Browsing Tag

relationships

Guest Posts, Women are Enough

Two Jobs

July 28, 2016
adventure

By Amy Turner

“You must treat career hunt and husband hunt as same thing,” says my Croatian wax lady, Julia.  She is 29 and knows more than I did. At 29, all I believed in was a unilateral work ethic and Henry Miller inspired romantic doom.

“I agree,” I say, shocking even myself. Because if I’d thought about the shitty relationships I’d been in as ‘jobs,’ they were mostly low paying and emotionally abusive.  If I’d have framed them that way, would I have wasted so much time?  One shift at McDonalds and I’d have walked, but at her age, I was working a virtual minimum wage and fry grease trap of the soul.  It was a very anti-feminist idea, this searching for partnership with the fervor of a career, but I liked the possibility that this girl, at 29, was wise enough to design her own feminism. As opposed to clutching Steinem bumper stickers all day and cuddling with rogue charmers at night.

“I like man, in Colorado, handy, lots of tools, good round house,” she says. “But I text him I want to visit and he doesn’t text me back. I don’t know what to do. “ In my heart I want to say, RUN AWAY! DO NOT TEXT HIM! IF HE WANTS YOU HE WILL FIND YOU!! TRUST ME!! But I think she’s really good at waxing and advice is dumb because everyone’s only talking about themselves and every situation is different (BUT NOT REALLY CAUSE GUYS WHO LIKE YOU WIL FIND YOU, BUT THEN AGAIN I KNOW HAPPY MARRIED PEOPLE WHERE THE WOMAN WAITED  WITH THE PATIENCE OF JOB AND UNFLIPPABLE DUDE FLIPPPED SO WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW?) and kept my mouth shut.

“He said he’d pay for half my ticket. Maybe I text that I bought it?  That he take me camping and that’s the deal?” she laughs. I remember thinking that way. That if he goes camping with you, and your smooth tan legs and your warm single sleeping bagged self, he will never be able to enjoy the natural world alone EVER AGAIN. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut……weirdly, they actually can.

“The camping line is cute,” I say.

“I mean, I’m not defined by relationship, but I want to do some things before I settle down, travel, have career,” she says, “But, the reason I was able to get to better place, better salon, was because I got to live with my ex boyfriend a while when changing jobs.”

I nod, “it’s easier to make changes when we have some support.” These are the things we don’t talk about a lot. How being coupled provides an emotional and economic bravery.  That making Big Life Decisions on your own can be downright exhausting after awhile and at a certain point, one just wants to not make any. Which leads to stasis and a heavy rotation of avocado toast and wine.

“I think most girls are like us now,” I say, thinking of the spectrum of women I know. Everyone wanted some adventure, a strong sense of self, a job that gave you independence, and to fall in love and be committed. The dream, a shared future and the quiet unspoken whisper that one would help the other not wind up living under a freeway underpass. Romance 2016. It was no longer chic to be kept like the fifties (or 90’s if your were a girlfriend of Jerry Buss) or be as ferocious as the eighties ladies. It seemed as if some of the fog had cleared, it seemed as if the most honest feelings, to want both, once deemed selfish (a therapist in her eighties once told me if I wanted to make money and be a wife I was a bit of a narcissist) were now the realest things possible. To give both desires equal weight. This was progress, this ‘both jobs’ idea of hers. It was also the day after President Obama endorsed Hilary Clinton. A woman who, in her twitter bio, identifies first as, wife, then ‘pants suit aficionado,’ and finally, 2016 presidential candidate.

“They are both jobs,” I say to her, as she removes a final strip of wax.

I can’t help myself, I want her to go to Colorado, because she is 29 and she will make love by a river and she will have that moment inside her forever, and that is no small thing. But I don’t want her to waste years waiting for a guy unable to push a few buttons.

“I have a very wise friend who used to say, ‘I can’t wait around for you to figure out how great I am.’ ”

Julia laughs and pulls up the mirror.

“Beautiful,” she says, impressed with her work. My eyebrows perfect.

“I dunno, maybe you should go to Colorado,” I say, remembering my guy in  Montana. The romance in the rearview mirror, worth every bug bite. One week riding horses and swimming in a river and watching him put on chaps for god’s sake. But had the romances blocked other happy vines from crawling in and stilling me, suturing me to one person? They felt like the only thing that fit in those days. But I wasn’t 29 any more, and the exotic now lay in a person who would pick you up from the mechanic, knew how to work the four remote controls, endure the holidays with your family.

“No more wasting time,” she says. Her accent thick and decisive. Resolved. “I don’t think he’s ready for real thing.”

This is the real job, I think.  Defining the real things. Being gentle with your own desires. All of your parts, hired.

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Amy Turner is an author, essayist and TV writer who has published on The Huffington Post. She was a Producer on ABC Family’s “MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, ” a story editor on CBS’s “THE EX LIST” and a staff writer on Aaron Sorkin’s NBC drama, “STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP.” You would like having a Negroni with her. She can be found on Twitter @turnerleturner.

 

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are just two 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.

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.

Guest Posts, Relationships

Ratchet Straps and Roadkill

June 10, 2016
relationships

By Sonya Huber

We both welcomed something as normal as a car accident.

My newish boyfriend Cliff, my five-year-old son, and I were halfway to Ohio from Georgia. The plan was that my son would see his dad, I’d do some freelance teaching, and we’d go to my best friend’s wedding and then a few days in Costa Rica, our first vacation. It was a jammed schedule, but I was a pro at cramming chaos into a calendar. We stopped in a sea of brake lights on that misty summer evening in North Carolina and tires squealed. We ricocheted forward, colliding with the bumper ahead.

My stomach dropped as I glanced at him. I think I was waiting for the nice-guy veneer to wear off, or waiting for him to wise up and flee this ramshackle dating-a-single-mom situation.

Cliff smiled at me and sighed, then glanced to the back seat. “Everybody okay?” Continue Reading…

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…

Divorce, Guest Posts

How To Be Divorced: A Stepdaughter’s Wish List

June 1, 2016
divorce

By Teri Carter

When asked, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” I might give any of the following answers: only child, oldest of 3, or oldest of 5. All true. This is what it means to be a stepdaughter.

1,300 new stepfamilies are created every day. I am a statistic, a stepdaughter three times over, starting at ages 2, 9, and 15, with two half-brothers, a stepbrother and a stepsister. Everyone offers advice. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of opinions from the well-intentioned about how divorced parents and new stepparents should and should not behave. Most get it wrong.

If anyone, including my own parents, had asked, this is what I would have told them. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

Traversing Female Friendship

May 30, 2016
friendship

By Melanie Bates

It’s fall of 1982. The grass hasn’t started to crunch yet, but you can feel that Cheyenne Winter is sitting on his suitcase full of snow in a vain attempt to secure the latches. His flight is booked. His car is waiting to take him to the airport. I’m wearing ginormous brown glasses with a butterfly decal in the corner, but I can’t see anything because I’m crying tears that won’t stop. There’s a moving van, semi more-like, out front, and I’m in my bedroom that’s been stripped of all its Holly Hobbie decor. The cheery yellow walls look like rancid butter. My best friend Monica is there with me. She’s crying too. Our parents think we’re being melodramatic. They think we’ll forget each other. Make new friends. Get over it.

I don’t. Not really. Not for a long time. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love, Relationships

Falling In Love On Malaria Medication

May 16, 2016
love

By Leila Sinclaire

Falling in love with my husband Mike coincided with taking regular doses of malaria medication, Larium, which you are not advised to take if you have a history of depression or mental illness. Heavy stuff, seeping into your dreams and your waking. We were both on Larium because we were living in remote parts of Asia at the time. We stared at the backs of each other’s heads, at hands, elbows, knees, trying to be discreet, though our breathing was shallow. Maybe it was the altitude, we told ourselves. Maybe it was the dramatic scenery: mountains like dragons’ scales, rocky tidal waves, straight out of ads for adventure travel. Maybe the tea or the noodle soup was laced with local herbs.

Anyways, we were falling, falling. The electricity, the molecules abuzz, fraught with longing, seeking release. I wanted to stay there forever, to die there, to spontaneously combust. I was twenty years old but I felt I had experienced everything. I was flooded, saturated, finished. Electric. Kissing like plugging in strings of lights, the burst, the illumination.

We do not kiss much anymore. Mike’s beard scratches me, I want to brush my teeth first, then I end up washing my face, maybe rearranging my beauty products, something I have been meaning to do for ages, just a second, I’ll be right there. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, Relationships

The Kids Are Alright

April 6, 2016
children

By Jessica Starr

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest Posts, love, parenting

Teaching Sons How To Love

April 1, 2016
parenting

By Deonna Kelli Sayed

“Come to the kitchen,” Ibrahim says. “I want to show you something.”  My 13-year-old son towers over me. A thin layer of newly sprouted moustache sits above his lips, which are now shaped in a comical twirl.

“This is Day 1,” he says, as he turns the kitchen faucet to a trickling stream. He opens the valve a bit more.

“And by Day 3….” The water is full speed now, splattering against the dirty dishes in the sink.

He is explaining menstrual flow to me, his mother, and he is proud to know such secrets. This is after he provides a short explanation of why a woman bleeds every month. Don’t tell me why, I challenge him, tell me how she bleeds.

“The thing inside peels off skin….”

“You mean, the lining of the uterus sheds?” I offer.

“Yes! That is it. It sheds,” he says, as he continues narrating the journey of ovum to unfertilized blood flow.

The conversation started when I asked him what he had learned in sex education that day. He is the only Muslim in his mixed gender class, enduring an abstinence only curriculum that promised not to discuss masturbation, sexual intercourse, or homosexuality.

“What is there to talk about then?” I inquired. He shrugged and muttered that one can’t get into too many details as both girls and boys are in the class. And yet, they teach a vagina song, and not one about the penis, because perhaps the vagina is more complicated, he speculated.

It is all complicated, I say, this love and sex business. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

Small Deaths and Small Magic

March 28, 2016
suicide

Trigger warning: This essay discusses suicidal ideation.

By Summer Krafft

He stood there, the oddness of a boy turned statue, at the end of the hallway. The light filtering through the window outlined his silhouette as he stared through the glass. It was the only window in the place.

Sometimes I say I don’t remember getting there, but it’s not true. What is true is that sometimes I cannot bear to tell it. The doctors said what they could to make it plain: suicidal ideations. They wanted it to seem as if I could explain my being there in two words, as if it were simple.

I think a better way of saying it is that I dreamt of making a blood masterpiece with the sharp kiss of knives against my snow skin. Which is another way of saying I already knew how to dry-swallow a handful of little chemical marbles. Which is another way of saying I was not afraid of drowning; it seemed just like the returning to a before-birth, to a time of not being.

I guess that’s how I got there, to Heritage Oaks Adolescent Psychiatric Facility. The place with the stark white walls and impossibly long hallway lined with doorways –no actual doors– two patients inside each of them, a large window overlooking a dumpster at the end. The place that smelled of Lysol, Jello, unwashed teens, and dried blood. The place where there was always someone crying or screaming or begging to go home, echoing like childhood lost. A place where I ended and began.

My memory of this place is anchored in the people: Maddy, who was fifteen and hospitalized there for her fourth suicide attempt. Elaine, the biggest and meanest twelve-year-old I’ve ever seen who just kept singing ‘This is the Song that Never Ends.” Xenia, who was both the prettiest and the saddest of all of us, who would sneak into the room of the boy who liked to punch holes in the walls. Stacey, my roommate, who stared at me while I tried to sleep and did not speak and had the habit of ripping off her bra and flinging it across the room when she got upset. Jason, who was there because his mother thought he was going to kill his sister. When I asked him if she was right, he gritted his teeth, jaw flexing like a small murder, averted his eyes, and shook his head no. I couldn’t tell if he was about to cry. I didn’t have the energy to be scared of him. I was there for my own momentum hurling me towards death. I was there because no one who loved me could trust me to be alone with my own hands. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Marriage

In Sickness

March 23, 2016
marriage

By Kristen M. Ploetz

Thirteen years ago, I passed the bar exam and got married.

Needless to say, I was not quite paying close attention when we planned our wedding. I was spent. Four long years of law school at night followed by the bar exam eroded my capacity to make decisions, especially those with multiple choice possibilities. Plus, after living together for nearly all of our eight years together, marriage felt like a mere formality. I’ve always leaned toward practicality more than passion, and our wedding was no different.

Still, we indulged in some creative control. My bridesmaids would wear crimson and carry candles instead of flowers. Letterpress for the invitations, seafood instead of steak. Otherwise, I just didn’t have it in me—time or desire—to let the planning of those eight hours consume my life.

A few weeks before our wedding, we met with the officiant to discuss vows and readings. I knew that I didn’t want to hear “I now pronounce you man and wife” (feminist!), nor did I want any religious anything (atheist!). But beyond that, and the fact that I would not be changing my last name, we were pretty much traditionalists—and pragmatists. Just give us the bare minimum required to make our bond legitimate in the eyes of whomever it matters for taxes and ratify our mutual trust to make life and death (and life after death) decisions for each other. And then let’s party.

So when we got to the part about selecting vows, we skimmed over the book of options. We took the steadfast road already traveled by millions of others.

for richer or poorer,

in good times and in bad,

in sickness and in health. Continue Reading…

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.

 

Friendship, Guest Posts

Shippers Gonna Ship

February 19, 2016

By Jackie Hedeman

It started with the hot TA. In the fall of my sophomore year of college, I took Victorian Literature, and spent most of section—“preceptorial” is what we called it at Princeton, leaving no pretension untapped—fantasizing in truly PG fashion about the soulful grad student leading discussion. Tom, the TA, looked like the front man of an indie folk band. That or the eponymous hero of George Elliot’s Daniel Deronda, which we were reading that semester.

I already knew that Tom was from the Midwest, and that he liked books. Who knew what else we had in common! I got back to my dorm and hopped on Facebook to find out.

My hopes were more or less immediately dashed. “Come on!”

“Come on what?” my roommate Amy asked. She was pouring over molecular biology notes and casually singing an aria, both of which she abandoned when I spoke. I must have sounded truly forlorn.

“He has a girlfriend.” I pointed at the screen.

Amy crowded me half out of my chair and took a look. “Looks like it,” she said. Then she cocked her head to one side. “You think he has a girlfriend because he has all these pictures with this girl?”

“Yeah?”

“Well,” said Amy, satisfied, “when you become a grad student, your students might find all the pictures of the two of us and go, ‘Oh no. She has a girlfriend.’”

Amy had a point. “You’re right,” I said. “I need to gather more evidence.”

Hardcore shippers do nothing but gather evidence. They pour over the canon, and when they run out of material they turn to author blog posts, or interviews with the actors, or anyone else who can offer any insights into what exactly is going on with a particular character. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Mental Health, Relationships, Trust

I Should Hate You, But I Don’t: Loving and Letting Go of a Pathological Liar

February 12, 2016

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay deals with the damage caused by a pathological liar. 

By Ashley Gulla

I didn’t think I could survive you.  I didn’t think I could find my way out of that dark, black hole I found myself in a few years ago.  Even when you couldn’t take it anymore and quietly slipped away from me, I had no idea how to surrender.  I don’t know the pain of losing a child, so it may have been ignorant of me to think, but the death of “us” left an aching, empty space I imagine was comparable.  Or at least I did when I was in the process of letting go.  Because I wasn’t just letting go of you, I was letting go of my innocence, and that was a heavy price to pay for loving you.

That empty space still exists but it’s different now.  It’s just as vast as it ever was but it’s not nearly as dark or scary.  Those parts of me — my fear, my insecurities, hopelessness and obsessiveness — don’t hurt to touch anymore.  I’ve stared the monster that lives in my head straight in its eyes, and I’ve learned to be friends with her.  I, even some times, find myself lost in that emptiness, with a sense of appreciation and humor, over that the fact that I’m still standing after everything.  And some days, standing would be an understatement.  I’m dancing, flying!  Other times, not as often as before, I’m crawling.  But I’m still here, and I’m happy.

I don’t miss you.  I don’t wish things were different.  And for the first time in the last three years, I’m happy you’re not the one surprising me at work, or finishing my sentences when I can’t find the right word, or wrapping your arms tightly around me as we both fall asleep.  I cringe remembering how foolish I was.  How much trust I instilled in you.  How I hung on every single word, when I knew better.  And I always knew better, but I desperately wanted to know different.  I recognize now how desperately I wanted you to be different.  And how unfair that truly is.

But I also remember every single night I cried until I had nothing left inside, not because you were unfaithful, but because of the cat and mouse game you played with me.  Because story after story after story was just another way to manipulate me to feel a certain way:  jealous, insecure, guilty, afraid, secure, happy, loved.  I became a shell of myself trying to sustain a relationship that wasn’t sustainable.  The very spirit of who I am and why you loved me, which I believe you did, was missing.  Or, hiding really.  Scared.  Angry.  Hurt.  Broken.  Shaking somewhere in a dark corner, away from the world.

I lost myself in the process of trying to hold you to a standard that just wasn’t possible.  To say my heart was crushed would be putting it lightly.  I was not only learning how to accept that “we” were never going to be, but more importantly, how to trust myself again because in the midst of trusting you, you taught me not to trust myself.  With every reassuring lie and false promise, you convinced me that my intuition, logic, and understanding of the world was wrong.  I knew better.  But I wanted to know different. Continue Reading…

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