Friday, January 31, 2014

The Wedding Series

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.  

Emily Brontë

Vicki Grafton Photography

 Coming Monday

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Go Bloggy, It's Ya Birthday...

OK so I know I'm late, about 15 days. But if it hadn't been for the "lost week" then maybe I would have made it on time instead of having to celebrate this milestone belatedly.

If you've had enough of my vague references...IT'S MY BLOG'S BIRTHDAY!  

Happy Birthday 

"Love in the Time of Transplant!"  

You are OFFICIALLY one-year old.  I guess that makes you a toddler, right?

As a writer and as someone who just assumes that people want to read about my life,  I've started quite a few blogs over the past five or six years.  All of them died in their infancy, fizzling out after about a month and maybe one or two posts.  For some blogs I was only able to fill out an "About Me" section stating how excited I was to share a certain aspect of my life, my experiences, adventures and thoughts.   I invested so much effort into creating the perfect layout and description for the blog that I suppose I exhausted all of the excitement and energy that I should have used to, oh, I don't know, write an actual blog post. It was actually my husband (always him) who encouraged me to start this blog and to see where it takes me.  

When I experience something, be it big (like a kidney transplant or a wedding) or small (like a stupid common cold) I immediately want to write about it.  This is the case for all writers I suppose.  After our first meeting with the transplant coordinator, as sad and unfortunate as it was to have to talk about surgery and knives and expensive health care, I couldn't help but think that the experience would make a funny story because Ben and I were starving during that meeting!  I love reading that blog post, my first one.  Really, it's such a great summary of how this entire year and experience with kidney failure, my family and my husband has been.  There's always been something to smile about and laugh at, even when what we were dealing with was really no laughing matter.  And for that, I am grateful.

Not every post I have written has a funny angle.  There are plenty of sad ones.  Strangely enough, many of those posts are the ones I'm most proud of.  When I started this blog I had no idea what it would turn into, what other types of things I would write.  But as I wrote more and more, I realized that I didn't just want my blog to show the "funny side" of things or the silver linings, or the times when I was being optimistic or positive or hopeful.  I read a lot of blogs like that and I love them for what they are. I truly do love looking at life in the best way possible and trying to make the best out of things.  But I also believe in what's real. I believe that f*&ck$% SUCKS.  And that you don't always feel good about what's going on in your life.  And that's OK.   If you've ever gone through something terrible and had someone tell you to "stay positive" then you know what I'm talking about.  Sometimes, you just don't feel like doing that at that second!  And that's OK!  Some people may not agree with me but I totally encourage pity parties, alone or with friends or family members...or brownies.

I've also loved all of the posts I've written about my faith.  I didn't intend to turn this space into a "Christian blog" or anything like that.  Not because I didn't want to make anyone feel like they couldn't read it because they're not Christian.  Mostly because, I am not the "perfect" Christian I guess you can say.  I curse in many of my posts. Ben and I were shackin' up before marriage.  I don't immediately go to the WORD when I'm feeling a certain negative way about things.  I didn't want people to look at me and say "Oh, she's a Christian and she's doing this and that."  But, I can't control other people and what they think. I can't control what you the readers think either.  But I love you nonetheless. And I love God. And I know that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."  I write about my faith not because I'm trying to change people.  Only God can do that. But I like sharing what I learned in church or during my private study, and how God saved me and has done so much for me in my life.  He's the reason I can write to you today and say "Hey! I had a kidney transplant! And it worked! Huzzah!"

Anyways, one-year of writing, sharing, and being real.  I love this blog. I'm grateful that other people love it too.  Thank you readers.  I guess I'll keep going.  

To Celebrate LITOT's 1st Birthday, Revisit the TOP 5 MOST READ Posts from the Past Year!

When Your Fiance Gets a Transplant   
This makes my heart happy :) Y'all loved this amazing post from my husband, who is an awesome AWESOME writer.  I really need to get him to write more.  Please help me convince him!

 The Best Rehearsal Dinner Ever...Probably
I guess everyone really wanted to know how our rehearsal dinner went! were scanning for wedding information :) Don't worry...I've got wedding recaps coming Feb. 3.

10 Things, One Tube 
One of my favorite "list posts."  I'm glad so many people wanted to know what life was like with a tube coming out of my stomach...a.k.a. a peritoneal dialysis catheter.

The Best Thing About My Dialysis Appointment Was Krispy Kreme 
 This was one of the longest posts I've written, I think.  So many of you took in my thoughts on learning about dialysis and then nursing my broken heart with Krispy Kreme.

Mini-Moon and a Blogcation
Surprisingly, a lot of people read my last post before my first vacation post-transplant.  I can't wait to see how many of you read about Greece (3 months til departure)!!  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Scenes from the Lost Week

So last week was pretty rough for me.  How was it for you guys?

Yeah...for was RUFFFFF.  For the first time, I have to say I really I felt like I could call myself a Ruff Ryder, even without the bass ass motorcycle. Last week, I battled my first cold since the transplant. I'd been dreading this moment, and it finally arrived. 

When you get a kidney transplant, the doctors and nurses let you know that the medications they prescribe afterward are immunosuppressants.  These drugs weaken the immune system which, you know, helps you fight off illnesses and infections and stuff.  Basically, it attacks stuff that's not supposed to be in your body like, for example, another person's organs!  

People ask me why would my immune system try to destroy my kidney when it's working to keep me alive.  The immune system would just be doing its job, and our immune systems, when strong enough, are really good at finding and detecting abnormalities in our bodies (Check out more about your immune system here).

Taking immunosuppressants works wonders for basically "tricking" your immune system into thinking there's nothing amiss among the organs.   It trucks along, doing it's daily immune patrol duties, taking roll call of all the organs, not even being able to detect that "one of kidneys things is not like the others."  It's abilities are somewhat compromised and this works wonders for preventing organ rejection.  But this also makes it so people who take immunosuppressants are more susceptible to viruses and infections.  

There is a whole list of things that people who take immunosuppressants are supposed to do to reduce the risk of falling ill.  Actually, the list should be renamed "Stuff That the General Public Should Really Be Doing All the Time but They Don't Because They're Busy, Lazy, or Nasty."  But that's just me.  The list includes things like washing your hands regularly, throwing out old sponges, and cooking your meat until it's done.  KA-RAAAAAZY right?  

Medical professionals also recommend immunosuppressed patients get all the necessary vaccines, including a yearly flu shot.  I've gotten a flu shot every year since 2009.  I ended up getting mine a little late in the game, on Jan. 16 after reading a bunch of reports about the flu virus picking up in parts of the country, affecting most severely young adults who chose to forgo an annual flu shot (BEN...I'm looking at you.  Also, praying for you because I don't want you to be sick.  Love youuuuuuu).  So I marched right into the minute clinic and got stuck.  My arm hurt for about two days.

I felt fine (besides the arm) until about Sunday morning when a scratchy throat and a few sniffles started to settle in.  If you've ever had a cold in your lifetime, then you know that's how it starts.  That first morning you feel little beads of snot in your nose dripping down to the back of your throat.  I figured because I was on immunosuppressants that I might get a few symptoms from having the flu shot but then eventually, over the next day or two, the symptoms would go away.  As that Sunday wore on, I started to feel worse.  My sniffles morphed into gale force sneezes.  I could barely keep my eyes open during afternoon church service.  When I went to my parents' house for dinner that evening, I had to take a little nap in the guest room.  After my one-hour timer went off, I didn't want to wake up.  

I spent Monday, MLK Day, in our bed...the entire day.  Well...until it was time to make dinner.  I told Ben that since we had that day off I would make his favorite dinner...chicken parmesan...something I don't make very often because it's really involved. I managed to get out of bed an make the quickest dish of chicken parmesan I've ever made (and perhaps the best?) and I felt encouraged that I was able to do it.  Surely, I thought, this cold or whatever was on it's way out.  

Tuesday morning, the first real workday of the week arrived,  I decided to call out and spend the rest of the day in bed.  I worked a half-day on Wednesday and ended up staying home on Thursday.  I made my first full-day appearance at work on Friday. And that was the first time that I could honestly say that I was feeling "better."  

Now, I don't know if colds and viruses hit transplant patients harder. But far too many times I found myself crying out to God, begging him to "take me home"...over sinus congestion.  But it was pretty bad, y'all!  My sister called one day and I told her that I wanted to go to the hospital to get anesthesia.  At least that helps you get to sleep, which I managed to get only 4 hours of each night.  I even kicked myself out of Ben's and my bedroom and slept on the couch two nights because I couldn't stop sneezing, crying for air and blowing my nose.  

I should explain, however, that this was BEFORE, I...broke down and begged Ben to buy me some Sudafed.  Up until that point, I was doing at-home remedies, which are good alternatives to medicating before you have a cold, in the early stages of a cold, or even for short term sniffles and sore throats.  If take so many medicines and it can be hard to keep track of what medicines interact or interfere with the effect other ones.  Natural treatments are a good start to treating any illness.  Some of the things I did, pre-decongestant:
  • steep pieces of ginger with lemon in hot water for a "tea;"
  • boiled a big pot of water with pieces of ginger and inhaled the steam that was produced from the boiling;
  • drank mint tea; and
  • made a soup with a nice broth. I chose a chicken tortilla soup.  I used the broth but left out the chicken because I didn't have any.  
But since I was having too hard of a time sleeping at night I had to give in to the pharmaceutical industry.  I'm sorry but I don't have any small babies crying for me to feed them at night.  And I'm not about to live like I do until I really have to, OK?  I called my transplant coordinator on what would be the last really bad day of my cold and asked her if I could take Sudafed. If you are a transplant patient, or someone who already takes a lot of medicines, I recommend that you consult a health care professional before you take anything over-the-counter.  I've heard from some people who just don't respond to certain medicines very well, be it aspirin or a decongestant.  

After taking a decongestant one night I was finally able to sleep for like five hours instead of just four.  Things were looking up. And as I'm writing this blog post I'm 85 percent back to my healthy self.

I didn't intend to write a post about having a cold, out of all things.  I was probably going to write about donors or marriage or something somebody said to me recently.  But you know, sometimes, sickness happens. And I know that all too well.  I didn't get any blogging done last week, along with any actual pay-me-money work, any chores or other grown-up to-dos.  But whatever.  

Let's end this post with a song, shall we? OK!  Anybody like Daft Punk? 

Of course you do.  Good luck this week. Stay healthy. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

I Challenge You...

The title of this post could also be "How strong is your bladder?" You and I...we just got a little bit closer.

OK so, it's the new year.  Yay!  Out with the old, in with the new diet/workout plan/outlandish resolution that you probably won't stick to.  Just kidding! I believe in you.  You can do it.  Ignore me. I'm bitter because I still bite my nails, something I resolved to stop doing when I was like, five. 

Want to add another goal to your list of New Year goals?  Well, you've come to the right place.  Starting tomorrow, or the day after whenever you read this post, you can join me in "walking in my shoes" by drinking 2 LITERS OF WATER per day.  Yesssss.  Because I know many of you have all been wondering what it's like to have someone else's kidney in your body.  No? Well then...OK.  But even if you haven't been wondering about that you can still participate in this challenge.  

Here's a little backstory.  One of the things that they tell you to do when you first get a kidney transplant is to drink some water.  Not a sip of water, or a glass of water.  But a lot of water. Here's what I'm talking about:  

Two of those jugs, twice a day.  That's two liters. Those jugs are pretty similar to what I was given in the hospital after my transplant.

And let me clarify by saying that your beverage of choice doesn't have to be just water.  It can be juice (think orange, apple, cranberry), decaf tea (or less caffeinated teas; some green teas have a bit of caffeine in them) or decaf coffee. Eliminating caffeinated beverages, including sodas, has more to do with how drinks like coffee are diuretics and produce a lot of urine, which, after you have a kidney transplant, can throw off measurements of pee when you're trying to figure out how much urine the kidney is producing.  IN A NUTSHELL: no caffeine.  

Basically, the point of this challenge is to drink more water.  If you're one of those people who struggles to get more plain, clear, clean water into your system on a daily basis, then you could consider taking this on.  If you're one of those people who finds themselves feeling dry and dehydrated at the end of the day, then this challenge could also help you with that.  If you just want to kick caffeinated drinks and sodas...then, yeah, this will definitely help with that (remember when I kicked coffee last spring?).

How are you going to drink more water?  

To ensure you have access to a steady supply of water during the day, I recommend purchasing a water bottle.  Here's what I currently use:

This Camelbak bottle is .75 L.  If you fill this up twice each day then you know you've drank 1.5 L of water.  That's a lot.  To reach two liters, simply supplement with about 16 oz (0.4 L) of more water or something else.  While I'm at work, I usually ramp up my liquid intake by filling my water bottle once, and then drinking about 16 to 14 oz of green tea, mint tea, or warm water since it's always freezing in my office.  These Camelbak bottles also come in the full 1 L size as well, which makes monitoring how much you drink even easier.

This challenge will last for two weeks or for as long as you want it to. For me...well...i'll be doing this for the rest of my life.  I just feel better when I'm drinking water and restricting the sugary and bubbly drinks. I do drink this from time to time, but I don't actually count that as part of my 2 L.  And I never EVER thought I'd say this...but I'm doing just fine without coffee.  Now THAT'S crazy.  

If you plan on doing this, let me know so that I can cheer you on!  

Oh, and maybe ask your doctor before you do this.  I don't know. I don't want to get sued.  But I do know that some people cannot drink a lot of any liquids daily, especially some people on dialysis and people at various stages of kidney failure.  But even if you can't fully participate in this challenge, for any reason, even hatred of water and drinking things, maybe let this blog post lead you to consider what liquids you do put into your body every day.  Is there anything you could be drinking more of or less of?  Just a thought.

Now, go, and be hydrated!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas Crazy: Keep It All Year Long

OK y'all.  We've arrived.  Last Christmas Crazy post.  We've taken the tree down and begun to switch out all the decorations.  I'm upset, y'all. I'm not gonna lie.  Christmas has been...magical, as it always is.  For me it's not about the gifts, even though I still totally believe in Santa...still. And I don't say "It's not about the gifts" in a smug way as if to say I'm superior to those people who truly love receiving gifts on Christmas. I happen to be married to one of those people whose love language is gift-giving and receiving gifts.  My love-language is words of affirmation.  Probably explains why I'm a writer and also notoriously bad at giving gifts.

Anyways...back from that tangent that took us down the road into the middle of nowhere...I don't get all crazy about Christmas because of the gifts.  I like the songs, the traditions, food...and most of all, the people I spend the holiday with.  The people I spend all my holidays with: my close knit, talk loud, hug and kiss and laugh until the house shakes, praying together, staying together, eating together, loving forever family. 

Gah, just writing all that gets me all misty eyed.  If you've been reading this blog since last January you know that I'm super close with my family.  I grew up a military brat so we moved around a lot growing up.  And at each new place, we didn't always make friends or have the nicest neighbors right away.  I didn't always fit in at school on the first day or even first month.  We didn't immediately have a church to call our second home on Sundays.  Or birthday parties, weekend barbecues, or weeknight potlucks to go to.  But I had my family.  We had each other And nine years ago Ben joined the crew, albeit officially just last June.

I've missed out on some things because I love my family so much.  Sunday dinners at home took the place of many a weekend hang out at college; a sister's dance recital or competition may have caused me to miss couple Bible study classes or dinners with friends. But I don't regret putting them first, because they've put me first too many times in the past the past 27 years. 

Last Christmas, just a couple days after in fact, I was beginning my journey to transplantation.  The hospital became my new home away from home as I visited for doctors appointments, having a ton of blood drawn, while not knowing what to expect.  I was hopeful, but still uncertain. I think of others who have similar story to mine, of living with a chronic illness, facing a time of uncertainty, not knowing what will happen the next day, whether you'll get another Christmas, but always trying to view things with a glass half-full spin.  Heather Von St. James, an incredible survivor of mesothelioma, was diagnosed with cancer around Thanksgiving 2005, and today she is now living cancer free with her husband and sweet daughter, baking cupcakes in their kitchen  (read more about her story here).  

On Christmas morning, while my sisters and I filled muffin tins with frittata mixture, and while Ben fried chicken, Jocelyn made the waffles and Holiday Inn played in the background, I found myself thinking that if I had to be found in the kitchen making breakfast with my family every single morning, I'd be at peace.  This past Christmas, my first since the transplant, reminded me of how blessed we are to be the ones to keep each other company and the ones to call each other out when our breath stanks.   God knew what he was doing when he set us all up for life.  Christmas = the perfect holiday with the most perfect group of people.  

And to that I simply say thank you God.  Thank you God for allowing me  and so many others to share another holiday season with the dear friends, precious family members and all the people who accompany us on this crazy wild ride called life. 

Hope you had a meow-y little Christmas.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Planning for Tomorrow on Borrowed Time

So for the first time in a long, long while, I bought a planner. 

A monthly calendar, a daily calendar, complete with to-do lists.  Actually, it's pretty nice.  Ever heard of Emily Ley? Well, she's pretty cool and she makes planners. She sold me my newest and most recent planner.   She's the type of person who, up until maybe two years ago, I would have been trying to buy every single notebook, calendar, spiral bound to-do-list maker that she had in her inventory.  

A week and a half into using my new planner.   It's raised my "BE AWESOME AT LIFE" meter by a full 110 percent.  Winning.

Back in the day, I was obsessed with to-do lists. In high school, not only did I fill notebooks with journal entries, I also filled completely separate notebooks with daily agendas and plans for the future. 

Plans, yo.  I was all about the plan. Going somewhere?  Gotta have a plan.  Doing something? Get me the plan!  Saying something?  Let's plan it out.  Christmas shopping? Plan.  Birthday party? Plan.  Just a Tuesday?  Plan.  8:00 A.M. in the morning and you just woke up?  Let's make a plan.  2:00 A.M. and you're still asleep?  Well, you're wasting time.  You need to make a plan for the next hour of sleeping.

I was only sort of Type A before I got all into planning.  But you know what made that part of my personality come out even more?  Something happening that was NOT part of my plan.  Like oh, I don't know...kidney disease.  At that time, in my youth and naivite, I thought I could just make a plan for when I was going to be cured and healed.  I devoted so many hours of my day to either journaling or writing to-do lists not just for the coming day, but for the coming week, month, even year.  Something about feeling completely out of control when it came to my life and health, just made me want to do everything in my power to try to get some of that control back.

I was young then.  And didn't know anything. 

Fast forward to my life about one year ago...Ben and I had planned to plan a wedding and a honeymoon without any mishaps.  Then my kidneys decided to fail completely and I started this blog. YAY!

Here's the point.  Back in the day, I was wrong.  The type of "planning" that I was subscribing to was unhealthy.  It was based on the idea that if I wrote out some type of line-by-line, number-by-number schedule for how every aspect, hour and minute of my life was going to go, it would most certainly go that way.  The type of planning that I was doing was based on the assumption that if you have a plan or a goal in life, nothing bad can ever happen to you.  

That type of mess right there, is just wrong.  Because everyone knows that even the best laid plans can go awry.  Really sometimes you can have a plan, and it can come to fruition.  And sometimes, God wants to use you for something else. 


Back to why I wrote this blog post.  I bought a planner.  And planning is something that I kind of gave up on about a year and a half ago. I felt like, "Why even plan anything if shit is just gonna happen to you when you don't want it to?" 

Well, over the past six months, and as the year started to come to a close, I began to feel overwhelming DISORGANIZED.  Yes, I'd been living a summer of carefree happiness, doing things on a whim, paying the bills if I felt like it, and then going to bed at 1 A.M. on a weeknight when there were still dishes everywhere and two full baskets of dirty laundry. Eventually, doing all that and not having a plan for getting shit done, started to make me feel really crappy, like less of an adult, and more like I was losing control of my life than having a chronic ever made me feel.  Writing my to-do lists and appointments on scrap pieces of computer paper and the corners of my journal just wasn't cutting it. 

So I broke down, I guess you can say, and realized that I need a some sort of book, notebook, lined paper sandwiched between to pieces of cardboard, where I can safely store reminders and notes and calendars of events.  

Before I actually purchased my planner, I talked to my dear goals-oriented friend across the world in Asia about what he thought I should do. Whether paying money and investing any more time in having a planner was something I should even jump back into doing, considering the impact it had on me when I was just a teenager.  I just about lost my mind trying to plan things out all those years ago. I didn't want to fall into being a control freak again.  I didn't want to find myself, at the end of the year saying once again, that I told God my plans and he laughed...and laughed...and laughed.

My friend educated me saying:  planning is different from scheduling. And essentially, that's what my planner is.  It's a big calendar of the day, week, and month that I can use to write down things that I need to do and therefore set aside time to do it.  That's it.  That's all it is.  And guess what, if something comes up (praying for no more kidney failure) I can simply adjust.  Cross out things. Amend it. Erase it. Write something else in. Fit it on a different day.  And in the process, getting all those "need to do" things out of the way, frees up more time for me to do the things I want to do.  Like play my new bass guitar (more on that later) or..I know! Write a blog post.  See?!  

I'm confident that I won't fall back into my old habits of compulsively planning or scheduling or whatever. Now, I know that what makes someone an expert planner is being able to control a situation, but to adapt when things don't fall into place as expected and when things change.  Because things do change.  And that's OK.  That's why it's always good to write things in pencil, just in case.  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Christmas Crazy: Ben's Ornament Contribution

HAPPY NEW YEAR! And Merry Christmas.  Yes, this is another post about Christmas.  You're not out of the holiday spirit just yet, are you?  Really? You are?  That's ridiculous.  The three wise men have yet to visit Christ and people have already moved on.  Psh.  In the Ashman household, the tree stays up until at least mid-JanuaryPartly because of religious tradition, and partly because of laziness.  I'm just not in a hurry to yank all our boxes out of the storage closet, dismantle our fake tree yet, and have to vacuum up the mess that is sure to be on the carpet after embarking on such a mission.  

I'm writing this on the second day of January and the lights are currently lit on the tree.  We gave out our last round of presents on Jan. 1 to Ben's parents and our nieces and nephews due to this year's Christmas scheduling with the families. So it feels like Christmas just happened all over again!  I love it.  Burton's even having a ball with gifts he received from his aunts and uncles yesterday.  We've still got a whole plate of Christmas cookies on the table, and my gift from Ben (a bass guitar) is sort of still in it's packaging under the tree.  AND I only purchased part two of our Christmas present yesterday--two plane tickets to Vegas to celebrate my sister's birthday with my side of the family.  

Yes, Christmas is far from over people. In fact, some might say it's just getting started.  OK, that's probably pushing it.  But you know what I mean.  I'm still feeling festive and merry, and that can only be a good thing I guess.

The real meaning of this post is to follow up on a previous post I did about Ben's and my new Christmas tradition.  As I said before, we're hoping to continue making ornaments for our Christmas tree long into old age. And we're really looking forward to seeing whatever our future children create.  The idea was for it to be a contest, with people we know judging which ornament is best.  If you remember, this was the ornament I submitted:

I created three for our tree because I had three cookie cutters and three pictures that I didn't want to go to waste.

Ok, ready for Mr. Ashman's creation?  Here it is:

Although this was my competition, I have to admit, Ben's ornament is AWESOME.  I think he captured the way we looked on our wedding day perfectly!  I love how creative Ben can be as soon as you turn something into a race.  This really was the perfect ornament for our first Christmas as "smug married" together. hehe.

But alas, it was a competition, and a panel of judges (i.e. my sisters and my mom) said that my ornament was better.  So nice try Ben.  Unless anyone reading this post wants to weigh in on who should be the winner of the first ever Ashman Ornament Showdown, I'll say better luck next time, hubby.  

Anybody else still have their Christmas tree up?