Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lessons Learned

As I was running around my house the other day looking for a computer disc, my scattered and haphazard desk resembles more of a collage of skewed papers and bills than a place where work occurs,  I came across a pink envelope with the ever familiar handwriting which stopped me dead in my  tracks. It was the last birthday card I had ever received from my dad.  I sat down on the floor and I re-read the card that I had read probably 100 times since his death. It was simple, nothing life shattering but in his handwriting said, "To my beautiful daughter on her birthday, I love you more than words can express." As old memories rolled over me like waves of the sea; tears just began to stream down my face.  It has been 3 years since I have received a birthday card from my dad and as I prepare for yet another candle on the cake, I think about how far I have come over those last 30 years and the lessons I continue to learn.

Love is real. I think growing up I had this fairy tale belief in love. That it was all about prince charmings and happy ever afters. Yet, what I have learned is that love is raw, big, and at times desperate. I re-live the moments of my father's last months of life and I feel nothing but warmth. It is the quilt that covers you when nothing else will keep you warm. It is my father's best friend who slept on the couch, while my father slept in his hospital bed, so that my mother and I could get sleep. It is the phone call from friends for no reason. It is the look on the groom's face, as my best friend walks down the aisle. This kind of love changes people, it changed me, and I can never be more grateful.

I used to have a real problem when I was little. I talked to all sorts of strangers all the time. My mom would look away for a second and the next I would be chatting with a stranger in the middle of the women's department at Macy's. It is a miracle I wasn't abducted and the face of the missing child on the milk carton. I believe that this ability to talk openly and honestly has allowed me to build meaningful relationships. My friends are my greatest assets. They are my family, they are the brothers and sisters I never had. They give my life substance. I find delight in their successes.

I used to be a different person growing up. I was so intense and focused that I couldn't see the bigger picture. I learned that success is a personal measure, not a societal goal. That what is important in life, is what you deem worthy of importance. There is no substitute for family. You can never have too many friends, and laughter can change everything.  That half the fat ice cream will never be as good as the real thing. That a good cry is cathartic and can remind you that you are alive. Against popular opinion you can listen to Christmas music any season.

I sure do hope that in the next 30 years I will get better at saying the things I want to say, regardless if the answer is not what I want to hear. I hope that I will be able to decipher between the moments that truly matter and the ones that don't. I hope that the walls of my home will reverberate with the sound of children's laughter. I want to look in the mirror and know I am beautiful at any age. I want to believe that life is full of endless possibilities, and that your glass can be infinitely half full. 

For now I smile, because all I know is how truly blessed I feel in this moment to have family and friends who love me,  the opportunity to have a job that takes care of people, and how at peace I am with adding another candle to the cake. 
I love you all 
- j

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Perfect Storm

Growing up in Indiana, you know when a storm is approaching. My dad used to say you can tell because all the leaves turn upside down before the rain, and by the rich smell the earth has before the storm. When I was little I  was terrified of storms, there were countless crying episodes at the Pasko compound secondary to my fear of storms. I remember my dad would stand on our back porch and watch the rain pouring down as the dark clouds rolling in, as he proceeded to watch and listen to the lightning and thunder. While it has taken me years, I finally am able to appreciate a storm, the unpredictable perfect combination of cold air meeting hot air and the electrostatic chemistry that follows. Much like a perfect storm,  I believe that real life is much the same:  a little bit of chance, and a lot of being in the right place at the right time.

When it rains, it pours as the old saying goes and so it was for one my friends. My friend was moving to a new place, starting a new job, with a guy we all were a bit skeptical about. I blame myself and others a bit, because we were the silent witnesses to what was about to happen. The two were engaged for almost a year when I get a call a month before their wedding " Jen, the wedding is off.  He told me he didn't love me."  There is a certain sort of pain that comes with that statement, an awkward card to wedding guests stating the wedding has been cancelled, and the throwing away of thousands of little napkins with your name and his printed on it.  In my heart I hated this man for what he did to her, but in a way I was so grateful because I knew something better was in store for her. Yet perhaps things do happen for a reason, worlds collide and bam, my beautiful friend met her perfect companion.  I am overjoyed to report that my friend will be getting married in the fall, to a man that couldn't be a better match.  

If my friends today would have met me in college, I don't think they would recognize me. I was the ultimate planner, the queen of routine, the "to-do list" master, and the rule follower. Yet the spring of my last year in college I remember my life changed for ever. All my perfect plans were shattered. I had been rejected from every medical school I applied, my father had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, and I was left picking up the pieces of the life I once knew.  It is a rarity in life to have the ability to re-invent yourself, but this is what I did. From some of the darkest times of my life, I have truly learned to live. I am happy to report I haven't written a single to-do list since that year. I have learned that spontaneity is the spice of life. That time is perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can be given. This was one of the most influential years of my life,  a year of rebuilding, a year of growth. It has given me the tenacity and strength to know I can weather almost any storm.

I received a call from one of my good friends last week and though we hadn't talked in probably over a month, you know she is a good friend because we seemlessly picked up where we had left off. We began chatting briefly about the weeks that have progressed and then without hesitation or presentation she says. I'm moving to Uganda in October. While I am driving in my car (a ticket waiting to happen) a chill came over me, and tears began welling up in my eyes- happy tears. Perhaps it is because I knew her long journey to this point, the unhappiness in her job, the courage I knew it took to get to this point, and the will to act. I couldn't be more happy for her,  I think it is the perfect timing for something truly beautiful in her life

I often wonder am I doing what I am supposed to be doing? Am I where I am supposed to be? After asking these questions,  I don't feel the turbulence and unsettled feelings of my early 20s, but a sense of peace.  I have come so far, evaluated and re-evaluated. I am surrounded by good people, who care about me. I have family and friends that are supportive and loving. I like to get out of bed and go to work in the mornings. I can delight in the beauty that surrounds me. This is half the battle. And while there are many pieces to my puzzle that I can't seem to place, like love and career, I know that at any moment opportunities arise and clarity can set in. You just have to be patient enough to weather the storm.

Have a fabulous week

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The simple things...

My dad and I used to roll down the car windows on summer days and sing Jimmy Buffet songs at the top of our lungs. I was probably the only 11 year-old who knew every song to the Cheeseburger and Paradise CD compilation. We would laugh at out attempts to harmonize and to do instrumentals with vocals. I can see my father's face so clearing; laughing his hardy laugh and smiling. Life was simple, warm, and good. I think about these times and wonder why life seemed so effortless.

But, I think this is because when you are eleven you actually can't imagine that summer will end. You think that school will never start and you can run through the sprinklers all year long. Yet somewhere you learn life is a little more complicated. 

This week I have found myself in the single stall bathroom at work crying my eyes out. I am totally embarrassed to admit this, but this is the only place I can go where I know no one will hear me sobbing. I love my job, but it reminds me daily of the things I need to and want to do in this life. These past few weeks I have taken care of a 32 y/o man with the worst metastatic colon cancer I have ever seen. When you are 32 you are not supposed to get cancer. Explaining it to him is even worse, because when you are  32  the only thing you can think about is fishing in the river and drinking beers with friends. Instead he is in a hospital room with a pain pump and IV nutrition.  Perhaps the hardest part of this all is realizing that this man could be me, or anyone of the friends, or family I so dearly love.

As I come upon my 30th year, I have realized more than ever I don't have all the answers. While I might be a little bit wiser, I still struggle on a daily basis on where to go next.  In the last several years I have come to appreciate that there is never a reason to go to bed mad, laughter is the best medicine, happiness cannot be sought only found, and that having all the answers is overrated. I have realized that plans were meant to be changed, and that spontaneity is the spice of life. And perhaps most importantly, Love can change people.

I love to make homemade Valentine's day cards, and each year I cut and paste construction papers hearts to a card with one simple quote from Mother Teresa, " Where there is love, there is life." From the single lady who should never give love advice, I do know that when you discover how to love people and things without the requirement of love in return your life will be forever changed. These are the simple things I am trying to live by these days.

 Some of the most joy provoking moments of my life revolve around the ordinary. I love long drawn out dinners with friends and family. Last night we went to one of my favorite restaurants in town, where I frequent often.  We sat outside under some incandescent lighting and talked and laughed all night. So simple, yet worth every penny.  I love running outside, feeling the wind hit me in the face, and hearing the stories of others. I love getting a knock on my door from my neighbor at 9 AM, smiling with a bag of homemade macaroons ready for my taste testing.

So I ask what is holding us back today? I think about all the things I cannot wait to do. The marathons I am going to run or the art classes I am going to take,  the swimming lessons to be swum, and wonder why should I wait. Memories are just waiting to be made. Thus I get ready to scurry out of my house to meet up with friends, I can't help but sing:


Have a gorgeous week!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Ode to My Mother on Mother's Day

I think there is that moment that hits all women, oh my gosh " I am turning into my mother."  While I can try to deny as much as I can, I know there is a fair bit of Cath Pasko in me, and I am ok with that because my mother is a pretty phenomenal lady. She exudes love, warmth, and has a tenacity to overcome obstacles and disappointment like no one I have ever met.  She is the "cake boss" and a cook extraordinaire.  She is a loyal friend, and an excellent listener.  She  is the hostess, I wish I could be.  She is an excellent shopping partner. She is a comedian without even trying.  She is strong, brave, and courageous. She has taught me that to be beautiful on the inside is much more important than the outside. She is a constant support. She is my best friend and she has taught me life is precious and short and that you should say the things you mean.

While I am my mother's daughter, we do have very different lives. She was wed at 19 and was married for 43 years, I will be lucky to be married by 43.  As an added bonus my mother was engaged 2x in her life, of course having to tell the other guy she had met my dad, the ever charming.  She would have had 2 children by the age of 29,  while I am lucky to remember to water my plants. I often wonder how my mother raised such a stubborn, independent woman and then I realized she wouldn't have had it any other way. She raised me to believe in myself, to believe that the impossible was impossible, and for that I am ever grateful.

Thus, Mom, while I have failed at getting a letter in the mail or even a gift delivered on time, please know that I love you more than words can express. You are an inspiration to me daily, and you encourage me to be better person. You are the woman I call when boys break my heart, and the woman I want to share my greatest joys. I only hope I can be half of the mother you have been to me.  While I wish I could spend Mother's day with you this year, know that there is nowhere else I would rather be than with you. Please know that I love you and I am so glad that I am your daughter.

Happy Mothers Day

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Tourist in Paris....


Yes, as much as I hate to label myself with this term, I am most definitely a tourist in Paris.  Over the last 2 days I have really knocked it out of the park with seeing the sites of Paris.  So in order to make best use of our time on Day 3, we decided we would exercise/ run to all of the tourist hot spots, prior to the Parisians even waking. This is where our 6 mile run turned into 8 miles. Thus, my last two days in review...

Eiffel Tower
I did think it was going to be bigger in real life, but the eiffel tower looms over Paris as few tall buildings exist in the city limits. Chris served as our historian for the trip, as my French history is subpar, thus the eiffel tower was originally built for the World Fair of 1889 and is the tallest building in Paris.

Arc de Triompe
So next stop on our run Arc de Triompe, I took pictures and  learned the history then approximately 100 feet later wiped out on ground on the " 5th avenue of paris" the Champs-Élysées. Thus forgetting all knowledge of what I had learned about this structure secondary to sheer mortification from my fall 
and now apparent limp, we moved on.

Garden de Tullerias/Louvre 
I love gardens, flowers, and fountains thus the Garden de Tullerias was a huge hit.  Nothing else life shattering just a gorgeous park that opens into the entrance of the Louve.

At this time I was becoming "hangry", which is  a combination of hungry and angry,  so we decided to head on back towards our home and grab breakfast. We went to  the most adorable patissierie. The woman who waited on us had on the most gorgeous burnt orange apron on and a blouse that was dark blue and speckled with a pattern the same color as the as her apron. I was in love and of course seemed very French.  I ordered an almond crossiant and cafe crema. I swear this was the best pastry I have every eaten, thus now nourished I was ready to proceed.

We then headed to Sacre le Coure

Sacre Le Coure is probably my favorite tourist site in Paris. It is an old basillica built long ago on top of a hill overlooking Paris. From here you can see the entire city, it really gives you a feel for how big Paris really is. Truly gorgeous. 

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to eating. Yes eating, which I have done so much of  on this vacation. I am going to have to eat salads for months maybe years to work off all of the creme sauces, pomme frites, macaroons, and creme brulee  I have eaten on this trip. However, I would like to emphasize how much I love a good macaroon. I swear they are little puffs of goodness that melt in your mouth with a creme filled center that make you feel like you are eating air.  Check out Pierre Hermes, supposedly the best macaroons in town per our tour guide Steeve.  As an added bonus I was thouroughly entertained by the fact that there is an iphone app for this store. 

Lastly, no day is complete without cheese!! We went to Barthelemy for some amazing stinky cheese. It was a true parisian fromagerie as their English was as about as good as my French and the place had a true stench. Thus I am trying to do interpretive dance to communicate about cheese,  as well as by pointing and touching all the cheese in sight. I learned very quickly that touching the cheese is a huge no no in France. As the guy finally got my attention by making claw like hands that resembled bear claws everytime I touched the cheese. No wonder the French love Americans, we have to have our hands in everything. 

Ok another day down, more to come 

Au revoir 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Paris day two.... road trip!!! So today was a surprise trip to the Champagne region of France, for Chris's dad's birthday. If you know me at all, you would know I have a profound deep love for champagne. It is my drink of choice, as I believe every day is worth celebrating.  Thus my joy as we all loaded into a tour van to Champagne was absolutely uncontainable. This was only enhanced by our ever so charming tour guide Steeve.  Yes, steeve has 2 "E"s in his name, and as he is quite the history buff educating me on the basics of champagne.

So things you should know about Champagne, in France it is an everyday drink- no special occasion required. It is a way of life for these people, and it has been in these families for hundreds of years. Champagne is an Art. It takes 4-6 years before a harvest actually is placed on market, thus champagne is also an investment. The smaller the bubble the better the champagne. The more expensive the champagne the more it is marketed to Americans.  Don Perignon was first a monk, second a champagne man.

Ok enough fun facts, we started at a small family owned vineyard, R. C LeMaire,  where they make champagne. It was my favorite. They wanted us to understand the art of their work and how it truly is a family affair. The champagne was phenomenal, and our group bought 16 bottles.

 The next vineyard was Pommery, a well known commercial vineyard. We explored the caves, where they keep the champagne. The caves spanned miles and we were amazed at how much champagne could be stored. The champagne was also excellent.

                                                    View from the bottom of the champagne caves

We headed home for a night in, of cheese, and more cheese, with more champagne. Honestly, a perfect evening if you ask me. More adventures for tomorrow

Au revoir


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pasko in Paris!!!

It has been a long, cold, wet winter in Portland. It has been some time since my last entry, and much of this is due to my hectic schedule. The second year of residency is notorious for being the worst year of residency, and I would have to agree. While I love my job there is something about this year that has weighed particularly heavy on my soul, perhaps it is the constant frustration, the inability to do anything right, or the feeling that you are not progressing in your own personal life.  Thus mid- march this year I made a brash, but much needed decision to travel to France. As my mother would say to me when I was little, I was in need of some ER, or lovingly known as emotional refueling.

Thus I boarded the plane Saturday for a trip to Paris, with layover in Amsterdam. One of my favorite things about this trip is that I was on a sky bus, which is the most luxurious plane I have ever been on. Remote controls, luxury hand soaps, and free wine on all european flights. I watched every movie I haven't had time to see in the last year to see in one setting. I recently had a discussion with one of my friends where we talked about if we had 1 rainy day in Portland with nothing to do, we would watch movies all day and wear pajamas. I basically did that yesterday and would like to report it was awesome.  Argo and Perks of being a Wallflower are my top picks.

Secondly,  the guy sitting next to me on my 12 hr plane ride, Alec, who lives in the south of France and was just happened to be working for my good friend's father -in -law in Hood River. Really, of all the people to sit next to, I sat next to someone who we have a mutual acquaintances. Truly, the world has never been smaller or bigger for me.

So I arrived in France at 10:30 AM and then it basically was a scavenger hunt to get to my apartment I was renting. So I cashed in some Euros and then hopped on the RER train into Paris, which is the public transportation. Having done some evaluation. I knew the station I needed to get out on, but was relying on my GPS to get me to the address. So as I came above grown with the largest suitcase known to mankind to ake in my first sights of Paris I knew I was in love. Soot stained white rock homes with gorgeous black little balconies, with plants looking over the city, crowded street bistros, and sun shining down on me. A truly glorious day, until my phone's international data plan failed.

Thus the next 1 hr that existed was of me, meeting Parisians in my broken french "Pardon, Parlez vous angles?" in the dire attempts of finding my apartment, with the last resort plan of me getting a cab. There were brief moments in my head where I was kicking myself for not Rosetta stoning prior to this experience, but all in all I couldn't have been happier. Thus from the help of approximately 15 Parisians, who I can't decide if they could sense the sheer panic in my voice or just the desperation in my eyes, who walked, pointed, directed me to the big brown door which is my apartment, I thank you. Whoever said parisians hate Americans, yesterday they became the nicest people EVER.

My place is delightful, think Louis the 16th meets small apartment. There is a huge chandelier, and gold encrusted mirror, with furniture that does appear to date back to Louis. Quickly settling in I met up with the Chris Connelly who will be known as  Christophe for this trip and Courtney Nall who will be Coco-belle for the rest of my adventures. We walked along the Seine, prior to have a nutritional consult with an adorable bistro. Salad Nicquoise, and cafe de cremas were high on my list. We walked around Notre Dame, and the little side streets of Paris. The town was all in a bustle yesterday, it was in the 60s, sunny and I felt like every Parisian had left their home and was outside. We had plans of attempting getting ice cream, but every ice cream store had lines around the corner. We ended the evening with a delicious European dinner, with old friends and new. Laughing and copious amounts of champagne and wine were absorbed. Did you know champagne is cheaper than wine here? This is excellent news.
We are off to a day trip today, the location cannot be shared until this evening due to its sensitivity as it is a surprise, more details to come.

Au Revoir!