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Guest Posts

Abuse, Guest Posts, Social Media

Why I Don’t Just Unfriend Him

May 5, 2017
trauma

By Christie Tate

“You can just unfriend him.  At least hide his profile.”

This is good advice, advice I’d be well served to take.  I’ve just told my best friend about the latest offense my Tea Party pro-Trump second-cousin has committed on social media.  This cousin triggers me to the moon with his red state propaganda.  I haven’t laid eyes on him since my grandfather’s funeral in 1981.  I was in third grade.  I remember only that his face was wide and flat like the surface of the moon.  We share the same last name and a handful of relatives that I’m not close to.  We were “reunited” on Facebook a few months ago when my first cousin put me in touch with his daughter.

I didn’t know he was a pro-Trump guy at first.  The posts were all about his grandbaby and his beloved Texas Aggies.  Babies I can get behind 100% of the time; the Aggies I could take or leave.

Then, over the summer the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas erupted in gun violence and police officers were killed in the line of duty.  I posted something that was pro Black Lives Matter, and his response was racist, offensive, anti-Constitutional, and impossible to ignore.  I held my phone and in that tiny square for REPLY I told him why Black Lives Matter was important and that he was wrong about who was to blame for the violence.   I cited numerous incidents were young black men were killed at the hands of trigger-happy, racist police officers.  After I published my remark, I shook like someone soaking wet in a snow storm.  Had I just taken this man with my father’s smile to task?  Was I now in trouble?  I was 43 years old, sitting in the office where I work as a lawyer, shaking like I’d just thrown a Molotov cocktail through an elderly person’s window. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

Keeping It Real

May 3, 2017
nursery

By Amy Howard

Let me start off by saying I don’t begrudge anybody their opinions or issues. If you are posting, writing about, and living your truth, then amen. No matter what you’re going through, you shouldn’t compare it to anyone else’s. Your shit is your shit. I’m no hater. Peace be with you.

Now.

I know you don’t know what you know until you know. And granted, I’m not a “new” mom, so I might be a little more piss and vinegar than I am sugar and spice. But I have to say that lately, so much of what I read regarding parenting is teetering on the edge of being the written version of stock photography. It’s all cookie cutter subjects, white-washed to capture a large readership. Maybe I’m reading the wrong headlines (point me to better blogs!) but there seems to be a craze around grabbing a trending topic and writing about it. Like: What I Learned At Mom’s Night Out. Tantrums and Fussy Eaters and Potty Training…Oh My! Yoga Moms vs Running Moms: Who’s Winning The Race? How To Raise A Vegan-ager. What Nobody Tells You About Having A Three-Year-Old.

Really? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

What Makes A Good Mother?

May 1, 2017

By Robin Rivera

Some of us are naturally drawn to children and mothering leaving the rest of us wondering where this domestic gene came from, and why didn’t I get it. It’s not fun to me to stay home and cook and clean and change diapers. Well at first it was because it felt like playing house folding all the tiny laundry… until shit got real!

Nights awake crying, college deadlines, welfare deadlines, dating nightmares, lack of sleep, and of the most challenging… Facing childhood trauma when I look into the face of my hysterical child feeling ever ounce of terror I used to feel as a child. I have worked so hard to learn a healthier way to nurture my child especially through difficult times. But when the rubber hits the road I gotta tell you, I tend to fall apart Inside.

I sometimes lose my temper and fear I am the monster I’ve been dedicated to shielding my daughter from. I shame myself for being ill equipped to be a mother. I tell myself I’m damaged, and I can’t do it. In those moments I feel devastated like I’ve failed my life’s mission by breaking down when she needs me.

But this is the dance. The dance through trauma, the dance of life. I pick myself up off the ground, usually after calling a trusted friend, and I do my very best to nurture the aftermath of a storm. I hold my daughter and validate her feelings, I admit my wrong within minutes, we make a plan of how to support each other better the next time, and we express love. That’s the best I can do with this healing heart of mine. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

The Exploring Heart

April 30, 2017

By Debra Feiner-Coddington

Sometimes in the middle of my nights when everyone else is sleeping the beautiful things happen. In those quiet hours they always have. Nocturnal now, nocturnal forever, I pass as a day dweller because I don’t need much sleep. While everyone else breathes into their night I prowl through my house, my home, and find the simple things I miss during the hours when the sun shines and I’m too distracted to notice them. Too busy. At night when I am alone listening to the little noises: snores, the creaking of our wooden house responding to the change in the weather, I find them, little treasures waiting to be found; seen. With no distractions I become Ponce de Leon, Magellan. And my home is where I unearth discoveries.  The rippling glass of a jar holding trailmix on the counter; very old, my son Baylin unearthed it cleaning out the ramshackle mess of a storage shack. An apothecary jar. Mouth blown and hand made. The uneven glass makes me dream about whose hands made it, what they looked like, what’s been stored in it over the course of its life. What it can tell about its life before, and the stories about us it holds for the next pair of hands to fill it.

Baylin never seemed to care much about the trail mix I made for his dad who thrives on nuts and berries. But when it was time for his cross country drive to Burning Man, his last ever road trip Baylin asked, “Ma, do you mind if I take the trail mix with me?” Mind? Oh dear. Even then, when I thought he’d remain with us, when I thought we’d watch him marry and give us grandchildren, even then I was tickled that he liked my trail mix enough to want to take it on the road to feed him as he traveled. What mother complains about their children loving the food they prepare no matter how simple? Even trail mix. “Mind? No Baylin. Take it with you. I don’t mind.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Intimacy, Sex

Sex, Intimacy, and Genetic Incompatibility

April 28, 2017
intimacy

By Becky Benson

The first time it happened I thought it was great.  Easier, less messy, a change up from the norm.  Win/win for me.  I didn’t particularly like condoms; the feel, the smell, the timeout in the heat of the moment while fumbling over a loudly crackling wrapper.  How romantic.  And I’m sure my husband was no fan of them, but it did make it better for me once we were done.  He’d just pull it off and toss it in the trash.  I didn’t have to lay there waiting for him to throw me his t-shirt to clean up with, I could just happily roll over and drift off to sleep.

The only problem with this scenario:  we needed them, which made it feel less like a novelty, a change up from the norm, and more like a reminder of what we were now facing, and how in so many ways, our relationship; our sex life would never be the same.

In 2009 my husband, Loren and I had been happily married for six and a half years.  Loving, committed, stable.  We had two beautiful daughters, Skylar, five, and Miss Elliott, ten months, when we learned that we were carriers of Tay-Sachs Disease.  We had no idea this genetic mutation existed in our lineage or that we had passed it on to our youngest daughter, who at this point was beginning to shows signs of missing her milestones as she grew.  Watching my seemingly healthy infant unable to master age appropriate tasks such as crawling, holding her bottle, and or imitating our speech, I suspected something much more was going on beside the usual variances in development, and unfortunately I was right.  With no treatment or cure, this neurodegenerative disorder would rob her of all of her physical and mental functioning before finally taking her life by the age of four. Continue Reading…

death, Guest Posts

Silent Witnesses: A Night at the Morgue

April 26, 2017
chair

By Nina B. Lichtenstein

There is a beautiful and ancient Jewish tradition of reciting Psalms while watching over a deceased person until burial. A few of us had decided to take turns sitting with our friend Philip’s body overnight. Philip was a handicapped man in our synagogue who was loved and admired by all. When Philip recently died, his death, as his life, brought some unexpected gifts for those close to him.

It was almost 12:30am and the air was thick with the humidity of balmy summer nights. After an eternity of banging on all the windows and doors of the seemingly empty funeral home, which also functioned as the Jewish morgue in town, I suddenly saw lights turn on inside. The door swung open and out stepped a bushy-bearded and bespectacled man with a sweatshirt hood covering his head. Not young, not old, wearing a pair of baggie, well worn, beige Dickies, he stood tall, like me, and cocked his head slightly to one side. Standing in the dim light, he said, “Yes? How can I help you?” gazing quizzically at me from under a knit hat, the kind fishermen wear. It was pulled down on his forehead, resting on a set of overgrown, gray eyebrows. He didn’t’ exactly look your clean cut funeral-home guy, but instead more like a version of the troubled poet John Berryman, or worse, Charles Manson. He was the night guard, or the shomer.  Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts, Yoga

Yoga Taught Me I Could Stare Down Fear

April 24, 2017
yoga

By Amy Moore

I grew up as a painfully shy, introverted girl in a family with three brothers.  Like many others, my parents were held hostage by their own demons which left them unable to function in a capacity that a child needs as they’re growing up.  At home, it was best to be quiet, obedient, and almost invisible as an effort to keep the calm among the chaos.

As a kid, I sat on the sidelines observing others living life and unable to get past my anxiety to be able to participate in many activities or make many friends.  My life remained similar as I grew into a teenager.  My emotional pain manifested into numerous unhealthy habits, the most profound was my body image.  In early adolescents, I began my journey with anorexia and bulimia and suffered with it secretly for years. Maybe in a sense I was trying to disappear, to go unnoticed and unseen through life.

Although I was physically and mentally unhealthy I longed to be a healthy strong person. I read and researched everything that sparks my interest, which is exactly how I came to find yoga.  When I started reading about yoga I was fascinated about the stories of health and healing that so many people experienced. However, it didn’t seem possible to me.  How could stretching and breathing change your entire life? Regardless of my reservations, I felt drawn to learning more.  I wanted to know more about the practice peacefully displayed on DVD covers and magazines. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Truth or Dare

April 23, 2017
dare

CW: This essay discusses sexual abuse.

By Galla Peled

“Truth or dare?” Russell, our babysitter for the night, demanded. Russell was the oldest cousin. He was 17, and deemed responsible enough to babysit. Every Saturday night my parents dropped me off at my cousin’s split level home in suburban Detroit, while they went out for dinner and maybe a show with my aunt and uncle. Every Sunday morning they came to pick me up, and we would all have breakfast together before we went home. My mom made tomato sauce for my Aunt’s scrambled eggs and we kids took turns shaking cinnamon sugar out of a plastic bear dispenser onto our toast.

Shortly after the adults went out, we gathered on the brown shag carpet of the master bedroom and closed the door.  Playing there with the door closed felt clandestine and was a little bit exciting. “Truth or dare?” Russell pressed his sister, Lizzie. She and I were both six, and Neil, Lizzie’s other brother was eight. Lizzie had lost a hand at Blackjack and the rules were that if you lost, you had to choose a truth or a dare. Since Russell was the oldest, he always got to deal and make up the rules. For some reason he almost always won; Neil, Lizzie, and I took turns losing. With each loss we removed an article of clothing. Once we were naked, when one of us lost a hand, we had to choose a truth or a dare. Our choice could be overruled by the dealer, so essentially we were always dared to fulfill his fantasy. It was a punishment for losing.

TRUTH: Childhood sexual abuse can be defined as any activity that engages a child in sexual activities that are developmentally inappropriate.

DARE:  Lizzie was flat chested and hairless. The veins that stood out on her skin were as blue as her eyes, her six-year-old body a stretched-out version of a toddler. She instinctively used one arm to cover her nipples and the other to cover her private parts. She cowered next to the bed. “Dare!” Russell decided for her, and challenged her to walk atop his spread-eagled legs as he reclined back on his elbows. His penis stood in the nest between his legs, threatening all of us with its presence. We knew if she could not complete the dare to his satisfaction, she would have to perform another task until he was appeased. I watched, afraid for her, but stimulated at the same time.  The woolen carpet scratched my own private parts and I liked how it felt. At least I still had my shirt on. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage, Surviving

Flamethrower

April 21, 2017
water

By Lori Fetters Lopez

Some days it’s enough that he breathes. The exchange of air grates on my psyche like the high-pitched squeal of a six-year-old at the sight of a spider. A childhood dream to be a pilot, he sits with his hands grasping the yoke of a computer flight simulator. At his perch, he can turn from the pretend to the surreal. An endless choice of television shows filled with intolerable stupidity, followed by commercials selling drugs with side effects more damning than the symptoms they claim to cure. It all culminates into a farce. He’s been deployed for months and I’m left with only the memory to fuel my fire.

Hands on hips, I look at the obstinate water softener spewing its juices over my walls. I’m lost in incredulity wanting to collapse into the wet. Yesterday, I replaced the damn thing, the day before, the water heater. It mocks. Disgusted, I walk into the garage where the car lays in shambles begging me to crawl beneath its underbelly hoping for an altered result. First, the valve cover gasket, then the radiator, and now the gas tank.  The large door stands open revealing that another rain has brought our grass to grow. The lawn mower sits in the corner, a pigheaded child too engrossed in a video game to go to the bathroom, it leaks. Fixed before he left, obvious the repair was in vain; the first fill drains onto the floor. The mailbox leans forward as if reaching for the next letter too long overdue. Someone crashed into the pole and I replaced it. Too tired for more, I forgot the concrete anchor to gird its pole. I could call someone, pay someone, but that’s not who I am. I persevere. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, The Body

Figure Modeling

April 19, 2017
naked

By Jera Brown

The moment I disrobe and step up naked on a platform where anywhere from two to a dozen pairs of eyes are staring at me has never bothered me. I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Before I started figure modeling, I’d enjoyed other public nudity experiences which led me to believe I’d be a good candidate for the gig.

There were other reasons I started modeling. As a broke graduate student, it is a way of supporting the arts without the ability to buy much. It’s also physically challenging, and I love a good challenge. And — though this was not something I consciously admitted to myself when I considered modeling — I believed it would help me love my body more. I was wrong.

I model for members’ organizations where artists pay a fee for studio space and access to models and for classes where new and intermediate artists learn how the body works and discover their unique style. Here’s how it works: Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image

Pale Pink Robe

April 16, 2017

By Anonymous

I have a pale pink silk robe hanging in my closet.  Every time I open the door, it makes me feel delicate and artful and foreign and adventurous. In life, I am better off in a gray zippered sweatshirt because of the coffee I dribble, the olive oil spatters that zap me when stir-frying onions, the mascara wiped on my sleeves from the night before. Once a week I put the silk on, feel chilly, and go back to the sweatshirt.

But, god, I love that robe.

I bought it at the Casbah on Sunset. The Casbah was my favorite place to write ten years ago. Everything was beautiful and curated and sheer and perfect and the coffee was strong and there was the sense that the owner didn’t treat the staff like garbage. It was a good place to be. A good place to write and get hopped up on caffeine and candied apricots and look at huaraches and baby T-shirts and Turkish towels I could not afford.

When I look at the robe in my closet now, I think of the day I got it. I was with two friends. I had stared at it during previous visits. The perfect, barely blushing pin-up, nippley shade of pink with a muted, red, woodblock pattern, a simple cut, sheer-ish, a belt. Continue Reading…

Abortion, Guest Posts

The Boy With No Name

April 14, 2017
winter

By Carmen Calatayud

When my son died
a thousand miles away
I made my arms a cradle.
~Kelle Groom, from the poem “Marguerite”

In the dream, it’s wintertime and I hate winter. I’m scared of the cold in the dream as well as in real life because my body can never get warm enough.

There is a hill with a naked tree, its limbs shivering. There is snow and wind and a dead grey sky, as though winter will never end. I’m not sure I can survive if there’s no escape from the cold.

Then a voice: I know this is the winter of your discontent. I have not forsaken you.

I wake up sobbing and realize I was weeping in my dream. I’m weeping into my pillow even though there’s bright desert sunlight streaming into this bedroom in Tucson. This voice, a mixture of Shakespeare and Jesus, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard in a dream. I’m convinced it was the voice of some deity or higher power that hasn’t forgotten me. With a broken voice, choppy from the sobs, I tell my boyfriend about the dream.

This dream comes one week before I learn the reason I’ve been feeling so sick for the past 2 ½ months, much more than usual. I’m pregnant.

***

When I was the moon, I wasn’t whole. Just a blue half-circle drifting through the sky. After I sloughed off pieces of myself I became a quarter moon, a sliver of light that gingerly rocks back and forth like a porch swing.

This is what I remember after the abortion—just a sliver of me being left, and a sliver of a child being sucked out of my uterus with a vacuum that hurt more than I could have imagined. It hurt so badly that I asked the doctor to stop. He couldn’t. I got dizzy from the sharpness of the puncture and suction.

My son was sucked out of me and spit into the sky. I couldn’t imagine where else he could go, so I saw his pieces in the Sonoran Desert darkness.

Each small star was a spark of my boy, glitter above me every night.

***

I go to the doctor because I feel sick, more than I usually do from what is chronic fatigue syndrome. Since the doctor is concerned about an ovarian cyst, she does a sonogram. I look at the screen as she drags the gel-covered wand back and forth across my skin, until a black and white picture appears.

“You’re pregnant.”

“Are you sure?” I’m stunned and feel my cheeks burn from the shame that I’m pregnant and didn’t know it. I’ve been nauseous for weeks, and had missed my period, but my period was already erratic. I thought it was the flu.

It’s a few days before the 12-week cut off for legal abortions, so the doctor reminds me that I have to decide quickly.

“I’ll support you whatever you decide,” she reassures me, her voice steady, warm. Then she pauses and I hold my breath.

“But you need to know that this is going to be a difficult pregnancy.”

I imagine what it would be like to hold my son. What he would look like, how he would sound. An August-born boy. I consider who his father is: a father of two young children who need and deserve attention, a heavy drinker, cocaine user and gambler who insists he is my soul mate. All of these addictions wash through my insides and create a pool that never drains. My body is heavy with this water, swollen and scared.

***

Little boy, if circumstances were different, I might have had you. I might have weathered being sick for nine months straight. But I didn’t believe I could survive what my life had become and hold you above it.

I sit outside the apartment door on a warm winter night in the desert. The stars are out. I see pieces of you float freely and sparkle in this universal life of yours.

You race across the Milky Way while my life stands still on Earth.

I’m stale and pale white, afraid of your father, an empty future, and the shrinking amount of change in my jar.

Poet and writer Carmen Calatayud is the daughter of immigrants: a Spanish father and Irish mother. Her book In the Company of Spirits was a runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award and a finalist for the Andrés Montoya Book Prize. Recently her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, Origins and Cutthroat. The Boy with No Name is an excerpt from her memoir. Visit carmencalatayud.com. 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

 

 

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Activism, Guest Posts

Interdependence Day: A Letter on the Occasion of my 37th Birthday

April 12, 2017
independent

By Chris Shorne

I have been loved from the time I was small. Before my sight was unblurred I was seen and touched. Someone picked me up. Then another. Lips kissed my forehead. Before I knew what was forehead what was mouth. Before I knew there was a body and its inextricable parts and that this part was mine, I felt the sensation. Something new, something already. All the organic wires of a body were firing and firing together when eating came with touching, with the warmth of another human body spreading through this that I would come to know as my own, separate, human body.

It is not my mother who is the writer, but me. Still, she writes some abstract things in the form of dark lines on a white page and it aches me. That center spot of my chest—what is that?—grips. And so, compelled, I write. And I’m not sure it is me who is the author here. I’m not sure there has ever been a singular author. It hurts a little, to be loved like this. I don’t know why. Everything I’ve ever learned has led me up to this: I don’t know why it is I who have been so blessed. But I’ll take it.

Here I go. Yes, this is the biggest thing I’ve done. Being an international human rights accompanier in Guatemala. Standing alongside people walking into harassment and threats and jails, walking anyway, to maintain their land, to claim their culture. It is my big and it is so much less than the work the Guatemalans are doing. But I get to stand with them, walk alongside them for a little while. And, for me, it is big. “This is huge, Chris,” my ex-girlfriend used to say. I loved that. Even when it wasn’t huge, I loved it, because it meant what was happening with me was important. It meant she saw me as important. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Politics

Still Gonna Do (#ShePersisted)

April 10, 2017
secretary

By Leigh Hopkins

When I was a literacy center director in Philadelphia, I worked with thirty after school programs run by neighbors who were doing their best to give kids what schools couldn’t get to. Programs held in abandoned dollar stores and storefront churches, or in homeless shelters run by activist nuns. Bodega reading circles. White-haired volunteers reading to kids in synagogues and mosques.

My nonprofit shared the program’s early successes with big foundations like Ford and Pew, and because our centers often worked in partnership with “faith-based organizations,” the Bush White House wanted to know about it.

Churches they understood.

White House staff visited our programs and invited us to Washington. When it came time for the final interview that we hoped would lead to funding, I spouted literacy and poverty statistics while stressing the need for the separation of church and state. I emphasized the importance of program quality, replicability and scale. After two hours of questioning, they began to wrap things up. Continue Reading…