Thursday, December 26, 2013

Throwback Pic: From One Winter to the Next

Remember these?

What a difference a year makes, right?  These pictures were taken last year, just as I was beginning my kidney transplant adventure at Inova Fairfax Hospital.  My sister took these with my cell phone because I told her I was thinking of starting a blog to document my journey.

I look at these pictures and I think, "Wow, this girl was really excited." And, "Wow this girl has no idea that things are just going to get more complicated."  And also, "Wow, this girl doesn't really know how many vials of blood are going to have be taken from her body and pumped back into her body and taken out again."  I didn't know so many things then.

This picture was taken six months before Ben's and my wedding day. And now, I sit here writing this, thinking about how we've been married for about six and a half months.

Life is incredible, you know.  It's amazing how 12 months ago I was facing down kidney failure. I truly did start off 2013 with a bang.  An impending wedding and a bum kidney.  And I'm ending it with near perfect health.  No, really, I am. I went to the doctor the other day and my medical report said that my creatinine is 1.4, and all my nutrition levels are normal. I'm even allowed to stop one of my medicines now so I'm only down to taking three pills medicines. Still a little anemic but some things don't change I guess.

I'm ending 2013 healthy and in an wonderfully blessed marriage to my best friend.  I know I'm lucky. I know this is a miracle.  I know there are kidney disease patients out there who started the year on dialysis and will end it on dialysis, again, for lack of available donors. 

As I talk to more and more people about kidney disease and transplantation I find that many still don't know what a gift they can give by donating their kidney to someone who needs it.  And how safe it is.  

My goal for the next 12 months is to continue writing on this blog, about my journey through the first year of transplant, living life with kidney disease and my marriage, but I also want really drive home the fact that living donation is safe.  Living donation is cheap (the recipient pays for everything!).  And that living donation is necessary.  It's saving lives.  It saved my life.  And it can save more.  I'm hoping those of you that have stuck with me this long reading this blog when I post will stick with me just a little longer.  Until we have too many donors and not enough recipients.  That could happen in the next 12 months, right?  

Either way, Happy New Year, Y'all.  May God give you everything you need, all the desires of your heart, over the next 12 months and beyond.

Want to read the post where these pictures were featured?  Click HERE to start my transplant journey from the beginning! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Crazy: Traditions and the Ornament Contest

This is Ben's and my FIRST CHRISTMAS TOGETHER!  It's not our first time exchanging gifts or being with each others' families but it's our first Christmas as Ashmans.   As in, our first Christmas as our own "Ashman" family unit.  Alright, enough of that.  I've driven the point home pretty well I think.  We just got married, so there's a lot of firsts and...probably overly mushy moments. But whatever! This is my blog. It's partly about my relationship for goodness sake, hence the blog name.

ANYHOO, it's our first X-mas. And if you read the last Christmas Crazy post you'd know I'm obsessed with Christmas. It's my favorite holiday of the year.  And I think my family likes Christmas just as much.  We have a bunch of family traditions that we like to keep going every year. So I thought, well Ben and I are a family.  But we don't have any traditions yet!  Enter, the "make your own ornament" contest.  Ben's and my Christmas tree has a good amount of ornaments on it.  We have red and gold bulbs (in honor of our Chiefs football team), some angel ornaments, six or seven cat ornaments that I purchased from World Market, a Princess Tiana ornament that we received from Ben's best man, and a new ornament we bought on our mini-moon in Sedona.  

But besides collecting ornaments from places we visit (I can't wait to see what we bring home from Vegas and Greece next year!), I thought we could take it back to elementary school. Remember when you were like six or seven years old and your teacher said the class was going to make ornaments to give to our parents?  So you got a piece of construction paper and scribbled some nonsense on it, maybe tried to fold it and make it look all unique and stuff.  And maybe you added a school photo of yourself, you know, for creativity and cuteness.  Then you'd give it to your parents on Christmas and they'd  be like "Awwww!"  And if your parents were MY parents, that ornament ended up in the trash with the rest of the torn up wrapping paper.  If you were Ben's parents, they might have actually kept that ornament for years and years and years a look upon it fondly when it hangs on the tree.  

Well, I'm hoping to be the latter. This Christmas is the first year that Ben and I agreed to each make an ornament for our Christmas tree, then have a third party choose which one is the best for a prize to be determined at a later date.  I don't know if it's really a contest.  But it was the only way I could get Ben to agree to forming the tradition with me.  So, whatever.  The goal is to do this every year just us, until we have children old enough to use their fingers, then the kids will join in on the fun, making a new ornament each year.  I haven't met my kids yet and Ben and I don't know when they'll get here (next year, in 10 years, who knows), but I already can't wait to see what they come up with for the tree! 

Here are my offerings for this year's "contest:"

My ornaments are a riff on these lovely Martha Stewart ones.  The photos are our engagement photos.  I doubt I'll get tired of looking at these hanging on the tree every year.  Especially when Ben and I are old and getting fat and graying.  Every Christmas we'll have a reminder of how hot we used to be.  SIGH.  

Anyways, here's to Christmas and OUR family traditions.  

Last mushy note of the day:  Ben and I have officially been married for more than half a year.
Our six month-iversary was Dec. 15.  And so far, marriage has been incredibly awesome.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How My Sister Unintentionally Talked Me Out of Buying Lotto Tickets

It started with a text:

Then a phone call:

Me:  So are you going to play the lotto?!

Jocelyn: I don't know how.

Me: What? I used to go with mommy all the time when I was little.  I would tell people at school, "Yeah I play the lotto."  

Jocelyn: Shut up, you didn't play nothing.

Me:  Yeah but I picked the numbers sometimes.  Well, anyways, take Danyelle with you.

Jocelyn:  If I don't know how to play the lotto then what makes you think Danyelle is going to know how to play the lotto?

Me:  I don't know! Moral support!  Maybe mommy and daddy will go.  Don't they always play the big ones?

Jocelyn:  Yeah.  Well if they go, I'll go.  

Me: you think I should play the lotto?

Jocelyn:  I don't know, yeah?

Me:  Yeah, I don't know.  I don't think i'll win.  But part of me just wants to win one of the small prizes.  Like enough to pay off the rest of my student loans.

Jocelyn:  Yeah, but winning it won't make you happier.

Me:  Um, yes it will! I'll be able to pay off my loans.

Jocelyn: Yeah but after you pay off your loans you won't have the money. You won't be happier.

Me: Yes, I will! I'll be debt-free! Just think, what if you could win the lotto and pay for the rest of your college education.  Then, when you graduate and get your first job, you'll owe nothing to anybody.  To me that's the success of the lotto: not having to owe anything to anybody.

Jocelyn:  Yeah that would be nice.

Me:  See!  And for me, just think if I had that money I pay in student loans every month, in my pocket...

Jocelyn:  Oh Ballin!!

Me:  Right?!

Jocelyn:  But I'm telling you, you won't be happier.  Don't you watch those documentaries on TLC about the people who won the lotto?  Once you win the money, and spend it or do whatever with it, you'll be focused on the next thing.  Thinking about what else you can get.

Me: Yeah but still!

Jocelyn:  I mean you'll be debt free but I'm just saying it's not like you'll be happier than you are now.  

Me:  Are you saying I shouldn't spend money to buy lotto tickets?  Is that what you're saying?

Jocelyn:  No I'm just saying...

Me:  You know what?!  Forget it!  I'm not going to buy them.  

Jocelyn:  Oh, ok.

Me: Are you happy now? You and your psychological bullshit just made me change my mind.  Are you happy?

Jocelyn:  I mean, I don't know.

Me:  Because I'm not.  Congratulations, you have actually made me UNHAPPY.  In fact, there's no need to play the lotto now, since apparently if I had won the lotto I wouldn't have been happier, I would have been unhappy, isn't that right?

Jocelyn:  I guess so, that's what happens. Haven't you watched TLC?

Me:  Well, then good job Jocelyn.  We skipped right over the lotto and winning the money part and straight to the unhappiness.  I guess now I can keep my five dollars.  So thank you Jocelyn.  For giving me a reality check.

Jocelyn:'re welcome.  

Two Hours Later...



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ben's Take: A Mini-Moon to Remember (Plus, a video!)

95 degree heat.  Bone dry.  The cracked earth would sweat lava if it could, but no such reprieve is granted.  It simply bakes.

Suddenly a whipping of air.  Sure it’s hot air, but the stirring breeze is almost enough to make the nearby cactus forget its scorching reality…almost.

The air is still again, but the reverberation from the Mustang’s V8 can still be heard.  The engine’s growl rolls over the flat land like rumbling thunder.

Inside the vehicle are newlyweds.  Smiling.  Sunglasses.  Top down.  The road belongs to them.  Their destination may be far, but they will arrive soon for they are but a blur.

At least that’s what things WOULD have been like had I sprung for the upgrade.  Instead I decided to clutch my wallet and settle for the standard full size.  Behold the beast of a vehicle Chrysler has dubbed “The 200”.  A 2.4 liter 4 cylinder MONSTER that sports a jaw dropping 173 horsepower.

Of course I am being facetious.  The 200 is a whelp.  A kitten.  Actually, kittens have made me bleed before so maybe a declawed and toothless kitten on tranquilizers.  Jewel and I loaded up into the smallest “roomy interior” I’ve ever seen and headed toward Route 180.  It’s a mostly straight highway with a few steep, curvy hills along the way.  It wasn’t long before the whine emitted by the 200 is it struggled to maintain 80 mph began to annoy me as Priuses blew past us.

Amidst my regrets for not upgrading to something sportier I tried to think back to the first time Jewel mentioned her desire to visit the Grand Canyon.  It had been at least three or four years since she expressed her desire to see the apparent number one travel destination in America.  It wasn’t until we started searching for a suitable location within the country for a “Mini-moon”  that we really considered doing our trip to the canyon this year.  Jewel was pretty discouraged when she found out her doctors had forbidden travel outside of the country for at least a year after her transplant.  Our real honeymoon to Greece would have to wait.

Although the trip was a consolation prize at best, we were determined to make the most of it.  I couldn’t tell you how long the drive was from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, but I can assure you I had no interest in driving any further along the hypnotically boring road anymore, especially in that toy of a car.

The park and welcome center are placed strategically.  Not once do you actually get to see the canyon itself until you get out of your car and walk about a quarter mile along a paved trail.  Needless to say it was quite the site.  I won’t wax poetic trying to describe how amazing it was; poets have been trying (and failing) since forever.  It felt like there was a giant canvas that we were looking at and at any second it was going to be taken away to reveal the real canyon.  But it never did.  The people who say that every American should see it at some point are spot-on.

During our visit to the canyon, we were granted a secluded camp site and pitched our tent with relative ease.  We roasted a cliché dinner of hotdogs and s’mores for dinner.  We slept on rocks, listened to coyotes howl in the distance.  Jewel cried in the morning when I wouldn’t escort her to the bathroom.  She was afraid the ravens blocking her way would “peck her eyes out.”

In all honesty, I don’t remember much about our trip to Arizona.  I’m known for this, not remembering things.  But I do remember the first time Jewel took in the canyon and all its glory, and how excited she was to mentally check this off her bucket list of National Park visitations.  I remember the feeling of getting to experience it with her—her first visit to the Grand Canyon and her first trip as Mr. and Mrs. Ashman, as our own little family.  I remember hoping that every trip we take from now on will be just as special.

**P.S. Jewel is trying to start a new tradition for our family of recording everything we do.  Enjoy our first Ashman Home Video of our first vacation as married folks.**

Arizona Mini-Moon, Aug. 2013 from Jewel Edwards-Ashman on Vimeo.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Crazy: Part One


Welcome to my SECOND favorite time of year.  The first favorite time of year being summer because of the weather, that "school's out" feeling (even that I haven't been in school for almost five years now), summer vacations, the feeling of adventure and relaxation in the air, the sweet smell of meat on the grill, awesome produce, sunshine, and just being outside, birthdays, and my wedding anniversary.  Damn.  Can it just be summer already?  All that talking about it made we wish it was here now.  

But do not despair.  We're in the second most awesome time of these 365 days.  Christmastime.  For me, Christmastime started the week before Thanksgiving, when the cat and I set up the Christmas tree.  Yes, I said cat.  This is his favorite holiday, too.  Like mommy like cat. And now that it's officially December, Ben has allowed me to play Christmas music and buy gifts and talk about Christmas as much as I want.   Christmas comes but once a year, after all.  This month, this holy sacred month, is what makes me forget that the days are just getting shorter, darker, and colder and more depressing and grosser and just UGH with each passing hour.  

Christmas is also a favorite holiday on my side of the family.  It's not unusual for my sisters and I to break into Christmas carols in springtime, or talk about how we wish it was Christmas morning on July 4th.  I've never really had a bad Christmas.  I've had bad birthdays and bad Easters, bad Labor Day's even.  But Christmas...Christmas never fails me.  

The Ashman house is just about all decked out with Christmas stuff.  At least, as decked out as I can make it without spending an arm and a leg on decorations. 

I downloaded these festive prints from Etsy...which is my new thing. Going on Etsy and looking at stuff.  It's like Pinterest but better because everything is already made and for sale at relatively inexpensive prices.  

Probably my favorite Christmas but also non-Christmas decoration is this old sheet music from the movie "Holiday Inn," which is a movie that Ben and I love.  My best friend and long time roommate gave it to us as a wedding gift.  I almost died because it was so perfect.  If you haven't seen Holiday Inn...stop reading this and go rent it.  It's kind of an awesome movie.  There's blackface in it...but don't let that deter you.  

Is Christmas your favorite season, or are you already all Christmas-ed out just from reading this blog post?  I hope not.  Because I've got three more coming on this same topic.  Sorry, I'm not sorry.