5 Most Beautiful Things, beauty, Guest Posts

You Can Have This.

August 10, 2014
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By Jen Pastiloff. 

I want to show you something.

Come.

Here, sit with me.

There’s a cat here. I hope you don’t mind cats. Coffee is curled up on the bed with me. It’s threatening to rain outside and I’m sitting here on a bed at my sister’s house, just south of Atlanta. I’m staying in her back room with the weird exercise machine that simulates horseback riding. My nephew Blaise, proud owner of Coffee the Cat, was given the horseback riding machine to strengthen his core muscles. He has a rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome which creates low muscle tone and a feeling like you are literally starving to death. All the time. Starving. To. Death.

Last night, Maddock, his 5 year old brother (proud owner of Sugar The Cat), climbed on it, and with his imaginary lasso, yelled Giddyup! Giddyup! before he tried standing on it like a surfboard. Which, I can’t say anymore without calling it a surfbort. (Thanks, Beyonce.)

So that’s in the room with me and Coffee The Cat and my shit that is sprawled everywhere and the book I have been reading, Once I was Cool, by Megan Stielstra*.

Coffee and Megan.

Coffee and Megan.

 

I want to show you what I mean by beauty hunting since I talk about it so much.

But how can I show you? How can I pull you- you, in your car or the parking lot or your room or your desk or wherever you are reading this, you, with your own set of ideas and beliefs about people and the world and the way things turn out and how people are- how can I get you in this room with me and this cat and this goofy rodeo horseback riding Panasonic machine and get you to believe me that when you listen to people and when you show up, like really show up, there is beauty everywhere.

And I think, who am I to show you, anyway? What the hell do I know? I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas today and I drank too much coffee and I’m just trying to not drown so what can I tell you about how people are and beauty and the way the world is?

I can’t. But I can share with you my journey.

That’s all we can do. Right? Continue Reading…

Manifestation Retreats

Tuscany Retreat With Jen Pastiloff.

September 26, 2011
Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Yoga + Writing + Connection. We go deep. Bring an open heart and a sense of humor- that's it! Summer or Fall 2015.

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Please send email to info@jenniferpastiloff.com letting us know why you want to attend. This is an intimate retreat. We can’t wait to have you! This is Jen’s 5th year doing Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun! Please specify if you want to attend summer (June 27-July 3rd) or fall 2015 (Sep 26-Oct 3rd.) 

Please read this so you understand what Jen’s retreat is like.

And this. Continue Reading…

Binders, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, Little Seal, loss

Cartography for Mourners.

March 2, 2015
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By Emily Rapp. 

The power of grief to derange the mind has in fact been exhaustively noted.

– Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

 

Maps to Anywhere (Numerous)

I hate maps. I can’t read them, understand them, interpret them, or follow them. I have a whole drawer full of maps and pop-up, fold out street guides for various cities, and although I take them with me when I visit these places, I never consult them. Instead I tote them around in my shoulder bag, my purse, my backpack, and ask people on the street for directions.

 

Map to a Funeral (Hidden)

It is mid-winter in downtown Chicago, and my parents, sitting in the two front seats of a rented mini-van, are huddled over a paper map. Exhaust billows in gray and black streaks past the windows. Commuters look shrouded and miserable, hurrying over frigid sidewalks in the rapidly fading light. I’m in the back seat with my ten-month-old daughter Charlotte, who is strapped in her car seat, babbling and cooing. She doesn’t know this is a terrible blizzard in rush hour, or that someone – my father’s mother, my grandmother – has died. We are driving from Chicago to Pontiac in a storm that feels as thick and relentless as the sound of the word blizzard on the radio, which is turned up high. People are frenzied, worried and watchful, the way people love to be about extreme weather conditions.

My grandmother has died at 93 after refusing food or fluids for two weeks, which is some kind of record. My son, at three years old, lasted only a few days with the same restrictions. Ninety years difference – a literal lifetime – between their ages at death. I struggle to understand what this means or how to absorb it, but generate no cogent thoughts.

Beyond the city limits the interstate is a blur of red and blue emergency lights, car blinkers switching on and off in irregular patterns that compete with the holiday hangers on who leave their Christmas decorations up after the new year. The drivers in the cars stopped on either side of us are reading newspapers spread out over the steering wheels or tapping into their phones, having given up changing lanes. One woman is slumped over, face in her hands, weeping.

My daughter poops her diaper, and I unstrap her from her safety restraints and change her in the unmoving car. My parents are bickering. My brother is waiting at the airport. We’d gone to Soldier’s Field to see the Aquarium, but ended up looking at twenty-year old exhibits of stuffed animals: antelope and bears in permanent yawn, taxidermy tails stalled mid-air. I crammed us all into a photo booth in our last fifteen minutes, because I had an enormous glass of wine for lunch and because we need to laugh.

“We should never have gone.”
“Who could have known we’d get stuck in a blizzard.”

This conversation continues on endless repeat, my parents trading lines between them until I threaten to throw the diaper into the front seat if they don’t change the subject. “Don’t think I won’t!” I shout, and feel like a teenager on vacation with her parents: petulant and trapped, self-righteous and unhappy.

We make it to O’Hare and pick up my brother and my nephew. My dad argues with the security guard, telling her that the airport is designed to be confusing. I tell him this is certainly not true. Through the open van door I toss Charlotte’s diaper into a curbside trashcan.

An hour from O’Hare, far from any lights, wind, snow-thick, swirls white and erratic over the roads mainly clear of cars but still treacherous. My dad drifts between lanes, floats across medians. “You’re fucking scaring me!” I shout when he crosses a road without looking in both directions. My brother glares at me for cursing in front of his ten-year-old son.

We stop at a town outside Chicago, at a sports bar, where six men wearing orange vests sitting at a table turn to stare at us when we walk through the door. We have been in the car for nearly ten hours. When I tell my friend Gina, a native of Chicago, where we ended up for dinner, she tells me she’s lived in Chicago her entire life and I’ve never even heard of that fucking place.

A waitress accidentally spills a beer on my father’s lap.

“This day is shitballs,” I tell him, and hand him a stack of napkins.

“Yep,” he agrees, but he’s laughing. He leaves the apologetic waitress a generous tip.

 

Map to a Church (Unnecessary)

The route to my grandmother’s funeral service is a straight line from the hotel to the church down a road lined with two-story houses, all fenced yards and large wooden porches, the sidewalks stacked on both sides with fresh snow that blows away in sporadic blasts of arctic wind to reveal weeks-old snow covered in soot, stamped with boot and paw prints and pieces of dog shit. The church is near the town lake, where a group of geese huddle together looking stunned and miserable on ice the same color as the wall of cold sky that seems almost low enough to touch the frozen water. I think they’re geese. I know they’re not ducks. I’m not a poet. I don’t know my birds. I don’t know an elm from a poplar. I’m a little bit better with flowers. I know a blue spruce because there was one in my yard in Santa Fe, and it was the one pop of color on the gray winter day two years ago when my son died.

“Don’t they migrate somewhere warmer?” I ask. “Those geese or birds or whatever?” Nobody answers me. At the church, my brother and his son leap out of the car and sprint across the parking lot. The frozen lake reminds me of another frozen lake in Minnesota where I spent one weekend listening to Joni Mitchell records and writing bad poetry (I didn’t know my birds then, either) with a group of college girlfriends; another frozen lake in Wisconsin where I watched five continuous hours of CNN on the first anniversary of 9/11. Both events seem whole lifetimes ago, memories connected to my current life by delicate filaments that show their strength in the strangest moments.

I pick my way across the parking lot with a bundled Charlotte in my arms. Inside people are milling about in front of a funeral board: pictures of my grandmother as a young girl on the farm, on a horse, in the early 1940s with my father in a cute suit, standing in front of a flat white house, with her parents, who are expressionless and shaped like barrels.

My grandmother was cruel to me, and I am not sad that she is dead. I feel like 93 is a pretty good run. She was rarely sick. She had friends and was comfortable.

My dad speaks first, and he tells the congregation that his mother once told him that he could have searched the whole world over and he never could have found a better wife. This is for my mother, to whom my grandmother was also cruel.

The minister gives a dorky eulogy about salvation that doesn’t happen “in the big city,” but instead in “a little church in the prairie.” His language feels vaguely pornographic to me, all this talk of being “chosen” and “choosing,” and my grandmother saying yes to God, again and again she said yes. I can’t stop thinking, sitting in the back pew nursing my child where nobody might happen to see my breast, that there’s no way this guy voted for Obama.

The only time I feel moved is when my second cousin’s husband sings a solo, halting and occasionally off-key version of Beautiful Savior at the lectern. He struggles through all of the verses without looking up. In front of him, on a table decorated with flowers, my grandmother’s ashes are in a simple black box.

After the funeral we eat fried chicken in the church fellowship hall. My grandmother’s sister introduces me to a man who is clearly suffering from dementia.

“This is Emily,” my great-aunt says. “She wrote a book about her baby who died.”

“Who are you?” he asks. “Did somebody die?” He looks around the room. Someone is slowly releasing a Jell-O mold onto a plate in the kitchen. A woman in an apron dumps more chicken into a bowl on the buffet table.

“My grandmother died,” I say. “Lois died.”

My great aunt is frustrated. “Listen,” she says, tapping the table in front of the man.

He looks at her, then at her hands. “Yes? Who are you?”

“I’m Emily,” I say.

“She’s a writer,” my aunt continues, “and her first book is all about…well,” she says, and flaps her hand in the air. “You tell him how you was made wrong.”

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Marriage

Another Seven Years.

March 1, 2015
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By Megan Birch-McMichael.

After almost a decade together, our shared language is both oral and visual. A wink means, did you see what our kid did? A sigh, what’s wrong now? A gentle nudge with a big toe on a calf in the middle of the night, please stop snoring already. Our words have meanings that only we understand, our promises to love each other through sickness and in health made with knowing smiles at the altar after having lived through a premarital spring, summer and fall of ailments that would precede another four seasons of tests and uncertainty.

Starting as a pre-med in college, though I wouldn’t see it through, I learned a language of medicine and science, names for various bodily systems and afflictions, words to describe how one is feeling. The language of love, our words that we speak to one another, has the staccato rhythm of a heartbeat, an electrical impulse sent to the tiny metal disk that rests underneath the surface of his skin, shocking his essential pump into a steady beat when it threatens to stop completely. The disk that was implanted two years ago when just after his 32st birthday, and right before my 31st, the fear of widowhood rose with bile in the back of my throat as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Pick me up now.”

Thump.

“My heart stopped.”

Thump.

“I have to see the doctor immediately.”

Thump.

“I love you.”

Thump, thump.

The first time he collapsed, in our fourth year together, he 29 and I 28, we were at a diner with my mother and my brother two days after Thanksgiving. I did not yet have a ring on my finger symbolizing our marriage yet to come (that would come two weeks later on the National Mall in the freezing cold moonlight), and when he laid his head on my brother’s shoulder as we sat at the breakfast table, we laughed it off for a moment.

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts

Dendrochronology (The Study of Rings.)

February 28, 2015
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By Gayle Brandeis.

The first boy to give me a ring, at least part of one, was Timmy Murakami. He left an “I like you and I hope you like me” note in my third grade locker, a note that suggested we go for a walk by Lake Michigan together. Along with drawing little YES and NO squares for me to mark, he had folded the bottom left corner of the wide ruled notebook paper into a sharp triangle, and had tucked a little yellow plastic heart inside, clear and pale, like lemon candy. It looked like it had fallen off a ring, prismatic like a diamond, a bit of adhesive still on its back. I never replied to the note—too shy—but sometimes I would set the gem on top of my ring finger and feel a rush through my body I couldn’t quite name, an admixture of quease and thrill.

*

The first thing I ever stole was a Chicago Bears ring. I didn’t mean to steal it. I had tried it on in the gift shop at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, where my family often went for Sunday brunch, a lavish spread of ice sculptures and lox and tiny fussy desserts, live piano music accompanying the hiss of butter from the omelet station. My sister and I loved to go to the gift shop and look at the snow globes holding the Chicago skyline, the activity books that came with invisible ink pens, the bins of candy and playing cards, the Buckingham Fountain keychains. I forgot the ring was on my finger when we left the store to get another plate of tiny, fussy desserts, didn’t notice it until we were back at home and my shirt snagged on it as I changed into my pajamas. My heart started to hammer. It was an ugly ring, the Chicago Bears logo huge and garish. I hated football. It was not a ring I ever would have asked my parents to buy for me. I had no idea why I had even chosen to try it on. But here it was. I was a criminal. There must be some badness in me I hadn’t known I possessed. I felt guilty, but also slightly excited, maybe even a little proud—a good girl like me getting away with theft. I yanked the ring off my finger and hid it deep inside my underwear drawer, where only I could feel its shameful glow. Continue Reading…

Binders, Dear Life., Guest Posts, Relationships

Dear Life: I Need Help Navigating Bouts of Depression.

February 27, 2015
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Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by the wonderful Naomi Elana Zener.

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little. Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. ps, see you next weekend (3/7 and 3/8)  in Atlanta for my next workshop!

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Atlanta March 8th. March 7th sold out. Click the photo above.

Dear Life and the wonderful people reading this,

I am used to navigating through life through and with heartache. The past 8 years were full of relationships with heartaches. They have created my darkest moments and have thus been the creations of my lightest moments. I am finally done with them, and I am depressed. I don’t have anything to complain about, except for missing my family sometimes, who lives across the ocean. I feel like I have no purpose and no direction, and I don’t know where to start. I crave adventure and meaning in life. I love to inspire and help people, but I can’t do that unless I can help myself. I want adventure, and I want to be excited about life, but these bouts of out of the blue depression are starting to get old and I do not know how to navigate through and out of them.
Please help.

All the love,
Elly

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff in her signature workshop in Philly. Space is very limited for the April 12th workshop! Just be a human being-no yoga experience required. Click the Dhyana Yoga logo to book.

Continue Reading…

Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A 19 Year Old On Self-Loathing & Compassion.

February 26, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Karolina.

“If you listen carefully you will know exactly who I am.”

Compassion is a funny thing, it is forgiving, it is comforting, it is safety, and it is scary, but above all, it is strong, much stronger than one could imagine.

I never thought about telling this story. It didn’t even occur to me that it should be something discussed with the public… but I slowly started to realize, why not. This demon lives off of secrecy; grows and grows the more it is hidden. So why not expose it cold turkey. Tell the whole world, cause I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this; who has had an ugly past with food, a destructive relationship with the gym, a disturbing relationship with the mirror, and shattering relationship with myself. So here goes nothing at trying to tell a very complicated piece of whom I am.

A few months ago I would never have thought I’d have the courage to share this part of my past. But to be honest, it’s not in the past, because it’s still going on, current, and will continue to for a very long time.

Last year, if you had asked me if I was content with myself, if I was at peace with myself, if I could look at myself in a mirror and smile; a true genuine smile, I would have lied and said yes, because that’s what I was supposed to say. They always say that the people who look like they’ve got their lives the most put together are either, 1. Actually put together, or 2. Rotting on the inside.

I would classify as number 2.

No one would think I’d be the person to have this kind of internal battle. It would never even cross their mind; I’m that kind of person that is very good, extremely good, at making my life seem incredible, almost perfect, with absolutely nothing wrong ……

Well, now, I’m paying the consequences for that lie, and I’m trying to make it right.

Before I stepped on campus, I thought I was confident in myself. I felt grounded. I thought I knew whom I was and what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I was content with myself, I thought I loved myself, loved my body. And if you asked anyone else they’d say that’s exactly how they saw me too. But what I didn’t know, was that I loved my body, because it got me attention from the opposite sex, not because it was something sacred for myself and only myself.

It’s December, my relationship is falling to shit and I’m standing in front of the mirror; it started like anything else would, very minor, a quick millisecond of a thought… hmm it couldn’t hurt to get rid of that extra layer on my thighs, I mean honestly, just cut down on what I eat for a few weeks.

Continue Reading…

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