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Inspiration

#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

Continue Reading…

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.

 

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Young Voices

This Is What Everyone Feels Like: A Thirteen Year Old Speaks Out.

October 22, 2014
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Jen Pastiloff here. I am the founder of The Manifest-Station and the author of the forthcoming book Beauty Hunting. I wanted to say a quick thank you to all of our readers and authors. I am over the moon that the site is a platform for writers of all ages. To have a place where young people and teens feel safe to sound their voice, all, that’s beauty hunting to me. 

This Is What Everyone Feels Like: An Eighth Grade Vegan Reflects on the People’s Climate March

By Eva Schenck, Eighth Grader. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Emotional Body House.

October 7, 2014
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Kate Berlin.

I’ve been working on opening up my heart.

Literally.

I’ve been sitting with eyes closed at random places -the break room at work, the bathroom, at red lights and stop signs in the car- and whispering to myself “my heart is open, my heart is open.”

But all that’s really there is a heavy lump in my throat, because my heart isn’t anywhere near being open. Lately, my heart has been closed.

*****

When I think of my past experiences and emotions I like to envision a house, with rooms, and common areas, and a garden.

If you’d ask me a few years ago what that house looked like. I would describe it with little consideration, as nothing more than a shack. An abandoned structure, inside dark and dingy with boards blocking any view from anyone on the outside wanting to take a glimpse in.   Mildew, standing water, dried, withered, and flaking paint, rats, and the reeking stench of loneliness. Dust collecting on the windowsills and the baseboards, in the walls a termite infestation, gnawing away at the structure of the house. Each room filled with boxes, piled on top of each other, on top of furniture draped in cloth. Furniture that once served a purpose, that was colorful and comfortable, that sustained a living and brightened the home. The garden left untended, was muddy and overgrown filled with empty pots and dead plants. Weeds took over where once grew a meadow. And wasps took the place of butterflies. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

What You Will Learn From This: Living With Head and Brain Injury.

October 6, 2014
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By Jane Ratcliffe.

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1. Some people will refuse to believe that there’s anything wrong with you. They will accuse you of pretending to be sick for attention, even though you had plenty of attention in your life before the table top that was mounted on the wall fell on your head (or you got in that car accident, et cetera). They will counsel people not to help you, they will explain to them that helping you with your myriad terrifying symptoms is akin to enabling a drug addict; help will only encourage you to fake your illness longer. What you will learn from this: You’ll learn how to swaddle the voice that spends hours (and hours) each day defending itself to your accuser in soft, warm blankets and hold it to your breast rocking it gently like the frightened baby that it is. You will learn how to hear your soul and spirit shouting to you through the (temporarily?) out-of-whack channels of your brain, calling out over the cries of the baby, that your naysayer’s truth is not your truth, no matter how forceful their voice is. You will slowly excavate Your Truth from the dark, neglected chambers of your heart. You will discover how to let others say what they will about you while you’re still sick and heal anyway.

2. Most people will believe you, but they won’t really “get it”—so they’ll drift away until you’re better. Or they’ll get it, but you’re like a drowning person grasping at anything stable—and just because they don’t have head or brain injury doesn’t mean they’re consistently on steady ground. So they may drift in and out depending upon circumstances. This will hurt, but you’ll reflect upon your own life and all the times somebody else’s suffering was too much for you to carry. Or the times you judged someone’s suffering as symptomatic of character flaws—some of which were annoying enough that you secretly considered that perhaps they deserved their struggles, that if they were better people they wouldn’t have these struggles and, really, it wasn’t up to you to fix that mess. And that just as you have been put aside now, so too did you put aside others. What you will learn from this: Compassion. We are all suffering. You haven’t been singled out. Listen. Watch. Study others. No one is without fear. You will learn to hold their fear in your cleaned-up, cleared-out heart, and you’ll discover that the compassion you generate for their fear has the power to dissipate your fear as well. And likewise, the compassion you learn to generate for yourself (because you need it more than you initially realize) makes it easier to be present to another’s suffering which, well, makes it easier to be present to your own. And so on.

Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Truth

Now Is An Uncomfortable Place To Be. By Carvell Wallace.

September 29, 2014
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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Carvell Wallace. 

Sometimes I have dreams where I wake up crying. Intensely. Childishly. These are dreams about a broken heart. Usually at the end of a love affair.

But last night I dreamt about Ferguson. We were there. My kids and I. There were railroad tracks. Singing. Candles and crepuscular bands of light silhouetting black bodies against the sky. I don’t remember what happened, but in the dream we failed. Somehow we failed. And I was wailing alone like a motherless child.

I kinda stopped posting about Ferguson or about police. Because there’s so much. So many unarmed people shot, killed, and beaten by police. I mean, we’re all kind of scrolling past now, aren’t we? Video shows police shoot unarmed man. Video shows suspect had his hands up. Video contradicts police story, Man in wheelchair beaten by police. See the shocking video. Woman kicked in the face by police. Pregnant woman slammed to ground by police. See the shocking video. Police arrest woman waiting for her children to use the bathroom, Police taze man waiting for his daughter to get out of daycare. See the shocking video. Police shoot man for following the directions The Police gave him. My feed would be 100% this. There would no longer be a Carvell. Just post after post after post to prove that it matters. That it’s happening and it matters. Continue Reading…