Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Featured Blogger:
Jenny of "My Life As A Livingston"

Jenny and her daughter, Morgan

Keep an eye on the CF Blogroll over the next few months! On the first and third Tuesday of every month, we will be featuring a different blogger from our blogroll. Because May is Cystic Fibrosis awareness month, we will kick off our Featured Blogger series with a new feature every Tuesday during the month of May!

If you'd like to be a Featured Blogger, leave a comment or e-mail beingcindybaldwin AT gmail DOT com, and we'd love to feature you! Don't forget to include your e-mail address so that I can send you a list of interview questions. (Currently, I am posting the interviews in the order that I receive them, so don't be worried if it takes a few weeks for your interview to go up.)

Today's Featured Blogger is Jenny from My Life as a Livingston. I first "met" Jenny through her older sister, Teresa, who asked me to check up on Jenny during her first hospitalization after her daughter Morgan was born. For various reasons, we didn't manage to connect during that hospitalization, but—like many others—I've enjoyed reading Jenny's blog ever since, and I consider her one of my dear friends! Jenny's blog is equal parts side-splitting humor and thoughtful, well-written posts on a host of topics. Be sure to check it out!

First, tell me a little bit about yourself!

A little bit about me... well for starters, my name is Jenny and I'm a 24 year old wife and mom who happens to have CF. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in nuclear physics, I spent two years exploring the world - backpacking through Europe, feeding the starving children of Ethiopia... that kind of thing. Okay, okay, so that may not be entirely true. But it'd be pretty cool, right?

The truth is I'm just a small town girl who met the love of her life right out of high school, married him a couple years later and has been living the dream ever since. The great guy I married is named Adam and together we have two adorable little girls (I know everyone says their kids are cute, but minereally are). My stepdaughter Shylee is six years old, a bright and funny little princess and 100% girl. Morgan, forever my baby, turns 3 this summer; she is adventurous and hilarious, sweet and oh-so-sassy, very much her father's daughter. We live in chaos about 98% of the time, but we certainly know how to have fun.

Adam is a coal miner which means long, bizarre hours and a lot of hard work, but he actually enjoys the work he does. I work at a local credit union and I absolutely love my job. I worked full-time for years, but I was able to cut back to part-time last year which has worked out really well for our family. I now have more time to spend at home with Morgan (which is wonderful) and I'm more dedicated than ever to taking care of my health.

How old were you when you were diagnosed with CF? What led to your diagnosis?

I was tested and diagnosed at birth after having two sisters born with with CF. In a family of five kids, three of us have CF. My oldest sister, Shannan, passed away when she was just 14.

What kind of effect has CF had on your life?

For a lot of years CF played a very small role in my day to day life. I was realtively healthy and required little treatment. However, in the back of my mind there was always this voice in my head reminding me that I have the same disease that killed my sister. It was a strange thing, feeling so good yet knowing first-hand how serious this disease can be. Part of me believed I'd always the the exception, while part of me was living in fear just waiting for my health to take a turn for the worst.

Having Morgan was without a doubt the most wonderful and defining experience of my entire life. It's also the experience that introduced me the scary, difficult and sometimes heartbreaking reality of CF. I got VERY sick shortly after giving birth and I remember lying in an IMCU bed, unable to walk on my own, struggling to breathe, honestly wondering if I'd wake up the next morning. That was "my moment". I began some serious soul searching and in the (almost) 3 years since then, I've learned so much about what having CF really means for me.

So... what kind of effect has CF had on my life? Well, that's a hard question to answer because aside from the difficulties and physical hardships that go hand-in-hand with CF, there's this whole other part of this experience that is weirdly and wonderfully beautiful. CF has made me a stronger person. CF has given me the gift of going through life with my eyes and heart wide open, appreciating things on an entirely different level than a lot of people. CF has taught me how to be positive even when things get tough. CF has made me more compassionate towards others. CF has made it possible for me to meet some of the most outstanding people I've ever known. Simply put, CF has helped shape me into the person I am today. I think that some of those good things are fundamental parts of my personality and would exist inside of me with or without CF, but somehow during this whole process those things have been magnified and are now a major part of who I am. I'm grateful for and even a little bit proud of that.

When did you start blogging? What led you to start blogging?

Writing is something that I've always loved, but after high school I stopped doing it for quite a while. I began "blogging" shortly before I became pregnant, but I didn't share my work with anyone. For the most part my writing at that time was an outlet for me while I was working through some difficult things in my life. I soon remembered how much I enjoyed writing and I continued to write frequently throughout the course my pregnancy. It wasn't until a few friends read what I had written and encouraged me to share my work that I started publicly writing on my current blog.

That happened to be around the same time that CF was becoming a frequent and pesky visitor in my life. During that especially scary hospitalization that I mentioned before, the amazingly sweet recreational therapist told me how several of the other CF patients liked to connect through their blogs. When I went online to check out these "CF bloggers" I found literally hundreds of people with stories similar to mine. I had recently been launched into this frightening new CF world, and I was fortunate enough to land in the wide open arms of the online CF community. I've been blogging ever since.

What is your favorite post you've ever written?

I really can't pick just one. I've had so much fun writing my posts and there are many that are very important to me, but these are a few that come to mind right away when I think of my personal favorites:
Body After Baby
I Came Here To Live
On Expectations And Being "Normal"

What are a few of YOUR favorite CF blogs?

I adore Welcome to Joshland. The writing is informative, fun, well thought-out and honest (and the author happens to be someone I'm incredibly proud to call my friend).

The Unknown Cystic is another favorite. I really dig UC's sarcastic (and sometimes crude) sense of humor and realistic approach to life and all things CF-related.

I have CF, So What? is a great place to go for a hearty dose of positivity and inspiration.

being cindy {baldwin} is where I go when I want to think. Cindy is a great writer whose posts are incredibly heartfelt and thought-provoking.

What would be your #1 piece of advice to others with CF?

My biggest piece of advice would be this: Don't let anyone tell you that what you are feeling is wrong. CF is different for all of us; our stories are similar in ways, yet very much our own. Even though we belong to this incredible online community, we are all human and unfortunately, as such, we tend to pass judgment on each other. Time and time again I've witnessed people being attacked because they're not living up to the expectations of others in one way or another (they're not being realistic enough / positive enough / optimistic enough / whatever). The thing is, we each cope and deal with things differently. There is no right way to feel about this journey and to assume that everyone should handle things the way we choose to is just ridiculous. So be kind to each other and remember that your feelings, your thoughts and your emotions are just that - YOURS. Don't let anyone try to make you feel bad about that.

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