Tuesday, December 18, 2012


It is snowing in Portland today, not just snow flakes but snow chunks are falling from the sky. It reminds me of something magical as if I am sitting in my own snow globe at work. While I should be studying or reading the latest journal article on liver cirrhosis, I am instead  sitting in my office cubical waiting for my next patient and feeling moved to write a  blog about those glorious flakes of white.
 Besides being amazingly beautiful, the snow reminds me of new beginnings. It is fresh, cooling, and something about it makes me want to curl up next to the fire with a warm cup of cocoa. There is something in its purity that leaves me fresh and renewed. Perhaps this is the panacea we all need right now.

I have been overwhelmed with sadness and grief over the last couple of weeks tragedies. It truly shakes my soul to the core, to read the paper or to watch the television as the pictures of the innocent children fill the screen. I live in Oregon, and approximately 1 month ago I had no idea where Clackamas was, and now I and the entire country does. I often find myself asking why do bad things happen? There is no answer. I think the thing about tragedy in the darkest of moments is the ability to see what good can come from these situations. It is in the aftermath, that rebuilding and healing can occur. While I am less concerned about my constitutional rights to bear arms, I hope that true work is being made on gun policy. I hope that we are having a frank discussions about mental illness in this country.  I hope that we will find peace in the light of tragedy. I hope that we are able to see the snow, in the dark of night.

I still believe in the innate goodness of people. I believe that this is a place I want to have children. I believe that this is a place I want to grow old and wear big hats. I believe that beauty surrounds me daily. I believe that love will prevail. I believe in forgiveness and rebuilding. 

Let it Snow!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birthday Blog

My favorite movie growing up was "The Wizard of Oz," I literally watched it on repeat. I would frolick around our house singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" as if I was a budding Judy Garland. I cried every time I saw those darn monkeys, and I was mesmerized by the Emerald City. Thus you can imagine my delight, when my mother asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween when I was 6 years old. I mean Dorothy was an obvious winner. I remember my mom had bought these black patent leather shoes and each night after school for the entire month of October she and I would glitter my shoes with the most magnificent color of red glitter. I just remember how I would jump up and down with glee as I sprinkled red glitter all over the shoes. I was so eager, so full of excitement. I don't know if you imagine what 31 days of glitter looks like on a pair of shoes, but I can. It was stinkin' amazing.

The truth is I often wish I could view the world as I did when I was 6 year old. Everything was so fresh and new. Life seemed so magical and everything sparkled like those damn ruby slippers.  The truth is as I just blew out another candle on my birthday cake this year. I can honestly say while I didn't wear ruby slippers, I didn't feel remorse or an inch of bitterness as my 29th year came to greet me. I believe that there are truly seasons of our lives, the highs and lows, and the years where we try to make sense of it all.  Thus my annual birthday blog this year is dedicated to the learning the lessons that will keep us young at heart.

My greatest lesson I have learned over the years is that the relationships we foster matter. Perhaps it is because I grew up as an only child, but I love my friends like they are my family. I feel so truly blessed to have people in my life that care about me the way my friends do. I had the opportunity of welcoming one of my very best friend's baby into the world yesterday. Being the sap that I am, I could barely hold my tears of excitement for the couple and journey that lie ahead for them and their new baby girl. Sharing in the joys and successes of others is one of the things that has truly allowed me to be a better friend and a more free spirited individual.

I believe the one thing that I miss most about my youth is the resilience- the bounce back. I watched a little girl skipping down the street a couple of days ago fall down, and rip her most adorable tights. Tears poured down her cheeks instantaneously, yet the immediate kiss on the knee and the girl was back to skipping and laughing. If only adult life was like this. My goal in the coming year is to be more resilient, to let hurtful words roll off my back like water, and to forgive more.
I remember when I was little and my mom would get dressed up for parties. I truly thought she was the most beautiful woman in the entire world. She wore these really tall high heels, fire engine red lipstick, and I would watch from the bed in admiration. While I do think my mother is an attractive person on the outside, the thing that makes her the most beautiful to me these days is how big and gorgeous her heart is. In my 29th year I have come to terms with the fact I will never be a size 2 or be a model. Thus I am going to strive to work more on my interior than my exterior this year. To try to smile more, and frown less, to laugh more, and worry less.  No botox, no plastic surgery, just me learning to age gracefully with a smile on my face.

Lastly, I could write an entire book on the do's and don'ts of dating from the last year. I have learned you can change no one.  You cannot help anyone find happiness. You cannot make excuses for men who leave you at marathons. You cannot potty train 26 year olds. The list continues. While most of my friends are in serious relationships, or married I sometimes feel like the lone cowboy searching for a mate in the desolate streets of Portland. Thus, I have vowed to be more open to new opportunities. Thus my friends have helped to place me on a dating website. While it is nothing what I expected and I find myself saying no more than yes, it has left me hopeful, for possibilities, and prince charmings.

Perhaps this is what being young at heart is. You don't have to be Peter Pan and never grow up, but just be adaptable to change. Learn to appreciate the people in your life. Learn to live, laugh and cry without fear. To know love and to be hopeful, and before you know it you will realize you truly are as young as you feel.

Thank you for a gorgeous, and memorable birthday. I am truly blessed. XOXO - jen*

Monday, September 10, 2012


I am getting ready to go to my 10 year reunion this week.  I have thought a lot about who I was back then and the person I have become. Yeah, I still have curly hair and giggle incessantly, but so much has changed. It is astonishing to me to think of the metamorphosis I have had. While I joke that many of my memories from high school have been replaced with useless medical jargon, I do remember how driven I was to succeed. When I was 18 I knew exactly what I wanted, I only wish I could say the same at 28. 

Ten years of life experience, of success, joy, disappointment, death, and failure and I am here to tell you that many of my life goals have changed. That sometimes the things we wanted so badly in life, were just detours to what we really needed to know. I have learned that success and status in this life mean nothing.  That the relationships we build and the people that surround us are everything. 

I have come to believe in change. Today was the first day of fall in Portland. I almost had tears in my eyes as I felt the crispness in the air as is whisked in and out of my hair. The tops of the trees are turning a rich burnt ogre and fire engine red much to my eyes delight. I quickly pulled out my fall coat and headed out to clear my head this evening. As I walked the streets of Portland this evening, there was a lightness in my step as if a weight of the past months had been lifted off of me. My life has been a cacophony of chaos the last couple of months. Work has weighed on my soul, the tragedy of real life pulls on my heart strings, and each day trying to rinse and repeat the routine can be exhausting. Yet, the seasons of our lives are filled with ups and downs. These are the moments that define us. The moments that speak of our character and show us that we were stronger than we thought we could ever be.

I believe in love. I feel like 10 years ago love was more of a fairy tale to me. Yet I have witnessed real love. I have watched grown men cry and heard babies scream with glee. However, the most beautiful of love stories was watching my father in his last days of life. The steady flow of friends and family. The friend who slept on the couch so my father wouldn't be alone. My mother who was there at his bedside 24 hrs a day. If anything good can come from my father's death, it was the lesson that love is real, and it is nothing to be afraid of. That I can surround my heart with as many walls as I want, but love will seep in through the cracks like a great flood. Love will prevail.

 I believe in beauty. Most of my last 10 years I have struggled with my self image with the person I am exteriorly. Yet, over the years I have grown into my skin, and am more excepting of the woman I am becoming. Because at the end of the day it all means nothing, I too will be left a withered prune someday with nothing left to show but the person I am inside. Beauty resides all around  me in the pacific nw.  It is the man running the marathon beside me with bilateral prosthetic legs. It is the little girl giggling at the table next to me uncontrollably. It is the 80 year old couple eating the biggest piece of chocolate cake, with no remorse. This is the beauty that I have come to appreciate over the years, not because It wasn't there before, I'm just slowing down to take it in.

My mom has the picture above on our mantle at home. My mom loves this picture because she feels that it embodies me, my personality, and my spirit. When I look at this picture, I am surprised at the woman I see. A woman who has known successes, and failures. A woman who has know love, and the greatest of losses. A woman who cries because she was moved by beauty. A woman who is ever evolving, a giggling mess, a running fool, and a raging liberal. And yet, being resilient enough to laugh at myself along the way has made all the difference. May the adventure continue! Have a gorgeous week my friends!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

When I was little I remember this very intense conversation with my father where I was trying  to convince him that my bike did not need to progress to a bike without training wheels, because basically I was an expert at my bike with training wheels. I remember my dad just laughed as I made my case, but he instead made the point that I couldn't have training wheels on my bike forever, I would be the laughing stock of town, so I dubiously agreed to the removal of my beloved training wheels.

I remember how utterly terrified I was to ride my bike. My bike was this beautiful light pink Scwhinn with a banana seat and streamers on the handle bars. It was utterly perfect. Yet, minus my training wheels I was a huge skeptic. I remember my dad told me he would hold on the whole time, catch me if I was going to fall. I trusted him more than anyone in this world. Thus, I remember how I wobbled to and fro as I started peddling, how he caught me before I was about to fall, and helped me avoid major catastrophe. Then before I knew it I looked back in the distance and realized I was peddling all alone with no assist, and my dad was just there waving in the distance.

I have thought about this memory a lot over the last year. You see my dad was always there for me. He was silently and quitely always making sure I didn't fall. He was the person I was frantically calling when I didn't know what exit to take on the highway, the man in my life who loved when I didn't love myself, the person always reassuring me that I could do anything. Yet when my father passed away I felt like that same little girl riding here bike alone, a bit wobbly for sure,  terrified, and wondering who would help her break her fall.

My father had an ability to light up a room. He had a boisterous personality and a spirit for life that was uncontainable. He had this smile and laugh that was infectious. He could make me laugh so hard I though I might pass out from lack of oxygenation. He could tell stories that would make you want to listen for hours. He loved his friends and family. He liked to butter about anything that needed butter, and even those that didn't. He had a soft spot for ice cream and watched the Hunt for Red October incessantly. Most importantly when he hugged me, I have never felt more safe and more loved.

If I could tell you anything, It would be that there is not a day that goes by that I don't want to pick up the phone and call my dad. Whether it is just to tell him about this great restaurant I ate at the night before,  or the great OR case I did, or just to say I love you; these are the things I miss. I will be honest sometimes I call our house in the middle of the day when I know no one is home just to hear his voice on our home recorder.Yet, what I have learned from my father and this experience has forever changed the way I  approached the last year and ultimately the rest of my life.

I have learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined. That living through this experience has made any other obstacle in my life look miniscule. I have experienced and seen love in ways I have never imagined. It has changed me and my heart.  It has made my mother and I closer.  I tell people that I love them often and much. I sing in the car at every opportunity. I drink beaujolais and have warm memories of Christmas day with my dad. I am a more empathetic doctor. I give better hugs.

 You know I think we all remember the big days, the extraordinary days, but if I had one more day with my father I would want it to be just an ordinary day. The ones where you sit on the back porch eating dinner, the ones where you watch movies on the couch, or the ones where you are singing at the top of your lungs in your car to Jimmy Buffet. These are days I long for- the ever so ordinary.

While I am the queen of composure, there are the moments of immense sadness for me when I think about the things, he is going to miss.The grandchildren, retirement,  and finally  me having a real job.Yet, one of the things that has been hardest for me to cope with is the fact that he won't see me get married. Don't worry I have no current prospects in the works, much to my mother's dismay, but hopefully someday. Yet, I still cannot help but cry at every wedding I been to this year, when the father and daughter walk down the aisle. I will without a doubt be walking down the aisle alone, because there is no one who could ever fill his shoes.

Yet, the thing that gives me peace is that I loved my father and he loved me. We had such a special relationship, he was my best friend. I feel so truly blessed to have had the time we did together. I know more than anything he wanted me to be happy, to love, and to explore this world. I am actively working on accomplishing all of these tasks. This Father's day I hope you are celebrating. I hope you are laughing. I hope you are eating delicious brunch. I hope you are celebrating the man who has made you who you are today. I know I am.
From the bottom of my heart I wish you the happiest Father's Day! XOXO jen*

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Art of Happiness

Where do I begin?  I am happy. I have been for most of my life, but recently in the last 3-4 years have I really understood what it means. Some people will search their entire lives looking for happiness, others are just afraid of what being happy will actually mean to them.  Yet, what I can tell you is that it is the most beautiful development of my current life. Yet, perhaps this week i have been asking myself how we deal with the disappointments of this world. How do we pick ourselves up again?

I was the sort of child who had decided their profession by age 7. I also had planned most of my major life goals up until the age of 30. I was going to go to Notre Dame for college, become a pediatrician, be married by 28, and have 3 children, Scott, Stephen, and Stewart.   I was motivated, focused, and driven. I knew all the things I wanted and would have done anything to get them. Yet, the one thing I did not cope with well was when these things didn't go according to my plan.

People who have known me my whole life will tell you I am quite a different person now than I was 10 years ago, heck 4 years ago. I will say that my 18 year old perfectionist, uptight, intense self has morphed into a free- spirited, laugh till hit hurt sort of girl. I truly believe that most of this dramatic transformation is a result of life not going as planned, disappointment, and tragedy.

People may say that this is depressing, but I disagree. The only thing it is-- liberating. The truth of my story is that as hard as I worked in high school and college, valedictorian, class president, captain of sports teams, it didn't get me into Notre Dame. Nor did it get me into medical school. These failures have been some of the hardest things, I have ever swallowed. The sheer embarrassment and hopelessness I felt are still haunting.  Yet, what I didn't mention is that these also might have been some of the greatest blessings and some of the most transforming and amazing years of my life.

Yet, perhaps the last year of my life has been the most unexpected years of my life. It has been wonderful, tumultuous, and deeply humbling. I never expected to watch my father deteriorate before my eyes so quickly. To see a man who at one time was invincible to me, a man who could make any bump better, become a man who I would spoon feed tangerine ice cream in the last days of his life. My maturity has been tested, and my life ever changed. Yet, only to be  foiled by the fact that I am utterly and passionately in love with my new city, friends, and my profession.

What I have learned is that some of the darkest moments of my life have only allowed me to truly appreciate the beauty and gorgeousness that surrounds me. It has made me so aware of my surroundings. I value my friends as if they were family. I attack life with ferocity.  I love people who will never love me. I cry often and much. I laugh and I cackle. I find joy in the simplest of things- big hats, the elderly, and sunshine. I live to bring joy to others, yet I ask where does that leave me.

Growing up is hard. I have heard from friends in the last week who have told me stories of personal loss and pain. I received an email this week for inspiration and hope for a friend suffering from cancer. It leaves me at a place of desperation, dark, and lonely, because I have no answers to why bad things happen to good people. Why some of the most beautiful people I know still struggle with finding a good man who appreciates them and doesn't tear them down. Why some of my friends refuse to recognize the happiness that surrounds them.  I don't know these answers nor will I ever.

What I do know is that happiness is real. It is palpable, just like you know the wind is there when you stick your hand out the car window, because it is hitting you in the face. This is what happiness feels like. You question if it is there if it is possible, and bam it is hitting you in  the face.  Life is unpredictable, short, and sweet. My greatest advice to you and even myself is to quit being disappointed when things don't go your way. Perhaps it is part of a greater plan, where your greatest disappointments will morph into your greatest blessings. Look around you. Embrace your friends. Love your life. Happiness waits for us all, the question is would you recognize it if it hit you in the face? I sure hope so.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Food and Friends

So I would be the first to tell you I love a long drawn out dinner. I believe that most of my life changing conversations and warmest memories have been shared around a table with good company. Perhaps this is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but I think most of it revolves around the fact that when you sit down and eat with people life just seems to pour out like a special sauce or gravy.

Thus you can imagine how delighted I was to be invited over for dinner this week to one of my dear friend's home. Being a surgery resident doesn't always make homemade meals a possibility, I had to think long and hard about the last time I had eaten a real homemade meal. Thus, you can imagine how jazzed I was to be invited to such a gathering since basically my evening meals revolve around eggs-scrambled, poached, or sunny-side up.

Upon arriving to my friends apartment, I was delighted to find that the theme of the evening was old Paris. A place I have never been, but a place I am in love with undoubtedly. With wine in tote, it took only moments before the the thick tannins were permeating the air. The conversation and discussion of the weeks events were met with laughter and smiles. The NY times rested on the table, perhaps a conversation piece, but more of an offering for entertainment and enlightenment. As more friends arrived the energy in the room was palpable.

Perhaps my favorite part of any meal is the preparation, the cutting the whisking that ultimately leads to a true masterpiece. Thus, as I attempted to be the best soux chef possible, I was fascinated by the way my friend concoted a gorgeous meal with ease. As many of you know I do not pride myself on being a cook, if I did cook we might all need take-out after dinner, but this meal was nothing short of gourmet. My task was to help with dessert, a buttermilk cake topped with plums and blueberries, which was right up my alley.

Yet, as we all sat down to partake in the roasted vegetables, salad, and baked chicken it was as if all the memories I love about sitting at a table for dinner hit me. The memories of my dad and I talking about my day at school, or the way my grandmother would blot her food obsessively for grease before eating, or the stories of Thanksgiving that were repeated each year for tradition sake.There is a familiarity about the table, it is a place where people come to share their lives. And that my friends is what we did.  We shared the joys and the tragedies of this life, the things that warm our hearts and the things that make you realize that life is finite and short.

The company was lovely, but the dessert was also a sight to be seen-gorgeous and rich with color.

As I scurried out the door for work with a dessert to-go cup in hand, I felt full. Full of delicious food, but more importantly rich with good friends. For a girl who has been a bit homesick this week for my family and old friends, I felt rejuvenated. Sometimes all it takes is a warm meal, a glass of wine, and good conversation to remind you that home is never too far away.

Friday, February 17, 2012


We all know the feeling.  Perhaps some better than others, but most of us know when we are hungry. You can hear the grumblings in your stomach the urgent subconscious voice urging you, basically propelling you towards the refrigerator. The last time I can truly say I was ravenous was after the marathon this year. As soon as I got to the finish line, I just started putting food in my mouth. It didn't matter what flavor of yogurt or how brown the banana was I was basically desperate for nourishment. However, I also know the rewards of a  long drawn out 5 course meal. The rich foods and flavors that intoxicate my soul. The fullness of my belly only a sign of the food euphoria that will follow shortly. Yet, it still baffles me that even after the most lovely of meals within 2 hrs I can find myself back at square one-starving for more food.

This is what I have been struggling with this week, the fact that I have been given so many blessings in this life, but I still have this hunger, as if I am starving for more.  I would say that over the last couple of years I have truly grown as an individual, I see life entirely differently. Much of this has to do with me gradually learning to love myself, which for me has been and is an extreme task. I used to be consummed with appearance, weight, success, and acceptance. I didn't love myself, heck I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. Yet,  I feel that much of my life events teeter on highs and lows;  thus until you have ever reached a placed where you know life cannot get any worse, you can never appreciate your climb. I learned to except that I cannot change my past, I can only make today and tomorrow better.

When I think of the things that bring satiety in my life most of them point to my friends and the relationships I have built with others. I get so much energy from others. I love to know people in away that goes beyond the surface. I was not given brothers and sisters of my own, but I feel like my friends are my family. I love them so much. They are people who will wake up at 1AM to listen to you sob on the phone, people who make you laugh until your abdominal muscles hurt, they know you better than you know yourself, they are people who are there for you in the darkest of hours. I am so grateful for these relationships for they are substance that give meaning to my life.

Yet,  I think it is so easy regardless of how full you are to let the hunger pains seep into our lives. The feelings of insecurity, the questions of why me, and whether I will ever be good enough can prey on you like a parasite. It is so hard not to compare our lives to others, and this can leave us unsatisfied in our own lives. Why do they get to have a boyfriend?  Why do they get the best job? Have the nicest things? Why is it so easy for them to have children? Why is my timing all wrong?

These areas become voids, desolate holes, we try to fill.  When you are ravenous, you would do almost anything to fill the void.  I think for me the most frustrating concept for me is timing. My friend told me last week that I might have the worst timing known to mankind. She said when you were in high school your were like a 30 y/o adult, you knew exactly what you wanted. Now you are just slowly waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with you. Maybe she is right, but it just feels as if I am on the rat wheel of life and everyone else's life is maturing.  People are getting married, having babies, buying homes, spending time with family, being promoted in their jobs, and me I just keep running on my rat wheel. While I couldn't delight more in the success of others, their happiness, it just feels like I am starving for more.

The truth is instead of concentrating on the things I don't have, I should concentrate on the multitude of things I do have. I live in a wonderful city, have amazing friends, and have a job I love.  I delight in beauty that surrounds me, the love people constantly show me. I have been given a heart capable of loving almost anything. These are the things that should fill my soul, give me purpose.

 As difficult as it might be this week, I encourage you to embrace the nourishment of your life. The things that truly motivate you and fulfill your life. I think you will find that even the most ravenous of souls can find nutritional substance from counting your blessings and the joys of this life.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Won't you be my Valentine?

I went running today in Forest Park, on one of the most beautiful days in Portland this winter. The temperature was perfect the sun was beaming down. During my run I was listening to the thick and distinct voice of Adele, and somehow I was reminded of Valentine's day lurking around the corner. My mind began swimming with all the cheesy decorations and cards, that just make me smile. I was transported back to 2nd grade when we would sit at our school desks and create Valentine's Day cards, small tokens of love. I would be covered in glitter up to my elbows. I would rush in our front door always so proud to go home and give my parents my card a symbol of my appreciation for everything they did for me. As I have gotten older, I wouldn't say I have gotten cynical, but perhaps jaded by the commercialization of the holiday. The way that it seems to be focused on the lovers of the world, the chocolate, and the roses. Yet  for me, Valentine's day is the opportunity for me to say the things you never say to people, show them how important they truly are to you.

Thus, this afternoon I have been embracing the energy of my youth, as I have been constructing, jazzifying, and creating homemade Valentine's day cards. I have been giggling and laughing all afternoon as I individualize each card. The truth is love is not just for lovers, it is for those people in life you can't imagine life without. The people who make you laugh, cry, and truly show you how to live a passionate life; abundant and rich in the things that matter most. 

I have never experienced and witnessed so much love than I have this year.  People have embraced me and carried me through some of the stormiest of weather. The love that I and my family have experienced this year has changed me forever. It has given me a kinder and more forgiving heart. It has shown me what true friendship is. While I may not be romantically inclined, I can say from the bottom of my heart love is real. It surrounds you at the times you need it most, and it can change the hardest of hearts. Love has carried me like a canoe with no paddles this year. It has bandaged the wounds to my heart and left me renewed. 

 For those of you, who have changed my heart this year, shown me the greatest love I have ever experienced, please know I love you all from the bottom of my heart.   Besos- xoxo  jen*

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some things are worth the fight

I would be the first to tell you I am the last person you would want to pick to go to war.  I don't have an inkling of how to put up a good fight,  I can't even win a game of arm wrestling.  My mother once told me my passive, non- confrontational matter was due  to the fact that I lacked siblings, and thus I never learned the art of fighting back, but I just think I hate the entire concept of anger and arguing.  I am far from a wallflower in everyday life, but have a lot of work to do on making my presence know. Yet, I have come to believe that over the last year that there are some things worth fighting for, and as mellow as you might be everyone has a pair of sassy pants hanging in the closet ready for good use.

It just so happened that yesterday, I exercised my right to fight back. I had just gotten home from working out, and all my parking spots in front of my house were full, thus I parked in the 1 hr parking across from my home. I being conscious about my parking spot looked out approximately 45mins later to see a policeman in a smart car placing a hideous yellow ticket on black beauty, my 2003 chevy cavalier. I don't know how to explain what I was feeling at that moment except, I was hot like fire. As I scurried down the stairs, I ran out screaming, "Excuse me! Excuse Me! I have not been parked here over an hour. "  The police officer turned around and said the ticket was a result of not displaying a front license plate, because Oregon is a two plate state.  Then out of no where,  I found my sassy pants and put them on. I told this officer this was quite frankly ridiculous. I asked him how he would like me to place a plate on my car that doesn't have a front license plate holder. Does he want me to bolt it into my car?  I then asked him if he knew how many power tools I had wielded in my life? Or the fact that I am single woman who has no male counterpart to bolt anything into anything, and on top of all this I work 80 hrs a week and the last thing I want to do is come home in the dark and use a semi automatic hand tool on my car.  This officer looked at me, for awhile, I think we were both shocked at all that had come out of my mouth, and he just said " I'll take the ticket back, but please take care of this soon, or you will get a ticket." I honestly had no idea what had just come over me, but in that instance I was reminded that perhaps some things are worth fighting.

All of this caused me to ponder the things I might not be fighting for, but should be. How do we choose our battles? What I have learned in the last month is that while I have ease in writing down my thoughts and emotions, I have great difficulty revealing my inner most personal feelings aloud.  Sometimes I am afraid to verbally express what I really want whether it involves love, my profession, or life. I contemplate all the time whether it is worth the fight or  the fear of rejection, failure, and judgement.

Yet, love is worth the fight. Love of friends and family are one of the most essential basic needs. Everyone needs someone in their corner. Someone they can count on.  When you love someone you want to fight their battles, you want them to win their wars. You learn selflessness and sacrifice, and maybe even suffering. Yet, at the end of the day you recognize that any battle you go into it never hurts to have another person by your side.

I used to think that life and it's opportunities would just come to me and make themselves evident. That jobs and research would just come just fall in my lap. That boys would come knocking at my door. Yet,  more recently I am of the opinion if you want it, you go get it.  I can't tell you how many times I have just let other women swoop in on opportunities with the men in my life, and I just sit back and watch.  My friends will ask me if I am going to let another girl do that to me, and perhaps the Jen of old would have said yes. I didn't want the confrontation the awkward moment of me saying "what do you think you are doing?" But perhaps I should be less timid about rocking the boat, and start being more assertive about my life.

Fight for the things that truly matter to you in this world. You know I choose my battles. As much as I wanted to tell the lady at the grocery store the other day who stole my parking space by going down a one way the wrong way and eventually  swinging her huge Lexus in my spot, she was a despicable human being. I refrained because karma is a real bummer. Yet, I can't encourage you enough to fight the good fight- fight for what is right and good in this world.  Fight for the things that move you. Fight for those who can't fight for themselves, and rest easy at night because you have done all you can do.

This week don't be afraid to speak up say the things you want and go get them. Life is too short to be beaten down, sometimes you just have to pull yourself off the floor and throw a punch.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Love Deeply

It is that time of the year, when the aisles are filled with red hearts, confetti, and pink flowers, where love is commercialized to its finest, and romance permeates the air. Thus it is time for my annual Valentine's day blog.  This year I have thought long in hard about what I want to say, what I have learned over the last year, and what I hope to find in the future.  I have learned that to know love and joy you must also experience pain and sorrow, and to truly appreciate companionship you must know solitude. But, perhaps the best way to show how I have been moved, changed, and amazed by love, is a series of true short stories from the last year.

Love is blind.  It was just a week ago, I was in the Veteran's Hospital waiting for a patient to get out of the restroom when I wandered over to his roommate's side of the curtain. I looked at the old man with gray hair sleeping peacefully, and smiled as I turned to look at his bulletin board across from his bed. The board was filled with pictures of him and his wife. It started from their engagement pictures and documented every 10th anniversary up to the 70th anniversary. There was something so beautiful to me, as I watched the relationship between these two people I had never met, their mannerisms, how they actually looked more comfortable with each other with age. I was surprised to see as I turned around that the man in bed was awake.  I told him I was just enjoying his pictures, the man responded with  words I couldn't understand so I went to the side of  his bed. When I arrived the man grabbed my hand and said with clarity, I love you. I don't know what it was, the fact that the man continued to not say another comprehensible thing, or the fact that no man besides my father had ever said this to me, but tears just began streaming down my face. I rushed to grab a photo from the bulletin board, I asked the man if he recognized the handsome gentleman in the picture, he bluntly said no without hesitation.

I often wonder what I will be like as an old woman, will I be loud, wear big hats, and eat ice cream everyday, I sure hope so. Yet more importantly if my mind is blinded with age and disease, will someone be there to love me. Will someone be there to remind me, of death do us part.

Love is patient.  One of my dearest friends just got married recently. I will have to say after knowing this girl most of my life I couldn't be happier that the two of them found each other. They remind me that true companionship exists.  Yet, the story she told me one day after a night of inebriation is the ultimate test of love.  A girl who is known to have a queasy stomach, told me she was awakened by her husband shaking her and saying, why are my shorts wet? Upon inspection the heroic husband realizes that his wife had vomited in bed, and didn't know it. Thus they were sleeping, rolling around in vomit. He told her she had to get out of bed, so my friend feeling awful took the duvet cover and tossed it in the hall not knowing that vomit has just aerisolized and vomit was all over the floor. When my friend woke up in the morning she said she found herself in a clean bed, and a clean house. He had taken care of all her dirty work.  As I was laughing until tears were running down my face, I just said now that's love. Bottom line if you can find a man who will hold your hair when you vomit, sleep with your vomit, or even better yet clean your vomit - he's a keeper.

Love is change. I have watched some of my dearest, most promiscuous guy friends become saints of holy monogamy. It's truly an amazing spectacle. We all have these friends, the college fraternity guy who was the guy every girl wanted to date. The guy who I felt honored just being labeled his friend. The guy you thought would be life's most eligible bachelor for eternity. Yet, all of this changed when he met "the girl." I'll never forget the day he told me, the shock in my eyes, as I listened to him tell me about her.  I knew that she was a game changer, quite honestly his personal game changer. You see I knew his past, I knew every one of his pick up lines, and now he was smitten. This is what I love about love, It is forgiving of the past, capable of the seemingly impossible,  and yet somehow together they have changed each other for the better.

Love is Life.  Ghandi said it best, "Where there is love there is life." I believe this to my innermost core.  I believe love is not something not  just shared by two people, but something you live. It is in our interactions with others and the relationships we build. I have been so blessed to have some of the most amazing friends. The kind of friends who would fly across the country to see you in the darkest of days, send you letters in the mail,  cry with you, run the last two miles of a marathon with you, eat brunch with you, and truly drop anything for you. Love is not only a noun, but more importantly a verb. To love people, work, and life is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give  yourself. I have found that when you surround yourself with love, life is a little bit sunnier, even in Portland.

Love Deeply. If you know me, you know I believe in love. I believe in great loves. Perhaps I have watched one to many romantic comedies, but I truly believe that there is someone for everyone. Someone out there who can be your better half, the cheese to compliment your wine, a person who will stand by you until the end of time. Perhaps the most life changing experience for me this year has been watching the love of my mother and father, and knowing in my heart of hearts how real it was. No one talks about suffering when they talk about love.  While I hate to dwell on the past, it has forever shaped the way I view love.  My father taught me many things and one of them was to love deeply, to never be afraid to say the things that need to be said, to feel with your heart and not your head.  I will never forget the days leading up to my father's death, how my mother never left his side, the sleepless nights, and the final day my father's life. I will never forget the pain in my mother's eyes when I told her softly, in my quietest voice that dad had passed away.

My parents had a love I could only dream of finding. That is why I wasn't surprised to learn that upon cleaning out my father's office a couple of months ago they found a letter addressed to my mother he had written before his death. The contents of the letter were the ultimate gift, a letter of love, gratitude, and a gift of hope for the future.  My father's final love letter moved me to tears as he left bits of advice and comedic stories he didn't want us to forget, but most of all he wrote were phrases of endless love.

 Perhaps I am a little afraid of love, how vulnerable love makes people, how trusting it forces us to be. Over time I have built these walls around my heart to protect me from the pain that loving someone can cause. Yet what I really should do is tear down those walls, because if I have learned anything it is that love is worth all the suffering, pain, and tears this world can hand you.

Thus my hope for you this Valentine's day is to not be afraid to love and feel deeply.  Say the things you never say. You might just surprise yourself.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

So I have eagerly been awaiting the release of the film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, since I learned it was being filmed early last year. The movie is adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's book about an 8 year old boy who loses his father in 911.  It is probably one of my all time favorite contemporary books. It truly is a shining star amongst new age literature, not only is it an artistic masterpiece, but it is able to transcend the page and truly speak to the soul. I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first read it, and that hasn't happened for me since the Great Gatsby in my high school literature class.

It was last year in early December, I was interviewing for residency and one of my best friends recommended that I pick up this book for my travels. She is a literary aficionado, who knows me well, thus I trusted her opinion. Let's just say, she is yet to steer me wrong. I couldn't put the book down. Doused with imagery, the book is complex and spoke multitudes to me. I was actually on a plane flight to Portland, OR for my interview when I finished the book. It was late, as I had taken a red eye flight,  I stayed up the entire flight reading it with tears streaming down my face.  A stewardess, who noted my tears, came up to me and asked if she could help me in any way, I just smiled and said through my sniffles and tears "It's just a really good book."

The premise of the book resides around a little boy whose father dies in the world trade center on 911. The boy to some may be odd, but his bond with his father is not misunderstood.  The boy stumbles upon a key in his father's closet after the "worst day,"which he feels is a sign from his father, as if he is  trying to tell him something. The rest of the book revolves around this boy's adventure to find the lock to this key. It is a beautiful portrayal of grief, loss, and the things we do to try to understand it all.

As I sat in the movie theater tonight I couldn't help but love every morsel of this film. From the cast, to the imagery, to the screen play. It was magnificent. The photo above is one of my favorite scenes in the entire film. Immersed in imagery it is a powerful moment in the film about stopping. As the film unfolded I couldn't help but be moved to tears while sitting in the theater. Perhaps, the movie has hit home more than I thought it would over the last year. You see the entire movie revolves around Oskar, the main character, trying to make sense of why his father was killed.  Yet he concludes it doesn't make sense. And I agree. I will never understand why the sky is blue instead of green, why bad things happen to good people, why tragedy strikes, why boys will break your heart,  why my timing is always off,  or why people suffer.

I know what it is like to ask yourself these questions over and over again. Contemplating if you did something wrong, wondering what you had done to deserve this sort of loss.  You try to hold on to anything, whether it is a search for a lock to a key, or just something that will bring you closer to the person you lost.  Yet, at the end of your search, you learn that you are not alone. That everyone is searching for answers, and sometimes there are no good explanations.

Through his pain and paralyzing grief, Oskar, found his strength. The same is true for us. Real life is full of joy, sorrow, and confusion. None of us are exempt. Yet, once you have lived through the unthinkable you learn how strong you truly are, the burden you can bare. You realize that life is precious, and can be altered in a minute or a mere phone call. Yet, without ruining the end of the book, I will say the  take home message of this movie is that life is worth the accumulation of all the joy, grief, mystery, and laughter this world has to offer, it's about being moved to tears, laughing until you cry, and loving someone with all your heart and hoping that someday you will be able make sense of it all.

So pretty please do yourself a favor, and go see this movie.--- You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Refusing to Settle

I think sometimes in life we all need a little reminder. I received mine on New Year's Eve this year. I think that we all have expectations of what we think is going to happen when you move somewhere new. Perhaps I thought Portland would be a sea of endless liberal, handsome, artistic men and I would finally find someone special. Unfortunately, my love life has been quite the opposite.  My love life this past year resembles more of a comedy routine than a love story.  If I could tell you the stories of my life, you wouldn't believe it. The stories are hilarious, jaw dropping, and I would have you laughing until you were crying.

Thus, in my mind New Years was supposed to be this magical night for me, a new start. I tend to have a good time wherever I go, but perhaps my friend could sense my disappointment for the evening. We were laughing and chatting when she opened a beer for herself. The cap of her beer of choice always has a little message on the underside of the cap, kind of like a Dove chocolate. She read the bottle cap and looked at me and said, " This is for you." She placed it in my hand.  As I uncurled my fingers that surrounded the bottle cap, I just kept reading the words on the cap over and over in my head, "to refusing to settle."

While she will never know the extent of what she did for me that night, I realized how right she was.  Not only did it pertain to my love life, but everyday life.  I feel we all are prone to settling.  The truth is that with the real things that matter in life, you deserve the best and settling should never be an option. I think we all know those people who are perpetually in relationships because they cannot fathom being alone. They constantly jump boyfriend to boyfriend to settle for the next best thing. I have gone to their weddings, bought the gifts, smiled and wondered to myself are they happy? Will their love last? I feel that in our society there is this palpable pressure to follow the crowd, to do what everyone else is doing, because no one wants to be left out.

Maybe I too was prone to settling this year,  just wanting someone to want me, to think I was special, despite how un-Mr. Wonderful they were. Yet what I have learned this year is that life is too short to settle, whether it is love, your job,  or your goals of life. There is no reason I should of hobbled home after a marathon because he forgot to pick me up, or entertain my date's ex- girlfriend who happened to show up at dinner, but for some reason in my mind I had decided this was ok. The truth is both you and I deserve more.

We deserve the best this world has to offer, and it starts with us. It begins with you and me believing we deserve great things. It begins with you and me refusing to settle for mediocrity. It begins with you and  me pushing ourselves one more mile, because we can. It begins with us.  My hope for you this year is that you settle for more. Prove to yourself that you are worth it.  Know in your heart that you have something to give to this world. Because what you will discover is how wonderful you truly are.