as part of the IFS (Internal Family Systems) therapy that I am in the midst of exploring. I am seeing a really lovely counselor and am discovering all sorts of things about myself. For instance, it is possible for me to lie on the deck, under a tree filled with birds and surrounded by traveling wasps, and to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the cool of the breeze. It is possible for me to just BE and be okay just being. Not producing. Not rushing around in a cloud of stress. Not thinking frantically of the next creative project on my list. It's fine for me to just BE sometimes - and not only is it fine, but I also enjoy it. I always THOUGHT having to sit still and "do nothing" was torture, but turns out my TRUE self likes it quite a bit.

As I was resting alone on the deck yesterday, I thought about a time when I was younger and I used to visit Chautauqua Lake with my family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, the guy my grandma just met at the pool). I remember being at Chautauqua Lake (Estates...before the tornado hit) in the summer, reading a Jane Austen novel and writing in my journal out on one of the plastic Adirondack chairs or on top of the nautical-striped down comforter in the twin bedroom. I was not worrying about anything, I was just enjoying being there...by myself...reading and writing. Joy! EnJOYing. I felt like I used to feel in Chautauqua when I was on the deck yesterday. I have been so bogged down in my own inner chaos and misery that I did not think such a thing could be possible. In fact, I forgot all about the days when I could enjoy MY SELF. Something is helping me to remember: Jay Earley's Self-Therapy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Wholeness and Healing Your Inner Child Using IFS, A New Cutting-Edge Psychotherapy (2009).

Whoa, long title. Don't let that deter you. And don't let the whole Inner Child thing deter you, either. I was uncomfortable with it, too. If you're anything like me (a GUARDED analytic and intellectualizing person who resists with all her psychological might the idea of feel-good, oooeygooey, pop psychology vulnerability and inner child fluff), you might be a little skeptical about IFS. If you are stuck in a rut, like I have been, then consider opening the book despite yourself. Actually, not despite yourself - despite your parts. Even if you feel humiliated at times, you'll be able to love yourself and your humiliated part right through the humiliation. And then all you will be left with is your graceful, confident self. IFS is one way of approaching HEALING. Try it on, try it out, try it in - and see if it helps you in some way. It's helping me.

I believe your self will love the fact that you are reading this book. Your self desperately wants you to read this book and do the inner work so you can connect with her, find her, let her be the wonderful leader of your parts that she is. I want you to read this and get in touch with your self. I am at the beginning stages of learning about my self, and I feel so good. I want that for you. I want you to read this book WITH me. You don't have to tell me you're reading it, you don't have to sit and talk over tea with me about it. But, my precious friend, please read it in your own time and in your own way. I am happy for me, and I am so glad for you if you read this. It does require that you set some of your judgments aside in order to access your self, but it's worth it. I cannot tell you how EMPOWERED I feel by this. My self is a joyful self. Sometimes I feel sorrowful and I hide from it and fight it, but I believe my center self is joyful and at peace. I am so relieved. I was starting to think my center was a center of sorrow.

All of my exiles have brought me down and my protectors are trying to protect me. But what about myself? It's there, waiting for me to access it and be led by it. I am totally buying into this, for the moment. I don't care what anyone thinks, right now I'm a believer! My therapist shares in my joy, it's great. I haven't yet begun Chapter 3, I plan to take some time on the first two chapters - thinking about, writing about and exploring my exiles, protectors and (best of all) self. So you still have time to get your book and start reading if you want to read alongside me. Read at your own pace, I stress this. It's not your average book. It's not really reading material, in fact. It's emotional-spiritual work. If you buy this book, think of the process of reading AS therapy. Don't think of it as summer reading, think of it as nutrition (soup, if ya like soup - and I do) for your soul.

I love you and I have every expectation that this will help you bring out your joyful self and improve your life. THIS is the ripple effect. I am passing along a gift that I have been passed. Let's find our selves together. Let's read and find joy. Let's. I will share some of my journey with you on here. Most of it will happen with me, my SELF and I. Most of what I am experiencing during this summer journey will happen privately. I have started journaling. It's been hugely healing just to start. I LOVED writing love letters and journaling in high school but two exiling experiences happened that interrupted that joy - my mother read my journals and punished me severely for what I wrote AND someone I love (someone I am currently in exile from) destroyed my journals. It's been ten years since I have journaled from a place of love, romance, joy, freedom and self-acceptance. 2012 is the year of return.

I just wanted to share with you my good news because you and I are so very good and deserving of joyfulness and joyfulnews. This, whatever this is, is life-transforming. I have hope. I thought it was impossible for me to feel joy even in the midst of terrible circumstances. But now I have hope that it might be possible for me to be okay, for me to maintain my loving and stable self regardless of the circumstances I am in or the circumstances surrounding me. Happy almost-summer! I am not awaiting return, I am returning. EnJOY your night, and talk to you soon.

Love,
Jess

Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the Garden with Eve Ensler: A Grrrrrl Revolution

Here is the unabridged introduction to my review of Eve Ensler's "I Am an Emotional Creature." You can find the abridged full review of the Call to Revolution on the Canadian Feminist blog, Gender Focus, at: http://www.gender-focus.com/2012/05/18/my-father-met-eve-ensler-and-they-both-wanted-to-tell-me-that-i-am-an-emotional-creature/


Eve Ensler, meet my father.

Father, meet Eve.

 

That’s the way I would have introduced them if I were present when they met.  But they met on their own, without me.  Yes, as you might guess, my father’s emotions ran high.  He saw Eve standing by a lovely tree.  She wasn’t afraid of the snake slithering around the tree’s branch.  She lifted her hand, slowly.  So slowly.  She placed her palm beneath the ripe fruit and waited for it to fall into her hand.  She looked the sir-pent directly in the eye and bit into the flesh of the fruit.  She let it run pink down her chin and she did not look down or wipe away the juice.  The snake didn’t speak because he knew his words did not have any power over her.  He watched, in awe. And so did my father.  My father and the serpent watched Eve eat the fruit on her own, at her own will, at her own pace.  They were her voyeurs, longing to be so bold and unafraid.  Then, he felt a wave of courage come over him so he went to Eve’s side, hoping he could pick and eat his own fruit the way she did.  With sensual and emotional power.  Without a second thought, without wiping his mouth with a leaf.  But he was too afraid to say anything at all to her.  The serpent scared the death out of him.  My father did not want to look into the serpent’s eyes so he ran up beside Eve, grabbed a piece of fruit from the tree and took off.  He took the fruit home, calling it an apple, and gave it to me, his daughter.

Oh.  Wait.  Different story.  So sorry.  That must have been ANOTHER father.  My father didn’t even tell me about his encounter with Eve; I only know about it because I received a copy of Ensler’s Best-Selling book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World in the mail (from him, my father).  That was back when the book first came out, in 2010.  I was shocked that my father would send me the book, and I wondered if he was being sarcastic.  As I studied the front and back covers, I figured out that he was serious.  I paged through the book and knew it would take me an hour or so to read it, but I didn’t read it at that time.  I put the book in my nightstand drawer and left it there until yesterday.  I’m sure many of you have books in your drawers or on your shelves that are waiting for you to come to them and spend a little quality time with them.  This is one book that should come out of its hiding place.  Right about now.  If you have any inkling, even a remote one, that you are an emotional creature, do something rash and get ahold of this work.  Then read it.  Give an hour of your time, that’s all you will need, to develop your emotional intelligence and remember your inner girl and all her superpowers.  I want that for you, I want you to be a tour de force in the world.  Maybe my father wants that for me, too.  I credit Eve.

It was Eve Ensler’s intuitive sense, after all, that led her to giving the Vagina a voice (multiple voices, in fact) in The Vagina Monologues.  Likewise, it was her fierce, unapologetic anger and delight that fueled “I Am an Emotional Creature.”  Eve, of the Garden of Eden, and Eve Ensler, of the Garden of Girlhood, have a lot in common.  They are both intense emotional beings.  They both share a powerful ability to change the course of the world in one single juicy act.  They both share an unstoppable hunger for what they already possess: insight.  And they are both like you and me.  Ensler’s latest work is defiant and self-fulfilling.  It’s self-indulgence that benefits all of humanity.  The Voices of Girlhood in her book are the modern Eves of the world: daughters seeking pleasure, fire, freedom, independence and agency, even if it requires willful disobedience.  Eve (Ensler) wants us to stand up, pick our fruit and enjoy eating it.  She wants the international daughters of the world to realize that they possess something that threatens the current state of affairs in the world – something so powerful it could turn patriarchy on its head.  We possess the power of emotional intelligence and spirituality.  If we come together and share our intelligence and agency, we can and we will revolutionize gender, sexuality, and emotional existence.  If one girl, say one named Eve, can stand alone and disobey the patriarchal order of things; imagine how transforming it would be for a group of girls and women to stand together in their disobedience.  Imagine the power of our disobedience, our intuitive knowledge, our sensuality and our pleasure.  Ensler’s book will light a fire under your ass if one is not already lit.  She, and the voice(s) of girls everywhere, will call for your participation in the Girl Revolution.

Out of the Box Teas

This morning, I came up with an idea for a tea shop. If I ever have a tea shop/house, maybe one in the corner of my classroom or maybe a retirement project, it will be called: "Out the Box."

Out of the Box Teas
Out of the Box Tea House

You know you wanna drink Out of the Box.
You know you wanna Drink Out.

I already have a vision for the design of the building. There are three boxes. An inner box, an outer box, and an outdoor box. Picture three squares, one inside the other inside the other. The innermost box is the space in which the teas are brewed and from which they are served (the brewery/kitchen/cash register). The teas come out of a box, literally. Not a cardboard box, a box in the wall of the innermost box of the shop. The inner box will be open so that brewers and sippers can do so in communal harmony. The outer box is the indoor drinking space. There are square windows around the square outer box. Each wall of the square will be painted with a unique design concept relating to the TEAS (or to the regions in which the base authentic teas -black, green, white and oolong- are derived). The walls of the outer box will be educational - they will reflect the cultures of different teas in a variety of ways. On the outer side of the inner box there will be a tea bar - to encourage communication between the inner and outer boxes. Tea condiments will be available on one side of the inner box tea bar.

Also in the outer box will be out of the box tea-related products (for purchase in the box window of the inner box). The seating in the outer box will be out of the box, but all tea served in the shop will be served out of the box. Mini glass and ceramic cartons of tea that can be poured into square tea cups. The outdoor box of the three box tea house will provide outdoor seating options on all four sides. There will most definitely be a hammock and/or a swing hanging in the outdoor box deck for those of you who want to drink and swing. The outer limits of the outdoor box will be another bar - facing you directly out of the box. Those drinking tea on the outer limits bar of the outdoor box at Out of the Box will drink over a glass counter beneath which plants and flowers will be living. Kind of like a greenhouse right beneath your tea-holding hands. You, guests at Out of the Box, will help us care for the plants in our greenbox bar by dumping any teas (without cream or sugar) into the tea hole (watering hole) of the greenbox. We will try to grow herbs (such as mint and lavender) and chamomile in the box garden so that you can drink teas with additional ingredients that you helped grow in our Out of the Box community garden.

We will do our part to take care of the earth (and you) by asking that you purchase a reusable mug to bring in and out of the box so that we can keep the use of recycled paper products to a minimum. While we will bring you the latest Out of the Box teas, we will always have your favorites on hand. Out of the Box teas will be healthful, challenging, growth-spurting/sprouting, trans formative teas. Never your average loose leaf teas, that's for sure. At Out of the Box we will confuse your concepts of traditional and herbal teas. Some day that herbal teas are not teas, but we like to think of them as postmodernist teas. You will want to study and memorize the Out of the Box sky menu (a tea-rific Genesis of Tea, a very simple story of the birth of tea via a Sistine Chapel-inspired ceiling menu). If you want to drink Out of the Box, you have to look up for guidance first! Or, you can just ask me about my favorites and I will offer you my Out of the Box opinion. If you are like me, you might be interested in Sinnerman Cider Spice (WHITE tea with cinnamon, allspice and orange dominating overtones), Burning Man Ginger Chai (a chai tea in which ginger and chai are equals), Mooncake (a macadamia nut and amaretto dessert tea), Runaway Bride (a blue lavender herbal tea), Peacepowder (a mix of traditional gunpowder green tea and night-blooming jasime pearls), or one of our Seasonal Blooms.

Sound like a place you want to sip and steep? Me, too. There are probably already tea shops with this name, but I don't know about them so for now I will delude myself into thinking I coined the out-of-the-box tea house concept. If you want this concept, please take it. Just give me a little bit of credit and invite me to the grand opening! Come on, make my dreams come true. I wanna be the creator behind the business. I just want to do the creative aspect - be the Out of the Box Think Tank.

I'll be your Think Tank, you be the Builder. Each of us does her part.

Pinkies (and thumbs) up!