Browsing Tag

love

Guest Posts, Marriage

Fisherman’s Wife

February 1, 2016
love

By Shell Fejio

My husband was born one of three boys on the east coast, in a small town known for its Portuguese fishermen, perhaps more for their drug use and hard drinking than for the big catch, but they were known nonetheless. When his parents left for sunny California in his early childhood, they landed in a more fog covered Bay Area, but there was water, and my husband’s father took advantage of it. His dad would show up at the elementary school just past noon on a Monday, barely cleaned up from a late night of partying, pulling in the parking lot and honking. The receptionist would send the boys out, and under the guise of a doctors appointment (nobody at the school ever questioned why they were so many appointments, it was the seventies), Pops would take them down to the marina.

A ninety-nine cent package of bologna with a bottle of mustard and a loaf of white bread fed them for the day. Pops drank beer while the boys shared sugar laden Shasta soda. The lake was the bathroom, unless number two was needed, then, a bucket in the back of the truck sufficed. By sundown, Pops would be drunk, the boys tired and cranky, and the fish, on a good day, were flopping on a stringer in the water by their feet.  Weekends might be searching for crabs or clams at the ocean, rushing them home to get them in the pot, simmered in garlic and spices. In bad times, his dad would marinate smelt, a tiny fish abundant in the Pacific, a fish that soaked up the wine and got everybody drunk from tasting before dinner. Parties were oysters on the barbeque, hot sauce and a beer chaser.

My husband became a big drinker too. At twenty-two, he worked ten hours a day at a dry cleaners, with no respirator, inhaling any chemicals he could, hoping for a little buzz. After work, the first stop was the drive thru liquor store on the Mission Boulevard strip, a six-pack, at least. He’d get home, eyes shiny, beer in hand, ready to grab his pole. Night fishing was catfish. An early morning before work was hoped for rainbow trout. On Wednesdays, he got off early, picked me up from high school at first, later, from our tiny run down apartment, and begged to go to the lake – the ocean was too far on a work night – even in California, you can be a flatlander. Continue Reading…

depression, Family, Gratitude, Guest Posts, healing, motherhood

Ritual

January 25, 2016
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By Kate Fries

When my husband travels, my sons and I have pancakes for dinner.

It’s a ritual that transcends space and time. We’ve repeated it in different spaces as my kids have grown up.

I am listening to iTunes in my kitchen, bopping along to Rilo Kiley. It could be 2006 or it could be 2015. In 2006 we are in a suburb of Chicago, my kids play on the floor while I measure ingredients and wash fruit and the cat snakes her way around my ankles. We have just returned from a late summer walk. We talk about the “yucky mushrooms” we saw growing on neighborhood lawns and our upcoming trip to Disneyland. I am tired in this moment, dreading the witching hour without my husband to tag team with me, but we are happy.

Now, in 2015, we’re in Central California and my kids can help make dinner but they’re just as likely to be found lounging in front of the TV. The meal is the same, their requests are the same.

(“Can you put blueberries in the batter? Can we have whipped cream on top?”)

There was another house, another city, in between Chicago and here. There was a too-small kitchen and a window that looked out on the rosemary that grew abundantly in the backyard. I could watch my kids ride their scooters on the deck while I mixed and poured and flipped and sang along with the radio. That was the house I loved, despite its too-small kitchen and aging appliances. It broke my heart to leave.

But here we are in a new city, a new house. I grieve the loss of those former lives and years. I try to embrace what we’ve been given here. I try to heal myself as I come out of a fog that has lasted too long. There’s a dog now, instead of a cat, and I am working outside of the home so these evenings of solo parenting are more somehow more chaotic than they were when my kids were needy toddlers. My kids don’t chatter about Thomas and his friends or roll their Matchbox cars around my feet, they’re absorbed in handheld games, they’re reading Harry Potter and Jurassic Park. They talk about algebra and avoid talking about girls. And I am a little older and a little sadder than I was in Chicago.

I know I will miss these days, too.

I plate our pancakes, do a little shimmy in time to the Rilo Kiley song coming from my computer’s speakers. I sing along to the part I like best:

“You’ll be a real good listener

You’ll be honest, you’ll be brave

You’ll be handsome, you’ll be beautiful

You’ll be happy.”

Caught up in the music, I raise my spatula in the air, triumphant. I sing across time to my Chicago self and my Bay Area self in those other kitchens and tell them all of this will be okay.

My happiness has always seemed precarious and hard-won when others seem to have it abundance. Where we are right now—enjoying this exact moment in my newest kitchen, the one I never asked for but got anyway—is a victory. If my kids are listening to the lyrics I sing at all, I hope they understand I am trying to be my best self for them.

The pancakes are gluten free because that’s how we roll these days. We’re out of syrup tonight so we top our pancakes with Reddi-wip. Things are different and things are the same. Both can be good.Kate_Fries-DSC_5081

Kate Fries lives in Central California with her husband, tween sons, a labradoodle puppy, and a cat who came with the house. A full-time journalist at a mid-size California newspaper, her work has also appeared in Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Mamalode, and Club Mid. She can often be found running and listening to comedy podcasts.

 

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 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.

 

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.)

Grief, Guest Posts

Young’s Pond

January 24, 2016
grief

By Coriel Gaffney

It’s a biting mid-December Saturday when I show up on your doorstep in a knee-length down coat and cheap pharmacy gloves, the threads worn through at the fingertips. Even from behind the closed door, I can hear the sink running in the kitchen and your dogs crashing into each other as they leap at your feet. I push the door open and you turn toward the sound, hair uncombed, shirt stained with coffee, to greet me with your usual gasp and kiss. My clockwork presence in your home every weekend does not diminish your surprise. I notice you are careful not to say my name.

In your arms is a bouquet of all the things you forgot to fill, replace and adorn, an homage to your morning, which falls to the hardwood floor in the excitement: a remote, the sink drain, a sweater, a leash. I pick them up and set them aside, filling your hands with the gifts I brought instead—mixed greens and DVDs. You examine each quizzically until the little dog yelps, startling us both.

I suggest we do yoga in the living room and you are game. But a few minutes in, you get stuck switching from cross-legged to all fours, and I have to wrack my brain for ways out: Come to Cat. Roll over your shins. Extend your legs. Lie back.

Once you are untangled, I grab our coats and we retreat to the front yard to shovel the walk. As I toss heaping mounds of snow backwards and overhead, stomaching spasms of effort, you follow me with a broom, sprinkling powder where I’ve just cleared a path. In my peripheral vision a neighbor saunters past; too curious, too slow.

The sun sinks in the blinding white sky and our busy shadows lengthen side by side. I watch the relentless clouding and dissolution of our labored breath and track the hour through traffic sounds: a school bus chugging up East Grand; a mufferless motorcycle tearing downhill. When it’s too cold to feel our toes, we head back to the house by way of the breadcrumb trail of snowdust you left behind.

In the bedroom I lift the sheet so you can slide underneath, still in your corduroys, wet at the ankle hems, and bring you a handful of pills. Aware that I’ve exhausted you and guilty that I wanted to, I hum you to sleep. But when a searing orange fills the windows, I squeeze my eyes and forget my song.

Once darkness descends, you are snoring and a new layer of snowfall starts covering the paths I cleared. Suddenly, it no longer matters which half-brain or full-brain picked which tool to occupy the minutes between storms.

——————-

Can’t this all be less painful? Less singular? Just part of a normal trajectory— we fade in, we fade out? Can’t they even be beautiful, these shortening days? Can’t it feel like abundance to watch your mother dance in her sleep, her legs cycling through a dream, her dogs turning in circles before plopping beside the scoop of her neck?

I write to document this catalogue of our time, which otherwise remains only with me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

I Don’t Buy The Whole “Love & Light” Thing.

January 15, 2016
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By Stephanie Birch.

I don’t buy the whole love and light thing. Not all the time.

I think we can get so caught up in love and light that it becomes exhausting. There’s nothing liberating about choking on “light” and feathering “positivity” when you’ve not begun to uncover the buried parts of you. Collecting quotes to push down weathered stories and experiences is not something that necessarily radiates light. Often, it masks the disguise of experiences stacked in the history of your makeup. There’s an endless parade of corralled happiness and bliss-chasing that leaves the dark locked in pretend existence. That’s the thing about darkness, it’s always ahead of the light.
**

I used to be a quote collector, like nuts to a squirrel scooping up positive affirmations. As a yoga student, I often followed a teacher’s cues to “let go” in “love and light.” It was always so poetic and sometimes sounded like regurgitated myths that I could, in fact, be loving and light if I simply let go. If…

My brain would agree and I would nod, like a dutiful student, with brief sprints only to fall back into old thoughts, patterns, and beliefs. Like an addiction, I searched and hoarded for words that held little weight and much less responsibility. That’s the thing about collecting quotes, they belong to another. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Marriage, Relationships

A Year of Revisiting Old Loves

January 4, 2016
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By Zsofia McMullin

It is so easy to get into a rut. The toenail clipping, burping, morning-breath kind of rut of busy days and exhausted evenings. The no-sex rut, the no-talking rut, the not-holding-hands rut follow quickly behind. It doesn’t take long to get there—not as long as you’d like to think.

I am sort of baffled by this. I married for love. I married for great sex. For friendship. For a deep connection. We were mature and intelligent and in love. Isn’t that all you need?

But now it all seems muddled and not so easy. I feel like it’s unfair, because I can’t even put a finger on that nagging feeling between us. It’s everything. It’s nothing. I remember that sweet tingle, the antsy anticipation, the burning lust.  But now love just feels like a promise we made a long, long time ago that we’ll stick with this, even when it’s so, so hard. And it’s hard on most days.

So we work at it, because that’s what we are supposed to do—and because we want to. I buy the lingerie and wear makeup and we schedule date nights. But it all feels forced and not like the real thing. So we settle into that feeling—that the real thing will never be ours again. And I start to wonder: would it be different with someone else? With the young men I knew way back when? Are they still sweet and caring and romantic? Are they still funny and horny?  Am I? Or is it inevitable that we are all tired and comfortable and settled into life with soft bellies and graying hair?

*** Continue Reading…

beauty, feminism, Friendship, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, love

Beauty and Bitterfruit

November 24, 2015
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By Renee Gereiner

There’s something painful about living in a world where the rules have never made sense to you, where the idea of following the rules breaks your own heart, so you start making bird calls in the middle of the night, hoping someone will hear you, hoping there will be someone else out in the cold night singing.  It takes so long for it to happen so that when it finally does the other bird is old, and she presents you with a bitterfruit.  Like no one you know, she speaks, “We are not of this world.”  And you don’t question her, because she holds you in the deep brown of her eyes.

When you bite it, you become the women you always knew you were.

You sneak into parties you aren’t invited to where the beer is cheap and the women are shirtless; you drink bottles of wine in fancy restaurants standing up; you talk about film and documentaries and both the history of it and all the bullshit of what happened to old fashioned picture taking like you’re a famous photographer who has an honorary PhD at NYU; you drink your weight in wine; you stay up all night literally burning your shit in a bonfire with hippies; and you finally start making those blue nude portraits that actual professionals compare to the late Francesca Woodman.

But, of course, the bitterfruit gives you diarrhea and you end up spending afternoons over the toilet bowl, and even so, you still go back for more.  Because the calling of the bird tickles you from the base of your spine all the way down the sides of your wings until you are flying.

The bird knows shit that women wish they didn’t know. Continue Reading…

death, Family, Grief, Guest Posts, loss, motherhood

Black Lace: On Music, Motherhood, and Loss

November 18, 2015
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By Geri Lipschultz

Nothing is sexier than black lace, nothing more deadly.  When it’s cut in a circular shape, one slips the bobby pin inside, fixing it there into your hair.  With the black lace thus covering, you can show respect upon entering a synagogue or a funeral parlor where your mother is, before she will be buried.  It may only be nine months after your father died that she developed the cancer, less than three months before it would kill her—and in between that time, that is, in between the two deaths, you, at forty-six, would deliver a girlchild in darkening November. With the lace in your hair, you are holding the girlchild in your arms.

My daughter’s love for me was palpable.  A friend had seen her spirit when the baby was in utero.  Her shade was long, Tibetan, a tall thin dark man who sat on my shoulders and wrapped his legs around me, put his head upon my head. Cradled me. Farfetched or not, this was the feeling of this baby. Loving, attached, but withdrawn among strangers, whereas my son would work to catch the stranger’s eye.  Born eleven years before, my son had colic. I held him, and he cried. Even his entrance into the world came with a face of doubt, a scowl of woe.  He was covered in meconium, an expression of his discontent?  My daughter swam into life, looked up, surveyed it, said it was good.  Did my daughter know she was conceived in wedlock?

I was already married a year when I found out I was actually pregnant, for the second time, at forty-six, and I called my mother to tell her this.  She expressed something that sounded like horror.  I asked her if she was horrified, and she said that she was worried.  I was too old.  She was in her seventies.  The other grandchildren, my sisters’ kids, were teenagers, mainly.  My son, David, was ten.  He would be eleven when Eliza was born.  I told my mother to please keep her horror to herself.  I told her I was thrilled, that she should pray for a healthy baby, preferably a girl, for me, and if she was worried, to please not inflict it on me.  It vaguely reminded me of my writing, the once or twice I’d shown her what I’d written, her inability to take it in, her tendency to read too much into the stories.  I wrote stories, fiction. The lace of words, of black on white, the way stories gush up into images. You turn something terrible into something beautiful. I made things up.  If it was good I made it bad—some bit of salt or pepper or honey to change the flavor. If I told the truth, I would feel guilt, but the truth can hide behind a lie. It can light up the sky. For a long time after my mother died, I felt the guilt of someone who did not do enough because she could not cope, could not take in the loss. I was in the thick of motherhood, myself.

Black lace is what’s left when the mother is gone. A string of memories, a household full of items, tangible and laden and one day all of her furniture and even her wastebaskets would be sent to your house, because you were the one without a real job, just adjunct teaching and the pittance you made from your writing. Not to mention the insecurity of your marriage. Sometimes, if you could, you would take a match to the world. Sometimes it felt as if someone had. Can you admit the waters of grief? Stunned, after your mother’s death, you walked away brittle, unfeeling, protective, pretending. This has become your way with any kind of loss, until music arrives with its stream of the eternal, its messages, its images, its notes and rests and etchings. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Compassion, Guest Posts, Holidays, love

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

November 11, 2015
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By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Mother Night

Happy Birthday, Kurt.

This is the second letter I have written to you, and it comes twenty-six years past the first. Thank you so very much for writing me back, that long time ago, and thank you for the self-portrait. It’s a treasure.

You would have been ninety-two this November eleventh. The world has missed you for these eight years you have been gone, and so have I.

I was sick when I wrote you in nineteen eighty-nine, and didn’t know how much longer I might remain in this earth orbit, rotating, with you, around our sun.  Expressing thankfulness to the people who had encouraged and inspired me seemed a timely act. You were the first on my list and I didn’t get to number two.

I began reading your books after seeing you on the stage of Landreth Hall at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. It was my birthday in nineteen-eighty-four.  I was an art major earning a teaching degree with an English minor.  You wrote on a blackboard, diagraming the shapes of stories on a graph, and comparing to each other. Tall and lanky, you paced across the stage, pointing at the board with your long fingers protruding from the cuffs of your tweed jacket. You lectured like our English teacher, not the acclaimed Kurt Vonnegut, the “Primal Scream” of the Peacenik” generation. In conclusion, you demonstrated that William Shakespeare was as good at telling stories as any Arapaho. That was my first laugh at your sly, impudent jokes. A sharper wit never graced that stage, nor did a greater humanitarian.

I didn’t die. I learned to live with what would chronically ail me, and I went forward with life, with a growing family and the help of modern chemistry. You and I have this in common: the clear realization of biochemistry’s role in who we are and how we live.

Thank you for updating me on your son, Mark. I knew Mark, back in the days when we were crusading for orthomolecular medicine together and it’s use in treating mental illness as a disease, not an emotional state caused by bad mothers and such. Mark wrote a good memoir about his trip in and out of schizophrenia called The Eden Express. It was also a book about our generation, and personal to me, because much of his story was my story, too.

Mark believed that orthomolecular medicine saved his life, and I believed it saved my first husband’s life as well. We spoke in schools, prisons, even before state legislatures, asking that they take orthomolecular treatment to their populations. In the end, we all found it less of a Eureka phenomenon than we had once believed, but many people were greatly helped, and it got the psychiatric medical community’s attention, which led to major advances in understanding and treating mental illness. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Self Image, Sexual Assault/Rape

Encounters On A Train

November 3, 2015
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By Yana Walder Cook

Sensitive material is contained in this essay. Mention of rape/sexual assault.

I grew up in post-Soviet Union Collapse Ukraine. In 1990s, being a female teenage girl was a hazardous liability. I watched girls disappear into the dark underbelly of nightclubs, human trafficking and drugs and did my best to escape that. All through middle school I bartered potatoes for English lessons. The year twin towers fell I turned 16, and given one lucky break, I found myself in Boston with a United States Green Card. I ended up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts where I slowly healed from years of scarcity and violence. I diffused into the scenery and went to the ocean every day, until my writing and my love of travel brought me face to face with the reality of human trafficking again.

I met a Ukrainian girl on a night train in Italy; it was 2011. I was travelling from Vienna to Venice. My laptop sat open on the table between us and she watched me typing at it until it got very dark. She ordered us each a glass of steaming black tea and a cookie.

“I have a story for you,” she said at around midnight. “It is a story of hundreds of girls like me; half of these stories will have died with the body they belonged to, And those stories that survived will never see the light of day because of the shame and stigma and the powerlessness…”

Listening to her was like looking fear right in the face, but there she was sitting across from me, so I knew the story was going to end well somehow. She was like quiet ash, beautiful, sad, soft-spoken, transformed by life into fine mincemeat. Here is Sefi’s story.
***

When this story began her name was Serafine. The name was given to her presumably by her mother.. at least that was her hope. She knew she was born outside of Kharkiv in Ukraine, but she never met her mother because for one reason or another she could not keep the baby and gave up Serafine at the hospital. This story began when she was 14 years old. That day in November of 1999, she got busted for smoking, which was prohibited. At the orphanage of 200 kids between four and seventeen years old, her only reprieve was smoking a cigarette in the outhouse above a hole in the floor over a pile of shit. Hiding away, she thought about how it was even possible to feel this alone even though she shared her bedroom with 18 other girls her age. And she thought about how painfully cold it will be to go pee in this outhouse in about a month. No indoor toilets at this orphanage. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, LBGQ, Men, Race/Racism

Brothers, Do You Love Yourselves?

October 14, 2015
Ernest White II

By Ernest White II

Fat faggot was what they called me from eighth through twelfth grades. It had been just plain faggot before then. And sissy and sweet thang and Oreo and mutt and sometimes halfbreed and once or twice even cracker. But it was fat faggot that stayed.

It stayed after I had graduated high school and lost 120 pounds, after I graduated college with honors and snagged a staffer position on Capitol Hill, after I finished my masters program and moved abroad, living and working as a college professor, then writer, in Colombia and Brazil and Germany and South Africa. It stayed no matter how much weight I’d lost, how many personal or professional achievements I’d accomplished, how many lovers I had, how many exotic trips—or psychotropic drugs—I took. Fat. Motherfucking. Faggot. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, Home, Life

The Country Estate

October 3, 2015
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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.

Contests & Giveaways, Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

Essay Winner of Jen Pastiloff & Emily Rapp’s Vermont Retreat!

September 14, 2015
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Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station: 

This was not easy. This is not easy. I had one spot to give away to our retreat (and yes, we will do it again next year as this is our third year leading the Vermont retreat.) I had one spot which then turned into FOUR, thanks to various generous donors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Amy Ferris, Elizabeth Quant and three others.

And yet and still, we have 70 essays to get through. You read that right: 70. In just a few days, 70 essays piled in.

I sat reading through all of them with eyes spilling over. I was so moved that I decided I could not stop here. I would keep giving and finding ways to be of service. My teacher and mentor, Dr. Wayne Dyer, passed away last week- that was his big message. How many I serve? 

I intend to carry on that legacy.

I decided I could not stop at these 4 spots to Vermont so I am giving away 3 spots to my New Years Retreat in Ojai, California as well. Nothing makes me feel better than to do this.

I also have 20 spots to give away to my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshop for teens next weekend in Princeton and NYC. Ten available for each workshop. Email me for a spot. I want girls who could not afford the cost to be able to attend. Here are the details. Please note: the Princeton workshop is 13 and up and the NYC workshop is 16 and up.

And yet and still, there are so many others that were not chosen. There was not one essay that didn’t move me. There was not one essay that did not want me to push through my computer screen and embrace the woman who wrote it. Not one. I had a team helping me as I could not do this alone. I think we need to remember that more often: we cannot do this alone.

How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.

Which brings me to my first winner. Her essay floored us but her friends also wrote in on her behalf, unbeknownst to her. How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved indeed. Jena Schwartz is the first recipient of the four scholarships and I am proud to share her essay below with you. She has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. She is over the moon. The retreat is sold out. Congratulations to Jena. I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was.

At the end of my life, when I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.”

Love, Jen Pastiloff

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Free Associating about Fear & Faith (Or, What I’ve Forgotten)
By Jena Schwartz

In this moment of sitting down to write, there’s the lump in my throat and the tears behind my eyes and the tension of holding them in. There’s fear. And behind that, faith. And there’s something I’ve forgotten that needs remembering. It has to do with connection, to myself, to moving slowly and having enough time and trusting that shit always work out in the end, and that there’s no end, only the unfolding of our days and the thank you. The thank you I need to remember to say, in the morning and at night.

Mani, my beloved wife of one year come September 27, is not feeling well this morning. She is shaky and nauseous. She drank an Ensure and rolled onto her side to try to sleep; she did not sleep well during the night. She is getting better. Two steps forward, one back. Like the two-step dance that magical weekend in Phoenix, when I flew out there to meet her and a whole group of us went to the Cash, my first-ever gay bar. Little did we know then, that we’d end up together, much less married!

Most of the time, I’m able to stay in a place of faith and trust. I’m able to stay in the light. I’m able to remember the partnership she and I discovered not only between us but with God, too — how when Rabbi Efraim witnessed and blessed our vows, God was there with us under that chuppah last September 27, the day before her 37th birthday and a few months before I turned 41.
Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Relationships

The Heart Learns Nearly Nothing, But Just Enough, in One List

September 8, 2015
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By Erin Khar

 

  1. Begin your sexual history, at least the consensual part, at age thirteen, with someone you don’t love and who probably doesn’t love you, and stay with him for two years, even though you are so young and don’t love him. (Do some heroin so you can ignore this problem.)
  2. Spend the rest of your adolescence in love with someone who will break your heart and don’t have intercourse.
  3. Begin sleeping with people as a way to distance yourself emotionally.
  4. Sleep with older guys who want to possess you but you’re on drugs and they don’t know it and you feel dead inside and they will want you more which is confusing.
  5. Realize that they haven’t always worn a condom and freak out every time you take an HIV test because you’ve slept with men with questionable hobbies and you should know better because you grew up in the age of AIDS after all and you end up okay but you know you dodged a bullet or more.
  6. Move in with a twenty-six year old man when you are eighteen and cheat on him and make him crazy, so crazy that he tries to poison your spaghetti dinner and you throw up all night, but don’t find out until after you broke up that he put fifty phenobarbital in said spaghetti.
  7. At the age of nineteen, on the heels of the spaghetti fiasco, have an affair with a forty-five year old married British singer who has a small penis and likes to hit you during sex.
  8. Abruptly end your affair with the married British singer over red wine and Leonard Cohen, and begin sleeping with the guy your best friend is in love with. (Rationalize this with the fact that he doesn’t love her back.)
  9. Spend the next two years in an open relationship with the guy your best friend loved, while starting and not finishing many many relationships, leaving a trail of angry men behind you, including the celebrity who stalks you because you keep telling him, “”
  10. Find out that the guy you loved when you were sixteen, who broke your heart, the one who you still loved, find out that he died of liver failure after drinking himself to death in the span of four years.
  11. When you are twenty-one, abruptly decide to leave your country and boyfriend and half-begun relationships and dead ex-boyfriend and move to Paris.
  12. Spend some months sleeping with rich Americans and a few Frenchmen, vowing to never fall in love again.
  13. Fall in love with a Frenchman who has a girlfriend.
  14. Attempt a friendship with said Frenchman, but then begin an affair and feel heartbroken all the time because he won’t leave the girlfriend he has had since high school.
  15. Feel relieved when Frenchman finally breaks up with girlfriend. (Later you will find out he didn’t really.)
  16. Return to Los Angeles with the man you love, who may or may not be disentangled from his previous relationship.
  17. After a disastrous couple of months, ship the Frenchman home and start using heroin again.
  18. Get strung out on heroin, using the money you have that you don’t deserve.
  19. Go back to being a heart-breaker rather than the heartbroken and do things like jump out a second-story window when the guy you just slept with tells you he is falling love with you.
  20. In a drug-induced flight of fancy, return to France and accept the Frenchman’s marriage proposal.
  21. Hide your heroin addiction from the Frenchman, at least until he catches you with a needle in your arm.
  22. Go to rehab at the age of twenty-three.
  23. Break up with your French fiancé while in rehab because you know he can never forgive you.
  24. Start sleeping with the thirty-three year old restaurant mogul you meet in rehab who didn’t do heroin like you but had a thing for cocaine and vodka and women.
  25. After rehab, break it off with the restaurant guy and feel bad when he starts using cocaine and vodka and women, again.
  26. Have a couple of unsatisfying one night stands with guys you meet in twelve-step meetings.
  27. Meet a thirty-two year old photographer who is also a recovering heroin addict and move in together three months later.
  28. Right after you fall for the photographer, meet a thirty-four year old writer who makes you dizzy and let him go down on you.
  29. Although you probably are falling in love with the writer, you shun him and stay with the photographer for three years, during which time you remain faithful.
  30. Until you meet the washed up rockstar who makes you laugh and is so much fun.
  31. Leave the photographer for the rockstar and then immediately regret it.
  32. Try to win the photographer back to no avail.
  33. Become depressed and then even more depressed when you realize that you are pregnant and don’t want to be.
  34. Have an abortion which destroys you. So, drive to your old dealer’s house later that day and begin a relapse of epic proportions.
  35. Drag your washed up rockstar boyfriend into the relapse and start smoking crack too.
  36. Go to rehab again and break up with the rock star.
  37. Focus on yourself for a few months, although you secretly fall for the guy you are recording music with to no avail, and have some meaningless dates with guys whose names you can barely remember.
  38. Meet a man who seems all wrong and avoid him.
  39. Sleep with the man who seems all wrong and ignore your friends’ warnings to stay away from him.
  40. Spend three months with the man who is all wrong, only to have him break up with you suddenly and break your ego, if not your heart.
  41. Allow your bruised ego to win him back stealthily, even though you know he’s no good for you.
  42. Find yourself pregnant again at twenty-eight, and marvel at your irresponsibility.
  43. Accept the wrong man’s marriage proposal against all better judgement.
  44. Come back from your honeymoon, only to discover that your husband has impregnated another woman.
  45. Somehow make it through a depressing pregnancy, avoiding all thoughts that your marriage is a sham.
  46. At the age of twenty-nine, give birth to a baby boy, and instantly be changed, instantly love him more than you hate yourself, let this little man in a baby’s body teach you how to love.
  47. Begin to realize that you know nothing, but still try to make that sad marriage work.
  48. Catch the man who seems all wrong who became your husband cheating on you.
  49. Catch the man who seems all wrong who became your husband cheating on you, again.
  50. As the love you have for your child grows, you know less but are sure of more. Finally, after two long pitiful years, leave the man who seems all wrong who became your husband.
  51. Enjoy a period of celibacy and know you know nothing.
  52. Finally, break your celibacy by sleeping with a bartender/artist.
  53. Get in to two long-distance relationships back to back, with men who live in New York, while you live in Los Angeles.
  54. Stay in the second one for more than four years, break up and get back together many times and break him and let him break you and begin to finally see your lack of experience.
  55. Break up with the guy who lives in New York, realize you have learned things but still know nothing.
  56. Meet a man who is like no one you have been with before.
  57. Fall in love with the right man, the man who is like no one you have been with before, despite yourself.
  58. Make some mistakes with the right man and don’t run away because of them.
  59. Let him teach you how to be loved.
  60. Marry him. You are finally still, with love. You know that your son taught you how to love and your husband taught you how to be loved. You know nothing else, but that’s all you need to know.

Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

Without the Rom-Com Ending

September 4, 2015
It's a huge honor to have another card up at Emily McDowell Studio. Click to order.

By Sami Jankins

My purse is heavy. In it I store things I don’t need, like Mardi Gras beads my best friend J gave me on the trip to New Orleans where I met him. I also have notes he passed me. Jokes. A music list for a flight he knew I would be solo on – songs by Feist, Grizzly Bear, and Portugal, the Man. I’m afraid to fly, or I used to be until I learned to be in the moment. He was my best friend, until I guess he wasn’t. Maybe friendships have a shelf life.

I have a few people that I call best friend, but if things fell apart he is the one I’d call. Or was. We travelled together a lot. We stayed up so many nights tipsy and chatting about our favorite bands. I’d try to find a new favorite band that he didn’t know about yet. He always knew about them first. Sometimes when I’d get bored I’d grab for his glasses to wear them for a while. I think we were too arrogant that we had it all figured out. We thought it was ridiculous that a man and a woman couldn’t be best friends. Maybe they can’t be.

Our friendship was one of those where people often thought we were siblings. I could look at him and know what he was thinking. We could communicate without words. Special telepathy. We’d always look for a restaurant to get crème brulee. It was our favorite desert. We’d check each menu to see if they had absinthe. It was something we always wanted to try. We never did. I don’t drink alcohol anymore.

He’d go from one long term relationship to the next. I have a horrible dating track record. Mostly because I frequently date men who treat me like shit. They could basically be interchangeable. It’s amazing how many different people can call you insignificant, dumb, or unworthy in so many different ways. He was always there to tell me that those words were the furthest thing from being true. I always wanted to find the perfect significant other that I could double date with. Maybe there’s only so many times you can see someone fuck up their social life before you can’t watch it anymore.

Chbosky had in his book – “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I don’t know what I deserve. I stopped dating to work on this. He always got my texts of uncertainty when a guy wouldn’t call me back. “Decode this for me,” I’d plea. He’d place me right back into sanity.

I went on a few dates with a friend of his. It was a set up, but I think it was a nicety for a friend who spends a lot of time in the hospital. His friend came over to play guitar while I played ukulele. I had his friend on my bed playing music but nothing happened. I didn’t know how to make a move. I hadn’t even been kissed yet even though I was twenty-three. A lot has changed since then. His friend had me listen to “Lua”. I identified with it too much… “me I’m not a gamble, you can count on me to split.” It wasn’t me this time that split.

I remember the first guy I said I love you to. It was over email. We had had a four year long friendship where I endured many critical health issues. He was by my side every step of the way and helped me mentally with a lot of scary things that happened. When I wasn’t in the hospital I’d take him to college parties or see him play at a local coffee house. During this time he was in and out of relationships and would complain about how unsatisfying they were. He would go so far as to say “they do ___, why can’t they be more like you?” Here I was perfectly single. I could be me, so why wouldn’t I be his perfect choice? I was 20, fresh out of college, and I remember receiving a series of texts complaining about his girlfriend of the moment. I sent him an email telling him that I had been in love with him for years, I could no longer be the person he complained to, and that things were over. He replied asking if he could have some time to think about it. I responded with “no, I love you. Please be kind and never contact me again.” Years before he had told me that unless I became less cynical, no one would ever love me. Maybe I turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. My friends will tell me they love me. Sometimes I’ll smile. I never told my best friend that I loved him as a friend. Maybe I should have. Would it have made a difference? I think I took away the wrong lesson from my youth.

My best friend was there for me when I was hospitalized. He’d curl up in bed next to me. Even when boyfriends weren’t there, he always would be. I vaguely remember one hospital stay where it wasn’t certain if I would make it out of the hospital. He showed up wearing a slouchy sweater and somehow that seemed incredibly comforting to me – just him standing in the door frame with his posture signifying utter defeat. He had to compose himself because he had been crying on the drive in to see me. This was years ago. Continue Reading…