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Inspiration

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Mirror, Mirror

August 17, 2015
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By Anna Quinn

I want to write about the visceral dissonance my head and gut absorb each day as I scroll through images on social media—the pumpkin martini recipes and beheadings in Iran and cute cat videos and acid thrown in children’s faces and new iPhones and thousands of faceless bodies—women, children and men blown to bits, continents away. I want to write about the strange juxtaposition of these things and try to make meaning of it.

But what I really want to write about is that recent video floating around Facebook—maybe you’ve seen it—the one where women are in a department store, and one by one they look into a mirror, and the mirror begins to talk to them and the mirror asks each woman how they feel about themselves and the women don’t feel so great—one turns her head away, another feels like a dog, another shrugs. Then, the mirror gives the women personalized examples from their friends and families of how they are an inspiration to others, how they are so beautiful on the outside and inside. The mirror says things like, You’re beautiful! You’re enough! And when the mirror says this—You’re beautiful! You’re enough! the women’s eyes well up and a couple of them cry. I watch the way the eyes and mouths and bodies of these women soften and release, and I cry too, because of what it means to be human.

But what I really want to write about is how, in my messy conflicted mind, when I place myself in front of the talking mirror, the mirror shouts, “There’s no fucking way you’re enough!” and I know the mirror doesn’t say this because I’m ugly or worthless or broken. I know the mirror says this because it knows I can’t possibly be enough when fucking courageous as hell journalists are getting their heads chopped off while I fall asleep in a queen-sized bed with Garnett Hill flannel sheets, and one in four children are on food stamps while I’m at Trader Joe’s questioning whether or not the spinach is really organic, the salmon really wild, when mothers and fathers with babies wrapped tight to their chests fight to cross murderous borders, fight to find Safety while I fight to lose that last ten pounds.

But what I really want to write about is how, when I get like this, some of my friends say things like; for god’s sake, Anna, settle the fuck down. You’re so intense. What’s with all the guilt! Stop apologizing for stuff. You are right where you need to be. Focus on all those positive vibrations! Don’t take yourself so seriously. We’re just a speck in the universe! Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration, motherhood

Knitting A Soul

August 12, 2015
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By Bernadette Murphy

My twelve-year-old son, Jarrod, plays trumpet in a jazz group, and I’m usually the one to take him to the rehearsals in downtown Los Angeles. Often, I bring a knitting project to work on during the two or three hours he’s behind closed doors. A few other parents wait with me, though most drop their children and return later. The kids work with their jazz teacher in an almost completely soundproof room. When a piece they’re practicing becomes particularly loud, the slightest vibrations and melody slip through the soundproofing like smoke signals to let us know something wonderful is occurring in that little room. Hearing those sounds, I sneak up to the small five-by-ten-inch window and peer in.

I’m not the only one. Passersby, parents, people waiting for their dance classes to start: we all take turns jostling to watch preteen kids blow inspired, improvised jazz and blues. There’s something irresistible about watching people do something they love.

The rehearsals take place in a gorgeous performing arts school situated next to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a stone’s throw from the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the shadow of the amazing Disney Concert Hall, standing at astounding angles, huge sails of metal and concrete reminding Angelenos of imagination’s incredible power. The school is located in an area that’s both highly cultured and adjacent to great poverty; skid row is a few blocks away. It’s a place where art, music, and dance–self-expression of all forms–are actively encouraged and yet the implicit risk in such self-expression is tangibly present. The unspoken fear, at least among the adults, seems to be: If I give myself so fully to something I love, will I end up like that street-corner poet I passed while looking for a parking space? The woman was screeching her words at approaching vehicles, trying to call attention to her beliefs and experiences, only to be drowned out by the forward-marching parade of society. Or what about the homeless man outside MOCA, strumming his guitar, happy in his music yet oblivious to the rest of the world: Will I become like him?

One of the biggest dangers of giving in to art is that our values might change—or return to an earlier, simpler form. The perfect house, the right furniture, the great job, the designer clothes: Maybe those things don’t represent our hearts’ desires the way we thought. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves that we didn’t particularly want to know. Or maybe people will laugh at us. Maybe we won’t appear the way we’d like to.

Worse yet: Maybe we won’t be any good at what we love. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

Falling In Love With Flip

June 12, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Judy Kirkwood

What happens when you’re not a dog person, but you are left with a dog?

It wasn’t until my dog, Flip, was 15 years old that I realized I loved him. After my divorce, 5 years ago, I would jokingly say to my sons that Flip was my husband now. But the truth was that I had only just tolerated Flip for much of his life. I didn’t fall in love with him until he had a bad case of fleas: not the first time, not the last time, but the in-between time.

Although constant and caring, I was so detached in my relationship with Flip that until last year I believed he was a Yorkshire Terrier, even though he weighed 20 pounds. Watching a youtube Animal Planet video one night it dawned on me that Flip wasn’t a Yorkie at all, despite his bill of sale. He was a Silky Terrier. The giveaways, besides his size, were how he had always lifted up one paw in a quizzical manner when he looked at me, and how one ear often was up while the other flopped down (hence the name my younger son gave him).

In addition, I woke up one day and realized Flip was a year older than I thought. I had been so caught up in other things in my life – things I can’t reveal, except for my husband’s infidelity, which became pretty obvious – that I had lost track of Flip’s age, which was at the far end of his breed’s lifespan.

I should mention he is a handsome, dapper dog, who attracts attention even though he has an enlarged liver that makes his belly look as though it needs to be reined in with a waistcoat. I’ve always thought he should be wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and ruminating on a small Calabash pipe, which would fit neatly in the space where he is missing his two lower front teeth. Like most dogs, he is on a mission when he is on a walk, looking for aromatic cues and clues and behaving accordingly. Everyone stops to admire him. But I never felt proprietary about his looks or charm. He was sort of a legacy pet. Mine by default. Or so I thought.

We had trouble bonding because it took so long to potty train him. We failed at crate training because he barked so much that his saliva pooled on the floor of the kennel and made it slippery plus rusted the metal grate he attacked for hours. He shredded pee pads. I had to take him to a pet therapist because he wouldn’t stop peeing and pooping in the house. He relieved himself next to her desk as she was asking me what the problem was. Although I had some success in training him with treats to go outside, which he expects every single time he potties to this day, my husband’s strategy to save our wood floors and carpeting was to train Flip to void in the concrete basement of our home. I never went down there.

A family dog for the first 10 years of his life, bought for our 10-year-old son, Flip ran around the grassy common area of our suburban home, a blur against the tree line, swing sets and sandboxes. He was so lively that he jumped back and forth, straight up like a young goat, over Magic, our lame black lab, who sat calmly for Flip’s stunts. Sometimes if Magic was off-leash (it seemed unlikely he would move far since he dragged his back legs on the ground when he tried to run), Flip would spirit him through the woods into the next subdivision or down the railroad tracks. Flip came back while Magic usually ended up in a ditch until someone called thinking he had been hit by a car and we picked him up. Once Magic died, Flip became more aggressive with other dogs so I really couldn’t let him off the leash too often to fly around our big yard.

While I fed Flip and let him in and out all day, he took long evening walks with the man of the house. I appreciated the break from doggie care until I found out that those leisurely walks with Flip were an opportunity for my husband to talk on his secret phone with his girlfriend.

When we separated after a 35-year marriage I decided to move away from my Midwest home and start over in the small Florida town where my younger son had relocated. My soon-to-be ex had no desire to be burdened with a dog while ironing out his relationship problems with the other woman. Drained and empty, I didn’t know if I could afford to take care of Flip either financially or emotionally. I thought about putting him up for adoption. But with behavior problems and, of course, his inconsistent pottying how could I be sure he would not be mistreated by a stranger?

In the end, I packed him in the car along with the few things I was taking from my old life. For the first few months, Flip and I had a gypsy existence. First I stayed on a farm in Georgia while I helped an author write a book. Because there were a number of rescue dogs running around the house, all female, which made Flip want to constantly mark his territory, I spent the days with Flip tethered to my belt as if I were Mother Superior and I had a very long rosary dragging the floor with a dog at the end of it. Then I stayed with friends and family whose allergies or own pets made it imperative to board Flip at different kennels.

Back on the road, Flip was my steady companion in a changing landscape. We were on a journey together and he rose to the occasion, holding his bladder during an interminable traffic jam outside of Atlanta, and not barking when I left motel rooms to search for food for us.

As I was cobbling together a new life in Florida, Flip had a terrible bout with fleas. I’d never met a flea and suddenly they were crawling all over my animal. I was more worried about me getting fleas than about Flip having them. I got rid of them, but saw Flip as a flea carrying host whose silky hair was a golden meadow for creepy things I didn’t want close to me.

The next time Flip got fleas was less of a panic. I knew it was normal in Florida. Against my space being contaminated by a chemical bomb that might exacerbate my asthma and his panting and wheezing, I chose to comb and bathe him faithfully, with the addition of dog flea pharmaceuticals. Every day I spent hours attending to the little devils that hopped around in his hair making him bite himself. I was as devoted to grooming him as any ape, chimp, or monkey mother. As an old dog, age 15, his skin was covered with benign tumors under his hair and I had to be careful not to scratch their surface and make them bleed. I felt so sorry for him I gave him little massages, listening to him groan, sigh, and cluck like the gray squirrels on our morning walks. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

On Fighting Cancer The Second Time Around

June 9, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Shauna Zamarripa

In 2007, things were going really well for me. I had just gotten my residential real estate license and was killing it despite the fact that the market was in the crapper. Back then, I had learned quickly that foreclosures and short sales was where the money was at, so I speedily obtained my CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) designation and was off to the races. And man, oh man, was I winning. I was the preferred listing agent for several banks and acquisition companies. And business?

Well….business was GOOD.

It was also right around this time that I had begun blogging for major websites like Yahoo, CNN Money, MSN Money and even found myself smack dab on the front page of Realtor.com.

And that made business even better.

I had begun developing my own model on how to use blogging for lead generation and business building. And it was going GREAT….until the other shoe dropped.

I got sick. Really sick. I had gone in for my annual OBGYN exam. A few days later they called to tell me the results were abnormal. When I went back in for more tests…that was when I found out I had cervical cancer. Stage 3.

I was 29 years old.

I was devastated.

Upon hearing the news, I went home and didn’t get out of bed for two days. I didn’t say anything to anyone, and many people even close to me didn’t know what I was dealing with. I refused to ask for help. I refused to let anyone know how hard it hit me.

I went to my next appointment alone (which I was fine with), as they begun freezing the cells. It hurt like HELL. But I powered through. Then? That’s when they started the chemo. And while I didn’t think anything could have been worse than what I had already endured, that was. Far worse.

There were days I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. I never told anyone. I totaled three cars in a year, thanks to my stubbornness, but didn’t lose my life. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. Some….because I didn’t want to, others because I just couldn’t. I was too tired. I was nauseated and exhausted. I could barely function. I was fuzzy and lost.

It was at this point that I had to give up my real estate career and focused on blogging full time. I was too sick to do much of anything else at the time.

But, as I got better, the more I wanted to blog and the less I wanted to do real estate. By 2010, I was healthy again. I felt like myself again. The steroids and the depression medication, however, caused me to gain a LOT of weight over the past couple of years. But I fought that back off as well. I worked out, ate right and lost it all. By 2011, I was looking a LOT better.

Then, 2012….tore my world apart. Secrets, lies and devastation took me down a rabbit hole that I would wish upon no one. Ever. And, even though I was cancer free, I wasn’t sure I wanted to live anymore. Yet, as I looked into my all three of my daughters eyes, I realized that wasn’t an option. They still needed me. So? I stayed. All the while never telling the people I should have told about much of my struggle. Because it just wasn’t their business. But, moreso because, when you go through hell, you just don’t want to talk about it anymore. Because you’ve felt it, you’ve dealt with it, and it became this part of you that you would rather forget than remember.

And that’s okay. You’re allowed to do that.

2012 saw a final separation of myself and my husband of 17 years. 2013 had me falling in love again. It also saw me through a house fire that nearly claimed my life….and something that created a lot of change. I remodeled my house and moved the (now 19-year-old) twins out and moved myself and the 13 year old in with the man, the love of my life, a man who, in 2014 I married – despite my saying repeatedly I would never get married again. And 2015 brought back an old friend…my cancer.

Except this time, things were different.

When they told me I needed more tests, something in me knew that this time was going to be worse than the last one. And even though everyone said “I would be FINE,” I knew (somehow) that this time wasn’t going to be as easy.

Fuck.

I hate when I’m right. Continue Reading…

#DareToBeaDork, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Dare To Be a Dork! I Dare YOU.

May 5, 2015
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Hey tribe,

So I posted a ridiculous video of me dancing in my socks in my living room yesterday. And no, not like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. I had yoga pants on and a cowboy hat though. Total dorkfest. I posted it on my Facebook fan page and the response was overwhelming. People went Ca-Razy. You don’t need permission to be a dork. At least I don’t. You can watch my dork video here.

So I challenge you. Post a video of yourself dancing or being a dork and use the hashtag #daretobeadork. Post it on instagram and follow and tag me with @. I am @jenpastiloff there. Or post it on my FB page here.  Justine took my challenge and sent me this video this morning. The video looks better on my FaceBook. For some reason Youtube made it weird. Click here to see the viral action!

I posted it on my page and it has gotten over 65 thousand views in a few hours and is going viral. Her dream is to make it to the amputee conference. Here is what she wrote on her GoFundMe Campaign:

 

Hello everyone, and thank you for checking out my GoFundMe! I’m Justine Clifton and I’ve been an amputee for about 16 years now. At the age of 9, I had to have my left foot amputated, due to birth defects. I was also born with short arms with only two fingers on each hand, hence the nickname T-Rex! J Despite my differences, I’ve always had a good attitude about life, but I still sort of felt alone because I was the only t-rex amputee at my school and didn’t really know any other amputees until I was 20!

Now that I am older and have fully accepted my differences and have learned to love myself BECAUSE I am different, I cannot wait to meet more people with the same outlook on life! I am 25 years old now, and try to get involved with every organization and event for amputees as I can to help raise awareness, and learn more about myself and others! I am also going to school to be a Prosthetist! I am so excited about this career path and cannot wait to give back to the community! There is no greater feeling than being with a whole group of people that have overcome their own obstacles, which makes them love and appreciate life much more because of the challenges they’ve faced. The atmosphere is infectious! That is also what the Amputee Coalition of America is all about! Bringing people together from around the U.S. to hear other’s stories, learn about new prosthetic technology, participate in adaptive sports and mobility clinics, and more! I have the opportunity to be a part of this for the first time in my life this summer if I can raise enough money to attend the 2015 Amputee Conference in Tucson, AZ. Unfortunately, I am a full time college student, living paycheck to paycheck, and do not have the extra funds for this experience.

My goal is to raise $1,450 for the conference:

Conference ticket: $280

Hotel fees: $114 for 5 nights: $570

Round Trip airfare: $600

**If I am unable to raise enough in time for the conference, donations will go toward starting the JusTrex brand for my YouTube channel. **
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPVkqXHtx0QASnfchlA8o6Q
I am so thankful for any donations, if you would like to contribute.

God bless!

Justine Clifton

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Wanna help me support her? Click here and share the video to really make it viral. >> https://www.facebook.com/JenniferPastiloff/videos/vb.113021315913/10152979665940914/?type=2&theater.

Please post your video and remember to use the hashtag. There’s lots of stuff happening on Instagram. I am also announcing the winner of my retreat contest tonight over there. You have a few more hours so head over to @jenpastiloff on Insta. Love you guys. xo Jen

It's a huge honor to have another card up at Emily McDowell Studio. Click to order.

It’s a huge honor to have another card up at Emily McDowell Studio. Click to order.

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Compassion, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Grace Notes

April 20, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melodye Shore

As I rounded the last corner on my morning walk, I stopped to admire a flowering pink azalea. Dainty pink blossoms fluttered on graceful stems, lifted like ballerinas on the morning breeze. Winter was being nudged back into hibernation, and spring was doing one last dress rehearsal before taking center stage.

But my reverie was cut short.

The air was filled with the unmistakable whine of chainsaws, and the frantic chattering of displaced birds.

I raced toward my house, chased after the disembodied sounds until I found their source.

An army of gardeners surrounded the pepper trees in my neighbor’s yard, right behind my own. They stood sentry along our common fence, weapons raised, until my neighbor called out to them in broken Spanish. Chainsaws bit into bark–a steady, grinding noise–as one after another, amputated trees limbs crashed to the ground at the workmen’s feet.

My heart sank. Planted in the wrong spot, Brazilian pepper trees can be a bit unruly. Without pruning, they grow impossibly tall and unruly. They litter the ground with seedpods, and their gnarled trunks shed bark. They’re not indigenous to our area, and it shows. Even so, I love them. They provide shade during the hottest part of summer, and they offer sanctuary to the countless birds that, moments earlier, had taken to the sky, voicing their displeasure.

Hummingbirds patrolled the wooden fence, wings whirring as they dive-bombed the intruders. Mockingbirds hovered above emptied nests, and house finches fought in vain to protect their hatchlings. Homeless now, a pair of orioles took wing, a blur of sunshine that disappeared when they vanished.

I stared at a bald patch of sky, where leafy branches used to be, and I was overcome by a naked sense of vulnerability.  My heart ached for the birds—their sanctuary was being destroyed! But when the hacked-off branches teetered on the fence, and then collapsed into my yard like fallen corpses, my fingers tightened around my phone.

Now what? I asked myself. My neighbor and I were strangers— the fence, the trees that divided our properties also separated us from one another. I wouldn’t recognize his face, were I to bump into him at our local market, and I didn’t have his phone number.

So I called my sister, who lives 1000 miles away. “He’s killing them,” I sobbed.

“Wha–” The panic in her voice was palpable. But as I related the situation, blubbered on and on about dismembered trees and murderous gardeners, the urgency in her voice dissolved into relieved laughter, followed by sighs of relief.

“What can you do?” she said. “His property, his trees…I’m sorry, but I don’t know what I can do to make you feel better.”

So I called my husband. “You should see this!” I wailed. My eyes were blurred by tears, but I tried valiantly to describe for him the massacre as it continued to unfold.

Awkward silence.

“I wish I could help you,” he eventually said, “but by the time I get home from work, the damage will already be done.”

We ended our conversation, and in that hollow space between knowing and not believing the situation in which I found myself, I heard a still, small voice. It called me out of my panic, whispered the answer I needed to hear.

Share your concerns with the right person, it said. Speak up, while you still can. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Relationships

Twenty Years of Solitude

April 20, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Banigan

Barrel-chested and bull-necked, Will had cerulean blue eyes that offset the safe, sturdy gravity of his body and made me feel as though I were drowning. They were the kind of eyes described in novels as being washed out, like the sky. If I had grown up in the middle of the rainforest, and Will’s eyes had been the first blue eyes I ever saw, I would’ve thought he was either a god or on his death bed.

I was 20 years old and despite it being only our first date, Will was already my favorite person. We sat at a candlelit table in a restaurant in the basement of the Italian Workman’s Club in Madison, Wisconsin. Two bottles of wine in, I stared into his eyes and recalled a short story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“It’s about a man and woman who meet every night in a dream and recognize each other by repeating the phrase, ‘Eyes of a Blue Dog.’ But upon waking, the woman can’t remember what the man looks like. She writes their phrase throughout her town, but the man can’t remember anything from his dreams, and they walk by each other like two ships passing. I can’t imagine anything sadder.”

I don’t recall if Will responded. My eyes misted, and, drunk, we left. He took me to his small walkup apartment and we sat in his living room and talked about our dreams. I was still figuring mine out, which meant I had no real idea yet what I was doing with my life, but Will was in college and had already set course. Surrounded by books about Latin American politics and discussing his need to gain a higher level of fluency in Spanish, he grew animated when talking about a future that would take him far away from Wisconsin.

“I’m going to work in Central and South America.”

I waited for him to tell me more, but instead, he kissed me, and we soon fell into his bed. He was everything I wanted: adventurous, hilarious, and intense. In the dark, with only the light from a streetlamp shining across his broad chest, he stared at me through his wide, azure eyes.

When eventually I turned to sleep, I felt a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had grown up having daddy issues because of an absent, alcoholic, gambling father, struggled with my own drug addiction, and just generally had difficulty with men. In the back of my mind, I grappled with the idea that I was unworthy of love.

As Will curled up against me, I thought: Come morning, he’ll be like the man in the Garcia Marquez story – he will have forgotten all about me.

At the first signs of daybreak, I unwrapped myself from Will, quietly collected my things, and slipped out the door, vowing to cut off our communications to prevent the pain of him leaving me.

Yet I couldn’t quit Will. Not entirely.

Over the years, he moved to Indonesia, to England, to Colombia, to Minnesota. But he always came home, and occasionally, I’d run into him at some bar or another. We’d make small talk, have a drink or two, and inevitably end up in bed together. Each time, I felt that what we had would last forever. We spoke of getting a cabin in the middle of Oregon. He invited me to visit him wherever he was living. Yes, I said, yes to all of it. But then dawn would break, and I’d disappear like a forest creature into the crepuscular fog.

One day, I received a letter sent from Colombia. “You would love the rainforest,” Will wrote. “Pink dolphins swim alongside my boat in the river. They are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I miss you.”

I kept that letter in a drawer for years, pulling it out occasionally to stare at his words and examine every curve of his handwriting for hidden meaning. Pink dolphins…He missed me… What did it all mean?

The years moved along. I had a series of relationships, bore a child with an abusive man, and then, just like that, decided I had had enough and finally started to pull my life together. Will moved to New York, and I ended up there too, to finish a degree in art history. He helped me move into my apartment in Greenpoint, and that evening, after I had tucked my daughter into her new bed, we sat on my front stoop drinking beers in the rain. It was that night, while listening to Will laugh, that I realized how hopelessly in love I was with him. And as sure as I knew anything, I knew that he loved me, too. My heart cracked wide open as we kissed.

The next morning I woke in a panic. My old fear filled me. He’d leave me. He always did. I heard my dad’s voice in my head: “Good things never last.” And another voice rumbled even deeper: “Leave. Run. Don’t look back.”

Life became more complicated. Will and I lived in two parts of the city about an hour apart, but my university was only a few blocks away from his apartment. We should’ve created many New York memories together, but even when he had a bad injury to his Achilles heel that left him largely immobile, I visited him only once. My dad had recently had his first heart attack, and my daughter’s father was giving me grief. I felt depleted, shaken, and alone. Every night I’d sit surrounded by books on the couch in my apartment and just cry, rocking myself to sleep. Despite wanting to be there for Will, I felt incapable of opening myself to him even as I watched him hobble around on his crutches. Something was wrong with me for not being able to be a good friend – I knew that much – but my heart, like a stagnant pond, stood still.

I dated other men. Men who risked less, who stayed put more. I moved in with a boyfriend, a man who – although a little wild – wouldn’t rush off to nearly die of snakebite or dengue or whatever other horrors I imagined Will might encounter in the rainforest. Unlike Will, my boyfriend was a man who didn’t believe in anything fantastic.

“Do you know that there are such things as pink dolphins?” I asked.

“Sure,” he quipped, barely looking up from his computer. “And unicorns, too.”

Of course, when a person goes against what her heart desires, life has a way of teaching lessons the hard way.

Armed with a degree from an Ivy League in an area of study I didn’t ultimately want, and a job in finance I only took to pay back student loans, my grandmother grew very ill, my father had another heart attack, and my stable, safe boyfriend left me. In the midst of it all, I realized I wanted – more than anything – a life filled with adventures and purpose. I become a freelance writer and started to travel the world. I took my daughter out of public school and together we climbed mountains in Switzerland and Iceland, ran out of money in the Algarve, and went deep into the Peruvian Amazon to some of the same areas Will had visited.

Throughout the years, Will and I continued to satellite around each other, always in tidal lockdown despite the distance between us.

“You know how I feel about you,” he said. “You know how I’ve always felt.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love, Video

I Gave Him $20 To Get A Meal And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next.

April 16, 2015
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By Jen Pastiloff.

What happened next was love.

Beauty hunting is right. I am out there with my bow and arrow, folks. Hunting beauty down. And sometimes, I do not have to look very far at all. Sometimes it’s just so right here.

I was walking down the street in Santa Monica yesterday with my friend Rachel Brathen (aka @yoga_girl on instagram) and she said, “Look!” So I did. Natch.

She’s pointing to a man on a bike with a big sign over his chest that says Be Love.

Um.

Remember that guy? I met him in the library a couple years ago and asked him if I could take a picture of him with his sign (he had it on then, too.) He said I could have the snap if I wore the sign. Duh.

I did.

I wrote about it here. Elizabeth Gilbert even shared the story. It was pretty heartwarming. I said may we all walk around with a “Be Love” sign over our hearts.

So yesterday, Rachel, (who has a million and a half instagram followers what what?) saw the same Love Dude on the street. On his bike.

I beckoned him over to us and her dog, Ringo The Gringo.


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You know when I am alone how adventure always ensues? Well, the three of us? Me, Rachel and Ringo? Magic. Pure magic.

I said to Love Dude, “You’re David. I met you in the library. You gave me your sign.”

Please watch both videos below!

I gave him twenty bucks and he said if he was to take it that I had to wear the “Be Love” sign for two full weeks.

I am taking the challenge. Will you? You can make your sign invisible but will you wear one? Please? Let me know. If you do instagram use the #belovechallenge tag. I am at @jenpastiloff over on those parts.

ps- We all wear signs. Invisible ones, mostly. What does yours say?

Some say: Stay away. Some say: Don’t come near me. Some say: I am not enough. Some say: Be Love.

We get to choose what our signs say.

Also: he drops mad wisdom in these videos.

Like, whoa.

He says, “I am looking for someone whose compassion is greater than their passion.”

Yea. Little gems like that are floating throughout the vids. Please watch and share. This is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on social media. Not Kim-Whatever-Her-Name-Is’s ass. Hell, this is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on the planet.

Word.

I mean, love.

Love, Jen xo

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Guest Posts, Inspiration

Messengers Of A Different Kind

March 25, 2015
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By Sarah Lewis.
Sometimes, the universe speaks to us.

In strange places, nonetheless.

This particular morning I was power walking through the aisles of Target, in search of cereal bars for a quick breakfast before meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in years. My mission: timeliness. Lately I’d been succumbing to the sultry pull of lateness, but truly, this tendency irked me. I prided myself on maintaining consistent timeliness as a teenager because my mother had provoked near-insanity in my nine-year-old-self, shuttling me to every.single.appointment at least ten minutes late. Nowadays, I’m able to calculate the theoretical ratio between the necessary time remaining for travel and my estimated lateness like a pro; yet, this never fails to inspire raw panic within me. So, this morning’s mission of timeliness would be accomplished with power walking and way-faster-than-the-speed-limit driving. Perfect.

Approaching my turn at the register, I thrust my bag at the cashier while searching for my credit card with the furthest bill date.

“I have my own bag.”

Silence, yet comfortably so. I glanced upward.

“Hello. How are you?” asked the cashier, deliberately leaning forward. He was an older man with graying hair and wrinkled skin. Wearing a bemused expression, his voice playful, he was so clearly entertained by my frenzied state that I couldn’t help but giggle.

(In truth, I was embarrassed I could ignore someone so easily. *Mental note: ask everyone how they are. Always.)

“I’m so sorry, how are you?”

“I’m ok. Just take a breath, relax.”

He had amiable eyes. How was he delivering this somewhat condescending message with such kindness?

“I’m just in a rush, I’m sorry!” I apologized; I couldn’t remember the last time I acted like this. I acknowledged my rudeness because maybe, just maybe, doing so would eradicate my ignorance. It was a desirable and convenient theory.

“Keep breathing, keep breathing. I’ll get a move on. Relax…!”

I was still looking for the right credit card. Which one had the lowest balance?

“Miss, I need this.”

The man had been grabbing at the bag between my fingers; I didn’t even realize I was still holding it. Gripping it, actually. I mumbled, “Sorry, sorry.”

“It’s ok, it’s ok!” he conveyed with laughter. There was a type of softness in his voice that I couldn’t quite place. I finally lifted my gaze to swipe my card and grab my now-full bag.

“Have a nice day!”

He laughed again: “You too, miss. You too.”

“And I’ll try to slow down!” I added. Perhaps this was an obligatory sentiment, but at least I tried. He laughed again.

“Good, good.”

With this exchange complete, I power walked back to my car and pulled out of my parking spot with the swiftness of person practiced in the art of driving under time pressure.

And then I began to think.

Sometimes, the universe speaks to us in the form of an elderly Target cashier.

This man was kind enough to reach over my barrier, my cocoon of speed and agility, my downward look indicating I did not want conversation, and speak to me. He dared unravel a few of the myriad threads holding my world together, protecting me like a shield, and whisper a message with his kind eyes.

This man was a messenger. Was he my particular messenger? No, probably not, but he was a messenger of sorts. And now it was my turn to absorb his words and decipher their meaning. I concluded that our conversation could mean three things:

  1. I was not meant to live in the extremely fast-paced area of Bergen County.
  2. I should always show kindness toward the people around me.
  3. I need to engage.

I began to ponder the last point. Lately I felt like I’d been trying to slow down, yet hated it: I would spend hours scrolling through meaningless pages on my laptop at early hours of the morning, my eyes half-closed in sleepiness. If this was relaxation, I wanted no part of it. But what if slowing down meant I needed to engage in my surroundings, rather than aimlessly numb my brain?

What if, like a child, I could find grandeur in any moment? I liked this idea: life could expand and contract based on my level of engagement with the world.

I considered a world in which everyone sustained such a high level of engagement: happily acknowledging other people in the street, admiring the leaves and the way their waxy exteriors glisten in the sun, searching for knowledge with eyes fixed ahead instead of looking at phones for quick-fix stimulation. An open-armed world built on a foundation of wonder.

Clearly this type of world could be created only by certain messenger-type people, those brave enough to pick others up, shake them, and say, “What are you doing, asshole? There’s a whole world out there! Look at it!”

And yet…what if we’re all messengers, just in disguise? Only a few kind-hearted souls may reveal themselves as such, but maybe we all possess the potential for deliverance deep within our bones. Everyone could experience life in broader colors, perceiving grandiosity on every corner. For those that view the world in grey, well, any one of us would gladly point out the colors and encourage them to see.

Because we’re all messengers.

Sometimes, the universe kicks us in the ass and says, “Wake up, now!” in the form of an elderly Target cashier who just gets it.

And for that, I am grateful. I will lace up my messenger shoes and continue forward, because every person deserves to own a pair.

Every person deserves to know they’re worth it.

 

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Friendship, Guest Posts, I Have Done Love, Inspiration, Video, Women

To Have a Friend Like This: On Friendship, The Holocaust & Survival.

March 18, 2015
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Jen Pastiloff.

Hi guys, Jen Pastiloff here. I don’t post my own stuff too often these days, but these videos, holy Wow, mother of all cups of coffee. Please do yourself a favor and take a few moments and watch these videos. Please. One of these women is a Holocaust survivor. Their friendship is so utterly inspiring to me that it brought me to my knees. I want to have that kind of love. It’s an honor to the guest speaker again here at Canyon Ranch. What a great honor and privilege. Thanks for watching and sharing these videos. May we all listen more. May we all pay attention to the stories inside of us and inside of others, because, do not be fooled, we ALL have one to tell. Listen. This is beauty hunting.

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Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014
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By Caroline Leavitt

When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.

Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No,” she said. “I did.”

As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.

And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Men

Dear Me: A Beautiful Letter To A Man’s Younger Self.

November 21, 2014
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By Peter Tóth.

Hi Peter,

It’s me, your 36 year old self.

How are you doing?

I’m writing to you from Nottingham, UK. Yeah, I know, you might want to ask how did I get here. But that’s not important. I’m here as a result of many decisions, almost all of them still unmade by you.

It’s shortly before 7 in the morning and I’m sitting on a George Street bus stop, waiting for the Nottingham City Transport bus line number 10, going to Ruddington, where I work. You haven’t really worked yet and I cannot lie to you that it’s always great, but work is good, it will be good for you. You’ll meet many people at work and/or while working. People are good. It takes an effort to convince myself of that sometimes, but I truly believe they are.

But I’m not writing this letter to tell you what I’m doing, what you’ll be doing in 20 years time, because even if you would somehow read this letter, you probably wouldn’t become exactly who I am now anyway, as you would hopefully read this carefully and you will avoid some mistakes that I have made. Although it’s these mistakes that got me where I am, doing what I do and I neither can, nor I want to complain about it, so let’s cut this hypothetical bullshit of what would, or wouldn’t be.

I won’t be telling you what to do and what not to, what I decided to tell you is this: Whatever you’ll be doing, just enjoy it more, enjoy it as much as you can. I’m looking back and I don’t think I regret doing anything. I also don’t regret not doing anything. But what I regret is not fully enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it. Not being completely present, focused. Not paying attention. Not being in love with what was surrounding me, not being in love with what’s within myself.

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Guest Posts, Inspiration

Invisible Strings.

November 14, 2014
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By Marika Delan.
Fifteen days.
The average number of days in a grace period. It was also the number of days I knew Rose Alma.I wouldn’t have thought that was long enough to get so tangled up in someone else’s thread but I met Rosie on the third day of June. Fifteen days later, I mourned her.I hadn’t even “met” her if you want to get technical. I heard a little of Rose Alma’s story from Jen Pastiloff who had blogged about visiting her in Atlanta, where Rose was hospitalized. Rose had asked Jen to visit her and Jen had gone. Jen had never met her either.

I couldn’t explain how a perfect stranger compelled me to reach out, except that Rose was one of those people whose light could bounce off anything like a mirror in the sun. It’s hard not to want to get close to light like that; it makes everything bright enough to see clearly where there was only darkness before. And Rose reminded me of things I had lost: most recently my nursing job. Thirty years ago, my friend, Lisa Rose.

I felt inexplicably drawn to send Rose a message on Facebook that Monday in June. She was asking all her friends to do random acts of kindness every day of June until her birthday, coming up on June 25th. She would have been 26.

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Gratitude, Guest Posts, Inspiration

The Opposite of Apathy.

October 30, 2014
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By Jenna Tico.
When you step off the plane in Rwanda, the air smells of fire. That’s what they don’t tell you; they, meaning the countless guidebooks delineating which sandals to buy (orthotic, waterproof), which bug spray to slather (to DEET or not to DEET?), and how—in moments of inevitable gastrointestinal agony—to avoid bringing home any parasites. Handmade paper beads, yes: parasites, no. Yet for all of their guidance, not a single text captures the feeling of landing on African soil, the pungent earth squishing beneath your sandals (orthotic, waterproof) as the nighttime air clicks with voices and insects. Not one of them speaks of the smell, of the sticky-sweet heat that seeps into your pores as you step on the tarmac, knowing full well that you’ll never again feel what you felt like Before.For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a traveler’s soul. Before I ever left the United States, gathering passport stamps like badges of love, my brain had one foot out the door: and before long, that pull became inseparable from volunteerism abroad. At a Liberal Arts college, the only thing more common to hear than “God, I’m so TIRED” was the ever-present game of charity poker: I see your volunteer trip to Haiti, and raise you an orphanage-building in Chad. For a young girl who knew only that I needed to go—and from that forward motion, hopefully enact some positive change—this was a strange phenomenon. Moreover, it was stifling: to disentangle desire from the pressure to look good in a letter, smiling-but-not-smiling as a smattering of indigenous children sit stoically by, was daunting. Tongue-in-cheek articles glared up from The Onion, “6-Day Trip to Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture!” and I lost what I’d not known I’d had: Truth. Clarity. Innocence, and the genuine drive to connect.

So I did what I always do: I danced. Continue Reading…