Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Paramount Idea

I have no idea where this year has actually gone.  School has engulfed me, leaving little time for things that I truly love like blogging. Thus this post is months overdue and really another ode to brunch,  one of my favorite meals of the day.  I just happened to be going over some old emails when I ran across this picture. I normally don't post pictures of myself since I am a non-photogenic person, but this one I had to post because it adequately reflects the joy I am experiencing at this moment.  You can mark this as the carbo loaded pancake fruit glow.

No in all seriousness, this picture was taken at Paramount, a little restaurant on my favorite street in Boston, Charles St. Not only was I in my favorite city, but I also was with one of my best friends since about the age of 12.  I have many happy thoughts about this visit as it came at  just the right point and time in my life.

There are many aspects to this restaurant that I appreciate. First and most importantly is their no saving seats mantra, one of my pet peeves of life.  As if elementary school wasn' t bad enough, the fear of not having a seat at the coveted "cool" table has been obliterated.   It is a sort of a cafeteria style, watch it while they cook it place. I don't know how they do it but serendipitously as you are paying for your food a table opens up. The place itself is in a tiny corner tucked away, quaint, and eclectic. Exposed brick and old school diner like feel give the venue an added charm. It radiates a warmth that is not found in many places and a long line that continues far past the front door.  The smells of roasting coffee permeates the air while the sounds of a nearby newspaper rustling in your ear is like a harmonious melody.

I absolutely adored my dining experience, but perhaps more importantly the company I shared. I believe that in a  greater sense brunch is this magical time where you catch up on all the things that are going on while life is happening.  It is a pause, a refresher, and better yet a life saver when the weight of life is dragging you down. I feel that brunch has brought this added sanity to my life a time to cut up, shut up, and actually listen to the people around me. Thus I encourage you to endulge and experience the loveliness, which can only be called Brunch.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Starting from scratch

As many of you know I celebrated the 26 th anniversary of my birth this past Wednesday. While the birthday itself was uneventful; I just did my daily duties at school and had a quiet evening of pilates to celebrate. Yet in the scheme of life this birthday was a milestone for me.  As I look in retrospect on the last year I realize that it was as tumultuous and trying as any year thus far.

I would define the last year of my life as my year of "starting from scratch."  You see I might not be the domestic diva that my mother is, but I do have a great appreciation for things that are crafted from scratch. I honestly believe that food just tastes better when two loving hands are preparing the meal. Perhaps it is the added pad of butter or the sprinkle of sugar, but nothing can compare to something homemade. I love the whole concept of how ingredients  that should never go together are placed in a bowl beaten, stirred, and baked to come out with a product of sheer goodness. I guess in short, I feel like I have been a product of scratch this year; drained, whisked, and pureed only with the hope of good things to come

I feel like we grow up with this blanket of security tightly wrapped around us. It is constant and unchanging, and thus when it is ripped from our little paws we are left standing there shocked cold and unsure of what's next. I guess this is how I felt this year after the death of both of my remaining grandparents. While my relationship with both was very different, still I realize that they are irreplaceable. I think in life you only have a select group of people who are dedicated to being your biggest fans. It is quite a loss to your team when you lose two in the same year. Thus, the traditions and constants in my life are changing and I have no choice, but to start over.

New beginnings can be fresh and invigorating, and just what the doctor ordered. After spending 2 years in Bloomington this summer I was forced to pack up my sweet little apartment and move to Indy. I will never forget as the tears rolled down my eyes as I left beautiful Bloomington with all my bags in tote and headed to the concrete palace of Indianapolis. While I fell upon a gem of an apartment, there still comes a lot of unneeded stress from rebuilding and starting from scratch. I feel if we are honest with ourselves we care a great deal about what others think of us. Therefore starting at a new campus, a new year of school, and meeting a large handful of people comes with the added worry of "will people appreciate the person I am."

I think that a lot of emphasis is placed on the way we define ourselves and the people "we claim to be." As for me I believe that I would describe myself as runner and actually take a lot of pride in that. Yet, I was given a very big blow this fall after the Chicago Marathon, where I had to end my euphoric run at the 18 mile due to an injury. For future reference, this is an awful feeling. You have been working towards this one day for months and to have to fail at completion of the task in unnerving. I remember how humbling the next 2 months and even still today have been, not  being able to run and hobbling around like Tiny Tim. I realized that I was starting from scratch. The girl who could go run 10 miles without a blink of an eye couldn't even fathom running 10 yds. Yet, today I realize that my running woes have forced me to slow down and take in some scenery and to appreciate the one body I have been given and to use it wisely. Have no fears I still intend on continuing my marathon wonders.

Perhaps the most entertaining of all of my new beginnings has been my own quest to use cooking devices such as the stove and oven. I too am trying to be a creative and healthy cook. And they say that some people can't change. Ha. I have found some cathartic element in my kitchen. It has become this sanctuary where I can allow my creative juices to flow and at the end have something to show for it. I honestly have no idea what I am doing with some of these utensils, I might even be making new uses for them, but hey I am trying. 

Thus in closing, I guess we never no what a year will bring. We can hope, we can guess, but we will never know. What I have learned in the last year is that starting from scratch might feel as awkward as putting your shoes on the wrong feet, but in the end there has to be something gained from the experience. I often wonder what the perfect recipe for happiness might be for the next year. We all have been given the same potential ingredients for a gourmet gift of glee, but in the end in comes down to how we deal with a little burnt around the edges or the cookie that does raise. Its about dealing with the unexpected --the good the bad, taking chances, and above all making moments to remember all year long.  

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Talking to Strangers

When I was little my mom used to dress me in these huge dresses with socks that jingle. Literally everywhere I would go you could hear me jingle down the hall. My mother probably had no idea how humiliating this was as a small girl, her only goal was to keep good tabs on me as I jingled around stores. You see, my mom would continually sit me down and talk to me about the importance of not talking to strangers. While the reiterated words of my mom still ring in my ears today, I just couldn't help the fact that I loved talking to strangers.

We would be at the mall and my mom would be making a purchase transaction and I would be standing next to her patiently. She would be checking out with that pretty plastic card and in that short duration of the transaction I would be gone in a flash. Of course my mother in a panic, is calling my name, looking in between the racks of clothing , and then her gaze falls upon me. There I was sitting next to a nice old man chatting it up. My mother would kindly grab my arm and thank the man for chatting and then scold me for running away and talking to a complete stranger. I will never forget the threats of my mother as she looked me in the eye and said with all honesty," Do you want to be the next face on the milk carton? "

What is even more enjoyable is that not much has changed over the years. I love strangers and I always have.  I get this uncanny delight in meeting new people.  Whether it be on the subway, school, or the airport I love striking up a conversation with the person next to me. While some of my friends would die if they knew that I was the chatty cathy next to them on the airplane, I feel that some people are actually glad that someone is willing to listen to them. I have had coffee, dates, and heard life stories from the most interesting and charming strangers. Yet, perhaps this is where my interest lies, How can a stranger feel so comfortable telling me there most secret and personal of stories? How did I become the lucky one?

I can say that through my many escapades with strangers I have heard stories of struggle, death, and happiness. I feel that for the most part people are just yearning to connect with another human being and if I can be that person for a 2 hr plane ride so be it.  Or maybe it is the way we project ourselves to others. A smile is one of the most welcoming and inviting signs a person could ever give me. I am not saying that all strangers are good, but what I am saying is that some of my greatest life altering moments have been while in the presence of strangers.

I will never forget the woman I sat next to on the plane on the way home from Atlanta after a trip to Boston. I remember as she asked me what I did and if I had a husband. To that I responded in my normal fashion, " I am a medical student at IU, no husband I repel men." With that small gift the woman began to share that she had survived a thirteen story fall from an elevator that had snapped. She talked about her rehabilitation and the new view on life she had received. She told me how it actually had been one of the best gift she had been given. She spoke of her daughter who knowingly married the love of her life who had a congenital heart disease and was dying unless he received a heart transplant. I listened while she taught. There are moments when I think to myself I am so glad I am here right now, how blessed am I, and this was one of those moments. She spoke as if she knew me in such a surreal way. She spoke words of wisdom ... Things that I needed to hear. Words about true love and partnership, words of lost opportunity, and words of living a life of purpose. As we both sat on that plane crying together, I realized that sometimes it is the stranger among us who can reveal the most sincere and honest parts of our being.  

Thus this week I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do the unthinkable...Talk to a stranger. With it I hope you can find the sheer delight that I receive from these encounters and more importantly I hope you see that it is one of the most unguarded and real conversations you will ever have, because there are no expectations and no preconceived opinions of you. So go out and meet some strangers!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Iron Chef Indianapolis

I have now been working in the hospitals for 5 months and what I have learned in this time is a world about medicine and a whole lot more about people. I have realized that every hospitalized person watches the Food network. I am still not sure if it is because hospital food is that repulsive or if the food network is really just that popular. Thus, you can imagine my excitement when I learned of a party that was centered around this very subject.

I first heard about this event about a year ago, my best friend who is in dental school had told me of a party that one of her colleagues had creatively crafted called Iron Chef Indianapolis. As I listened to details of the evening, I realized I had to be able to participate in the next soiree. Thus this weekend I felt like Charlie from chocolate factory as I had found my very own golden ticket to the dental event. The host had an intricate game plan which of course included the "secret ingredient" as well as each teams own cooking device. From the George Forman to toaster oven, all sorts of cooking paraphernalia was present. 

While I was casually late to the event, the cook off had already begun to my dismay. The secret ingredient of the night was the fresh, citrus delight none other than the lemon.  Each group consisted of two to three people who were in charge of a specific dish from appetizers to dessert all courses were covered.  While my tardiness prevented me from tasting these delicacies I know that the dishes ranged from the zesty lemon salsa to the savory sweet lemon raspberry compote.  The winners were given the lovely gift of Miller High Life champagne! (Which was a new one for me)

What I am sure of is that my creative Rt sided brain was definitely stimulated by this unique and ingenious gathering. I felt inspired and truly grateful that I had attended. I tend to rank social functions by the following-- good people, savory  food, and plentiful libations, all of which went well beyond my expectations. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lost in translation

Over the last couple of months my family and I have been cleaning out the years of savings and collections of my grandmother's house.  I cannot decide which is worse; the funeral itself or the time traveling I do each time I walk into her home. All the memories flood over me, the smells, the pictures, and her extensive jewelery collection still reside in the same place as if she were just out for awhile. I mean there are some entertaining pieces of my grandmother that we have discovered that we never knew. For instance my grandmother loved decorative paper towels. So in a file case, we found folders and folders of paper towel with Christmas ornamentation to jolly looking bears filed away.  However, one of my most treasured finds on these cleaning bonanzas was in an old Reebok box. This is very fitting because as long as I can remember my grandmother wore these white Reebok tennis shoes that were circa early 1980s.
Before I describe the contents of this box perhaps we should discuss the relevance to my life. I am for what my mom would describe as a very independent person. Yet, my mother feels that I would best be suited with a man firmly attached to my side. I mean  it has gotten so bad that the last time we went to a funeral my mother introduced me as " This is my daughter Jen, she likes boys."  My grandmother too was very consumed in my extracurriculars, Do you have a boyfriend? Have you met any lookers? And this pretty much sums up the interrogation I would receive as I came to visit my family for any holiday. While I am perfectly fine  and secure with my single status, I am aware of the angst it has caused my family. 
Yet as I opened the old Reebok box, I felt as if I understood the incessant interrogation and questioning for all those years. I have often prayed for just one more letter from my grandmother and what I received were hundreds. As I fingered through the old letters, I saw that they were dated 1945. As I peeled the antiquated stationary out of the envelope what I had found were love letters between my grandma and grandpa during WWII. Not only did my grandmother write my grandpa everyday, but the love that is shared on these pieces of paper is priceless. Perhaps it is the phenomenon of young love; the vibrancy, the infatuation, or maybe just the sheer fact that they were not sure if they would ever see each other again that gave each letter so much depth. I reflect back to my grandparents as I knew them, and it just makes me smile, because the love in the letters was portrayed so differently than the love I witnessed growing up as a child.
I often wonder if the love of today has somehow gotten lost in translation. I mean from random hook ups  to makeout friends has the love of old been replaced with the instant gratification of today. In one of the letters  from my grandfather, he writes "Melba I miss you just like the stars would miss the skies." While I am pretty sure I would laugh my head off if anyone ever said this to me, there is something so real and genuine in the letters my grandfather writes.  I supposed it is the sincerity of his love that I feel is so absent in today's world. I feel like the words "I love you" are flippantly thrown around and that a sense of security rests in the option of divorce and separation. 
I now realize that the questioning and concern that my grandmother had for me was only her hopes that I might experience the same kind of love that she did. The love that every woman deserves.  We all grow up learning of prince charming and how he sweeps the girl of his dreams off her feet, and  looking back now I can see in  my grandmother's eyes that she had known this kind of love. I think about their fifty some years of marriage and wonder am I capable of a love that lasts a lifetime. Better yet, would  I recognize it if it hit me in the face. 
An old friend and I were chatting about this very topic at brunch. We decided that love is so different than it used to be. Love was a matter of life or death during our grandparents era, and today it a concern of availability, your hotness factor, and what you are willing to put out. While I am far from a cynic, I  must ask the question is the love of old a dying art? I am not saying that we should all go out and demand red roses and love letters, what I do ask is that you be cognizant of your motives.  The optimist in me is forced to believe that genuine love, the kind my grandparents knew, still exists. The problem is like with any great art, it is shaded and contrasted in many lights and thus takes the right eye to fully appreciate it beauty and meaning.  Thus, Happy Hunting ....

Friday, June 19, 2009

I should have been a hippie.

It just so happens that I am on my Psych rotation right now at the Veteran's Hospital in Indy. In the last week I have become incredibly close with a man who for these purposes we will call "Duke."  He is a paranoid schizophrenic who for some reason I have bonded  with quite extensively. I am quite proud of the fact that I have been able to provoke this stone cold perpetually sleepy schizophrenic to stop dead in his tracks and just bust out laughing at some of the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth. Yet, today during our session, I was asking him about where he grew up and if he lived here in town. He replied he lived here in Indy, and he then proceeded to ask me where I was from. For reasons beyond me, I just blurted out Bloomington since it was the last place I had been living. The man brought his downcast eyes from the floor and looked me straight in the eye and said, "yeah, you look like you have that hippie vibe from Bloomington."

Is it really that obvious that a psychiatric patient can recognize my undying affection for hippies? Perhaps its my unruly curly hair or better yet my love for bold and loud clothing that tipped him off, but one things for sure is he is dead right.  After living in the hippie haven, Bloomington, for two years I was able to experience them in all of their liberal glory. Perhaps it is the ease in which they can put on those long flowing skirts in the scorching heat of summer or maybe it is the freedom of not caring what others think, but I just can't help but be enamored by them.  They are creative geniuses in their own right.  While I am stressing over creating the perfect SOAP note, my hippie cohorts will let nothing get them in a bind. They rule their own schedules and they make up the right brain of our population.  These fine people are the writers, photographers, and artists of our time.  

While they might be partaking in recreational drugs, they have no fear of repercussions. They toke it up, smoke it up, all in plain sight. While drugs are not my style, I think that I could greatly benefit in a world where the stress of living up to social norms is obliterated.  A place where you can dance around wearing the loudest of loud outfits or to truly appreciate the meaning of the words "free love."

Don't even get me started on how they are the kings and queens of decreasing the carbon footprint. They are your organic junkies, bicycle loving, hummus eating, earth saving friends. They took those 4th grade seminars  we use to have on reduce, reuse, recycle to heart. They stage protests and hunger strikes to make a point. They need no violence or corruption to let their point be known.  They are the Mary Mary quite contraries who can make any garden grow. They are fruitful and resourceful. 

They are some of the friendliest and kindest people I have ever met.  They see the beauty in the world around them, and the people that populate it. They see the richness of color and diversity.  They live by no rules and celebrate a life  full of stress free events. They inspire me to embrace the moment and to live a life full of love and happiness.

If you have ever met me, you would know that I am far far from the point of refusing to shave my legs or armpits, I don't participate in recreational drugs, nor do I have the greenest of carbon footprints, but what I do have is an open mind and a yearning for a moment of clarity. In this moment I would breathe in all of the beauty of this world, live a life that is free of stress, and recognize that we all have something unique and different to contribute to this world. So maybe Duke is right in one way, I might give off a hippie vibe, but in reality I am just a wanna be in a short white coat.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Vegetarian Vacation

I have been a self-proclaimed vegetarian for about 5 years. I haven't always been a herbivore though. I feel that it was prompted upon my studies abroad to Spain. I remember how my Senora would sing a little spanish melody as she hacked into the huge hunk of ham leg that hung from a peg in the kitchen. Everyday she would shave some off and put it on my plate. I would just stare at this glistening piece of little piglet as my Senor devoured his serving in one swift fork full. After ingesting this Spanish delicacy he would lick every single finger with loud smacking noises. I never liked meat all that much before the trip and as they say this was the spark that started the fire of my so-called vegetarian lifestyle.

Today I was curious to the proper terminology of my eating habitues. I have laughed over and over about the fact that while I am not a vegan or a pescatarian I do qualify as an ovo-lacto-tarian. This simply implies I partake in milk, eggs, and of course cheese. Yet, some unruly things have been happening to me of late. I have had these urges and cravings for meat. Now don't get me wrong, I don't dream of double thick burgers and fries, I mean I might truly be ill if this was the case. Yet, I feel like my body is crying out for some protein that my favorite protein-packed yogurt Fage cannot provide.

Thus for the last week I have been on what I would like to deem "my vegetarian vacation." Quite honestly it has been nothing less than delightful. I have fancied myself on chicken tenders and tilapia thus far, but perhaps my most exciting and exhilarating discover has been the world of sushi. I honestly just don't know where to start, it is stinkin' fabulous. While wining and dining with an old friend at a place called Naked Chopstix in Broadripple, my palate was pleasantly surprised by the little roll of goodness that was presented in such an aesthetically pleasing way.

Thus I am left in a predicament, while I know I cannot eat meat every night or perhaps every week, should their be a sushi exception? I sometimes wonder if all my calorie-counting ways and restrictions have left me blinded from the goodness of things like sushi. Where do we draw the fine line between disciplined and restricted? While I lack the capability to even attempt to be a vegan (I mean cheese without wine is almost a sin), I sometimes wonder if it is really about the animal product at all, or is it more about the control that one has over what enters their body.

While I don't plan on being a glutton for meat nor do I plan on being a pig advocate, what I do know is that I have truly enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone this past week. I often times find that some of my most memorable adventures and experiences are the moments when we allow ourselves to take risks and place ourselves in vulnerable places. Thus for now, I am probably going to head back to my ovo-lacto-tarian ways, but will try to allow myself to delight in the delicacies of life, and I think you should do the same.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Grapeling with Grief

It has been so long since my last entry and yet so much has occurred in two months. I have finished my second year of medical school, moved to the thriving metropolis, and in between the two lost my grandma unexpectedly. I am not one who likes to be surprised, I am what some would call a perpetual planner. You know I take an umbrella everywhere I go, a sweater in case I get cold, and a cold beverage to quench my thirst. Yet, regardless of how prepared for life one might be I don't think anyone is ever truly prepared to experience or witness death.

Grief is one of those emotions that is paralyzing the kind that leaves you emotionless incapable of movement or understanding. When I was a little girl I remember how I would lay in my bed motionless, paralyzed by fear after hearing a mysterious noise in the house. This is the same kind of feeling I had after learning my grandmother had passed away. My grandmother and I were very close. Living only 10 mins down the road I was blessed with the luxury of visiting her and seeing her often. Yet, through this entire ordeal I have only felt this horrific feeling of loss and I have realized that pain is the only price we pay for loving someone so deeply.
As the memories of my grandmother flood over me, I can only help but smile. A friend and confidant, for twenty-five years we bonded in a way that was much deeper and richer than granddaughter and grandma. My grandma was a cavalier, and a leading lady of her own story. My grandma grew up during the great depression, she knew how to skimp and save like the best of them. Despite this my grandmother had one of the most giving hearts one could imagine. Yet, perhaps the things that I cherish most about my grandma is the way she would bound through our back door always with a smile on her face. My grandmother was always a gorgeous woman, whether she recognized it or not; she was timeless. In all honesty, my grandma had a better social and love life than I do. She had a magnetic personality and had a vivaciousness and love for life that I could only hope to have. Stylish and classy my grandma prided herself on looking fabulous at any age.
Yet, one of the things I will miss most about my grandmother are her letters. She grew up in a time without email or this crazy thing we call twitter. She was old school in the sense that she appreciated and loved to write letters. I tend to be one of those people who keeps everything, thus, these letters from my grandmother that I have I treasure. The last letter she wrote me I will save and cherish forever, It shows the depth of her love and the goodness of heart. She writes,
"I am so excited to see your dreams come true."
Grammy Mel XOXO
While she will not be here to see this, I only hope that I can fulfill her requests and all of the hope that she instilled in me. I often times fall asleep hoping that my grammy will grace me with her presence. I hope she will ask me how my day was, tell me about the weather, or where her and her boyfriend went to lunch. Yet, as much as I hope and pray there are no more chats, no more shopping trips, and no more cooking lessons, but what I have been left with are the memories of a woman I loved so dearly.
I haven't decided yet whether my tender heart is a gift or a vice, but all I know is that my eyes have wept so much that my tears have run dry. I guess of all the things I wish I would have the chance to tell my grandmother the depth of my love for her, and how blessed I have been to have her. She was a peach, my "Melba" peach.
Thus this week don't be afraid to tell someone you love them. Call them. Write them. Heck go visit them. Time is precious and fleeting. Take time to appreciate one another and the beauty and depth to life we each have to give to this world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sinfully Satisfying

I have had one of those crazy weeks. The kind where you feel like nothing can go your way and all you can do is just laugh between the uncontrollable sobbing. My life in the last month has been stripped of most of the things that I love and enjoy. With a gimp leg, the large rain cloud of the boards ominously following me, and the fact I might be homeless in a month has caused me to experience large amounts of anxiety. My mother and best friend would rather blame it on the "plate to full syndrome." Which in some way they both are probably correct, yet this tends to be the way I roll. So amidst my minor breakdown, I discovered that I really needed a sweet treat. My 35 calorie chocolate fudge-sicle wonder was not going to cut it. Thus I headed to my Hippie Haven, where granola and nut butters flow'eth over, Bloomingfoods. But, on my way there in convo with my friend I had enough time to "accidentally" turn left on a red light with a police officer right behind me. Seriously, this could only happen to me. This promptly resulted in red an blue swirling lights in my rear view mirror. The sweet young man who approached my car kindly told me of my misdemeanor felony.  I batted my eyes, smiled coyly all in hopes of avoiding a ticket. Lucky me, he was feeling mighty generous as he sent me on my way  with only a warning reminding me to be careful of course.

So was it a sign? Still a little jostled from the prior encounter, I decided to continue on my quest for a sweet treat. I think none of you will be surprised by the fact that I am an avid calorie-counter. I even have a Mac widget devoted to calorie counting. Thus as I scoured the aisles looking for the most satisfying lo-cal sweet treat, I stumbled upon the most beautiful site my eyes had seen. It is called the Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookie. Homebaked by the geniuses of Bloomingfoods, its only ingredients were egg whites, vanilla, salt, cocoa, powdered sugar, and walnuts. I decided this was just the fix I needed. I would just like to inform you this is the most decadent thing I have eaten in years. So after devouring the entire cookie, I realized this was genius and had to share it with you all. To my suprise it only has 55 calories per cookie!  So delight in this sinfully satisfying cookie without guilt.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

2 1/2 cups walnut haves
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Line 2 baking sheets parchment paper
Pre Heat oven 350
Chop walnuts toast until fragrant (9mins)
Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt
Stir in walnuts
Add egg whites and vanilla
Beat with fork or electric mixer on medium until batter is just moistened
Drop batter by the teaspoon onto baking sheets
Bake 15 mins or until tops lightly cracked and glossy

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Refrigerator Fiasco

Over the past month I have been in a heated dispute with my landlords, honestly I don't know how they sleep at night, because if they treated everyone like they treated me they would have superfluous amounts of unhappy tenants. This entire debacle began in March when after a long mind altering run I came home to grab my favorite icing device, a bag of frozen peas, to soothe my aching muscles. Much to my surprise all I found was the squishy water-logged contents of the bag. This was a Friday night so I called the tenant hot line for emergencies. I kindly described to the people that my refrigerator was having some issues and the lady assured me this would be addressed. 

So five days later, 6 phone calls, one from Daddy Rex, and still no cooling in my refrigerator. Now let's review the situation. I was kindly informed on Sunday that refrigerator melt-downs did not classify as an emergency. Ok, so my water pipes have to be exploding or I must be breathing in carbon monoxide to get any assistance? Fine I thought for sure they would take care of it on Monday.  As I waited for the queen of landlords to respond to my phone calls I just became bitter. You see I am one of those health food nuts, the kind that buys organic flax-seed stuffed pitas, Fage yogurt, and other random organic foods so you can imagine my dismay as I began tossing my malodorous rotting food from my inferno of an ice box. This is where I would like you to imagine sweet Jen, the girl who can't pick a fight, transitioning into MAD DOG PASKO

Tuesday morning I had had enough. Dragging my two garbage bags of rotting food into their office I was there on a mission. I told them I wanted to speak to Brenda, the owner. I would like to take this opportunity to create a picture of Brenda. A 50 something year-old woman, hirsute, with little white hairs coming out of her chin, approaching morbid obesity, with salt and pepper hair, and a rather large mouth. It is a wonder I didn't run away when she stepped out of her office to greet me. Yet, I wasn't there to be friends. I just remember I was hot-to-trot. "At one point I asked her what she wanted me to do with all my rotting food?"  She replied,  "Well, its cold enough you could have put your milk  outside."  Oh hey Brenda-baby, maybe if I was Laura Ingalls Wilder that thought might have crossed my mind. I was infuriated. So then I began to raise my voice, and so did Brenda. It continued to progress like this until we were both screaming at each other. Then I just got tonked off, because for the first time in my life I felt a kind of discrimination I had never felt before.

You see Brenda talked to me like I was her 13 year-old child, or an imbecile.  Although I am a well-educated reasonalble woman, If I would have been a man with the exact same problem I would have never been treated that way that I was.  The reverse discrimination I received from the woman was so alarmingly shocking I left the rental place trembling. When I reached the safety of my own car I began to cry. I am one of those women in life who believe they  can do it all. I can use a hammer and nail, mow a lawn, and have no reason to be dependent on a male for any reason. However, leaving Hallmark Rentals that day I realized I had so much to learn about how the world operates.

Which brings us to today. You see they fixed my refrigerator(supposedly). Yet, three weeks later, yesterday to be exact, I wake up and of course my new bag of peas are small squishy balls in the bag and my milk smells like rank socks. Oh yes, so I call and just say my name and the woman on the other end of the phone asks me, "Are you the woman who brought her rotting food in?" So perhaps I am sort of a legend at Hallmark Rental, almost like a David versus Goliath sort of story, but all I know is that in the end I have won.  I am over joyed to announce that today I will be receiving my new refrigerator; and nothing will make my day more than to tell them to send the bill to Brenda, the big bad landlord.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Because Love Matters

I tend to have a weekend rituals of studying while brunching. It is one my treats to myself while at the same time an attempt to make progress and get some work done. I have a favorite spot in town where I go, the Bakehouse. In all honesty I go here because they have free wireless and bottomless cups of coffee, but the staff also knows me by name, which is an added perk.  Yet, this weekend my studious sanctuary turned into more than I could have ever bargained.

In life I am one of those people who always sees the glass half full, but this weekend I started to doubt this belief and wondered if I had become cold and frosty. As I was infiltrating my brain full of  knowledge about leukemias and lymphomas, I couldn't help but notice the world around me. To my right was a young couple sitting across from each other ka-noodling over eggs and hash browns. I couldn't help but watch as the man with his elbow on the table held his palm in the air and instantly his girlfriend placed her hand in his. They just sat and looked at each other hands intertwined as if they were talking through their eyes in complete silence. Quiet honestly, I was looking around the restaurant to see if anyone else was witnessing this scene. I don't know why it struck me so, but what I do know is that I felt something very real and it was love.

Now don't get me wrong I might be one of the last supporters of the old romance; the kind that sweeps you off your feet and intoxicates you until you are so inebriated that you can't tell which way is up or down. Yet, sometimes I wonder if this kind of love exists, and if it will ever find me. Still perplexed by my right-sided visual, I glanced over to my left for a breath of fresh air to see a handsome blond headed man. He had these gorgeous eyes, the color of sky blue.  I kept looking over between my multiplying white cells and cancer markers, to observe this most debonair man.  To my surprise he started a conversation with me. His voice is deep with the rich accent of European descent. It was then that he explained to me that he was from Germany working for two months in Bloomington while living with his girlfriend.  He then told me that he met his girlfriend while she was studying abroad in Germany. The two met and he said they instantly fell in love. Normally, I would have rolled my eyes or maybe even laughed at how sappy and icky romantic this was. Perhaps it was the accent or maybe it was the tone in his voice, but his story just made my heart melt. It wasn't until his girlfriend arrived that I realized that love truly exists. If two people half-way across the world can find love..... anything is possible. 

As I got up to leave, I left asking myself "Is this for real?" It was at that point I realized how the powers of love and  a little oxytocin can cause people to do things they could have never imagined. Love forces us to mature, to think of others more than ourselves, and places us in a place  of vulnerability. My best example of this was a conversation I had this weekend with a guy in my class. He is pretty much the closest thing to innocent and harmless as you can get. Yet he has one love, his forest -green Camaro. He talks about cars like I talk about shoes, thus you can understand the extent of his love. Yet, what he began to tell me about knocked me off my chair. With his big grin he announced to me, "Jen, I am selling my Camaro for a Subaru." It was at that moment I realized that my newly engaged friend was trading his bachelor car for his baby-go-getter. I literally had a moment.  Is love really so powerful that it can change the things we once coveted so dearly?

If anything this past week I learned that love matters. I feel that when times are hard and the world looks dismal love can often color it with a bright new palette. While at times I have seen love as suffocating and binding, I do believe that love holds the possibility of taming the wildest of hearts. Thus my hope for you this week is to give love a chance, in your work, your home, on the streets, and in your cars. Because love is not just an emotion displayed between two people but is also evident in the things we do. And trust me .....because love matters.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Identity Theft?

So the most unfortunate event occurred to me three months ago at the BMV. With my quarter of a century celebration also came the responsibility of renewing my license. First off, I am the least photogenic person you could ever imagine. I am always the girl with the stink eye or looking in the wrong direction so I was not super jazzed about the photo on the brink. All morning I got ready and perfected my look, I even spent a good twenty minutes working on my smile so that I could get it just right. When I arrived at the BMV I knew things were on a downward spiral when the rude and hirsute woman said, they were implementing new policy; no glasses, no hats, no headscarves, and no smiling. In horror, I sat and waited learning that all of this was to protect me from identity theft. As I was called up to the picture, I will never forget the way the man sighed in disgust as he told me my hair was way to big. I wanted to ask the guy what he wanted me to do about it? But instead he blew my face up the size of a basketball and cropped out all my hair so I look like the fat girl with leukemia. I mean really is he protecting my identity or just creating a new identity for me?

This caused me to have all these questions about identity swirling in my head. Who am I really?Is it merely just the distance between my facial features that define me? I think not. As I walked out of the BMV mortified by my new license, I began to look deeply into the many ways we define ourselves. Some believe their identity is made up by the DNA that populates their cells. Yet, many find identity in the family they grew up in, the color of their skin, or their family origin, while others are defined by profession, possessions, and hobbies. Life has a shocking way sometimes of just showing you who is boss. This year I learned some of the most life altering and shocking information I could have ever imagined. It changed the way that I look at identity forever. Identity is so much more than the DNA that created our inner being. Yes, as a future physician it would be hypocritical for me not to believe that genetics plays a role in development and disease. But, I definitely believe that we are creatures of our environment, shaped and molded by the people around us. Where did you get your smile? your personality? Your passion? For me I learned at the age of 25 that one of my parents is not my biological parents. Shocking, yes, but in no way did it change the way I feel about both of them. If anything I stand in awe at the depth of their love. The fact that I was brought up in a house where I had two parents that loved me and supported me, I feel truly blessed. A product of in vitro, I have thus been stripped in some way of the identity I once had. There are so many unknowns and variables I have been left to ponder.

Yet, I ask myself does it even matter? I have convinced myself that it does not. If anything it is another life experience to chalk up. I have learned over the last couple of years the most important parts of my identity are things that others will never be able to take away. I am a daughter, a friend, compassionate, driven, and vivacious. I want to be defined for the person I am not the profession I will lead, the car I will drive, or the shoes I might wear. Our identity is ever changing constantly evolving to better describe the person we are today. So perhaps one day I will be a wife, a mother, or a Bostonian, but for now I am just Jen a single white female, blue eyes, brown hair, organ donor, any other questions?

My blogging Sabbatical

While I have been on a blogging sabbatical for the last 5 weeks it has only left me with many things to ponder and ideas to share. I have been so rapped up in school, marathoning, and persistent pain that I have lost touch with the things that bring me such cathartic release. I am astonished at how easily we are distracted and absorbed by the hectic lives we lead...However, I am back oh faithful readers....and ready to blog baby blog.....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Val Pals?

I am dedicating this post to the quickly approaching holiday of Valentine's Day. Regardless of whether you are single, married, or dating I believe this is a holiday that should be celebrated by all. While we all may celebrate it in different ways, my hope of this post is to share with both men and women alike some tips to truly making this love struck holiday a success.

To all my male friends I just want to share with you some pearls of wisdom. You see while I can only speak for myself, I am a woman and I do have some advice for you on the things NOT to do on Valentine's Day. I know you are going to think I am crazy but do not be lured by the media and V-day multiple aisles full of Valentine's paraphernalia. You believe that because everyone gets flowers and chocolate for there girlfriend you should too. NO, If Jim Jones told you to drink the Kool-Aid would you? Let me tell you what I would think of if a guy got me flowers. Oh, this is a symbol of his love for me beautiful now but in a week they will be dead. Is he trying to tell me something? Quite possibly the worst gift I could ever receive would be chocolate. While most women are conscious about their weight, I would feel guilty about not eating a piece and then I would hate you tomorrow for making me feel fat. So in honesty I would steer clear from these over popularized gifts. I would encourage you to be creative and inventive, we love feeling special.

What women really want is a man who can think. I am telling you it is one of the sexiest and most alluring traits a man could possess. For example, on my escapades to Florence, Italy I went to see the David. While everyone else is taking in this masterpiece and the perfection of his naked body all I could look at was the pondering look on his face as he looked over his shoulder. All I wanted to know is what Michelangelo had in mind when he put him in that position, What was he supposed to be thinking about? Regardless, a woman likes a well thought out plan. In my life currently I tend to make all the reservations, set the time, and decide when and where everything is going down. To actually have someone take care of all this planning would delight me in every way.

Thus men, I encourage you to think about what your gal-pal really likes. Does she like to dress up or is she casual? Does she like Italian or bistro style? Once you have thought about this you call and make the reservations and plan the entire evening. If you were thinking about creating your own masterpiece at home with a candlelight dinner for two, that's beautiful and go with it. Yet, part of the fun of having a lad on your arm is being able to show him off to others. It's is not like you are a pair of new shoes or something, but women we are a weird breed.If we were are honest we would tell you that we constantly compare ourselves to others, and thus it is our nature to want to show you off as our sidekick. If we are going on a date with you, we are proud to have you with us and want others to see you too.

Yet, even more important to your success is in the presentation. While I believe you should be a gentleman all the time, Valentine's Day etiquette is of utmost importance. This would include opening the car doors, pulling out the seat, and ordering for your date. While I have had some awful experiences in my life, one of them was with the date who ordered my entire meal for me without asking what I liked. Not only did this tonk me off, but he also was disappointed when he learned I didn't like meat and would not be eating the rather expensive entree.

While Valentine's Day may just be another day to you, in the eyes of a woman it is an important day. We primp and prepare for hours only to look gorgeous and beautiful. Thus, you too should compliment her on her hard work by saying things like you are gorgeous, you look amazing, ect. Now guys this is important. We have just spent hours preparing ourselves for this night so we want to stay looking just like we do when we leave the house. I once was invited to a dance by an older guy in high school. I remember how excited I was as I spent hours getting ready and working on my hair. If you don't know me, I have some voluminously big hair so taming the mane can be tricky. I can still see my father's face from the window as my date and I pulled away in his yellow mustang convertible. He was laughing hysterically because all of the sweat and tears I had put into my perfect hair-do was now a massive beehive blowing in the wind. While I understand it is February, we have been having some unexpectedly nice weather; enough to coax Hoosiers to ride around in their convertibles. If this is the case please be mindful of your date.

Yet how I couldn't forget all my single ladies. I want to encourage you to get out there and embrace your singledom. My most memorable Valentine's days have been spent with a bottle of wine and great friends. Valentine's day is a holiday to honor love; whether it is people, places, or things. Yet, I always tell my friends who are forlorn and glum about not being attached during this holiday the real story of Valentine's Day. It is about St. Valentino who after being refused by his mistress was so distraught he plunged a dagger in his heart and then sent it to his mistress still beating as a symbol of his undying passion and love. I then try to reassure them that we do not need these types of unstable men in our lives. Single ladies everywhere should be making reservations to some of the best venues in town. I encourage you to pamper yourself and splurge. If dinner isn't really your thing then hit the movies, but I beg you please please don't stay at home. While I haven't decided which Bloomington venue I will be gracing I can tell you I will be there in style with a beverage in my hand. I believe an evening full of laughter and friends is some of the best time spent.

Thus as an ode to Valentine's day I encourage you to be spontaneous and creative and grab your Val- Pals and have a "Dang" good time!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The abc's that define me

I love to think of my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Wilson, she is this fabulous woman who is about 5 feet tall with a jolly build, a beaming smile, a sweater to match ever season, and quite possible might be a saint for the patience she bestows on her students. She not only has been enriching young minds for over 35 years, but better yet is still teaching at the same school I attended 20 years ago. She even has had the challenge of teaching the entire Pasko entourage Jill, Julie, and me. Yet, even as I embark on my 21 year of schooling, I believe Mrs. Wilson taught me some of the best life lessons I could have ever learned, "When all else fails go back to the basics." Thus, here I am again at the basics, the abc's. Yet, her great wisdom traverses farther than understanding the alphabet, abstract concepts, or even math, but it resonates in my daily life. I believe her plan all along was to prep us for the future, the busy work weeks, the unexpected spins, and to remind us that when all else fails you are never to old to go back to the basics. Thus, in an attempt to remind myself of the things that I love and that define me I have compiled a list of the abc's of me. I do have to apologize ahead of time because some letters deserve more attention, just think of it as a triple word score in scrabble.

Airports- Not going to lie, the sheer volume of excitement and joy that is contained in one building makes me want to fly those friendly skies more often.

Anatomy- my favorite class so far in medical school. The body is this intricate masterpiece which is orchestrated together to produce a complex and beautifully synced creation. LOVE IT!

Anthropology- quite possibly one of my favorite stores on earth. Earthy,Eclectic, and stylishly unique.


Brunch- need i say more
Boston- one of the most youthful, navigable, and delightfully historic cities. It has Jen-esque written all over it
Blogging- my cathartic outlet in my oh so studious life
Biggest Loser- No shame, my favorite TV show where I watch people lose entire people in 12 wks..hello inspiration

Coffee- Fact or fiction I drink 8 cups of coffee a day? Fact.

Dinners- I would have to say long-euro style dinners are one of the most perfect gifts on this earth. To relax with friends, laugh, and partake in a great wine over hours takes me to this place of effervescence and delight

Doctors- I actually am going to be one of them, but don't really like them at all

Elderly- I find so much beauty in a life fully lived. I love their lack of inhibition and wisdom. I love me some old people!

Fage- Ok so I am obsessed, I eat this every day with 2 splenda, cinnamon, and blueberries....

Fall- Quite possibly the most wonderful time of the year! I love the smell of decomposing leaves.

Farmer's Markets- my joy on Saturday morning from April -Dec is unobtainable as I see some of the most beautiful displays of fruits and vegetables.

Gorgeous- My favorite adjective on earth. There is something about the way that it rolls of my tongue.

Gardens-I wish i had one and didn't kill every plant i own.

Health- I love random health facts and ridiculous info about calories and nutrition

Intellect- is one of the sexiest and enduring traits i find in people

Independent- I might be one of the most independent people in the world...I honestly can't imagine what it is like to be dependent on another

Joy- Something I think we all should emanate wherever we go...Life is way to short to suppress this.

Kindness- is the universal language of love. Embrace it

Laughter- ok so I giggle like a third grader at recess. I laugh a lot, I mean a lot
La Croix- the most perfect zero calorie sparkling beverage out there

Maine- Lush, gorgeous, and beautiful memories
Marathons- my extracurricular for my 5th one in April

Newspapers- the rustic feel of the paper is enough to make you a believer. Plus love crosswords

Oatmeal- my soul food....My favorite dessert

Public Transportation- I hate cars! I can't wait to be able to use public transportation or walk to work everyday

Pendleton- my homeland

Quite possible the best friends ever! i have some truly gorgeous and wonderful friends who are beautiful inside and great!

Rex and Cath- the wonderful parents of mine who constantly reveal to me what true love is. Also the most polar and hilarious couple you might ever meet

Style- I love fashion. It is a form of self-expression. It is ever changing a little like myself.

Travel- I love to travel here, there, and everywhere. I find it one of the most liberating experiences one can have.

Thanksgiving- my favorite holiday there is nothing like a Pasko-Butler family get together

Umbrellas- I hate rain so the only thing that make it better are my psychedelic rain boots and Mary Poppin's umbrella

Very lofty goals- Pet peeves of life-dreams don't stop when you go to college .....I have so many I want to write a book, own a coffee shop, own a mint green 1957 chevy truck with a big steering wheel ect, ect...

Wine- Water and wine the essential beverages. I love Red wine ......dry, earthy, and bold nothing better

X-citing adventures- I am kind of like Dora the Explorer....I am looking for side kicks!

Yoga- Finding my inner chi

Zest- Spice it up! Zest for life is what makes it worth living.

I happen to run into Mrs. Wilson at the Pendleton Public Library over Christmas break, we stood outside in the cold chatting it up about school, life, and other random minute. Mrs. Wilson, is just recently the proud owner of a new kidney, she had a transplant almost a year ago. She asked me multiple questions about school and how things were going. I told her I am doing what I always have wanted to do but described the struggles and frustration of 2nd year. She grabbed my arm in all seriousness, the kind of forceful grab you get in kindergarten when you have thrown a recess toy or picked your nose, and she looked me in the eye and said, " Wherever you go and whatever you do there will be someone out there who is better or smarter, but don't you ever let anyone love more deeply or be more compassionate than you. Its who you are." Even 20 years later Mrs. Wilson is driving home the basics. She is right, it is so easy to drift away from core of who we are in order to fulfill an instituted role in society. I had let the competitive nature and constant lure for success in medical school blind me. All I really need to do is go back to the basics kindness, love, and zest for life and remember that these are the things that should be motivating me daily.

In this next week I encourage you to stop and revisit the basics of who you are. Remember the defining characteristics that make you unique. Because in the busy hectic lives we lead it is so easy to get caught up in the moment and the task at hand. Yet, I believe we are never to old for a refresher course on the basics.........because once you have those down, everything else just seems to fall into place.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elderly Enchantment

"I love me some old people." One of my defining characteristics, is my enchantment with the elderly. I find them as such an eclectic and diverse group of people who all have a story to tell. Perhaps that is why we get along so well, I delight in a great story. Nothing but experience and prudence can come from age, and time has allowed my aging friends to collect a comprehensive collection of strories and aphorisms to live by. I admire evertything from their newly found inhibitions on life, to their new soft food cuisine. In a country where age is nothing short of an infectious disease as people run, hide, and try escape the inevitable, I find that aging with eloquence and grace is one of the most beautiful displays of true beauty one can see with the naked eye. Thus, my hope today is to reveal to you the depth and wisdom found in a life truly lived.

As a medical student you are required to take patient histories, and to my delight most of our patients are of the aging community. While the entire purpose of this process, is to acquire the reason for their visit I cannot help but let my mind wander. The first thing I think about is what was this person was like 40 yrs ago? What did he look like? What has he accomplished? Inevitably I must shift my wandering mind back to the matter at hand, but I continue to yearn for his stories, good or bad. After each patient history I walk away with a new concept of disease and a new snippet of someone's life, which I store away in a safe place only to revisit later as a reminder of what a life truly lived would resemble. One of my greatest goals in life is to experience, embrace, and be engulfed by the world around me. I see the elderly as ambassadors to my soul guiding me and directing me to hot spots or to places I must go, see, or feel.

People often describe the elderly to one of my other loves of life.. wine. I find this a perfect analogy because I believe, like that goblet of goodness, everyone gets better with age. Just like my favorite Cabernet, the elderly have become full-bodied, bold, with hints of spice or oak, and leave flavors of rich tannins on your tongue that remain for hours. While the scrutiny of growing old can cause some to break a sweat, I find progression in life alluring. The aging population has no more time to sugar coat the world, they tell you how it is. They spend their days as mall walkers, dining at every restaurant in town, playing bingo, and enjoying the simplicity of life. The worries of their youth have past. They know first hand that the physical beauty of their youth is nothing but a fleeting memory, and that calorie counting was only a sorry excuse for keeping their math skills up to par. Yet, I still can't seem to wonder what they see when they look in the mirror. Do they see themselves as 25? Or do they recognized the withering face from their youth that reverberates back from the mirror?

I feel that in this society we have a propensity to glorify youth. Even though we have barely gotten our training wheels, we (those 20 somethings) have been trained to believe that youth is the ride of your life. However in all honesty, I tend to believe that I am no more than a wandering nomad most of the time searching aimlessly for guidance in every area of my life from profession, love, and purpose. Will I regret the choices I have made and the path that I have chosen to follow? All questions that those oh so wise aging friends of mine, would scoff and laugh at now. They realize that the questions and unknowns of life have left the sweetest memories and stories to tell.

Thus this week tap into your elderly outlet and create and live your own stories. Wear crazy hats and ridiculous outfits. Perhaps enjoy a lap around the mall or a great game of bingo. Or just cozy up in your comfy chair with a glass of cab, allow the flavor to seep into your tongue and imagine what kind of spice you will have to bring in your old age.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Identity Theft

So the most unfortunate event occurred to me three months ago at the BMV. With my quarter of a century celebration also came the responsibility of renewing my license. First off, I am the least photogenic person you could ever imagine. I am always the girl with the stink eye or looking in the wrong direction so I was not super jazzed about the photo on the brink. All morning I got ready and perfected my look, I even spent a good twenty minutes working on my smile so that I could get it just right. When I arrived at the BMV I knew things were on a downward spiral when the rude and hirsute woman said, they were implementing new policy; no glasses, no hats, no headscarves, and no smiling. In horror, I sat and waited learning that all of this was to protect me from identity theft. As I was called up to the picture, I will never forget the way the man sighed in disgust as he told me my hair was way to big. I wanted to ask the guy what he wanted me to do about it? But instead he blew my face up the size of a basketball and cropped out all my hair so I look like the fat girl with leukemia. I mean really is he protecting my identity or just creating a new identity for me?

This caused me to have all these questions about identity swirling in my head. Who am I really?Is it merely just the distance between my facial features that define me? I think not. As I walked out of the BMV mortified by my new license, I began to look deeply into the many ways we define ourselves. Some believe their identity is made up by the DNA that populates their cells. Yet, many find identity in the family they grew up in, the color of their skin, or their family origin, while others are defined by profession, possessions, and hobbies.

Life has a shocking way sometimes of just showing you who is boss. This year I learned some of the most life altering and shocking information I could have ever imagined. It changed the way that I look at identity forever. Identity is so much more than the DNA that created our inner being. Yes, as a future physician it would be hypocritical for me not to believe that genetics plays a role in development and disease. But, I definitely believe that we are creatures of our environment, shaped and molded by the people around us. Where did you get your smile? your personality? Your passion? For me I learned at the age of 25 that one of my parents is not my biological parents. Shocking, yes, but in no way did it change the way I feel about both of them. If anything I stand in awe at the depth of their love. The fact that I was brought up in a house where I had two parents that loved me and supported me, I feel truly blessed. A product of in vitro, I have thus been stripped in some way of the identity I once had. There are so many unknowns and variables I have been left to ponder.

Yet, I ask myself does it even matter? I have convinced myself that it does not. If anything it is another life experience to chalk up. I have learned over the last couple of years the most important parts of my identity are things that others will never be able to take away. I am a daughter, a friend, compassionate, driven, and vivacious. I want to be defined for the person I am not the profession I will lead, the car I will drive, or the shoes I might wear. Our identity is ever changing constantly evolving to better describe the person we are today. So perhaps one day I will be a wife, a mother, or a Bostonian, but for now I am just Jen a single white female, blue eyes, brown hair, organ donor, any other questions?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Brunch is a Beautiful Thing

Hands down without a doubt Brunch is quite possibly the most perfect meal. While I am a morning person by trade, there is nothing in the world to me like sleeping in, rolling out of bed, slipping on your favorite pair of jeans, grabbing the NY times, and scrambling to my favorite brunch locale. I am a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it is even better when you have the fusion of breakfast and lunch. The idea is ingenious; combining two meals into one vanishes all guilt that one might of experienced from over indulgence. Whether you dig a great egg or delight in the perfect pancake, the menu is endless. I also know that many a great brunches have been experienced after nights of numerous libations. Thus the best fix for that morning after buzz is none other than the oh so sensational mimosa. The splash of orange juice and champagne is the ultimate tummy tamer.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the brunch experience is the company you keep. Now don't get me wrong aesthetics have a huge impact on your dining soiree, but the friends or guy you have tag along can make or break the deal. I am for the lack of a better term a chatter, thus I require company that can keep up with my euro style long meals and conversation. The next important feature is the time of arrival and the kind of grub you dig. Are you a greasy egg Waffle and Steak type or the more eclectic local smockal? I tend to gravitate to local venues that offer a menu full of flair and excitement. Dining time can be tricky, with limited seating you either need to place a reservation or be prepared to wait in line. Patience is not my virtue so ...just make a reservation.

I truly believe that some of my most stimulating conversations with friends have been spent over brunch. From politics to art, brunch allows for an array of intellectual genres to be explored that cannot always be tackled on a normal evening date. Quite honestly men, brunch might just be the perfect date. I know that I and many of my female cohorts would agree full heartily with this statement. Regardless of who you are with, I have two requirements for you. One is that while you are there you take in the beauty of the people around you. The joy the smiles that are being shared over a cup of coffee and some late morning eggs. Lastly, my pet peeve of life- leaving the appropriate tip. As a former Cracker Barrel waitress I know how lousy it feels to be a server of breakfast and be given a dollar in pennies. Thus be generous, for the phenomenal brunch you have just experienced.

While my only hope is that I will see you Sunday for brunch, I ask that you give brunch a chance. If you know me, I love to travel and I make it a point to go to great brunch spots wherever I go so I have compiled a list for you, wherever you might live. Enjoy

Chicago: Toast
746 W Webster Ave Chicago, IL 60614

1746 N Wells St Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 337-2454

Boston: Panificio

Maine: Chase's Daily
96 Main St Belfast, ME 04915
(207) 338-0555

Zoot Coffeehouse

Portland, OR:
Byways Cafe

Indianapolis: Cafe Patachou

Three Sisters Cafe


San Francisco: Mama's

Philadelphia: Morning Glory

**So my friend and I were told to go here because they make their own ketchup....the woman described this condiment as orgasmic...... which as far as adjectives go we couldn't resist and it really is not that far off.


Uptown Cafe

Runciple Spoon

Growing Pains

I will never forget the way that I would cry during the night because of the intense pain that radiated through my body as it urged my legs and muscles to continue to grow and elongate. The way my mothers arms would wrap around me as she rocked me, the cure all until I fell back asleep. Looking back now I realize how much I appreciated the resiliency of my childhood, where every scraped knee and bruised elbow could be magically cured by a kiss and a Barbie band-aid. Unfortunately, I have found that the growing pains of adulthood do not seem to respond to the panaceas of my childhood. In medicine we learn that as we get older it takes more time to heal our wounds, and I believe this statement is true for any ailment we might suffer physical or emotional.

Oh, how life has a funny way of forcing us to grow and experience. As a child you have no inhibitions, no reservations, and sticks and stones may break your bones but others will never hurt you mantra. Yet, as we get older we are forced to experience the heartaches of disappointment, loss, and love. While you try to slap a band-aid on these grown up hurts you realize that it only is a short time fix for the emotional scarring that it can leave. No one ever warns you of the emotional growing pains because they are something we all must live and experience on our own.

Yet, what I have found is that the growing pains of my adult life have only allowed me to become a stronger and more confident person. It wasn't until a few nights ago that I realized that we all have wounds that are festering that haven't completely healed and that are preventing us from being the person we deserve to be. The initial injury for me was an event that occurred so long ago in high school, yet, the repercussions of that day continue to follow me. It dealt with the guy of my dreams, (oh how little I knew back then) and my best friend. The betrayal of a friend and the feelings of rejection from a guy I had confessed my interest in which only hurt and conjured up feelings of inadequacy. Then someone this past week, just as blatantly as day called me out, they saw through my facade of strength and questioned my feelings of self-worth. I finally understood that I could no longer permit this wound to seep into my daily life, but should allow it to become a battle wound, something I pride myself in surviving.

More importantly, adult growing pains have no warning or caution sign attached. As a child we were told if you touch the stove it is hot, or if you fall off your bike it will hurt. Now we are forced to just experience and respond. No one could have ever prepared me for the emotional gamut I was launched into when my father was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic liver cancer. I remember sitting by his hospital bed watching the miles of IV tubing attached to him as it flooded his body with potent drugs. I remember looking into his eyes and realizing that the man who could kiss every bump and bruise as a child and make it better, now only seemed weak and worn from the multiple rounds of chemotherapy. During this time, I refused to feel, see, or think anything. I was desolate and empty. Yet, with time I began to see the beauty that rested in his diagnosis. I began to see life so differently, while this pain near killed me, I grew as a person realizing that depth of one's life is only a reflection of our ability to feel and experience. Some wounds are meant to be reminders of how precious and meaningful life truly is.

Over the last two months I have watched some of my dearest friends experience heart break. While I have done a mighty fine job of avoiding this situation in my own life, I only wish I could take away the agony that trembles in their voices and the pain that rests in their eyes. Yet, I realize that this too will pass their wounds will heal and they will be fine, and perhaps even stronger than before. Which only makes me conclude that it is the growing pains of adulthood that bind us all. The deep gashes allow us to be able to empathize together. They remind us that we are not alone.

Thus, this week I encourage you to tend to your wounds, rip off the band-aid, and do some major debridment. The tiny scar that will form is only a reminder of how incredibly strong you really are.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Jen found her Zen

Ok, so one of my recent developments in the new year is the fact that I have become a bonafide yogi. While I have dabbled in the art in the past, I decided now more then ever I need to as some might say " find my Chi". So in the hopes of exploring this mysterious world and ancient practice, I have begun frequenting a local studio in town 2-3 times a week. Now if you know me you would be keenly aware that my flexibility resembles that of dry spaghetti so ever class is an entertainment for onlookers. I also am the type of person who likes to for the lack of better words "to feel the burn" so I was hesitant about yoga in the beginning. Yet, what I have discovered is that I sweat like a horse and always walk out feeling like someone has given me a swift kick to my rumpkcus.

In all honesty I have become nothing short of another barnyard animal from positions like downward dog, crow, cobra, cow, and cat I am ready to contort my body into as many interesting animal positions as I can. ( Ok so maybe cobra is not your normal barnyard animal) I am also fascinated by all the heavy breathing that goes on around me. There is a lot of talk about feeling the breath. What the heck does that mean? I sometimes feel like there is a pack of dogs all around me panting. Regardless, I have also found that if you get to class early you can claim your coveted mat position, which for your information is very important in the world of yoga. You see experienced students go to the front, thus what I am trying to say is I must claim my back row position with the aim of nothing else but self-preservation. Once this has occurred I begin the chatsky meet and greet with people around me. I am sure it is no surprise that this is one of my favorite parts about class; from young to old, male to female, or gay to straight the diversity that comes into this room is mind shattering. Ok men listen up this is for you. So yoga is not just for women these days, there is some beautiful eye candy that populate this class which one reason I always enjoy the experience.

All jokes aside, I do have to give these yogi gurus some love. In the time that I have been attending class I have experienced nothing short of peace and tranquility. The next day my musculos are always sore and honestly I can tell a difference in my body physique. To make a long story short --I heart yoga. It has opened up a challenging new world for me. It truly is a personal practice that makes you color outside the lines and do things you never thought you could do...just trust me. Thus go out there and find your zen, grab a mat, and bend like a human pretzel, I promise you too will find your inner chi....whatever that might mean.

Neon Lights

I can' t seem to get away from the fact that everywhere I go I see neon lights. From the fluorescent Open sign that blinks in my favorite coffee shop to the people crossing sign I run by daily, I cannot help to look at these snippits of color as my eyes are drawn to it like children to candy. Yet, when it first struck me I was cooking my vegetable of the month, broccoli. You see as I tore each tiny tree of broccoli into the pan I observed how bland and dull the stem appeared to me almost like the color of mint ice cream. The foliage of the tree,while full of color, only had a hue that resembled algae;the kind that sits on the bottom of the lakes and slithers between your toes. Yet, within a matter of minutes and a rolling boil later my dinner delicacy has been transformed into a gorgeous array of color. I stare down at the pan and I am mesmerized by what I see. The stem now rejuvenated with life is the color of newly sprouting grass in the spring. The heads of my delicious dinner glimmer in my eyes like the Emerald City must have appeared to Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. While you might think I am a little on the obsessive side with my dinner delicacies, it's not just the small things, but the more I look around the more I see the massive display of color that engulfs me. Perhaps, it is the fact that the winter can be so dismal and grey which allows any color to have neon potential, but I like to believe that it is just me seeing the world in a different light.

The truth of the matter is that it isn't just the innate objects that are having this hypnotic effect on me, but it also resonates from the people I associate with everyday. Perhaps you have experienced it too, there are some people who have this glowing aura that is irresistible. I mean everything about these people in my life shouts joy, beauty, and light and I am instantly drawn to them. Their vibrancy for life is something that I can only hope to emanate in my own life. All of these things have caused me to start thinking about what my aura says about me?

I will admit I am sure that over the last couple of weeks my aura has been flickering like a candle on a windy day. I am such a product of my environment. The constant grind of medical school has the capability of pulverizing me down to no more that mere crumbles of my normal self. Yet, these people who I am constantly enchanted with have this zeal for life through all of its ups and down. They resonate this neon light effect from their actions to the smile of their pearly whites. In my eyes they are extremists, like 1980's neon pink leotards. They know what it means to feel and live deeply. In a world that encourages us to be like the norm it is difficult and sometimes discouraged to feel and express the gamut of emotions we experience. Yet, what I have learned is that being able to feel deeply, empathize, and delight in the joys of others is one of the most basic and illuminatingly brilliant displays of life that will require those around you to break out there sunglasses.

Thus this week on your frigid walks around town, try to see the color that surrounds you and the things that truly glimmer in your eyes. Be mindful of the people in your life who are not afraid to live deeply and who have an aura that shines brighter than a Christmas tree. I encourage you to be rejuvenated and to illuminate to others your zest for life because lets be honest, we all are just chameleons deep down who are dying to show our true colors.