Friends

Secrets of an Infertile

The first time I ever took a home pregnancy test (HPT) was on the morning of first wedding anniversary. Hubby & I had only recently decided that we were ready to start the next phase in our lives together. Plus, Aunt Flo had been missing for over a week by then, so I figured it was time.

I won’t lie … I also thought that the prospect of presenting positive “pee stick” as an anniversary gift would have made our first wedding anniversary together all that more memorable.

But when the test came back negative, I threw the stick away and climbed back into bed to cuddle with Hubby who was still sound asleep. And yes, I was disappointed … but at that time in our lives, Infertility was just a distant diagnosis, which was … in no way, related to me.

I’ve never told anyone this story before because until today, it wasn’t something that I considered very relevant to my life as an “Infertile.”

Hubby had been privy to this story, because later that day he happened upon the open HPT package in the trash and wondered why I took one. But otherwise, no one else in our lives had a clue that we were even “actively trying” at the time.

It was something that Hubby & I, as a young married couple, wanted to keep to ourselves.

*****

It’s only natural that most couples wish to keep their decisions on family-planning a secret. Okay … maybe not so much a secret, but more of a discussion that happens strictly between the couple.

After all, it really should be no one’s business to know what’s going on in a couple’s sex life. Right?

But what happens when love and marriage don’t automatically lead to the proverbial baby carriage? And what if months — nay, years go by without having anything to show but a garbage full of negative pregnancy test?

What if you had spent thousands of dollars for an infertility diagnosis and work-up? And then turned around and spent even more money on trying to “fix” the medical problems so that you could produce a biological child of your own?

Should a couple still keep their family-building plans and the infertility diagnosis a secret?

What if you and your spouse had to continuously be poked by various needles and prodded by various health professionals, month after month, just to determine when the optimal time was to reproduce? To go home and have a romp in the bedroom (stress-free, of course)? To collect a man specimen in the comfort of a sterile clinic? To have to sit nice and pretty in those G*d-awful stirrups? Only to be disappointed month after month …

Would it still be inappropriate for a couple to talk about how infertility has affected their lives?

What if you or your spouse were done pursuing the medical route of infertility and decided to adopt? What if you spent an additional thousands of dollars in order to be scrutinized by adoption agencies, local and federal government officials? Just so these agencies can determine if you were “worthy” enough to be parents?

What if the Birth Mom/Family decided to change their minds at the last minute? Or what if the country you decided to pursue an international adoption decided to close their doors on all adoptions?

Would now be a good time to talk to loved ones about infertility?

And finally, what if you and your spouse thoughtfully and thoroughly considered all your other options to build your family … and after years of disappointment and heartache, decided that living child-free was your best path in life?

Would it be okay for the couple to comfortably discuss this decision with any random stranger who asks if the couple has any kids?

These are difficult questions to answer. I know; as I’ve had to dissect each individual question with a fine-tooth comb. I’ve had to determine how each answer would affect the rest of my life and my relationships with those I’ve felt close to at one time or another.

The truth is, each person … each couple and/or the family & friends that are affected by this couple’s infertility … will have different answers. That’s because each person’s journey through infertility can be different than the person standing next to him or her. Even if they were sitting next to each other at an Infertility Specialist’s office.

*****

I find it sad that society deems “family-building” discussions as a private issue amongst infertile couples.

Huh?! WTF ...

Okay, let me reword that last statement: I find it disappointing that society deems “family building” discussions as inappropriate when it comes to Infertility.

While I do think that there are certain discussions and decisions that should be left private amongst the infertile couple, I do think that other conversations should be okay to discuss with other people … other family members and friends and other infertile couples.

Because if anything, Infertiles can be the worse when it comes to openly talking about their experiences and emotions when it comes to building their family.

There’s an article in SELF Magazine’s August issue that outlines this exact issue.

This article (aptly titled “This Woman Has A Secret”) found that a recent survey indicates that 61% of infertility patients hide their struggle to get pregnant from friends and family.

And seeing that 1 in 8 American couples experience infertility … well, yeah. That’s a lot of people that aren’t talking about the heady emotions that can be associated with the inability to reproduce.

Along with those questions I previously posed, other common concerns that an infertile couple can experience include the fear that their life will be eternally empty. Or the sense that the couple is damaged or broken.

Both amplify the shame already incurred by the couple; as they likely feel different from being different than other “normally reproducing” family and friends.

Both make the couple more embarrassed to talk about these struggles and associated emotions with their loved ones.

*****

It’s a difficult thing … wanting to talk about a person’s (or couple’s) individual journey through infertility. It’s ten-times more difficult, given the shame that’s associated with infertility.

As the SELF article points out, it gets even more exhausting when an infertile couple:

… become slaves of their monthly cycle; often unable to leave town even for a weekend getaway due to daily monitoring for hormone levels and egg counts. When month after month a couple fails to get pregnant, their lives stall and the question of whether or not their family will expand looms over decisions about the car they buy, the house they live in, the clothes they purchase.

And this, along with many other reasons, is why many infertile couples choose to keep their “family-building” struggles a secret. Why they continue with the facade that “family-building” discussions should remain personal, as society dictates.

*****

After years of keeping my struggle a secret … of burying the emotions I’ve felt for so long … I believe that it is extremely important to talk about these issues. And I think it’s important for an individual to find their own outlet or support systems.

Hubby & I became "shadows" of our former self ...

But first and foremost, I think it’s very important to keep an open communication with your Spouse/SO. Because if there is anyone else who should know what you’re going through, it should be the person who is traveling down the infertility journey with you.

For Hubby & I, it’s a path that we took together, hand-in-hand. We made it a point to talk about each of our concerns openly and honestly (yes, even the scary parts) so that we knew where we both were at emotionally. And if one person was even slightly ahead of the other person, we’d make an effort to “wait” until both of us were both “on board” before making any major decisions. There was no pushing or prodding; there was patience and understanding that both of us dealt with our issues in very unique manners.

If anything … that was my saving grace in our journey together. Hubby was my rock — my torch, so to speak, lighting my way through the darkness. And I hope that he can say the same thing for me as well.

*****

As for other support systems outside of the couple … It’s difficult to find support out there. I know; I’ve tried.

I’ve sought support amongst my loved ones; my friends. But it’s honestly hard for them to completely understand what it’s like, unless they’re walking in your shoes, your path.

But after years (and years) of dealing with Infertility, I’ve finally learned to turn this experience around by educating others about my journey. And I did this by debunking statements (like “just relax”) and myths (like “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant”) whenever they would surface in those inevitable conversations.

This is because I believe that the more an Infertile person openly discusses their experiences, the more that the general population will understand and learn to empathize with the Infertility community.

I hope that this is a lesson that other Infertile couples can learn from my own experience: Talk openly about it now, so that others can be more empathetic to the Infertility path.

*****

I’ve also tried to find support in an Infertility Support Group.

For me, that was not my cup of tea. My experience mimicked how another person in the SELF article so aptly stated, “Everyone gets up and tells their success stories. Infertility treatment isn’t always about success.”

But … that may not be the case for every support group. So please … you should still seek out an Infertility support group before passing any judgment. It just may just be the perfect outlet for you.

*****

Finally, (and only after a major catastrophic life event) I tried some individual counseling. And that planted the seed that allowed me to talk about my Infertility and the emotions that came with those struggles.

My advice for an Infertile person trying to find the right therapist? Talk to your Infertility Specialist and ask for a recommendation. If you’re not currently seeing a specialist; call one in your area and ask. Chances are, the Front Desk staff or the RN in the office will be more than willing to give you a recommendation. If not, check out RESOLVE’s website for a list of professionals in the area.

*****

Again, huh?!

There’s one more outlet for support that I want to point out. And this outlet, I must say, has been the most therapeutic for me.

After much encouragement from my therapist, I sought out support from online communities. I started out by reading message boards and eventually sought out personal blogs. From there, I stumbled onto Mel’s list and found an entire blogosphere of people that I suddenly felt I could relate to.

Suddenly I wanted to share my story. I wanted others to know what *I* had gone through in my journey. And, because there wasn’t enough representation from the Asian-American/Filipino-American community, I wanted to let those Infertile individuals/couples know that they weren’t alone.

And, as the Asian-American culture typically simultaneously praises Motherhood and yet frowns upon discussions leading up to Motherhood, *I* wanted to have an outlet for where I can point other family members and friends to read when the inevitable, “What? You don’t want kids?” questions came up.

The support I’ve received from the three years I’ve now been writing on this blog have been overwhelming. Not only have I met the most incredible people who get me (and understand my wacky sense of humor), but I’ve found support in old friends and family that I might never have found any other way.

So yes … if anything, I encourage writing a blog as an outlet for your Infertility issues. I encourage you to write about your struggles, your emotions … your biggest fears and worst nightmares and post it for the world to see. I encourage you to be honest, as well.

But most importantly, I encourage advertising it to your friends and family. Because we all know that keeping secrets from your loved ones (whether big or small) can ultimately be frustrating and tiring for all involved.

So why not let the secret out?

*****

I write this to let other Infertile couples know that they do not have to suffer through these struggles alone.

I write this to encourage other Infertiles to talk about their experiences to others.

And I write this to ensure that those now-parents – those who suffered through Infertility on their way to parenthood – continue to share their struggles of Infertility … regardless of how busy their lives may be, now that they have children.**

I write this to make sure that Infertility no longer remains a secret.

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Related Posts:

A brief history of Emily’s Infertility Journey

When Emily decided enough was enough

Why Emily blogs for Infertile Asian/Filipino-Americans

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** This was the only beef I had about the SELF article. For all that it said about the importance of “letting the secret out,” the last sentence in the article is what soured me the most:

Working behind the scenes [of supporting the Infertility community] is one option, but [Lisa] says, ‘I’m sure my volunteer efforts will be for schools or parks. Once I have twins, I’ll have a lot less free time.”

Hindsight is always 20/20 ...

Facebook Me!

Anybody that knows me or has followed me knows that Emily loves her Facebook.

It’s a great way for me to keep in touch with those family and friends that live elsewhere in the world and it’s a great way to remain informed with everyone’s daily life.

I’ve also discovered that it’s a great way to disseminate information readily to those interested masses.

While I primarily use this blog to write about my life and all the surprising twists and turns that life has provided for me, I’ve started to use Facebook to provide other useful information regarding all aspects of infertility.

As most infertiles know, it’s often difficult to discuss the heartache and pain of infertility aloud to others; even to those that you may be extremely close to. That’s because infertility has historically been a taboo subject.

Which brings me to the reason I started my Facebook Page.

My belief is that the more a person is informed about infertility, the more comfortable that this person will be about talking and educating others about infertility.

My Facebook Page has been a way for me to post valuable information and other interesting blog posts about infertility in the hopes that everyone remains informed.

Please … if you’re on Facebook (and even if you’re not), I’d love you to come visit my page. And I encourage you to start discussions.

Identity Labels

Anybody remember the old-school Dymo label-makers? I’m not talking about the fancy electric ones where you can type in whatever you want before printing it up. I’m talking about the ones where you turn the dial to choose the letter and squeeze the handle (as hard as possible) to imprint it on the red or black vinyl tape. And G*d forbid if you misspelled a word and have to start from the beginning.

For some reason I was thinking about that label-maker this past weekend. And really, it started last week when I received a wonderful email from an old High School Friend (HSF) that I hadn’t heard from in years. She had responded via Facebook in regards to the post in which I admittedly found myself questioning my purpose in life.

HSF talked about how, as women, we are always questioning ourselves about what we truly want in life. That we’re always finding a way to label ourselves while simultaneously trying to achieve more than what we can physically and emotionally handle. And that, in the process, we tend to lose perspective of who we really are in the grand scheme of things.

For HSF, it’s a matter of juggling multiple identities. She’s a wife, a daughter, a mother of three (beautiful) children. She’s also a free-lancer, a founding president of one of her alma mater’s alumni groups. Yet as beautiful as her life appears (especially from perusing through Facebook), she admits that she’s still coming to terms with the “Successful Career Woman” label; especially as she’s currently staying at home to with her three young kids.

The point of HSF’s email was not to point out how much different her life was to mine; rather it was simply to point out that regardless of how we view our lives, we only limit ourselves by placing labels on who we are or what we do. And furthermore, why can’t we just enjoy the path that we’re currently on and embrace who we are while traveling down this path?

I must admit, I’m still struggling to deal with the valid points that HSF has brought up. I’m sure it has to do a lot with the many years of believing that “Motherhood” was the end-all be-all for a woman’s livelihood. (I contribute this, as always, to the strong Filipino cultural influence that I identify with.) And, even though I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t have biological children of my own, I still long for something to fill that void that Infertility has robbed me.

Furthermore, with my recent unemployment situation, I feel as though I’ve been stripped yet another label that I’ve identified myself with. That “successful career woman” identity flew out the window the day I found myself surreptitiously without a job.

And really … that’s what this post was trying to explain.

While I’d love to “give up” those labels that I’ve placed on myself, I also must admit that it’s these labels that I’ve come to rely on to “ground” myself, so to speak, when I’ve otherwise felt lost. It’s these labels that help remind me of who *I* am in the face of uncertainty:

  • I’m a Wife.
  • I’m an only Daughter.
  • I’m a Sister to my Brother.
  • I’m a friend.
  • I’m Filipino-American (1st generation).
  • I’m Catholic.
  • I’m a nurse.
  • I’m a writer.
  • I’m infertile.
  • I’m child-free after infertility.

When looking at who I am; what I believe is the center of my core … it’s pretty obvious that there are those identities that I have no control over. These are the identities that have been imprinted on my soul; the ones that I cannot change. The ones that I’ve grown to accept as part of who I am in this life.

Then there are the labels I’ve chosen for myself (Catholic, nurse, writer, friend). Those are the identities that, despite the years of time and investment I put into them, I can readily let go. But do I really want to do that?

The problem, as I see it, is when one of these identities has been lost; especially at a time where I wasn’t ready to a) let go of that identity, or b) accept that identity for what it is.

Take for instance, the part of myself that identifies with being infertile. This was one label I never expected to own. But the fact of the matter is that after one year of trying to conceive (waaaay back when, it seems), we were unable to get pregnant. By definition, infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. That’s a fact. There’s no way I can change that pat of me; there’s no way I have control over that situation.

But take the part of me that identifies with being child-free after infertility. We tried everything that we could possibly do (within our own capabilities both financially and emotionally) to give ourselves a biological child, but that just never happened. And because we thought long and hard about our other options, Hubby & I chose to accept that living child-free was what was best for me. And believe me … it was not an easy choice to make.

And because, she nails it right on the head … here’s how Pam from Silent Sorority recently described the reason why she and her husband chose the child-free path:

“It got to the point where the potential heartbreak was actually more overwhelming than the glimmer of very small hope.”

In any case, my point is that with our decision to live child-free, I dealt with having to let go of one chosen identity and accept a new chosen identity. I had to let go of that identity of motherhood that I held on for so long. and I had to accept that living without children, despite the incredible longing to have a biological child of our own, was my new identity.

As I said before, the decision to live child-free wasn’t a choice that we wanted to make. It’s not that we didn’t discuss opening our hearts to adoption. Or opening our wallets to more infertility treatments. Simply put, identifying ourselves as living child-free was a choice that we had to make. Hubby & I needed to weigh our options to decide if that the small glimmer of hope was worth the insurmountable heartbreak we’d already been through. Hubby & I needed to make this decision so we (or rather *I*) could maintain my sanity.

Because if I didn’t put that label on me, I’d still be struggling to determine who I was … if I couldn’t be the mother I had always dreamed about.

And of course now … my new identity crisis is to determine what to do with my career. But I will take a page out of HSF’s book and learn to enjoy the journey while I discover what’s next.

How about you, Blog World? What parts of yourself keep you grounded? What labels do you place on yourself? How do you identify yourself?

A Day Full of Events

Who knew that April 24th would be quite an eventful day?

First, I just realized (a-la-Facebook status updates) that it’s one of our good friends‘ Date-O-Versary (15 years!) and Wedding Anniversary (6 years!) all in one.

Then I remembered that it was also my HS friend’s daughter’s birthday. Little E is now two years old today! (Where did time go?) A visit yesterday evening to their place found Kozzy & I handing a very talkative E an early birthday gift since we weren’t going to be able to join her for cake & ice cream this afternoon.

And the reason why we couldn’t make it for cake & ice cream today was because we’re heading back to Detroit for the night. That’s because it’s another important person’s birthday today … my Dad’s!! So it’s off to dinner with the folks for some great food and even better conversation. After all … it’s been a while since we were last back in Motown.

So congrats to our friends celebrating their love today. And Happy 2nd Birthday to the cuteness that is E.

And an especially Happy Birthday to my Dad today … you will always have the love of your “little” girl!

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Oh, and if three events aren’t enough for one day … let’s throw in one more. Today is the start of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW).

If you get a chance, check out last year’s posts regarding Infertility. And I promise, more blog posts about this year‘s NIAW will be forthcoming …

Midnite Wind

Yesterday evening I got to spend some time with an old friend, T. It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to sit more than an hour and talk … which typically would be during the annual Chicago Comicon when both of us would be “in town.”

T was always a gracious host. Charming.

I say “in town” because before last year, T would fly in from the west coast (or even overseas!) while Hubby & I would drive from Detroit. Yes, we’re that much of comic-geeks (well, rather Hubby & T are) to go yearly to Chicago for the past 5-plus years now.

Now, as of two months ago … we’re all in the same state and within one hour of each other. And because Hubby’s been helping him (as well as me) set up his own website (still under construction, BTW) to promote his own comic, the two of them have been “chatty” lately.

And seeing that *I* knew T before Hubby ever did … well, yeah. I was feeling a little left out. So yesterday, when I knew the two of them were meeting up in Evanston, I made sure that they’d stick around long enough for me to meet them after I got off work.

Seeing T again after a couple years (he never made it out to last year’s comicon, and we opted for San Diego the year before) was nice. It had me reflecting over the first day as a university student, moving into my dorm. I happened to first meet him in line while waiting to get my school ID taken.

Even though he claims we met back in high school my freshman year  after Track practice when I asked a mutual friend of ours if they had seen my brother. T even insists that I told him to look out for Dr. Bro’s “sh*tty brown car.”

Future-SIL, T and me (from right to left) ... Look how skinny I was!! Sigh ...

Which of course, makes me chuckle because that would totally be something I would have said.  Unfortunately I only have a very vague recollection of that memory. Which is why *I* still claim that we first met that first day I started in college.

“Hey,” T said to me. “Aren’t you [Dr. Bro’s real name] little sister?”

“Yeah,” I answered, as I crinkled my nose.

And every time we see each other, T has to bring up that story. Just to  remind me on how “offended” I looked when he asked me that question. And then I have to remind him how in high school I was always known as Dr. Bro’s “younger sister.” And here, on the first day at a new school, I immediately get recognized as being related to Dr. Bro. Again.

After those awkward first words, we found out that he’d eventually be moving into the same dorm that I’d be in and that we should “hang out” sometime. So afterwards, I ran up to my room and told future-SIL** that I just met my first new college friend.

Once T moved into our dorm (probably about a week after that first meeting), the three of us became quick friends. Future-SIL and I would pester him mercilessly and, for some strange reason, he would put up with us. Then there would be the countless times we’d end up in his room late at night playing poker for pennies and  … uhm, yeah … other college-related “experiences. (Oh come on now … I wasn’t that bad, but it was my first year in college after spending 12 years in Catholic school!)

T showing off his Chinese yoyo skills

Like, for instance, the time he called us on our dorm phone and whispered oh-so-quietly, “Does the wind blow at midnite?” In which he later came up at midnight with one of those industrial-sized roles of toilet paper from the communal bathroom on his floor. And brought it up to Future-SIL and my dorm room. Which was the corner room. Of the top floor of our building. And we proceeded to … uhm … let the wind carry the whole roll of toilet paper outside of our dorm room. Which then proceeded to wrap around our entire dorm building. TWICE. !!!

Anyway, my point being is that T is one of those long time friends that, regardless where we are (both in location and in whatever stage) in life, we pick up wherever we left off.

And that’s a comforting thought in the midst of chaos or tranquility.

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Eesh. Why does the last few days of Lent seem like forever? Here’s my daily Lenten bit.

Look closely at the yoyo above me ... Hmmph!

Good Deed of the Day: Does going into work for an extra day count as a good deed? If it means that I was able to give some extra feedback and encouragement and to my staff, then methinks it does!

Grateful Thought of the Day: I think this one’s obvious today. I’m grateful for friends where it’s as if we’ve never skipped a beat. It could be as simple as not having seen each other in a long time. Or it could be as unique as meeting in person for the very first time, but feeling as if we’ve known each other forever.  Those are true friendships.

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** What? You didn’t know?! I may have, in a previous post mention that my SIL and I were college roomates the first two years at university.

Voices Emily

I’ve made no bones that, at one time in my life I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to sing in front of adoring fans and raise the roof with some kick-a$$ songs that I wrote myself. Never mind that I was just a mediocre musician. And never mind that I never have an incredibly strong voice. I mean really … I never did make the actual Show Choir in High School; the same Show Choir that would go on to compete and  perform in other settings (a-la Glee).

My Cousins & I being "Gleeks"

Regardless, I just wanted to BE something important; to display some incredible talent and to feel some pride in myself. I wanted show that I had enough confidence in myself because confidence was something I’ve struggled with my entire life.

Well, not my entire life. Just from Eighth Grade on, when upon leading up to graduation from middle school, I was voted “Most Arrogant.” Which then resulted in me being ousted from my usual group of classmates; especially  during our class trip to Toronto where I got stuck rooming with one of the school teachers and the other “bad girls” of our class.

Anyway, my point in bringing that up is to show how one bad incident in a person’s life can affect his or her outlook in life; his or her confidence in what may be considered talent or skill.

Hubby rockin' out on Rockband

Last week I’ve start getting back into American Idol. I usually like watching the first few weeks with all the auditions just so I can get a good laugh at some of the contestants (“Pants on the ground,” anyone?). Then I usually opt out of Hollywood Week and the first few live weeks; aiming to pick it back up around the Top 12 or so. And I think I do that because by then, most of the contestant’s real personalities start to show off in their performance; they’re more comfortable in the skin that they’re in. In short, they start to have much more confidence in themselves.

The reason I brought up American Idol in relationship to confidence is because some of the comments that Simon, Randy and the other judges make in response to some of the contestants’ performances. Many times I’ve heard them say that singers need to find themselves in the song choices they make; they need to make the song their own. And while I sometimes think they try to pigeonhole a few contestants into a certain genre, I do feel that the judges do that in their best interest; to help the contestants focus on what the judges feel is their strength.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my parents had a very early version of a karaoke machine; a dual tapedeck and 8-track player that could record your voice singing to an instrumental version of any song in your karaoke tape library. (What can I say? It was the early 80’s … CD’s and digital technology wasn’t consumer-friendly at the time.) So yeah, I’ve got a few tapes downstairs in my parents’ basement with my voice one them.

More Rockband with Hubby's Cousins

But the thing about these recordings is that my voice always tried to sound like the artist that originally recorded the song. Whether it was a breathy version of “Like a Virgin” or a nasally version “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me?” I never truly discovered my own voice.

As I continue to find my new reality in a Child-free world, I’m finding that I’m beginning to feel more comfortable in my own skin. I find that, although I’m not always the most well-liked person out there … don’t always hold the same popular opinion that other people have … I’m quite okay with it; comfortable enough that I don’t always feel like I need to be “right” or prove someone “wrong.”

Oh, believe me … most days I still find myself “left out” of the Mommyhood Club, seeing that I’m part of that 10% of the population that bite the infertility statistical bullet. There are more days than none where I feel the losses more than I count my blessings … but those “off days” seem to happen less frequently.

And, unlike the awkward 13-year old eighth-grader who felt incredibly shunned by her classmates, I’m no longer afraid of showing a little pride in myself; a little more confidence on who I really am … regardless of whether I’m a mom or not.

Ironically? This year … the year I’ve finally accepted myself and my body for what it is? Well, it’s the same year that I’ve managed to stop trying to sing like Madonna; the year that I’ve finally found my own voice.

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Annnnddd … it’s Finnish today; for my Daily Lenten exercise:

Tyler also "Rocks Out"!

Hyvän teon tänään: Once again, I managed to find another stray dollar bill laying around. This time it was in a typically busy hallway at work. And of course when I found it, the entire hallway was empty. So once again, I made a donation to my co-worker’s favorite homeless guy. Funny thing was, when I found it I was on the phone with Hubby. And his comment was, “Wow; if you kept all the dollar bills you’ve found recently, you’d have a nice little pot.” Of which I quickly replied, “No way … I’d rather have my good deed return to me in spades!” Hey, my philosophy has always been “What goes around, comes around”!

Tunne kiitollisuutta päivä: I am so grateful to have the staff of RN Case Managers that I do. Even though they challenge me every day … today, especially as I rolled out their performance goals for the year … they’ve always showed appreciation to me for giving them the opportunity to express their opinions. Hey, I figure that I’d rather hear the complaints directly in front of me than behind my back!!

Okay, that’s all for now. G’night once again!

Out of My Shell

Nice Sunny Chicago Day ... Last Summer!

It’s gorgeous outside. And I know this, despite being locked up under artificial lights since 8:30 this morning, because I’ve been unchained from my desk for a lunch time break. I couldn’t let the beautiful day go by without soaking up some of that sun.

I’m getting a head start on today’s post only because I will be attending my second Meetup for the week; another one about Bloggers in the Chicago area. This apparently is one of the bigger groups (300+ members), so I’m a little hesitant to see how personal or unpersonal this event will be.

In any case, I suppose it’s a good thing to get out there in this city. After a over a year of being here, I need to find a balance between work and play. And seeing that this was one of my problems back in Detroit, I figure it best be something I correct now.

It’s amazing how the older we get, the harder it is to step outside of our shells. Somedays I’m still amazed how I managed to pick up and leave the only city I’ve ever known and start over. And having a job waiting for me was definitely a blessing in disguise; because, if anything, at least that provided me with the ability to interact with people and relate to them on some common ground (the job, our backgrounds as Case Managers, etc).

This hasn’t been the same for Hubby. While he continued to have free-lance jobs and interact with people either online or on the phone, there wasn’t much face-to-face interaction in his day. (It probably was more face-to-laptop screen or ear-to-iPhone interaction more than anything.) While I encouraged him to work outside of our apartment where there were more chances of human contact, somedays he was too busy to leave his home-office. And somedays, he preferred only furbaby interaction instead.

Either way, it’s a good thing that he discovered Meetup.com. It’s a site that allows people to search for communities and events by interest; narrowing it down to a specific location. And because Chicago is a rather big city, there happens to be more groups/communities available that suit his interests. So for the past (almost) three months now, he’s been attending various events and beginning to build his network.

Now is the time for me to start doing this. And seeing that my interests lately have been more towards writing more and blogging, it makes sense to go to this Meetup tonite. I have no idea where this blog will take me, but I truly hope that I can at least learn some tips of the trade in trying to get my blog out there and read more often.

Wish me luck!!

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Whew … 17 more days and counting until my Lenten journey is over! Go me!!

Good Deed Du Jour: Today we had another inservice at work for the entire staff. Unfortunately, the majority of my in-house staff wanted to go together; which I couldn’t allow because our phones needed to be covered for potential incoming live calls from our Customer Service area. But since two staff members left behind had really expressed interest over going to this topic in the past, I told them I’d cover for their phones and get our telecommuters to cover the phones as well. Both of them were very grateful!

Gratitude Du Jour: Thank goodness for warm sunny days! Nothing like a little bit of sunshine to give us a taste of Spring … which officially begins on the 21st! Yay!!

Amateur Night

My Dad tries to "Poll Dance" in Vegas on the shuttle ... It's his Amateur Night! LOL!

How is it that I managed to attend my first Meetup group event on the eve of my blogoversary? And how perfect that I joined a group called Chicago Blogs?

Yes, Hubby finally managed to drag me (although not kicking and screaming) to one of his Meetup events. Which, seeing that it just happens to be about blogging, seems perfect as a Meetup Virgin.

WOW, did I learn quite a bit about the “geekier” side of blogging! From SEOs (a term I just learned tonight) to marketing my blog in various manners … I feel as if I’m quite behind on my learning curve for blogging. But that’s okay. Because that’s what this group is about; which is to learn from each other and share various experiences.

Seeing that I had never been to a Meetup event before, I was initially quite nervous. Although I’m the “outgoing” one between Hubby & I, there are still times that I can be quite shy. But from the moment Hubby & I arrived, we both felt quite comfortable.

So thank you, Marty, for being such a gracious host. And seriously, it was incredible to meet such a great group of people with various experiences in the blogoverse. Looking forward to picking your brain for more ideas … especially now that I finally have a registered domain!!

And now comes the time-consuming part (mostly on Hubby’s end) of designing and developing my blog …

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Well … seeing that it’s the eve of St. Patrick’s day, might as well go for an Irish version of my Lenten Activities:

Dea-Gníomhas an Lae: Today’s good deed was all about encouragement. Not only was it about encouragement to some of the new folk I met tonight; especially those that have just entered into the world of blogging … but it was also about providing feedback and confidence to all of my employees as we met one-on-one today.

Bhuíochas ar an Lae: I am grateful for the opportunity to meet new people. Being new in a city is not necessarily a bad thing … it’s just the older I get, the harder it is to meet other people outside of work and outside of my profession. So being able to meet new people and find common interests? Yeah … that’s just the whip cream on top of the banana split!

Okay all, that’s it. I’m barely keeping my eyes open at this time … Good night!

Pushing It

Don't forget DJ Spinderella!

Don't forget DJ Spinderella ...

Remember that song by Salt n Pepa? The one that goes, “Ahh … <inhale>, Push it”? The same one that I used to say “Bullsh*t” instead of the real lyrics? I just thought of that song today during a Leadership class I attended today.

I should start off by saying that our department is really decent about providing its supervisors and managers with continuing education classes. In fact, every month we typically have one of these all-day sessions, which is a great time for us to focus on “us” as leaders. And which is why most of us look forward to these days.

Today’s class happened to be about being assertive while not appearing pushy. (A-ha! Now you get my Salt n Pepa reference!) It’s one thing that I know I have issues with; not necessarily about the “being pushy” part, but the “being assertive” bit. You see, I know that I tend to be passive rather than assertive or aggressive. I know that I tend to be indecisive rather than authoritative. I know that I tend to lean towards keeping things harmonious rather than try to stir the pot.

Not that I mean to keep rehashing old issues … but a good example of this is how I dealt with my infertility. Especially up to the point where my SIL announced her pregnancy with my nephew, Liam. Rather than make others be subjected to how much of a failure I felt, I kept all those feelings in. I may have outwardly shown that I was okay, but in truth I was a big unhappy mess inside. Once I found out about the pregnancy, all those insecurities tore open wide … And there was nothing I could do to stop myself from openly feeling miserable.

In the same token, I know that once a particular “button” is pushed; whether it be a verbal or nonverbal action, I can go full-force into agressive mode. Which, again I don’t mean to rehash another old issue, happened to me with my SIL following the birth of my niece, Kairi. And even though I felt “better” about finally expressing everything I had ever felt about my infertility, I felt … guilty for doing it in such a manner.

Yet, for a while there … the time period between Liam and Kairi, there was a little bit of assertiveness. Perhaps I wasn’t directly assertive; because, truth be told, I never physically approached a person face-to-face about my infertility. But that assertiveness came in the form of my blog; where I was able to sort through all the emotions and insecurities I had about myself and my lack of ability to create a life. And where I was able to express these feelings in a written form.

During today’s class, I learned that most people who are not assertive feel that they are not in control of their situation. As a passive person, that lack of control comes forth in the sense of indecision. As an aggressive person, it comes forward as being forceful and emotional.

To become more “assertive” (and therefore less passive or less aggressive), one of the learning tools that we learned was to determine when the optimal time would be to have that conversation about behaviors or actions. In order to determine that optimal time, we must first determine what our worries are about having this conversation.

In order to do that, we were given instructions. First, we needed to write down all of these worries. Next we were told to eliminate any of those worries we had no control over. And finally, we were told to take those worries we had control over and ask ourselves, “How can I … ?”

That last step was key for me. It’s that one that I knew would be able to ease my discomfort in having an assertive conversation. First of all, it forces me to realize those worries I knew I couldn’t change. Secondly, it helped point out those concerns that I knew I could modify. And finally, by asking “How can I … ?”,  it allows  me to feel as if I was part of a solution to a problem or situation rather than appearing aggressive and dictatorial.

More important was that first step … at least to the blogger in me. That step … the one where I need to write all these worries down … helped confirm that what I had been doing has been helpful in allowing me to grow in assertiveness. Because blogging about my frustrations and anger and jealousy; it allows me to vent when I need to vent and cry when I need to cry, without having all those emotions build up … until I take out my aggressions in an unhealthy manner.

I hope that this little tidbit of information helps other bloggers also feel justified in wearing their heart on their sleeves, whenever writing about their emotions. And I also hope that those nonblogger readers of mine find that what I write in my blog … well, sometimes they are things that I can’t say in my real world. You know, the one where I’m still learning not to be so passive …

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It’s official. I’m pass the halfway mark for my 40 day Lenten promise of paying it forward. Today is Day 21! So let’s get it started …

Good Deed of the Day: Since our leadership class finished up early today, we were able to leave work about an hour earlier than usual. One of my co-workers needed to take a commuter train to her suburban Chicago home, but unfortunately she was between trains on the schedule. Rather than have her walk all the way to the train station on her own (as she tends to either take a bus or walk with other coworkers who were still up on the floor working), we both took advantage of a beautiful Chicago afternoon and walked it. This, however, is the same co-worker who has not been in her best health and became short-of-breath rather easily. So rather than have her keep up to my (already) slow pace, I took it even a pace slower … and tried to do most of the talking, so that she didn’t have to walk and talk at the same time. Even though this is something I would have naturally done for any patient I take care of, I find this one even more satisfying because I knew that I was killing two birds with one stone: I got her to exercise a bit so that she’d continue to gain strength. And I got her to the train station in a safe manner.

Gratitude of the Day: Even though I know that these leadership clases tend to take us away from our daily duties at work, I am so grateful that we get this “perk.” Because I tell ya … every time I go to one of these, I come back with great nuggets of information.

Such a Gleek

Although this post is not directly related to completely geeky pictures of me, I figured I might be able to get away with linking this to Aunt Becky’s latest game. After all, these are pretty lame high school pictures of me …

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It’s Tuesday night and I’m watching a rerun of one of my other new favorite TV show, “Glee.”

Yeah ... the caption underneath says it all!

I know what it must seem: that I have no life other than watching TV or movies, Facebooking, and blogging. Which, in addition to work, is pretty much accurate. But I’m okay with that. Really.

Anyway, I love “Glee” because it reminds me so much of being in high school and the search for belonging to something. Not that I belonged to one particular group or another back then. Even though I had my core group of friends, I managed to surprisingly float amongst all cliques.

But “Glee”? It brings me back to Varsity Choir and Drama Club. It reminds me of the days where a good friend, K and I used to hang out in the Sophomore hallway listening to some Dead Milkmen and Bauhaus on our Walkmans. It also reminds me of the days where a couple other friends and I used to harmonize quite a few early Depeche Mode and Erasure songs.

But mostly “Glee” reminds me of one of the other things I love to do, which is sing. I blame it on my parents need to record me singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (and hitting Dr. Bro on his head with the mic) at the age of four.** And the whole early-edition karaoke machine we had in the mid-80’s.

Yep, "Gleeky" Emily (front and center) in Varsity Choir

In any case, there’s been this ongoing fake pregnancy story line between the Glee Club faculty advisor, Will Schuster and his wife, Terri. This couple had been together since high school and have, for years, been trying to start their family. While one would think this infertility story would be one that I would’ve liked, it actually annoyedme more than anything. But thank G*d, the “fake pregnancy” story finally resolved with the “winter finale” this past December. Unfortunately, it ended with Will leaving his wife after all the lies she weaved.

Watching the repeat of this episode tonight, I was reminded of a line that Terri Schuster said as she made her case to “win” Will back. She said:

“It’s just … I wanted so many things that I know we’re never going to have. But that was okay; as long as I still had you.”

And the thing is, when I heard this crazy woman say those words … I completely understood her.

I understood what it meant to do anything that I could to have a family with my Hubby. And I understood how much it would mean to me to share these things … these experiences … with my Hubby. But the difference between Terri Schuster and me is that I would never lie to my Hubby at the risk of losing him.

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And now for my Lenten acts.

Senior Year ... Future SIL and I were SOOO cool! LOL!

Random Act of Kindness Du Jour: It’s been a strange couple weeks at work regarding staff member’s families. Last week, one of my new Case Manager’s father passed away. And this week, another one of my Case Manager’s sisters unexpectedly passed on. To show our sympathies, our department typically sends flowers. Which is nice … but that’s not the good deed for today.

My good deed surrounds speaking one on one with the staff member whose sister passed away. This same staff member, who received the news yesterday at work, still came in to work this morning. When I spoke with her, I asked her how she felt and how she was coping. And yes, I offered to let her go home at any time. However, this staff member told me that it was probably best that she work so as to keep her mind off of the situation surrounding her surviving family members. When I pressed just a little further, I managed to get her to open up more. Without going into details, basically what I did was provide her with the support she needed as she wasn’t really getting it from anywhere else. And, while it didn’t make her feel a 100% better, at least I know I provided her with some comfort.

Gratitude Du Jour: I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Hubby drives me to work in the mornings. First of all, it allows me to arrive at work feeling less sticky and out of breath. Second, it allows me to feel less rushed in trying to make the El train in the morning. But most of all … well, it just allows me to sleep in for just a few moments longer. And anybody that knows me, knows that I love my sleep!

And with that said … I’m officially off to bed. G’Night all!!

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** Seriously, there is tape-recorded evidence of this!

I was even a Drama Club chairperson (again, front and center)


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