Browsing Tag


Fatherhood, Guest Posts, healing, parenting

How To Parent On A Night Like This.

November 25, 2014



By Carvell Wallace

My son is home from school. He stays in bed while I take his little sister to her 4th grade class. He watches about 8 hours of television. I have to work. We watch Skyfall together in the morning. The violence is a little beyond what I would normally allow, but something about a father and son watching a spy thriller together…I can’t resist. A Final Showdown at the Scottish Manor. Helicopters and explosions. Cars with semi automatics in the headlights. Sawed off shotguns.

I pick my daughter up at 3:30 while he stays at home. I take her to the grocery. We talk about persimmons and how to tell if they’re ripe. She asks me how I decide which chicken to buy. I explain about air-chilled, and free-range, and grain fed, and hormone free. I realize that I don’t actually understand “air chilled.” I send her clear across the store to go find peanut oil. She does. I am impressed.

In the car, she asks about her brother. I tell her he’s home alone. She is quiet for a few more minutes. Then she tells a story of the time her mother went to the store and left them home alone. And they heard a sound. An explosion of a kind. And her older brother started panicking, telling her it was gunshots, telling her to close the blinds and hide on the floor. And how she became terrified and FaceTimed Mommy from her iPad. And Mommy tried to calm her down, but eventually came right home, leaving a cart filled with groceries in the aisle.

Helicopters are already circling downtown.

She tells me that she now knows that they were overreacting. That it was probably fireworks. It didn’t sound like real gunshots. She’s heard real gunshots. They happened one afternoon while she was playing on the schoolyard. The teachers told them to run inside and they didn’t even have to line up. That’s how she knew it was serious.

We come back home and the kids are reunited. Rare is the day that one has school and the other doesn’t. They are so used to being together in the same cars on the same schedule, even at different schools, that when they see each other, there is awkwardness. They want to check in. If they were adults, they might say “how was your day?” and “I missed you!” But they are not adults. So they argue about who is the worst teacher at the elementary school, and then reminisce about funny episodes of sitcoms that they’ve watched. She quizzes him on his menu, keen to make sure that he didn’t get an ice cream or a cookie on his day off. She’s always keeping track of things like this. Everything must be even.

Grand Jury Decision is expected to be read at 8pm CST.

She begins her homework. He watches vaguely racist and sexist youtube videos.

I make her a snack of plain yogurt and granola.

Rumors are starting to spread that there will be no indictment.

I already know there will be no indictment. I’ve been a black man in America for a long time.

The house is quiet, everyone engrossed in their screens. I am agitated. Scrolling social media, lead in the pit of my stomach.

We’ve been here before. As a family.

We are black people in Oakland. We talk about race a lot. We talk about gender a lot. We discuss transphobia and homophobia a lot. We discuss capitalism and civil rights a lot. We’ve heard helicopters and chants and seen the streets burn. We’ve been to protests. We’ve held signs and played drums. We’ve had our car broken into and our heart-covered backpack and pink size 3 trench coat stolen from the front seat on the first night of Occupy. We’ve driven past armies of cops in riot gear in our minivan. We’ve been here before. We are black people in Oakland. Continue Reading…

death, Grief, Guest Posts, healing

Seasons of (Beautiful) Change. Reflecting on The Death of My Daughter.

October 28, 2014


By Becky A. Benson.

When the last remaining breezes of the tepid summer air turn unabashedly crisp and begin to fill with the recognizable scent of colorful leaves bidding their trees adieux we know that Autumn is on its way. These things, and so many others during this season bring a great sense of nostalgia to my heart and mind. The warm pleasures of draping yourself in layers of sweaters and scarves and of taking in the aroma of baked apples and pumpkin-everything blankets us in comfort. A literal season of change is underway.

In the Fall I wax nostalgic more than any other time of year. October is the month in which my youngest daughter, Miss Elliott was born. She too brought many changes into our lives. Our beautiful, blessed being, she was a teacher. My greatest teacher. She taught us what it meant to love unconditionally. She taught us what it meant to persevere. She taught us that a life, no matter how short or how small, was valuable, important and beautiful. She also taught us how to say goodbye. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, parenting

Powder Blue Polyester Tuxedo.

October 23, 2014


By Ben Tanzer.

There is quiet. Can you hear it? Just wait a moment. Pause. Take it in.

There is no screaming about toys, Animal Jam, showers, homework, dishes, screen time, or even screaming about why someone is screaming.

No one is complaining, crying, wheezing, moaning, grousing, grumbling, protesting, or bleating. And no one is watching Pokemon, Pretty Little Liars, Kicking It, H20, The Fosters, America’s

Got Talent, or The X Factor. It is quiet, and it is like magic. It is magic.

Noah, the little one, is lying on his back, brow furrowed, skin as buttery as ever, and he is reading Miss Daisy is Crazy!, one of the 20 million books in the My Weird School series by my new best friend Dan Gutman. Other titles include Mr. Klutz is Nuts! and Mrs. Roopy is Loopy! and on and on ad infinitum.

Myles, the older one, is sprawled out on his stomach in our bed, his spiky, mushroom cap hair flying in 50 directions, his long legs splayed everywhere, and he is re-reading, yes you read that correctly, re-reading Insurgent, a book that couldn’t be more in synch with what he loves: scrappy, underdog, outcast girl discovers she is special and then kicks all kinds of butt.

Continue Reading…

Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts, Self Image

A First Grader’s Gender Identity.

October 14, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser.

“Hi, Avery,” I heard my daughter’s friend, Crystal call out earlier this summer. Clad in pink tank shirt and blue skirt, Avery’s hair cupped her chin. Avery waved, and turned back to the music. Crystal and my daughter continued through the farmers market.

Avery? Last summer, Avery was Henry—about to enter kindergarten, just like Crystal and my daughter. “As soon as Crystal learned about Henry’s transition, she instantly switched not just name but pronoun, and has never made a mistake,” Crystal’s mom reported.

I wasn’t entirely surprised. Very small kids pose big gender questions: “Can boys be princesses? Why do girls get babies in their bellies?” By age five, however certain they are that boys are one way and girls another, perhaps they remain closer to more fluid, flexible notions of gender.

A small child’s interest in clothes “meant” for the opposite gender—the boy in the tutu, the girl who rejects all dresses—often passes, a “phase” dictated by a sense of style or by preferred activities, such as dance or monkey bars. Classic picture books like Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll and newer ones, like Ian and Sarah Hoffman’s Jacob’s New Dress endeavor to make such explorations amongst very young children accepted (and acceptable). This takes conscious effort. For example at my house, where three sons preceded the daughter, I didn’t need to buy her a baby doll: we already had three, along with trucks and train tracks.

But what happens when a child declares, like Avery did, a territory beyond mere experimentation? What if the child’s experience is an authentic transition? How does a school respond, and how do friends rally?

Continue Reading…

courage, Grief, Guest Posts, healing, I Have Done Love

When You Believe You Are Unlovable.

February 9, 2014


By Rachel Pastiloff.

If I close my eyes and think hard enough I can almost remember the house. Almost. I can’t remember if it was brown or green. Maybe it was brown with yellow trim. I do remember the chain link fence in the back yard, and the rabbit hutch my Poppy made for us. I wish I could remember more. I just said to a friend this past weekend, “I wish I had a photographic memory,” but then realized that would probably be a curse.

I still dream of those days. The ones that happened before July of 1983. Maybe I could go under hypnosis and while in a trance bring a Polaroid camera with me. I had a Polaroid camera once. It was pink and I loved the instant gratification. I would take my Polaroid and snap a photo of all the moments from January 15th, 1978 until July 15th, 1983.

I have a snapshot of the day my daddy died. I have that moment etched in my brain. Chinese checkers, shag carpet, curse words and fist slamming, sirens, strange men, family arriving. I remember all of that. The den where I was held captive as they took Mel, my dad, away on a stretcher. I snuck away and caught a glimpse of his lifeless body. I had no idea it would be the last time I saw his beautiful face, although it did not look beautiful on that stretcher, blue and dying.

In the weeks before he passed my mom and dad had “the talk” with my sister and me. It was the “we are getting a divorce talk.” I remember the bedroom and the bed we sat on with its putrid ugly yellow sheets. My father had an armoire that held all of his “cool” stuff. Probably the same place he placed his drugs, the ones that would weeks later rip him out of my life. That talk would leave an imprint on my life.

I carried it around with me like a 200-pound appendage.

My last memories of my father were of him saying, “You can have Rachel and I will take Jennifer.”

A few weeks later he died. I carried the burden of his poison laced words with me, the words that a five year old hears, in five-year-old comprehension.

  • You don’t love me?
  • Why don’t you want me?
  • Why won’t you take me?
  • I am unlovable. 

For years I’d ask my mother why?

Why didn’t he think I was worth taking, loving, or keeping? She always made excuses for him. None of them ever took it away.

His words became my inner voice.


I am a mother now. I have the choice now. As I read the post on Facebook it knocked me over.

“How you speak to your children becomes their inner voice.”

I couldn’t breathe when I read it.

I have to make sure that their inner voice is one that says: I am loveable. I am wanted. I am smart and kind. I am heard. I am special.

This is a challenge as the mother of one child with a rare genetic disorder and autism, and another child with ADHD and a mood disorder. It’s a major battle sometimes to remember to breathe, and sometimes, just to conquer minute by minute of the day.

I have not been the most gracious mom over the last six months. I am depleted in every possible definition of the word. I have had more than my fair share of ugly mom moments, last night being one of them. I was yelling and pounding my fists, scaring even myself. Watching myself as if I were in a movie, looking at my little one stare at me as if I was a monster.

Those moments pass and we are fine, but what is the ripple that I have created inside his voice pool? Rachel, your words become their inner voice.

Your words are what they hear when they lay their heads on the pillow and fall into their dream state. I finally had that epiphinany.

“Epiphany,” the book written by Elise Ballard. I bought it and kept wondering when my epiphany would come. I want it to be profound and earth shattering. I want the world to feel a mini earthquake when my brain finally gets it.

That isn’t even close to what happened. Instead, I lay in my bed last night and told myself to just breathe in and just breathe out, over and over again. I remembered that Facebook post I read.

I want my voice to lift my children up. I want my voice to inspire my children everyday so much that they think to themselves, “I am so lucky, I have such a good life.” I want my voice to be the thing that lights a fire in my children, and keeps them going even when it hurts. I want my voice to be the one they hear in their dreams that tells them, you are so loved, you are so wanted, you are a special gift, and you are love.

My sister Jennifer often says: At the end of your life when you ask one final “what have I done?” Let your answer be “I have done love.”

At the end of my life when my children say their good bye to me they will say, She did love. She gave me my voice.


Rachel is a native of Philadelphia/South Jersey. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband and two young sons, ages 7 and 4. In 2009 Rachel’s oldest son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a diagnosis of autism to follow shortly after. The diagnosis was traumatic and forever altered the course of her life. Rachel has made it her mission to educate the world about children who have special needs and their parents. In her spare time between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, and the normal stuff everyday parents do, she writes a blog Rachel is also a yoga teacher and a health coach in Atlanta. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her passion for food, nutrition and wellness are her biggest passion. You can find her on Facebook,  instagram at @rachelpastiloff or assisting her sister Jen at one of her retreats around the world.


The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

The 12 Day Detox is here. Sign up now for the next cleanse on Jan 11, 2016. Space is limited. This detox comes at just the perfect time. Reprogram your body and mind as we move into the holiday season. This is your time of rejuvenation and renewal.This is not a juice fast, or a detox based on deprivation. Click photo to book.

tattoos by Conscious Ink. Click to order.

tattoos by Conscious Ink. Click photo to order.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat by emailing No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 17-24, 2016.

Guest Posts, healing, motherhood


December 7, 2013


By Laura C. Alonso

It’s one of those days. I curl on my side in a c-shape in the center of my bed, wrapping my arms around myself. Oh, these empty arms of mine, mocking this Fucking. Empty. Womb. I breathe in, breathe out, and allow myself to fall into the dreamspace where I can scream as loud as I want without scaring the neighbor’s children . . . my husband . . myself. I don’t scream in waking life. I don’t even talk about it, really. This gaping hole of real, raw, aching grief has no category, no name (at least none that I know of, none that seems to define this experience for me). There is no sympathy for me, for my loss. What loss? How do you lose something you never had in the first place? Well, you can. And I have.

Peach Skin

No sweet fruit to nourish the spirit, just a thin film that veils each day – velvet cheeks, never kissed . . . the souls of our unborn children.

Those twenty-five words were published about two years ago in a “tiny and colorful literary journal” called Nailpolish Stories, where writers tell stories in exactly twenty-five words with titles named after the colors of nail polish. At the time it was the best and the most I could do. It quite literally ripped through my heart to put those few words on paper, and it was a gift to me for it to be out in the world. Now I’m trying to do better, and for some reason it feels really important to get it right.

In sitting down to write this, the title that came to me first was “Notes from a Childless Mother.” Ugh. And . . . um, no.

To be clear, I don’t want or need sympathy. Empathy, perhaps, but sometimes I feel so unworthy of expecting anything at all. If my own empty arms can mock the fact that there never was and never will be a baby growing in this womb, then why shouldn’t you mock me, too? After all, there are people who have lost REAL babies. Living, breathing, beautiful children. Miscarriages, SIDS, horrible childhood diseases. Mothers losing babies. The stuff that makes you want to tear out your hair and scream at the universe for doing that to any mother, any child. Fuck chaos; fuck the lottery of where one lands in this world. Fuck the fact that those amazing women will never be the same. Never. Never again. I’ve known and loved those women. And I feel all of that, and it hurts me, too – it hurts me to my core, and I do scream out loud for them in my dreamspace as well.

I also wouldn’t dare to put myself in the shoes of those grieving mothers. And I don’t expect anyone else to, either. The same with couples who’ve tried and failed – often for years – to conceive much-wanted children only to then go on to fail at infertility treatments as well. Couples with so much to offer. Homes that children would be so blessed to be born into. So. Fucking. Unfair. I ache for them, too. But I also have not walked their path . . .

I just want a pair of shoes of my own. Shoes that actually fit – that I can walk around in and be who I am and feel what I feel and be understood by a handful of people. Is that too much to ask?  To most people I’m just a woman who never had a kid. It was a choice, after all. She never had kids. We’re a childless couple – we never even tried to conceive. They never had children . . . Never had a baby, those two . . . Tsk, tsk.

Yet not one of those “nevers” matches my experience. Not even close. In the permanent punched-out hole in my gut, I feel every day like a childless mother. I knew my children before they were(n’t) born. They existed for me. They had little nameless, faceless souls, but I knew them, and they were mine, and I looked forward to meeting their father and eventually meeting them – getting to know them and helping them unfold into the amazing little humans they chose to be. I dreamed often of the day I would be given that privilege. Emphasis on would have. Not might have. No; I knew. They waited for me in a future I hadn’t yet reached – in a life that I didn’t yet know . . . but I couldn’t wait to meet them there someday.

I read parenting books when I wasn’t even in a long-term dating relationship.  Throughout my twenties I worked full-time and went to university with an average of nine credits per semester. I spent a year working on an honor’s thesis and was preparing to apply to graduate school. I volunteered at a crisis hotline; I had many friends and a great social life. I was busy and happy and on my way. In addition to the reading, writing, studying, etc. that I had to do for my undergraduate work, I was a voracious reader outside of academics as well.

And somewhere in that “leisure” reading, I always had a book or two in my bag about children and parenting issues. And I read them. A lot. Many of them several times. And my friends would sincerely ask, why are you reading about parenting now? And that seemed like a silly question to me. I wanted to do it well. I hadn’t had the best preparation for it based on how I grew up, to say that in the most simple way possible. And if we spend the equivalent of four years of full-time study before we can enter most “professions” (and often study beyond that is required or at least recommended as an asset to your skill set), then why did it seem SO crazy to most people that I was studying about children and parenting several years before I was likely to actually have a child and be a parent?

And it went beyond the books, too. I had all sorts of ideas and plans that I tucked away for that future time in my life. My future home would definitely have a large, beautiful globe. I’d seen some that were made of gemstones – beautiful and multi-colored – and I imagined how delighted my children would be to have that reference whenever we talked about “the world.” Oh, and we would have a very large, thick-spined, gold-embossed dictionary. On a pedestal in some prominent spot in our home – you know, like they have in the library. Yes, and walls of bookshelves, and comfortable places to read . . . all of that and so much more, tucked away in my heart. Still there, really . . . sort of mocking me quite a bit, actually. I don’t know what to do with those things now – where to put them, how to somehow still have ownership of something that never materialized. How to talk about it with other people.

“This is the mother that I would have been . . .”

But things turned out different. Yes, I met a man I loved very much who shared the future vision of us waking up on Sunday mornings with children somersaulting onto our bed. I got married at thirty-one with every intention of meeting those lovely souls someday on the then-visible horizon. But other things happened on the way. I never made it to graduate school. Chronic illness crept into my life. Our finances never lined up. And time doesn’t stand still for those things.

Suddenly I was forty, and then forty-two – and without wanting to acknowledge it, I could feel that hole growing solid, permanent. Black. Never to be filled. And it’s something I’ve been quietly coming to terms with inside my heart and sometimes in painful, tear-filled mourning sessions with my husband over the last few years. I will be forty-six in February. Still chronically ill; still struggling financially. Never. Going. To. Be. A. Mother.

Yet in many ways I feel like we honored those precious little souls by not bringing them into the world simply because we selfishly wanted to know them. We knew we couldn’t care for them the way that they deserved. We wanted nothing more than to be parents. But we wanted to be good parents. And we had to come to terms with the quite literally agonizing fact that it really wasn’t possible in the place where life had taken us.

So, was it a choice? I suppose. But it is one that breaks my heart over and over again every single day. And I know it breaks my husband’s, too.

I often wonder what the future will be like when my peers and I start to become the “aged” generation – if I’m fortunate to make it that far! – what will it be like when I have nobody around me to look into my eyes and see their own eyes peering back at them? No one to cradle my hand, to kiss my cheek . . . and to call me that beautiful name?




At our wedding, a dear friend of mine took me aside and asked me not to bring up the subject of her two young children in front of our mutual friend, as this friend was currently undergoing infertility treatment and was overwhelmingly sad about not being able to get pregnant, and she didn’t want to bring up the subject of children in front of her. I’m not sure if that is how our mutual friend would have felt if I had asked to see photos of our friend’s children, but I know that the friend who asked did so out of the most loving and best intentions. I also know for sure that is not how I want to be treated.

I love kids. Love families. Absolutely adore seeing beautiful loving families doing everything they know to get it right. It makes me happy, brings me genuine, heart-swelling joy to see your photos, hear your stories. I’m HAPPY for you and your beautiful children. I might see something that reminds me – ah, yes, that’s how I thought it would be! – but you having it in your life doesn’t make me have it any more or any less in mine. It’s not really something to be jealous of. What you have in abundance doesn’t give or take anything from me.

So, yes, I’m that Facebook friend who sincerely enjoys watching all the videos and pictures of your children and their amazing milestones and all of those precious phrases, questions, etc., that only come from the mouths of children before they learn to “filter.” Love it. All of it. And it’s not in a creepy way, either. Being both overjoyed for you and sad as hell for me are not mutually exclusive.

When I first started reconnecting with old friends on Facebook, I was browsing through the photos of one of my high school friends. There was a picture of her daughter on her first day of kindergarten, and she was wearing the same dress my friend had worn on her first day of kindergarten. I burst into tears at the sight of that photo. But I was smiling. It was beautiful. And, yes, it was just the kind of thing I would have wanted to do if I had a daughter, and I felt that as an ache deep in the pit of my gut. But I also felt my heart swell with happiness for my friend and her beautiful girl. Since then there have been lots of tears from lots of Facebook posts, picture, videos . . . but again, they are tears of joy, of admiration – of “oh, how beautiful that is and how happy it makes me to see people I love and care about experiencing this amazing, awesome journey!”

I love those moments when I can see friends’ and family’s faces mirrored in their own children; whether they are biological children or not, this seems to occur in some fashion for most families I know, and it’s one of the most beautiful things to observe. I’ve had my own dreamlike moments when those floating souls of my unborn children have flashed before me and I’ve glimpsed a version of my own face in theirs – it’s a spark, a blur – and in those brief moments I’ve experienced the overwhelming feeling that comes with that kind of love, that kind of soul connection. I get it to the very core of my bones, and I miss it even if you might say that I never had it to begin with.

On that note, I guess if I have any advice for my friends (and/or for friends of “people like me”), it would be that you not say in our presence that one can only truly understand the love between a parent and child once one becomes a parent. I “get” how it must feel that way to you, but from our side of the experience – to those of us in this little undefinable space that I’m still trying to come up with a name for – that is, quite frankly, both condescending and hurtful. And I simply do not believe that it is true. I loved my kids – the little souls still floating around in my consciousness somewhere – long before I ever knew who their father would be or when (or if) they would enter my life. I love them still. Even if that makes me sound crazy.

I’ve also been extremely blessed to have several children in my life who’ve been my center and my world. My brother was born when I was fourteen, and he and I have shared a very special bond throughout his childhood until he went away to college and beyond. In that same space of time my older sister had a daughter, and then a son. And all three of those kids were the center of my universe for many years. I made life decisions around them and my ability to live near them and to be a part of their lives and to love them as big and as much as I could.

My niece then had a daughter, Kaylee, when she was still quite young herself, and my husband and I have enjoyed helping her as much as we possibly could from the time Kaylee was a baby. We used to keep her with us every weekend, and we took care of her during the week sometimes as well, and it was really such a gift to us – this beautiful baby girl who we had the privilege of helping to care for. In an odd way that experience is what helped us understand in the most tangible way that I could not care for a child full-time, seven days a week, around-the-clock. I would give everything I had for the time she was with us and then would literally have to rest for the entire day or two in-between before she came back to fill our lives with joy again. And I did so without any regret and an enormous sense of purpose. And she is now an amazing seven-year-old first grader who still spends weekends with us as often as she can (she is a very busy girl!), and we couldn’t love her any more if she were our own. It was always the same with my brother. It was the same with my niece and my nephew. And I hope that they all have known, and will always know and remember, that love from me.

But I also know that as much and as deep as I love them, I am not any of their mothers. I know that I am nobody’s mother and never will be. And it’s sad and unfair and it will always exist every day in that punched-out hole in my gut. And that’s my sorrow to bear. And I don’t want or need you to feel sorry for me. I just want this experience to be heard, to be known. And I know I am not the only one.

I think there are many of us “childless mothers” walking the earth, living our lives with their various circumstances, silently carrying the lifelong burdens of these empty, aching arms . . . and when we encounter your children, we happily admire and, yes, sometimes even love them – we often love them very, very much – but not with envy, and not in some creepy, coveting way. We love your children with genuine joy and (you better believe!) with a hard-earned, deep and heartfelt knowledge of what it takes for you to be a parent . . . and, finally, we love them with the truest appreciation of every single one of their beautiful, wonder-filled, velvet-cheeked, miracle moments on earth.


Laura C. Alonso‘s work has been published in In Posse ReviewLinnaean Street3AM MagazineSFWP, and other online literary journals. She is the former Senior Editor of Fictionline Press and former Fiction Editor of The God Particle (two sorely missed online venues), and her fiction  has been a finalist in the Santa Fe Writer’s Project’s Literary Awards Program in 2001, 2002, and 2010, as well as a finalist for the Glass Woman Prize in 2012.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is back in London for ONE workshop only Feb 14th. Book by clicking poster. This is her most popular workshop and space is limited to 50 people.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email


Unspeakable Heartbreak.

December 16, 2012

A girl came up to me in my second yoga class yesterday morning, shaking. She had started to cry and said that since Friday all she could do was think about coming to my class, that it would soothe her. Yikes, I didn’t know how I would do that but I was happy she said something as I already had the theme of class planned. And it was simple: Just send out love to the people in Connecticut.

I had another post planned but it felt so trivial and trite after what happened on Friday. I will still post it in a few days. I am not going to stop living my life and crawl into a cave of grief. Don’t worry.

I do, however, think its important that we mourn and get sad and feel and connect. So my classes this weekend was about THAT and THEM. It is important that we feel and yet not be crippled by that feeling (I have done so in the past) but rather let us remind us what it means to connect. To love deeply. Not let it unravel us completely but just enough that we wake up.

We wake up.

During savasana, I pressed down on the shoulders of the girl who had approached me  and her lip had started to quiver and the tears started again. I was touching her and reminding her what it feels like to be human and to feel safe. How unsafe we all feel.

Not unsafe like we are all worried that we might get shot at any moment (although let’s be honest: that can happen. We just can’t live like it can.) Unsafe in the way we feel when something happens that feels beyond our grasp like finding out you will never get to touch the person you love most again in the world for no reason.

We like to place things into boxes and files and we like to name them and when we can’t we feel unsafe and scared. Let’s say your child gets diagnosed with a very very rare genetic disorder and no matter what you will do, he will die (unsafe! No explanation! Why! Why! Why!) or let’s say one day someone you love more than anyone in the world tells you I just don’t love you (unsafe! How can this be? Why! Why! Why!) or let’s say you send your 6 year old off to school and they wave goodbye to you from behind their larger than life backpack and that is the last time you ever see them. That little hand waving backwards. Someone shoots them down in their classroom (Unsafe! This is not possible! Why! Why! Why!) When we can’t understand something we feel unsafe.

Or at least I do.

When my nephew was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, (Prader Willi Syndrome) before I understood it, I wanted to eat comfort foods and cry and hide behind my husband’s leg like a small child because all I wanted was to feel safe again. How can this happen? How can this be? So many shitty things have already happened in our family, how can one more happen? I need to feel safe. Help!

I hope that girl yesterday released a little of her pain. I actually don’t think it was “her” pain. Nor is it mine. We are feeling THEIR pain when we feel this.

I was angered when I saw someone post on Facebook something to the effect of Oh, stop watching the news! This stuff happens everyday all over the world. Why should this be any different?

Why shouldn’t it be different?

It is different. It is always different. Yes, we all experience loss and some have more tragedy than others, this is true. But why should we not mourn what effects us and why should not more effect us? We don’t let it.

We separate ourselves by saying Thank G-d I wasn’t there. It didn’t happen to me. I am not going to look or pay attention.

Listen to me: Pay attention.

It did happen to you. You were there. You are a human being and this is a call for us to be our most fiercely human selves. Maybe if I knew about every incident or tragedy in the world I would fall apart, maybe it is better that I don’t watch the news every day. All I can say is that to feel is to be human. If you do not feel that all those kids died scared (hopefully it was fast and they didn’t understand) and that people were more brave than I will ever be and lost their lives to protect kids hiding in a closet then just stop for a moment and place your hand over heart because all it means is that you have forgotten. I am asking you to remember.

Do not be confused. I am not talking about gun laws or the mental issue at stake. I have a lot to say about both. But I will save that. I wish his mother hadn’t had the guns and he hadn’t known how to use them. I wish that someone had paid attention and had gotten him help for his mental illness.

I wish I wish I wish I wish.

Meanwhile, I am just so sad still and that’s fine. It will never be fine what happened yet with time the healing will begin.

But not yet. Not yet.

G-d bless them all. I think of my 5 year old nephew and thank whatever kind of bullshit lucky stars there are that it wasn’t him. How fair is that? It’s not!

But it is what it is.

Luck was invented with slot machines and parking spots.

We need to access the deepest parts of our humanity and love fiercely. Always. That will not stop these things from happening. But maybe it will lessen them? I don’t know. All I know is that we cannot turn a blind eye and make pretend that it didn’t happen to us. We will never understand why this happened.

We never supposed to understand this.

It’s impossible for us to place this anywhere in our minds except under “unspeakable heartbreak”.

We will never know where to put this. In a few months it will be something else on the news that will have our mind’s attention, but the heart, the heart must remember this.

May we remember that while we have the capacity to love (and if you are reading this you do! You do!) we must do just that. We must love and love and love and love. We must bring our hands together as a gesture of unity and hope that no matter how much horror we see in our lifetime and how much loss we will never stop expressing our deepest humanity.

For if we do, we have lost all.

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Manifestation Workshops

The Power of Connection. A Must Read.

March 1, 2012

I wrote a piece yesterday calledWhat I Learned From an 8 Year Old, which, as it turns out, was a helluva lot.

And which, was my most popular blog post to date. I had thousands (yes, you read right) hits on this particular piece yesterday. Guess we can all learn from children?

Here is that post. 

What I Learned From An 8 Year Old.

I got an email later that day from the mom of Little Jen (L.J.), the 8 year old I learned so much from. I met her mom through social media. She found me on Positively Positive and then entered my Twitter Contest I was running with Karen Salmansohn about inspiration. I loved reading her hourly tweets.

With her permission I am sharing the email she sent me yesterday. It made me cry and it also inspired me to be a better person. To be the best possible parent when I have kids. To live more fully and be more vulnerable. To be real. To connect with people I might never have connected with. To allow life to touch me.

She did not win the contest ( by choice). Katherine, a young college student who tweeted us about every 15 minutes won instead. It was a tie between the two and the “mom”, in true mom fashion, let the kid win.

Without further ado, here is the email.

It is beyond gorgeous. I am humbled.


“The Email”


Wow. Seriously? Wow, Jen.

After reading your post today, my mind is spinning. There are both no words and a flood of words swirling around in my head.

Let me share with you what brought me to your class on Saturday.

Last year I was offered my dream job. It had the big fancy title, an impressive paycheck, and lots of prestige. It was in my area of expertise and a field I wanted to explore. I leapt at the chance. My heart swelled. I was so excited that finally, FINALLY, I had the brass ring. This past January, a little over a year after accepting my dream job, I resigned. It broke my heart, but my year working at my dream job was one of the worst years of my life. I was constantly stressed out, unhappy, unhealthy and I now had both Xanex and Prozac in my medicine cabinet. But worst of all, I felt like a failure. By the company’s standards I was doing well. By my standards I was failing. After a year, I wasn’t making the progress or having the impact I knew I could make. I felt like I could have been doing so much better. My whole life I’d gotten ahead by working harder and being smarter than the average bear. That didn’t work here. It was too political and I’m too blunt and impatient. I had ideas and strategies that I knew would be successful, but couldn’t get approval to implement them. Mediocre is not my style. I couldn’t do the work I set out to do and I was MISERABLE. And worst of all, my misery was impacting my sweet family.

So, without another job lined up, without a clue what my next move would be, in a crappy economy, I quit my job. Everyone told me I was crazy. For decades, I have worked my ass off to be successful, thinking success would make me happy. I was wrong. I had literally won showcase #2 and I was miserable. I had saved up enough money to give myself some time to figure things out. I am blessed that my husband has a good job, so I didn’t have to give up any benefits. But still. I’m used to taking care of my family and myself, so this was scary.

I moved forward knowing three things:

1. I had to find a way to be my own boss so I could set my own hours and be able to put my family first.

2. I had to be able to wear flip flops and jeans every day. No more dress up.

3. Whatever my new venture would be, it would be a social enterprise that benefitted my community.

My first course of action was to read. I read books, blogs, magazines, recipes for success and the back of cereal boxes. I read your Manifesto Of My Identity on the Positively Positive website and started following your blog. I read the books You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, among others. I started reading A Course In Miracles. A whole new world opened up to me. One based on Love, Faith, and more Love. One where fear did not exist. One where happiness was a decision, not a result. A world where I am amazing and not less-than. A world I wanted to share with my family and friends.

I also entered your amazing twitter contest. I wanted to go to Ojai – I even wrote it on my manifestation mirror. The retreat pictures were intoxicating and I’m pretty sure I’ve been to that building in a previous life. For the contest, I made rules for myself. I couldn’t get out of bed until I found something inspiring to tweet. There were days the kids were almost late for school. Also, I couldn’t stockpile inspirational tweets. If I felt inspired at any time, I made myself tweet it right then– no saving something for tomorrow. Halfway thru the contest I almost quit because the exercise of saying Wow, Life is Great one or two times a day was its own reward. Ojai became irrelevant.

Flash forward to last Saturday. I almost didn’t come. I was listening to my fears:

1. I’m out of shape and Austin is filled with healthy, athletic people and I knew I’d be the biggest one in the room.

2. You would be disappointed meeting me, like online dating 🙂

3. I was worried I had put you on a pedestal and that you’d turn out to be human.

But I really wanted to meet this sparkplug, rock star, manifesting yoga teacher I had found on the Internet – there is a reason I found you when I did. I really wanted to experience manifestation yoga. More than anything, I really, really wanted the opportunity for my daughter to meet you. She is amazing and along with her twin brother (!), a gift from the gods. It’s my job to show her how wonderful life is and have her meet amazing people (Someday, some way, someone will break her heart. Someone will try to crush her dreams. I need to fortify her for that time so she can say “So what. Life is still amazing, awe-inspiring, and beautiful. Next”). Finally, I really felt the need to tell you in person how happy I am that you are on this earth, doing what you are doing. I don’t think we tell each other those kind of things as much as we should.

I’m so glad I came and brought Jen. I fell in love the minute you were kind to my daughter and I could see that you got her. She is over the moon about you, too.

You have helped me on my journey more than you will ever know, and for this I am eternally grateful. I hope all your dreams come true.

Jen will be sending her own note 🙂 Thank you for all of your kind words about her.



How To

How To Make A Life

September 20, 2011

How to Make a Life



Take everything you’ve ever learned and everything

You’ve yet to discover and place it in a box labeled Thank You.


Take a picture of your face and remember

That in many years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were.

Be amazed now.


Find someplace to live.

Make sure it has the ability to let light fall

Across the room in such a way that every so often,

You’ll stop and mouth the words “Ah, sunlight.”

Before you finish dusting the books.

Don’t let the books get dusty.



Fall in love.

Touch. More than you think.

Have a child if you want one.

If you don’t, don’t.

Let your child out into the world

Discovering for themselves just how magical

It is. Or it isn’t.

It’s theirs to decide.



Get a job.

Remember this job is not who you are.


Do yoga.

Let your body discover what it’s like to move

without your brain holding it’s hand.

Tell your brain to take a hike.

Let your body believe fully in it’s own powers.

Let every person you’ve stored inside your muscles out every so often,

to breathe.


Do things that make you feel good.

Let your joy be contagious and spread through

Your home, your job, your children.

Let it spread through the world

Like a virus so that when you forget it,

Every so often, you’ll catch it from someone else.

~~Jen Pastiloff, after a particularly focused Annie Carpenter class on Sep 20, 2011

Balinese healing waters Nov 2012 during my retreat

Forgiveness, Inspiration


July 26, 2011

Perfect: being entirely without fault or defect : flawless <a perfect diamond>

Then she told me something that her 6 year old son Will said and I realized the err of my ways. It is brilliant and I will now steal it and use it in class. Quoting Sir Will, of course.

He’s just learned the word ‘extinct’ at school. He comes in and says :

“Mom, why isn’t the word ‘perfect’ extinct since nothing is perfect?”

My point exactly, Will! Why hadn’t I said this yet? ( Because often 6 year olds are smarter, more observant and more honest.)

He made this deduction himself after the constant reminder from his mom that no one is perfect.

As I often say in class: Perfect people are boring people.

I even said it on Good Morning America! ( Aren’t they though?)

All jokes aside, at some point I forgave myself for not being perfect. For many years, I struggled with an eating disorder and the feeling that I had to be/look perfect. This nearly killed me, in many ways. I still struggle with this in yoga class at times, I won’t lie to you. We all do. But it’s a silly notion, this extinct idea. I am committed to not being perfect. Conforming absolutely? Who wants that? Excellent beyond improvement? Blergh.

To be clear, we are perfect. Perfectly imperfect. I can’t hear well. That’s ok. My nephew has Prader Willi Syndrome and Autism and he is perfect as he is.

It’s this idea of perfection as something outside of ourselves. As something better than ourselves. As something someone else has decided. The idea of perfect as something unattainable.

I believe it is most certainly inside each and every one of us already. But let’s unite and give up this notion that it isn’t.

A child’s laugh is perfect. A sunset blue and purple as a bruise is perfect. A good cup of coffee can damn well be perfect.

Check out this poster one of my dearest friends Karen Salmansohn made. (Yes, the unstoppable bestselling author)

In the comment section below please answer: Where in your own life can you stop trying to be perfect?

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