The Infertile Down the Road

One of the great things about the Internet is that it makes the world seem a little smaller. It makes the oceans seem less vast. It makes a one-person island seem less lonely.

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When I started on my infertility (IF) journey, like most infertiles I didn’t know that I was on the road to “The Land of IF.” I merely thought I was on the path to Mommy-hood. After months — nay, years — of “detours” and “pit stops” I suddenly found myself on the lonely road of infertility.

When I mean “lonely,” it’s meant figuratively. After all, it’s not like I wasn’t surrounded by the 1 in 8 couples affected by a diagnosis of infertility. But since IF is more akin to a “Silent Sorority,” there was little that I could feel comfortable talking face to face with others.

Oh, believe me … I tried attending the local RESOLVE support group … and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Reflecting back at it now, I’m sure it’s because my self-esteem had been stripped down to nothing by then … and even in a room full of other IFers, I still didn’t feel I could relate to them, let alone contribute to the group. So I never went again.

Then, after reading some online Infertility message boards,  I discovered the blog-o-verse and an entire world of IFers who wrote quite open and honestly about the same sadness and disappointment that I felt. And I was especially drawn to those who expressed the same doubts about themselves, the same lack of self-esteem that I so deeply felt. And, even though I rarely commented on these blog posts, I started to feel less alone.

My Mom gave me the idea to write about my personal journey; although I doubt she thought that I’d write about it on such a public forum. She knew that I loved to write during the years of letter-writing with my cousin, and thought that this might be therapeutic for me.

It wasn’t until after realizing that there was an absence of information about Asian-Americans experiencing infertility that I decided I to blog. Because even though I identified with the other IF bloggers who wrote exactly what I felt, there was this other void that refused to be filled. Specifically, it was the part of me that identified with being a first generation Filipino American going through infertility. And with that in mind, I had hoped to fill that void left in me …  and to also let those other Asian-American IFers out there trying to “save face ” know that they are not alone.

I am forever grateful to the Internet for giving me the opportunity to put my words out there. Writing about being a first generation Catholic Asian-American infertile has been more therapeutic than any local support group or other face-to-face interactions could have been (the exception always being Hubby, of course). And those friends I’ve made over the past three years of blogging? Well, I consider myself lucky to have them — and all the support they’ve given me — in my life.

So thank you, Internet. Thank you for giving me the world.

What IF …

If. Two letters that could be used to express hope or promise. “If only …” Or better yet, “If I could, I would …”

And then there’s IF; both letters in caps. The medical “Alphabet soup”-version of the word “infertility.”

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Somehow, the meaning between these two simple “words” seem worlds apart. Yet they can also go hand in hand with one another. When I think of the word “if”, I think of possibilities; even though it can also mean “a supposition” or “an uncertain outcome.” When I think of IF (as in infertility), I certainly don’t consider infertility in terms of possibilities or futures. No … I immediately think of that “uncertain outcome.”

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For NIAW, Mel over at Stirrup Queens has partnered with RESOLVE to increase the awareness of how Infertility affects everyone. The project, aptly called “Project IF” is something that has become more powerful than even I, an infertile for well over 10 years, could imagine. The first part of this project set out to unite all Infertility Bloggers under one common thread by simply writing a question addressing the biggest “What IF” in regards to an individual’s infertility. The emotion behind it is weighted in more than just gold or platinum. And if you haven’t already gone to visit … please go now.

The second part of Project IF expands on Part 1 by asking the blogger to choose from one of the recurring themes that came from the over 500 “What If’s” and explore that theme on our personal blog. And since I’m a firm believer in the power of words, I felt the need to participate.

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“What if, after years of struggling with the roller coaster of infertility and FINALLY accepting the decision to live child-free, I get pregnant?”

This was the “What IF” I submitted for Part 1 of “Project IF.” I chose to write about how infertility impacted my future. And based on that statement, it would appear that infertility continues to weigh heavily on my future decisions.

In the Filipino culture (like most other cultures), family has always been held in the highest regard. And despite being a well-educated Filipina with a successful career, being a mother is considered the noblest profession for a woman.

As a first generation Filipino-American, there have been many things within my culture that clashed with the very “American” environment I grew up in. But being part of a family, let alone being the matriarch of my own family, was something that I constantly carried with me throughout my childhood and for many years after that. I had dreams of having a large family (larger than two, because *I* always wanted more than one sibling), and of having my parents there to help raise them with some knowledge of our Filipino culture. After all, that was another Filipino consideration; to have grandparents there to pass on the traditions of our culture.

Although I somehow found myself marrying within my culture, it’s no surprise that my Hubby would also share that same love of family; the same dream of wanting to have a brood of children of our own. And along with this dream, we had dreamt of moving out-of-state (Chicago, to be precise); but not before our first-born would be old enough to start school. After all, we wanted both of our parents to enjoy the early childhood stage of their grandchildren; and yet also didn’t want to uproot our children from a school that they were already attending. We had all these plans for our lives that revolved around raising our children.

So it came as a big surprise to us that we weren’t able to conceive. What was worse was the painstakingly long process it took determine why we couldn’t conceive; only to end up with a diagnosis of “Unexplained Infertility.” And because of this struggle, we ended up putting all of our dreams on hold. We put off advances in our careers; we put off moving out-of-state.

Instead, we spent years going to various OB-Gyn and Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) offices in our hometown of Suburban Detroit; spent many lunch hours with various Ultrasound Technicians that I got to know on an “intimate” basis. We spent many hours in line waiting for various prescription drugs to be filled; used many needles poking myself in my belly or thigh, or — worse — rear end. We spent enough of our “retirement” money financing an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle that gave us three perfect embryos; two which were implanted in me, and one that we “let go” a year later after we knew our chances of defrosting one frozen embryo and financing another IVF cycle were slim to none.

We spent six years of our married lives leading up to our one failed IVF cycle. By that time, I was emotionally and financially spent; I was at my absolute breaking point. That was the first time Hubby & I decided to step away from actively trying to conceive (TTC). Not that I didn’t hope for a miracle every month (only to be let down every month), we just decided to take a break from the IF roller coaster.

Looking back now, that would probably have been the best time for Hubby & I to move on with our other dreams; perhaps look at moving out of Michigan and some place else. But hindsight is always 20/20; and truth be told, I just wasn’t ready to give up my biggest dream of being a mother; the one in which I felt I would finally have a reason to exist … at least that’s what I believed.

So instead Hubby & I continued with our daily lives; me secretly hoping for that “immaculate conception.” And in the fall of 2006 … in the midst of status quo … my emotional foundation was shaken to the core. I received the news that my husband’s sister, who just remarried four months prior, was expecting.

Never mind that before all this TTC-business started, my SIL and I were the best of friends. Never mind that my SIL already had a 10-year old child from her first marriage, who was born the same year that Hubby & I got married. Never mind that I always believed that my oldest child and her son, following in the Filipino tradition of extended family, would be the closest of friends. And certainly, never mind that I had always harbored resentment towards my SIL because I felt she was never there for me, as I felt a best friend should, after the failed IVF cycle. The fact of the matter was that my SIL was pregnant … and I wasn’t.

I’ll be honest and say that I had a complete emotional breakdown with that pregnancy announcement … and it’s not just because my SIL was pregnant. It was because like any “good” Filipina, I had spent the entire “trying to start my own family”-time pushing all those emotions aside. I never gave myself the chance to cry; never gave myself the chance to fully grieve the loss of my babies … even if they were just embryos. Instead I spent the time shoving all these emotions under the rug just so I can, as Asian-Americans call it, “Save Face.”

It was at that time, I finally sought counseling; and it was with this therapist’s encouragement that I decided I would have a heart-to-heart conversation with my SIL. And we did talk rather openly about my feelings. I told her how hard it would be for me to be as excited about her pregnancy as she and the rest of the family was. I even told her that I may not always be up for a conversation about her pregnancy. In fact, I told her that unless I brought up the subject, it meant that I wasn’t ready for baby talk. I came away from that “powwow” with a renewed sense of hope towards our friendship. And I also came away with a sense that I could start healing those emotional wounds that stifled me from moving forward on my Infertility path.

But then less than a week later, the proverbial sh*t hit the fan.

At 20 weeks, my SIL found out that her baby would be born with some congenital anomalies. Despite our recent chat … there was no other recourse but to be available for my SIL during this difficult time. And even though I was pretty uncomfortable about discussing the issues surrounding her pregnancy, I just knew that my SIL needed someone to talk to about her fears and her emotions.

I tried to be there for her as much as I possibly could. And when Liam was born prematurely and passed away four months later, I tried even more. Perhaps it may have not been as much as she wanted me to be. But I can honestly say I tried to give her all my support … as much I emotionally could, anyway.

Two months after Liam’s passing, Hubby & I received a card in the mail. It was a beautiful card expressing how much Hubby & I meant to both my SIL and her husband; especially during the past year. It was also a card to tell us some news that no one else had yet known …  that she and Mr. SIL were expecting again. And while I truly appreciated the manner in which she told us, I can’t say that I was emotionally strong enough to be exuberant about another pregnancy.

If I was honest enough, I would have to admit that I felt as if I just barely survived a “Tour of Duty” in Babyland and was then suddenly and  unexpectedly deployed for another “Tour.” And while I was incredibly happy that SIL was able get a “second chance” (if one could call it that) at having another child with her new husband, I was still trying to survive the Post-Traumatic Stress caused from her first pregnancy and subsequent birth. In a word, during this pregnancy, I was apathetic.

My apathy came across as trying to go back to the “status quo” I was prior to my SIL’s pregnancy with Liam. I was desperately trying to get back to whatever sense of normalcy there was before my world got so turned around. Quite literally, I was frozen and at a dead stop on the road through the Land of Infertility. And because I was still in a state of post-trauma, I didn’t know how to move forward … I didn’t know what to feel.

A week before Kairi was born, I finally felt something stir inside me. And, okay … perhaps it wasn’t the best thing to feel, but at least it was something . What came out was was a volatile anger; one that had been brimming at the surface for months … probably since the events after that heart-to-heart with my SIL during her pregnancy with Liam.

I can now say, without hesitation, that my SIL’s reaction to my post was certainly justified. However, what resulted from that reaction was a powerful blog post that forced me to take stock of everything that had lead me to that point in my life.

And today, I can now say with 100% certainty that it was that post that pushed me just a smidge forward towards finding a resolution to that dream (the one that involved a large family with me as the center) that I was obviously meant to let go. It was that post which forced me to quit putting my life on hold … to look towards a different future.

Since September of 2008, I have started to dream my new future; I’ve began to live that new life. But first, I managed to fulfill one old dream … Hubby & I actually did make it to Chicago and have now been living here for the past 18 months. We moved here for the career opportunities we both put on hold for so long. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say we moved here to put our “past dreams” to rest.

Our new dream? Our new future? Well it’s a future that, after much soul-searching, involves living child-free. It’s a future that also involves refocusing our lives around our relationship as “just husband and wife” … and not as “Mr. & Mrs. Genetic Dead End.”

It also involves the freedom of being able to plan future decisions without the constant need to determine whether it’s the optimal time during the month to conceive; without worrying where our dossier or “Dear Birthparent” profile is in the adoption process.

It allows us to travel together; explore a life together without the constant worry of not knowing if we’ll ever have a child to look out for us when we get older.

It allows us to dream again.

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There was one last piece to Project IF: Part II. Mel had asked us to end our post with a positive “What IF” statement.

The thing is, I could only come up with the same statement I used at the very beginning of this post. And I’d like you to take the time to re-read it again below.

Because despite the apprehensions I would have about rearranging the life I had finally accepted I would live … I would happily rearrange it again, if it meant that I’d be able to bring a life (made out of the love my Hubby & I have for one another) into this world.

“What if, after years of struggling with the roller coaster of infertility and FINALLY accepting the decision to live child-free, I get pregnant?”

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This entry is a contribution to Project IF. Bloggers from the ALI (Adoption, Loss, Infertility) community are writing “What IF” entries for National Infertility Awareness Week, April 24 to May 1, in conjunction with Stirrup Queens and Resolve.

To add your own “What IF” and to read others entries, click here.

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Thoughts on Adoption

Today, an article appeared on the New York Times regarding Russia’s decision to suspend adoptions to the U.S.

More Pics from Kairi's visit

The reason that Russia called for a halt on all adoptions of Russian children by Americans, in my opinion, was justified. I do believe that there needs to be further investigation from both sides of the ocean (or Bering Strait, I suppose).

As one half of an infertile couple, who at one time seriously considered adoption as a method to start our family, what this adoptive mother did was simply outrageous.  And furthermore, her actions have now affected any other potential adoptive parent who have invested much time, money and emotions in adopting a Russian child. This woman effectively shattered many dreams of many people.

Simply put, this breaks my heart.

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Speaking of dreams … During our engagement, Hubby & I had multiple discussions about how our future would be. We dreamed of owning a house big enough for at least 4 kids with a yard big enough for the dog we would own. We dreamed about how great our careers would be and how we would somehow manage to balance work life and home life.

And we dreamed about how incredible it would be to raise our children; how we would help our children find that balance between being American and being Filipino. We would make sure that they could be proud about their heritage and still be able to embrace the environment in which they lived.

Tyler at the Lego Store in Downtown Chicago

After all, Hubby and I were half- and first-generation** Filipino-Americans. We knew, first hand, the struggles of growing up with half our feet steeped in Filipino traditions and the other half finding a way to assimilate into the Western culture. This was especially evident when we were teenagers growing up in the ’80’s.

I mean seriously … Hubby & I have joked around about how we learned about typical American Teenager behavior from watching John Hughes (RIP … ) movies. In reality, that’s  actually not that far from the truth.

But I digress.

Another one of our dreams as an engaged couple looking towards our bright future had always been about adoption. Yes … adoption.

We had always dreamed about opening our hearts and home to other children who might not have been given the same love and opportunities and life that we had. Specifically we looked into adopting internationally, because we wanted to help a child with transitioning into the American culture much like we had while growing up. We wanted these children to embrace their new environment while being proud of where they were born. Much like we were.***  Err … rather are.

However, in that foggy crystal ball version of our future, adoption was something that Hubby & I planned to do after we had children of our own. After we were able to produce offspring that contained both of our DNA.

Kairi loves her Big Brother
Kairi loves her big brother ...

Call us selfish, but we just really wanted to see our genetic traits in a biological child and then be able to raise a child through adoption. This child might not share the same genes as us, but would share the same love and warmth and upbringing as our biological children. And for me personally, it was a chance for me to see Nature vs. Nurture at its best.

Unfortunately we never did get to see that nature part. At all. And if I was a strong enough person, I might have been able to see the nurture part. At least with raising a child.

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I applaud anyone who has sought to adopt as a means to start or add to their family.

It takes an incredibly strong and capable person to be able to put themselves through all the rules and regulations and investigations into your private lives just to raise a child that is not biologically your own. I know this from reading other IFer’s blogs about adoption and from talking to adoptive parents about their own experiences. From going to adoption agencies to gather information on our own.

... And Tyler loves his baby sister

Reading about Russia today also reminds me about other countries such as China and Guatemala that have also placed restrictions on potential adoptive parents from the U.S. And it’s because I know how long most of these individuals have been waiting for their chance to raise an internationally adopted  child. For those who have faced infertility, it’s the chance to raise any child.

And if I had enough strength, adopting internationally would have been my chance in passing a little bit of myself … that bit about being proud of my heritage while embracing the uncharted territories of being a first-generation immigrant … to my adoptive child.

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** Hubby was born in the Philippines and migrated to the U.S. at the age of five; effectively making him a “half-generation” immigrant. Of course, depending on what version of immigrant generations you go with, Hubby & I can be seen as 1.5- and second-generation immigrants. At least that’s what Wiki says … )

*** Well … okay, so I was born in the U.S. … but hopefully you understand what I mean.

Patriotic and PO'd

I am so annoyed. And the thing is, I should know better. It’s not like I haven’t been out and about social-networking for years; so I can’t use the excuse that I’m ignorant to internet-iquette.

Except … well, except there are certain things in life that I guess I consider my moral compass in life. And one of them (amongst many others) has always been the ability that we’ve been given as human beings to make our own choices in life; to reason.

So when I start seeing Tweets or Facebook statuses that are intended to show “pride” or elicit some sort of dark humor, but end up sounding more offensive than anything … well, that just makes think, “What the H*LL were you thinking?”

In other words, did someone I *know* consciously make that decision to post something that might … just might be offensive to other people?

Don’t get me wrong … I’m the first one to admit that I’ve done things just as stupid as what I’m complaining about. I’ve even been called out on the carpet for such stupid actions as well. While it’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world, it has taught me the lesson to think what I’m saying before I speak … er, I mean type.

So what exactly am I PO’d about? Well, this is the status that started it all. One post that says …

“WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Press 1 for English. Press 2 to disconnect until you learn to speak English. And remember only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, JESUS CHRIST and the AMERICAN SOLIDER. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom. If you agree and have the guts … copy and paste in your status!”

Yeah. I *personally* felt the sting of that one. On many levels. First there’s the whole “You’re in America, so you should only be speaking English.” Well I hate to burst the bubble here, but I believe that the US is considered a MELTING POT of different nations. You know, a mixture of people from different nations that have come to this nation in order to improve the quality of their lives and their families’ lives?

My parents were one of those people. Both came from the Philippines in search of a better life for themselves; a place where they could best make use of their education and talents and share it with the rest of the people in what has become their new “home.” While my Mom spoke fluent English (a primary language taught in Catholic school in the Philippines), my Dad learned it as a second language. And while I can’t *completely* understand what it’s like to learn English as a second language,  I can certainly empathize … especially since I’m “once-removed” from being born and raised outside the US.

And then there’s the part about having only two defining forces that have ever offered to die for me. I make no bones that I’m Christian; or more specifically, Catholic. I also fully admit that I’m not exactly a “practicing” Catholic; meaning that (much to my Mom’s chagrin) I don’t attend mass weekly. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God or Christ. Nor does it mean that I don’t hold myself to the basic Golden Rule, of which Christianity (and all other religions) is based.

In reality, I believe in the spirituality of Catholicism. I believe that there is GOOD in the world and that if your actions reflect what you believe in your heart to be good … then that goodness will return to you. But on the flipside, I do believe that BAD exist much in the same way. You reap what you sow. By living *my* life under the premise that I should do unto others as I would want done unto myself … well, that’s one of the reasons I *stop and think* about what I say or do before I act upon them. Would what I do hurt anyone else? What are the consequences of what I’m about to do?

Yeah … so to sprout the whole “Christ died for me” lecture in that Facebook status? Gimme a break. That is *NOT* a very “Christian” thing to do.

And trust me … I won’t go into the whole “American Soldier” bit; other than to say that I am patriotic enough to know that these soldiers have given up their “freedom” to keep America safe and *FREE*. And I’m also patriotic enough to know that it was a choice that they made. ‘Nuff said.

So why am I still riled up even though that Facebook status is now more than a week old? Well, it’s because of this status that was just posted on Monday:

“Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment – yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won’t have the guts to copy and repost this.”

Uh huh. Seriously.

Okay I get that, as a nation, we have homeless people and starving children and a health care system that’s broken for our elderly population / mentally ill population. But there is a reason why we are considered a wealthy country.

And when I mean “wealth,” I’m not strictly speaking about *FINANCIAL* wealth. I’m talking about a nation where we have many of the smartest, most progressive minds in the world. I’m talking about a country that shows their “wealth” by giving *every* individuals the opportunity … the choice, if you will … to improve themselves.

Do you think socialist countries afford every person that ability to better themselves? To move up in their station in life? More importantly, do you think that THIRD WORLD countries, like the Philippines or Haiti, are able to provide those same opportunities  to every citizen?

This is when America shines the most; when we provide *our* resources and services to countries that have been devastated by natural disasters. This is when we show exactly how generous a country we can be.

These moments … they are the moments when the words on our Statue of Liberty shine the brightest:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As I wrap up this long and rambling politically charged post … let me just remind everyone of one simple fact. Unless we are 100% Native American … we are all “immigrants” to this land. The same soil that has provided our forefathers (and now ourselves) with the ability to forge a new future; the land of opportunity … the land of CHOICES.

So just like our parents / grandparents / great-grandparents, etc who chose to come to the land of freedom (and who may have *NOT* known how to speak English) … choose your destiny (and your words/actions) wisely.

Walt in the World?!

My cousin, who otherwise loves the Disney Channel, recently made a comment about how Disney hates Asians. She commented on how many of the Asian actresses or cartoon characters on this network tend to be portrayed as either b*tchy or ditzy. Well, other than Mulan, that is.

And even though my cousin might disagree, I do think Lilo (from “Lilo & Stitch”) can technically be considered an Asian. Because … and follow along with me here … The Philippine Islands are located in the Pacific ocean. Therefore, Filipinos are considered Pacific Islanders and are lumped into the “Asian/Pacific Islander” category (as “dictated” by the US Census Bureau). And seeing as if the Hawaiian Islands are in the Pacific …

Yeah, so that’s my logic in explaining Lilo’s Asian-ness …

But my cousin’s comment reminded me of something that was pointed out to me by one of Hubby’s cousins last summer on our trip to Disneyworld. While at Mickey’s Toontown Fair, we stumbled upon one of the biggest mass-marketing stores inside the Magic Kingdom. Inside this store were rows and rows of toys from various movies. One entire section was dedicated to the Disney Princesses.

What Hubby’s cousin pointed out to us was this:

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Rather inconspicuous, don’t you think? I mean really … Snow White, Belle, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty in one package. Princess Jasmine, Ariel, Mulan and Pocahontes in a separate package.

The “Classic Princesses” (although, I question if Belle, created in 1991, is considered a “classic”) in one set, at eye level on the shelves. And the rather “unique” Princesses (an Arabian Princess, a Redheaded Mermaid, a “China Doll” and an American Indian Princess) in another set, located at waist level on the shelf below.

To me, it’s one of those things that make you go “Hmmmm ….”

Anyhoo, going back to my cousin’s initial comment … the reason I’m writing about this topic is because I’ve often felt the same thing about the way that American mass media portrays Asians. And specifically Asian-American females. It seems as if we’re perceived as being one or the other.

Yeah ... Lilo is a "Pacific Islander"

Yeah … Lilo is a “Pacific Islander”

Bitchy or subservient.

Intelligent or ditzy.

Foreign-born or Adopted.

As an American-born and bred Filipina (and even for those that may have been born “abroad” but spent there formative years growing up in the US), this is a rather annoying (and not to mention incorrect) observation that has not often been voiced aloud.

I can’t tell you how many people have asked when my Hubby (who is also Filipino) and I moved to the US. And did we marry each other before moving here? Or did we marry after one of us became a US citizen? (The answer is NO for both questions, btw … we met in high school here and subsequently married here six years after we started dating.)

And while I’m on the same subject, I can’t tell you how many of my Asian girlfriends who married “non-Asians” have been told by others that they thought they were “mail order brides.” Just because they married outside of their culture.

Or how about when I was working at the beside as a Registered Nurse in a hospital setting? I found myself taking care of many American Vets who served in either WWII or the Korean/Vietnam wars. And many times, I was told that they could “never understand” me because my Chinese / Vietnamese / Korean / Japanese accent was “too strong.” Even though I speak perfectly clear English with my hometown Midwestern accent.

I could go on and on. Like my first job at a local fast food establishment; where my boss thought that Asians were “too smart for their own good” and should not be allowed to work the cash registers. Or even this incident, mentioned in one of my much earlier blog post. But then it would seem as if I’m merely “complaining.”

The truth is, I hope that others would see that not all Asian women fit into any one stereotype. That we are all unique, just like every other woman out there. That like every Disney Princess out there, we want to be recognized for the unique strengths we can offer to this world … regardless of how we physically see our “outer” reflections in the mirror.

And so, to bring it all back to Disney … here’s a song from one of my favorite movies of all time; one that sometimes hits closer to home than I’d like it to.