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Guest Posts, motherhood, Relationships

The Kids Are Alright

April 6, 2016
children

By Jessica Starr

“Are you currently pregnant?”  The new patient questionnaire asked, immediately getting to the topic ruminating in my head over the past few weeks.

Without thinking I hastily scribbled, “Please God, I hope not.”

The second questions asked, “Have you ever been pregnant?”
“No,” I wrote “AND I NEVER WANT TO BE”.

The exam room door opened and the nurse dressed in out of season holiday scrubs called out “Jessica Starr?”

I chose Dr. Carrie Miles as my new OBGYN based on her one paragraph biography on the women’s clinic website.  She did not mention having children, however did enjoy spending time hiking with her two dogs and that was enough to put my reproductive health in her hands.

I sat nervously in the exam room, glancing at the pamphlets about all the possible STD’s I could have.  Dr. Miles walked in, casually wearing a white lab coat with her name stitched in red cursive writing, her pants dragging a touch too long. She had green eyes highlighted by blue eyeshadow, kept a straight serious face, and had obviously read my new patient paperwork. Continue Reading…

Advice, Guest Posts, motherhood

Life At 40 – A Letter To My Girls

March 16, 2016
advice

By Heather Regula

Dear Haley and Taylor,

Life at 40 has me feeling like I am at a pinnacle – everything has gotten better as I have gotten older. You two are my greatest accomplishments – I am so proud of you. The love I have for you is immeasurable. There is so much to say – so many bits of information I want to pass along to you, so many heartaches I want to save you from, so many lessons I want you to already consider “learned” – simply because I have already learned them. Your life is yours to live. You have your whole lives ahead of you and I am so honored to be along for the ride!

Disease or a terminal illness spurs some people write letters like this to their children. I am healthy and happy but I wanted to put all of these thoughts down for you to reflect on over the years. There are times when my words get jumbled up and I don’t truly say what I mean. Sometimes emotions or anger affect my ability to properly communicate. So here are my words and everything I want to share with you now. My perspective is different now than it was 10 years ago and I will write to you more throughout the years. My letter to you when I’m 50 might have a totally different spin to it as the lens I reflect through will be different. For now, at 40,  here goes…

  • Happiness is a choice – be sure to choose joy daily. Don’t worry about whether the glass is half full or half empty – just remember that the glass is refillable! No one is responsible for your happiness – find what makes you happy and go after it!
  • Feel everything – allow every single emotion you have inside of you to take root and run its course. The good, the bad and even the ones that rip your heart out – allow yourself to feel them all. This is easier said than done because no one likes to feel pain so we often protect ourselves from that. We fight off the bad feelings or turn to distraction in order to avoid feeling them. What we resist… persists. So, feel it all. Embrace it all. Own it, love it and process it all. Learn and grow from it all.
  • Share those feelings with others – let those close to you know what you are thinking and feeling. We are not on this life journey alone – don’t shut others out. Allow others to have the privilege of being part of your life and share your innermost feelings with those who matter. Sometimes talking about the painful emotions lessens the burden for us and makes it more manageable. Those that love you will want to share in your joys too. Share it all – be open and honest.
  • Choose your circle wisely. You can be kind and loving to all, but not everyone gets to have a piece of your world. Save those spots for those who really matter. You decide who is allowed  into your life and you control the level of submersion they get into your life.
  • Love yourself – take care of your mind, heart and body. Appreciate and embrace what makes you different from others and don’t be afraid to let your light shine. This involves forgiving yourself for mistakes made and roads not traveled down.
  • Be kind to others – life isn’t about you and I … it is about what we can do for others. Spread joy wherever you go – do what you can to make someone else’s day more enjoyable – lighten their load by helping when and where you can. Blanket the earth with your love – always leave the world better than you found it. It doesn’t matter what you get out of it, or how someone else treats you – it is about you loving others. Plain and simple. Show that love any way that you can and every chance that you get – hold the door open for others, offer to help carry someone’s bags, make eye contact with the cashier at the store and have meaningful conversation with him or her…. every interaction we have with others is our chance to leave them better than we found them.
  • If you say you are going to do something – then do it. This will help you stay true to yourself and it will allow others to believe in you. It sucks to be let down.
  • Don’t take anything personally – I feel like I should write these words in all capital letters. This truly is one of the greatest lessons of my life. I wish I had grasped this concept when I was younger. It is one of The Four Agreements (please read the book!) and it is so very simple. Everything that someone else says and does is not about you – it is one hundred percent about them. Now I am not saying to not believe what someone tells you – I am simply saying that all the bad stuff…. the words and actions that hurt our feelings and wind up breaking our heart – all of that is really not about us. Those words and actions are often a result of anger and issues that another person has. Don’t take that personally – people often say and do things to hurt others in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Sometimes it takes self talk and distancing yourself from someone else in order to not take things personally. Reminding yourself that it isn’t about you but truly about the other person will keep you happier and more emotionally healthy.
  • Love others where they are. If you choose to allow someone into your life – friend, significant other, whatever – make an agreement with yourself to love that person where they are. Physically where they are – sure that’s a given. I mean more of the mental and emotional aspects of this thought. Love them for what you have in common and for their differences. Love the stubbornness and all of their little quirks and idiosyncrasies. When you find someone worthy of sharing your life with, please don’t ever think that they are your “other half” or that they “complete” you – you are whole and complete just as you are – you don’t need anyone else to fill a missing part of you.
  • Let your expectations be reasonable – I used to always say that if we don’t have expectations then we won’t be disappointed. That is a callused way to look at things and I have decided that we do have the right to expect certain things. We give respect and we have the right to expect respect in return from someone who matters in our life. We give kindness and we have the right to expect kindness in return – but keep in mind that kindness is a muscle and if it isn’t exercised, then it isn’t very strong. Exercise kindness often so that your muscle is strong and it will spread to those around you. But don’t put the expectation you have of yourself, on others. That isn’t fair and it will only lead to disappointment. I did say earlier that we have the right to expect respect and kindness from others but we need to keep in mind that it might look different coming from another person. Their version of it will likely not be the same as yours. Or, they might not know how to show it and you will have the unique opportunity to show them. Show them lovingly and patiently.
  • Forgive others freely and without expectation. Forgive others for your peace – not because they necessarily deserve it. So many times we get caught up in judging others – deciding their fate because we feel that we can be the judge, jury and executioner. Focus on not passing judgment and learning to forgive others. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to let them back into your life. Sometimes you can make your peace with their actions, decide in your heart and mind to forgive them and let it go. Forgiving someone allows you to release the pain they caused and not carry it around anymore. It involves letting whatever happened go and not continuing to hold it against them. This is definitely a lot easier said than done but it is possible. Sometimes it is one of those things that requires constant self talk. Forgiveness, when done properly, is freeing. Forgive others when they are sincere in their apologies and forgive them even when they don’t offer an apology. That might be a time when you  forgive and move on without them in your life.
  • Trust for the sake of trusting – I feel like I could write pages and pages about trust – the benefits of having trust, the pains of losing someone’s trust, how it is nearly impossible to rebuild trust…. instead of rambling on and on about the different aspects of trust, I want to simple suggest that you trust someone for the sake of trusting. You will have relationships where your heart breaks because of the actions of another – don’t hold that heartbreak against the next person you allow into your life. Forgive the person that hurt you and move on. Allow the new person to have a clean slate – unblemished by the actions of another. We all deserve a real chance and trust is at the root of all of that. So – if you decide that someone is worthy of being in your life, trust in the fact that you believe they are good and decent. Trust them because they haven’t given you any reason not to trust them. Trust isn’t something others should have to earn. That’s not fair. So trust because of all the good that can come from it. Trust because there isn’t a reason not to. Now that I’ve said that – there are different layers of trust. There is a basic level of trust that others deserve to have until they have shown you a reason not to trust them. The different layers of trust will grow in time – don’t force them as they will just naturally fall into place.
  • Find time to do what you love – what feeds your soul – what brings you peace and happiness. Carve regular time into your life for that. I really hope that it is something not associated with your job – so that it will allow you to focus on other things and dedicate time to that. Do what makes you happy and do it regularly. Breathe in the peace and joy that it brings you and exhale the stress and frustration that you have in your life.
  • Life goes on – no matter what, time keeps ticking away. The passing of time doesn’t differentiate between good or bad times. Find a way to enjoy each and every day. Know that the pain you feel during tough days will pass and also remember that the great times will pass by as well. Love life and live it to the fullest – no regrets. Remember that each day you wake up is a chance to make today better than yesterday. Grief is temporary – feel each piece of it and let it go.
  • Be you! Embrace who you are – happily and unapologetically! Be a badass, always.

I can write for days about things I want to tell you girls. I love you and will always be here for you. I love you where you are and for all that you are. I look forward to watching you both grow into young women and see the mark that you will leave on the world. You are both blessed with caring hearts and great intelligence – you will do amazing things, I know it. I love you.

Mom

Heather Regula is a writer and a fifth grade teacher. She was born in California, grew up overseas and has happily settled in Temple, TX. She has two daughters – Haley, 12 and Taylor, 8. Her words are straight from the heart – they are often based on life experiences that have moved and changed her.

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Ritual

January 25, 2016

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.)

courage, Family, Fear, Guest Posts, motherhood

(Dis)connections

November 29, 2015

By Lisa Porter

Daisy loves to wear wings and fluffy dresses. When she encounters someone that she deems to be filled with interesting energy, she hugs without asking, or requests a hug and invites engagement in a world full of disengagement. She admires beautiful hair, mermaid tails, cute babies, and dresses that are ‘just like a wedding.’ Her conversations are most frequently with an old sewing machine, the ‘dipper’ (stars), and the crows in the fig tree. She doesn’t abide boundaries based on social norms. Daisy is 11. She is one of the most awake beings that I know. Living with her has forced me to be curious about the brain and the concept of plasticity. Because of Daisy, I believe in everyone’s capacity to change, adapt habits, and learn to communicate without words. She has converted me into a missionary, preaching the overlooked wisdom of the sensory system, as I observe her struggle to manage all of the typical sensory input that I unconsciously process.

The disabilities emerged slowly. She missed milestones, started wearing glasses at four months, had eye surgery at seven months, didn’t crawl, and didn’t walk until she was almost two. I remember the day when it really sunk in…the day that she started at a school for two year olds with special needs. We had moved from New York City to San Diego for my academic job when she was a newborn. This change was supposed to open the ‘perfect’ chapter in my life, transitioning from the professional theater to the academic and making room for this baby. Instead, and on the day that she started at a ‘special’ school, sadness took me hostage. I remember thinking, anything other than her intellect. Today, she is officially labeled with an intellectual disability, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. In terms of how American society traditionally measures achievements, potential, and quality of life, she is ‘less than.’ All of the words that begin with ‘dis’ sting with the stigma of ‘less than.’ Disappointment, dismay, disparage, disarray, disgust, disrepair, disillusion, disregard, dismantle, disruption.

The completely normal pregnancy, birth, and first few weeks of her life, led me to believe I had a shot at a typical parenting experience. I remember asking at the moment Daisy was born, ‘does she have ten fingers and ten toes?’ And indeed, she does. I knew parenting would change me forever, just not like this, not like this. Nine years after that first day at the special school, my worst-case scenario is now my daily life.

My husband and I took a trip to Berlin when Daisy was about five. Until then, I had never fully understood that during the Holocaust, those with disabilities were killed first and without delay. The Nazis dismissed them as worthless and unsalvageable. I remember that realization as a moment of deep clarity about the intensity of the struggle ahead. This was a time to transform into a warrior who could advocate for my daughter, leading us into the battle. Continue Reading…

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

Black Lace: On Music, Motherhood, and Loss

November 18, 2015

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…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

Dance, Mama

September 26, 2015

By Irina Dumitrescu

When I first traveled for work after becoming a mother, my toddler son asked my husband: “Is Mama dancing?” As far as he knew, when I was not at home, I was in one of my dance studios. The funny thing is that I am only an amateur dancer, with moderate talent and skill. But I wasn’t dancing to entertain anyone those days. I was dancing to live.

Becoming a mother nearly killed me. That sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. It wasn’t the birth, although by the fourth day of labor I was sure I would die in that Dallas hospital with my baby inside me. I have the fortune of living in a time when women can labor naturally for days without painkillers, push for hours, and still come out alive and with a healthy child. Cut up, slightly out of their minds, but alive. No, it was the months that followed that drove me to the edge. The trauma of the birth, sleep deprivation, plus the stress of an international move from Texas to Berlin meant I had to fight hard not to hurt my son or myself. Continue Reading…

Contests & Giveaways, Guest Posts, Manifestation Retreats, motherhood

Final Essay Winner For The Scholarship to Emily Rapp/Jen Pastiloff Retreat in Vermont.

September 22, 2015

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.

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.

Lisa Gray has been notified and will be attending the retreat with Emily and I next month in Stowe. The retreat is sold out. Thank you to every single woman who applied. We will do more!!

I hope you all will be moved to share this. I know I was. Especially with my own history.

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

ps, I just returned from New York. The launch of my labor of love, my Girl Power: You Are Enough workshops, was this past weekend in Princeton and NY. It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I will keep you all posted on the next one. This movement is so needed.

A Heavy Heart
By Lisa Gray

To say what you are seeing out loud makes something real. When I first noticed something, I chose my words carefully.

 

“My daughter is cutting back.” Always someone who ate with gusto, the behavior change seemed a bit of a relief. “My daughter used to have no off button. She’s finally paying attention to when she is full,” I confided to a friend.

 

But then a well-meaning acquaintance chimed in. “She’s finally growing up! Finally got outta that chunky phase. Thank god, right?”

Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

In My House

September 22, 2015

By Stephanie Land

When we moved to Montana, Jamie stopped calling Mia for months. We had our own place in this old house next to downtown and we’d go for walks to the park and the river. Then he called to say he’d moved to Portland and had a new job which meant regular paychecks. He said a judge would make me move to Portland if I tried to get more child support. He said the money they garnished from his pay and sent to me kept him from living his life the way he wanted. It kept him from pursuing his dream of opening a bicycle shop. It kept him from cross country bike trips. He made over a thousand a week and I got seventy-five. He called and said he couldn’t afford her visit that summer. He couldn’t figure out how to pay for childcare and feed her and pay support and pay rent. He’d told her he’d buy a big girl bike and teach her how to ride on two wheels. The training wheels stayed on her bike at home. I couldn’t convince her to try.

When we moved into our new apartment last fall, I gave her the big bedroom. She hung pictures of her dad all over the walls. She’d done this in the past, hanging the one in the red frame in particular. The one where we’re both smiling in our hooded sweatshirts. He has his arm around me and I’m leaning in. Mia’s sitting in my lap, looking at us. I might be imagining it, but I can see the uncertainty on her four-month-old face. We’d just come from another useless counseling appointment where Jamie confessed he wasn’t attracted to me. He said it like that, out loud, in front of another person. He said he kept seeing this girl riding her bike around town. The girl was skinny and shorter and had a style of dress that he liked and he wanted to be with her. Not me. “The girl on the bike” would be his new phrase. As in “you’re not the girl on the bike.” As in “I want the girl on the bike.” I’d leave the picture where Mia hung it for a while before I moved it back to a slightly hidden somewhere by her bed. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

Sixteen

September 10, 2015

By Debi Lewis

Sixteen times, I’ve stood at the side of a raised gurney in an operating room and sung my daughter to sleep.

Sixteen times, I could faintly smell the scented oil the anesthesiologists rub inside the mask, the mask that delivered sleeping gas, the oil they put there to cover the smell of the gas, the gas she could still smell and taste, making her grimace until she was overcome.

Sixteen times, I kept singing. Sixteen times, I planted a kiss on her still-warm skin above the mask. Sixteen times, I walked back to the pre-operative room and gathered up my husband and our belongings, and sixteen times I shrugged and stiffly shook the vision of my limp and drugged daughter from my head.

“She’s fine,” I answered my husband when he looked at me, questioning. Though who knows? By then, many times, she may have had tubes down her throat, things pinching and scraping her insides in places I would never see with my own eyes. Fine? I suppose.

****

Sometimes, I must have cried, a little. Most times, I don’t believe I did. The routine of it makes them all blend together; the coffee sipped while we waited, the nausea rising at the smell of a hospital breakfast, the same sixteen pages of sixteen books read a hundred times, all of them dull and timeless. Always, I wondered how she could still be in there. Every time, the clock was a demon, moving slowly as they mucked around with my daughter’s insides. My eyes and mind paced when she was asleep, circling around the room.

No matter the conversations I had while we waited, I walked and moved to the beat of the song I’d sung as she fell asleep, my eyes locked on hers so that, if she didn’t wake up again, my face would be the last thing she saw in this world. She was born into medical equipment, strange doctors’ faces, suctioning, poking, bright light. I would not let her leave like that. Let the end be a comfort, I always thought, and so I always found myself as focused as a yogi at her bedside in the operating room. I imagined myself an angel, a guide, and I stared peacefully into her eyes and sang. I sang lullabies from my childhood and hers; nursery rhymes when she was a toddler; a pop song called “You and I” that she was learning to play on the ukulele. I sang and held her hand and I was not scared. I did not want her to think I was scared. And after I walked out of the operating room, my soul was alert for the sensation of hers, leaving or staying.

So if she asks, “what did you do when I went to sleep in the hospital?,” how can I ever tell the truth? Played cards. Checked my email. Barely noticed the time going by; it was so quick!

**** Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

The Other Side

September 10, 2015

By Debbie Weingarten

The afternoon brings long rays of sun through the window, and specks of dust float around us like stars. We live in a home the size of a postage-stamp, and it is full of a baby and a toddler, a broken mama, one dog, one cat— all growing, healing, mucking through the days together.

I have begun to think in motivational phrases:

Orient towards the light. Take a step. Repeat.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

We are never given anything more than we can handle.

This is a brand new year, I say to myself, through the lull of the afternoon. The baby stretches in his sleep, as if he knows that new years are for waking up.

With the second child, time does not seem quite so cavernous. It’s like walking a familiar path, recognizing this crooked tree, or that patch of wildflowers, or the wooden bridge just beyond the rhododendron. The baby will cut teeth, learn to walk, say bird and dog, sprout little blonde hairs on his legs, ride a tricycle, finally sleep through the night. And I— tired rings below my eyes, yoga pants for days— will marvel at how time has somehow robbed us and kept us prisoner at the very same time.

I could feel the divorce before it came. It circled us for two long years, disguised as stress from sleep deprivation, an infant, a demanding business. It has been a year since I woke up to the abuse and control, since my son and I fled in our pajamas, the baby still the size of a fist in my belly.

I have been ushering us through the weeks, each one its own journey and wall of grief, each one bringing new layers of deconstruction, clarity, documents from the lawyer. For a time, I am set adrift on my own solitary raft, letting the warm ocean wash over me. I am tired of crying, and I cannot eat. Instead, I spend time sorting through all of the lies told to me so casually. I turn them over like seashells, put them in a bucket, scream. It is all one big mindfuck.

I have embraced things I was never allowed: a frivolous coffee routine, afternoon naps, frozen foods, shitty milkshakes. I find comfort from things I never thought I would: signs of synchronicity, self-help books, kind sister strangers, internet support groups, old songs with new meanings. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, motherhood

Unravelling

September 4, 2015

By Jennifer Meer

Whenever my husband travels for business, I have the same thing for dinner almost every night. I will own that it is so disgusting that I will not eat it in front of him or my children. It is always post bedtime when I sink into that delicious and rare moment in time that is uniquely my own space. I take a bag of pretzels and dump them out on a plate and then I cover them with a slice of American cheese which I then microwave.

Everything about it is wrong.

It tastes amazing.

I suspect that the actual taste of microwaved processed cheese melted on top of pretzels has little to do with gastronomic pleasure and everything to do with the taste of freedom, the taste of what it feels like to not be wanted or needed or touched. It tastes like the freedom to unravel.

Mentally, sometimes I picture that this is what is happening at the end of these days that are both centuries and mere moments long. That after a day of logistics and questions and to dos and toys and tasks and dishes and laundry and diapers and none of which are bad, I literally imagine myself wrapped in their love and tasks, like gauze slowly winding and tightening itself around me all day long. I wear it proudly, like a corset. It keeps me cinched in, and from instinctively pursuing things that are hard and emotionally complex. I am not sure this is bad. But at night, in the dark when no one is around and the cheese is still bubbling on the pretzels, I literally unravel myself. Layer after layer. I am scared that if I unwind too much too far or too fast, I will reveal what I fear to be true. That there is nothing underneath my corset of loving. That the process of loving and doing has become so all consuming, that I am losing the person at the center of it.

The next day, pre-dawn, I smuggle myself out of the house much like a cat burglar to go for a sorely needed yet far too rare early morning jog. It strikes me as strange how much I feel like I am getting away with something, escaping while they are all still asleep. Why does love always come with this requisite push and pull? I need them close, I need more, I need myself, I need escape.

As I run, the sounds of Bon Jovi and vintage Sambora fill my ears. I think of the lost art of the guitar solo in all of its faded glory and perfection: equal parts embellishment and improvisation. Another bygone relic of my 80s youth, it gave that band member used to working so hard to blend in, a rare moment to give everything to just the opposite: standing out. It is so easy to love them. It is so hard to turn in and up. Am I using my loving them as an excuse to avoid the hard work of learning me? Is this season of mothering an opportunity to love or hide? Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, Women

On Wishing Things Were Different

August 14, 2015

By Jessica Zucker

I.

Mourning is hard for her. She’s loathe to sink into the anguish of that time and what it means about the woman who raised her.

Mother.

II.

Rather than feel the grief, she has spent the better part of her life gripping onto hope—an emotional contortionist—thinking that if only she were different than maybe her mother would treat her better, love her constantly, see her. Be there. These are the details that coarse through her unconscious mind day in, day out.

Anxiety.
Loneliness.
Shame.

After repeated emotional mishaps and arduous disappointments, history collected in her psyche, hardening her once soft edges. The antithesis of a wellspring of support, her mother’s behaviors left an indelible mark on her daughter, cementing her impression of what relationships are made up of, and what they are not.

III.

As a child she felt alone. She was alone. She turned her longing for connection into mock group therapy sessions for her stuffed animals, lined at the foot of her bed. “So, elephant”, she inquired, “what do you think about this story? How do you think the characters felt at the end of the book?” This type of playfulness exhibited her imaginative inner life and gave birth to an intimacy and connectedness she yearned for in actuality. Otherwise, in the context of the real people in her home, she felt stranded. Her house was missing key elements that she desperately needed to thrive: attunement, curiosity, reflection, unfettered fun. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration, motherhood

Knitting A Soul

August 12, 2015

By Bernadette Murphy

My twelve-year-old son, Jarrod, plays trumpet in a jazz group, and I’m usually the one to take him to the rehearsals in downtown Los Angeles. Often, I bring a knitting project to work on during the two or three hours he’s behind closed doors. A few other parents wait with me, though most drop their children and return later. The kids work with their jazz teacher in an almost completely soundproof room. When a piece they’re practicing becomes particularly loud, the slightest vibrations and melody slip through the soundproofing like smoke signals to let us know something wonderful is occurring in that little room. Hearing those sounds, I sneak up to the small five-by-ten-inch window and peer in.

I’m not the only one. Passersby, parents, people waiting for their dance classes to start: we all take turns jostling to watch preteen kids blow inspired, improvised jazz and blues. There’s something irresistible about watching people do something they love.

The rehearsals take place in a gorgeous performing arts school situated next to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a stone’s throw from the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and in the shadow of the amazing Disney Concert Hall, standing at astounding angles, huge sails of metal and concrete reminding Angelenos of imagination’s incredible power. The school is located in an area that’s both highly cultured and adjacent to great poverty; skid row is a few blocks away. It’s a place where art, music, and dance–self-expression of all forms–are actively encouraged and yet the implicit risk in such self-expression is tangibly present. The unspoken fear, at least among the adults, seems to be: If I give myself so fully to something I love, will I end up like that street-corner poet I passed while looking for a parking space? The woman was screeching her words at approaching vehicles, trying to call attention to her beliefs and experiences, only to be drowned out by the forward-marching parade of society. Or what about the homeless man outside MOCA, strumming his guitar, happy in his music yet oblivious to the rest of the world: Will I become like him?

One of the biggest dangers of giving in to art is that our values might change—or return to an earlier, simpler form. The perfect house, the right furniture, the great job, the designer clothes: Maybe those things don’t represent our hearts’ desires the way we thought. Maybe we’ll learn something about ourselves that we didn’t particularly want to know. Or maybe people will laugh at us. Maybe we won’t appear the way we’d like to.

Worse yet: Maybe we won’t be any good at what we love. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Mental Health, motherhood

My Son of the South

June 20, 2015

By T Hudson

Ben—whose name in Hebrew means the Son of the South—has thick chestnut wavy hair, hazel eyes like mine, and a strong prominent nose. He believes that his friends are not his friends at all, but rather members of the Mafia or the CIA or the FBI out to imprison him, harm him, or poison him, that helicopters and motorbikes are instruments of surveillance, dispatched to spy on us all, and that our computers and telephones are bugged.

He is nineteen when it starts. The doctors call it a psychotic break, but the words seem all wrong, because for something to split or tear apart, it should be brittle or weak at the seams in the first place. My son is whole. He takes a surfboard into the ocean each weekend, heaves his lithe body onto it and glistens with the elements. My son writes. He plays Rachmaninov’s piano concerto by ear, and he has a scholarship to one of the most prestigious public universities in California. That’s why it can’t be right that he has schizophrenia. Can it? Can it really?

We live in a prized home with sought after views in the oldest and quaintest part of Hollywood. Ben is going to be a doctor and I will proudly join the ranks of British immigrant Yiddisher mamas. I’m just waiting for it to happen, so when it doesn’t I blame myself. Maybe I haven’t loved him enough or maybe I’ve loved him too much. Either way it is my fault.

 

It begins in the laundry room in the early hours of the morning. I find Ben cold and alone tracing the wires of the telephone circuit board.

“This is how they are monitoring us,” he whispers, his face stricken, his breath sour.  “We have to cut some stuff out, change the receiver, I can do it.”

“Who?” I ask. “Who is monitoring us? And why.”

Ben puts a finger to his lips, and quiets me. His eyes look a shade darker with him framed as he is against the white plaster walls. He begins rifling through the tool kit, although he doesn’t seem quite sure of what he is looking for.

“Don’t do anything yet,” I say, my voice barely audible.

I look at my bike hanging from the rafters, the spokes still muddy from my off-road ride. The room contains everything we want to hide away from the neat order of the rest of our lives, eight years worth of clutter, and a washing basket of damp smelling clothes. It is frigid, especially at this late hour. Built into the hillside, carved out of the bedrock, we are underground. I need to sweep the floor as if to make room for us. It is imperative.

I take the broom and work it around Ben’s size nine feet, buying us time—time to hope he has a fever-induced delirium, something that might pass with a couple of Advil and a good night’s sleep.

Ben has never rerouted wires before in his life and, besides that, we have suspended our landline in favor of cellular phones. These wires that my child is obsessing over are part of a defunct apparatus from a bygone age.

“Let’s go upstairs,” I offer, swishing the last dust motes across the grain of the old hardwood floor.

Ben agrees albeit reluctantly, and walks behind me with a languid gait, one I hardly recognize. Once seated at the dining room table I take his temperature, smooth my palm across his forehead as I have countless times before.

“98.6,” I say. “Normal.”

The dining room boasts large sash windows that open to a hefty forty-foot drop. Ben stands against the pane and with the first light I see how thin and pale he has grown in recent weeks. I feel my throat tighten as denial gives way to fear.  “Did you take drugs?” I ask him. “Hard drugs?”

He stares at me and shakes his head as if I am the one who is suffering from delusions.

Continue Reading…