Friday, February 28, 2014

March Madness

I'm in Vegas.

Starting March 10 11

join me here on the blog to celebrate

National Kidney Month

UPDATE: I've been sidelined for the past couple of days due to a fever and stomach issues.  I hope hope HOPE to have a finished post up tomorrow. 

Stay well, peeps.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

We Got Married: Could, woulda, shoulda

I've mentioned before that I didn't hire a wedding planner.  Ben and I planned our wedding completely on our own, partly because we had a really tight budget, and also because we've known people who have planned incredibly beautiful weddings without professional help.  I've recounted the many trials I had trying to make decisions, get things done, and stay within my budget and also the many victories that we celebrated during the planning process and on the wedding day.  But you know what...I'll be honest, not EVERYTHING was perfect.

FACT:  the most important part, and BEST PART, of the wedding day was actually marrying Ben and saying our vows to each other in front of all the people we love and care about.

FACT:  many of the details that were at our wedding most likely faded out of many of our guests' memories as soon as the sun rose on the day after our big party.

FACT:  I am one of those brides who says "not everything was perfect," and that's OK.  

I've had about eight months to think about it and look at pictures over and over again, and I can now think back on my wedding day and really look what I would have done differently had I known better.  Now, I don't want to get too critical.  I'm just going to point out the main things, the ones that have stuck in my mind since the wedding ended, and even since before the wedding happened.

Looking back, I coulda, woulda, shoulda:
  • put more thought into what I wanted the ceremony programs to look like.  My family and I hand made them, and Ben wrote "Ben and Jewel's" wedding on them. And that's what we passed out.  This is really a tiny issue because honestly, I don't think anyone cared.  I barely even care.  But when I think about what I could have done, this is the first thing that comes to my mind.
  • started saving for my wedding earlier.  Overall, I'm really happy with the amount of money we spent on our wedding.  At the end of the day, Ben and I spent 15 percent less than the average cost of a DC wedding for 100 people AND we paid for 180 guests.  We paid for half our wedding out of our own pockets. Which apparently is still rare?  Apparently, people still take that whole "the bride's family pays" thing to heart.  Which, in my opinion, doesn't make any sense.  But anyways, the point is, our wedding wasn't expensive by comparison.  But, it would have been nice to pay for our wedding, and  still have some money left over to start saving for another big purchase, like a house.  We've had to start from square one on that. 
  • started my DIY projects earlier.  I didn't have many but the few that I did have, I felt like I was rushing to get them done.  During wedding planning, there were a few times where it felt like there was nothing to accomplish really, mostly in the early stages.  Those would have been great times to get a head start on some crafting/printing items, instead of going batS&#t crazy during the last three weeks leading up to the day.
  • purchased Ben's suit at a different retailer.  While the final product came out great, I feel like we could have alleviated some of the stress of getting Ben into the perfect suit by just finding another store/designer who could have given us exactly what we wanted exactly when we asked for it, even if it meant paying more money for something a little more high end.
  • overrode Ben's choice for the last dance song (The Reason, by Hoobastank).  
  • ordered more bouts.  I think I was short about one or two for the men!
  • vetted some of my vendors a bit more before hiring them.  Sometimes, my desire to just get things done hinders my ability to determine if something or someone is really the right fit for me.
  • ordered a wedding album with my photography package.  Now that I have my wedding pictures, I really just wish I could look at them in a book.  And looking back, why didn't I just order the album?  Yes, there is the sticker shock that comes with comparing the prices of a photography package with an album and one with out.  And during planning I felt like I just couldn't commit any more dollars to that area of the wedding.  But when you factor in the overall cost of everything, is an extra grand really that big of a deal?  I should have figured out a way to shrink costs in other places, even though I really did have the bare minimum in just about every category.

So there you have it.  Those are the top things that I regret/want a do-over on/would change if I could go back in time.  The next wedding I have will hopefully be a vow renewal, and of course not nearly as big.  In fact, it'll probably be in Disney World actually. So maybe I won't have to deal with any of these issues. 

OK enough about regrets.  To end this series on a happy note,  

5 things I would not change about my wedding day and the planning experience:
  1. The number of people I invited.  I complained throughout about the cost of having a big wedding, but in the end, it was awesome and fun. I'm a fan of big weddings.
  2. The length of time for the open bar.  I thought people would think we were lame for closing the bar during dinner and then opening it up again, then closing it an hour before the reception was over.  It actually worked out fine. I didn't hear any complaints from people.
  3. The amount we spent on flowers.  BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED:  real, live flowers are EXPENSIVE.  EX-PENSIVE.  I'm glad I stuck to my guns and my budget, and most importantly found a really great flower vendor to work with.  That goes a loooong way.
  4. Choosing to skip fancy transportation.  We saved so much money by just having everyone drive themselves.  
  5. Not hiring a wedding videographer.  While planning my wedding, I'd read a couple things about people really regretting their decision to not hire a wedding videographer. Ben's and my budget, didn't allow us the luxury of hiring one.  And this made me sad.  So I prepared myself for the regret and the disappointment in the months following our wedding, when I'd kick myself over and over again for not biting the bullet and blowing some more savings to get a fancy schmancy wedding video.  Well, Ben and I have been married for eight months now. And guess what, I haven't even thought about having a wedding video until now, as I'm writing this blog post. And I'm not even sure I care.  In the past eight months, I have never said "Oh, I wish I could watch a video of my wedding."  
And that's all folks.  I am officially closing the chapter on documenting my wedding.  I just want to say that I love you readers so much.  Thanks for going on this journey with me and letting me talk about "first world problems" like dessert bars and color palettes.  Unless any of you send me specific questions about aspects of my wedding, you probably won't see another post on the big day.  And I'm OK with that. I've realized that my wedding was definitely a great day, up there with some of my best days.  The good news is that since that day ended, I've had several other "best days" come to pass.  And I'm thankful for that.  The wedding is just one day.  A marriage is forever.  And so far, "forever" is pretty awesome.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

We Got Married-- Seeing Each Other Before the Ceremony

 Welcome to post #3 of the wedding series!  Read on to find out what Ben and I thought about doing a "first look," meeting up to see each other BEFORE the wedding ceremony AND the impact that it's had on our marriage.  Oooo...this is gonna be good.

JEWEL:  What did you think about the idea of doing a first look before we actually did it?

BEN:  I didn’t even know it was a thing that people did. I thought there was just the traditional “you don’t see the bride.” That’s what’s always in the movies. That’s what I saw growing up.  I didn’t know the first look was a thing until I heard it from Vicki, our photographer.  

I would say it was the same for me except since I had been doing research on wedding photography from the very beginning of our engagement, I knew that people did first looks.  So, when Vicki, first suggested that we see each other before the wedding, what was your initial thought and reaction to it?

That’s not what you’re supposed to do!  But she really sold it, you know?  When she actually dove into why it really made a lot of sense, it seemed like something I could get down with.  

I just remember her saying that it would be a really great way to get pictures of us together before the wedding and that it would also cut down on the time that we were doing pictures after the wedding.

I wasn’t so much worried about the time, but one thing she did say, stuck with me. And that was that it’s very difficult to capture the expression on the groom’s face or both the bride’s and the groom’s faces during the big reveal.  A) Because they’re 40 yards apart and B) because they’re in a room full of their peers.  The only way to get that honest reaction is to isolate them and have a private reveal.

JEWEL:  I think I definitely wanted to do it because it seemed like a great time to spend time together before the wedding. If you remember,  we weren’t really together by ourselves after that.   We came together and took our pictures, but then we were around the bridal party, then it was the ceremony and the family pictures.  And then it was the reception. And we did sit by ourselves, but you know the first look was actually one of the few times or the only times that we spent any time together.  

BEN:  That and the wedding night.

Um. Ok. So when you first saw me what was your reaction?

I wasn’t really thinking anything.  I just kind of turned around and there you were all dolled up.  And it was nice. It was a really nice feeling.  There was sort of that moment of realization that, yes,  you got dressed up and, yes,  you woke up and all your buddies were there and you have a purpose in mind.  But it actually doesn’t strike you that it’s your wedding day until you see your fiancĂ©, your bride.

When I first saw you I had a similar reaction.  I wasn’t really thinking anything.

But yeah I can wear a suit any day of the week.  But you don’t exactly see a woman wearing a wedding dress every day.  

That’s true.  And if I was thinking anything it was “Oh! Ben looks nice!”  If I was thinking any thoughts it was probably that.  And I also remember being actually, kind of nervous. I remember being kind of bubbly.

I might have been nervous for a couple of seconds when I was walking there. And I remember feeling hot and sweaty. And there was the back-to-back position we stood in, and your dress felt weird. And I was like, this is scratchy! How is she putting up with this?!  Because your poof was pressed up against my legs! There were a couple of brief moments of nerves.  But to have those out before the ceremony actually made the ceremony a more enjoyable experience.

Yeah, I’d say so, too.

I knew what to expect. And that’s that you weren’t going to come down the aisle a hot mess.  I wasn’t nervous. Everything was good.

JEWEL:  What impact do you feel like us seeing each other before the wedding had on the ceremony?

BEN:  I wouldn’t say that at any moment I was nerve-wrecked.  But if there were any nerves, the first look helped make everything a more enjoyable experience.  I wasn’t worried about anything.  I was pretty sure you were going to show up.

Pretty sure? Hmm.

Because you don’t want to waste money.  But yeah, it just made everything go smoothly. I was happy to get our pictures done before the second round with all the family.  

For the ceremony, I still felt nervous.  But it was mostly about walking down the aisle and seeing you, and I didn’t want to look you straight in the eye, even though we had just seen each other.  But for me, the first look didn’t really change anything. I was still really happy to see you and get married and I feel like the first look made me a little more relaxed during the ceremony.  Maybe even too relaxed?

Had you been drinking?

No!  I guess at the ceremony I felt like it was just you and me standing up there even though there were all these people around us.

I don’t know if the first look caused that.  I think it probably helped you get rid of any remaining nerves about us being up there together, though. And as far you being nervous about falling all over yourself and being worried about that, well that’s just, you know, your own personal issues.

JEWEL:  There is the tradition that says it’s  bad luck to see the bride on the wedding day, before the ceremony takes place.  Have you seen any signs of bad luck?

BEN:  Cats are bad luck.

Cats ARE bad luck.

I’m not that superstitious, so I’m really not worried about that.  The tradition was just somebody who once said the bride and groom shouldn’t see each other because that will make it more special. And that just kind of evolved into the modern day tradition. And that’s fine.  It’s special in its own way.  But it can also be special an hour or two earlier.

I haven’t really seen any signs that we’re headed for doom in our marriage because we saw each other before the wedding.

No, the doom is for other reasons. Not because of that.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hydrated Yet?

Happy Belated Love Day, Y'all! 

Did you have a good Valentine's Day?!  Did you make out with your honey, or make dinner for him or her? Did you have a rom-com night with your girlfriends?   Did you eat too much chocolate?  Just kidding.  There's no such thing as "too much chocolate." 

But hey, if you do feel like you ate too much chocolate and drank a bit too much booze or bubbly, a good way to get back on track is by drinking two liters of water today. Yeah?  Yeah.

I just wanted to check in with y'all to see how your water challenge is coming along, if you did decide to take it on when I introduced it a month ago.  The goal is to drink two liters of water, juice or tea per day, not counting coffee or soda.  The goal is to do this and improve your hydration levels, cut down on your caffeine and sugary drink intake, and to be more mindful of what and how much you drink during the day.

If you've been doing the challenge since I first talked about it, GREAT JOB!  Your body probably thanks you.  And if you've decided to start now, good luck!  You can do it, and I know you'll feel great from here on out. 

In other news: I officially turned 27 on Friday, and celebrated in the District on Friday AND Saturday.  As in, I stayed out past midnight both nights and ended up sleeping until about noon on Saturday and Sunday.  Yeah, I'm 27.  But I still got it.  I can still turn up.

Happy President's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Last Day of 26

Last year, before turning 26 I wrote a post about what I'd learned while experiencing life as a 25-year-old.  I loved writing it and sharing my thoughts with you, so I decided to write another one! Enjoy, and, as always, thanks, for reading.

One of my favorite people in the world is Oprah.  Shocking, right? Since she's probably the favorite person of no less than 199 million people.  Oprah's column that she writes in O magazine, "What I Know For Sure" inspires me over and over again. And it prompts me to ask myself what do I know for sure to be true in my own life.  And, I may be on my own here, but I don't take this question lightly.  I don't consider answering it with a dismissive, playful reply about how I surely know I don't want to go to work tomorrow! 


Since my 24th birthday, I've been grappling with the idea of what it means to be an adult and who I am as "adult Jewel." And since I'm still coming into adulthood, at the not-old age of 27 starting tomorrow, I'd say I'll probably be tweaking that image of "my adulthood" for a least a little while more. But it's such a relief to know that with every year that passes, even though I'm getting older (which I don't seem to hate as much as other people), I get even closer to learning what I know for sure, and finally being OK with it.  

To me, that's adulthood.  Knowing who you are, owning who you are.  As my adult role model, Beyonce says:  "I'm a grown woman.  I can do whatever I want."  Getting there, most definitely. 

At the end of 26, what I know for sure:

  • I'm not a morning person.  I like the idea of mornings.  I like the idea of waking up early enough to watch the sun gracefully lift itself into the sky.  I like the idea of putting on a cup of coffee, eating that breakfast with flax and oats and fruit, doing sun salutations to some gentle acoustic indie songstress, and then praying, reading, writing, singing, dancing, rejoicing, all for like two hours before you actually have to get s&*% done.  I LOVE that idea.  That IDEA, sounds and looks glorious, in my mind.  But that is not me. Nope.  I've been trying for 27 years to be a morning person, and it hasn't happened yet because while I love the idea of mornings, I don't enjoy ACTUAL mornings that begin before 10/10:30 AM.  However, coming up on 27, I am mature enough to acknowledge that I do not have enough time in my day to do everything I want to do.  Waking up an extra hour earlier, would help me be more productive.  So I've been working on that.  I'm not trying to become a morning person.  I will forever dislike mornings, probably.  I'm just trying to adjust my schedule.
  • There's nothing wrong with not "doing what you love."  It was actually Oprah, during her series finale, who told me that you have to find your passion and pursue it.  But it may be not your rent-payer or bill-payer. You may have to "do what you love"  part-time, or for free, or after work, or before work. I happen to love writing on this blog.  Ask me how much I get paid to do it.
  • Saving money, feels a lot better than spending money.  After a year where money was flying left and right to pay for the wedding, it's so great to see the dollar value rise instead of diminish on a bank account.
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is all in your mind.   I mentioned last year that I was mostly over social media, for a few reasons.  It's kind of boring, none of my REAL friends even contact me on social media, and yeah, it made me feel bad about myself sometimes. Yeah, I'll say it--sometimes going on Facebook made me feel like s&%T!  Since then I've cut down my Facebook usage (the only social media platform I use) to less than one hour per week, and I am much happier.  If you feel like you're struggling with comparison or FOMO, here is the key:  stop looking at what everyone else is doing.  Worry about yourself.  Focus on what you're doing and the people who are really in your life.  Your spouse.  Your children. Your siblings.  Your "real" friends--the ones you would CALL or TEXT if something wonderful or awful happened.  Don't focus on the ones who would only find out because of a status update.  And if for one second you feel that your life is so boring that you have to scroll through other people's profiles to get you to the next exciting point in your life, turn on the TV.  Seriously.  There's a lot of great stuff on there these days.  Even  "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" is way more thrilling than any of the stuff I've seen on Facebook.  And they're rich least you'd get to look at nice cars and clothes.  And on that note...
  • What God has for me, is for me.  At 27, I finally understand why I don't want someone else's blessing. 
  • Not gonna elaborate, but six months ago there were a few specific aspects of my personality that I felt were more like obstacles to helping me reach a really important goal.  Now, after months of 1) trying to adopt pieces of other people's personalities; 2) making some progress in reaching my goal because I did that;  and 3) feeling frustrated because I wasn't being all the way true to myself, I've realized that I actually like those aspects of my personality that I wished weren't there.  And I learned that I didn't need to change my personality, but instead, I need to change my perspective on life and people. 
  • Ben and I, our marriage is just that--ours.  What God has for us, is for us.
  • I don't feel bad about skipping out on small talk.  I'm over talking about the weather, honestly.  If it's winter, it's gonna be cold.  Unless there's a blizzard, I don't want to hear about how it's cold again winter.  Same goes for summer.  I could not care less about how humid you think it is.  We live in Virginia. 
And with that, here's to the late 20s.  Thank God I'm here.

Does this mean I officially have three years to get my s&*t together?  Hmm.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We Got Married: Music to My Ears

Selecting the playlist for our DJ and our set of songs for the wedding ceremony was truly a labor of love.  Ben and I felt that the music was going to either make or break the wedding day.  So we chose each song carefully, strategically avoiding most of those "HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD PLAY AT YOUR WEDDING" lists.  Not that there's anything wrong with those lists! But we didn't want to consult them too much.  I guess this was our way of putting a little originality into the wedding since I am lacking in the crafting and DIY project area.  

All of these songs are my favorite songs! I loved the song that I walked down the aisle to. I went with this lesser known "Twilight" song after leaning heavily toward picking Christina Perry's amazing "1000 Years."   My dad and I decided to skip the sentimental father-daughter slow jam and went for, perhaps a more controversial selection:  an upbeat R. Kelly song.  And no, it's not what you think (see below)!  

And Ben and I kept it classy...soulful and classy for our first dance.  If you are alive and have been alive for more than five minutes, chances are you're familiar with Al Green's perfect ode to long-lasting love and relationships.  Picking our first dance song was the easiest decision we made.  I've been in love with "Let's Stay Together" since before I was with Ben.  Obviously, there have been a lot of love songs that have hit the radio stations since "Let's Stay Together" came out.  But what drew us to Al Green's song was the fact that it has stood the test of time. I think everyone can relate to the message.  Just look at the title of the song.  Come on?  You can't get any better than that for a first dance song on somebody's WEDDING DAY.   

Anyways, if you need a Valentine's Day playlist,  these songs will be a good start.   I hope you enjoy these selections from our wedding day. 

"Turning Page"  Sleeping At Last
walking down the aisle

"Immanuel, God with Us" Citipointe
performed by a friend, after communion

"Step in the Name of Love"  R. Kelly
father-daughter dance

"Let's Stay Together" Al Green
Our first dance :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Things Remembered

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
~C.S. Lewis

I was staggering about in my company's "pantry," the employee lounge that's filled with free coffee and tea dispensers and rows of snacks that would rival any 7 Eleven and Whole Foods check-out counter.  I needed gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, then a pack of Gushers and of course a straw for my covered cup of hot water.  I dipped in between pairs of people standing around, talking about their days up to that point, and football. I carefully stepped in between a man and a woman--a woman who, with concern in her voice, was asking "How are you?  How was dialysis today?" 

I had already walked away from them to put my stash on my table. But I did what a very nosy Jewel would do and walked back up and stood very close to the couple, pretending to grab a pack of barbecue Pop Chips.  I pretended to grab other things too, like packets of sunflower seeds, another bag of gluten free cookies, while sneakily pulling tidbits from this man's and woman's conversation.  Like a cat, I was waiting for my time to strike, to jump in and show him our commonalities.  To show him that even though he is a middle aged, white man and I'm a young, black woman, that we share something.  We both know what it's like when our bodies fail us. We both know what it's like when someone tells you that you need something, and you don't have any control over when or how you'll get it.  

Several more "fake" trips up to the grocery aisles of my job's employee lounge, the man and woman finally end their conversation. And I take my shot.  

"I'm sorry but...did you just say you were on dialysis?"

From the moment the question left my mouth, we were engaged in such a lively conversation you would have thought we were old friends.  Anyone walking in would have said, "Wow, they seem to have a lot in common.  They must know each other well."  The truth was that I didn't know him before that day.  Yet somehow, after I asked my question and he answered, it was as if we knew a whole lot about each other.  

We exchanged disease explanations and kidney functions.  I gave him some tips on getting a donor set up as quickly as possible.  I told him about my transplant.  I told him about my doctors and my hospital.  We made plans to have lunch together.  

Ten months ago, I was walking around in that same pantry, grabbing what was probably my fifth cup of coffee for the day.  I was exhausted. I looked exhausted.  Dull. Bored.  Unhappy.  Ill.  And some might say lifeless.  And I would walk into work every day wishing that I wasn't there.  Or even wishing that someone could just just know automatically what I was going through so I wouldn't have to explain it to them.  That way I wouldn't have to answer a billion "Are you OK?" questions throughout the day.  No, I'm not OK, was what I wanted to say all the time.  But I didn't say that because, when you have a chronic illness, sometimes it's just not worth getting into with someone who might not even be able to relate.  

I hope that I was that person for my new friend from the pantry. I hope that I was the person who can relate.  The person for whom you don't have to explain everything to.  I hope that I was the person who just gets it already.  

I wonder if he knows that he was that person for me.  I'm nearly a year out of transplant and technically, I don't have kidney disease anymore.  It was still such a blessing to meet someone who just gets it without me having to explain it to him.

My new friend from work has kidney disease and is currently on dialysis.  
Like me, he needs a kidney transplant. 
 If you or anyone else you might know is interested in becoming a living donor, feel free to leave a comment on this post or email me at

Monday, February 3, 2014

We Got Married: Planning Posts Updated

I am so excited to share our wedding day with y'all!  I never thought that I would be one of those people who had a "wedding blog."  Before getting engaged and even for the first few six months or so, it all seemed just kind of silly.  People get married every day, every hour probably.  So what makes my wedding planning process so interesting and so special that it needs a blog post?  Other than the fact that it was inconveniently happening while my kidneys were failing.  It's not like I had ton of money and was planning some big wedding with champagne fountains and booking guest appearances from Mickey Mouse or Beyonce.  I WISH. 

In my first few posts on wedding planning, I talked about our desserts, our invitations, our bridesmaids dresses, and marriage counseling.  We didn't bother taking any pictures of our marriage counseling session.  So sorry, but no, you will not get to see me rolling my eyes or Ben smirking at various comments about who's the better communicator and who's better with money.  

But if you remember I told you how excited I was about our invitations!  We wanted our invitations to indicate to people that we were having a big party, not just a wedding, but a party to celebrate the culmination of a stressful year.  Our designer totally did her thang.  

Working with our invitation designer was incredibly easy.  What wasn't easy?  Bridesmaids dresses.  I told you that I tried too hard to find something that the girls would be able to wear over and over again, and also be able to purchase at the mall.  Sometimes dresses without that "bridesmaid" label on them tend to come cheaper than they would if bought at a wedding salon.  Having to hassle people about getting their bridesmaids dresses and then asking them to pay a ton of money was one of my least favorite parts of planning the wedding. However, I'm happy to say, that I was incredibly happy with the final product!

If you remember Ben and I put off a few key wardrobe elements:  the veil and his suit.  Procrastinating on these items was kind of unintentional.  I'm cheap and am not going to spend a sh&*load of money on a piece of tulle to put on top of my head.  And Ben and I weren't about to walk out of the Jos. A. Bank without a suit that didn't make him look perfect on our wedding day.  Without further ado:

And a picture of my handsome husband in the RIGHT suit!!

And a picture of my flower girl, who was basically my twin!

I haven't mastered the ability to upload a billion hi-res images onto my blog yet.  Luckily, some of Vicki's wonderful photos of our wedding were featured on The Knot for your viewing pleasure.

Stay week's post (my favorite) is on some of the big songs we used in our wedding!