What to Expect When You’re Expecting… to become an aunt

4 Myths about aunthood busted by a first-time aunt

My sister and I dropped into our seats, excited and exhausted. After a long nine months, we were so ready to meet our new niece. Both first-time aunts, we had supported our older sister with baby showers and baby clothes in anxious anticipation and now it was all about to pay off. Our energy was palpable: just a few more minutes and we would be holding the sweet baby, congratulating our sister and toasting to new life. Just a few more minutes… or so we thought.

36 hours later: we are finally on our way to the hospital, where our niece has yet to be born.

 

Patience has never been my virtue, and as I sat in the cramped, dimly lit family waiting room at the hospital, I felt duped. Tricked. Fooled. A lifetime of watching movies like Father of the Bride Part II, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Baby Mama and The Back Up Plan had done me a disservice: in my head, the story went as these movies depicted- mother’s water breaks, she dramatically goes into labor, she sweats and pushes and screams for a few minutes and then the baby is born, squirming and squealing. 

MYTH #1: The movies are wrong. Labor can take forever. If you are my sister, it can take 42 hours. Never mind your time frame – the baby doesn’t care if you flew in on a rush flight from Chicago.

After FINALLY being told that we could see our newest addition, I entered the hospital room with excitement and trepidation, flanked by my sister and mom. I saw my sister, exhausted and radiant, holding the smallest, most fragile package of pink skin that I had ever seen. There perched my niece, Elsie Lillian, in all of her newborn wonder. As she was placed into my arms for the first time, tears welled in my eyes – the feeling of joy was indescribable, and the love in the room electrifying.

MYTH #2: Holding a baby is scary. Wrong. It’s therapeutic, especially when that baby is your new niece or nephew.

The next few days were busy and sleep-deprived for my entire family. Between getting my sister, brother-in-law, and niece out of the hospital to cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal and spending time with extended family, we had not a minute to spare. After the holiday, I threw myself into working Black Friday and, far less bitterly, caring for my new niece. With my sister laid up on the couch with an after-birth medical condition, I was put to work changing diapers, holding Elsie,changing diapers, entertaining Elsie, and, oh, did I mention changing diapers?

MYTH #3: Because they are so small, babies do not use the bathroom very often. Wrong again. They use the bathroom QUITE often, like 3 times in 20 minutes often.

One particular afternoon, my sister went to take a quick nap. While the rest of my family was otherwise occupied with projects or conversations, I got the privilege of taking care of my niece for an hour while my sister got some much deserved rest. A long-term nanny, I have held many babies and cared for many children. I love kids, and although I am glad that I don’t have any of my own right now, I generally enjoy being around children. The feeling I get when I hold my niece, however, is beyond that of enjoyment, it is bliss. 

Though she doesn’t know it yet, I am going to be the one she can come to when her parents are driving her crazy, when she wants that expensive pair of shoes or when she needs a trip away. I am going to be the one to teach her how to speak French, to paint her nails, to keep her clothed in designer duds, and to support her unconditionally (okay, I won’t be the only one doing this, but it is still important).

She is my blood relation, yes, but unlike a sister or brother, I get to choose how much time I spend with her and how involved I am in her life. That’s what makes it so special– I get to CHOOSE to be her aunt, (her tati, which is French for auntie) and I get to be a part of her life not because I have to, but because I want to and desire to.

MYTH #4: Being an aunt isn’t a big deal. One last time, wrong. It’s a huge deal. My little world just got a little bit bigger, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Image

 

 

 

Confident and Driven: Why You Should Hire Millennials

I waited anxiously on the opposite side of the phone and, coincidently, the opposite side of the country as a woman who was holding a piece of my future in her hand dropped the bomb: “This is a really complicated program, and there just isn’t room for an intern. I can tell you have a lot of drive and will do great things.” What she didn’t have to add was those great things just will not be here. 

I hung up after taking down her information with plans to contact her again, her superior, and then her superior’s superior to see if there was someone who would listen to me and hear the truth in what I was speaking. I was offering to work- for free- for this company, to give up my entire summer, and to pioneer an innovative internship program (they didn’t have one) for the corporation’s charity platform that would bring awareness to their cause and ultimately increase business and revenue. I had a list of objectives that I knew I could accomplish in a summer, a strong knowledge of the program and company (I had worked at the corporation for almost two years) and had worked my way up the bureaucratic corporate ladder to find the right person to speak to, all of my own volition.

Still, after a mere 10 minutes on the phone I was shut down. It wasn’t because of my GPA, because of my qualifications, or even because of my lack of connections, so what was it? While I am not suggesting that it was because I am a millennial, I am saying that there is little to no reason to not let a young, passionate 20-something who says she wants to help you increase revenue and better your program work for you, for free, for an entire summer. I am saying that businesses who aren’t welcoming to millennials are MAKING A HUGE MISTAKE. Businesses: put in the extra work, create the internship, and take the risk- it may pay off in ways you never imagined.

I am a go-getter. I am driven, focused, communicative and willing to work hard for what I want. These are all antitheses to the stereotypes lobbed at my generation, the dreaded “millennials,” who roll their eyes at the idea of anything that doesn’t involve their iPhones, their Instagram, their Facebook, and their immediate gratification. I am not alone, either. In fact, I would argue that the majority of my peers, my comrades, and even my acquaintances do not fit the stigmatized opinion forced upon us by those who are either jaded by a bad past experience or are too- dare I say it- lazy to look for the hard-working, humble, ambitious millennials that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, while make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. 

If we are the people that are going to work for you and, quite possibly, one day be your boss, then why are companies like the one I interacted with hesitant to welcome us with internships and entry-level positions? Maybe because one bad apple ruins the whole barrel, and millennials that live up to the name- lazy, entitled, unwilling to fetch coffee, start at the bottom, or work hard- are the only ones these companies encounter. That being said, those of us who live outside of the stereotype are increasingly showing companies that will let us just why we are such an asset.

According to a study done by The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, millennials are a gain- not a burden- to your company. For one, millennials (those born between 1976 and 2001, for the purposes of this survey) are global- thinkers. In fact, 71% said that they would like to live abroad. In addition, they are eager to advance and grow within a company. 65% said that “the opportunity for personal development was the most influential factor in their current job” and 52% says “opportunities for career progression made an employer attractive.” 

Millennials can bring a fresh perspective to your company. They can bring innovative ideas about marketing, about investing, about communication, and about expanding and reaching your demographic. We are the next generation of politicians, of businesspeople, of musicians and artists, of humanitarians and philanthropists and of entrepreneurs and CEOS and you do not want to miss an opportunity for us to fall in love with your company. 

 There is a tone of bitterness to this article. It’s a classic case of rejection: I was turned down by a company that I thought I could really benefit. That being said, this is greater than me. This is a plea to businesses to hire millennials, to give them a chance, and to be surprised. This article also serves as a warning, because if you don’t hire us- or at least employ us for an internship- we will take a lesson from our millennial playbook and move on, because our “entitlement”– let’s rephrase that, confidence has led us to believe that we have something to offer. 

 

 

Uprooted: One girl’s journey from The U.S. to Taiwan and back again

            Image

            When you pull a plant from the ground and put it into a pot, you leave remnants of its roots– of itself –in the place from which you took it. Likewise, when you uproot a tree and replant it elsewhere, you never fully remove it from the space it once resided. This process is taxing, it is challenging, and it is seldom performed without a great deal of mess along the way. Like a tree or a plant pulled from the ground, Alexandria Kuo knows what it is like to uproot.

            A self-professed “third culture kid” who moved from New Jersey to Taiwan when she was 11 and from Taiwan to Wheaton, Il. when she was eighteen, she has uprooted and replanted in ways that many of her peers cannot fathom. Now a college student in a city different from her native Tai Pei City, Kuo is learning how to adjust to her new environment, and how to plant roots in a place where she has no familiar soil.

            Though she is Taiwanese and identifies herself as a “third culture kid,” Kuo had previously only visited Taiwan for vacations so packing up her life in New Jersey and moving to the BUSTLING ISLAND was a frightening and daunting experience.

            “When I first got there, it was a culture shock,” said Kuo. “I felt not at home, like a stranger in a different world…I had already made a circle of friends back in New Jersey, and it was so hard to just be torn away from that friendship and everything that I had gotten used to. “

            A sixth grader at the time, Kuo had to adjust to new friends, a new school system much more rigorous than the one she had encountered in the states, a new culture and a new city.

            “The city is very different from America, and as a suburban kid, moving to the city was like, ‘oh my goodness, it is so messed up and all the streets are dirty,’” said Kuo. “There are some traditions in Taiwan that I have grown used to, and I have actually made my own, so when I first came to Wheaton, I was kind of like, ‘oh, I kind of miss it back home.’ I didn’t know that I would miss it [Taiwan] until I came here, so it is a broadening of perspectives, I guess.”

            Though she learned to love- and even miss- Taiwan, Kuo returned to the United States after graduating high school because she feels that this is home- or at least one of them.

            “I have always thought of coming back home, because, after all, Taiwan is not really my home, because although I call it home, it is not where I want to stay for the rest of my life because I feel like it is still a narrow bubble on this one little island, and so coming back home has always been in my mind,” said Kuo.

            Specifically, Kuo chose to plant her roots in a part of the United States that was new to her, settling at Wheaton College, a private Christian university just outside of another big city, Chicago.

            “For a really long time, I was in a secular bubble, so I though that I should come back and re-focus my real mission here on earth that God called me to do, and so I just hope that coming to Wheaton and coming back to America can help me just re-center what I want to do, and what I want to do in Him.”

            Kuo’s aspirations for the future include working in broadcast journalism and media, specifically, working as a news anchor. She credits this vocational decision in part to her life in Taiwan and to the global perspective she gained while living there.

            “Understanding global perspectives has made me more interested in this path, and being able to communicate with other cultures and understand what their life is like and what their news is like has really helped me figure out that I actually do want to take this path, because I have both the American and Taiwanese worlds to figure out and understand both worlds.”

            Kuo feels that spending a part of her childhood in Taiwan has also given her another advantage: that of language. Kuo speaks both English and Mandarin Chinese, a skill she feels will aid her in communicating with people from cultures other than her own.

            ““If I stayed here in America for all of my life, language-wise I couldn’t be good in Mandarin Chinese and I wouldn’t be able to communicate in that language, and slowly that part of me would fade away, but back in Taiwan, I was able to communicate with people in that language and see the world differently through a global lens,“ said Kuo.

            Though she said that she felt she has gained a global perspective from living in both suburban American and metropolitan Taiwan, Kuo noted that living in two worlds so opposite from one another has caused her to separate her two lives, something she is still working to overcome.

            “When I land on American ground, I communicate in a different way than when I am in Taiwan. My mind would automatically switch to the American mindset, and in Taiwan I would switch to a Taiwanese mindset, based on the environment I am in, so I haven’t found common ground on that yet, although it is really easy for me to switch back and forth,” said Kuo.  “I still need to work on how to combine both of them together.”

            As Kuo once again replants her roots in Wheaton, it seems that this third culture kid’s life is looking more like a field of trees, spread across the world, than just one plant being transported from place to place. Roots in New Jersey, in Taiwan and now in Wheaton, Kuo continues to seek to find the place she can call her own, never forgetting the places she once called home.

 

           

 

 

 

 

The Paleo Diet: Changing Lives?

Image

My sister, Allison Niebauer, with some of her SCD delicacies

We have all heard it before, whether from a friend after a dramatic weight loss, or within the pages of a glossy magazine with accompanying before-and-after photos that leave our mouths agape: THIS DIET CHANGED MY LIFE. While trend diets tend to promise just that – a drastic change in feeling and appearance – the brevity of the results received and the toll which they take on one’s body are usually just as extreme.

Growing in popularity over the last 5 years, a new- or rather old, considering its origins date back to the Stone Age- diet trend has emerged: the Paleolithic diet, or “paleo” for short. Promising not only weight loss, but also increased health benefits for people suffering from a slew of maladies, including osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease and even cancer, this pre-historic diet is coming back into fashion- and people are taking to it like cavemen to fire.

The Paleo Diet, which was developed through research done by Dr. Loren Cordain, has become a popular health trend, not only for those trying to fit into their bikinis or beat the winter bulge, but also for those who suffer from chronic illness or disease. Paleo relies on dieters going back to basics- unprocessed foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, and fresh meats and nuts, just like our earliest ancestors would have hunted and gathered for so long ago.

Personally, I know about Paleo because my sister, Allison Niebauer, follows a diet very similar to it, the “Specific Carbohydrates Diet,” as a means of controlling her Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that she was diagnosed with three years ago. Whereas the Paleo diet requires its adherents to abstain from cereal grains, refined sugar, dairy, salt, refined vegetable oils and processed foods, the SCD diet allows its constituents to consume specific types of dairy and legumes.

Although my sister remains my personal “face” for the Paleo/SCD diet trend, another young woman, Danielle Walker, has published a New York Times bestselling cookbook and has a popular website a blog due to her success with managing her Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease, through following the Paleo diet. Walker has gained success through sharing her story and publishing Paleo-friendly recipes on her website “Against All Grain” and in her cookbook of the same name.

Walker has been able to manage the symptoms of her disease and go without a flare-up since she has committed to strictly adhering to the Paleo diet. “I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, an autoimmune disease, when I was 22 years old,” said Walker on her website. “After a few years of suffering, multiple hospitalizations, and doctors telling me that what I ate wasn’t a factor in my disease, I decided to take matters into my own hands and drastically change my diet.”

Walker’s story is not unique, either. Hundreds of people with similar stories to her own post on her blog, on various health forums and on Paleo websites to speak of the transformation that they have undergone since committing to the Paleo or SCD diet. Doctors in support of the diet say that the typical Western diet is responsible for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more. However, the diet is not without controversy.

According to an article published by Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on WebMD’s journal, “Some nutrition experts assert that humans have adapted to a broader diet including whole grains, dairy, and legumes. Others question the evidence for the diet’s evolutionary logic.”

While I can personally attest to the transformative impact that it has had on my sister, who has had significantly improved health since strictly adhering to the SCD diet, I can also acknowledge questioning the impact that abstracting multiple food groups from our diet that have been previously deemed as “good for you” (dairy? whole grains?). Skeptics wonder, what problems may arise from a lack of nutrients provided from a “well-balanced” diet?

By adhering to the Paleo or SCD diet, dieters are still consuming a wide-variety of foods and eating a balanced diet, but are avoiding foods that are hard for the body to digest, and that can cause heart problems later on. This isn’t the Atkins diet, which encourages dieters to cut out an entire food group in order to lose weight – this diet is, for many people, about better health; a form of medicinal therapy for serious ailments and disease that is more a lifestyle change than even a diet.

Cordain argues that even foods like grains and dairy, which seem to be good for us, come with a price. “Our genome has not really adapted to these foods, which can cause inflammation at the cellular level and promote disease,” she said in a statement to WebMD.

While I can’t imagine giving up grains and sugar, which seem to sneak their way into everything I consume, I have been floored by the power of our diet on our health and well being, as evidenced by my sister and many others who have found relief to ailments that were otherwise unsolvable with prescription medication.

As science evolves and we get more information on what is best for our bodies, we learn that the foods we once thought were most important for our health may now be our greatest demise. Trend or not, the findings of the Paleolithic diet are hard to ignore, and the testimonies of its followers speak for themselves on the power of this new-old diet.

 

INTERESTED?

Check out Allison Niebauer’s blog at: livingfullywithout.com

Check out Danielle Walker’s blog at: againstallgrains.com