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Life

Guest Posts, Life, Trust, Truth

Truth and Consequences

April 15, 2016

By Amelia Zahm

“Lying is done with words, and also with silence.”

“The liar lives in fear of losing control. She cannot even desire a relationship without manipulation, since to be vulnerable to another person means for her the loss of control.”
–Adrienne Rich

I sat down to write about lies. More specifically, I intended to write about your lies, all the millions of tiny and gigantic untruths you spun into a glistening web around you and me. I set out to tug on those fibers, to peel back the sticky net and expose the raw, pink flesh of truth hiding underneath, to reveal you. I want to bring your greatest fear to life. I want the world to see behind your mask, and I want to be the one who pulls it off. That’s the meanness in me.

But I can’t hold onto meanness the way you do. I don’t have the stomach for it. Anger and jealousy flash through me, blazing then burning out. I’ve learned to clean up the debris, compost it, and move on. I’ve seen what holding a grudge can do. During the twenty years of our friendship, I watched you smolder with resentment and envy when you felt slighted, upstaged, or challenged. I just never believed you’d turn that on me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life, memories

Departures

March 18, 2016
memories

By Andrew Bertaina

The world cares little for our departures. It spins and spins in the dark unaware that we are even here, spinning in that same dark. We are left to construct our own signs then, spin our own yarns about the moments that have marked us. We tell ourselves stories about first loves, parents, home, in order to give our lives structure, a foundation on which to build the architecture of the self. The meaning of our departures comes in hindsight, a postscript, leaving is not the car going down the driveway, the hand waving goodbye, it is considering, days, months, years later, what the leaving meant, trying to remember if you held your hand against the cold glass and what it meant that your mother didn’t cry. This essay is already a failure, an attempt to send myself a postcard from the future. I doubt I’ll have the sense to read it.

The last summer I spent in Chico, CA before leaving home was like any other: blazingly, soul-scorchingly, hot. It was the sort of heat about which people out east say, “It’s a dry heat though,” which is why I dislike almost everyone out east. The observation is made no less obnoxious by its veracity. The summer days in Washington D.C. are sauna-like, something to be endured, like watching golf on television. These relentless days always leave me longing for the cool California nights of my youth—crickets chirping and a light breeze prickling night’s skin.

Departing for college was the first of many adult severances. It felt like a pin prick at the time, an inevitable retracing of the steps taken by siblings and friends. They returned in the summers, strangers in a familiar land, stopping for a visit with the natives before returning to their new home. And yet, as the years have passed and college friendships and memories have faded, I realize that leaving Chico was a severance, an end to the era of a childhood and a farewell to my home, and to the idea of any place being home. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Loving The Life You Have

February 26, 2016

By Ginger Sullivan

I swear it happens weekly. I open my mouth and some clerk or new patient or person on the street asks me where I am from. I feel like a transplant from a foreign land.  Even though I left decades ago and have successfully eradicated the “ya’lls” and the “yonders” from my vernacular, my Southern upbringing comes through loud and clear. My move North did not erase my history. Although I try, hiding my background is impossible. My roots will not, cannot, be denied.

Here in the North, for obvious reasons, the South is not looked upon too kindly.   These arguments aside, my accent alone gives way to question, maybe even judgment, and I am left sitting in my shame. Am I stupid? Did I grow-up with backwater ideas hailing from the trailer park? Am I small-minded, racist, conservative and overly-religious? My impulse is to get busy trying to prove myself. “Don’t write me off!” my insides scream. See me. See past my inflection. Give me a chance. I can hang with you Yankee intellectuals. I am worldly. I am not a mindless Southern Belle. I can contribute value. I am good enough.

Ridiculous, I know. But it is my story. And some of the stereotypes are true. I grew up with guns in the house. My brother even shot one through the floor once. We ate our share of fried chicken and grits. One grandmother made amazing homemade biscuits that I still cannot duplicate. The other grandmother set a mean table and needed three black helpers – the gardener, the cook and the housekeeper – to manage her world. We said grace before meals and dressed for church every Sunday. The daily choice was sweet or unsweet iced tea, even for young children. We spend weekends canoeing or watching SEC football. And no woman worked outside the home. They (we) were considered marriage material, beautiful window dressing for our good looks, not our minds.

I think it was my heart that noticed first. From a young age, I was suffocating. It was death by disconnection. I wanted a bigger world that talked to me, stimulated me, expanded me. I felt alone and did not have the words or the know-how to identify my predicament, much less fix it. I was surrounded by superficial nicety and put together beauty, but my heart longed for authenticity. Will someone stand up and talk about what is really going on here? I could not do pretend. I assumed that something must be wrong with me that everyone else could masquerade and I just could not stomach it.

And then there was my intellect. To my parents’ credit, they educated me well, sending me to the best private schools available. Originally, I am sure that the Harpeth Hall School was founded as a finishing school for Southern ladies. A societal necessity. But, even the South could not remain too long in the dark. At some point, the school became a launching pad for well-to-do families to provide their daughters opportunity. I am grateful to this day that my parents had such foresight.

But even there, I was more backwoods than most. (I guess I didn’t fit in either to the plaid skirt, prep school world.)  I will never forget the middle school quiz bowl. The announcer read a series of vocabulary words to the competing panelists. The elected smarter girls on stage reeled off the definitions one by one, some of which I had never heard. And then the announcer said, “taxidermist.” The room grew silent. No one spoke. No one knew what that word meant. The announcer turned to the audience and asked if anyone knew what that word meant. I raised my then very shy hand. I knew what that word meant. Hell, we had a few on the family payroll that I knew by name.

Fast forward multiple decades. I have not lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line for a very long time. But when I get a chance to visit, there is a part of me, deep at the cellular level, that awakens and says “home.” Maybe it is the sound of the katydids or the sweet smell of freshly mowed green grass. My long ago emotions, tied to the place of my upbringing, rise with a vengeance and demand my sentimental attention.

Through the years, I have managed to willingly claim a part of the South in me. The art of setting an elegant table is important to me as is taking casseroles to my fallen-ill neighbors. There is something polite in my child’s  “yes ma’am” and “no sir” that just sounds better than a sheer “yeah.”  Dressing up a word to make it more kind goes a lot farther than aggression just because I can.  Thus, maybe my Southern training wasn’t all bad. Maybe there is something there I can redeem and even want to hold onto.

Undeniably, like it or not, it is my story. I often find myself saying, I am not sure I like the path I took to get here, but I like the me now. And, I would certainly not be the me now without having spent 18 years wading barefoot in the creek and watching my Dad chase cows in the backyard.

Our life is like a blank wall, waiting to be filled with a 12′ x 12′ mural.   Our experiences, stories, pain and joys are painted on there somewhere. We can try to draw over them or around them or make them into something else, but they cannot be expunged. We are the sum total of all our life’s encounters.  The good news is that our life’s artwork is not complete until our journey ends. We can always add more to our mural which can transform the entirety of the composition. We are a continuous work in process.

I don’t know about you but that works for me. It engenders hope. It fortifies self-compassion to fight off my shame. It allows me the ability, on a good day, to fully embrace the life I have now. I am reminded of that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song – “If You Can’t be With the One You Love, Love the One You’re With.” I may not have the life I wanted, the life I dreamt of, but I am going to learn to love the life I have.

So, pass the biscuits and pour the iced tea. I’m gonna dig in, into all of it. Every last bite.

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Ginger M. Sullivan practices psychotherapy to pay the bills but her real joys are her two children, her pug and her writing. As a self-proclaimed fumbling human being, she expounds on the underbelly of life – all things raw and real – that others might continue on their journey to become their highest, best self. She joined Jen Pastiloff at Jen’s Tuscany retreat during the summer of 2015. This is her fourth time being published on The Manifest-Station.

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough. Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

March 13 NYC! A 90 minute class for women, girls and non-gender conforming folks (we encourage teens 16 and up) and all levels that will combine flow yoga, meditation, empowerment exercises, connection and maybe, just maybe, a dance party. This will be a class to remind you that you are enough and that you are a badass. It will be fun and empowering and you need no yoga experience: just be a human being. Let’s get into our bodies and move! Be warned: This will be more than just a basic asana class. It will be a soul-shifting, eye-opening, life-changing experience. Come see why Jen Pastiloff travels around the world and sells out every workshop she does in every city. This will be her last class before she has her baby so sign up soon. Follow her on instagram at @jenpastiloff and @girlpoweryouareenough.
Jen is also doing her signature Manifestation workshop in NY at Pure Yoga Saturday March 5th which you can sign up for here as well (click pic.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

beauty, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Life

The Idea of Being Enough, or a Credit to My Kind

October 6, 2015

By Ashley-Elizabeth Best

I am stuck in myself, indulging the constant loop of compare and contrast. Growing up poor and with a single mother of five I struggled to prove I was more, that I could be different than my family and transcend others’ assumptions about me. I’ve always been a self-improver and work tirelessly at my imperfections. There are many incidents from my childhood that have stayed with me and for a long time made me feel I could never be anything than what I was then—a tired and unhappy kid helping to raise her four younger siblings with her struggling mother.

Every Sunday we stuffed a stroller full of dirty laundry in garbage bags to push downtown to the laundry mat. To get to the laundry mat we had to pass a dental office a fellow classmate’s parents owned. Most Sundays he earned his allowance mowing the lawn in front of the practice. I’ll never forget the look on his face every time he saw us five kids and our mother pass by with our stroller, something between pity and a recognition—I know who you are and what you’ll be. So I performed the smart poor girl who has potential, but as one classmate said within my hearing once, she’s either going to get pregnant or go to university.

I measured ‘enough’ in all the wrong ways for years, for decades. I had terrible anxiety, agonized over everything I said to others—did they think what I said was stupid? Was I stupid? Can I post that on Facebook, is the grammar right, is the structure right? Was my performance making me good, making me enough? Mistakes terrified me—someone like me could not afford to make mistakes.

Everything up to my early twenties was done because of fear. When I moved away from my family to attend university, the constant fight for their survival and well being left me empty and lost. I started taking creative writing classes and slowly began to grow a feeling of possibility, that a life of my own was worth fighting for, and that maybe writing could help nurture my growing confidence and independence from my former dependents.

Years later, after school, working, serious medical problems, and constant little tragedies which have befallen my family, I am still poor, but now know I am worthy and that my life is meaningful. I have a poetry book coming out and am deeply at work on a novel. I have a life of my own despite and because of my family. I am enough for myself and my pen. It took me a long time to realize self-worth is something I could earn through self-compassion.

I do not dare to compare myself to others, I no longer look for evidence that I am inferior because of my past. I look forward knowing life is a sequence of feelings, some will last and most won’t. They are all a performance of singular parts acting as a whole in the absence of a frame. I am not a credit to my kind, I am a credit to myself. I am enough. I am. Author Photo
Ashley-Elizabeth Best is from Cobourg, Canada. Her work has been published in Fjords, CV2, Berfrois, Grist and Ambit Magazine, among other publications. Recently she was shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Her first collection of poems, Slow States of Collapse is forthcoming with ECW Press. She lives and writes in Kingston.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

 

courage, Guest Posts, Home, Life

The Country Estate

October 3, 2015

By Stephanie Couey

The “Country Estate” is my home for five months.  I move in a few days after opening the lid of my then roommate’s white Cuisinart rice cooker, and having my face engulfed in a buzzing red swarm of fruit flies.  We fight about it.  I’m not even sure why.

My then-boyfriend, a jack-Mormon, picks me up in his dad’s work truck and listens as I vent about the fruit flies and the lingering trauma.  He highlights the fact that the roommate’s name is Sarin, the same as that of a lethal gas.  I don’t want to go there, and I’m not sure if I feel dirtier from the flies or from the fight, or from something else.

It is winter, and Nampa, Idaho is draped more in ice than snow.  The Country Estate, as we call it, is right next to an out of commission steam locomotive on its tracks, an enormous block of sculpted charcoal.  There is a silo so close by that we refer to it as “our silo” each time we drive back to the house.

The Country Estate is massive, yet chintzy.  It is an all-white two-story, in a style somewhere between colonial and warehouse.  The ceilings are made of porous tile, the living room, as well as the kitchen, is lit by fluorescent beams, and the floors are of ill-fitting linoleum bubbling up near the walls.

Me and my few things settle in upstairs, in the jack-Mormon’s room with muted green walls and a twin bed.  Heidi and Zeniff, the other inhabitants, aren’t home when I “move in,” but this isn’t the kind of house where people mind.

We call it the Estate because it is anything but.  We call it the Estate because it is surrounded by varying animals: goats, chickens, turkeys, and llamas.  We call it the Estate because we know it does not belong to us, but that we, for now, belong to it.

Here there is order.

The Jack-Mormon’s dog shits daily in front of the washing machine.

Each night we make tofu stir-fries with ingredients from local underpaid farmers and nearly-expired packs of tofu from Winco.  I introduce the jack-Mormon to Braggs Liquid Aminos, and he introduces me to putting a glob of peanut butter directly into the sizzling tofu and vegetables, letting it disperse into thick velvet liquid.

He’d come up behind me and breathe a gust of pot smoke down my shirt, his hair greasy.  We’d eat sitting on the floor with Zeniff, with numerous open beers, a bowl, and a guitar.  I cry during the Leonard Cohen songs, always in the same moments, ones like, “she broke your throne and she cut your hair,” and neither boy makes fun of me.  There’s something about being raised Mormon that makes them both sentimental in a way that respects crying.

In the time I live here, my grades slip a little, like they did when I was nineteen and aimless, but now I realize I wasn’t just aimless.  I realize I was comfortable.  And here I am again.  Comfortable.

At my first home, in California, I didn’t want to move forward because I didn’t have to, just as I don’t have to in this house, with the jack-Mormon, in Nampa, where it costs nothing to live and everyone’s family and everyone’s church is within a ten-mile radius, so no matter how much you’ve shunned any of them, home is never a variable, and at the time, the “Estate” is not a variable.

In this house, the jack-Mormon shaves his chest hair and legs with my Venus razor.  He holds me on the ratted couch as we watch the Elephant Man and Beach House music videos on repeat.  When his dad shows up, the jack-Mormon hides his stash, and I talk about my grades, my Honda Civic’s mileage, and my parents’ health.

Never does this feel like sinking, though I suppose it is.

We go for runs when the ice melts.

We sometimes go to parties in Boise, his being dirtier and druggier than the ones I’d been going to before we met.

We buy sodas up the street across from a carniceria, and when asked if we have the munchies by our attendant, I respond with eyes as red as stop signs that we have “the thirsties.”

Mostly though, we stay in.

I write a lot on a laptop with no internet connection.  He asks if I’m ever writing about him.  I say, “not really.”

We color in Little Mermaid coloring books, letting Ariel and Eric be us.  I squiggle some stretch marks over Ariel’s cleavage, write, “feed me” on her stomach, and give her more tired eyes.  Then it’s pretty close.

I ask myself what it is any of us really strive for, much like I did at age fifteen, only now with the presence of pure contentment I’d never had after youth.  If we are loved and fed and comfortable, isn’t that enough?  We are warm, healthy, creative, making music, writing, drawing, exploring and re-exploring Nampa.  Can we keep this contentment going?  After years on and off of anti depressants and in and out of therapists’ offices, “contentment” in itself is a swinging sunlit hammock – just enough motion, just enough light.

The Country Estate is my home for five months.  In the midst of asking myself questions about striving versus stagnation on a daily basis, the jack-Mormon gets arrested, after numerous other offenses, for driving under the influence of heavy doses of his father’s Xanax.  He is sent away without warning, his dark yellow urine left un-flushed in the downstairs bathroom, Apple Jacks spilled on the kitchen counter.

His family throws me a small birthday party with Reeses Pieces cupcakes, and I see the final Harry Potter movie with his nephew.  I begin to eat meat again, knowing the absurdity of my former lover upholding vegetarianism while in jail.

I move back to Boise.  I become president of an on-campus association, and I consider graduate school.  I write poems.  Sometimes I just speak poems on my long walk from home to campus.

I visit him in jail, past the fields of livestock and corn, until I don’t.

I stop asking the questions about contentment, and start once again asking the questions about identity, distinction, money, forwardness.  I stop asking about here or there, and decide that it’s all here.  I go from unceasingly gray to black and white.

When I later drive through Nampa and pass the train tracks, I see our old home, our silo, our rickety porch with half smoked cigarettes between the boards.  Perhaps this was a temporary distraction, but maybe it’s all a distraction.  I see the steam engine, black and still, and I drive on, newly obsessed with motion.

Stephanie Couey is an MFA poet and teacher at University of Colorado-Boulder. She is from Riverside, CA and Boise, ID.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Join Jen Pastiloff at one of her Girl Power Workshops or On being Human Workshops by clicking here.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It's magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Ring in New Years 2016 with Jen Pastiloff at her annual Ojai retreat. It’s magic! It sells out quickly so book early. No yoga experience required. Just be a human being. With a sense of humor. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com with questions or click photo to book. NO yoga experience needed. Just be a human being.

Guest Posts, Life

Step By Step

August 14, 2015

By Ginger Sullivan

It is hard to believe over 30 years have passed. I was a spry young thing. The mysterious underdog. Everyone worried if I ate enough. And why on earth would anyone be up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning, dressed and out the door regardless of the weather?

Sometimes, I look back on those days and question my own sanity. What was I running from? Was I that intolerant of my own feelings? Was I masochistic to my own burgeoning body as a young woman? Was I trying to prove something to someone? Reflecting on those days, I often feel sadness and regret for all that I missed out on. The normalcy of adolescence. The girly-girl stuff. The endless giggling about sissy stuff that I passed up as superficial or uninteresting. And yet, there are the moments when I look back on that time with gratitude. I appreciate the life lessons that those experiences have embedded in me. After all these years later, I often find myself tapping into whatever it was that kept me going mile after mile.

As a nationally ranked, award-winning long-distance runner, I was a force to be reckoned with. When I started out, I just ran as long and as fast as my legs would carry me. It wasn’t until later that I learned that even the boys had a hard time keeping up with me. I moved through the system – elementary school track team, summer Junior Olympics, middle school cross-country. I was voted most valuable runner as a freshman on the varsity high school cross-country team. I was ranked nationally as a top miler, hitting sub-five minutes time and time again. I was awarded trips to national meets in California. The mailbox was filled with college scholarship interest. I won enough medals, trophies and ribbons to wallpaper a good-sized room.

But then, I grew up and in running years, I grew old. My knees creaked and cracked and could no longer bear the weight of the repetitive pounding. There were no more trophies to earn or newspaper reporters interested in talking to me. It was just me … facing life, without the constant pressure to perform and the corresponding glory of another race won. I had to find normalcy in the everyday that was not timed, recorded, applauded and rewarded.

The trophies are now packed away, gathering dust in a box in the basement. And I certainly have good stories to tell my children. However, the best showing I have for all that hard work are the internalized experiences that provide a constant supply of resources and reflections as my mid-life has taken on a different race – one that needs just as much stamina and strength. My life these days is like strapping on a backpack loaded with bricks, day in and day out. Some of those bricks are long-term challenges that need daily tending and care, with no immediate outcome or relief in sight. Others are shameful mistakes I have made and represent one step, one day at a time, climbing out of a hole I dug myself. Yet, just like that ten-mile training run, I start. One foot in front of the other. And then another. And then the next one. There is no end insight. You just do what you know to be right, mile after mile, day after day.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life, Women

What She Learned

April 24, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Kim Valzania

When she was 5 she learned that when a boy hits you on the playground what it really means is that he likes you.  Richard belted her in the arm at the top of the slide.  She didn’t cry and she didn’t tell the teacher.  But boy did it hurt, and it left a bruise.  Her little friend whispered, “he likes you” but when she told her daddy he said that if it ever happened again, she should make a tight fist and hit Richard back, only harder.  “Right in the nose is always an option.”

When she was 6 she learned that even a daddy is afraid sometimes. She discovered just how fast her daddy could run.  A lying, little, sneak of a neighbor falsely declared that her brother had fallen into a well, up in the woods.   Her daddy, her terrified hero of a daddy, could have qualified for the Olympics that day.  And he almost had a heart attack.

When she was 7 she knew for sure that she wanted to look exactly like Barbie when she grew up.  She practiced by walking around on her tip toes.  She wanted to have the tiniest waist, and a closet full of clothes.  She wanted to live in a dream house, play at the beach, and drive a red corvette. Today she is living proof that those dreams can and do come true.

When she was 8 she learned that if she cut her hair super short like a boy, everyone would start thinking she was a boy and everyone in the neighborhood (even her own family!) would start treating her like a boy and she herself would start acting like a boy.  She even got into a dirt-pile scuffle that involved a bit of rock throwing with above-mentioned lying, sneak of a neighbor.  It was fun for a while.

When she was 9 she learned how to hurt her little sister’s feelings.  All she had to do was tell her she smelled like a cow, refuse to play with her, mess with her animal collection, and slam the bedroom door in her face.  She was wild, mean, and a little bit violent.  Do make note that she later apologized for said bad behavior.  Sometimes being a boy wasn’t easy.

When she was 10 she became suspicious that her daddy would ask her to go ice fishing with him just so he could legally put out more tip-ups and bring home more fish.  When she realized this was indeed true, as in he didn’t deny it true, she was okay with it.  Sort of. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

Requiem for a Fallen Catholic.

February 12, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88 

By Trish Cook.

Confession

I hate going to church. Especially funerals. I am only here in the hopes that my presence will comfort a hurting friend, not because I believe in this bullshit.

Sit, kneel, stand, cry.

Remember how losing a parent is like a having a body part amputated. How long the numbness where they used to exist lasts, how searing the pain is once the feeling returns. Remember why, ever since my dad died decades ago when I was twenty-four, I havent been able to sit through a religious service without getting angry, teary.

More pomp, more circumstance, more hollow promises.

Prayto whom, I do not knowthat my friend John, who has just lost his father and is the reason I grudgingly sit, kneel, stand, and cry today, finds comfort where I no longer do.

Wonder, as I have so many times since my own fathers funeral: Why would a loving God let us walk the earth so wounded? Lie so battered? Allow us to become so bruised, each and every one of us?

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

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

  Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Life

The Gray.

February 8, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

By Amanda Snyder.

I’m kind of a black-and-white thinker. You know, the idea that places and people and experiences are generally either all one way (like awesome) or the opposite (like totally crappy and not worth it). I’ve moved out of apartments and cities and whole countries and run away from relationships and nixed friendships because of this way of all-or-nothingness.

But I’m trying really hard to change.

It would be so nice if life worked in that kind of definitive way, right? As in: There is right; there is wrong. There is good; there is bad. There is choice A; there is choice B. Like an easy math problem, you either come up with the right answer, or you don’t. Press one for yes, two for no.

Black.

White.

Only life is brimming full…no, overflowing with massive, huge, bursting shades of gray. And I’m not really very good at gray.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, Life, motherhood

A Sweet Ride.

January 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Liz Campbell.

One of the things I love about getting older is my ability to not give a #$@! when it comes to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I still care about a whole lotta stuff, the big stuff, but finally I am reaching a place where I don’t sweat the small stuff. I knew that I had been inching my way towards this space, particularly since becoming a parent. Add to that some huge life events over the past several years, and you’ve got a nifty recipe with which to bake yourself a big fat humble pie.

In my younger years, how things looked was pretty high on my list. My appearance, my home, my car, all things that I felt needed to look ship shape. To have pretty things really was quite important to me. If I take the time to reflect on this, it probably came from a place of simply wanting to fit in and to look, and therefore feel, just like the others. It took some time for the penny to drop that striving for material things in order to keep up with the Jones’s, does not make for a satisfying existence.

As I got older, and life started to throw me some curve balls, worrying about how things looked began to fall by the way side. There were much bigger things that needed my energy and attention – sustaining meaningful relationships, overcoming loss, starting a family, raising children – all big grown up things…things that really mattered. And if I’m honest with myself, I think that getting to the space of not giving a #$@! about stuff came about partly because I was getting to be all grown up, but mainly because I had no time! Who’s got the time or the head space to worry about what car you drive or the latest fashion trend, when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or running on 2 hours sleep a night for months on end with not 1 but TWO colicky babies??! Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Not The Living Proof Girl.

December 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Karen Dempsey

We piled into a long, rented passenger van. Two of the juniors, Dan and Mike, had already claimed “driver” and “co” and instituted the rule that driver chooses music, setting us up for sixteen solid hours of Phish.

I crunched in next to a wiry kid with a mess of black hair.

“Benjamin.” He grinned, showing off a shiny retainer. “Freshman.”

I was a college sophomore headed out on a road trip from Boston to Savannah with a dozen kids I didn’t know. It was a Habitat for Humanity volunteer trip—not exactly MTV Spring Break. But, for me, that wasn’t really the noteworthy part.

I don’t need an introvert/extrovert quiz to know where I fall on the spectrum of personality types. I’ve always been a person who lingers most comfortably near the edges of things, enjoying the view from a distance. Even at nineteen years old, my ideal break would have looked more like a low-key trip with a good friend, or week at home in Buffalo with the people who knew me best.

But some small part of me had pushed to try it for once: fall fully and inescapably into the center of something unfamiliar, with a whole group of people I didn’t know pressed in close. And I’m being literal here, because, as I settled into my seat, Benjamin the freshman was making the case that he should be allowed to sleep on me.

“I know we just met,” he said. “But you’re going to know me really well by the end of the week. It’s a long drive. And if I can’t lean on you, I’ll never get any sleep.”

The drive was long. With Phish cranked up and Benjamin nuzzling my shoulder, sleep wasn’t really an option. So I spent the ride trying to catalog the other volunteers by the things they said, the way they interacted.

By virtue of being a senior, Cindy had earned some kind of a supervisory role on the trip, a designation quickly challenged by several of the boys. She was enthusiastic but wavering, an unforgivable combination among ruthless twenty-year-olds. But she had two smart, solid girlfriends with her, and they shored up her confidence. You could see they wanted her to succeed. Eventually, the rest of us would, too.

Anthony from Staten Island was an RA on campus. He had signed up with his friend Eileen and a kid from his floor named Rob. From the moment we all introduced ourselves, Rob began working the refrain, “Come on, Eileen,” a la Dexys Midnight Runners, into every conversation.

There was the soft-spoken, fair-minded guy who was treasurer of student government. The amazing pianist who would spend his junior year studying in South Africa. The pretty, smiling girl who was active in a Christian youth group on campus. There was Beth—alternately friendly and harsh, caught in the push-pull of wanting to fit in and pretending it didn’t matter.

And then there were Mike and Dan. Pushy, I thought. Kind of jerky. But they were the type of kids who pulled the outliers into their jokes instead of making them their (easy) targets. Also? They were really, really funny.

Along with being an introvert, I was a person known to develop crushes on smart, funny boys. Driving across those ten states, as we neared the end of our drive, I was falling hard for Mike.

Like the children we still were, we found ways to debate everything from seating arrangements to whether beef jerky was an acceptable snack choice. But there were long, quiet spells where no one said anything at all. And there were discussions about things that mattered, too, like the fact that we were getting a chance to help build a house that an actual family would live in.

A few hours into the drive, someone brought up the subject of abortion, and the exchange got heated, fast. Beth’s voice trembled. She seemed about to cry. Cindy and her friends exchanged a look, and stopped talking. The silence hovered there in the thick air of the van. Then, carefully, someone started a new thread—something light. And someone else picked it up. And just like that, we were a group of people who looked out for one another.

We passed a hand-lettered, misspelled sign on the road: “Acers of land for sale,” someone read. “Ace – ers of land.” And then someone screamed, “Yeah! We made it! We’re in the south!”

The house we were to stay in was a mustard-colored ranch set up with several rooms of bunks for Habitat volunteers. I was glad when Anthony called to me, “You wanna bunk with us?” He, Rob, and Eileen had kept up a steady stream of lighthearted bantering and bickering since we’d all met in the van. They were easy to be around. All I had to do was laugh.

The work would start Monday, but first we had the rest of the weekend, beginning with a night out in Savannah. It was Saint Patrick’s Day, so we planned to head downtown to a popular Irish bar. I was glad I’d packed a little makeup along with my work jeans and tee shirts.

“Is that my brush?” Eileen asked, as Rob checked his hair in the mirror over the bedroom’s one small dresser.

“Oh, come on, Eileen,” he shouted back.

We drove into the city and found parking; we weren’t even through the door of the bar when a beaming blond girl flew into Mike’s arms out of nowhere. A girlfriend. Of course. She—Amy—and her friend were sailing the friend’s dad’s boat (I know) down the coast for spring break. They had run into us coincidentallywe were assured, with no previous planning between Amy and Mike, on our one night out in Savannah.

“Man!” Mike said. “Can you believe this?”

No. I really couldn’t.

  • ••

One night later in the year, my roommate Caroline went out to see a popular band—Living Proof—that was loved mightily for its covers of new wave songs. Disappointed she couldn’t convince me to join her and her new beau, Caroline went to the show dragging her feet a little. But she came home effervescent. Drunk on keg beer, she gushed about this beautiful nameless girl, who had spotted her not having fun and pulled her out on the dance floor, turning her night around.

Caroline called her The Living Proof Girl, which became shorthand for the enviable, carefree spirit who approached college—and life in general—with a seemingly effortless upbeat attitude. Be charming and pretty! Dance with strangers! Infect the world with your happiness!

Soon after we went to see the campus improv comedy group, My Mother’s Fleabag. Caroline said, “It’s her,” at the same moment I thought it. We both recognized the girl on stage for different reasons. The star of Fleabag was The Living Proof Girl. Who was Mike’s girlfriend. Who was Amy freaking Poehler.

(“You’re funnier then she is,” my friend Kim said recently when I told her this story. “But I think she’s got you beat in the tits department.”)

  • ••

My heart sank a little as Mike melted into Amy’s hug. But I had only known him for a matter of hours. I swallowed my Guinness and made myself start conversations with the other volunteers. I even tapped my Irish American upbringing and requested songs from the band. The singer asked where I was from, then gave our group a shout-out into the microphone. I had fun.

  • ••

The next day, Sunday, we had planned to drive to Hilton Head. But Anthony wanted to go to church first, and we had only one van.

“Guys, I haven’t missed Sunday Mass my whole life,” he said. “You can’t wait an hour?”

There was grumbling. Silence. He looked around at the group, pleadingly.

“I don’t think we can make someone miss Mass for the beach,” I heard myself say. Anthony had pulled me into his little crew when I was apart from the crowd and I owed him one.

It turned out Anthony had gotten the time for the service wrong, so he would miss Mass after all. But he seemed grateful we’d made the effort, and I was glad I’d spoken up.

At the beach I sat taking in the view of the Atlantic, seeing it for the first time from a place other than from the New England Coast. It was chilly out, which didn’t stop some of the girls from peeling down to bikinis. People swam and screamed and splashed each other. I was happy to sit on the beach and watched, wiggling my toes in the sand, wondering what else the week held.

In the morning, the alarm sounded early.

“Ugh!” Rob groaned. “Come on, Eileen.”

We were putting up the framework of the house. When had I held a hammer before? To hang cheaply framed posters over my bed? The nails bent at odd angles or went in sideways. Wood splintered. I was sweating, and my shoulders ached. Jack, a guy who lived on the property in a trailer with his dog and managed the volunteers, walked around offering guidance. I swung the hammer. Thwack thwack thwack. When a nail bent or broke I wrenched it out again. Eventually, I could set those nails in perfectly and my beams came together, part of a wall that was part of a house that a family was going to live in.

Mike and Dan walked over with a sledgehammer.

“Ma’am, this wall is going to have to come down.”

“This is going to hurt us more than it hurts you.”

“Don’t laugh, ma’am. You should probably look away.”

We watched the walls go up. We filled them in. Jack handpicked the best workers to hang the drywall. We screamed and cheered because, at that age, when you accomplish something big, you can still do that.

One morning there were gnats—no see-ums, people called them. They descended on you and filled your nose and mouth. I was near tears. Bug spray didn’t work, the nets on your head helped but obscured your view, and no one else was wearing them. I snuck back to the house, made myself a peanut butter sandwich, and used the house phone to call my sister. “Why did I do this?”

I pulled myself together. Back outside, a little rain descended and drove the bugs away. We celebrated.

Another day, Beth cut her hand using the table saw and Jack had to take her for stitches and a tetanus shot. While they were gone, we lazed around a bit. There was chalk on the worksite and Mike splayed across the ground and had me trace his outline like a body at a crime scene. Then he called Jack’s dog and coaxed it to lie beside the tracing so that he could trace the dog too. Laughing, I took a picture of their two empty outlines.

Our last night in Georgia, Cindy hooked up with the freshman.

“Tell me you didn’t have sex with him,” one of her friends fumed.

“She would,” Beth said acidly.

And the confirmation was written in the grin on Benjamin’s face.

Mike gave me a wide-eyed, open-mouthed look of exaggerated shock and I had to leave the room and laugh.

  • ••

Back at school, I mailed off my rolls of film and when they came back, I bored everyone I could with photos of the house going up. I slipped the crime scene picture into an envelope, carefully wrote out Mike’s address and dropped it in the mail. And soon after I got an envelope from him—an invitation to the party he’d promised us all he’d throw at his off-campus apartment.

I went alone. The Savannah group came, in pairs and with roommates or on their own.

“That picture was so great,” Mike said to me.

I walked around his apartment and saw a picture of him with Amy and then, eventually, the real Amy, hanging out and laughing in a hallway.

I stood next to Beth, watching Mike laugh with a group of his friends.

“I had such a crush on him,” I said.

“Who didn’t?” she answered dismissively.

There wasn’t a lot for us—any of us—to say to each other now that we were back on campus. But somehow, that seemed okay. It seemed, in fact, exactly right. The experiences we’d shared together, and whatever we’d learned about ourselves as individuals, weren’t the kind of things we needed to say out loud.

Content to leave it that way, I finished my drink and slipped out without saying goodbye.

  • ••

Junior year at a football game, I was walking through the stadium with a boy when I saw Mike and Dan in the crowd, running toward me.

They spotted me, whooped, and each grabbed me in a hug, and I felt like my face would break from smiling. I introduced them to my boyfriend and they shook his hand because we were in that strange world where adulthood and childhood, job interviews and football tailgates, collide. Mike, who was then a senior, put his hands on my shoulders and leaned down.

“You’re good?” he asked, while the crowd roared around us. “You’re good?”

“I’m good!” I grinned back, and he squeezed me in a last hug.

“Good luck,” we called to each other, and laughed. And headed back toward our futures.

  • ••

Twenty years later, I’ve discovered via the magic of the web that Mike is even handsomer than I remembered, with three equally photogenic kids hanging off of him in his Facebook picture. Dan is a New York Times bestselling author who has been interviewed on all the major news shows. Amy Poehler continued to pursue her interest in comedy. And the guy who shook hands with Mike and Dan at the game? He’s my husband, and we have two (adorable, hilarious, introverted) kids.

  • ••

KAREN DEMPSEY has written for The New York Times Motherlode blog, Babble, and Brain, Child. She lives in Massachusetts. Read her work at kdempseycreative.com or follow her @karenedempsey. This essay originally appeared at Full Grown People.

 

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it's magical.

Join Jen Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, in The Berkshires of Western Massachusetts in Feb of 2015 for a weekend on being human. It involves writing and some yoga. In a word: it’s magical.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

A detoxifying, weight loss, energizing, strengthening superfood blend. The Green Dream was the first superfood blend I created. "Green foods" are one of the least common foods consumed, yet they are the most nutrient-dense and most important! I wanted to find a way to get these incredible foods into your body without compromising flavor or convenience.  Green Dream is high in plant-based protein, so it keeps you full for longer and helps burn fat. Unlike other protein blends on the market, there are no "fillers" to extend the blend:  Green Dream uses only superfoods as ingredients, thus providing abundant, concentrated nutrient power with each teaspoon you consume.  Green Dream cleanses as its pure ingredients break down toxins and ushers them from the body. And Green Dream is energizing: it provides a natural, caffeine-free power boost every day as it sets the stage for sustained energy while your body releases old materials and rebuilds with precious new fuel. This blend also supports the body in weight loss, if needed: when your every cell is nourished from the clean protein, good fats, and detoxifying green power it provides, the body gives itself permission to let go of unneeded material.  By feeding your cells only the best, Green Dream makes being healthy and fit easy... like a dream.

A detoxifying, weight loss, energizing, strengthening superfood blend.
The Green Dream was the first superfood blend I created. “Green foods” are one of the least common foods consumed, yet they are the most nutrient-dense and most important! I wanted to find a way to get these incredible foods into your body without compromising flavor or convenience. Green Dream is high in plant-based protein, so it keeps you full for longer and helps burn fat. Unlike other protein blends on the market, there are no “fillers” to extend the blend: Green Dream uses only superfoods as ingredients, thus providing abundant, concentrated nutrient power with each teaspoon you consume.
Green Dream cleanses as its pure ingredients break down toxins and ushers them from the body. And Green Dream is energizing: it provides a natural, caffeine-free power boost every day as it sets the stage for sustained energy while your body releases old materials and rebuilds with precious new fuel. This blend also supports the body in weight loss, if needed: when your every cell is nourished from the clean protein, good fats, and detoxifying green power it provides, the body gives itself permission to let go of unneeded material.
By feeding your cells only the best, Green Dream makes being healthy and fit easy… like a dream.

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