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Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

Falling In Love With Flip

June 12, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Judy Kirkwood

What happens when you’re not a dog person, but you are left with a dog?

It wasn’t until my dog, Flip, was 15 years old that I realized I loved him. After my divorce, 5 years ago, I would jokingly say to my sons that Flip was my husband now. But the truth was that I had only just tolerated Flip for much of his life. I didn’t fall in love with him until he had a bad case of fleas: not the first time, not the last time, but the in-between time.

Although constant and caring, I was so detached in my relationship with Flip that until last year I believed he was a Yorkshire Terrier, even though he weighed 20 pounds. Watching a youtube Animal Planet video one night it dawned on me that Flip wasn’t a Yorkie at all, despite his bill of sale. He was a Silky Terrier. The giveaways, besides his size, were how he had always lifted up one paw in a quizzical manner when he looked at me, and how one ear often was up while the other flopped down (hence the name my younger son gave him).

In addition, I woke up one day and realized Flip was a year older than I thought. I had been so caught up in other things in my life – things I can’t reveal, except for my husband’s infidelity, which became pretty obvious – that I had lost track of Flip’s age, which was at the far end of his breed’s lifespan.

I should mention he is a handsome, dapper dog, who attracts attention even though he has an enlarged liver that makes his belly look as though it needs to be reined in with a waistcoat. I’ve always thought he should be wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap and ruminating on a small Calabash pipe, which would fit neatly in the space where he is missing his two lower front teeth. Like most dogs, he is on a mission when he is on a walk, looking for aromatic cues and clues and behaving accordingly. Everyone stops to admire him. But I never felt proprietary about his looks or charm. He was sort of a legacy pet. Mine by default. Or so I thought.

We had trouble bonding because it took so long to potty train him. We failed at crate training because he barked so much that his saliva pooled on the floor of the kennel and made it slippery plus rusted the metal grate he attacked for hours. He shredded pee pads. I had to take him to a pet therapist because he wouldn’t stop peeing and pooping in the house. He relieved himself next to her desk as she was asking me what the problem was. Although I had some success in training him with treats to go outside, which he expects every single time he potties to this day, my husband’s strategy to save our wood floors and carpeting was to train Flip to void in the concrete basement of our home. I never went down there.

A family dog for the first 10 years of his life, bought for our 10-year-old son, Flip ran around the grassy common area of our suburban home, a blur against the tree line, swing sets and sandboxes. He was so lively that he jumped back and forth, straight up like a young goat, over Magic, our lame black lab, who sat calmly for Flip’s stunts. Sometimes if Magic was off-leash (it seemed unlikely he would move far since he dragged his back legs on the ground when he tried to run), Flip would spirit him through the woods into the next subdivision or down the railroad tracks. Flip came back while Magic usually ended up in a ditch until someone called thinking he had been hit by a car and we picked him up. Once Magic died, Flip became more aggressive with other dogs so I really couldn’t let him off the leash too often to fly around our big yard.

While I fed Flip and let him in and out all day, he took long evening walks with the man of the house. I appreciated the break from doggie care until I found out that those leisurely walks with Flip were an opportunity for my husband to talk on his secret phone with his girlfriend.

When we separated after a 35-year marriage I decided to move away from my Midwest home and start over in the small Florida town where my younger son had relocated. My soon-to-be ex had no desire to be burdened with a dog while ironing out his relationship problems with the other woman. Drained and empty, I didn’t know if I could afford to take care of Flip either financially or emotionally. I thought about putting him up for adoption. But with behavior problems and, of course, his inconsistent pottying how could I be sure he would not be mistreated by a stranger?

In the end, I packed him in the car along with the few things I was taking from my old life. For the first few months, Flip and I had a gypsy existence. First I stayed on a farm in Georgia while I helped an author write a book. Because there were a number of rescue dogs running around the house, all female, which made Flip want to constantly mark his territory, I spent the days with Flip tethered to my belt as if I were Mother Superior and I had a very long rosary dragging the floor with a dog at the end of it. Then I stayed with friends and family whose allergies or own pets made it imperative to board Flip at different kennels.

Back on the road, Flip was my steady companion in a changing landscape. We were on a journey together and he rose to the occasion, holding his bladder during an interminable traffic jam outside of Atlanta, and not barking when I left motel rooms to search for food for us.

As I was cobbling together a new life in Florida, Flip had a terrible bout with fleas. I’d never met a flea and suddenly they were crawling all over my animal. I was more worried about me getting fleas than about Flip having them. I got rid of them, but saw Flip as a flea carrying host whose silky hair was a golden meadow for creepy things I didn’t want close to me.

The next time Flip got fleas was less of a panic. I knew it was normal in Florida. Against my space being contaminated by a chemical bomb that might exacerbate my asthma and his panting and wheezing, I chose to comb and bathe him faithfully, with the addition of dog flea pharmaceuticals. Every day I spent hours attending to the little devils that hopped around in his hair making him bite himself. I was as devoted to grooming him as any ape, chimp, or monkey mother. As an old dog, age 15, his skin was covered with benign tumors under his hair and I had to be careful not to scratch their surface and make them bleed. I felt so sorry for him I gave him little massages, listening to him groan, sigh, and cluck like the gray squirrels on our morning walks. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, love

Perfectly Imperfect

May 31, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melissa Dodson

I’ve never felt Enough.

I’ve always felt Less Than.

I’ve belittled and berated myself. I’ve put myself down. I’ve told myself all of the lies that I can’t and I won’t and I should and I shouldn’t. I’m too fat. I’m not pretty. I’m not good. I’m not worthy. I’ve shamed myself. I’ve starved and binged and purged myself, all the way down to 73 pounds at the age of 19. I’ve wanted to disappear. I’ve hurt myself and cut myself, before cutting was even a thing. I’ve swallowed pills and puked them back up. I’ve smoked the pipe, and emptied bottle after bitter bottle until poison filled my belly and ran through my veins, so that the only way out was getting pumped out of my stomach in a sterile hospital room. I’ve looked for love in the worst places, with the wrong kind of men. The kind that don’t respect me, don’t see me, don’t care about me. That want to hurt me, with their words and their minds, and their hands and their bodies. I’ve been in harms way. Too many times. I’ve made bad choices. Too many times. I went back after he pushed me, again after he hit me, and kicked me, and dragged me by my hair. And again and again. I went back when I knew he could kill me. I went back when I knew that I might not make it out alive. I’ve been beaten down and gotten back up, more times than I can count. At the mercy of the vicious hands of an abuser.

I was lucky. I did make it out alive. And even luckier, I did find someone who loves me. He sees me and hears me. He is gentle with me, and to me. He loves me and likes me. He wants me. He cherishes me. He’s made a life and a family with me. A good life. A happy life. A beautiful family. But…. But. Behind it all, I still wait for the shoe to drop. The luck to run out. I wait for him to know what I know. That I’m not good. That I’m not worthy. That I’m not enough. That I’m less than. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, love

For The Days You Weep At Flowers

May 16, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Elise Schmelzer

It started again because I slept with another guy I didn’t love.

His name is Juan and after we fucked we lay on the bed in silence, churning our thoughts in different languages — mine the English of Texas, his the Spanish of Buenos Aires. It’s harder to bridge the gap of a mutual looming nothingness in halting shared second-languages.

But I lay there and thought about you, babe. And I’m pretty sure he was thinking about a girl he had met in France and had to leave because student visas only last so long. I knew it when he rolled over on his side, his back to me, and I didn’t feel hurt. I felt like I understood because, hell, I wanted to do the same to him and all my half-baked lovers.

But I didn’t want him to suspect the weight I suddenly felt in my bones. I’m still surprised I didn’t sink the bed through the floor of his small apartment with the sudden gravity of it all.

This sudden deluge of being is something I’ve known for about two years now. The great sinking. The sads. Whatever euphemism I’ve fashioned to calm my fear about its return. On these days when I’ve just wrapped my hair in its post-shower towel and am suddenly leaning on the moist tile wall sobbing the code words for my depression don’t really help a lot. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, motherhood

How To Talk To Your Mother

May 7, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Amanda Prager

How To Talk To Your Mother

  1. You forget your old address.
  1. She cries at the door, she cries in the car, she cries when you step foot on campus. You cry too – two parts sad, one part relief. She drove like crazy and when you finally arrive, you throw up. In between lemonade and half-chewn corndogs – here, living proof that you exist.
  1. Hips and thighs appear, curved like silver spoons. You have your mother’s breasts. You google ‘orgasm’. You practice screaming. You plunder your mother’s books – not the ones on the main shelf, but the ones under her bed. They are all about sailors and firemen. It doesn’t do anything for you.
  1. The boy markets the slash on his neck as a hickey. People taunt and ask prying questions. Mother looks pleased and another queer expression that you have never seen before. You go away to Florida to Father and you remember that forgetting is the human condition.
  1. A boy asks you out on a date. Immediately, you are suspicious – you start wearing thongs. He takes you to sushi, to ice cream, to his car. He takes you in and you take him out. Apologize. He looks as angry as the red mark on his neck. Apologize.
  1. All adults have a rulebook they will pass along to you when you become one of them. Many encyclopedias with chapters like Don’t Spit Your Food and How to Write a Check are in them, along with How to Make Small Talk with Relatives and Where, Exactly, You Get Hair.
  1. In Sunday School, you learn how to shrink yourself. They teach you how to Sit Proper, Don’t Slouch. The next day you steal your mother’s heels. You pretend to be interested in them. She pretends to be angry about it.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love, Video

I Gave Him $20 To Get A Meal And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next.

April 16, 2015

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By Jen Pastiloff.

What happened next was love.

Beauty hunting is right. I am out there with my bow and arrow, folks. Hunting beauty down. And sometimes, I do not have to look very far at all. Sometimes it’s just so right here.

I was walking down the street in Santa Monica yesterday with my friend Rachel Brathen (aka @yoga_girl on instagram) and she said, “Look!” So I did. Natch.

She’s pointing to a man on a bike with a big sign over his chest that says Be Love.

Um.

Remember that guy? I met him in the library a couple years ago and asked him if I could take a picture of him with his sign (he had it on then, too.) He said I could have the snap if I wore the sign. Duh.

I did.

I wrote about it here. Elizabeth Gilbert even shared the story. It was pretty heartwarming. I said may we all walk around with a “Be Love” sign over our hearts.

So yesterday, Rachel, (who has a million and a half instagram followers what what?) saw the same Love Dude on the street. On his bike.

I beckoned him over to us and her dog, Ringo The Gringo.


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You know when I am alone how adventure always ensues? Well, the three of us? Me, Rachel and Ringo? Magic. Pure magic.

I said to Love Dude, “You’re David. I met you in the library. You gave me your sign.”

Please watch both videos below!

I gave him twenty bucks and he said if he was to take it that I had to wear the “Be Love” sign for two full weeks.

I am taking the challenge. Will you? You can make your sign invisible but will you wear one? Please? Let me know. If you do instagram use the #belovechallenge tag. I am at @jenpastiloff over on those parts.

ps- We all wear signs. Invisible ones, mostly. What does yours say?

Some say: Stay away. Some say: Don’t come near me. Some say: I am not enough. Some say: Be Love.

We get to choose what our signs say.

Also: he drops mad wisdom in these videos.

Like, whoa.

He says, “I am looking for someone whose compassion is greater than their passion.”

Yea. Little gems like that are floating throughout the vids. Please watch and share. This is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on social media. Not Kim-Whatever-Her-Name-Is’s ass. Hell, this is the kind of stuff that needs to get shared on the planet.

Word.

I mean, love.

Love, Jen xo

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love

Reading “Justine” in Milan

April 14, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Louise Fabiani

The sea is high again today, with a thrilling rush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the invention of spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes…. –Lawrence Durrell, Justine

 

I am forty-four, married a decade, and in love with another man, a man I haven’t seen since we traveled together in Italy 17 years ago.

The matchmaking skills of a search engine brought us together last year. In a flash we re-established whatever had sizzled between us for four days in our late twenties. In my e-mails, I found myself echoing the quirky grammar and imaginative allusions of his Danish English, as if they were creative prompts. Those exchanges proved that we spoke the same language. A kind of intimacy, distance be damned.

Back and forth went the e-mails. Forth went a few of my letters and packages; nothing back from him. We conversed by phone a few times. We discussed meeting up in a few months.

It was all very cyber-Romantic.

Before long, a pattern began to emerge. He would let more and more time elapse between replies, and those messages appeared less intense, more perfunctory. He gave me the impression that he was overwhelmed by everything between us, maybe—as a therapist theorized—even scared. Of his own feelings or of mine? The most likely scenario: I no longer amused him. The responsibility of soothing and placating a clearly love-sick former travel mate outweighed any semi-illicit excitement she provided. We still spoke of meeting, in his Sweden or my Montreal, or somewhere neutral, but we both knew it was always too much to ask of the stars to grant us time and courage. They have more deserving people to line up for.

He vanished. I languished. For months. Not even a Christmas greeting from him.

So that is why I am here, six months later. I’ve taken a two-month trip back to Italy. Not to retrace our youthful steps (too painful). Not to forget about his most recent incarnation (impossible). Just to be in Italy. Isn’t that enough? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, loss, love

On Being a Fatherless Daughter.

December 21, 2014

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By Ginger Sullivan.

The last time I saw him was Labor Day Weekend 1987. Our family was gathering in Memphis for my brother’s first college football game of the season. Before my car came to a complete stop, he was there, greeting me. He covered me with an outpouring of enthusiasm and love – much like a dog awaiting the homecoming of its master. Little did I know that three weeks later, he would be dead.

It seems like a lifetime ago. When I had a father. Some dads are not very good ones. I was lucky. Mine happened to be one of the better ones – or at least, I think so. He died before he turned fifty and I was all but still a child.

Sometimes, I wonder if it was all planned out. As if he set my brothers and I up on the next course of our lives and then exited stage left. My older brother had just gotten married. My younger brother just left home for college. And I was set to begin a graduate program in psychology. Weeks before he died, he had a long talk with me about how proud he was that I had chosen a profession of meaning and significance. To prepare me for my studies, he settled me into my first apartment – complete with homemade bookshelves and freshly painted furniture all at his hands. And then he vanished. He went out into the woods to deer hunt with a friend. And when he never showed back up, they went looking for him. He was found breathless on the ground.

No warning. No good-byes. No nothing. I got one of those emergency phone calls – antiquated compared to today’s cell technology. My dad’s best friend was on the other end. He told me that my Dad had been in an accident. “He didn’t make it” – his exact words still ring in my ears. Continue Reading…

Birthday, Guest Posts, love

FIFTY-EIGHT AND COUNTING.

December 20, 2014

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By Lesléa Newman.

I have been waiting all my life to turn 58.

Well, not all my life exactly. Just the last 48 years, ever since I turned ten. That was the year my best friend, Vicki brought over a wooden Ouija Board with the alphabet, the numbers zero through nine, and the words “yes,” “no,” “hello” and “goodbye” painted on it in bold black script. I still remember the day we sat cross-legged on the carpet of my bedroom facing each other with the board and our future between us. We asked the Ouija Board typical ten-year-old-girl questions: Would we get married? (Yes for both of us which proved correct: Vicki married a handsome man named David and I married a handsome woman named Mary). Would we have children? (Yes for Vicki who happily raised three magnificent children; no for me, who happily raised a pride of magnificent cats). And then bravely and stupidly I asked the Ouija Board: “How old will I be when I die?

Vicki and I held our fingertips lightly against the wooden heart-shaped marker as it slid across the board slowly, stopping first at the “five” and then at the “seven.” “Fifty-seven,” I crowed, thrilled to learn I’d live to a ripe old age. At the time, fifty-seven seemed beyond ancient. Why, my mother wasn’t even that old! It was 1965 which meant that I wouldn’t turn 57 until 2012, a year that sounded so far off and futuristic, it couldn’t possibly ever arrive.

I don’t remember ever consulting the Ouija Board again. But I do remember how its premonition popped into my head when death almost came to call. I was home alone slicing a leftover baked potato into rounds to fry up for breakfast. I popped a piece into my mouth without thinking about it until it landed flat across the top of my windpipe, sealing it tight as the lid on a canning jar. But I’m not 57 yet, I thought as I leapt up, raced to a neighbor’s house and frantically pounded on her door. After my neighbor performed the Heimlich maneuver, and the piece of potato flew out whole and landed with a splat against the wall, I thanked her and calmly strolled home, as if she had just given me a cup of tea instead of the rest of my life. She didn’t understand how I could remain so unrattled. But I was only 23. According to the Ouija Board, I still had 34 years to go.

Over the years, there were other brushes with death: a car accident here, a bumpy flight there. And then there was that time when I foolishly followed an electrician’s advice and stuck a raw potato into the socket of a broken overhead lamp to see if the switch was on or off. It was on, the potato sparked and fried, and I almost did, too (what is it about me and potatoes?).

And then I turned 57.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, loss, love, Men, Relationships

Longing For Her.

December 1, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Tim Lawrence.

Our relationship ended in a myriad of contradictions, with love and uncertainty.

She had been my closest confidante for several years—my companion, my lover, and truly my very best friend. This was not a pairing of superficiality, it was the most profound love I’ve ever experienced. Prior to meeting her, I did not fully grasp just how extraordinary another’s happiness and wellbeing could become to you—how inextricably linked you could become to another person.

It was a gift I had avoided most of my life, never really allowing my romantic relationships to move into the territory necessary to achieve the sort of undeviating commitment most of us hope for. But this was different. And it awakened a part of me I had no idea even existed.

An understanding of a lifetime, found, cherished, and cultivated slowly.

That’s what I wanted. And I had found it.

Until I lost it. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration, love

My Mother’s Boyfriend and Me.

November 24, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black
By Caroline Leavitt

When my mother turned ninety-two, she fell in love for the first time.

Although my mother and my father had been married for over thirty years, theirs wasn’t even remotely a love story. Before she met him, she had thought she was in love with the son of a butcher. He courted her for a year, and one night, he had even scribbled out their wedding announcement in mustard on a napkin, giving it to her to put in her purse for safekeeping. Then he left for Chicago, promising to come back to her. He kept his word to return, but not until six months later, and then, he was holding the hand of a pretty, very pregnant wife. When his wife excused herself to powder her nose, he cornered my mother in the kitchen, hotly whispering against her neck, “Maybe I made a mistake.”

“No,” she said. “I did.”

As soon as he left, my mother let her heart break. It wasn’t so much that she cared about this young man, whose character was clearly lacking, but, it was more that she saw her future leaving her. A family. A home. All the things she wanted so desperately. She was living with her parents and she lay in bed crying, so long and so hard that her father began to plead. “You have to live,” he urged. He sat by her bed, coaxing food, insisting that she get up, and try and be happy again.

And so, because she loved her father, because she didn’t want to be a disappointment to him, and mostly because she was twenty-eight, which was as close to spinsterhood as she could allow herself to get, she let herself be trundled off to what was then called an adult day camp, where single men and women could spend a month, living in cabins, enjoying swimming, boating and arts and crafts, but really looking for their mates. There, as if she were choosing a cut of meat for dinner, she had her pick of men. She settled on two of the most marriage-minded: a sturdy looking guy who was going to be a teacher and my father, who was quiet, a little brooding, but who already had a steady, money-making career as an accountant. She wasn’t sure how she felt about him, but she believed that love had already passed her by, like a wonderful party she had somehow missed. But even so, she could still have the home, the family, the life she wanted if she were only brave and determined enough to grab it. My father asked her to marry him, and she immediately said yes. But later, she told my sister and me, that when she was walking down the aisle, her wedding dress itchy, and her shoes too tight, she felt a surge of terror. This isn’t right, she thought. But there was her father, beaming encouragingly at her. There was her mother, her sisters and brothers and all her friends, gathered to celebrate this union. Money had been spent on food and flowers and her white, filmy dress. And where else did she have to go? So she kept walking. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, poetry

How to Love a Stranger.

November 13, 2014

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By Adina Giannelli.
How about we meet in Chicago, a city neither mine or yours, and see what, if anything, might be found there;
And you will fly in from a small southwestern city, not your own, and I will arrive at O’Hare late, owing to unanticipated flight delays, and I will meet you in the lobby of the Hotel Godfrey, and you will be there, waiting;
And our hotel will be full of Europeans and people looking for a time, a show, a warm body (always a warm body);
And I will talk to you for hours, that night, about unanticipated subjects of all kinds; you ask for a year-by-year recitation of my life, and you ask are you okay? and how are we doing? and does this irritate you, the barrage of questions. Some people find it cloying, you will tell me, but I think it kind;
And we will sleep, strangers in a large cocoon, and your hand will slip quietly over mine;And we will float, curious, upon the muddy waters, in our rapid riverboat, our bodies anchored to metal folding chairs, our necks craning to see the city’s architecture from our watery vantage, the sun shining bright against us, in spite of and through the wind;

 

And the boat will rock and occasionally rise, the tide high or low (but I don’t know), and we will glide in our seats, unsure of what is flowing forth before us, certain only of our bodies, separate and together, moving easily through space and time;

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, love

Markings.

September 15, 2014

By Arielle Berstein.

On the surface all my injuries have always healed perfectly.

I don’t have any visible scars. I’ve never broken a bone. I spent a good deal of my youth avoiding permanent marks.

I have no tattoos, though I have had a few piercings. I’m not frightened of leaving a mark, but I’m terrified of scars, anything that haunts the body, that lingers beyond a reasonable amount of time.

There was a time in my youth when I sincerely longed for my suffering to be more visible. I was never a cutter, but there was a time when I experimented with biting. When I was incredibly stressed out I’d clamp down on my arm and watch my little teeth marks fade from red to white to nothing at all. I was amazed at the resilience of skin, how many marks didn’t last.

I still feel things first in my body before anything else. Real love; real, thick love I feel in my hands before I feel it in my heart. I’m offended by anything less than a bear hug. I ask my love for grips, marks, bites before asking to be covered in tiny kisses. There is gentleness in me, but there is also something rabid in my heart. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, love

Patchouli: An Untraditional Father’s Day Post.

June 15, 2014

Patchouli: An Untraditional Father’s Day Post by Amy Roost.

I was six. She was twenty-six. I was a chubby, dishwater-blonde tomboy. She was a tall, lithe, brunette model. I wore football jerseys. She wore patchouli. The only thing in had in common was a love for her boyfriend–my dad–which is saying something because he was not an easy man to love.

My dad was a type-A take-no-prisoners business man who cheated on my mom, probably from the day they met. He left my mom, my brothers and I one June day in 1968 with no warning. No explanation. Just a garment bag in one hand and a red and black electric shoe polisher in the other. He found me coloring in my room, at the pink and white activity table my grandpa had made me and said to me, as if I’d understand, “I’m leaving”.

“When are you coming home?” I asked.

“I’m not, sweetheart” was all he said. Fade to black.

And yet he had his moments, enough to make himself lovable, at least to those of us who were hardwired to do so. He brought dolls for me from every foreign land to which he travelled. And though he was a work-a-holic, he tried to make up for it—-in the only way he knew how–with large expenditures of money and extravagant gestures such as a family vacation to Aculpulco or a new bobble for my mom. I distinctly remember the night he came home later than usual with a box of Bazooka Bubble Gum for each of us three kids, and a bouquet of roses for my mom. My mom must have understood he was apologizing for some unspoken transgression. Maybe my brothers–six and nine years older–understood as well. I just remember thinking what an awesome dad he was for giving me a whole box of my favorite bubble gum, comics and all!

I also remember he’d sometimes sit on the fireplace hearth and play the acoustic guitar. (It’s no wonder I fell in love with Christopher Plummer when “Sound of Music” was released the following year). I always requested that he play “Drunken Sailor”. He’d strum the chords and together we’d sing. Sing it loud. I remember that. And the bubble gum. And the garment bag.

My parents eventually separated. My mom was awarded full-time custody and my dad had visitation every Wednesday evening and every other Sunday. I’m not sure if my dad’s having the short end of the custody stick had to do more with the times or because my dad never wanted any kids in the first place–or so my mother claimed.

Wednesdays we went to dinner. My mother instructed me to always order the most expensive item on the menu and so I developed a liking for lobster. I suspect my dad caught on because he began taking us exclusively to the Pickle Barrel–a local hamburger joint.

On Sundays we were supposed to spend the whole day with him, however, since he’d relocated to downtown and we were in the north suburbs, he generally didn’t pick us up until closer to noon. I’d wake up early, dress for the city, sit on the living room couch and wait. My brothers and I used to call “shotgun” whenever all three of us would go somewhere in the car, however, my dad made it clear from the start that I was to sit up front with him on our Sunday outings. No more calling shotgun. Shotgun belonged exclusively to daddy’s little girl.

Sometimes we’d go to Old Town and stop in at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, then stop for an oversized chocolate chip cookie at Paul Bunyon’s*, Other times he’d take us to a Cubs game. He would buy us peanuts on the way to our seats located on the first base side just behind the Cubs dugout and he taught me how to keep score in the program. I may very well have been the youngest girl to know what an infield fly rule was.

I heard his Lincoln Mark IV pull into the cul de sac just as a dog who is sound asleep hears the jingling of his master’s car keys. I looked over the back of the couch through the bay window to confirm. There he was! But wait, who was that woman with him…riding shotgun? I ran to get my mom. “There’s someone with daddy!” I shouted.

I remember my mom going outside. I remember going back to the couch and peeking through the curtains as my dad got out of the car. I remember how they stood face to face on the sidewalk with their lips both simultaneously and furiously moving. I remember my dad storming toward the front door. I remember the front door slamming and his calling “Amy Liz!”. I remember my mom coming in through the basement door. I remember my running for the steps leading down to the basement. I remember my mom reaching out and taking hold of my left hand as I scuttled down the stairs, and my dad coming down after me and grabbing my right hand. I remember becoming a human rope in their tug of war. And then I don’t remember. I don’t remember who let go first. I don’t remember falling.

I do remember the scrape I had on my knee the next day. I remember kicking and screaming while my dad carried me out to his car then pushed my head down and forced me into the back seat. I remember the model’s name–Michaelann. I remember the pungent scent of patchouli in the car. To this day, I remember that scent. And if tomorrow someone wearing patchouli were to get on an elevator I was riding, I’d frantically press every button for every floor in a desperate attempt to free myself from the grip of my childhood.

 

Click photo to connect with Amy.

Click photo to connect with Amy.

 

Her multi-dimensional suchness, Amy Roost, is a freelance writer, book publicist, legal and medical researcher, and vacation rental manager. She and her husband are the authors of “Ritual and the Art of Relationship Maintenance” due to be published later this year in a collection entitled Ritual and Healing: Ordinary and Extraordinary Stories of Transformation (Motivational Press). Amy is also Executive Director of Silver Age Yoga Community Outreach (SAYCO) which offers geriatric yoga teacher certification, and provides yoga instruction to underserved seniors.

Jennifer Pastiloff, the founder of The Manifest-Station, is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, among others. Jen’s leading one of her signature retreats to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and she and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up:  SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff. Join a retreat by emailing barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com.

Next workshop is London July 6. Book here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Posts, Letting Go, love

Prop Love. By Jordan E. Rosenfeld.

February 14, 2014

My first serious relationship was forged, not in lust or booze, like most of my college friends, but in furniture and household goods. “Martin” and I moved in together at the end of our Freshman year, built a checking account on the flimsy foundation of financial aid checks and subsisted on Bisquick pancake batter and big dreams.

For the first five months of living together we slept in a pile of sheets and blankets on the floor lusting after bedroom sets we couldn’t afford and dish settings to match.

“There’s no way I’m taking help from your parents,” he insisted. Having not yet met his family or laid eyes on his childhood home, I didn’t understand his stonewalling. But I was not too proud to take help on the sly, my parents peeling off cash like dealers, to buy a few necessities and blend them in slowly so he wouldn’t notice. There was a grimy romance to our deprivation. My attitude was partly from having grown up in Marin County, California, where, no matter that one of my parents’ income was Welfare provided and the other from illicit sales, my grandparents still had to bail us out. I wouldn’t fully appreciate Martin’s origins for many months to come.

Meanwhile, Martin got a job on campus cleaning dorms that first summer and came home with abandoned items while the supervisor looked the other way. We gained an electric can opener, a good cutting knife and eventually our first bed, a rickety, bent-spring mattress set, stained and smelling faintly of ammonia.

While these were hardly luxury items, they were the glue we needed to paste together the edges of our flimsy union.

Martin dressed like a J.Crew model, in tightly-fitting, sleek fabrics, groomed himself impeccably, and kept his clothing and possessions in tightly controlled order that corralled my naturally slovenly tendencies into cinched up squares. I imagined that his childhood home reflected this image. “I think you’ll be surprised by my house,” he said as we eventually made the four hour drive up to misty redwood country. I prepared myself for grandeur that would put to shame all the apartments and tiny two-bedroom houses I grew up in: a sprawling ranch-style home with Spanish tile and big bay windows, an acre of land flanked by the area’s famous ancient trees.

When he pulled into a weedy, pot-hole strewn patch of dirt where three cars, badly rusted and ravaged for parts, and a tiny, listing shack of a house sat like some apocalyptic roadhouse, I wondered if we were stopping for directions.

His father was a diabetic emphysemic who still smoked several packs a day as though in defiance of death; his mother’s lips crimped in around words she bit back as her three other beefy sons cracked “fag” jokes at Martin for his trim, clean presentation, and gripped the flesh on my arm proclaiming, “Try not to crush her when you crawl on top of her.”  After a weekend in the house I had to hang my clothes on the apartment porch for a day before I could even wash the tobacco stench out of them.

Martin was odd man out, ashamed of his roots, and it made me want even more to give him the material façade he so desperately craved.

By Sophomore year, we both took jobs that paid more than minimum wage, a whopping $6/hr, and moved into a “cush” apartment—that is to say, a two-bedroom with a roommate, where we were no longer privy to our neighbors’ explosive toilet habits. For a brief time the new place itself was material enough to keep us happy.

When things got rocky near the end of our first year because my “take it all to therapy” desire to process feelings clashed with his “button up your shame” stoicism, he surprised me with a turquoise blue Mustang; she looked good, but her alternator went out on long-distance journeys. In it we traveled (and broke down) to places Martin’s neglected inner child needed to go: Disneyland (blew a tire), Universal Studios (dead battery) and the Drive-Through Tree in Humboldt—which we could not drive through because it was closed.

When our roommate moved out six months later, the empty space unbalanced us. As a temporary fix we bought plastic bathroom sets printed with sea shells; a comforter—which sadly provided little comfort; and pre-fab paintings of the sun and moon—which we’d already stopped being for each other—to hang over the new stereo system.

To fix the disparities between us, after new outfits and sets of dishes and cookware did not turn us into The Beav’s parents, Martin upped the ante: a trip to Italy.

Martin became unusually affectionate as the trip neared, returning home after special forays to the mall for trip-related “surprises”—mainly new travel-friendly clothing for himself and tchotchkes like leather luggage tags and a money purse that screamed “I am a tourist, steal this” to me.

Two days before we left, though I found it quite by accident, I discovered the travel pouch contained more than traveler’s cheques and passports; a bulky box-shaped something holding what girls are taught to sell their souls for.

Holy fuck, I thought.

I spent our first week in Rome watching him gauge the quality of light and the photo-worthiness of his profile against the Coliseum versus the Pantheon. I was sure it would take place at the leaning tower of Pisa, or outside that powerful symbol of God-sanctified unions—the Vatican. Or maybe at one of the sweet street-side cafes where he glowered over clenched jaw when the waiters flirted with me.

By the time we reached Venice, halfway into our trip, I had the urge to drag the box out of his pouch at night, slip the ring on and simply flash my hand at him in the morning.

I also thought of losing him in a crowd of tourists and hitchhiking around Europe for some summer fun of a variety that did not make me feel like I was already married.

Yet I let myself be led onto that gondola, wrinkling my nose against the putrid smell of those otherwise lovely canals (a detail not featured on any travel literature). I watched him survey the scenery, imagining his thoughts—Near Casanova’s home? Nah too obvious.

As we neared the final stretch of the ride, I felt him fumble in his pouch at my side while I pretended not to notice. He turned to me with the smile of a man who has just bought a wide-screen TV.

He flipped open the box. I know he said the words but they are lost in the white noise of my shock. I gasped.

A diamond!

fucking diamond?

I had told him in no uncertain terms that I didn’t like diamonds, even less the solitaire—that universal symbol of possession. I liked pinkish tourmalines and muddy agates, jewels that still resembled the earth they came from.

Yet, with two weeks remaining on the trip, I slid on his ring like a yoke, faking a smile while daydreaming about going home with the gondolier.

The next morning I woke with a weight around my finger that gradually looped around my entire body until I was dragging cement feet through Venetian streets.

Noticing my sagging demeanor, Martin went on a purchasing frenzy, picking up iconic trinkets we could barely carry—a glass knockoff of the Rodin sculpture The Lovers; a Venetian urn and a Murano glass necklace. These were props to convince at least one of us that in setting the stage with all the right items, we could pretend that our love had a life-time guarantee like the leather couch and the display case that housed tiny precious things our hearts couldn’t hold.

***

For eight months after he proposed, the ring snagged on clothes and scratched red lines into our flesh in bed at night. Rather than a diamond, I wore a dangerous claw that tore at the seams of our life.

When we’d been engaged nearly a year, my high school girlfriend, Rain, came to visit me while Martin was off playing indoor soccer.

“So are you excited?” she asked, holding my finger up to the light as if to assess some odd fungus I had acquired.

I prepared to speak the words in my head, the practiced ones that I said to everyone who asked, “Of course.  Marriage will be great!”

What I actually said was, “I don’t think I’m ready to get married.”

Rain scanned my material paradise and then focused her wide blue eyes on me. “Hmmm,” she said.

“What do you mean, hmmm?”

“Oh nothing,” she said, stroking her own long fingers as if to point out how unencumbered they were. “I’m just glad I asked. It sounds like you have some thinking to do.”

Those two sentences bulldozed the paper set of my relationship. Twenty years old was too young to cinch myself to a man who would go silent on me for three days at a time if I pissed him off or questioned his judgment. A man whose ex-girlfriends from high school had a funny way of turning up in person and on the phone just to “see how you’re doing.” A man who felt threatened by my writing in my journals—my most sacred personal act. I feared that I would become just another fixture in our home, a polished, perfect wife unit who completed the bedroom set or the new kitchen.

Still, Martin and I didn’t break up instantaneously; after all, it takes more than a day to demolish a house. I slowly moved the things that were unequivocally mine to a new apartment, saying I needed a little last-chance independence. We dated once a week under the pretense that nothing had really changed, the way we had built our prop life in the first place. Yet each time I stopped by for a “date” there’d be a new pile of our carefully curated stuff, like surgically-removed organs, waiting for me on the table.

“You don’t want those?” I’d ask, lifting kitchen towels and matching Tupperware.

He’d shrug. “I thought you did.” Suddenly it was no longer clear what belonged to whom, or why it had ever mattered.

The set of our romance grew bare, but we hung in there.

Until I tried to give back the ring.

“Don’t fucking insult me!” His strong jaw was rigid with rage.

I might as well have said ‘Your money’s no good here anymore.’

“But we’re not getting married and you spent money on it.” I felt it was a fair gesture.

He glared at me. “Nothing was ever good enough for you.”

For me? For me? I never wanted all this fucking stuff, I thought but didn’t say. I was merely the prop girl, trucking in goods, ticking off items on a list to make him happy. Only I hadn’t realized it until then.

It was clear that more than just the engagement was over. Still, I was stuck with the piece of jewelry that barely measured an ounce yet weighed me down like a mattress. I could feel it deep inside my jewelry box like the Princess and the pea, hear a metallic pinging in my inner ear whenever we were in the same room.

I could think of only one solution.  I went to the grounds of the University at the edge of the duck pond where he’d once seduced me with a necklace and murmurings of how different I was from other girls. Though I hadn’t ever liked it I felt sorry for the ring, for how it had failed to keep Martin and me together. How it had never had a chance to sit on a married girl’s finger and never would. I threw it into the pond and imagined its slow descent to the mucky bottom. It wasn’t a gracious end, but at the time I was thinking like a serial killer: if neither of us could keep it, then no one should have it.

With only a hiccup’s panic after it arced through the air, relief hit me like a cold sweat as it slipped into the dark water. Only the ring had disappeared; I was still here.

Jordan Rosenfeld is the author of the novel Forged in Grace, and the writing guides Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life (with Rebecca Lawton). Jordan’s essays and articles have appeared in numerous magazines, and she teaches via online writing courses and webinars. She has two writing craft books soon to be released with Writer’s Digest Books: A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: A Toolkit to Build & Bolster a Lasting Writing Practice (Spring: 2015), and, with Martha Alderson, “The Plot Whisperer,” Deep Scenes: Plot Your Story Scene-by-Scene through Action, Emotion & Theme (Fall, 2015), the material of which will be taught at their first annual WriterPath.com Retreat. Her first romantic suspense novel (pen name J. P. Rose) Night Oracles, releases Spring, 2014. www.jordanrosenfeld.net.

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Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen will be leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand what a Manifestation retreat is. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Jen and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. A lot. Next up is a workshop in London, England on Feb 15th. Book here.