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!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tribute to my High School Teachers: The Diagnosers!!!



If all of the high school teachers I love/d were in a band together, the band would be called: The Enlightenments. It would be a wacky band, for sure. A mix. A little classic rock, a little punk rock, a lotta funk rock, some rock opera, some straight up classical, and a bit of blues strewn through a jazz base (not a jazz bass). 'Cause, at first glance, they appear to be jazz catz. After reading this you might have some idea as to which instrument each would play. I have my ideas. Who would play the triangle and who would play the keyboard and who would handle the stringed instruments. So many posse-bilities. I, all too willingly, would be their guest vocalist and interpretive dancer anytime! They would perform in coffee houses, mainly; but they would have to up their venue to art galleries and jazz clubs because of how incredibly popular the gig would be. Teenagers clawing at and climbing up the yellow school buses just to get a glimpse of the garden-bag-toting guitarists! The Enlightenments. The raddest band to hit the circuit. For Straight-As and Drop-Outs alike. Totally gnarly. Stone Age meets 80s meets 19th Century style. Funk that shit!

Yeah, dude, The Enlightenments know how to rock soft and stroke hard. Not to be confused with the Employeez - a band my dad was in in the early eighties, right before I was born. Bill Mason was a high school drop out, anti-establishment musician. He had dreams. He wanted to do what he loved (making music) and be with his high school honey (Susie, my momma) and make it BIG. Ass-pirations, we all have them. Some of us make them come to life - like me, I ass-pire to be transcendental English teacher and established anti-establishment writer and TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW. I know what you're thinking: WOWZA. Yes, I share the sentiment. I look good, real good. I'm in tip top shape, I'm on my way. Just like my pa. Speaking of Pa, he was a member of The Employeez - a drummer. They made good music. The lead singer and song-writer was Roger. That's all I know about him. Roger, he sounds employable. I fancy he might be a fine pickpocket. I think he was going in more of a pop direction than my dad and the other members wanted, but that's sheer speculation. I wish you could hear the album (well, the (one) cassette, I think only one copy remains...and I will find it during my next trip to Buffalo). My dad was the drummer. Picture big lips and a big space between his teeth, long, almost-mullet coarse black hair, a skinny waist in tight black jeans and a orange and brown striped short-sleeve button-down shirt. The Employeez, they could've made it big if I hadn't been born. Word, yo. I, little crying baby Jesby, was the end of The Employeez.

My dad had to decide to either give up the baby for the band or give up the band for the baby. Bill Mason gave up the band and became a real live employee. Ah, life kinda has a way of trying to suppress the music in our souls. He chose me (or: he chose my mother who chose me - but that's just my spin on the sin). He, ack patriarchy, chose to have The Baby (WAHHH, they'll never get rid of me...). He became an employee at Amherst Electronics on Sheridan Drive, right near Tony's Restaurant. I never got to go to Tony's as a kid but I feel nostalgic when I pass by from the days of Amherst Electronics. We used to go back into this electrical room (another clever name for a band: The Electrical Room. See, I'm just a powerhouse of creativity. Hire me NOW!). I don't know what it was, but there were buttons everywhere. It smelled like machines on fire. My father would sing "Hey, my name is Joe, and I work in a button factory..." I miss those days. The thrill of a candy machine, if only it could do it for me now.

I was born because the Employeez disbanded and let go of their collective dreams. No more Employeez, just eight-pound me. Gee, now I feel kind of guilty. How can I make it up to them? Hmmn. First, I'll try to get a job so that I can bring The Employeez back to life by bringin' home the bacon. Then I'll form an all female band (of English teachers - my English teaching colleagues) and we'll call ourselves the En(g)lightenment Employeez. One of our hit songs will be "Go to Work." Another will be, "Hit the Books." And, just to harken back to the days of the first Employeez from Buffalo, New York, we'll do a remake of the popular "Soap Opera Sweetheart" called "Shakespeare Sweet Tart." I'll wear my cardigan sweater and vintage matchstick cords for that - and we'll all have on neon wayfarer sunglasses. A glow in the dark band of English teachers. We gonna rock it, fo sho. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Tonight what I really want to write is a tribute to the fabulous, the fetching and the farfetched high school teachers who affected so deeply my little old life.

The relationships I formed with my teachers in high school were more memorable to me, on the whole, than those I formed in college. I don't know if that is because of the way I was at the time (friendly, personable, generous, enthusiastic, joyful - I like to think of myself as bearing some resemblance to the infectious little woman I used to be, though I probably complain and frown a lot more now); if it was a result the environment (of being a student at, what a former professor of mine likes to call, the Craziest High School on the Planet - a school without walls), if it was the open-classroom design of Witchesville East; if it was the specialness of the teachers themselves (teachers aren't a dime a dozen, are they?); if it was the result of my rapid brain development; if it was some quality about the high school classroom, in general, that renders it more conducive to community-formation, nurturance, and higher (spiritual) learning than other types of classrooms; or if it was a combination of all of those factors. I tend to interpret through a comprehensive and collaborative lens, so to me it makes sense that the forces (for spiritualists and witches) or factors (for mathematicians and scientists) combined to make my experience with the upper half of high school life the quintessential beginning to the Age of my Enlightenment.

Yes, in high school I got high every single day, at night and during school hours, on enlightenment. I also created and performed full color-spectrum art, so my Age of Enlightenment was also my Renaissance. Holy unholy! Never mind the Dark Ages that were going on at home. I guess it was the mother of all intellectual births during a time of chaotic -and medieval- upheaval. A cosmic border-crossing, time-traveling fragmented triad of awakening. If you look in isolation to the Enlightenment Dimension, remembering the influence of the Dark Ages and the Renaissance but not getting bogged down in it, you will find that my awakening was the birth of my learning: of questioning, of considering, of hypothesizing, of experimenting, of theorizing, of answering, of questioning again. Before my awakening, I possessed neither sense nor sensibility. I was the embodiment of a Dark Age on the verge of radical change. Change or die, it would come to that yes.

The person who bore me into sense and sensibility was Ms. ?. Insert mystical moonshine. Bow down now, in a moment of silence and reverence, and think of the good she did me. You should. 'Cause she did me a lot of good. I believe if I had never met her I would have remained a prisoner to my ignorance and stayed in a period of ubiquitous darkness for a long time - possibly forever. It seems very likely to me that I would not have been able to survive that dark for much longer. If I had the queer feelings (that had always been there) and no one to teach me (introduce me to) the notion that I might be able to articulate my inner experience. She was my someone. She is the dark horse/star (I first wrote "hose" - Freudian Fingerslip?) of MY Enlightenment and the most misunderstood member of the band, The Enlightenments. For she plays the words and she plays them well. She plays the words AND turns the page. And when she stops playing, the words play themselves. She was an Enlightenment (and Eng-lightenment) and a Renaissance unto herself. She brought me, not completely out of my Dark Ages, but into my Enlightenment and Renaissance. She taught, and I learned. And then, after that, I taught and she learned. Then, we taught and we taught. Some of The Enlightenment band members spread rumors that she was going to break apart from the band to start a new band of her own, called The Pedestals. It never materialized though, she's still a member of The E. The woman rocks in the classroom, she is the most clever and creative person that ever...taught in a high school English classroom.

Ms. ? and I, together, shared a mutual period of Enlightenment (of birth, of awakening). I do not expect that there will ever again, in either of our lives, be THAT kind of magical and spiritual and perhaps scientific period of awakening Enlightenment. Abstract, come to life. It did. It most certainly did. The fact that we shared it with each other, both filling the roles of teacher and student, connects us immeasurably (or measurably, if you think you're the scientist to solve that equation). So, to my Eng-lightened mind, she, Ms. ?, is the epitome of high school education. The fine arts, the finest. But I'm en-lightened enough to know that learning -through creation and art, through the memory of the dark- does not end until the mind reaches its last moment of light-dark death. Ms. ? is teaching others, like me. She is learning from others, like me. She is sharing moments (maybe even periods) of Eng-lightenment with others. I am so touched by the thought of it, I cannot describe to what extent. And I, carrying my Dark and my Light with me, am doing my best to enlighten myself and others. She has a gift, the gift of Eng-lightenment, and she's busy drawing from its power source for the benefit of herself and others. Thanks be to Goddess! She is a crone, the most fascinating manifestation of all of the goddesses. Self-proclaimed, too. I love her to the moon and back (and then to the moon again!), and I will wait to see her and make my dedication in her honor until the moon ceases to be lit by the sun. That long. I'm an enlightened fool for life, thank you very much. I am not indebted to Ms. ? for the way in which her lessons and our personal connection influenced my life. I simply adore her, admire her, respect her. Oh, don't get me wrong. She's human alright (See Dorothy Loudon for details). She's human and she can't stand on a pedestal on her own for very long, but she is the most interesting and brave kind of teacher there is. If you appreciate wit, intelligence, creativity and straight up (well, sort of) sarcasm doled out fairly and appropriately, then you will appreciate Ms. ?. If you can get a seat in one of her classes, go - go now. Spend all your life savings and buy the ticket. No refunds. If you are unsatisfied with her lecture, then you get an F and you are a loser (I don't mean to be rude, even a loser is lovable!). I am enlightened because I ended up in her classroom. I did not even have to pay the price of admission. I got in for free. Lucky me! I cannot say enough about Ms. ? and so I won't try. Light be with her whose gift is enlightenment.

Enough about that Super Schooling Sorceress; there are others from the East, not quite so mighty and connected to my Lovelightenment but amazing just the same, that I want to tell you about. Mrs. AB, for instance, she was the English teacher who preceded and followed the Ms. of P(ower). Mrs. AB was lovely. I miss her. I love the way she engaged so fully in books - she cared almost too much. It was unbecoming to many students, but delightful to me. I appreciate that, because I, like her, care too much. Mrs. AB reached out to me when I was a sophomore in her English class. I had been collecting articles and writing journal entries about teen depression. A journal entry I wrote, in response to a teen-magazine article on teen suicide, worried Mrs. AB. She called my mother before talking to me, because she was concerned. When I came home, my mother told me about the whole conversation and asked me about my journal. I felt extremely defensive. I had not, in fact, been feeling at all suicidal. I just had a lot of insight into and empathy for suicidal ideation because a couple of my close friends had recently (by recently, I mean a year ago) shared their struggle with depression and suicidal ideation with me. I also had this one incident during Freshman year, during the period of suicidal disclosure with my friends, that I attempted to press a steak knife into my wrist for about twenty minutes after I had been fighting with my mother over my decision to abstain from participating in some choral or drama activity.

During Freshman year, my mother and I had it out quite a lot. Nothing like during the Dark Age of my Enlightenment but still intense nevertheless. By the time I made it into Mrs. AB's classroom, to read A Prayer for Owen Meany and discuss the concept that "believing is seeing;" I was at the point in my pre-birth (uteral?) development in which I wanted to blather on at a high speed about my every thought. Oy, I'm afraid I continue the tradition even now that I am safely (?) out-of-the-womb! I was very upset at the time that Mrs. AB called my mother. I was concerned about my image, worried that she (Mrs. AB, not momma) would think less of me if I was suicidal. She struck me as an opinionated, somewhat-controlling, box-loving person (hey, it takes one to know one), and I wanted to be in control of her perception of me. Having her speak with my mother felt infantilizing. My mother, back then, represented to me over-control and domination. I wanted to be an adult (still do...) and I saw my mother as being the one who was holding me back from being my adult self. She was standing between me and maturity! I didn't want her standing in my way, as calculated and Joan Crawfordy as that may sound. And I surely did not want anyone in my Adulthood Circle (Mrs. AB) finding out, from my mother, that I was a child. Eek! I wanted her to know me the way I wanted to be known, not the way my mother wanted me to be known (or saw me).

Even though I felt anxious and annoyed at Mrs. AB for being reactive, I admire her for her  direct, hands-on (the phone) approach. I see her decision now, as a full-blooded adult (which, it turns out, is not all it's cracked up to be), as a responsible and competent one. Though I think if I were in her shoes, I would talk to me and assess the situation further before calling home. You never know what a student is facing at home, sometimes you might make things worse when you're trying to do the right thing. There is a chain-of-command that make sense: asses the situation by talking to the primary person involved, and then -if necessary, if you fear the adolescent is a threat to her own safety- protect the adolescent by speaking with a school counselor or social worker. Mrs. AB was relatively new to the job. I do understand, though, that suicide is a serious issue that sometimes requires competence, quick-thinking and immediate action. My mother and I reassured Mrs. AB that I was not suicidal, and then it was business as usual. Which was fun and enjoyable. I loved Mrs. AB's discussion-based classroom. She was an excellent counselor to her students. I share a love of counseling, which is why hers was my favorite class sophomore year of high school. Feelings and interpretations. Interpretations and feelings. Disclosure and analysis. And more disclosure.

We were two peas in a pod, in terms of our passions and interests in the psychoanalytic and humanistic reading of books. Each of us knew how to take an intuitive counselor's eye to the page. Sometimes the fact that we were so alike would cause us to get into snarky situations, but only on rare occasions. Both hot-headed, both emotional, both a wee bit moody, both loving, both theoretically compassionate, both judgmental in practice, both fiercely loyal to Ms. ?. Mrs. AB introduced me to literature. I credit her with helping me enjoy an academic class for the first time. She cared so much about the plot and the characters (perhaps more than the language element) that I could not help but relate. I cared about the plot and characters (in my soap operas!), too. Human relationships, I was all about it. I was so touched by her level of caring for the narratives within the narrative that I could not help but care about them, too. Ditch the soaps, get thee to a bookshop! That's sort of what happened, thanks to Mrs. AB. She expected us to do the work, she was sincere and sometimes naive. I was a huge advocate of her in the classroom. When other students were cruel or inattentive, I aligned myself with her and supported her classroom by being a role model for other students. I engaged. It was fun, we had fun - and I wasn't used to that in any academic class prior to hers. I was scared of literature and of anything academic at the time, and she made it approachable. She did not do for me what Ms. ? did (heh - In her classroom!!!), but she prepared me for what was to happen when I entered Ms. ?'s class. Mrs. AB was prep for Ms. ?. God love her! She loved learning and wasn't afraid to be nerdy about it. God love her! I can't say enough about how much her friendship mattered (matters) to me. She was inspiration, truly. And fun. She was a sister in our sisterhood. The Order of the Sisters of Love and Language Arts. An instrumental (!) sister, indeed.

The Head Mother of the Order of the Sisters of Love and Language was my Garden Club buddy, my pen pal and my English teacher. My god! My godmother, actually. Mrs. R. One of the most important and pivotal people in my life. BR came into my life like an angel at exactly the time that my mother was disowning me because of my uncovered lesbian identity. BR was not the source of my Enlightenment or my Renaissance; she was the kindred spirit to my heart. She was a true blue friend and a godmother angel. The funny thing is that BR did not start out as my teacher; we met each other in a social context and became friends. I heard an announcement for Garden Club on the last day of school in 2001 and was afraid no one would show up. I thought about how awful it would feel for the teacher, BR - whom I did not know well at all back then, if no one showed up at her meeting. Garden Club didn't seem like something that would attract the typical teenager. That explains why: I was the girl for BR! I decided right then and there that I HAD to show up. So I talked to a close friend of mine, who knew BR, and we went to the meeting together. We were the only ones there. Thank HEAVENS we showed up. I swear I walked into that room and there was a halo shining about BR's beautiful head. She shook my hand firmly and warmly, I smiled and giggled, we walked around the building to talk about putting flower beds in the tree boxes, she told us excitedly about what she envisioned for the club for the upcoming year, I felt incredibly touched by her sincerity and belief in the club - and that was it. We were instant friends. She introduced me to gardening, to herself, her life and all the things she enjoys. I became a gardener because I cared about what she loved and I wanted to share in the joy that she wanted to share with us.

It could have been anything (if not gardening, then knitting); but it was the fellowship that was essential. Depending on one another, enjoying the company of one another, brightening each other's days. She took an interest in my singing and shared all the things she loved with me. I shared all the things I loved and all the things I thought she would love with her. We had the best kind of relationship there is. We were there for the joy, for the journey. We had different tastes in books. I brought her bookmarks that I knew she would like and drew chalk vines on the edges of her boards. She asked me to water her ferns. Every job she gave me was a gift. I know that now more than ever. I like to help and I thrive that way. She could tell I needed to feel important and needed, and she gave me opportunities to feel that way - to feel helpful. BR was the mother I did not have at the time. She took care of me, brought me her copy of a book to borrow if I did not have one of my own, gave me a ride home if I did not have one. She asked me questions and gave me the gift of being able to share my answers with her. She laughed at me, she let me laugh at her, we laughed together. She whispered to me about her no good, very bad days in the corner of her room and let me borrow her floral blanket if I wasn't feeling well. She brought me with her and taught me how to do things - how to care for plants, what certain flowers needed, who to call to order the bulbs. Then she gave me the phone number and let me make the call myself.

My BR treated me like an equal - like a competent and helpful person, while also caring for me in a motherly way. How I love that woman with all my heart and how I sometimes believe in God because I cannot fathom the necessary timing of her entrance into my life! How I miss the days when I could sit in her classroom and read - and feel at home. How I miss the days when I could run (skip and hop) to school to go up to the second floor and set all of my bags under her desk for the day because I knew she would let me and because I knew she would be as happy as I was to have me do so. How I miss being able to bring a lemon poppy seed muffin to her because she told me how much she enjoys a good lemon flavored baked good. Being able to give was the gift she gave me. Giving and receiving, that's what it's all about: teaching and life. BR, my warm and wonderful godmother teacher guardian angel, brought such joy to my life. I don't care what she plays in the band, she's a natural. She'll warm up any venue. I felt her sincere, unabashed, uncomplicated love every day. She was my best mate in high school and she'll always be my godmother in life. Bless her soul!

There were many teachers and staff members I liked and admired so very much in high school. Mr. Spinley, who made us laugh, even when we failed his U.S. History exam. Mr. Harsch, who would raise his eyebrow and give us the "I don't know about this" look when we made ridiculous videos involving Barbie dolls in his media class. Mrs. Scheiderer, with her gorgeous silver-white bob, who would sing french songs and sternly encourage us to improve on the next exam. Mrs. Taylor Coté, who would always greet us with a smile and good cheer when we paid for our lunches in the cafeteria. Mrs. Hallock, who was soft-spoken but kind, welcoming and helpful when it came anything and everything. Miss. Hill, who was as old school as they come and as sincere, too. Mr. Kryder, who was beloved by almost every student and made an art of his laid-back and out-of-the-box approach to teaching. Miss Bonanno, who showed us her Buffalo Jill cheerleading moves and didn't care who the hell thought she was out of her toddler rocker during Government. Mr. Miranda, my second or third Italian cousin, who shared inspirational philosophical quotes with me, before he grew his hair long enough to braid, and who was almost adopted into our family by my parents when he and my sister became best buds. I know I am missing so many, I did not have a chance to know them all up close and personally. Of the ones I knew, I liked most of them. Some were more memorable -to me personally- than others.

There were two teachers, in particular, who helped me and brought joy into my life during my senior year. Mrs. Hartley and Mrs. Day. I am using their real last names because I don't think they would mind a bit if I did. I have only positive things to say! Mrs. Hartley was my math teacher. She was funny. Funny in an Ellen DeGeneres kind of way. In a fast-paced city kind of way. I can still imagine exactly how her voice sounded, the Boston accent. Loved her humor, the woman was god awful funny. Every day, funny.  Not mean, just funny. She even made me feel funny - and that requires talent! She could also dish it out with the best of 'em if someone was giving her some bullshit excuse. She knew how to cut to the chase, cut through the lies, cut through the excuses, cut through the nonsense and get to the point. I guess that made her a great math teacher. Aside from those generalizations, Mrs. Hartley means so much to me because of her big, big heart. She was not fake, she was not a liar, she was not a pretender. She was real. Real and approachable.

I used to have to get these things, these yellow slips, when I was a senior in high school. They were pieces of paper torn from a yellow legal pad and folded in half. On the outside was "Jessica," always in the same slanted cursive. On the inside was a short note, reading something like "See you at 11:30 today. - Mr. Shusset." See, the note was from the social worker. I had to see him a couple of times a week to discuss what was "going on" in my life. He was the person assigned by the administration to make sure that unlawful behavior, anything that the school could receive unwanted negative attention for or a lawsuit over, was not occurring. He had to keep an eye on me. Trust me, I assured him that I had it all under control. I was an actress, I could play whatever he wanted me to play. Usually being myself, with a good deal of censorship, was enough. And I suppose I really did have it all under control...at the time. Whenever I received a yellow slip appointment reminder, it was always delivered by Mrs. Hartley. She was a perfect messenger. I could not have hoped for a better one. When I first had to receive the yellow legal (!) reminders, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I had never had "this" kind of attention directed toward me. I was the Broadway star, not the one in the social worker's office. But not really. Really I was the one in the social worker's office - and everyone got to know about it.

Mrs. Hartley helped me through that adjustment. She looked me in the eye and asked what was going on. I think I must have tried, in some small way, to explain. She didn't need an explanation. As soon as she got the idea, she got the idea. She looked at me, directly, and told me I had nothing to feel ashamed about. She told me to come talk to her any time. I knew she meant it, but Mrs. Hartley always meant what she said. You could trust her. She let me know that I had nothing to feel ashamed of and that I was just as good as anyone else at East. She was brave and bold, and she could and would say whatever was on her mind. At first I was embarrassed about the yellow slips, but over time - because of Mrs. H - I felt proud to receive them. I felt proud to be me. I stopped feeling ashamed. I felt a sense of purpose, and I believe that I could help other students by being open and honest about my problems. About the fact that I had to get a yellow slip and see the social worker on a weekly basis. About the fact that I was a lesbian. Mrs. H gave me strength to do so because she let me know she was not ashamed of me. What once made me feel uncomfortable soon made me feel special. I loved getting the yellow slips, it was my favorite part of Mrs. Hartley's class. It gave us a moment to interact at the beginning of class, when she would call my name, "Miss. Mason," and then hand me slip. As I became more comfortable, she picked up on it and treated the yellow slips with humor as only she can. She would say the funniest things about the yellow slips. It became a source of mutual connection. Mrs. Hartley was a source of authenticity, like so many of my beloved teachers at Witchesville East.

Mrs. Day, my favorite physical education teacher of all time and one of the most energetic and fun teachers of all time, was a huge source of joy during my upper-division high school era. Mrs. Day, she was motherly with me. And she had a shaved head with bleached fuzz on it - she and her husband had identical hairstyles, both wore white sneakers to school every day and both were gym teachers. Can you get any cuter than that? Well, she was cuter than him. I'm biased, though, as you know. And holy moley was she an enthusiastic life coach. An excellent role model for teenage girls. A leader. An embodiment of feminist ideals. How I HATED having to swim in phys ed class until I was her student, but HOW FUN she made swimming. How I hated going to any physical education class with any male teacher, and how completely AWESOME and fun she made every phys ed class. You have no idea how we laughed during synchronized swimming. The things that woman encouraged us to do. She wasn't self-conscious, she was confident. She got into the pool, turned up the volume on the Aretha Franklin and led us in the goofiest and most fun ever water-dances. She took it seriously and she enjoyed it. I could not help but feel an incredible amount of joy while I was making the goofiest water-dance moves ever. I didn't even care about the stubble on my legs or the way my shorts were forming giant bubbles in the crotch region. I had a blast in the freezing cold water, and I have Mrs. Day to thank. She loved music and dancing, and I bet she would be so sad about Donna Summer's passing.

Mrs. Day danced, everywhere.  In and out of the water. She was our dancing teacher (yes, dancing was part of her curriculum and yes I was allowed to dance with other girls though I doubt I ever did...though I'm pretty sure I danced with Mrs. Day on at least one occasion). On the gym floor, we danced the Hustle, the Bus Stop and the Cha Cha slide. She danced around the room and offered us tips. She was like a dancing sun, a star - a bright burst of energy shooting from here to there and back. I don't know why, but she took me under her wing during my senior year. She treated me as though I were special to her. No explanation, she just did. She overheard me saying to someone that I did not have money to buy my sister a Christmas present. That same day, she told me she had an idea about what I could do for my sister. The next week, she asked me if I wanted to make (yes, sew - on her machine) my sister a pair of pajama pants. A day later, she brought me a few fabrics and asked which my sister would like best. She said I could make throw pillows for anyone else I needed a gift for.

At the next gym class, I walked into the gym and in the small exit hall in the back was a table with a sewing machine on it. I had never sewed in my life. I felt scared for a moment, like I was about to get piercings in all ten of my already torn up fingers. She ran up to me, with all of her excessive enthusiasm, and led me to the sewing machine. I didn't have time to be scared, she believed in me. She told me to wait, and she proceeded to instruct all of the other students to engage in some sort of class activity. Then she came back with me and spent the whole class period teaching me to sew and guiding me through the process of sewing. I managed to do the pants with the sailor boat prints (for my sister) and a purple cloud pillow (for Ms. ?). She made two extra pillows for me and delivered them to me at the end of the day. I will never forget her act of kindness and generosity. Nor will I forget the cheerful way she greeted me in the upstairs hall of East, when I was on my way to work out with my friend, Elaine (Mrs. Day let us listen to music and walk on the treadmills during ninth period whenever we wanted to do it). I felt uplifted, just being in her presence. She had a spiritual gift, and I am so glad she was a teacher - so glad she was a teacher while I was a student. She retired when I graduated, and I don't know what happened to her other than that she and her husband moved to Florida. Mrs. Day was a woman you want to pass in the hall. I hope all of you pass someone like her on your way to wherever you're headed. I'm lucky I did.

And I'm just as fortunate to have worked closely with the last teacher I will tell you about tonight. Keith Wharton, Director of the Drama Club/Plays at East from mid-2001 to late-2002. Keith was a spiritual leader at East. I love the man, yes I love the man! He defies all stereotypes that I have about men, and I love him so! He is a visionary. He came to East with powerful creative, humanistic visions and ideologies. His visions were much like mine (though I did not know mine well at the time). He is the only male teacher that I will focus on, at length, in this tribute. He was not a typical director, not a typical leader, not a typical man. He worked with me, more as an equal than anyone else at East, and we - together and with the members of the Drama Club - formed a community of leadership. We were leaders among leaders. Keith had a vision, and he reserved a place for me (and for everyone else) in his vision. What he did with Godspell was sensational and transformative. Godspell was powerful because Keith's vision was powerful. Keith's vision was the same as mine: the vision was love. He believed in the power of love and he lived like he believed it. He was not afraid to be moved, to be changed, to learn to love more. He believed in the human power of love as the strongest life force - stronger than war, stronger than hate.

Keith directed me on the stage, but he also directed me in life. He gave me the space, the techniques and the means to shine and to be a lead teacher. He made me a leader, not just in the show but in my life. Behind every great leader, there is a Keith. A visionary, a teacher, a leader. Keith taught me to tune into my strengths in order to work for change in art and in life. He supported me while I lead, supported and guided other students in need. I felt, in partnership with him, that we - you, me, all of us - could change and were changing the world. He shared his ideas with us, he listened to us and valued our ideas. He felt part of something important with us - again, the theme of giving and receiving arises. Keith was a giver and he had the visionary courage to give in a powerful way. All of the teachers that I honor in this message shared his courage and ability to give.

I bet right about now you are wishing you were one of my high school teachers. Part of the band. Rockin' out, singing out, preaching to the choirs. Lord, listen to me, I wish I was one of my high school teachers. Wait, I was. I am. Glory to God on the highest! See, I love teaching and English so much that I speak in Catholic tongues and forget all about my anti-patriarchal, secular humanist identity when I speak on the subject. So be it.

To all of my high school educators, especially to Ms. ?: Please accept this tribute for what it is, a thank you. Thank you. I love you.

And now I can go about my night and sleep for five hours. Tomorrow I can go about my day, just a little groggy, and look to a bright future with The Enlightenments! Lead vocals, Jess Mason McFadden.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Come Out of the Closet and Come Check Out : My Open Closet

Welcome! Come on in, Dearest. Come on in. Come a little closer. Or sit over there, in the corner. Sit or stand, still or in-dance wherever you like. I just want to feel you near. I just want to perform for you. You're here, in front of My Open Closet and I want you to know, before you know anything else, that I love that you're here.

Now, I feel I should say something, relatively brief, about the name change. Mason is most definitely my middle name, but I often debate over the use (the over-use and under-use) of the concept as my blog title. While it does represent my feminist ideologies, I worry that it is not universal enough and that it will not make enough of an impression in the world of the Search Engine. I don't know and I don't have a lot of feedback to work off of (my network is quite limited), so I am working with my own devices (mainly vices) to try to come up with a concept that accurately and creatively describes what happens on this blog. So what happens? I think what happens is Consciousness Theatre. Theatre of the Mind. A Mind Theatre is very much like a closet - the doors of the m-theatre are like the curtain. Curtain up, curtain down. Curtain in, curtain out. Up, down. Open, close. Here, though, the doors never close.

A closet door will remain open for good if you chop it down with an ax (that's what my aunt's neighbor did to my grandparents' door in order to "save" her when my mother played a practical joke on her and pretended to be a be a serial killer breaking into the house...yeah, that joke went well. It tore the -door- off the place!). If the closet door is closed, no one gets to see, know, feel, or love what's inside. I find that the most interesting of stages, of closet stages, are the ones that are, first and foremost, OPEN and the ones that have a lot of curtains. Curtains of every texture, thickness and color. I bet you can guess what kind of drapery I prefer for my closet-stage. If you guessed sheers, you would not be incorrect. My Closet is OPEN to the public. I have an open closet, I try to have an open mind. The doors (of my mind) have, at the very least, unlatched and swung open. My Open Closet, the STAGE and mind of me, has its fair share of colorful backdrops, legs, borders, teasers, austrians (yes, apparently!), contours, tableaus, scrims, travelers, and grand drapes. Of all of those, it is the color-changing scrim that I fancy most! I'm considering taking the doors to my Open Mind/Closet/Theatre off altogether. It could happen, you never know.

For now, I'll just anchor the doors down to the sides of the closet and leave My Closet Open. For you to witness, learn from, unlearn from, curse, loathe, love, whateveryoulike. And that's because I like me and I like you and I like us in this arena. What makes this blog different than other blogs? Well, for one, it's mine and it reflects my creativity and life experiences. So the name should reflect me. I am not my blog, but who I am directly influences what goes on here. I am Jess, and Mason is my middle name. My blog is a space in which I express myself, critique and speak about my life experiences, art, popular media, anything and everything. What is it that makes what I have to say different than what all of the other people in the world, writing about similar things and sharing themselves, have to say? That's a very good question. One that I don't have an adequate answer to - my understanding and concept of myself is evolving. I think my gimmick, forgive me, is that I am forthcoming and open about my sometimes out-of-the-box/sometimes in-the-box thoughts. This blog is like an open window, or an open door, into my mind, into my thoughts, into my heart, into my life and my being. Or at least into parts of all of those.

My Open Closet is a safe space for you because when you come here you're the audience. I'll do all of the acrobatics. I'll do all of the lifting and levitating. I'll even do the digging and the drowning. I'll fly and I'll burrow to and for you. Sit back and relax, you. You don't have to do a thing. You don't have to be on stage. You don't have to be seen or on display. The choice of whether or not and how to participate is yours. You are a welcome guest at my free-for-all show. YOU are an audience member at my (peep?) show. Yes, "Come to my window, I'll be home soon." Come to my window, come to my open closet. And, please, look inside. I'm here. I want to be seen, I want to be watched, I want to be witnessed. You can sit in the dark and watch the show. No one has to know who you are. Or you can come in the back of the chakra house, and slip in and out (almost) unnoticed. I know a perpetual stage show is a little daunting. Ibsen pushed the limits with Emperor and Galilean. I will push them further here. You really have it good, though. You can come whenever you please, you can excuse or recuse yourself, you can remain in the shadows or come into my light, you can stay away for years and return again, you can stay for years and then never return, you can witness a train wreck and then feel safe again in your home, you can witness a train wreck in your home and then feel safe again in my (our) theater, you can go eat a burger and come back smelling like salt, you can pull out your hummus and eat it right there in the dark, you can spill your crumbs on my floor, you can spill your heart, you can slurp through the best part, you can light the sparks. By the way, sometimes rhyming gets out of hand in My Open Closet. I'll try to keep it to sinimum. You have all the power. I have all the power. We're separate, powerful, entities, free to be what Marlo Thomas calls "you and me." I'll probably be you sometimes, but never completely.

My Open Closet is an open closet of emotion. Every and any emotion. I feel it here, you are free to feel it here in the shadows or in the light. You are most welcome on my stage, though I have no problem being on the stage alone. On the wall of my open closet stage there is a motto (or two dozen). I think one goes something like, "Coming out of the closet, so you don't have to!" Or is it: "Keeping the Closet Open, so you don't have to." It's definitely right above, "You don't have to come out of the closet, you can just cut down the doors." I'll do and say some of the things that you could only (and might not ever) dream of saying, and I'll do and say some of the things that you wish you could say. Sometimes I'll cross your line and you'll send a rotten tomato my way. I don't mind, really, I'll take it right in the kisser if you send it. And then I'll dish it right back out to/at you, because I have audience-vision (like night vision) that allows me to know exactly where that tomato came from and from whom. If you can't stand the seat, get out of the opera house! There is a diva on hand in My Open Closet. There is also a clinician. And every other necessary role you should imagine. I know every nook and cranny in this godforsaken theater. I know every phantom and ghost. Let's just say: I have a lot of friends in high (and low and sometimes small) places.

Back to your experience. I want it to be a good one, for the most part. If any heinous acts (axes) are committed (thrown) during any of the ACTs -or during the length of the whole life-long production- please stay seated and remain calm until further instruction is given. In the case of an emergency, the exits are all in the rear! However, don't expect the Fall of Rome. No, Rome wasn't built in a day and it isn't likely that Rome fell in a day either. If, Satan forbid, this House of Her-err should fall in a day, at least you will know that YOU will survive. I feel good knowing that you will survive. As for me, many of my friends are ghosts so I'm accustomed to and unafraid of death. I only hope to die in the spotlight!!!

Everything I do, I do in my open closet - for you and anyone who wants to attend. When I do my homework, I do it on stage. When I take a crap and comment on how it looks like a demented squirrel before I flush, I do it on stage. When I fuck up as only I can fuck up, I do it on stage. I don't want to do it in the dark. I don't want to do it back stage. "Curtain up, light the lights," I'm about to menstruate and you don't want to miss this. Oh, oh, it's coming. Now dim the lights (i.e., I say dim the lights and then run back stage to dim the lights and then run back on stage to say 'thank you' to myself for dimming the lights). I say "Dim the lights" because I want to be able to make menstrual and other dark arts for you - and I want you to see me in my shadows. If you stick around My Open Closet, I'm pretty sure you'll see it all here.The Universe in me (in My Open Closet).

A word on the look of the theater: I know it's a little hard to look at. It, like the work on the scrolling stage/page, is a work in progress. I kind of wish I had this blog set up at/on Wordpress, but I started it here on Blogger so I don't want to leave what I have started. I'm not one to start all over again, I'm one to keep on truckin' (Subaru-wagonin'). That said, I also want to make it known that I am not a technology-savvy person. I neither have the funds to hire nor the connections to enlist a "blog crew" (stage crew) for my scrolling theater. I could really make this place shine and sparkle if I knew what I was doing. It's more complicated than sweeping and mopping the floors. You're bound to get a bit of dirt and dust in the face. My in-sin(cerest) apologies! I want My Open Closet to be a personal space, I do not want it to look like other theaters. Yet I have no idea, technically, how to make that happen. I have to use my own photos for background art because I own them (and because I want them to be original)- but that isn't working to my benefit at this juncture in time. If you want to help or you know someone who might help, then by all means please help. If not, then sit back down and zip it. I would like to build this Ship of Fool (no "s") up enough to be happy with the way it moves and operates. I would also like it to be attractive because I like attractive houses.

So, no, My Open Closet does not possess the funds or resources. My Open Closet is a whore house and a poor house, but "If I were a rich man / Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum / All day long I'd biddy biddy bum..." All day long I'd make things creative and attractive (they'd be attractive to me, like exposed pine beams). I want to look professional-enough and unprofessional-enough to give you the Opera of the Open Closet Mad Tea/She Party you deserve. This is a one-woman theater, this is one-woman closet. I have to be my own producer, director, stage manager, costume designer, set builder, props master, choreographer, tech crew, sound manager and performer. I'm used to handling ONLY the performing portion. I'm a player. All the stage's a world. Unfortunately, player that I am, right now I'm an awful clutz when it comes to managing and carrying out all of the other duties. But I'm all this blog's got. I'm all I've got. And, apparently since you're here for the show, I'm all you've got. (Insert sound from the sound machine in your imagination: wah-waaaah). I'll try to improve my modus operandi as time goes by.

The first person to open my closet was the First Lady of the School of (Closet-Opening) Language Arts. She, bold sorceress that she was, cracked open the door with her hands tied behind her back. Meaning: she did not crack open my door intentionally; Sheer Coincidence (i.e., God) put us both in the right place at the right time so that as we were walking along, long long, we bumped into each other, head first, and cracked our closet-mind doors open on one another. I can't say what happened to the doors of her theatrical mind after that; I can only say I thought about chopping down my doors ever since the incident. The second person who got ahold of my doors was my mother. She tried to shut them. Close them, bolt them, put a large boulder against them to keep them shut. It didn't work. What was inside my theatrical closet-mind was more powerful than her bolts and boulders. Thus, the doors never closed again. THANK SHEER COINCIDENCE.

And, once again, welcome to My Open Closet. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Wives of Madame English: My English Graduate Program Application Personal Statement

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Jessica Mason McFadden
All Rights Reserved (YEAH, that's right, *?*?*?*)
WIU Department of English, Graduate Program
Spring 2012

Part I: The Parable of Paths
One day you wake up and decide to take a hike in the woods.  So you grab what you need, probably a pair of walking shoes, and you make your way to the woods.  You notice the humidity and the bird calls, but you don’t think about the hike you’re about to take. You’re on your way.  That’s what matters.  When you arrive at the edge of the woods, you see a slip of paper under a rock.  On the paper are the words, “If you want to hike, you first must choose the path.”  You look up and see that there are four hiking trails with distinct arrow markings directing you toward the entrance of each footpath.  You start to wonder, “Do I have everything I need to make this decision?  Should I go talk to someone first?”  You go to the first path and look into it.  The sun is direct, and there are several varieties of cactuses and a band of thorny devil lizards crossing the path several feet in front of you.  You want to get away so you move your feet– toward the next path.  This path is lush.  Wildflowers are spread across the vast fields in the distance.  The rolling hills are green, the skies are blue and untainted.  You look twice and laugh.  This path is picturesque, you think, but it is not the path for me.
You walk over to the next path’s entrance.  You are captivated, instantly.  Mountains.  High peaks.  Waterfalls, high drops.  Summits, cliffs, gorges.  You can hardly take it all in, it’s so foreign to you.  Your mouth gapes open.  The contrasts: astounding.  The white peaks tower and loom over the green and grey tors.  This place looks good, objectively.  Then, unexpectedly, you feel a wave of doubt come over you.  You’re unsure.  You think this could be the path for you, but you’re ambivalent.  You ruminate to no avail.  “This must be the path,” you tell yourself.  You start walking down it and immediately trip over a skull-size chunk of orange garnet.  Your ankle throbs but you’re so consumed by the slatted shades of amber light over the surface of the garnet that you don’t notice.  You think about what everyone else will think when you show them the garnet and tell them about this path of contrasts.  You hobble on a little further, but as you walk, the sun begins to set.  The unfamiliar now seems terrifying.  You’re overwhelmed by the shadows falling on you.  You start to feel chilled as you think about the uphill climb ahead.  Turn around or keep going?  I’ve gone so far, you think; what if I go back and then regret it?  What if there’s something ahead that I can’t see that I need?  You cannot decide for yourself so you think of what others would decide for you.  Something tells you they would tell you to climb, so you start to climb.
Your muscles ache so you climb harder.  You start to curse and say terrible things about all of it.  And as you climb and curse, you lose your footing and skid downward until your foot lands in a pocket of sediment.  You cling to the rock, kneeling down, and you start to cry.  You don’t know why you’re crying. You have no answers so you do what feels right: you make your way down the mountain and back onto the path.  You have one more look around.  You think, Yes, I could do this. I could stay here.  But do I want to?  You now realize that the choice is yours.  You feel free and you begin to run.  You run as fast as you can out the way you came.  You’ve doubled in speed and momentum.  Your feet know more than your mind.  You trust them.  Then you start to imagine what it is that you want to find on the fourth and final path.  You imagine a variety of deciduous trees.  You imagine a variety of climate changes: mild summers and incredible winters.  You imagine hollows and hills, lakes and tiered waterfalls.  A contained but roaring fire, books, bungalows.  Community gardens and orchards.  And people.  People sharing.  Giving and receiving.  Laughter and life.  You imagine life.  You imagine your Eden.  You imagine home.  You long for it.  Before you know it, you are on the threshold of your path.  You see it.  You know it.  You love it.  It is your path.  Your feet knew, your feet were right.  It was the path that was with you, in your heart and mind, before you set foot on it.  You do not hesitate; you dance onto your path without reservation.  Your wonder and your ease are one and the same: you’ve been here before.  You fall into place.  When you finally notice that your feet are tired, you find a place to rest them.  And then you continue your dance-walk down the path for the rest of your days, because your path is your destination.

Part II: The Extra-Personal Statement
My sixteenth birthday was not a sweet one.  I did not have a Sweet Sixteen.  It was not entirely sour, though, either.  It did not fit into any one of the taste sensation categories, not even umami.  On my sixteenth birthday, I tasted it all and I tasted it all at once.  I had a Sensational Sixteen.  An Explosive Sixteen.  The effect of Pop Rocks in the mouth but with an entirely different, more dynamic and savory flavor.  The taste of my sixteenth year of life was like curry.  Thai curry. The best Thai curry you’ve ever had.  It was naturally rich, coconut-rich; but its richness was balanced by a hell of a lot of acidity and its acidity was balanced by a hell of a lot of sweetness and its sweetness was elevated by its full-bodied spiciness.  When I was sixteen, I fell in love with English Language Arts.  And I mean in love.  Head over heels, Never the same again, “Sanity be damned, I’ll sell my soul to the devil” in love.
The story of how the love affair played out, and how my parents disapproved and tried to have me admitted into a Psych ward in order to separate English and me, is irrelevant. I’ll spare you the scandalous details.  English was my first love.  It was for the love of English that I broke my vows of chastity and signed away my soul.  English removed my Venetian belt and made me a woman.  I broke the rules of my father’s house, snuck out in the night and met my great romancer, English, to commit unforgivable indiscretions.  It was with my forbidden lover, English, that I began learning about myself for the first time.  I learned that I was a stranger to myself before I met English.  I learned about the things that stir my immense passion and proliferation: language, song, melody, aesthetics, art, analysis, communication, intimacy, disclosure, interpretation, and all of the nuances within and horizons beyond those things.  In the omnipotent arms of English, I finally found home.  I loved being there, being me.
But a Sweet Sixteen, even a Spectacular Sixteen, cannot last forever.  It didn’t.  English broke up with me and I thought that meant it was over.  So I grew up and told myself I would have to find new loves and deny my love for English.  Seventeen came, and the rest is history.  I’m twenty-seven, now, and I’ve been around the block a few times – in love as well as toward and away from home a few times.  I’ve seen other paths and even traveled down some of them.  Somehow, though, I’ve made my way back to English and I love her now more than ever – out in the open, no longer in the shadows.  I’m ready to kiss adolescent games goodbye and play house with English.  I’m ready to sign the papers, and then to sacrifice them to the gods, to make a lifetime commitment to English. I’m ready to take her in sickness or in health for as long as we both shall live.  I am ready.  I know the path that leads to the House of English is my home path.  I cannot tell you how right it feels to write this essay as I run and leap toward English.  My upcoming marriage with English is a non-traditional marriage.  Others will disapprove and cut us out of their lives, but we are both older and wiser now so we can handle the exile.  If you, the Department of English, will give us your approval in support of our matrimony; we vow to hold a very colorful ceremony, to make the most of our marriage, to do right by the family name and to yield a bountiful harvest of English-McFadden.
While away from English, I have worked as a stay at home mother (yes, I am already married – English and I have an understanding that this is a plural marriage).  I have considered other disciplines, other paths.  On my way out of the mountainous regions of one path, the path of Clinical Psychology, I imagined what it was I wanted to find on the next and final path.  I didn’t know where I was going, and then I bumped into English (not hard to do, she’s been lingering around here all along) and remembered all the love we shared when I was younger.  I remembered all of the things that brought me passion when I was sixteen.  I added to those former passions the ones I have since discovered and developed – feminist theory, queer theory, women’s literature, poetry, minority narrative, feminist and lesbian psychology, and philosophy.  And then I imagined discovering more and developing further, with English.  Through my remembering, without the opinions of others clouding my perception, I knew that my path would include a decision to pursue a graduate degree in English and to be certified as a teacher so that I could spend my days spreading the love that has so infiltrated my being.
I have considered many of the logistics of my academic path.  It is my goal and expectation to work toward a Master of Arts in English.  It is also my goal to concurrently work toward being certified as a teacher of 7-12th grade English Language Arts.  My reasons for wanting to seek both English Education certification and an MA in English are twofold.  My reason for wanting to be certified in English Education is so that I will be able to teach in a secondary educational setting.  I hope to seek employment in New York State after graduation, and I will adjust my plan of study to fit and fulfill the NYS teacher education requirements.  I don’t have formal teaching experience, although I have informally been a teacher and mentor to others throughout my life.  I am thrilled at the idea of being a teacher in a formal classroom, not just in the Classroom of Life.  During my odd and extraordinary adolescence, my teachers were everything to me.  They shared their love of English with me.  They let me love her.  Their love for her inspired me.  They loved her more because of my love for her.  We all loved each other; it was one big Love Parade without a fatal stampede.  My English teachers enlightened and empowered me in the best ways possible.  They spoke about oppression, and I listened.  Then I began to speak about oppression, and others (my peers) listened.  My teachers saw me stand up for myself and for others, and in turn they were inspired to stand up.  They taught me how to stand up and speak up, and I also taught them how to do the same in other ways.  They gave me a place to develop my interpersonal and intellectual skills, and more than that they shared with me mutual respect and acceptance.  The Lovers of English have many individual loves of their own.  The Lovers of English are peaceful and inclusive lovers.  The Lovers of English love on a Commune of Coexistence.
I cannot talk about English without feeling love.  My reason for wanting a master's degree in English is because I love literature and composition, some of the facets of English, and want a higher education in each.  I want to be well prepared, well rounded, and to experience as much literature and poetry as possible before I begin teaching.  My love of literature and writing began when I was in high school and has continued and grown since then.  I tried and succeeded in other areas of study (Musical Theatre, for instance, which I studied for almost two years).  In the end, I returned to the combination of Women’s Studies and English that I began with at Hampshire College in 2002.  During my three semesters at Western, I maintained a 4.0 GPA, wrote invigorating papers, was named the Fall 2006 Departmental Scholar, and received numerous awards and distinctions.  After a few years as a stay-at-home parent, I began thinking about going somewhere.  For a hike.  An academic hike, a higher educational hike.  I began exploring my options, the various paths in my midst.  I looked into a number of possibilities before I came upon Clinical Psychology.  When I did, it stopped me in my tracks and I thought that maybe counseling would be a suitable career path for me.  I thought I could love Clinical Psychology.
I decided to start walking down the path of Clinical Psychology, and I saw quite a bit while I was walking.  I faced a longtime fear, and took a Statistics course.  I surprised myself and received the highest grade in my class.  I enjoyed the poetry I wrote in the margins of my notes.  I enjoyed the language of the material, but not the material for the material’s sake.  I completed two online Psychology courses.  I took the GREs on short notice and scored in the 86th percentile in the Qualitative Reasoning portion and in the 96th percentile in the Analytical Writing portion.  I applied to the Clinical Psychology program.  All the while, during my walk, I wondered if I was on the right path.  I experienced doubt and ambivalence.  I experienced resistance to the nature of the field and the style of the content.  I clung to the language for dear life and tried to fit it into a literary and humanistic context.  I felt scared.  And then I had a defining moment.  I was not accepted into the program because my application arrived late but I had the option of remaining in the program as a graduate student-at-large.  I felt rejected, yes, but also relieved.  Did I really want to wed Clinical Psychology, a Social Science?  I began thinking it might have been a tumultuous marriage.  I began envisioning another path.  The path in the margins of my Psychology notes: language, literature.  As I imagined the fourth and final path, I felt confident, comfortable and excited.  The path of my imagining was the path that was emerging in my notes, my papers and my mind-the path to which studying and teaching about language arts is central.  When I made the decision to apply to the Department of English’s graduate program, I immediately felt a sense of calmness and relief.  I felt a sense of knowing that this is the path for me right now.  So here I am, knowing I am in the right place.  This is the path I choose.  I am with one of my true loves.
My academic interests are centered in women’s literature, women in literature, feminist theory, feminist fiction, Shakespeare from a feminist and queer perspective, cross-genre narrative, hybrid works of poetry and prose, poetry by and about lesbians, language, philosophy, theory and rhetoric.  I am interested in ideas, language and art (as well as the intersections of the three), and I am interested in analyzing all three through a queer-feminist lens.  I am an out-of-the-box thinker.  I enjoy being challenged by others’ ideas and by course material.  Though I am sacrilegious, I feel very spiritual about language and art.  I have copious amounts of energy for writing and other creative projects that involve intellectual subjects that interest me.  I am thrilled to be writing this personal statement and I am excited at the thought of joining once again the Department of English at Western.  Although I know this application is arriving late in the game and is a little too long; it is true to my life and to my heart.  It is overflowing with love.  If it is at all possible for me to be considered for a graduate or teaching assistantship, I am interested in doing so at the earliest available moment.  I am committed to dedicating my time and energy, however long it takes and whatever it requires, to pursuing the goals I have described.  I believe them to be the next natural and supernatural steps down the path of my life with my long-time love, English.  Thank you for the opportunity to travel with the Department of English on this wild and strange romance.


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Now, read this (Parts 1 & 2): http://chronicle.com/article/Just-Dont-Go-Part-2/44786/