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Women

Guest Posts, The Body, Women

My Body, My Country

December 16, 2016
country

By Deborah Kampmeier

1.
My body is in a rage, a fury, a storm of hate. So fucking sick of all this talk about uniting our country, about having compassion for Trump supporters. I don’t want to find common ground. I don’t want to build fucking bridges.  That’s like saying I have to marry my rapist and carry his fucking child to term.  I don’t care to live with my rapist.  I don’t care to ever see him again.  I do not want to open my door and invite my rapist to sit at my table or shove his cock back in my mouth or cunt or ass. No, I am not building fucking bridges.  Yes, build a fucking wall, but not between Mexico and me.  Between me and you mother fucking racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, misogynistic rapists, and the rest of you who condone them.  Stay out of my home.  I have no interest in sharing a country with you. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, Women

A Small Coin For Your Thinking

December 3, 2016
coin

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

“I’m kidnapping you to Italy and this time I’m not taking no for an answer,” my college roommate Pat announces.

Pat bought a vacation house in Umbria, Italy eight years ago, but my husband Marc and I have never visited. We aren’t able to travel together much because we have a developmentally disabled son. “You should go with Pat,” Marc says. “It’s the trip of a lifetime.”

Still, travel is a mixed bag. There’s the pleasure of it, of course. But there is always an undercurrent of longing and sadness too. I so wish Marc and I could travel together. And I feel guilty. Doesn’t he deserve some respite too? Why should I be the one who gets to go gallivanting?

“What can I bring you?” I ask him. “Gloves? A wallet? Wine?”

“An ancient Etruscan artifact,” he says.

“Right,” I say. “I’ll go digging up Pat’s back yard.”

Pat has invited three of her closest friends. None of us knows each other well.  “What if we don’t get along? What if the others don’t like me?” I ask Pat.

“Lynne and Eve said the same thing!” she says. “Do you think I would have put us together if I thought we wouldn’t click?”

So I pack, in my usual anxious way, for every contingency. A first aid kit. A four inch folding umbrella. An Italian phrase book. I’m the kind of girl who always remembers to bring the toothpaste. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality, Women

The Origin Of The World

September 29, 2016
sexuality

By Zoë Brigley Thompson

I start to like my father again when we are standing together looking at a painting. To begin, you would have to explain the place. The Musée D’Orsay in Paris was a railway station until 1939, and the great clock-faces on the exterior signal an obsession with timekeeping and travel. This particular painting is relatively small, and its intimacy is out of place under the arching glass roof where trains once ran. The museum is a public space and still has the feeling of a railway station with people hurrying to their next destination. In the middle of all this is a painting of a woman’s genitals, and my father and I are standing together in front of it.

I have just turned 18, and my father has brought me to Paris as a birthday present. Some years before, my father moved with his new wife to the central lowlands of Scotland, but he often rings on the phone. “Just hop on a plane and come over for a visit,” he says, but of course it is never that simple.

What my father does not know in Paris is that I am in a very precarious place. A few years before, I swore that I would never have sex again: my first experiences were that awful. Not long after that, I slept with my best friend just for the sake of it, to get it over with. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Women, writing

Our Becoming

September 23, 2016

By Carol Reedy Rogero

“There is no tidy end to any story, as much as we might hope. Stories continue in all directions to include even the retelling of the stories themselves, as legend is informed by interpretation and interpretation is informed by time.”  Garth Stein -A Sudden Light

The End. Those are two powerhouse words not necessarily written at the culmination of a book or story. Two words that elicit impassioned pleadings of “More, More” at children’s story-time. I can close my eyes and remember my own children reciting those words and then begging for a repeat of a favorite tale or questioning its end with a chorus of “what happened next”.  As an adult reader I’ve stared transfixed by the print on the last page of a book and felt an actual pang, a physical longing for more. I’ve ached for the adventure to continue, the pleasure to remain, the unanswered to be answered, the gutted feeling to dissipate and for the smile in my heart to keep radiating warmth.

Some stories have epilogues or sequels, but not all do. Or do they? Is there always a definitive point on that final page where there is no more that could or should be added? Fiction may often seem to have natural stopping points, resolutions or tidy endings but what about the narratives of our lives? What about the non-fiction realities we’re born into, exist in, grow and create in? While we may have lived, loved, and walked away, did those particular stories really end there? Have they been put to rest, packed away, buried or burned on a funeral pyre? Or do chapters of our narratives continue to live and breathe in hibernation? Are they continually regenerated and assimilated into our “becoming”? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Women, writing

The Bits That Matter

September 12, 2016
funny

By Pauline Campos

I used to watch comedians like John Leguizamo and George Lopez in complete awe. While everyone else was laughing at the punchline, I was sitting there wondering what kind of hell had to be paid for penance back home for that last laugh in public. Either their families were just really understanding, lived under giant rocks, or somehow, these performers had learned how to honestly not give a fuck when it came to familial judgement. Forget Supermann. To me, the people who could write the words that needed to be written to share their truths in such a way that could draw in an audience of strangers and bring everyone together with laughter? These were the people I wanted to be.

Then I grew up and started writing seriously. I was self-editing myself too often, at first, and hating it. I wasn’t trying to make anyone look bad, mind you…just share my own truth and experiences. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it isn’t. And it drove me crazy to keep taking out the good bits that I knew needed to stay in. These were the parts that brought it all together; the bits of my own story that my readers would be able to relate to. On the blog, it eventually became easy to just say FUCK IT and hit publish…no one reads I’m related to reads here, usually. Most times, if I have written something in which someone can identify themselves, named or not, I clear it with them first. Then I had to learn to pretend I had temporary amnesia every time I wrote a new advice column for Latina Magazine because relating with your reader about that time we were both The Other Woman tends to make for some awkward Sunday dinners with the Tias. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, memories, Women

Over-The-Counter Medicine

August 31, 2016
pharmacy

By Monica Drake

There’s no place more optimistic than a well-stocked pharmacy. Gleaming clean and rocking the high blast and buzz of fluorescents, everything on the shelves is there to save your life while it cushions your vanity. Crowded, tidy aisles scream, You can be healthy, strong and beautiful! When I was young enough to never need anything beyond an occasional shot of nighttime cough medicine—that sweet, Kool-Aid purple nurse in a bottle—but old enough to be out on my own, I had a job dusting cures, ringing up sales. We carried Epi-pens for anaphylactic shock, because even slight allergies can go seriously wrong. I read trifold pamphlets during the slower retail moments, making myself a student of human health. I learned that it can be the first exposure to an allergen, the tenth, or the hundredth time your body processes some unknown ingredient, in a kind of secret internal roulette, but every single second of the day there exists a slim chance: your immune system could kick into high gear and shut down your throat. It might start with an itch around your eyes or in your sweating armpits. Your blood pressure will drop, silently, and painlessly. That drop in blood pressure has the potential to undermine and weaken your brain’s decision making skills. Some people grow so cold they can’t stop shaking. It’s like a ghost has landed in their bones, when shock sets in. If you have it bad enough, your face can swell to twice its usual size. Then your cheeks sag into jowls and your eyelids get fat and you’re fifty years older than you were ten minutes before. Your skin will lump up in hives.

An allergic response can clog your lungs with fluid and swelling and then constrict your airways, cutting you off from your own life. This happens every six minutes, to somebody. If you’re fast and lucky, one jab with Epi-pen turns the whole mortal disaster around. You’ll be back in business! An Epi-pen can save your life. It’s a brilliant invention. A pharmacy has what you need.

Want to get high? It’s in the bins, drawers and vials. Time to sleep? That’s there, too. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving, Women

Revolutionary Women: Breaking The Ties That Bind Us

June 22, 2016
women

By Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

When I was about 11 or 12 I saw my cousin Maggie get her face punched in by her husband in front of an abandoned gas station. It was a warm summer night and the normally loud Brooklyn neighborhood was uncharacteristically quiet save for two crack heads getting high down the block and a passing car that was blasting Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” from the speakers. My mother, sister, aunt, cousin and I were walking home from the annual feast of St. Carmel eating zeppoles and recounting the events of the night. I don’t recall Maggie’s husband being with us. I remember him appearing out of nowhere like the boogey man in a bad dream. One minute we were strolling down the block, and the next minute Chucho was dragging Maggie across the filthy pavement. When she tried to fight back he put one hand around her neck and squeezed. He punched her so hard Maggie lost her breath for a few seconds. Her mouth was open, but no sound came out. She didn’t scream or cry.  She just floated midair, voiceless.  I stood there waiting for my mother and aunt to do something, to say something, but all they said was, uno no se mete en cosas de matrimonio, one doesn’t get involved in the business of a man and his wife.

Although the elements of abuse are universal, a person’s cultural background influences how individuals deal with abuse. What we grow up witnessing as children and how we’re taught to respond in certain situations serves as the foundation for how we will respond to similar experiences when we get older. Our culture, religion, and economic background affect our beliefs, values, behaviors, and how we deal with problems. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Health, Women

Endo

June 21, 2016
pain

By Janet Frishberg

Age 12: In the afternoons when I’m bleeding, I double over as I stagger home up the hill. I hold onto a telephone pole on the way to the white-walled apartment where my mom and I live, where I can sit on the toilet and cry, trying to imagine myself out of my body, writhing on the carpeted floor, wanting to find a place of comfort. I slouch at the computer console, my feet resting on its grey plastic side, crying and playing games to distract me from the pain. It feels like my insides are a room and someone is peeling off the wallpaper very slowly, with a straight-edge razor. In the quiet apartment, alone, I know I can scream or groan as loud as I want; everyone is at work. My mom and I go to doctors, more than two, less than five. They say, “That’s part of being a woman.” And, “Sometimes menstruation is painful. You’ll get used to it.”

The pain overwrites the past. It becomes difficult to remember my body from before my body is in pain. Continue Reading…

Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Women, Women are Enough

Together We Grew

June 20, 2016

By Kimberly Valzania

Hi ladies, women, girls. Listen up.

I know you.

I know that some of you have been abused your whole life, whether you know it or not.  Whether it was subtle and under the radar, or straight up violent. Abused in ways that you can talk about and ways that you can not. Because you don’t remember. Or because you do.

I know you’ve been harassed. I know that over the years you’ve been told what you can and can not do. What you are allowed to do.  You’ve been told by men and other women, too.  And you’ve even been lectured by yourself. You’ve second-guessed your decisions because of how other people feel.

You’ve been told you are too strong, too big. Or you are too small, too skinny. Too jiggly.

You’re too bossy, too bitchy. Too direct, too blunt. Too polite. Too vague. Too emotional. Too wishy-washy. You’re too demure, too quiet. You’re too loud. You’ve been told to tone yourself down at bit. Too much. Not enough.

Slut, whore, angel, girl next-door. Continue Reading…

beauty, Guest Posts, Vulnerability, Women

Together We Run

March 7, 2016

By Liz Fischer Greenhill

I am cut from the fabric of my grandmother, wild and crazy, spirited and dangerous. Unpredictable women we are, the kinds of women they send to sanitariums. Women who fall apart. Women who must take pills to be good mothers, who must fold our pretty legs under our skirts rather than slip them into leotards for dancing. Women like my grandmother and me, we love to dance.

I grew up hearing the story of how my grandmother left my young mother in a burning car and ran away for help. I grew up hearing that she was irresponsible, didn’t cook, was never around, not a mother. How she would fill herself on samples from the grocery store but never buy anything, her long lacquered nails plucking morsel after morsel. She answered the front door wearing only her stockings and brassiere.

I thought she was glamorous.

I’d seen other grandmothers like mine. With puffed up curls, coffee-colored eyebrows more paint than hair, grey roots shining from under their hairlines like a fallen hem. Beautiful women, grown larger with years, having lost their waistlines. That’s what she said, that she’d lost her waistline. Don’t let it happen to you, she warned, before I ever had a waistline.

I remember childhood crying fits at night in bed. My mother coming in, how she perched on the edge of my bed, her hand rubbing nervous circles on my back. My body shaking in heaves I couldn’t stop. Worry in her voice, sometimes we just need to cry for no reason.

 I think I had reasons. A fire burned inside me, hot coals in a clench of skin and muscle. It was nothing I could figure out how to say.

Gwendolyn.

My grandmother.

In my dream we are schoolgirls together, laughing in the courtyard, smoking cigarettes in the woods, skinny-dipping in the river. We roll our skirts up and our stockings down. We trim each other’s hair to pageboys, smack bright red lips to each other checking for an even kiss mark. We lie in the dirt and dry grass under a hot southern sky and sleep, straw hats on our faces, legs overlapping.

My grandmother was, as her children say, so aloof and excitable, so wacky and unreliable, perhaps she was unable to be a friend. I don’t want to think of her that way. I want to think of us together as teenagers. Growing to be young women together, confiding in each other our doubts and sorrows and wild panic, and helping each other not abandon our children. I want us to be friends who wet-nurse each other’s babies so that some days each of us can go wander a river, or stumble home from a party, or howl privately to the sky. We could have allowed each other to feel childless for long hours of the day, to feel pretty again and youthful, to remember desire.

I would have been at the births of my uncles, my mother, my aunt, I would have held her hand and looked deep into the scattered brown of her darkening eyes and said, Yes, you can leave. Yes, you can go when the baby comes, I’ll take care of it for you, you can go. And because I said it, because I gave her the open door, she would have stayed.

And when my child was young and I awoke in the cold horror of a nightmare—a stampede of animals turned my son to dust while I applied lipstick in a mirrorshe would have been there to pet my hair and dry my cheeks with the sides of her hands and laugh, Girl, you know you wish it and at the same time you don’t. It’s alright, we all do. You love him to death, that’s all it means.

If I’d had her there to say it again when I was often so worried I might leave the baby on the counter of the fabric store and step out into the city, carefree and light, strolling the streets, peering in windows and wondering at the world, the baby more forgotten than a button that popped off my coat. She would have brushed my fears away, easy as lint.

Alone in my bedroom, a small girl, shuffling a halo into the green carpet, my hands clamped over my ears, my eyes pressed shut. A frenzied panic in my chest. It started soft like a dozen or more radio stations clicking on, a low murmur. A jumble of sounds and overlapping voices getting louder, reporters relaying news of bombs and wars and death tolls, numbers rising. I couldn’t make it stop. Just had to wait it out, five minutes, ten minutes, twenty. Shut out the light and as much of the sounds as I could, clenched. Around and around the room.

Who could I tell? My mother couldn’t understand. Already, her frequent looks of concern slanting through me. The nerves reigned in her grip. All the yelling and slammed doors. Rug burn on my shins from scrambling up the carpeted stairs too fast, just to be alone in my room.

In picture albums, my mother is a brunette Shirley Temple with scabby knees and a gleaming toothpaste smile. Then, an adolescent as lovely as a swan, thin-necked, sweetly smiling, her tiny poodle skirt like an over-turned martini glass. In high school she is pretty in that perfect girl-next-door kind of way, short in stature, feminine, a brown bouffant, just a touch of eyeliner, lip gloss, a good girl. We would’ve run in different crowds if we were classmates. She, in sync with the cheerleaders, in uniform, belonging; me with the artists, in our tattered vintage clothes and unkempt hair, dreaming of a way out.

As a teenager I did not look in the mirror. I only did it if I had a purpose, but never for the sake of admiration. I was told I was pretty like my grandmother, but I did not allow the compliment to stand. I knocked it down and never looked long enough to form my own opinion—afraid it wasn’t true. Afraid it was.

I’ve seen pictures of my grandmother in a sequin leotard, in a line of women, elbows locked like paper dolls, dark-lips, arched smiles, one leg bent, one leg lifted, all in sync. My legs are shaped like hers.

If my grandmother and I had been young together we would have been like sisters—best friends, accomplices to each other’s silly crimes. We would have grown up together and then stayed together, moving to the same block, a strip of fence between our houses. We’d have made our husbands tear the fence down so there was nothing between us. We would have smoked cigarettes over black coffee and a fallen cherry pie and bitched about the neighbors’ triumphant cakes and their children’s spotless rompers, the women we knew unlike us—we, who prefer to read Sylvia Plath or jam a fistful of wildflowers into an old bottle, rather than slip rubber gloves into a sink of bubbles or mop the floor. We don’t bleach anything clean. We don’t iron any man’s pants. Our bathrooms are draped with our stockings just rinsed. We let our children run wild and cook one monstrous dinner for all of us to last as long as it can, so that in the evenings we can slouch in an armchair with a book in hand, or lay on the rug, legs swaying to a record spinning on the stereo. All summer we eat wild strawberries, licking the red stains from our fingerprints, and shoo away mosquitos from our bare legs. Winter evenings we bundle into matching scarves and walk hand-in-hand well past the first stamp of the moon, until we are surrounded by nothing but blackness and the smallest pricks of light that remind us somehow that we are not lost.

And when we lose ourselves, we help each other stay safe. We take each other’s children and mother them as best we can until the other is well enough to come stand in the house again.

And when she surfaces, we bend a fence around the other, to protect the fragile cracks while healing. Keep the men out, the children away, bring each other carefully back out to the starlight.

My grandmother, my love, I’m talking to you.

I came to you when my son was just a baby, do you remember? We saw you in the hospital and I bounced him on your bed and I told you all about him. I showed you each of his dimples and patted his fat hand to yours. I told you of his first words and his squinty smiles and the way his hand grasped for me in his sleep.

We came all that way to say goodbye, did you know?

In your apartment we found your jewelry, all the bracelets I mailed you from New York City street vendors, plastic turquoise and mother-of-pearl.  We gave away your aqua spiked heels, the ones you wore all the time with over-sized sweaters and  leggings, showing off your shapely legs. I wish I had them now.  I would have liked to have borrowed them, now that I’m a woman.

My grandmother, you have not known me as a woman. True, I was a mother when you died, but I was girlish, I was fighting forward with my eyes closed, I had not yet seen my own body in the mirror, had not stepped into the caste of my widened skin. The woman I would become hung around me like a ghost then.

I was using the word mother for myself, tentatively, and I would not call myself woman. A girl. What is in a girl that is lost in a woman?

Seated at her vanity, my mother, tucked in a towel, leaning close-in to the mirror, blow-drying her hair, spritzing hairspray, brushing her face with powder, lining her lips a sharp pink and coloring them in, dabbing at the quilted pillow of eye-shadow, a swipe of rouge, not too much, a touch of Shalimar to the wrist. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, services, dinners, funerals, over and over, layer upon layer. The same ritual since her dates and proms and cheerleading games and sorority parties. Through the crack in the door I watched her make herself into someone I did not want to be.

What does it take to be a woman?

What does it take from you?

My grandmother and I are the kinds of women who retain a certain girlishness as we age, coy and flirty, we thrive on admiration, we stumble through our schedules, cannot maintain routines.  Always changing, we are like kaleidoscopic colors.

Did she see it in me, I wonder, that same patterning, that wild impulse that leapt a generation and settled into me, linking us in a slip stitch. Granddaughter. Grandmother.

When you were my age now, grandmother, you were just out of the hospital and fragile still. Your long fingers pulled stems from tall black buckets at your job at the flower shop. I can see your eyes squint, lips frown, while you arrange a bouquet in a vase. Your painted nails pinch off the rose thorns. A ruffle of petals. The plucking of leaves. This one for a funeral. This one for a thank you gift. This one for a girl in the hospital.

What song plays in your mind while you hum? Do you think about the doctors, the white bed, the pills and machines? Do you remember how you were lost to your children?

I don’t want to follow you there.

This is a story that changes in my hands.

In the house, when my son comes to me, I wrap my arms around him. His head smells like wet sand and eiderdown. His fingers tap upon the stacked bones of my neck. That is the only sound in the room. His hands are beautiful. His feet are free. When our embrace is over I’ll cook him breakfast and we’ll walk to the market, the bookstore, and then we’ll come home.

Grandmother, I remember the smell of you, rose water and powder, the perfume that drifted onto my shoulders. The black curly mess of your hair. Liquid brown eyes. Dark. Rimmed in black pencil. The southern twang that whistled through your orange smeared lips. Your hands, browned by the sun, thick-knuckled like mine. Too many gestures. Fingers quick as birds. A jumbled of creases in the palm. We called you Nana.

You live in me now more than before.

Nana. In my dreams you are whole.

I see us as girls together, scrappy and mischievous in dirt-covered dresses. Playing toy soldiers and tin flutes in the dusty yard. Southern girls, girls who know to look down in public and look up in private, we were those girls.

Turn your back to me so that I can button your dress, slip the slim pearly shells into the tight little mouths that dot a line along your spine. Let me help you put yourself together, gather yourself. Turn around, let’s see your lips, give them one nice press and there you are.

Grandmother, my love.

Give me your hand.

Let us go back to the car—that car that burns eternal behind my mother’s round eyes—there is smoke, the heat is pulsing off the asphalt, the door handle is right there gleaming. Open it. Get the child. Get her out. Take her hand and I have your hand and together we run.

 

Liz_Fischer_Greenhill-IMG_6874

Liz Fischer Greenhill is a visual artist, a poet, and a nonfiction writer. She is also an acupuncturist who practices hands-on healthcare in Portland, Oregon.

Liz’s work has been published in The Rumpus, Gertrude Press, Nailed Magazine, The Collagist, Perceptions, Four and Twenty, Oregon East, The Dream Closet, and the poetry anthology Step Lightly. Her work is forthcoming in The Untold Gaze, a book of writing paired with the paintings of Stephen O’Donnell. Her 16 mm animated short, “The Loveseat,” showed in LGBTQ film festivals across the US and in Canada.  Currently an MFA candidate at Eastern Oregon University in Creative Nonfiction with Lidia Yuknavitch, Liz is working on her first book.

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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.

 

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on March 14, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on March 14, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a special Mother’s Day weekend retreat in Ojai Calif, May 6th, 7th, & 8th, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

 

courage, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Letter to myself, Women

Dear Self,

December 23, 2015

By Kimberly Valzania

Dear self
Dear 6 year old self
tell them what that 19 year old neighbor boy
did to you in the woods
how he kissed you on your little mouth and made
he made you pull down your pants
and he made you
and it only happened once
but once is all it takes
help them understand
why
why you wet your bed until you were 12
tell them why
why you couldn’t sleep
why you couldn’t just go to sleep
tell them you were scared
you were scared when you were 12 and
your period, it came
for the first time, tell them
how
how it wasn’t at all brilliant and
how you didn’t want to be a woman
but now you were
now you had no choice. Continue Reading…

Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts, Women

A Letter to My Former Self

December 9, 2015

By Ashley Doonan

Dear former-self,

You are okay. Your bones are softer than you think. Leave the molding to the sculptors.

It’s 7:28 on a Thursday night. I just left my apartment in my pajamas to buy a candle and m&ms from Rite Aid. I’m sitting in the living room of my apartment for the first time since I moved in, which was last August.

This morning, I drank two caramel-swirl lattes in rapid succession for breakfast while calling countless doctors in hope of scheduling an appointment at a time that both fits into my schedule and is in-network for my insurance.

It started snowing as I limped to class on my crutches. Everything felt blissful, in the most ironic sort of way. As I navigated through the decrepit building in which all of my classes are located, I was faced with countless acts of kindness: strangers opening doors, offers to carry my belongings up to my classroom, a warm reassurance from my professor that I could leave the seminar at any point if I needed to receive a phone call from the doctor. Even my meek, ill-reasoned contributions to our seminar discussion were praised. I make a conscious effort to appreciate it all: congeniality and genuine human understanding is grossly underrated, especially in academia.

The remainder of the day was a blur: more snow, more slipping, more gripping. But now, as I’m nestled on the floor with my body pillow and my candle, I’m content. My eyes are heavy. These sentences are probably more or less repetitive fragments. But that’s okay, because I’m content. Continue Reading…

Family, Fear, Guest Posts, Home, Women

Not Now, Not Yet: An Essay on Aging and Eccentricities

December 7, 2015

By Terah Van Dusen 

I want to cry. No, I am crying. I want to scream, “Listen here, family—no more going crazy. Not now, not yet. No more cancer. No more tranquilizers for widows. No more meth for the good time guys.”

When I was a little girl, they brushed my hair until it was cotton soft. They bathed me and powdered my skin with white dust out of a yellow vintage disk. When I napped, I would wake and eat one of those orange crèmesicle pops from the freezer. I was pampered and lifted up as a child by my two great aunts who served as mothers—then released back into the wild where I lived with my father.

It was the ease of a single father home. Harmonious. There was plenty of solitude and we owned two pet rabbits named Snow White and Rhada.  We hauled our water up in buckets from a spring at the end of our unpaved street. There were cassette tapes and I had the boom box all to myself. There were long days of lounging and reading and dancing alone, my father working outside. There were quiet father-daughter dinners lit by kerosene lamps. There was dreaming of my far-off long-lost mother and sometimes crying. There was the youthful yet wise knowledge that that was normal (crying). There was the thinking that everything was going to be OK—it was what I’d been told, time and time again. There was being told I could become anything I wanted to be. There was being lied to. There were underlying addictions. There were dreams…and as I grew older there were dreams that were dying hard and fast. It wasn’t pretty.

I am almost thirty now and I am angry. Everything is not OK. I am torn—to lie or not lie to children? Luckily, there are few around, so I need not be worried that one might ask me “Can I really be anything I want to be?” or “But it’s all going to be okay in the end, right?” Hopefully I won’t ever have to say: “No, chile, actually shit gets worse. Much worse. Much, much worse. The mind gets worn like an old shoe. One day you find that you’re just trying to hold it all together. You will never, ever be an astronaut. Or even a manager of anything. You might not even be chosen for marriage. You may become obese or addicted to internet porn, likely both.”

My great aunts husbands both died early on and do you know where that leaves a woman whose greatest strength and ability was to nurture? It leaves her wandering aimlessly with a tray of refreshments with nobody to offer them to. It leaves her facing her own self, which she is not accustomed to doing. It leaves her tripping over somebody else’s clean, folded laundry that’s been sitting there for years. It leaves her in a large, old home with old man drawers and neckties and an old man’s favorite snacks gone beyond stale in the cabinet, a recliner still situated in the corner, a used faux-leather neck massager, a stack of old man Time magazines, bi-focals, a framed photo of an ex-wife, who died of cancer. I am telling you a sad story about old people who used to be very, very beautiful. Beauty queens n’ shit. Car models. Upper management gone crazy or ill. The fate of all of us. My job: to write it down. My job: to not lie to children.

I am the great niece. I tip toe in the shadows. I notice all the shrines and the way my one aunt still talks as if my uncle is sitting right there with us. Take away the men and the children and you get an old woman who used to be a damn good woman and wife but is now so shamed by her belongings, tea cups and sweaters and what not, that she sanctions off entire parts of the house with big heavy curtains and clothes pins. She covers tables full of piles of mail and paperwork with plastic picnic table cloths and when the lightbulbs in the chandeliers go out, she doesn’t replace them. But I get it. All of it. All of these “things” made perfect sense for a family, for a mother, for an aunt. But not for a widow. To say my aunt has a hard time letting it go would be putting it lightly—the mansion is her shrine to her past. But I love her and respect her maybe more than I do the other women. Because she is kind. She is the kind one. She is the crazy one, but she is the kind one.

On my drive down the Oregon coast for a weekend Mother’s day visit with my great aunts, I get to thinking I hope she didn’t sanction off my room. Not that it has any of my personal things in it—although it does have a few: a piggy bank, a Barbie coloring book, a flower crown from when I was the flower girl in a wedding. My dad has a bedroom down the hall. My other aunt occupies the loft bedroom. My deceased great uncle Ray still has a room too, adorned with elk décor and plaid.

My room is all white lace curtains, teddy bears, rose patterned bedspreads, paper dolls and ballerina slippers. It reeks of that innocent girl that I maybe possibly once was—if I stretch way back into my memory. Someday I will inherit the wooden four-post bed and the vintage stationary desk. A small framed photo of me is displayed on the nightstand—I am in the third grade, wearing my favorite Disney sweatshirt, I am smiling and hopeful. I haven’t been beaten down yet. (Though I have been beaten down a little.)

I scour underneath the bed for a box. I’m looking for a slip of paper on which I wrote a long time ago in kid-scratch “I want to be a Writer or a Dancer when I grow up.” Alarmingly, I cannot find the paper—but instead of getting bent out of shape I calmly tell myself that paper or no paper, I still want to be a writer. And maybe someday I will be.

I pull the large, blank-page artist’s sketch pad I write from out of my suitcase, kick off my pink slippers, and crawl into one of my many childhood beds. I intend to write about pointing fingers—at each other and at ourselves. I intend to question: why did it get so hard after the men died? Shouldn’t it have gotten easier? Less housekeeping, dick sucking?

I thought it would be a good idea: a reunion with my women kin. But I’ve got my grandmother who is the eldest and though she has really got her head on straight, she’s quick to judge, she’s somewhat of a sloppy drunk, and she tells me the same stories from my childhood over and over and over again. And whenever someone else is talking she’ll whisper to herself “Oh get on with it,” while smiling a fake smile and bouncing her leg impatiently, waiting for her turn to talk. “Be nice!!” I finally snap back at her, “I am talking now.” Then I regret it—cause… surely nobody would talk to their grandmother this way.

We’ve got our younger aunt who has fought cancer twice now and might be facing a third diagnosis in an altogether new part of her body. She’s beautiful. She smokes. I thought she would’ve quit by now. A quiet confession: I smoke too. But surely I’ll quit. Surely I’ll quit before I get cancer.

We’ve got my great aunt, the one I’ve told you about, who is so isolated in this old house and so fucking eccentric that she might genuinely be going mad now—for the first time I witness her throwing objects at the wall in anger or, in the middle of a task, throwing a stack of papers up in the air and just walking away.

She can’t. They can’t. They can’t go crazy. They can’t get cancer. Everything will be OK in the end is the biggest crock of bull I think I’ve ever heard. I want to scream NOT FAIR. NOT YET. NOT AT ALL. PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER!
These are the women who taught me how to floss my teeth, how to say “So very nice to meet your acquaintance.” These are the women who told me when I got boobs, “There are a lot of wolves out there,” with a head nod and a knowing eye and I knew they were talking about men. And boy were they right. This made it easier to meet a man, think “Wolf” and just walk away. These are the women. These are the women. You can’t. You can’t take them yet. I’m not yet thirty. I’m still quitting smoking.

As the ladies carry on in fragmented, tortured conversation, I sit on the floor and cry. I try to stop but I can’t. I try to be strong like I will have to when they’re not only crazy and drunk but bedridden too. I am the child. They are the mother. We don’t want to go crazy. We don’t want to lose each other. We don’t want to be unappreciated, and then died on. We don’t want to be cheated on, and then died on. But we don’t want to be victims, either. We don’t know what we want exactly, but we know what we don’t want. And yet with every year we face the inevitable—the house clutter, the mind fucks, the cancer. I feel it too. I get it.

The younger aunt hugs me before bedtime, she holds onto my shoulders and whispers with great conviction “I know, growing up sucks.” I feel a hard sob rising up from my core. Suppressing it sends a violent tremor from my feet to my head. “I don’t cry at home,” I tell my aunt reassuringly, “I must be PMSing or something.”

I wonder where my strength ran off to, where all of our strength is hiding. Maybe it just…ran out. Maybe it died. Or maybe it’s hiding behind all the life stuff—the tea cups, the sweaters hung over the backs of chairs, the lace curtains and vintage bureaus, the magazines, the pinstriped button downs of old, dead uncles, the bottle caps, bottled waters, dusty, the driftwood, vintage aprons, and “art supplies.” Maybe it’s in that one closet. Or in the other one. Maybe we put it “somewhere extra special.” It’s bound to show up somewhere. We ask ourselves, “When was the last time you saw it? And where?”  We laugh and drink and poke fun at each other slash snap at each other. They won’t last forever…but at thirty I feel like I will. How can I be this far gone this early on? Do you just feel crazy when you’re around crazy people? Are we just artists? Is this what it is to be eccentric?

No more going crazy.

Not now, not yet.

Too soon.

again

Terah Van Dusen is a writer and aspiring memoirist. She is the author of two self-published books: Poems by a Horny Small-Town Gal and Love, Blues, Balance: A Collection of Poetry. She has been published in two anthologies by Cool Waters Media in Chico, California. Terah lives in Eugene, Oregon and writes the blog Bohemian Dreams at terahvandusen.wordpress.com.

 

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.

 

 

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016.
Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.
Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on November 30th. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation.

beauty, Gratitude, Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Women

THE REAL REASON I THINK I’M UGLY TODAY

December 2, 2015

By Jennifer Ann Butler

I looked in the mirror this evening and the first face I made at myself was one of disgust. There I was, in PJ pants, a baseball tee, messy hair in a bun, no makeup, ungroomed eyebrows, and dirty glasses. But I didn’t walk away. I also didn’t correct the reaction. I didn’t say, “NO, Jen. Be NICE to yourself. GAH.” And force myself to say something kind. Because that’s fake. And, frankly, that’s almost worse than the initial face of disgust. At least that reaction was authentic. Even if it wasn’t healthy or kind, it was authentic. It stemmed from somewhere in my psyche and it deserves light. It deserves attention and affection and expression just as the rest of my emotions and thoughts and opinions about myself do.

See, we’re all onto something with there being body image issues and us needing to love ourselves more, but I feel as though we’re going about it in the wrong way. Oftentimes, we’re combatting the issues rather than offering love and tenderness. By faking it until we make it, we are ignoring the emotions that are so desperately vying for our attention. From my [many] hours of research on self-love and self-acceptance, the main approach to increasing self-confidence seems to be through avoidance. Ignore the bad emotion; concentrate on a good one. Who decided which emotions were good and which were bad? What about making an effort to understand the roots of the emotions instead? What does that look like?

What I’ve learned through asking myself these questions is that we are more than who we are in this very moment. I am more than Jen Butler at 9:54PM on a Sunday night. I am also the Jen Butler from exactly four months ago, when my relationship surprisingly and suddenly crumbled, spending the entire night switching between inhaling the scent of my then-boyfriend’s Hawaiin shirt and reminding myself that yes, I could breathe, despite what my anxiety attack was telling me. I am the Jen Butler who went to the MRI and PET Scan by myself in February of 2014 when the doctors thought my melanoma had returned and metastasized in my brain. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want anyone to think I was overreacting. I am the Jen Butler from December 29th, 2011 who stood and watched as my horse was injected with a potent drug that ceased his heartbeat because I didn’t want him to go through the pains of surgeries and be confined to a stall and fed through a tube. I am the Jen Butler who swallowed a bottle full of prescription pills in March of 2011 in an effort to end my life because of how much of a burden I believed my presence to be. I am the 24-year-old Jen who listened intently as my then-boyfriend drunkenly told me of the stripper’s breasts he’d fondled that evening, afraid that if I showed the pain I felt that I would scare him away. I am the 21-year-old Jen who patiently listened to my then-boss’s wife call me a laundry list full of excuses when I explained that my daily retail sales were lower than normal due to having rolled my Trailblazer four times (or five times?) across a few lanes of I-75 the night prior and having a resulting concussion. I didn’t argue. I didn’t stand up for myself. I listened. I even agreed. I remained in my comfortable discomfort of voiceless victimhood. Continue Reading…