Sunday, February 1, 2015

Photograph - (coffee in Seoul, 2008)

"Gotta Love Those Super Bowl Commercials"

I am not a big fan of the Super Bowl, unless my team is winning. I know I scored points with a lot of folks already. I admit, I am a fair weather sports friend. But I am excited about watching the game in 2015. I am motivated by the ads, and not just any ads. I received notice from a former colleague that her daughter would be featured in a Super Bowl commercial. Who wouldn't watch the Super Bowl for THAT! I would not miss it for the world! I like this commercial because it is featuring people.

 These people, the father, mother, and others in society who support those with special needs are worth me watching the Super Bowl, despite the fact I only watch my own team. Having been a special education teacher for over seven years, I LOVE to see society celebrating those with special abilities. Jessica Markle is one of those special people. I could never do the job she does. She works in a factory assembling parts for windows...and she is blind. That is truly a special ability. Apparently more than a few people thought she was special too. Jessica does a lot more than just help to make windows, she is amazing in so may ways. Her positive attitude about life is pretty obvious and it shows, with the big smile on her face...all the time!

 Ordinary people with special abilities are changing the world, one action at a time. 

Here is another great video of a someone with special needs living her dreams...Madison Tevlin, a twelve year old girl with Down Syndrome can be seen singing John Legend's "All of Me".

"Super Bowl" Soul February 2015

Monday, August 25, 2014


My friend collected all of these shells at the beach on Sanibel Island in December of 2011. And it appears she had a reason in mind for how she wanted to artistically display these dead creatures. However, she never did tell me. If anything, she may have placed them with care, and they were purposely arranged, or maybe done in a random act? I really can’t recall. And yes, in a way, it matters because these shells helped me through some of the most difficult events that I could have never imagined.

In the three years since we spent this week at the beach together, both of us have had our share of tragedy.  Mostly random. Funny how life works that way. It is inconvenient to say the least, unbelievable to sound almost cliché when describing sickness and death. Little did I know that I would witness the loss of eight people that I loved, including my brother, mother and father within one year. And I never dreamed that the one who collected these shells would go through radical breast and lymph surgery due to an aggressive cancer that nearly took her life.  

These shells in the photograph are beautiful, but dead. How can this be? The deaths I have experienced were anything but beautiful.  In the months and years that I have suffered great loss, I have often asked myself where to find the beauty in the midst of my world. Quite frankly, it has been hard to see, and I have tried to imagine it

Looking more closely at the photograph, I could not help but notice the red, purple, brown, pink, white and other hues of colorful shells. Vibrant, even in death. Really? Death is certainly not vibrant, it is depressing and painful, in my view.

Some of the shells are smooth, some are rough. Death came like that for my loved ones. For some it was sudden, for others it stalled for months and it was a brutal road.

One day, just like my friend took the picture of the shells, I took inventory of the memories of my loved ones.  Was there a big difference between the shells and my loved ones? They both died. I think the hardest thing to accept about death of a loved one is the absence of a physical “shell”. II only have my memories to rely on, the inner beauty of my loved ones and my inner abilities to conjure up pictures in my mind and heart of what they looked like, and who they were.

Life is ironic. I have always loved shells for what they looked like on the outside, never for the creature that was alive within. I never really bothered to know or enjoy the inner being of most of these creatures. And it is that inner being that caused such beauty to last.

Revisiting the photograph one last time caused me to look at things about death in a whole new perspective. That is the beautiful thing about grief. I get through it by seeing little glimpses of life, in the obscure, and this thing about dead seashells is definitely obscure. In doing so, I am reminded to make the intangible remnants of my loved ones’ lives matter. Intently, I place memories in my heart and mind.  I recall my mother’s words saying “honey, you always do a great job…”, my father taking the toothpick out of his mouth, tilting his head my way, waiting for a kiss on the cheek when I greet him, my brother reminding me to defrag my computer, and my friend conversing with me over the phone telling me about each of her four young children. I capture remnants of their characters, their kindnesses, their accomplishments, and dreams, often. Those things are what I picture deep inside. They are my shells, I just have to make the time to walk along the serene water’s edge and embrace them.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Space to Give

So many times in life each of needs a friend...just like the song lyrics "Lean on Me". But so often in life, we are all busy.

In the last year and a half, I went to eight funerals including three immediate family members. Life has been shady...too shady.

But the sun has come through the darkness in the form of people. People have been my light. They have stepped in and removed the burdens of sadness and loss.

Some of my best friends were too busy to help me, while some of my acquaintances became my source of strength.

And through it, in Texas, while visiting one such person, under a deep blue sky and palm tree,  I realized that as humans, sometimes we have the space to give to another, and sometimes, we need to make space for others to give to us. And the warmth of knowing that life is like this brought about great healing.

And that is what makes life so clearly beautiful!

Galveston, Texas 2014

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Living Gracefully with the Process of Grieving

My brother, mother and father all died within one year. Prior to them all passing away, my friend died suddenly as well. She was the mother to four young children. In that same time span, a friend was diagnosed with cancer, my aunt died a month before my mother, and a great aunt died in between.

Grief is truly something that can only be understood when one goes through it. Many well meaning Christian friends have told me that Jesus walks with us in our time of grief. He, who has been through sorrow, knows our sorrows. Yet, that was not comforting, because although my faith tells me Jesus is present, my physical being is in need of comfort from tangible sources.

Along my journey to grieve in a graceful manner, I have had to close off certain people from my life. Naturally an extrovert, I have become more introverted. I just don't have the energy to deal with people. Most of my friends are busy with the daily affairs of life. And they want to relate to me in the same way. I, on the other hand, have literally had my whole word and ethos moved, shaken and taken away. Jesus understands that I am quit, tired, angry and confused. And He is there. What I have found I needed from my friends is just someone to be present as I sort through the journey of loss, and come in to a journey of hope and love once again. ( I attended a wonderful Grief Retreat through the "Spark of Life" Foundation that helped me understand this journey of life a little bit better).

While cleaning out my mother's closet, I found Jesus. He was hidden in a box. My mother was a woman of faith, but she did not advertise it. She just lived it as best she knew how. I put Jesus on the dining room wall. With all of the loss, it is hard to see His presence, but when I look at my mother's picture out in the open instead of hidden in a closet, I somehow find courage to grieve openly as I process what has just happened. And in that freedom to be sad, tired, lonely, angry or confused, I am finding healing in the grief that so many around me don't understand or just simply want to ignore the fact that I am feeling all that I am.

What is comforting, is looking up at that picture of Jesus, and knowing that He is here in each feeling along the way to my journey of  healing.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Living A New Path With My Father

One day I woke up and life changed forever. I became my father's caregiver. I could see it coming, I just did not see the path as it became so quickly.

When I decided to stay home with my father, to care for him, I was met with mixed feelings from friends, family and relatives.

In America, we are so blessed to have beautiful facilities such as assisted living and posh nursing homes to care for our aging parents. And many go there. They are quite pricey and often times when our parents need more care, Medicare does not cover it. So many families are left with little options but to care for their loved ones at home.

This is a growing crisis in America as the a significant portion of the population is elderly.

The choice to stay home and care for my father was not one I lingered over, as I did not have much of a choice. My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly and I instantaneously became my father's caregiver.

But what I have learned in the journey over the last few months is that for me, it is the right thing to do.

So many people from other countries consider their elderly a part of their family to care for until they die. The community, the village, and the neighbors all join in to make this happen. Yet in America, it is still a foreign concept. Why is this?

It is not easy to navigate a new path in caring for parents in America, albeit there are many choices...I am learning.

However, the journey can be difficult but beautiful. And for me it is just the beginning of a new day.

I did meet an older gentleman on an electric wheelchair while at the beach with my father. He told me that God would bless me for caring for my father. And he said that my dad was lucky to have me. He told me of how he went to great lengths to care for his wife for years until she passed.

Part of this new path for me is keeping the value of the human life at the forefront, even in a world where it sometimes is diminished for convenience and money. But in the end, it is the intangibles of life that make it worthwhile, and beautiful. And Jesus leads the way! Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He creates life, He gives life and He takes life in His time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Korean Freedom

This saying never leaves my mind. I remember being an American visitor to the Korean War Memorial, the DMZ and the Joint Security Area. I went to Dorosan Station, and the newly renovated rails that connect North and South Korea. But it remains empty, only with future hope where men, women and children can travel freely back and forth across the present forbidden lines.
Koreans on both sides exist without the freedom to truly live. Some of the south desperately long to see loved ones in the north. They leave their notes, thoughts and prayers at the bridge in remembrance.

Externally South Koreans know how much freedom costs, seeing barren northern mountains knowing that loved ones are not physically, spiritually or mentally free.

And I know that America was a big part of that sacrifice with of over 30,000 casualties of war. While other countries were significant in their help, we sent the most help and lost the most.

Walking the streets in Pohang, South Korea, old Korean men would stop and bow, thanking me as an American, for our sacrifices to their freedom.

Men and women go to war. Families sacrifice. Goverment spends money. But where does the decision to spend the money to defend freedom come from?

I wonder if it starts with the heart or the mind? Or maybe it starts with the mouth, with the ability to speak and then to do what is right, morally and ethically right, in the face of adversity and oppression. Money doesn't buy freedom, it only strengthens the choices made when they are made so that people can have the human rights they were endowed with.
Once people have chosen to invest in truth, freedom will come, but it may be very costly. Yet what is expensive is usually worth it, especially when it preserves the intangibles of life and human dignity.

 I will never forget the discussion I had when I was teaching there in 2008. I met a man from South Korea who had been to America. He asked me how I liked South Korea. I told him I had felt very safe in his country. I moved to and fro without fear of being acousted...much different than in the united states. He looked at me and said "I feel safer in the United States." I looked at him puzzled and then thought about the fact that they are on a Peninsula in South Korea and have a hositle neighbor. In the United States there are internal threats but many options for protection. Hmmm..individuals oppressing you or government oppressing you? While the United States is not perfect...I realized how blessed I was...and my prayers go out to those in North and South Korea.

South Korea 2008


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Philadelphia Flower Show 2013

                                                                 Creativity in Bloom

                                     I have not been to the 2013 Philadelphia Flower Show...yet
                                                         It is the week of March the 3rd

                                              I heard it is wonderful and everything British!

                            The Philadelphia Flower Show is filled with artistic creations
                                   as well as innovations using flowers, shrubs and so much more..

                             What I do know is that the flower show is not just about flowers...
                     and people who may not particularly like flowers may find it very enjoyable!

                 I do not necessarily care for flowers very much. Sure they are fine for the table and
                 special occasions but I do not pride myself on the facts of names, climates, and details...

                  However, the special use of flowers to create beautiful displays of different uses and
                 environments is fabulous at the show. As an artist, I enjoy the arrangements,
                  uses and displays of flowers, and appreciate the ideas to feed my creativity.
                           It is amazing what is one inspired by when looking at flowers.

                                               Inspired by flowers, I created this poem...
                                                         (see this and more photos and poems published in
                               Reflect and Write: 300 Poems and Photos to Inspire Writing)

                                                                                                             (Photo by Laura Pastuszek)


              By Laura Pastuszek

Hope grows

in the dearth


                                                                                                            (Photo taken in South Korea, 08')

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When Love Lives Beyond Valentine's Day

                                                                      Lasting Love

                                How sweet it truly is..., when it can still be tasted after the
                                                                        candy is gone
                                 How real it is...when caring for your loved one wearies the soul
                                    How strong it is...when the memory is etched in the heart
                                                      and the love becomes immortal

Somewhere in TN

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Life in the Midst of Stone Cold Pain

This year has been filled with a lot of death...I don't know how else to say it...Sandy Hook is the latest and has surely impacted all of a nation...especially for parents, teachers and students....we as humans can all relate...

Two days before Sandy Hook, my brother was buried...he was a quiet guy...and he left this earth quietly...I was shocked..that he was even ill...having no warning was difficult...

And as I reflected on Sandy Hook...I understood their shock at losing a loved one...but I still can't imagine the pain for how their loved ones left this earth..both young and a brutal way

In between my brother's passing and Sandy Hook, my cousin passed away...his passing was forewarned and one in which his loved ones were prepared...still a great pain and loss..but a prepared one...a little more gentle of a passing...

My friend passed away suddenly in May...she died of mitro valve prolapse...harshly leaving behind a husband and four young children...and an identical twin sister and other family.

Death came in so many ways this, slow, with warning..without warning..merciful...merciless...for the young and old...

But it also gave us life...more of it to the midst of pain...warmth has covered our hearts as loved ones embrace each strangers offer kindness...

And the heart is consoled...with hugs, tears, smiles,  words, food, songs, faith, hope, love and ...prayers

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Roseate Spoonbill Enjoys Sanibel Island in Winter

Florida was spared the major impact of Hurricane Sandy 2012.

And I am sure that the birds were happy, especially the Roseate Spoonbills.

The Ding Darling wildlife Sanctuary on Sanibel, FL is home to the Roseate Spoonbill.  And it is a special place of peace and tranquility.

It will be interesting to see if the birds of the north fly south for the winter sooner rather than later as the latest hurricane has caused such havoc in the northern states, even for the birds.

Sanibel, FL 2012'

  PS...check out my new book -
 The Pink Bird Who Eats With a Spoon @ by Laura Pastuszek

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nature's Beauty in the Consistency of Change

                                                       I walk through the corridors of color
                                                           with crisp air and blue skies
                                                         my soul rejoices for a brief time
                                                          because I know that with the
                                                                   setting of the sun
                                                            the colors will quickly fade

                                                        The cold  will come soon enough
                                                          and the leaves will be no more
                                                                 color will disappear
                                                            and yet my soul is at peace

                                                   Nature will make changes to my world
                                                                    it will take away
                                                           but it will also remember to give
                                                             for light will still come forth
                                                                 through the barren trees
                                                    exposing me to a different perspective
                                                                        void of color
                                                                but open to new sights
                                                                     in shades of grey

                                                  Consistent Soul
                                                  MD, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When Life Lands Us in Unusual Places

Moth on a parking lot in MD
I just returned from a trip to the beach to visit a high school friend. She (and her mother)  has been caring for her father full time since his stroke several years ago.

Her father can't speak very well and his face is somewhat distorted. He can't stand, walk, toilet or feed himself. He goes from the wheelchair to the bed. But what is amazing is the life he leads in between.

My friend ventures out all of the time with both elderly parents in tow. They recently went to the airshow on the boardwalk. My friend's father pointed to the planes and with a smile, he grunted the number of craft he saw flying in the sky. He used to be in the National Guard as a young man.

As we walked through doorways, he tipped his hat to strangers who opened the door for the wheelchair.

My friend's father grinned while watching a young child coo for her mother. And he spelled out the fact that he was ready to watch "F O O T B A L L" inside.

When we drove by the water on the way home, he shook his head in remembrance of the flounder fishing excursion. And he smiled when I thanked him for the boat rides as a teen.

It is hard to see my friend struggle to daily care for her incapacitated father. It is hard for me to see his wife have to feed him.

 But what is even more difficult to comprehend is the incredible well of love and hope that keeps on flowing from this family.

Life's circumstances landed them in a precarious place, one that is incredibly hard at times. One that is extremely unusual and yet they keep on giving, living and growing as a beautiful family.

Blessed Soul, NJ 12'

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Garden Between Obstacles

Gardens are truly a symbol of life
telling the world to hope when none can be found
Gardens remind us that life is tenacious
because they grow anyway
Gardens show us we can get along
because they can flourish anywhere
Gardens shout
saying that caring for humanity is essential
And it always starts with a seed
sometimes in the most unlikey places
because someone is willing to believe

Sprouting Soul 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Enjoying the Clouds on an Island

Sometimes life gets so busy and even when the sun is out we only see the clouds of life

Busyness can creep in and make us feel like we are all alone on an island

Or busyness can make us feel that we need to retreat to an island.

Regardless of the circumstances, life's clouds don't always need to be viewed as blocking out good things

Sometimes, life's clouds shade us from too much of a good thing, or help us slow down to see good things!

All of life is a gift and holds beauty, however, it only becomes apparent when we can enjoy what is right before our eyes.

Sanibel Soul', 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Woodpeckers Don't Suffer Brain Damage

Birds are fascinating creatures with so much freedom. In observing them carefully, characteristics of humanity can be identified.

Humans are free too, and some live in their freedom better than others, due to external as well as internal factors.

Birds also possess protective natures and they know they are vulnerable.

Humans are vulnerable too, some can protect themselves better than others. Some need others to help them be protected, and some protect others, because that is their job.

Sometimes, even birds, in their great ability to be free, fail to protect themselves from predators.

Birds, like humans, come in all shapes, and sizes.

Some birds fly and work together, like the Pelicans.

Some Woodpeckers work alone.

Woodpeckers actually bang their head into wood to look for food, send signals and to breed.

They are an odd creature, making an interesting noise, doing creative work. Yet they are beautiful and resilient, even when they continuously "knock on wood." They were designed with built in protection from injury. This act is just part of their nature.

Most humans don't literally "bang their heads on wood" on a daily basis, but life can sure seem that way sometimes. The human soul has the capability for resiliency that protects us and allows us to do our jobs, live life, and be free, even in our vulnerability. Yet sometimes, humans do suffer "brain damage", "heart damage" and other types of damage, because of our humanity.

Sanibel Island, 2010

Monday, January 30, 2012

Taking Time To Love...Ourself

Valentine's Day

It is all about love...
chocolates, flowers, stuffed animals and jewelry

Is it really about love?
melting, calories, dying, dusty, and rusty,

All of these tangibles fade

True love is finding the inner peace for ourself and then being that to someone else

I wonder if we take the time to give ourselves the gifts we need to truly love another?

Time, reflection, space, truth, creativity, food for thought, solitude, peace, service, freedom.

How much better would we be in loving others, if we truly knew how to love ourselves in a way that nurtured us to be more whole as human beings.

Only then, will we really know what we are looking for, and what love really looks like.

Simply Loving Soul
Sanibel, FL 12'

Saturday, January 28, 2012

You Can't Fight Fires Sitting Down

This image caught my eye as I was strolling through the streets of a quaint southern town.

You really can't fight fires sitting down.

But everyone needs to take a break from the pressures and dangers of life.

A comforting, gentle place to unwind makes all of the differnce before going back into the strife.

Living life is sometimes a dichotomy.

Understanding how to live well on both sides can set one free.

Franlin, TN

Sitting Soul 2010'

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunrise in Bed

The day has yet to begin and I already feel like I accomplished something great. I opened my eyes to watch the sunrise.

It could not have been easier today, because I am staying in a room with an incredible view. And yet, I almost rolled over to go back for some more zzzz's.

Though, I know I am a better person for seeking out beauty that is uniquely offered in a certain place and time.

Today will have some challenges, and life will get in the way. But, because I saw the sun rise, I will be reminded to think on things that are good, and pure, and lovely and true...(Philippians 4:8).

Sunny Soul 12'

Ocean City, MD

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Light Makes All of the Difference

The beach is so inviting. The sun is so warm, the sand is so clean and the water so blue. It is perfect day to catch a ray, sunbath and get a tan.

There is one exception, looks can be deceiving. Today, the only tan that might appear would be on the nose, and it would be more in a shade of red than brown.

The wind is whipping up, the air is cold and any sun seekers are enjoying it with a hat, gloves, scarf, and a winter coat.

The beach in winter, in Ocean City Maryland, is bearable today. And it is beautiful, despite the freezing cold, because light changes things, even in the harshest of conditions.

Chillin Soul, 12'
Ocean City, MD'