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.