Browsing Tag

family

Guest Posts, writing

Guidelines For Submission

July 13, 2016
writing

By Katie Lee Ellision

When an essay I had written about my father was accepted for publication in 2013, I decided on a rule for letting him know about it. I would send him a finalized copy of the piece before it went live or to print–not so that he could decide whether or not it would be published, but just so that he knew what I had written and where it would be. I thought this was fair to both of us. So when I got the final from the editor, I called my father up, though we hadn’t been speaking much at that point.

I won’t spend time on the details about why my father and I hadn’t been in regular touch—that’s a much bigger story I’m writing. What I do want to talk about–and for a long time I couldn’t talk about anything else–is his reaction and its effect on me and my writing.

When I called to tell him about the publication, he was congratulatory and eager to read it.

“So…” he said, “is this about you and me when you were a kid or…?”

“Just read it, dad,” I said, and he said okay. Continue Reading…

Eating/Food, Family, Guest Posts

Starved

July 8, 2016
weight

By Vincent J. Fitzgerald

A week prior to my father’s arrival for his annual ten day visit, I am stricken by a plague of hyperawareness about my shape, and as much as I long to see him, I fear judgments to come. On the day of his arrival I am bloated with turmoil while I drive to pick him up from the airport. I have failed to reach his weight expectations, and a glance at my belly hanging over my seatbelt distracts me. At 44 years old, his approval of me maintains its pricelessness, and bearing extra weight is the same as presenting him with a subpar report card. To discern which way best hides my shame, I alternate pulling my shirt down, then rolling it up while I wait for him to exit the terminal. He struts out the door all swagger and smile while I suck in my gut until spleen hits spine. He scans me from afar, leering at my midsection, and I feel objectified.

My kiss on his cheek is a lone dividend of a childhood marred by paternal detachment, and I am grateful for it. When he pulls back to assess me, I cover my midsection with his carry on, and wonder how much baggage he brought with him this year. Body weight has become his obsession in recent years, but the central focus is my weight, not his own. He executes scrutiny the way narcissistic parents do, baking criticism within supportive suggestions, and belching health warnings to induce fear. On the ride back to my home, I try to update him about my kids, career, and impending nuptials, but zone out to complaints about his wife and professed love of his dogs. The conversation takes its inevitable turn towards all things gastronomic, and his saltiness seasons our dialogue at random intervals for the ensuing ten days. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships

Old Dog

June 13, 2016
relationships

By Angie Pelekidis

In my late twenties, I lived in the semi-buried basement apartment of a three-family home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Residing with me was my elderly dog, Shem, who was half-German Shepherd and half Doberman. He was a handsome mutt, with the black and brown markings of a Doberman, but the stockier build of a GSD. One ear was a floppy undocked Dobie ear, while the other stood upright, which I thought softened his intimidating appearance. Except people often crossed the street when we approached, though Shem was harmless. Not long after he turned fourteen, he had to be euthanized because he could no longer walk, and had lost the spark of life in his eyes. During his long life, he was a difficult dog to own –intelligent, destructive, and needy. My father often advised me to “Get rid of him,” in his Greek-accented English, as if Shem was a non-working appliance. And yet, never during the course of our tumultuous years together did I consider abandoning him.

Typically, I came home from a long day at work to find some sort of unpleasant surprise left for me or created by Shem. At some point not long before my arrival on one particular day, he signed his liquid signature on the hardwood floor of the apartment. The meandering path of pee stretched from my front door, through the living room, and into the adjacent kitchen. There, the pale blue linoleum flooring caused the puddlets to appear green.

I walked through the living room to the kitchen, carefully avoiding the wet spots. Under the sink, I found a paper towel roll and tore off the plastic wrap of the second one I’d gone through in the past week. I unraveled the roll at one end of the trail in the kitchen all the way to my front door without bothering to break off a piece at a time. Then, I did this again in reverse.

In his thirteenth year, during a conversation with my best friend when I complained to her of Shem’s behavior, she suggested that maybe it was time to put him to sleep. It came out sounding more like a statement than a question. I was sure as she made this comment that vague recollections of all the trouble Shem had put me through over the years, including his destruction of some part of every apartment I lived in during my early to late twenties, and instances of his running away, drifted through her mind. “Who’s gonna marry you, with that dog?” my father often said, assuming that marriage was a huge concern and that my ideal prospective husband would dislike dogs as much as he did.

I ignored her suggestion because Shem had been a part of my daily existence since my father brought him to me as an eight-week old puppy. He’d showed up with him at our country house upstate, having procured from who-knows where. I’m sure he imagined Shem would be an outdoor dog who never besmirched our home’s interior. And most likely he found him to prevent me from spending money on a purebred dog, something my frugal father, who had grown up during the Great Depression and Nazi invasion of Greece, thought was a waste.

I didn’t give my friend’s suggestion a second thought. There is always so much doubt and selfishness that comes into play at the end of an old pet’s life: uncertainty over whether you’re doing the right thing by euthanizing them because you have no way of knowing how much they’re suffering, and selfishness because you can’t bear the thought of having something you are attached to severed from your existence. The abstract concept of “never” only becomes concrete when you fully realize you will never see a being you love again.

I used the tip of my shoe to move sections of the paper towel from side to side. Then, I gingerly bunched it up hoping it had absorbed all the liquid on the floor. I would have to mop again, the second time I’d done this that week. I hated that no matter how often I did, my apartment still smelled like an old dog.

I was accustomed to finding this or worse when I came home. Shem, who weighed 90 pounds and had been neutered since puppyhood, always had a problem with marking his territory indoors. As he grew older, I took him to several vets, read many dog books, and always made sure we took long and frequent daily walks, but nothing changed his behavior. Once, when we went to my sister’s for the holidays, he marked her Christmas tree. He was never invited to her house again.

On this day, he was hiding when I came home, but I knew where to find him. Once, during a thunderstorm, he burrowed a hole through the sheetrock in the back of my bedroom closet and into a two-foot square space between the closet and the wall of the house. He wedged himself into this small space almost every day after I left for work as his separation anxiety became worse with age. When he was younger, I only had to worry about storms or Fourth of July fireworks triggering it, but later, my absence set it off. Often, when I was home during a storm, I perched on the edge of the tub while Shem sat in it trembling uncontrollably. Drugs helped, but I wondered, was a virtually paralyzed dog better than a frightened one? Still, I sometimes gave them to him because sleeping at night seemed to help me do my job.

Years later, I’d learn that my reassuring him during these storms, or whenever he was afraid, reinforced his frantic behavior. If I’d known more about puppy parenting when I’d first gotten Shem, I could have created a composed dog. Clearly, young dog owners can be just as inept as the premature parents of children.

I walked through the kitchen and past the bathroom, or as I liked to call it, “the crack den.” I named it this after Shem’s demolition work during a storm, when he was home alone and somehow got stuck in the bathroom. In place of the vanity, there was only a large, irregularly shaped piece of what was left of it propping up the sink; the trim around the door and the bottom of door itself was gouged and shredded; a corner of the thick Formica countertop was also broken off, though I don’t know how Shem was able to do this with his old-dog teeth. I learned to ignore the destruction and hoped my landlord wouldn’t find out about it.

Though I didn’t know how to replace doors and bathroom vanities, I had become a carpenter of sorts myself and repaired several holes Shem put in the walls of this particular apartment. Thanks to Shem, I learned that sheetrock came in varying thicknesses and that you had to buy the same thickness as your walls in order to properly repair the holes. Then, you had to tape the seams between the replacement sheet and the surrounding wall, before mixing and applying joint compound. Afterward, when the compound had dried, you sanded it smooth and painted it. I would never become a skilled carpenter, but at least there weren’t several dog-shaped holes in my walls.

My elderly dog had become the canine equivalent of a dementia-suffering senior citizen. I frequently found him staring blankly at walls as if he was lost in the memories of his youth, chasing cars in upstate New York, where we lived for the first half of his life. His pacing and peeing during the night turned me into such a light sleeper that at the faintest sound, I would shoot up from a deep sleep yelling, “No, wait, let me walk you.” I could be found at all hours of the night in my fortunately quiet and safe neighborhood of Dyker Heights, wearing a coat over my pajamas, and walking Shem.

Yet despite all of this, how I loved that dog! The way he would roll into my lap head first, moaning and groaning in happiness to see me; his constant presence through breakups and work stress; the very sight of him with his big goofy dog grin and crazy ears. He was a character and I loved telling stories of his exploits, both bad and good. Best of all, he was mine and no one could make me get rid of him.

When I was a four, my parents moved my sister and I from Brooklyn to Riverhead, Long Island. My father briefly owned a service station there, but it didn’t prosper, and after three years, he sold it and moved us to Florida. But before this happened, he acquired a puppy from somewhere to be a guard dog, who my older sister named Blackie. My father had never trained a puppy before and he may have expected Blackie would teach himself not to defecate on the garage’s concrete floors. This didn’t happen. So Blackie was demoted from security force to house pet. My mother, equally clueless when it came to dog training, let Blackie roam free, which eventually resulted in his getting hit by a car and a broken leg. He recovered, but not long after that he disappeared, taken by my father to some undisclosed location or hopefully to a new owner.

After seven years of living in Florida, my parents’ trucking business failed, and we moved back to Brooklyn so they could recoup the family finances. My father refused to allow me to bring my cat Fifi with me. I was fourteen at the time and tried to talk my Florida friends into adopting her but in the end she was left behind. After our return to Brooklyn, we briefly lived in Staten Island, where I adopted a kitten I named Baby. When we moved back to Brooklyn six months later, I made sure to bring him with me. My mother let him out one day, though I’d intended for him to be an indoor cat, and I never saw him again. A year later, I adopted a street cat who lived at my father’s new service station in Coney Island, Brooklyn, where I worked in the evenings. Right before I moved to the house my parents bought in upstate NY, my father took Serena, who I’d planned to bring with me, and dumped her somewhere in Brooklyn. Animals in our family tended to disappear, leaving me, the imaginative kid that I was, haunted by their unknowable fates.

In my bedroom, I found a pair of my pink underwear on Shem’s dog bed. He had been stealing my underwear since he was a puppy, often jumping up to pull them off our clothesline upstate, though thankfully he kept his fetish to that and never tried to hump my leg or anyone else’s. There was something both endearing and creepy about Shem’s obsession with my underwear; I preferred to think he acquired my clothing out of a need to comfort himself with a fragment of my presence.

The closet in my bedroom didn’t have a door anymore, thanks to Shem. I pushed aside the suits hanging in there, and, after noticing they were covered with black and blonde dog hairs from Shem squeezing past them, reminded myself to buy more adhesive lint rollers. When I found him in this hole, I thought about people who told me I would be cruel to use a dog kennel or crate. By choice, Shem hid in a much smaller and less pleasant place.

When we first moved into this apartment, I bought a kennel, hoping it would become Shem’s refuge. It was a huge, metal rectangle I placed in the kitchen. After only two weeks, I came home from work to find it empty, the kitchen garbage can overturned and its contents scattered on the floor, the remains of a bag of Dove miniature chocolate bars that I thought I had hidden out of reach on a five-foot high window sill smeared all over my sheets, and Shem hiding in his hole in the wall. He had learned he could escape his prison by biting or pawing at the latch until it sprang open. Fortunately, he was fine after eating the chocolate. But the crate ended up on the curb.

Now I know I should have bought a plastic crate that better simulated the enclosed space of a wolf den or the back of a closet. But I was young when I was first given Shem, and not at all knowledgeable about dog training. No surprise, given how little my parents taught me about being a good animal owner. Still, the most important thing I did know was that pets are yours for life: to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Amen.

“C’mon, Shemma,” I said, to coax him out of the closet. I had to pull him by his shoulders as he crawled past my suits again. He was birthed from the closet with white sheetrock chalk on his face, looking like a ghost of himself. I leaned down and hugged him around his broad neck, before kissing him on one of the brown spots he had on the sides of his jaw, his dog dimples.

“You want to go for a walk?” I asked him in a voice higher than my normal one, to which he still responded by wagging his tail, though lately I found he was less interested in most things. He followed me slowly as I left the bedroom, and patiently stood by the front door as I clipped on his leash, which was finally, after years of dealing with his infinite energy, no longer necessary. By lifting his hips, I got him up the five steps from my walk-in basement apartment.

My neighborhood’s wide sidewalks were broken up by earthen squares where old trees emerged. Shem had a carefully worked out system of territory marking: he only went where other dogs had gone to supplant their scent with his; he refused to mark something he had already covered within 24 hours because this was a waste of good urine; and he rationed out his pee in order to cover a large territory. This last rule meant he needed to go at least seven times regardless of how far we walked so that I could be certain his bladder was empty. For every walk, I kept count and took him on different routes. As a result of Shem’s adherence to his system, and his indoor walking and peeing, I nicknamed him “The Urinator,” his motto: “I’ll pee back.”

As we walked, I wondered if there were dog nursing homes where, for a reasonable fee, I could commit him and give myself a break from the work of caring for him and cleaning up after him. I could stop by on weekends, bringing him the treats and toys he liked, petting him and reminding him of all his deeds as a young dog. Like the time he chased my car for three miles to the small town of Morley, before I saw him and had to bring him back home. Or when he tried to steal our neighbor’s Thanksgiving turkey from the kitchen sink where it was defrosting when she was pet sitting him. Once he ate the center out of a chocolate cake resting on our kitchen counter right after I baked it. Another time he ate four pounds of butter my mother had left in a metal bowl on the kitchen table to soften in order to make dozens of Greek cookies.

I imagined Shem getting even older and forgetting who I was. When this happened, I would stop visiting him, using his forgetfulness as an excuse. At some point, I would receive a phone call saying he had taken a turn for the worse. I would rush to his side and he would die peacefully in his sleep from extreme old age. This was a scenario I thought ideal, though my loyalty to him would never allow it. I’d had him since he was eight weeks old, I was responsible for the dog he was, and when he died I would miss him painfully. But maybe it was better that he exhausted me by being such a high-maintenance dog because when he died, my grief would be tempered by relief. At least with Shem, I wouldn’t be haunted, never knowing what happened to him, unlike the many pets that vanished thanks to my mother and father.

Today, when I think about my parents’ behavior toward our pets, I can almost justify it. They had grown up during World War II and had first-hand experience of the Great Famine of 1941, when the Nazi’s plundered Greece of its resources to feed Axis troops. Estimates put the death toll from malnutrition and starvation, not to mention civilian torture and massacres, at over 300,000 Greeks. Urban centers like Athens, where my father lived, were particularly vulnerable. My mother was from rural Meligala, north of the port city of Kalamata, though this didn’t prevent her from losing an infant younger sister to malnutrition. Or from being kicked out of her home by German soldiers and having to survive off of food they foraged for an entire summer.

People who experience hardships like this tend to put humans before animals. Even still, my father’s behavior showed a level of callousness toward me, his child, that I can’t excuse. He must have known how much I loved my animals, but his own preferences were always paramount. That was the only version of fatherhood he knew. Or maybe he perceived my affection for our pets as a foolish weakness that it was his job to purge so that I could be his version of strong. Regardless, the end result was that he treated our animals as though they were worn-out shoes.

During our walk, Shem peed only four times. I turned him around and as we headed slowly back home, I thought about how in his youth and middle age, he used to drag me in whatever direction he wanted to go. Now I had to coax him as he lagged behind.

“C’mon, Shemma! Good boy,” I said to him in a high voice. He wagged his tail gave me the dog grin I loved, and I thought, maybe we still had more time.

Angie Pelekidis has had her work appear in the Michigan Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Masters Review, Eleven Eleven, Bluestem, Drunken Boat, The MacGuffin, and more, and has pieces forthcoming in the North Dakota Quarterly. In 2010, Ann Beattie selected a story of hers as the first-prize winner of the New Ohio Review’s Fiction Contest. Angie received her Ph.D in English/Creative Writing from Binghamton University in 2012.

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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.

Adoption, Guest Posts, Young Voices

A Reflection on a Second Birthday

June 3, 2016
adoption

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

By Lucy Sears

It is February 23, and I am staring at a picture I have taken on my phone of a photo that sits in an album eight hundred miles away. In it, my mother hugs me close to her chest. There are tears in her eyes, but her face speaks a volume of joy that has been incredibly captured in a single shot. My father stands behind her, with a similar look.

This is the first photo that was taken of us, as a family. The date is February 23, 1998. It is not the day that I was born, but rather, it is the day I like to say my life began. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Childhood Revisited

May 2, 2016

By Liska Jacobs

We end up at my mother’s condominium one Saturday, waiting out traffic. She’s at work and we have the place to ourselves so I begin going through cupboards, rummaging through the pantry and fridge just as I did when I was a child coming home from school. I find the burned DVD with ’84-85’ written in my father’s hand in the back of her DVD collection. The air conditioning switches on, there’s a comforting hum that we don’t have in our one bedroom apartment in Pasadena, and we’ve filled a bowl with Goldfish crackers, opened a bottle of sparkling water. We press play.

Fuzz and then a plump young dad, hardly recognizable—younger than either my husband or myself are now. He’s video taping his wife who’s even more unrecognizable, just a girl with big auburn curls and thin, thin arms. How could she have birthed twins? But there they are—my twin sister and me—two baby girls, one dark the other fair.

Then it cuts. They’re playing in a blow up pool now. Naked and splashing. The mother pours water on the dark one, the oldest, me, over and over because they both think it’s funny. Get back here Dolly, she calls to the dark one’s twin, who is pale and small and trying to climb out of the plastic pool. Where are you going?  This mother—face and hair so familiar yet alien—calls, splashing at my sister’s backside. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, Young Voices

Moments of Silence

April 27, 2016
family

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

By Aimy Tien

I’m cleaning the remnants of makeup and tears off my face when my father accuses me of hating my parents. “That’s why you don’t want to live in Colorado. That’s why you don’t want to come home and study here and be a doctor.”

It’s almost one am. We are three hours into this phone call, and I am tired, not just because of the conversation, but because this was Pride weekend—my eighth Pride, my third as an out queer woman (well out to everyone but my immediate family), and my first Dyke March. Dyke March is more low-key than the parade, no floats or gigantic balloon displays, just women and allies marching through the streets chanting about social justice and celebrating. After the march, I spotted an Angry Asian Dyke sign propped against a tree in Humboldt Park. With queer women as far as the eye could see, the sense of community was overwhelming. The rest of the weekend was a blur of rainbows, undercuts, and dancing at Backlot Bash, an outdoor queer woman party. And now, it’s Sunday night, I’m exhausted and I’m on the phone responding to my parents’ third in a series of increasingly angry voicemails.

Hour three of this call and the joy of the weekend is almost gone. My shoulders slump against the wall, and I let the sound of the Red Line rushing by my apartment settle me. I’m too tired to lie. “I’m not comfortable in Denver, Dad. It doesn’t feel like I can be honest there.”

“What do you mean?”

I think of the mantra I’ve been holding on to, “You can’t lose in a fight about your own happiness. You can’t lose in a fight about your own life.” So I say it.

“Dad I date men and I date women.” The train rumbles by. “You hate men and women? I don’t understand what that has to do with—“

“No, no, I date men and I date women.” The call drops, and I remind myself of a conversation I had six months before, sitting on a couch on the 8th floor of one of Columbia College’s buildings. Instead of discussing how to integrate writing and the arts into my scientific life, I was explaining to Megan, my former professor, how to be a bad Asian daughter. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Life

Loving The Life You Have

February 26, 2016

By Ginger Sullivan

I swear it happens weekly. I open my mouth and some clerk or new patient or person on the street asks me where I am from. I feel like a transplant from a foreign land.  Even though I left decades ago and have successfully eradicated the “ya’lls” and the “yonders” from my vernacular, my Southern upbringing comes through loud and clear. My move North did not erase my history. Although I try, hiding my background is impossible. My roots will not, cannot, be denied.

Here in the North, for obvious reasons, the South is not looked upon too kindly.   These arguments aside, my accent alone gives way to question, maybe even judgment, and I am left sitting in my shame. Am I stupid? Did I grow-up with backwater ideas hailing from the trailer park? Am I small-minded, racist, conservative and overly-religious? My impulse is to get busy trying to prove myself. “Don’t write me off!” my insides scream. See me. See past my inflection. Give me a chance. I can hang with you Yankee intellectuals. I am worldly. I am not a mindless Southern Belle. I can contribute value. I am good enough.

Ridiculous, I know. But it is my story. And some of the stereotypes are true. I grew up with guns in the house. My brother even shot one through the floor once. We ate our share of fried chicken and grits. One grandmother made amazing homemade biscuits that I still cannot duplicate. The other grandmother set a mean table and needed three black helpers – the gardener, the cook and the housekeeper – to manage her world. We said grace before meals and dressed for church every Sunday. The daily choice was sweet or unsweet iced tea, even for young children. We spend weekends canoeing or watching SEC football. And no woman worked outside the home. They (we) were considered marriage material, beautiful window dressing for our good looks, not our minds.

I think it was my heart that noticed first. From a young age, I was suffocating. It was death by disconnection. I wanted a bigger world that talked to me, stimulated me, expanded me. I felt alone and did not have the words or the know-how to identify my predicament, much less fix it. I was surrounded by superficial nicety and put together beauty, but my heart longed for authenticity. Will someone stand up and talk about what is really going on here? I could not do pretend. I assumed that something must be wrong with me that everyone else could masquerade and I just could not stomach it.

And then there was my intellect. To my parents’ credit, they educated me well, sending me to the best private schools available. Originally, I am sure that the Harpeth Hall School was founded as a finishing school for Southern ladies. A societal necessity. But, even the South could not remain too long in the dark. At some point, the school became a launching pad for well-to-do families to provide their daughters opportunity. I am grateful to this day that my parents had such foresight.

But even there, I was more backwoods than most. (I guess I didn’t fit in either to the plaid skirt, prep school world.)  I will never forget the middle school quiz bowl. The announcer read a series of vocabulary words to the competing panelists. The elected smarter girls on stage reeled off the definitions one by one, some of which I had never heard. And then the announcer said, “taxidermist.” The room grew silent. No one spoke. No one knew what that word meant. The announcer turned to the audience and asked if anyone knew what that word meant. I raised my then very shy hand. I knew what that word meant. Hell, we had a few on the family payroll that I knew by name.

Fast forward multiple decades. I have not lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line for a very long time. But when I get a chance to visit, there is a part of me, deep at the cellular level, that awakens and says “home.” Maybe it is the sound of the katydids or the sweet smell of freshly mowed green grass. My long ago emotions, tied to the place of my upbringing, rise with a vengeance and demand my sentimental attention.

Through the years, I have managed to willingly claim a part of the South in me. The art of setting an elegant table is important to me as is taking casseroles to my fallen-ill neighbors. There is something polite in my child’s  “yes ma’am” and “no sir” that just sounds better than a sheer “yeah.”  Dressing up a word to make it more kind goes a lot farther than aggression just because I can.  Thus, maybe my Southern training wasn’t all bad. Maybe there is something there I can redeem and even want to hold onto.

Undeniably, like it or not, it is my story. I often find myself saying, I am not sure I like the path I took to get here, but I like the me now. And, I would certainly not be the me now without having spent 18 years wading barefoot in the creek and watching my Dad chase cows in the backyard.

Our life is like a blank wall, waiting to be filled with a 12′ x 12′ mural.   Our experiences, stories, pain and joys are painted on there somewhere. We can try to draw over them or around them or make them into something else, but they cannot be expunged. We are the sum total of all our life’s encounters.  The good news is that our life’s artwork is not complete until our journey ends. We can always add more to our mural which can transform the entirety of the composition. We are a continuous work in process.

I don’t know about you but that works for me. It engenders hope. It fortifies self-compassion to fight off my shame. It allows me the ability, on a good day, to fully embrace the life I have now. I am reminded of that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song – “If You Can’t be With the One You Love, Love the One You’re With.” I may not have the life I wanted, the life I dreamt of, but I am going to learn to love the life I have.

So, pass the biscuits and pour the iced tea. I’m gonna dig in, into all of it. Every last bite.

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Ginger M. Sullivan practices psychotherapy to pay the bills but her real joys are her two children, her pug and her writing. As a self-proclaimed fumbling human being, she expounds on the underbelly of life – all things raw and real – that others might continue on their journey to become their highest, best self. She joined Jen Pastiloff at Jen’s Tuscany retreat during the summer of 2015. This is her fourth time being published on The Manifest-Station.

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.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

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.

 

Adoption, Family, Guest Posts

A New Branch

February 22, 2016
family

By David Lintvedt

In a local library there is an interesting bit of folk-art: a model of a family tree made for a family reunion held about 140 years ago. It is made of carefully carved and polished pieces of wood, each branch representing a member of the family. Rather than a tree it looks more like a bush, with many branches springing from each other, to show children and grandchildren as they are added to the family tree. This model resonates with me, for it is a good metaphor for adoption, at least when it works well, as the new family member truly becomes a new branch of the family tree.

As an adoptee, I have often been asked about my “real family”, if I ever wonder about them: who they were, what they were like, and I tell them that I know exactly who my “real family” is: the family who raised me and cared about me and made me a part of their lives! While I have met my birth father, and even some half-brothers, they are not my family, and I never felt the need to stay in touch. After all, I am part of a good family already, and this is the story (as I know it) of how I became a branch of my family tree:

I was born in The Bronx, in May of 1963. Soon after, my biological parents moved to find a better life and wound up in Newark, New Jersey (not the first place that comes to mind when looking for a better life, but it worked out well for me), where they hoped to raise me as their son, as they had no intention of giving me up; however, things did not work out that way.

When I met my birth father as an adult, he described my mother as a “free spirit”, which is a nice way of telling me that she was unstable; he also told me that was also a classical dancer, and something of a spiritual seeker, which led her to become associated with many fringe groups in her search for enlightenment – of course some of these groups were rather questionable, and while he did not go into detail, it was clear that some of their beliefs were “unconventional” to say the least.

My birth father told me he worked long hours as a building manager in New York City, leaving me home alone with my mother (this was not a good choice).  It’s clear that she could not handle the responsibility of having a child, because while we were alone together she would abuse me.

I have often wondered why did she did this to me, but I will never know as she’s no longer around to ask, so I can only speculate. Maybe it was because I cried (as infants will do) or did not sleep enough, maybe she was just overwhelmed, or it could be because she was just a sick person.  Regardless of why, my birth father claimed that he did not know that there was anything wrong at home, as things seemed fine when he came back from work late at night.

In time, my birth mother probably would have killed me, but one day when I was about six months old, one of the neighbors had enough of the sounds coming from my parents’ apartment and the Police were called.  Upon seeing how badly I was battered, they took me to local Emergency Room where I was attended to by a doctor named Henry Kessler.

Dr. Kessler, who was the founder of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, was a well-known and respected doctor.  When he found that every major bone in my body either was broken or had been broken, he recognized me as a victim of child abuse, so he immediately took custody of me and in doing so he saved my life.  Although my birth parents tried to get me back, the doctor’s prestige enabled him to keep me safe, and I stayed in his care while he treated my injuries for free.

Many years later, when I was trying to learn more about my early life, I spoke with a woman who had been one Doctor Kessler’s former nurses.  When I told her who I was, she became emotional and told me that I must have been one of the babies she used to buy clothes for.  Then she told me that Dr. Kessler helped many abused children during his career, and this was when many people did not want to talk about child abuse, and when some doctors would ignore the signs of abuse in order to avoid causing trouble for themselves.

After a few months in the care of Dr. Kessler, I was placed with Newark Child Welfare, who began the task of finding a foster family for me to stay with while I continued to heal.  One of the families they contacted were close friends of the people who were to become my parents.  They had an adopted son, and had recently adopted a daughter, and were considering adopting again in the future.  When asked if they were interested in taking me in, they wanted to say “yes” but felt it was too soon to add another child to the family…especially a child who was still recovering from numerous injuries.

While they could not take me in, they helped look for a family who could; and so they mentioned my case to some friends of theirs, a college professor and his wife.  They told these friends that I needed a good foster family to stay with while I continued my medical treatments, which would include surgery on both of my shoulders and months of rehabilitation.

They had made friends with the professor and his wife, while they were students at Upsala College, in East Orange, NJ.  After they graduated from Upsala, the couple settled in nearby West Orange, and remained close to the Lintvedts, they even joined the same church.

The Lintvedts had four children of their own, one girl and three boys.  When they heard about me, they wanted to help, but they led busy lives, and with four kids already, money was tight.  They were not sure if they could handle the responsibility of another child, not to mention one with medical issues like mine; however, after some thought, and much discussion they decided to take me in as a foster child…on a temporary basis.

Meetings were held, evaluations were done, and eventually Newark Child Welfare approved the Lintvedts as my new foster family.  Just before I was brought into the family, in February of 1964, the man who would become my father took his teenaged children aside and prepared them for my arrival.  He told them that due to my many injuries, I would probably be crying, unhappy and unsettled; so he told the kids to be ready for a rough time of adjustment.  He also told them not to get too attached to me, as I probably would not be staying with them too long.

When I got home, instead of being the crying and cranky baby they expected, I was laughing, smiling and eating up all the attention I could get. Within a few hours of my arrival at the house, my father told the family, “We have to keep him!”
As far as I know, there was not much of a transition period; even though it would take about a year and a half for the adoption to become legal, for all intents and purposes, I became part of the family right away!

For the first time in my life I had parents who loved and cared for me, rather than beating and neglecting me.  I also gained an older sister and three older brothers, who I would look up to and admire for the rest of my life!

At last, I had a real family!

Over the next few years I would have bouts of Pneumonia, surgery on my damaged shoulders, more time in the hospital, and I would spend many months in leg braces.  It was a tough time, and I know was not always happy but my family was there for me, through it all…putting up with my crankiness, and supporting me; just like they still do today.

While my new family went through all of these hardships with me, they in turn were supported by many of their friends from the college and the church, including of course, the couple who had told my parents about me, who were a big part of my early life.

When I was two years old, it all became official.  By order of judge Yancy, in a court room in Newark, New Jersey, I legally became “David Andrew Lintvedt”.

I always knew I was adopted, after all it was hardly a secret; with my red hair and fair skin, I stood out from the rest of my family, and when people would stop and ask me “Where did you get that red hair?” I would proudly tell them “Because I was adopted!”

I WAS proud of being adopted…proud that my family did not have to take me in, but that they choose to make me part of their family tree.

I have always seen being adopted as a blessing, and I was right, my adoptive family is my “real family”.  As I grew up they continued to put up with me, teach me, support me, care for me and include me as they lived their lives.

I am still proud, and grateful for having been adopted, and to have be given the opportunity to become part of an amazing and loving (if not always perfect) family!

David Lintvedt was born in the Bronx, and raised by his adoptive family in suburban New Jersey. He holds a BA in English from Upsala College, in East Orange, New Jersey, and has also earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

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.)

 

Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are 5 spaces left. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

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.

 

Family, Guest Posts

Home Free

January 31, 2016
family

By Rachel Schinderman

We bid on a little green house on Franklin Ave and went about our lives.  We weren’t going to get it anyway.  I could do a tour of Culver City and point out all of the houses we tried to buy and were out bid on.  No matter, put it out there and then forget about it, there were other things to tend to.  There was a new baby coming in a month and a half.  This apartment in Santa Monica had been good to us.  It would still be good to us.

But still I really wanted a house.  I grew up in an apartment building in New York City.  I loved it.  I rode my bike though our hallways and went on adventures up and down our elevator.  I didn’t know anything else.  I didn’t know that children played outside until their parents called them in.  And now knowing it, seeing it right in front of me, I wanted it.  It seemed so adult, like the thing to do.  The truth was, my son would not know anything different, just like me on West End Ave, where fun was when the mailman let me help him.  But if I’m honest, I wanted a yard for the ease of having my son just run around in the back so I would know exactly where he was and would’t have to schlep him to the park constantly.  The park, the park, I was a little over the damn park.  I wanted laundry at my fingertips, not down a flight of stairs and a pocket full of quarters.  I wanted to paint a room or scratch a floor and not worry what someone else might say.  In short, I wanted to be a grown up.  Even with a husband, a son and another child on the way, homeownership seemed like it would validate my experience. I wanted a place that would serve as the other character in the stories of our children’s childhood.

Two days after seeing the little green house on Franklin Ave, after dropping my son, Benjamin, at camp, my water broke while I was getting a mani/pedi.  I waddled with the paper still in my toes to check in the bathroom and then hurried out the door nervously calling my husband.

I was only 34 weeks.  When I arrived at my OB’s office, she checked me and tested the liquid slowly dripping from my body.  It was not a big gush, more a constant drip.  It did not test positive for amniotic fluid. Continue Reading…

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.)

Family, Guest Posts, Surviving

Emerging Enough-ness

January 18, 2016

By Tammi Scott

It’s taken me 40 plus years to crawl out of my crib (comfort/safety zone) and learn to be emotionally present for myself. Babies and children are supposed to be valued, cherished, and worthy of our time and attention. They are to be lovingly directed, taught and redirected if need be. Otherwise, they take their cues from those closest and dearest to them, their family becomes their first teacher.

20 years ago, my father told me a story about how I used to get my days and nights mixed up, as a baby. I complained to him that as an adult I had trouble getting to sleep at night and referred to myself as a night owl. He told me I was always that way and used to be up all night as a baby playing in my crib. One night my mom woke him up and whispered that someone was in the living room, they could hear noises. He crept out of their bedroom with a baseball bat in hand and as he rounded the corner into the living room, he found me sitting on the floor in front of the television. It seems I had crawled out of my crib, went into the living room and turned on the TV so I could watch it! He and I laughed fondly at this point in the story. However, the next thing he said cut me to the quick and the story was never funny to me again. He said after he got done whipping me and putting me back in my crib- I never crawled out of it again. He repeated the phrase for emphasis as if it was something to be proud of- “you never crawled out of that crib again!” Fortunately, we were on the phone, so he couldn’t see how devastated I was at the turn his memory had taken. I managed to keep it together enough to end our call without tipping him off to how upset I was. I cried after I hung up with him, thinking how intrinsic the natural instinct to explore is in a young child. How hurt and terrorized I must have been at such a tender age to have that natural instinct whipped out of me by someone I loved and trusted.

My mother also liked to tell an amusing memory about when I was a baby. She worked outside the home and was often rushed and busy trying to make it there on time. She recalls one particular morning when she got to work and got a call from my babysitter asking where I was. It seems she had forgotten me at home, in fact, had not even remembered me until the babysitter called. The sitter had to get the apartment manager to let her into our apartment so she could collect me. My mom was vague on how long she’d been at work when the sitter called. I always hoped it was shortly after she got there when my babysitter would have realized my mom wasn’t coming to drop me off.

MY earliest memory was of being left alone in a large room at a daycare center while my mother went off with a teacher to discuss the school. I remember I felt so small, the room seemed huge and it was dim because it wasn’t in use. I was left alone in a lot of situations as a child that were neither safe nor appropriate or I was left alone to get into situations of my own making that were not safe or appropriate. Quite a few of them sexual in nature. From these cues, as a child I formed self-rejecting and belittling beliefs to try to make sense of why just being me wasn’t enough for the love, approval and attention of the primary architects of my world, from my family. I was too sensitive, always told to stop crying so much, or to settle down because I expressed so much excitement and emotion. From the emotional neglect, I began to feel isolated and unworthy.

Throughout my childhood, I felt like a disconnected outsider, no matter where I was but especially within my primary and extended family. School and books from the library became my refuge. If I wasn’t lost in a make-believe book world, then I was attempting to be the center of attention in class or at recess. Sometime near the middle of the sixth grade, I grew terribly afraid of making the transition from elementary school to junior high. Our sixth-grade teachers would get so mad at us when we clowned around that they would yell at us about needing to grow up. They screamed that we weren’t going to make it in junior high with our childish behaviors. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to about my increasing terror of the unknown. That’s when I decided to kill myself. I went into my mother’s medicine cabinet and found a bottle of pills. I took over 15 of them and waited to die. Instead, I kept throwing up, over and over. My mother took me to the emergency room, but I was too afraid to tell anyone what I’d done. The doctor diagnosed me with the stomach flu and gave me a shot, in my butt.

After my botched suicide attempt at the age of 11, I turned to drugs, alcohol, sex, and eventually food. It was the late 70’s, early 80’s so marijuana and alcohol were readily available among my parent’s and my friend’s parents’ stashes. Therefore, my drug and alcohol use was regular from the very start. I used sex to get love and attention wherever I could find it as a young girl, growing teen, then as a young woman. Honestly, I was looking for anyone or anything to make me acceptable, lovable, and a part of something. Of course all I found where people, relationships and situations that reinforced the messages transmitted to me by my parents. I was too emotional, I cared too much, I was too excitable, I was too loud, my laugh was ugly. That last one came from my husband and caused me to stop laughing for a long, long time. I became the consummate chameleon. With family, I was conditioned, trained or taught to be who and what they wanted me to be. With friends and acquaintances, I would glom onto them, take on their mannerisms, characteristics and repeat their phrases so I could fit in and they would like me. I determined what they wanted from me or what they liked in a person so I could morph into that. I thought to become a wife, then a mother would be the answer, but that was not the case. I sought help through the years from churches, psychiatry, personal growth counselors and parenting classes. Each time, I’d get some measure of relief, start to feel better about myself, and quit. Always the debilitating depressions and suicidal ideation came back making me feel like I’d never escape.

I left my husband for the final time shortly before giving birth to our third child. Less than six weeks after giving birth to our daughter, I was back to doing drugs again. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I was dying inside spiritually and I was terrified of what my life would become if that happened. In desperation, I sought help from another therapist. That final time I was completely honest during the intake interview session and at the end I was referred to their center for alcohol and addiction.

They felt my drug and alcohol use was contributing greatly to my depression. Suddenly it all made sense. I remembered the counselor I went to for help with better parenting skills suggesting I try AA or NA meetings. However, I dismissed that notion because I needed help with my parenting, I didn’t have a problem with drugs or alcohol.

That was 19 years ago. Through the unconditional love, acceptance and support of 12 step meetings, mentors, personal writing and a Higher Power I began to shed the chameleon and come to terms with my past. My parents weren’t monsters, they were limited, misguided and young. They did the best they could with who and what they were. More importantly, as I shed the chameleon, I began to reemerge. It was ok to be sensitive, emotional, excitable, boisterous and my laugh was phenomenal! As I learned to love and appreciate myself, I instinctively gravitated towards people, places and things that supported this most healing belief I rediscovered. The ultimate compliment I receive from others is my authenticity makes it ok to be who they are. My emerging enough-ness has been the most powerful force I’ve ever encountered. It lets me know it’s ok to do things like expand, stretch and obliterate comfort zones by submitting an essay for scholarship consideration. Yes, it’s taken me 40 plus years to climb out of my crib. I’m anxious to continue exploring the world.

tammi

Tammi Scott is a soon-to-be empty nester, living a life aimed at broadening beyond a growing dissatisfaction with her current career. She is exploring a journey home to her authentic self, learning to live from her heart which is leading to a bigger, more open life. You can come along for the ride by reading her blog: www.buildyourownbrave.com

 

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.

Family, Guest Posts, Siblings, storytelling

The Memory Keepers

January 15, 2016

By Kelly Garriott Waite

My parents broke the news to my sisters and me one evening after dinner: My mother was having another child. My older sister, understanding our mother to be the Virgin Mary, refused to believe it. But it was true and with four children, we would need more space.

One town north and east, my parents bought forty acres of land we came to call the property. I didn’t consider whose property it had been, nor what memories of the place the previous owners held dear. It was ours now. That was all that mattered.

Weekends, we cleared the woods where our home was to be built, hauling brush and tree limbs to the burn pile, cutting and splitting logs for winter. When we took a break from our work, we wandered, discovering the secrets held by the land. The south field was stubbled with browned corn stalks gripping the soil. In the west field grew, besides corn, a window- and doorless cement building inside of which forgotten coils of thick wire, yellow and red and blue, were hidden by weeds. Where the corn yielded to woods, wild raspberries grew, big as my father’s thumb. A creek trickled through the woods, across which one day we came upon the junk pile, the stuff of life discarded from a long-ago, unknown family who had likely lived on the orchard behind the property. From the junk pile, I found a clear milk bottle from Rand’s Dairy and what my father identified as an ammunition box, from which I tried – and failed – to remove the patina that obscured the copper beneath.

We worked nearly every weekend. We built a barn. We built a house. We built a farm. We learned how to grow our food and preserve the harvest. We cleaned stalls and gathered eggs and nailed up board fencing to wooden posts. On a red wagon whose sides swayed dangerously whenever a tire caught a rut in what used to be the corn field, we learned to bale hay. As we shaped the land to fit our needs, gradually taking it from the property to the farm and, eventually just home, the land shaped us in return; defining our beliefs and becoming the foundation upon which we would build our lives.

As my siblings and I left for college, the barn emptied. My father sold the horses. The butcher loaded the last of the cows and the pigs into his truck. No new chickens appeared to replace those too old to lay eggs. The hayloft would never again house seasonal litters of blind, mewing kittens. My father rented the fields to a local farmer who replanted them in corn. I discarded the ammunition box: Its history held no value for me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Relationships, Siblings

The Colors of California

January 8, 2016

By Erica Karnes

The winter light flooded through a worn bay window. Our mother’s sheer drapes, tucked behind an easy chair, allowed a white warmth to spill into the room. He was a fit of giggles. Bursts of high-pitched, gleeful shrieking. This was a new game. One that my sister and I, barely one and two years older than him, deemed best played without parents. An abandoned box, still somewhat intact, with stretches of tape across the bottom. Merely “moving assistance” to adults. But to us—to our tiny, bright eyes; our grabby hands and forever-scampering feet; our lower-class Midwest existences and finely tuned imaginations—to us this box was the world.

The coast was clear, and we began.

The baby of the group happily surrendered as we hoisted him in—a complicated task, given that it was as tall as myself. I worked to cut windows out of the sides, for ultimate visibility. Our sister scavenged the room for additional comforts. She swaddled him with pillows, sheets, and as final proof of her selflessness, donated her very own Blankie to the cause—curling it over his shoulders in a cape. I passed him a comic book or three, knowing that while he was too young to read, he’d surely enjoy the pictures.

Settled and comfortable, cozy and complete—when muffled giggles were all that could be heard spilling from our box-turned-car-turned-spaceship—we began our mission. Pulling full-speed along the hardwood floor, circling break-neck around the kitchen table, frantically bouncing through the tiled foyer. We paused at the top of the stairs for dramatic effect. And when he could barely breathe from his toddler belly laughs, we pulled faster. Passing at top speeds through pockets of that brilliant white light, our home’s sputtering heaters the only audible backdrop to our giddy adventures.

25 years later, our roles had reversed. I sat packed into his car, surrounded by his boxed belongings, clutching my own padding for comfort. This time, while there were still plenty of giggles, it was his game. This time, against all my controlling instincts, I was merely along for the 900-mile ride.

“Anal Adventurer!” he shrieked, fist pumping through his Subaru’s sunroof. “Best one yet!” he winked at me, nestled in the backseat, from his rear-view mirror. A smear of jelly lined his cheek, from the haphazard PB&J he slopped together at our last pit stop. “YEAAAAA!” With a couple of friendly shoulder punches, I celebrated his championship. There was only a single rule: for every passing RV, add the word “anal” at the start of its title. As we’d just dipped south of Portland, former contenders “Anal Wildcat” and “Anal Hideout” were delegated to forgotten place-getters. Still grinning, he pulled a cloth tie-die headband from the tower of rubble surrounding him, slicked back his greasy ginger curls, and slammed his foot on the accelerator. I amped up his obscure electro-hypnotic tunes as we gunned it for the mountains. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, healing

A Tree With Deep Roots

December 28, 2015

By Jennifer Fliss

They say that when you become a parent, you either copy your own parents or go in the exact opposite direction. Instead of vodka bottles and guns and anger, I would fill my family’s house with crafts and dinner and warmth. Instead of skittering cockroaches, an occasional errant spider, which we would gently catch in a jar and release outside.

Our cat would be a part of the family and not casually thrown against the wall. I would have a cat to begin with. I would allow a small creature, and later a larger more dependent creature into my house, knowing I have never experienced living in a reliable and safe environment. Would I know how to do it?

Our doors would not have holes the size of fists. We would not have CPS and the police at our door night after night. We would not have to watch the volume of our screams because we would not be screaming. Neighbors would not look askance at us in the morning.

My husband and I are taking down a great big poplar tree in our yard. Well, we aren’t; we are hiring professionals. It is a tall specimen, probably one hundred feet tall. It stands sentinel over the neighborhood, watching guard over our house huddled beneath it. When we moved in, the inspector said it had to go.

Poplars have an extensive and shallow root system. The roots can grow outwards to a distance of two or three times the tree’s height. It could fall and take out our neighbor’s garage at the very thought of a storm. In a gust, its branches could shoot to the ground and impale someone walking by. It could creak and moan and then crash down into our daughter’s bedroom. It had to go. Of course taking down a great tree such as this one is not cheap, nor easy. After every wind storm we would look up at the beast and marvel that it was still upright. Its trunk and upward facing branches, nearly as tall as the tree itself seemingly too scrawny to uphold anything, no less act as protection.

This yellow leafed menace stands in a corner behind our house, not five feet away. Its roots surely have spread under our house. Surely there is some support it is providing. It is not only a danger. Right? Continue Reading…

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