Browsing Tag


Fear, Guest Posts

On The Edge Of The Void

January 22, 2016

By Tanya Slavin

Martin stands at the edge of a swimming pool, nervously shifting from one foot to the other, his whimpering becoming full blown crying the longer he stands there. I am waiting for him in the water, my arms invitingly outstretched, ready to help him in whenever he’s ready. I’m not pressuring him to go in, but the whole situation is: most of the other 4 year olds at this birthday party have been splashing happily in the water for a quite a while now, their happy babbling at stark contrast with his nervous wails. Some are already out of the water, getting ready to go upstairs to the birthday boy’s apartment for birthday cake and more fun.

Martin isn’t scared of the water. I take him to our local YMCA kids’ pool regularly where we splash and play happily. But the big difference is that the water in that familiar pool starts ankle deep, so he can move gradually, at his own pace, into deeper water, or stay at ankle depth if he chooses to. In this pool in our apartment building, the water starts waist-deep right away for someone his height. The other kids don’t care, but Martin isn’t comfortable plunging into that depth right away, so he stands there on the edge, scared and screaming.

I keep my hands outstretched and my voice positive and encouraging, when a sudden flashback obscures my cheerful attitude. In this recurrent nightmare of mine, I’m small and standing alone on the edge of a void that is formed by several missing steps in a stairway of my school building. Everybody else (all my classmates, teachers, my parents) have jumped over the void without giving it a second thought, and are happily on the other side, now encouraging me to jump over, their cheering voices ensuring me that it’s not that hard. But I am completely paralyzed by fear, and my knees begin to shake every time I try to make a step forward. I am certain that if I try to jump, I will fall into the void. So I’m standing there frozen and not jumping even though I desperately want to be on the other side with everybody else.

Alone, on the edge of the void, is where I spent my entire childhood. There was always ‘that side’ and ‘this side’, and a huge void in between. On that side were clowns and bouncy castles, noisy parties and dancing, being good at sports and being updated on the latest pop music, make up and girl nights out. ‘This side’ housed a comfy chair and a pile of books, being too sensitive and crying too much, and being scared of heights and elevators. It was understood and clearly confirmed to me by every trusted person in my life that ‘that side’ was the right one, and if you weren’t already there, you were expected to try hard to jump over. Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing, Letting Go

Mama are you good at sports?

December 21, 2015

By Gina Sorell

“Mama are you good at sports?”

It’s a question said with a sweet mischievous smile, by my 4-year-old son. It’s the first days of spring and we are standing in a sunbeam in the backyard in the tall grass that has somehow managed to come back to life, just like us, after a winter spent under snow. I’m failing hilariously at catching the balls he throws me. This is our joke. He knows the answer is no, and when I say it, we both burst out laughing. I love watching him laugh, and even more I love that he knows that there is something I am not good at. I want him to know that not everybody is good at everything, or the same things, but they should try them anyway, and if they want to be good, they need to practice. It’s a lesson I needed to teach him early on as he seems to have inherited my same perfectionist tendencies, getting upset with himself if he can’t master something right away. I know this feeling. I danced for many years and perfectionism of all types was encouraged. After he laughs, I often follow up by saying, “I’m not good at sports, but mama can dance!” And then bust out my best Martha-Graham-meets-90’s-New-Wave-dance moves in a circle around him. See, everyone is good at something I am hoping to show him, with my flailing limbs, and now creaky knees that are happier bobbing side to side than up and down, and he often joins in.

But one day he changes up our routine and asks me with all sincerity, “But why? Why aren’t you good at sports?”

It’s a simple question that leaves me speechless. What do I tell him? The reason I wasn’t any good at sports, was because instead of being taught to practice, I’d been taught to be afraid. Sports was where a ball could break my face, smash my nose, knock my teeth out. It was that place where my widely accepted clumsiness, would be my downfall, a clumsiness that somehow didn’t apply to my passion or ability for modern, jazz, ballet and national dance.

“Um, I guess I just didn’t practice very much. But I did do other things, like dance.”

“And baseball?” Continue Reading…

anti-bullying, courage, Gender & Sexuality, Girl Power: You Are Enough, Guest Posts

Cut The Label

December 1, 2015

By Laurie Suarez

Today is December 1st. The start of the new month. The last month of ​the​ year. And today is the day a very important movement launches. It will be a small movement at first, but it will grow. ​M​y hope is that it will grow to be so big that it isn’t a movement at all, it is just the way ​we think.​

My name is Laurie Suarez and today is the official launch of Cut the Label®— the campaign I founded in honor of my daughter​.​ The aim of Cut the Label® is to end the practice of categorizing each other. Sometimes we assign a label without thinking, sometimes a label is assigned to be cruel. In either case, the result is the same: the person we label is reduced to quick categorization. But we are so much more than the labels we attach to each other. We are not ​just a​ ​Religion, a Sexual Orientation, an Addiction, a Disease, a Diagnoses, ​Formally Educated-Not, Republican-Not, Rich-Not.

We are so much more than that.

​​YOU ​are so much more than that.

A year ago today​ I had to face ​the​ ​world of labels ​the hardest way possible, through watching my child struggle. A year ago, my son told me that he can’t be my son anymore. That he knew ​in his heart and brain that he is a girl. I accepted this and understood that I quickly needed to learn about what we were now facing. I glued myself to ​the​ computer and researched ​LGBTQ and ​Gender Dysphoria. ​The medical community has recognized ​Gender Dysphoria​ as a condition that can be diagnosed and addressed. One of the ​biggest struggles ​to anyone who has Gender Dysphoria is ​feeling valued​ as a human, and not feeling defined by​ labels and terms that are used against them when they move around in the world.

​The son​ ​I raised for nearly 14 years ​is in the process of transitioning to the self she knows she is​, my beautiful daughter.​ Being a teenager is hard enough, and to layer the complexities of Gender Dysphoria onto it makes the struggle much more painful. ​I couldn’t possibly be more proud of her. My daughter ​has struggled, but she is ​t​he bravest ​person ​I know​. No doubt, she deserves to be a part of a world that sees her for the person she is and ​​not a label​.​

​T​his is why I started focusing on the world beyond my daughter.​

​After I sank into a world of acronyms and labels, it occurred to me that I have missed opportunities to meet someone who could have been my friend due to a preconceived label. Staying away from certain people due to a label attached to them is unfair. There are good people everywhere and if someone is an A**hole (and as Jen Pastiloff says #dontbeanasshole) it has nothing to do with religion, sexual orientation or any other label. Some people are just A**holes. But just because some may act that way, it doesn’t mean that everyone who is of the same religion, or sexual orientation, or whatever is that way. Period. My daughter ​is and will always be loved as part of our family, but she has a long journey ahead.

​The mission of Cut the Label® is to participate in the spread of kindness and love for Humanity.

While this message is not new it cannot be overstated. We can make this world a bit “Gentler” by sticking together, let’s stop pulling each other apart into categories. Ask me my name, get to know me. I can always tell you more about me, my culture or religion and so much more if we decide to chat. But, please don’t stay away from me, my daughter or anyone else because of a label. We all deserve to be recognized and valued as a Human first.

J​ust step away from ​assigning labels​ and​ stuffing people into categories​ and smile at a stranger today.​​ I promise you it’s not difficult. ​Together, we can do this. Together, we can make a world a more accepting place for everyone.

​Cut the Label® wants to give transgender Humans and ALL ​Humans ​​hurt by ​discrimination​ion​ due to a Diagnoses, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Political choice, Culture, Disease  – t​he ​most Gentle ​world possible. On this day, December 1st, ​2014, ​I learned I ha​ve​ a ​3rd daughter.​ I feel honored to help guide her and to promote the message of Love and Acceptance.

Thank YOU for your friendship.

Learn more about Cut The Label® here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Facebook here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Instagram here. 

Follow Cut The Label® on Twitter here. 

Also, listen for Cut The Label® on 97.8 LA Mega in New York and 100.3 Z100 also in New York. 

And don’t forget to follow #GirlPowerYouAreEnough on Instagram — because YOU ARE ENOUGH!


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

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

Anonymous, Guest Posts, Pregnancy, The Hard Stuff

Sharing Your Worst.

December 1, 2014


By Anonymous.


They say everything happens for a reason- and I found that easier to believe for a while.

But I call bullshit. Sometimes the worst happens for no reason whatsoever.

My daughter is a deep empath. She absorbs all of the family stories, feels sad for Godzilla when the M.U.T.O.S. are getting the upper hand. When she was about five when she wanted to take every homeless person home with us, as we had plenty of good food. They could sleep on her floor, she offered, or in sleeping bags in the living room. When I tell her stories about my childhood and how my brothers were mean to me (I usually tell them because the stories are hilarious,) she feels terrible for me and wants to somehow make it better.

So I can’t publicly write about one thing that happened to me because I’m worried it will somehow hurt her. There’s this part of me, this protective mama instinct that wants me to keep the truly ugly shit from her. I want my daughter to grow up thinking that pregnancy should be healthy. That the stories she hears that happen to strangers couldn’t possibly happen to her. When I thought of writing about this before, I imagined her years down the road thinking of this story, having been told, and worrying through her own first pregnancy, “What if it happens to me?” Or worse, that she would spend her pregnancy feeling sad for me and my experience – because that’s how she’s wired. Maybe this is the wrong approach, but as I’ve found in parenting, this is seat of the pants instinct stuff, so I’m going with my gut on this one. Hence, the anonymous story.

So why write it at all? To work it through?

No. I made my peace with this-or as much peace as you can make with the truly bad things that happen in your life- years ago. But there’s another part of me that remembers how very alone I was when all of this happened. I had heard no other story like mine, had nothing to compare to or sympathize with. Aside from the nurses who worked at the place where I got the procedure done, and my mother, and my husband, there was no one to talk to about this. It took a few years before I even saw an article where this had happened to someone else. And I did write about it once, anonymously for Salon in an op-ed piece because they were going to make “late-term” abortions illegal in my state. And for a time, they did. And I would have had no help at all had this happened to us a few years later.

My husband and I had shacked up for a few years when he figured it would be a good idea to get married. I was working, he was working, we enjoyed our early marriage as we had our first years together and four years into our marriage we bought a house. All of our ducks were in a row, he had a profession that could support us both, it was time to have a baby. I had contracted Lyme disease- nowhere near its east coast origins and had just finished my course of antibiotics and at my doctor’s advice, had allowed a month to pass after that. It was time to give it a whirl. I got pregnant in the first month. My husband had wanted kids since he was small, I was a bit more apprehensive about the whole thing, but was thrilled nonetheless. We were twelve weeks in and everything looked fine, so we came out of the closet, sat on our sunny bed on a Sunday morning with the phone (back when they were attached to walls) and called everyone we wanted to share the news with. Everyone was thrilled. This was really happening. I got the standard blood tests and we celebrated Christmas with family and I was 14 weeks along. My belly was getting round and hard. My brother said, “Oh, I just thought you were getting fat.” The day after Christmas I got a phone call. My doctor said that something in my blood test said we should probably get an in-depth ultrasound and an amnio. The chances were small, but something was up. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Heroes, Terrorism

The Price of Loving a Hero.

November 17, 2014

By Erin Stewart.

I don’t watch the news; on October 22, 2014, I didn’t have to.

War. Suspects. Shooting. Soldiers. Police. Government. First responders.


These words filled my timelines. My Facebook. My Twitter. My Instagram. My inbox.

It was one of those days we’ll always remember. And I love a first responder; in fact, I love many. So for me, it was also one of the days I always fear.

The night before, I read an article that pissed me off. It was about policing; it was anti- police. I put it up on Facebook and the cop-bashing started immediately, so I deleted it.

The next morning, October 22nd, Canada was faced with a critical incident that tested our first responders, government security and Nation’s values – our government was faced with a shooting that took place on Parliament Hill and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The life of an unarmed soldier who was symbolically standing at the National War Memorial was taken when a gunman fired two shots into his back and injured others. This all took place after another soldier was run down in Quebec earlier that week.

In the midst of this crisis, our heroes show up, equipped and ready. The media winds shifted; that day and in the following days, our first responders were painted as heroes, not villains. But they’re always heroes to me.

The thing about loving a first responder is this: We worry. We worry all the time.

Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, parenting, The Hard Stuff, There Are No Words To Describe This, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Deep Blue Secret.

August 10, 2014


By Deb Scott

I have to tell you my secret fast or I won’t tell it to you at all.

It is a secret that few people know, even all of you who think you know me.

Even my family, the ones who were there don’t know. I mean they know but I think they don’t let themselves remember.

The secret is about my daughter. My baby who died.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Untethered. By Yolanda Olavarria-DeMarco.

April 30, 2014

Untethered. By Yolanda Olavarria-DeMarco.

A few weeks before Christmas my husband and I separated. He left. I had the opportunity to say, “No, don’t leave, please stay.” But I didn’t.

Against the floating debris that had amounted during our years together, we decided to go out on a date that night. The waters had finally receded. We went to our favorite Sushi restaurant. One by one the drifting floaters surfaced that evening. The question longed to be asked.

The inevitable emerged.

I just sat on a chair silent, staring at a Frosty the Snowman gift bag that stood on a table across from me. My husband sat in front of me; he was waiting for an answer. His questioned echoed in my head. “Do you want me to leave?” he had asked.

Time stood still.

Frosty was flashing a jolly smile without the pipe. When did he stop smoking? I really would like to know what makes Frosty a jolly happy soul. What’s his secret? What exactly had he been smoking? A sushi roll now drenched in soy sauce waited in a small rectangular dish. I hold on to my chopsticks with a firm grip.

Realizing what I was holding on to, I let go.

I excused myself and made my way to the restroom. The restaurant was packed. It was a Saturday night in Gainesville, Florida. Students still lingered; some with parents, perhaps celebrating.  A silent version of Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai flashed on a big screen. I locked myself in one of the bathroom stalls, techno music playing in the background. Facing the toilet as if prepared to hurl my rage.

Lost in the silent, black and white version of my life flickering inside my head, I cried.

I felt cradled in the dim-lit, Asian-inspired stall. Something within me became untethered, allowing a gush of stored memories slip through me. Stagnant tears, finally released, made their way down my face feeling them settle on my clenched collarbones.

I unlock and open the stall door. A mirror stood right before me. As I look at my reflection, I see a vaguely familiar face. I walk towards myself wondering if this was all a dream. With a look of despair on my face, a much younger woman places her left hand on my right shoulder and asks if I was OK. I look at her, but can’t say anything. As she walks to leave she says, “It’s always half as bad as it seems.” A laughing crowd is heard as she opens the door and then just muffled sounds as the door shuts. As I open the door, I hear a multitude of clear voices in undistinguishable languages.

The vociferous crowd swallows my pain.

I walk back to the table. He was waiting for an answer. The check and leftovers stood in front of him. The Frosty the Snowman gift bag, still there, as if it, too, were waiting for an answer. We walk back to the car, this time he didn’t hold my hand or open the door for me. As we drove back home, I thought about Akira Kurasawa’s other film, Rashomon, and wonder what versions, surely contradictory, of what happened tonight, would be remembered?

The night before, I dreamt that my husband had died. In my dream, I discovered his body lying by the edge of a lake. His body stood with its chest wide opened and hollow, looked like an empty pupa case. The sky was grey, the air was moist, and the grass was unusually green. His body, still wearing his brown leather jacket, had exploded was what I was told. I cried in my dream. I wailed in my dream; it was painfully vivid.

My loss was real.

My reactions to losses are always delayed. I slowly absorb them, thinking that it may ease the pain. It’s a habit that I can’t seem to break. I flutter my wings to stay afloat. I immediately begin to focus on the bright side, without embracing my pain. I put up a levee, then the pain hits me like an exasperated wave. Unexpectedly. With no impunity, my losses slam against me. This also happened when my father passed away.

As I saw my father’s lifeless body on the hospital bed, I didn’t know what to do. To no avail, I searched for a blink in his fixed, dark, and dilated pupils. I just stared at his body. His death had been expected. The process was lengthy, as he too had fluttered his wings to stay afloat. During his final hours, his silence seemed to ask, should I let go or should I hold on.

Later that day, I helped my mother purchase a coffin. My mother chose a royal blue one. She insisted in selecting him a nicer coffin then the one included in his funeral package. Initially I had objected, the corpse I had seen, was no longer my father, therefore the extra expense would be meaningless. However, I gave in.

The following day after my father died, parts of me could not be found. I needed a black dress. So I went shopping. I found a sleeveless black linen dress. It was June in central Florida. The sound, the music, the people seemed distant. Did I have my earplugs on?

My body felt warm, detached, and dazed. The heat followed me everywhere I went, even inside the dreadful mall. I was numb. I saw a gold bag that would look so well with my black linen dress. I thought I needed to look good. My father’s body and his friends would be there. As I made my purchase, I saw my dad. Our eyes met. He seemed to be patiently waiting for me to finish shopping, with a look as if he was trying to say, “Let’s go, I am hungry and your mother is waiting!” My knees gave way. The stagnant tears made their way down. Uninterrupted.

The drive back home from the sushi restaurant is immersed in a in utero-like silence. My husband left that same night. He didn’t say much. He was sad and perhaps a bit relieved. I was left with the feeling that every single thing in my life had amounted to that moment. I tried to breathe. I was unable to catch up with my breath. The pain was unbearable. I pretended not to acknowledge the pain, and come up with what I call an emergency-gratitude list. I was grateful for: the divine, my family, my friends, my dog, my cat, my health and my life. Fluttering my wings, once again, to stay afloat, while my bowels ignited.

The Christmas trees blinked while the scent of the pine wreath permeated throughout. As the night moved on, I went to the guest bedroom and lied down on a Yoga block for a chest opener. I needed to breath. I allowed the magnitude of that night to sink in: sushi, Frosty, Akira, techno music, younger woman, loss, deception, silence, uncertainty and sadness. Or was it anger?

Wholeheartedness took over. Like a contrast agent running through my veins, it highlighted everything I needed to feel. My mimicry disclosed. That night, and my body, exploded.


A seeker of stillness, beauty, and truth, Yolanda Olavarria-DeMarco is a native of Puerto Rico. She works for the Gainesville Latino Film Festival, is a Spanish interpreter, and is a student of Transcendental Meditation. She finds comfort in knowing that her father’s spirit is with her. Yolanda attended the Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp writing retreat in Vermont in October 2013. She is currently training to become a butterfly interpreter at the Butterfly Rainforest of the Florida Museum of Natural History.

She can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and very soon at


Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon,, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)


Eating/Food, Inspiration, Owning It!, Self Image

If You Are Looking For Hope, You Must Read This.

June 14, 2012

How honest are you willing to be with yourself?

I am going to share some stuff with you from my upcoming book.

Some deeply personal stuff.

The reason I am going to share this deeply personal stuff is because I have become an Inspirational Speaker, a force of Positivity, a Mentor, and someone who loves themselves. I lead sold out Manifestation Yoga® Retreats and workshops around the world! And, I want you all to understand just how dark my life was, just how much I overcame to be exactly where I am right now, just how far I have traversed through very muddy terrain.

And where am I?

I am at a place called Happy.

It’s unsettling to look through these old journal entries and not be able to recognize any part of me, but it is also extremely exciting not to recognize any part of me. This looking through my past business is firming up my knowing that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

I hope it inspires you.

It certainly inspires me to see how far I have come.

I will be damned if I cannot provide hope for anyone suffering RIGHT NOW.

If I made it to the other side, which I indeed have, YOU can too.

I was severely anorexic and depressed for years on end. Please read this earlier post to understand more.

I hope that you read the journal entries I am about to show you from years ago and feel a surge of Hope. 

How can you not feel hopeful?

I want you to know how sad and unhappy and anorexic I truly was so you can really appreciate where I am in my life right now. How I got so un-stuck. 

You will, of course, have to buy my book…..

It’s hard for me to look at these old posts but I want to share them with you. There are pages and pages and books upon books of saying the same things over and over and over….

Look at me now.

I made it, guys.

I made it.