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Guest Posts

Dear Life., Guest Posts, parents

Dear Life: The Unending Drama that is My Parents

December 13, 2017

Dear Life,

I am the youngest of five kids, whose parents have been married 50 years.  ’50 years’, people exclaim…and say what a wonderful blessing and example of love. Well, sort of.

My dad started beating up my mom before they were even married, in the mid 60’s. That lasted about until the mid 80’s, when my brother died in an accident.  My mom was finally saying she was going to leave my dad, right before my brother died.  My dad had been unfaithful (another secret I didn’t know until my twenties, and at that, I learned from a sibling – it was, and never has been talked about).  When my brother died, things changed for a while.  No more alcohol (both parents are alcoholics), and my dad went to therapy for his abusive behavior towards my mom.  The physical violence stopped, but the emotional abuse continues to this day.  They control each other and are so co-dependent that they don’t like anyone else.  No one. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts

Humane Treatment

December 11, 2017
humane

By Kimberly Maier

It’s either a cruel or humane twist of fate that I would end up with a sexy oncologist, I can’t decide which. He’s a fancy big-shot internist from the Mayo Clinic who moved to Oregon because he likes the outdoors or something. He has this absurdly charming strip of silver in the part of his hair. His voice is square, clinical. His mind seems to wander off while he’s talking, probably because he repeats the same boring death script to his patients every day. “The Oxaliplatin does tend to cause nausea, but I’ll prescribe something to alleviate that.” There’s a slight accent that I can’t place. He employs a strange downward intonation at the end of his questions.

He half-sits behind me, causing the sheet on the exam table to crinkle before tearing a v-shape in the paper between us. When I feel his breath on my neck my thoughts instantly liquify, spinning around the way soapy water in a coffee pot does when you rinse it. I clear my throat then open my bathrobe. At 26 years of age I am by far the youngest patient in the clinic and the only one who wears a robe, slippers and pajamas to each treatment. I can’t tell if everyone stares at me because of what I’m wearing or because I’m younger than the other patients by about 40 years.

The sexy oncologist puts his fingers in my armpits to see if my lymph nodes are swollen. They’re not. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, The Hard Stuff

Fail, Birth

December 10, 2017
fail

By Sara Nolan

You can’t fail at birth, they tell you.

But you sure fucking can, and here’s how you do it.

It starts when your baby’s heart rate slows down so much that even a novice midwife, or, for that matter, even a four year-old, would know something was wrong.

In my case, you could think whole profound thoughts between those heart beats.  You felt like John Cage, because the silence was as loud as the noise. You felt like a Buddhist Monk whose awareness is so attuned she can see through the holes in time and space to an eternal present where your baby’s next heartbeat never comes.

Well, it wasn’t that bad.

Yes, it kind of was.

My husband doesn’t freak out.  Generally.  But stooped in the desk chair by my bedside, he had the same look on his face I get when I burn toast, or when the baby (yes, there is a baby at the end of this) gets a little too pinkish red around the lips, or when my computer doesn’t save my hard-won revisions.  Panic.  In him, though, it’s only detectable by those who know that slight agitation in the corner of his eyes means the earth went off its axis to court Mars. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Young Voices

I Am A Thief

December 8, 2017

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Gabriella Geisinger

I am a thief.

At age fourteen I began shoplifting. It was part of my teenage rebellion. A ring here, a bracelet there; a tube of mascara or lipstick would find their way stealthily into my pockets as I sauntered, impervious, past cash registers. I only acquired items that were small enough to conceal in the palm of my hand. By age eighteen the habit had waned. My first year at college provided whatever psychological freedom I required to keep the mild kleptomania at bay – for the most part.

With adolescent abandon, my freshman year passed uneventfully by. August soon became May and I packed up several suitcases, shoving them into our Pampolna’d bull of a car – a black minivan with a nasty habit of spewing maple syrup scented steam when it over heated – and returned to New York City for my first summer at home in three years. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Why We Don’t Tell

December 6, 2017
telling

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Teri Carter

Monday afternoon, I got blackout drunk.

I did not intend to get blackout drunk. I did not intend to drink at all, but I emerged from my home office to see Beverly Young Nelson telling her Roy Moore story and holding up her high school yearbook.

I poured a glass of wine. It was 4:00 in the afternoon.

By 5:30, I’d re-watched Ms. Nelson’s presser several times, tossed the first bottle in the recycling bin and opened another. I don’t remember much after that. I vaguely remember breaking my wine glass and being pissed that my husband was trying to clean up the glass before my dogs, including our 4 month-old, black lab puppy, got into it and got hurt.

I remember my husband leaving for his school board meeting, angrily saying, “I’m afraid to leave you here by yourself, maybe I should stay home,” and me being defiant, belligerent. “Oh my god, I’m fine, go!” I remember being relieved to see his car pull out of the driveway so I could keep re-watching that press conference, and keep drinking.

Looking back, it was the way Ms. Nelson talked about her neck — the way she described Mr. Moore putting his hands on her head and her neck, the force and the fear she felt from him — trying to push her face into his crotch. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

September’s Cellular Memory

December 4, 2017
trauma

By Sarah Shoemaker

I began to understand love during the month of September two years ago. Bon Iver was the soundtrack.

I had been separated from my partner and husband of fourteen years for about fourteen months at that point, and I went to visit an old friend in my home state of Pennsylvania. I was weaving this short visit with him into a trip with family, and my son stayed with my mother so that I could talk as late as I wanted, and likely even spend the night. As we were planning this visit, two days prior to the first evening we’d spend together, it hit me: oh. It was that kind of visit. We didn’t talk about it beforehand. We were intrigued to reunite in these first years after our divorces, ten years since I’d lived and worked in this area, after we saw on Facebook that our inquiries into the topics of true femininity and masculinity were crossing paths.

I have a trauma history. My body remembered abuse and manipulation of the young female body that my mind can only ever remember in snippets of detail. The emotional abuse has been discovered through years of intentional exploration in therapists offices, with energy work and somatic investigation. My family was ripe with attachment issues and emotional control. When I was eighteen, I became pregnant, and it was determined, by the family, that I would place the child for adoption. At nineteen, I birthed my first child, a daughter. I birthed her naturally and reverently. I gave her the middle name of Faith and chose her parents a few months prior to her birth. Along with my family, I blocked her birth father from the entire experience, and I set about following the prescription of success that was laid in front of me. Work hard, and one day, you can have a baby again, and do it right the next time. Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, Holidays

Living—No, Thriving—in America

December 1, 2017
lessons

By Barbara Solomon Josselsohn

How do I know if I should say Merry Christmas? Do I ask people about their religion so I can buy the right wrapping paper? What do I give my building’s super? My daughter’s swim coach? My son’s piano teacher?

It’s Thursday morning in early December and I’m seated with two other volunteers in a small classroom in a church, fielding holiday questions from young Asian moms who are new to this country. Their husbands have blended into their new surroundings easily, their professional positions offering plenty of opportunities to perfect their English and engage with American co-workers and clients. The same goes for their children, who pick up English quickly and bond seamlessly with schoolmates, the way young kids often do. It’s different, though, for my students, whose chances to connect with their American counterparts are limited to fast-paced PTA meetings and brief, spontaneous encounters at the supermarket. Learning English is hard, but even more difficult is mastering the labyrinth of customs, routines and traditions that American moms navigate daily with ease. Continue Reading…

#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Surviving

A Vacation from Your Brain

November 29, 2017
brain

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Whitney Bell

I wish I could forget his scent.

When I moved there the air smelled of salt and thick heat. Citrus sometimes, beer others, the dichotomies of fresh and clean, smoke and sweat, coconut lime. Perfect for an adventure seeker.

Live music poured out of bars, boats floated out for sunset sails, restaurants served the catch of the day, crab legs, lobster tails.

I got a job by the beach waiting tables, and rented a cute little bungalow with a front yard jungle. I read by day, drank wine by night, sang karaoke, and danced. Met new people.

I can’t tell you why I trusted him, other than I trusted people. He reminded me of my friends back home. Friends I’d slept next to and always been safe.

I can’t tell you why I hung out after the bar closed, other than I worked second shift, drank until 2am, and that was my lifestyle, the after-party.

I can tell you I didn’t know about boundaries. I was new in town and lonely. But where I was from, inviting someone over wasn’t a sexual invitation. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Racism

Blue Blazes

November 27, 2017

By Jane O’Shields-Hayner

“It’s hot as blue blazes!” I said, wiping the sweat from my face with a faded, red bandana. I wet it under the garden hose and lay it, cool, around my neck.”

“Can we get more ice cubes, Mommy?” Rebekah asked.

“We’ve used them all. They go fast when it’s a hundred and six.” I answered, stepping into the soupy water of the plastic pool where my daughters sat with squirt toys, dolls, and blades of grass bobbing on the surface.

Rachael hugged my bare legs and lay her cheek against my knee. “Can we go to a real pool, Mommy?” She begged. “…a big one with a divey board and everything, … please?”

“I think it’s time we found one…” I said, …but let’s eat first!”

Both girls stood up in the tepid water and began to dance. “Swimmy pool, swimmy pool!” they chanted.

I stepped out, brushed the green cuts of grass from my legs and headed for the house.  “You-all play in the sprinkler while I make lunch!” I called back.

“OK, Mommy!” shouted Rebekah, dragging a hot hose with a sprinkler ring spraying behind it.

I walked up the back steps, where three air conditioners roared from windows in our rented home. The one near me sounded a loud boom and the walls and wood floor lurched, as the thermostat switched it off or on. I had learned to sleep through it, in fact, it comforted me; for I was born and raised in the blistering heat of North Central Texas. Continue Reading…

aging, Guest Posts

Thirty-Three

November 26, 2017
thirty

By Tatyana Sussex

The perfect age, you decide, when a colleague confides, “Yeah, it’s a bit late to marry at thirty-three, but you know, I’ve had time to myself, to build my career—it’s worked out well.” And just like that: You claim thirty-three as the perfect age for you to marry, too.

Instead, thirty-three is the age you permanently leave New York—the second time, after the second relationship ends, and you’re still mourning the first. You make a pledge to a new adventure: to grow roots, right here, in your hometown of Seattle.

Thirty-three, the birthday on which you wake up to a carpet of snow, stay home from work and talk to the lingering ex-boyfriend about his new daughter, his wife, then go out for a dinner of ribbon pasta and braised rabbit at a romantic restaurant with your best girlfriend, Mary Jane. Your parents call in a bottle of champagne.

The last birthday you will drink champagne: November 19, 1996.

This is the year you run into the bewildering streets to worship the Comet Hale-Bopp that sparkles overhead like a winking god. The year you and Jeanette go roller blading on the Burke Gillman trail one dusky evening and are stopped in your tracks by an unexpected eclipse yolking right there, just for you. Continue Reading…

aging, Guest Posts

Forever Stardust

November 24, 2017
stardust

By Mary McLaurine

I just celebrated my 62nd birthday with my two kids. We had a grand time and I soaked up their compliments on how great I look for my age. They say the fact that my scalp hasn’t sprung a sprout of gray is testament to my staunch belief that age is merely a chronological number.

As I lean in to blow out the nine candles donning my decadent Chocolate Mousse Cake, one for each decade, two for each year in it, and one for good luck, I’m momentarily transported back to birthdays past and wonder if these boys will ever know the wild and carefree girl still residing inside me. Looking at them through the same sapphire-blue eyes I used to bewitch bashful boys, I’m filled with gratitude for their love, happy this girl grew up to be their mother.

I’m a fire sign, a Leo, a lioness: fierce, wild, nocturnal and willing to fight to the death to protect them. This they know of their mother. But what about before I was their mother? Do they ever wonder who I used to be? Continue Reading…

Beauty Hunting, Guest Posts, Kindness

City Mountain Views

November 22, 2017
subway

By Jacqueline Evans

I smelled Leo before I actually saw him. Urine, shit, sweat and decay; the now familiar vaporous cocktail of a New York City street resident in the summer heat that has become a regular part of my everyday life since moving here from California 5 months ago.

He stood motionless on the 4th step from the bottom of the subway stairs, clutching the handrail with one hand, a pair of crutches on the step above him in the other. Clearly he was stuck there, frozen in place by something unseen while the world busily streamed past him, subway passengers rushing to get to whatever was next. The next train, the next appointment, the next big deal. Rushing, pushing, clawing, leaning into the next more-important-than-the-last thing that takes us further from each other and closer to ourselves. I held my breath and prepared to descend the steps quickly past him into the hot platform like everyone else. I knew already that I wouldn’t exhale until I was in the air-conditioned subway car, safe from the smell.

Each one of us probably believes that we possess our own fair amount of altruism, that if someone were obviously in need, we would do whatever was necessary to help. At least I know I do. Despite this, I wouldn’t have stopped to help Leo that day if we hadn’t made eye contact. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Humor, Owning It!

Eulogy For an Aging Book Guy

November 20, 2017
book

By Timothy Eberle

I’m thinking about giving up my identity as a “book guy.” (Which doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on reading per se; simply that I’m considering no longer so aggressively inserting that particular pastime into my outward facing persona.) And not because “book guy” has somehow become any less gratifying a façade – if anything, my affection for its particulars have only strengthened with time. (I love the thick-rimmed glasses, the t-shirts adorned with faded images of out-of-print novels, the smug sense of superiority I get to feel as I stare over the spine of “Infinite Jest” on the subway – the teeming mass of my fellow commuters immersed in the decidedly less-worthy diversions of “iPhones,” “newspapers,” and “not desperately trying to impress a train-ful of strangers with a faulty air of intellectual authority.”) The honest truth is that I actually really like being a book guy; it’s simply that, as time progresses and mores shift, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to justify the “book guy persona” as anything resembling efficacious. (For one thing, I’m finding that, past a certain point, people are unwilling to tolerate the use of a word like efficacious in what was, up to that point, casual conversation.

Compounding the issue is the fact that, at some point over the last several years – a time which was for me primarily spent agonizing over the decision as to whether or not taking up pipe-smoking would be seen as a bit too “on the nose” – television has apparently become really, really good. Not to overstate the fact, but the near universal consensus appears to be that we’re living in what can only be described as a new golden age of the medium, with legitimate auteurs reshaping the television landscape through a groundbreaking combination of breathtaking cinematography, innovative storytelling, and an eagerness to confront even the most pressing social issues of the day. Which is – of course – objectively good for humanity.

But it’s objectively terrible for me. Continue Reading…

Bullying, Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

In Trump’s Tomorrow, A Muslim Mother Confronts Her Past

November 19, 2017
muslim

By Kulsum Tasnif

“Hi, I’m Cricket–and welcome to my world! Let’s be friends, we’ll do things together, we’ll have a great old time…Let’s be friends, just you and I–I’ll be talkin’ to ya!”
Cricket Doll commercial, 1987

It’s the song that still pops into my head sometimes while driving my kids to school. I don’t tune it out any more like I used to. I’m a mother of three. I’m in my 40’s. But I still feel like the bullied 13 year old when I look back at my 8th grade experience.  That sound brings it all back.

“Lez” Be Friends
Her name is Shawna. She is an animated blond, blue-eyed tomboy who smells of stale cigarettes and BubbleYum. I am a short, brown, scrawny introvert with a

“flat chest” she whispers. We’re in homeroom and everyone laughs. I fold my arms across my flat chest and retreat to the safe place in my head. Shawna sits behind me with her legs propped up on the creaky desk. She has full access to the back of my head–which she taps with her Payless wing-tipped shoe.

“Does my shoe smell like dog shit?” she asks with a baby voice.

I sit still. She then calls Ms. Hollander a “bitch” and gets sent to the principal’s office. I can rest at ease until P.E. My mind calculates the steps I would need to take to avoid Shawna today. Continue Reading…