Browsing Tag

inspiring

Family, Guest Posts, healing, Holidays

Dead Christmas Trees, Brain Injuries & Finding The Beauty.

December 29, 2014

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By Karen Pyros-Szatkowski.

When I lived in New York City after college, too many years ago, I’d be so saddened the weeks following Christmas walking by apartment buildings seeing the discarded, used up Christmas trees piled in front, waiting to be picked up by the garbage collectors. I was in no way a tree-hugging, save-the-earth activist back then, but for some reason, these trees, some still with tinsel on the branches, made me view the city as a morgue and a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness and despair would replace the holiday happy from a few days before. The trees of all shapes and sizes, some tall and skinny, others short and more full, ugly Charlie Brown trees, and beautiful prize worthy ones, whatever fit into the lives of the former owners’ apartment spaces, had now served their purpose and lay, most of them without bags, on the cold New York City sidewalks, atop their own fallen needles. They were once connected to and nurtured by the earth, then worshipped and adorned with beautiful decorations… a proud centerpiece in the apartments, the holiday, and now tossed out like garbage. Actually, that’s exactly what they had become. Garbage. Although I never, ever, bought a real tree after my first Christmas in New York, I certainly don’t make any judgment on those that chose the natural over the unnatural; that’s not what this is about. I know that for every tree cut down, others are planted and farms grow trees just for Christmas pleasure. It is not a moral choice for me; it’s an emotion. I know real trees look much more beautiful, fully decorated, than the artificial ones, and I do love the smell of pine, but the memories of those discarded trees piled many feet high like dead bodies awaiting their disposal left too much of an impact on me, too much of a sadness, not because of the waste, but because of the abandoned love. From the pedestal to the street. Beauty completely stripped to nothingness. Life to death.

I’ve been feeling similar emotions recently, but not due to Christmas trees. I feel so much pain and sadness, all around me and not all mine. Being so easily connected through social media and website magazines, Damon’s story has reached out past the community in which we live to a much larger audience. Because of this, I’ve been connected to many new friends and reconnected to many old friends, so many of whom are affected either themselves or through family members by traumatic brain injury, death, or just horrible diseases. In our pre accident life I never would have crossed paths with most of these people. In our pre accident life I would never have been able to so deeply feel their pain. So many have reached out to us to share their own stories, looking both for inspiration from our journey and hoping to add support to theirs. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts

Thank you for Listening.

December 27, 2014

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By Amy Yelin.

My father listened. That was his job. He was a psychiatrist, like Bob Newhart on TV, and as a child I thought this made him an important man. A celebrity even. Why else would he have his own parking spot?  Two spots, actually, both with signs that read: Reserved for Gershon Yelin, MD. Violaters Towed at Their Own Expense.

Sometimes we’d visit his office after a shopping trip or picking up books at the library in Port Chester, New York. My mother would park in one of those special spots, right next to his car, and then I’d feel important, too, like a regular Amy Carter.

My father’s office was in a typical 1970’s brick office building, with a dark hallway that smelled like menthol. I noted the numbers as we walked down the hall until we reached the door labeled 2G. Then, despite my mother’s insistence to only ring it once, I’d push the buzzer repeatedly,

My father opened the door just a tiny bit, the chain still on. “Who is it?” He’d say, pretending to be suspicious.

“It’s me…Amy!”

“And me,” my mother said, playing along.

“Whaddya want?”

After I rang the buzzer a few more times, the door flew open and my father greeted us with a happy but subdued, “Well hellooooo’

No one was ever there when we visited. No patients in the giant waiting room. No receptionist at the reception desk.  My father’s actual office, with nothing more than a desk light on, was a stark contrast to the fluorescently lit waiting room. The window blinds were always drawn almost to the bottom, resembling two sleepy eyelids, letting in only the tiniest slivers of light. Several pipes waited in an ashtray on his desk, and a standing globe, possibly the only fun thing in the room, beckoned me every time. I’d make myself at home in my father’s black leather chair, close my eyes and then spin that globe hard and see where my finger would land.

“Here’s where I’m going to move,” I’d announce upon opening my eyes. “New Zealand!”

“Bon voyage,” my father would say.

My father is 86 now. We talk on the phone at least once a week, but only see each other around Thanksgiving, when my dad and his second wife Terri fly up to New York from North Carolina for their annual medical appointments. We drive down from Boston and meet them at their favorite hotel, The Renaissance, not far from where I grew up. It’s a bizarre sort of family reunion, but it’s ours. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing

A Letter To My 14-Year-Old Self.

December 22, 2014

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By Anna Taylor.

My twin sister and I were born eleven weeks premature, each weighing less than a bag of sugar. We survived against all odds. However, as a result, I have cerebral palsy, affecting my legs.

Twenty years ago this week, I underwent major surgery that turned my life upside down and back to front. I never wanted the surgery but when a doctor told me in no uncertain terms, that without it, I would be confined to a wheelchair by the time I was thirty, I didn’t have much choice. I felt backed into a corner, unable to see any other way forward. I was promised greater mobility and independence than I’d had for several years and I knew that I couldn’t let that chance pass me by. I was concerned about the impact such anaesthesia would have on my already fragile stomach, but everyone put those symptoms down to my hormonal age and did not see any reason to postpone the multiple operations I needed. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Gender & Sexuality, Guest Posts

Strange Flowers.

November 11, 2014

TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contain information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Karrie Higgins.

Six years to the day that my brother picked up his landline and said

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to a sixteen-year-old girl being coached by a cop, and five years after he swallowed morphine, methadone, diazepam, and gabapentin, slumped out of his loveseat, and froze face-to-floor in rigor mortis, he transmits a love song from outer space, implanting a coded message in a Beyoncé single. Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction.

Everyone else hears a sampled audio clip of NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt seconds after the Challenger disintegrated on January 28, 1986, but I am tuned into a secret sibling frequency.

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I love you like xo.

Ever since my brother died, I have dialed his disconnected telephone numbers, tracking where they terminate over time, hoping to cross his ghost voice in the wires. He is finally returning my call. We have a downlink.

Twenty-seven years ago, while everyone else was hopelessly gazing at debris raining down like shooting stars, I was hypnotized by those sibling booster rockets snapping apart: a DNA double-helix blown wide open, fragments of the orbiter like nucleotides spilling into dead space, never to recombine. Nobody sees what we see. It was exactly how my brother warned it would be if anyone found out about us.

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***

 

My brother was an expert at falling. He could leap from airplanes, count one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, and yank the ripcord on his T10 parachute at the precise, 82nd Airborne Jump School-regulation second. He knew how to spare his groin during opening shock, when the parachute canopy blooms open, decelerates the fall, and jerks a jumper by the harness straps crisscrossed under his crotch. He squeezed his knees so tight he could grip a bullet between them.

He plummeted to Earth at a rate of twenty-three feet per second, but he never broke a bone. Jump School taught him the fine art of Parachute Landing Falls, distributing the blunt force trauma over five points of impact: balls of his feet, calf, outer thigh, hip or buttock, and latissimus dorsi. Strange to think that brutalizing more body parts means fewer injuries, but it is true. Continue Reading…

Converse-Station, Guest Posts, writing

The Converse-Station: Tim Tomlinson Interviews Stephen Policoff.

November 10, 2014

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Poet, Short Story Writer & New York Literary Lion Tim Tomlinson Interviews Novelist Stephen Policoff

Welcome to The Converse-Station: A dialogue between writers. With the site getting so much traffic (my Facebook page is reaching over 16 million people!) I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Confession: I am totally biased with this one. I love these two writers dearly. They both helped me find my voice as a writer so many years ago when I was a student at NYU. Tim was one of my teachers and Stephen ran the literary magazine and published my first poem when I was still a teenager (and we joked that we were related since both or names ended in “Off”.) It is my great honor to publish this. And, to call both of these men my friends. 

The other day I was emailing with Stephen about his daughter (you’ll read about her below) and I felt overwhelmed with sadness. “Why does the world have to be filled with such pain,” I wrote to him. He replied,  ‘I always knew we would come to this but I never thought I’d have to do it by myself.
So it goes. Or as Kenneth Patchen observes, “Christ Christ Christ that the world should be cold and dark for so many.’ “

I hope this interview leaves you feeling the opposite of cold and dark as it did for me. Love, Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station.

Tim Tomlinson is a co-founder of New York Writers Workshop, and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. His fiction and poetry have appeared in venues from China and the Philippines to Toronto and New York. He is a Yoga Alliance certified (200 hr) instructor. He believes the easiest asanas are the hardest, and the hardest aren’t easy at all. He lives in Brooklyn, he teaches in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program.

Stephen Policoff won the James Jones Award for his first novel, Beautiful Somewhere Else (Carroll & Graf 2004). His memoir, Sixteen Scenes from a Film I Never Wanted to See, was published by Monkey Puzzle Press in 2014. His second novel, Come Away, won the Mid-Career Author Award and will be published in November 2014 by Dzanc Books. Like Tim Tomlinson, he teaches in Global Liberal Studies at NYU, and edits their literary magazine The West 4th Street Review, where many years ago, he encountered Jen Pastiloff, then a poetic waif, and published her first poem. He lives in Manhattan with his two daughters.

Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, parenting

Powder Blue Polyester Tuxedo.

October 23, 2014

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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…

Fatherhood, Guest Posts, Inspiration, Truth

Now Is An Uncomfortable Place To Be. By Carvell Wallace.

September 29, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-blackBy Carvell Wallace. 

Sometimes I have dreams where I wake up crying. Intensely. Childishly. These are dreams about a broken heart. Usually at the end of a love affair.

But last night I dreamt about Ferguson. We were there. My kids and I. There were railroad tracks. Singing. Candles and crepuscular bands of light silhouetting black bodies against the sky. I don’t remember what happened, but in the dream we failed. Somehow we failed. And I was wailing alone like a motherless child.

I kinda stopped posting about Ferguson or about police. Because there’s so much. So many unarmed people shot, killed, and beaten by police. I mean, we’re all kind of scrolling past now, aren’t we? Video shows police shoot unarmed man. Video shows suspect had his hands up. Video contradicts police story, Man in wheelchair beaten by police. See the shocking video. Woman kicked in the face by police. Pregnant woman slammed to ground by police. See the shocking video. Police arrest woman waiting for her children to use the bathroom, Police taze man waiting for his daughter to get out of daycare. See the shocking video. Police shoot man for following the directions The Police gave him. My feed would be 100% this. There would no longer be a Carvell. Just post after post after post to prove that it matters. That it’s happening and it matters. Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, healing

Falling Hair.

September 25, 2014

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By Sue Lick.

Reddish-blond fur swirled in the air as we groomed the shedding dog. In a single stroke, the comb was filled with yellow fluff. I released the fur to the wind, watching it drift across the deck and the lawn.

Fred ran a nubby rubber glove across Sadie’s back, emptied the fur from the glove, and rubbed her again until the dog squirmed away. Tufts of the pale stuff stuck out around her hips and butt as she walked to the edge of the deck, stepped off and continued across the lawn. She raised her right back leg and peed, then trotted to the hole she had dug under the garden shed, pawing her way in until all that showed was her waving tail. Fur lay in soft puffs on the deck and the lawn. Strands clung to our clothes.

“That’s how Mom looked,” Fred said.

Our eyes met. Oh God. Unconsciously, I stroked my own thick dark hair, which I had just paid $25 to have professionally trimmed and thinned.

When I left for California three weeks earlier, curly white hair covered Helen Lick’s head like a cottony crown. While I was gone, she started chemotherapy. After just one treatment, her hair had started falling out in clumps. We had no idea it would happen so soon.

As we brushed the dog fur off our clothes, Fred told me what I had missed.

Yesterday, when he took his mother to Corvallis for more chemo, they stopped at a wig shop and purchased a head of synthetic hair. It looked like something you’d see on a model in the Sears catalog, gray and white, kind of windblown, he said. The $190 they spent included a wire wig rack, a bottle of wig shampoo and three turbans. The shop, Healing Hands, specialized in cancer patients. The proprietor, Jeanie something, oozed kindness.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, poetry, writing

Sojourns.

September 24, 2014

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By Abriana Jette.

Saturday, New Jersey Turnpike, 12:33pm

I had better tell you where I am going and why I am watching smoke sift through the hood of a 1993 green Honda Accord as spritzes of coolant spatter like small kisses onto the windshield. I am with a rap artist named the Deafinition, whom I will call Greg, and we are heading to the Poconos. Just a moment ago I was listening to the brashness of his voice seep through the SONY speakers that cost more than this car. Just a moment before life was working out as planned.

Since I have been near him I can’t help but to touch him. There is a meager patch of skin creviced between his head and neck, where his hair remains prickly, where there sits the redolence of a tender man, a place where my fingers seem to travel to trail the ends of his spine. He is soft to the touch. Wears a size thirteen. Hates tomatoes. Writes.

Except he calls it rapping. Same difference, I say. Within my reach I always keep a notepad or pencil, same as he when he scribbles lines at work or keeps a beat to remember with his fingers on the steering wheel. He writes in rhythms of west-coast rooted torments; here is the best friend’s unexpected death, there, the knowledge he has been forced to accept. He prides himself on his growth. He is 6’3”, has quiet green eyes.

I am trying to keep calm. He storms out of the car; swings open the hood, spouts curses while mumbling under his breath. For the first time I notice he is wearing dark blue jeans that he has rolled once, then cuffed, a pair of black Nike Zooms, a plain Hanes t-shirt (black), and a white Rocawear track jacket, with horizontal red and black stripes. His hair is shaved as if he were a soldier.

 

Ten minutes ago his voice sounded closer on the radio; like I could finally hear him speak. There is a distinct east coast flow in his pronunciation, a syncopated voice that manipulates verbs. A troubled voice permeates through all ten unsigned albums. He is judging, and crude, he lacks the desire to reach out and love, and yet his tone is void of rancor: it is kind, it has listened.

Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, Letting Go, motherhood

A Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Mother/Daughter Bond.

September 22, 2014

By Lockey Mitten Maisonneuve.

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As she lay in bed dying, Marlene told her daughter Kathy, she could see a door opening, beyond it she saw flowers everywhere, Marlene said “it was beautiful.” Kathy whispered “it sounds like you have a beautiful place to go with a lot of people who love you waiting for you, it’s okay to go.”

I had the privilege of participating in Marlene’s final days on this earth. I would go to her house and help her through guided meditations. She liked the full-body scan kind with white light covering her entire body. At the beginning of one of our first sessions, she was weeping and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. She just kept trying to hold it together. I finally said “if you are trying to not cry in front of me, it’s not working, just go with it.” She did. She allowed herself to cry as she settled in to meditate. I guided her through, she wept, I reminded her to breathe, she relaxed, I guided, she became soft.

After the meditation, she was a bit frantic about needing to write letters to her three adult children and her grand children. She was in too much discomfort to write, so I offered to write the words she spoke. As I wrote the words she needed to say to her children I understood how loved her children are. After we completed the letters, we sat quietly for a moment.

Continue Reading…

cancer, death, Gratitude, Guest Posts

I Will Miss You Every Day of My Life.

September 18, 2014
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By Kathleen Emmets.

Note from Jen Pastiloff: Kathleen showed up at my Kripalu Retreat a couple years ago and has since become a dear friend and a great source of inspiration for me. She is the one who created the Fuck It List, that I so often speak of. She sent me this and I knew I had to get it up on the site. Humbled.

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Dear Jen,

Thank you for the beautiful way you teach people to express themselves. I wrote this in the voice you helped me to find.

I love you.

I stand at her bedside, holding her frail, smooth hand. She can’t speak today and her eyes, for the most part, remain closed. “It’s better this way,” I think to myself. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, love

Markings.

September 15, 2014

By Arielle Berstein.

On the surface all my injuries have always healed perfectly.

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

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

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

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

Guest Posts, Inspiration, Self Image

The Frenemy in the Mirror.

September 12, 2014

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By Georgia Kolias.

I walked through my bedroom door with a pile of laundry in my arms, clean clothes destined for dresser drawers. On leaving the room, I realized that my four-year-old daughter was standing in front of the full-length mirror. When we bought our house, we realized the previous owners must have been giants. The bathroom mirrors were high enough that I could only see my head floating up around the bottom of the medicine cabinet door. There were no other mirrors in the house and that suited me just fine. Looking at my body in the mirror was not usually something I wanted to do. Not because I have an unusually horrific deformity that I can’t face, but just because mirrors are a tool of the devil. You can either become bewitched by allowing yourself to feel validated and worthy because you like what you see, or they can become instruments of delusional torture in those moments when you aren’t feeling your best, your clothes feel awkward on your body, and the unavoidable critical voice in your head narrates rude descriptions of your flaws. Continue Reading…