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.