Grandma’s recipes

I filmed part of another video for my channel today that will be part of the Grandma’s Recipes series. In this episode, we’re making Chinese turnip cake, or Luo bai gao in Mandarin. It’s a common dim sum dish in dim sum/yum cha houses around the globe, and it’s a dish my grandma used to make for us around Chinese New Year growing up. I haven’t really been in the mood to do any videos until today. Lunar New Year is in just two weeks, and I wanted to post a video for the Year of the Ox ahead of schedule.

I think part of the reason I was excited and eager to film this video today is because somehow, even to this day, even when I feel upset or annoyed or just not in the mood to do anything, thinking about the comfort food of my childhood still uplifts me. It’s remembering a simpler, more naive time when my worries about the world were far fewer and less significant, and I somehow was sheltered from most of the ill in the world by family. Those were the days when I could just be excited about food and that was really it. And that was totally fine.

Toilets in New York City

If you’ve ever visited New York City, you’ll know that most of the buildings across the five boroughs are old, old, and old. What that tends to mean is…not only are the buildings old, but their entire makeup from underground and up, including the sewage systems, the pipes, the walls, are ancient. And what that tends to translate into when it comes to you? It means that every time you do your business and flush the toilet… it may not always go all the way down, or as quickly as you’d like.

Oftentimes, when you use public restrooms in restaurants or whatever common spaces in New York, it’s common to see signs that say something like, “Please hold the flusher down three seconds,” or “Do NOT put anything into the toilet other than toilet paper!” The plumbing is weak. You definitely do NOT want your pee or crap coming up. No one wants to see that, not even you. So it’s weird when you know you live in a relatively new building and you find out that the handymen recommend that you NOT use two-ply, Charmin brand toilet paper. Huh?

We’ve been living in our current building for the last 3.5 years, and never even once have we ever had any toilet problem… until today. Chris noticed that the toilet was flushing slower than usual, and so we called the handyman to come up. He came up and looked at the toilet paper on our toilet paper handle. “Is that Charmin?” he asked us. We responded that it was, and he said he’d strongly recommend we not use it anymore because the pipes here can’t handle it.

This building just opened in 2016 and isn’t even five years old. How can a NEW building have pipes that cannot handle two-ply toilet paper from a mainstream toilet paper brand???? If new buildings in New York cannot handle two-ply toilet paper, then the rest of the city (if not the world) is screwed.

Conditional Citizens

I stumbled upon Laila Lalami’s book Conditional Citizens, which was released in September 2020, while reading reviews for another book on race relations in the U.S., a few months ago. Being Muslim and Moroccan, and having been educated in Morocco, the United Kingdom, and here in the U.S., Laila Lalami has an interesting and in depth perspective of what it means to be an immigrant in this country and to somehow always still be considered “other” and “conditionally American” despite having citizenship status now. In her short but well-thought out book, she weaves personal stories with facts from throughout human history, and it’s almost like you’re listening to a thoughtful lecture when reading the book.

I think this is also on the list of books everyone should read. It’s for people who believe that people “choose” to see race in everything. It’s for people who believe that racism no longer exists. It’s for people who believe that it’s a choice in this country to be rich or poor. It’s for individuals who think that if you work hard, you will achieve everything your heart desires, and if you do not, you will live surrounded in roaches and squalor. It’s for people who have chosen to turn a blind eye in the role that U.S. government has actively played in past, present, and future, in continuing the disempowerment of poor people. It’s for those who believe in the national myth that poverty is 100 percent in an individual’s control, and that the concept of “living paycheck to paycheck” is an actual choice. It’s for those who believe that for the most part, everyone treats everyone else equally regardless of race, sex/gender, religion, yet has no problem asking a non-White person, “Where are you really from?”

Stimulus checks and their recipients

My mom called today to let me know that she was surprised to receive a $600 check in the mail from the government. Apparently, she qualifies for a stimulus check because of her disability status. She was obviously super excited because… well, who would NOT be excited to receive $600 when they were not expecting it at all?

I haven’t read much about the way the stimulus checks work, especially since I know I don’t qualify for any money, but that is rightly so. I was reflecting over the last year of my mom telling me that she’s had nearly daily food deliveries, plus free produce and canned foods from some local provider for senior citizens, and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that something seemed off. My parents have no money problems. They live a comfortable life and it’s their choice to live frugally. Why do they somehow qualify for all this free food when I found out my former high school teacher, actually living on a tight, fixed income, qualified for nothing?

When you’re asked to MC your company’s kickoff

Earlier this month, the head of our team threw a random invite on my calendar to sync 1:1. I wasn’t really sure what this was about because she didn’t give much context in her invite, but I figured it couldn’t have been bad news. I mean, I’ve only been working at this company for the last 3.5 months, so I couldn’t have already screwed up that royally yet, right?

When we met, she said she had a proposition for me. At the time, I was engrossed in reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, in which Lori invites a guy out to coffee with a proposition to use his sperm for artificial insemination to impregnate her. So this was the first thought that came to mind. I was pretty certain she was not planning to ask for a) my eggs or b) my future first born.

Instead, her request was simple: would I be willing to MC one day of our company’s annual sales and success kickoff the last week of January? I’d have a co-host, and it would be a great way to get my name out there and interact with colleagues from around the world. Leaders across teams had apparently dropped my name as a potential fit because… I guess there’s been talk that over Zoom, I have “great presence”?

When the leader of your team asks if you’d be willing to take on a task this big, you don’t really have an option. Your only option is to say “yes.” And so, I said yes, thinking that this may be a great way to build my internal brand (putting on my sales hat here), and especially since I’m a fully remote employee even after the pandemic, it would also be a way to literally get my face and name out there across our global offices.

We had a few planning sessions. My co-host and I went through a few rounds of drafted scripts. I ad libbed a lot and also added in a few friendly jokes about specific individuals who are easy targets on my team’s leadership. And today was the big day. It was a strange time to be doing it; I was feeling quite low because of this whole fertility journey and not feeling my best. But in reality, the world doesn’t stop for anyone. No matter who lives and dies, no matter what awful experiences you are going through, the rest of the world continues moving forward, and so that pushes you to do the same regardless of whether you want to. So I dialed up my energy and enthusiasm, painted a huge smile on my face, and ran through the half-day session. And it seemed like it was a success, as tons of positive feedback poured in through the application we were using, and my Slack blew up with messages.

“All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare once said. Sometimes, you just have to act like you’re happy and excited… even when you actually aren’t, and in reality, are feeling quite the opposite. And if you try hard enough, sometimes, you can actually fool yourself into that feeling.

What helps fertility naturally?

There’s a lot of conflicting information with varied levels of “research studies” behind them on the internet when you search for what you should eat, food and supplement wise, when trying to conceive. A few things are obvious: eat a well-rounded, nutrient dense diet, which means lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains. Women need folic acid/folate as well as all the usual vitamins and minerals (A, C, D, etc.) to support a healthy, developing baby. Men should stay away from tight underwear (!!) and hot tubs/jacuzzis when trying to conceive. But what about the difference between CoQ10 vs. ubiquinol? Selenium is known to be a needed mineral for healthy sperm and eggs, and as such, is included in pretty much every pre-conception supplement for both men and women. And somehow, in nature, the densest food source of selenium is Brazil nuts. Should we all eat 1-3 Brazil nuts a day? What the heck are you supposed to do to “help” because again, everyone just wants to feel “in control” of SOMETHING?

I’m not really open to investing money in things like fertility acupuncture or fertility massage because I don’t think I would enjoy it, nor is there really that much evidence that it actually works (both those things are attempting to increase blood flow, and so don’t I exercise and stretch enough to get my blood flowing properly…?!!), but I’d be open to adding certain supplements or eating more of certain foods… just because it would give me some sense of control that I’m at least attempting to do something, anything within my ability to help.

When work is the escape

I feel weird saying this, but having a day job is actually a relief to me now. Work is actually a time and place where I can get things on my to-do list done, there’s not that much uncertainty, and I feel like for the most part, I have control over my day and how successful things are. Having control and insight is very empowering…. It’s even more empowering when I know I feel like I have zero control over our fertility situation. Work is like an escape from thinking about the unpredictably and total turmoil that is the TTC (“trying to conceive”) journey. But once the computer turns off, I feel like my mind goes back into the same thought process…. wondering when anything is going to work for us.

One day when I’m a mom…

When I did sex education in eighth grade, I was 13, and I naively estimated that I’d have my first child by age 27. Well, that means I’d need to get pregnant by age 26, and for me, I would want to be married before getting pregnant. So, no, that did not happen, and that was never going to happen for me once I reached my 20s and realized how ridiculous that thought was.

Then when I got married, I thought, well, maybe we’ll start trying when I’m 33. I’ll be pregnant at age 33 or 34, and it would be perfect! Well…. That didn’t happen. Another naive thought. They say you get older and wiser. That clearly did not apply here.

Now, I’m 35. I have no idea if I will get pregnant at this age. Now, I’m more wondering if I’ll be 36, 37, or even 38 when it finally happens.

Or, in the very back of my mind… the darkest thought sits… will I ever get pregnant and be able to experience a successful live birth, ever?

IVF Warriors

Infertility is a hard concept to understand or wrap your head around until you actually experience it yourself. It really feels like you’re fighting a war, whether that war is with yourself, your body, some higher power — who the heck knows? But it feels like a war, a battle of some sort, and you have no freaking idea when it will ever end.

We still don’t know whether our remaining embryo is genetically “normal” or not, but regardless of its status, I still feel defeated. Having only one embryo make it to blastocyst seems like a failure after all the injections and medications, all the ultrasounds, all the bloodwork… everything. This whole process is really a mind fuck (and frankly, a body fuck if you have bad side effects from all these treatments) when it ends, and you have little to nothing to show for it at the end.

It’s why in many fertility/infertility groups, they call women who go through IVF “IVF warriors.” There’s even a non profit I found on Instagram founded by a couple who were on an 8-year infertility journey (they are expecting their first child in a few weeks, fingers crossed) called Cozy Warriors, which raises infertility awareness and also funds for couples who need fertility treatments but cannot afford them/have no insurance coverage. To raise money, they make socks… because according to ancient Chinese medicine, a woman must keep her uterus warm (and thus her feet warm…?) to ensure an embryo successfully implants and grows into a healthy baby.

So what does that mean — I’m an IVF warrior now? I don’t really know what I am. I feel like a fallen warrior if that is the case.

And then, there was one.

Only one embryo survived until day 6.

One. One. One. One. One. Not even two.

One lone embryo out of three that progressed well on Day 3. The other two arrested, meaning they just failed to continue developing. This typically happens due to chromosomal abnormalities.

I just feel like I got told that I’m never going to be a parent, ever. This whole week has been shit.

“Defeated” is the only word that comes up to express how I feel right now.