Monday, December 21, 2015

On Hiatus

2015 was sh*t.  And that's not an understatement.  

And I don't want to leave you guys hanging, waiting for a new blog post, especially when I don't plan on publishing one anytime soon.  

I have loved writing about my health situation(s) and sharing my life with you.  Right now, I'm going to go out and, hopefully, find that elusive thing called healing.  

Healing is freedom from worry.
Healing is to live and not pretend to live.
Healing is gratitude.
Healing is balance.
Healing is letting go.
Healing is the energy of now.
~Terri Guillemets

P.S. Don't miss my next blog post, whenever it will be! Follow this blog or follow me on Google+.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Great Message for the Year's End

Hey World!  I want to share with you something that I'm really loving lately. 

I've hinted at this recently but in case you didn't know, this has been the worst year of my life...HANDS DOWN.  Yeah, I know!  We didn't think anything could top the first part of 2013.  But no, 2015 takes the cake.  Many people are sad or stunned to see that we are officially in December now, and not June or April.  Not me. I am thrilled.  Quite possibly, overjoyed that the year is coming to an end.  SEE YA. 

Recently, I decided to take control of my life again, or at least grab the reins on the things I do have control of. Mainly, my day-to-day happiness. In a time where so much s&*t has happened and keeps happening, it can be hard to find the motivation to enjoy appreciate what you have in spite of all you've continue living with with a positive keep having hope for a bright future.  

I find that the best way to encourage myself is to start the day off with something positive.  Some people pray, read, exercise or meditate.  For the past couple of weeks now, I've been starting my mornings listening to this:  

It's a great song to scream/sing along to in the shower, and it has a great message. It's such a great reminder for anyone, that if you're still standing...if you're able to get out of bed the next day and join everyone in the world...if you're still trying, then that's worth something.  

Whatever you're going through, you will beat this.  You are beating it.  You're still breathing.  You're still alive. You're fighting the good fight, and you're winning.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"If you're going through hell, keep going."

Winston Churchill

I've taken a long break, and it's not ending anytime soon. I do miss you, and I miss writing for you and sharing my life with you--ups and downs, good and bad.  

Some bad things have happened.  Some good things too.  But also a lot of bad.  

I'm looking forward to a time when I have the motivation/confidence/emotional stability to write it out for you.  

Until then, I appreciate you. And the grace that you're granting me.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Tale of Two Surgeries

"Do not pray for an easy life,
pray for the strength to endure a difficult one."
--Bruce Lee

Originally, this blog post was supposed to be about the time I had an emergency appendectomy while 11-weeks pregnant.  Before the surgery, I asked the surgeon if he'd ever performed an appendectomy on someone who was pregnant and had a kidney transplant.  He said no.  He said there was a 50/50 chance the growing baby would survive.  Then I squeezed my mom's hand and was taken to the operating room.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

They Don't Talk About the First Trimester-- Part Three

Welcome back everyone to the final installment of my first trimester diary.  Just to recap:

--Here you can read my reasons for keeping and posting my diary on the internet, along with the first installment;
--Here is the second installment.

And we've reached the end!  Let's catch up with me as I finished my eighth week of pregnancy:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Our House, Our Rules

I took a pregnancy test on the same day that another one of our house buying offers fell through.  And five days later, we were under contract on a new house...the one we've been living in now for a little over a month!  
Ashman Manor

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

They Don't Talk About the First Trimester--Part Two

Welcome back for the second installment of my first trimester diary.  If you missed this post about why I'm sharing it, you can go back and read it here.   

Without further ado, let's just right into "Jewel's Emotions at about Six-Seven Weeks Preggo."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Summer's End

For the first time in....ever...I'm actually OK with seeing summer fade away.  Kids are going back to school.  The sun is setting earlier.  The farmer's market vendors are talking about apples. And while there is definitely a part of me that aches at the thought of the end of warm days and long nights, there's another part of me that smiles and let's out a big breath of relief.  

I know that summer ending means things are just going to get colder from here. And I hate cold weather.  But honestly, this summer, which I looked forward to so much in January, has really drained me.  It drained me dry emotionally, mentally and physically.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

They Don't Talk About the First Trimester-- Part One

Because I'm a writer, one of the first things I did after finding out I was pregnant was start a a little pregnancy diary.  Once a week or when the mood struck me I would write down what I was thinking and feeling about the pregnancy and the changes that were happening.  And, with all writing, even this blog, it's so fascinating to go back and read what you wrote a year ago, a week ago or even a month ago.  I've found in my own writing that it really is a testament to how quickly your circumstances can go from good to bad and then back to good again in just a day's time. 

If I could describe my first trimester diary in one work, it would probably be unbalanced. Either because of hormones or just the natural reaction to being pregnant, I was constantly oscillating between immense fear and happy excitement.  I think that what made matters worse was the fact that I felt like I couldn't talk to anybody about it.  Even most of the other bloggers who I read daily who've had children never talked about their first trimester.  The practice seems to be that you don't tell everyone about your pregnancy until you're more confident that the baby is going to survive. And that confidence, doesn't come for most medical professionals until the first trimester is over.  It's a sad, but true reality.  

I can't tell you how helpful and therapeutic it would have been to have some source of real-life, first-hand experience to go to when I wasn't glued to the online version of "What to Expect."  Because I want to fill what seems to be a void in that area, I'll be posting from my real and raw first trimester diary in one to three parts on this blog.  So if you're in your first weeks of pregnancy, tender boobs, excitement, peeing a lot, but also freaking out about everything...don't worry.   I was there too.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dad's Kidney Meets Growing Fetus

Finding out that I am pregnant was kind of an unexpected turn of events on what started out as an awesome day, but ended up kind of spiraling into a depressing one.

Two days before our two-year wedding anniversary, I took a pregnancy test.  This happened several hours after Ben and I had taken our first fly-fishing course and just a couple hours after we were rejected by yet another person selling a home we were hoping to buy.  This instance of rejection stung a bit more than the previous three rejections we'd already suffered.  Our realtor has this great talent of getting information out of other agents. So the seller's agent for the home we were looking to buy basically came right out and told us what numbers we would have had to offer to win the home from another prospective buyer.  With that information, we were armed and ready to submit the winning bid and be under contract that night.  We were counting down the minutes to the end of our housing search.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Kidney Update: Two Year Biopsy

The results are in!  Er...they were in about a month ago.   If you've been coming back to this blog over and over hoping to see an update on my kidney biopsy I had in April, here it is!  I didn't meant to keep you on edge.  And just so you know what you're in for, I'M O.K.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Second is the Best

I woke up this morning feeling just so, so lucky and blessed.  I've had a couple of days and months when I've felt like I've just been dealt a bad hand of life.  But when I really think about it, that's not true for me at all.  Not one bit.  Ten years ago (plus about a week and a half) Ben and I agreed to become boyfriend and girlfriend.  And for ten years we've never broken up or said we didn't want to be with each other anymore.  I feel like that's a true blessing.  Because if you look at that time frame, we went through college and post-college together.  Those are some craaaazzzy years.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

APP-er-tunities for Health Maintenance-- Part 1

I was so proud of myself for coming up with that title! Whew! Awesome, right? App-er-tunities.  HA!

Anyhoo, do you have a smart phone? If you do, are there, like, a bazillion different apps on it?  I'm one of the few people who doesn't have a whole bunch of apps. I feel like my phone's storage fills up really quickly because I take a lot of cat photos.  Also, when I first got my iPhone I decided that I didn't want to turn into a zombie who stares at my phone all day with my mouth open, tapping the screen with my finger.  So, as hard as it has been, I've resisted downloading games and tons of other entertainment apps.  And in an effort to cut down on my social media consumption, I don't even have the apps for Facebook or Instagram or Twitter on my phone.  That was a hard goal to stick to. On my phone, I have BORING apps like....the apps my iPhone came with.  BOR-ING.  And apps for USAA bank, Google Docs, and an app telling me when the bus is going to come.  I lame right? But four out of the 23 apps that I have downloaded on my own are related to health.  

So here are my thoughts on a few of them: 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kidney Update

It's time for a Spring Kidney Update! The last one I did was in February.  On April 30, I met with my regular nephrologists again to talk to my current transplant state.  Here's what happened.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Wait for it...

A lot has been happening in this season of life.  

Wait...I'm not entirely sure if that's true.  I think a more accurate description of what's going on is that a lot of preparation has been happening for all of the events that could potentially occur in the next eight months.  I'm in a period of life that I honestly haven't found myself in since my kidney failure days.  It's what I like to call "the waiting period."  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

New Thing I Love-- Her Heart

One reason for April soaring past March in the "great months" category, is that I'm helping my good friend Christina host a bible study for the next five weeks all centered around growing our faith and getting fit.  This weekly study is just a small part of her long-term mission to create a world-wide community for fit and faithful women through her blog  "Her Heart."  


Whole: Spirit, Soul, Body

Monday, March 30, 2015

March-in Toward Better Days

Highlight amidst the low-lights.

I really don't know what it is about March, but my last GOOD March was in 2012, when Ben proposed to me and we spent the rest of the month telling our family and friends, dreaming of our wedding and basking in the awesomeness of life at that moment.

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Thing I Love: The Increase

Hey people!  Guess what?  Two more weeks until Springtime! We're almost there! We are THIS close to being able to walk out of our abodes with our jackets unbuttoned or unzipped again.  We are THIS close to not having to fumble around in the morning for our cat-shaped earmuffs and snow boots.  We are THIS close to reducing that heating bill.  Word. 

In honor of the new season that is upon us, bringing with it a new weather pattern and new greenery and flower beds, I figured I'd share a few new things that I am loving right now.  First up, The Increase!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Can Blue [and Green] Do for You?!

About a week ago Ben and I joined a new organization--we became volunteers with the Washington Regional Transplant Community, aka Donate Life Ambassadors!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Faith Thru Hearing-- Dose of Encouragement

“Do not cling to events of the past
or dwell on what happened long ago.

Watch for the new thing I am going to do.

    It is happening already—you can see it now!"

Picture of an Oregon "trail", from a friend

I will make a road through the wilderness
    and give you streams of water there.

Even the wild animals will honor me;
    jackals and ostriches will praise me
when I make rivers flow in the desert
    to give water to my chosen people."

Isaiah 43:18-20

Did you need this today?
I sure did.


Monday, February 23, 2015

How Do You React to a Bad Health Report?

By now, you've read last week's post about my most recent doctor's appointment.  And how I learned some less-than-awesome stuff about all the ways pregnancy can go wrong when you have a transplant.  I wasn't feeling so great afterwards, about myself or my situation, so I decided to eat a bunch of junk food when I returned to work after my appointment.

And that got me thinking about all the ways that people might react to a negative health report.  I've had plenty of negative health reports in my short life.  Off the top of my head, there was my diagnosis with FSGS; the news that I was rapidly heading toward kidney failure; then I found out my sister wouldn't be able to donate her kidney to me.  After that it was the news that I would have to postpone my honeymoon so that I could start dialysis.  Oh, and the news that my kidneys were f*#@ked up, yet again.  

So, I started thinking, how do I typically react to this bad news.  What's my M.O.? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kidney Update

It's been a long time since my last health update. And I don't want this blog to be solely about what I eat, what I do on the weekends and how much I love my husband.  However, I haven't been able to write as many kidney updates as I would like to  because I only visit the doctor about once a month now, and I haven't had any major issues (Praise God) recently.  But I did go to my regular nephrologist today so I thought I'd provide a little update about what's going on inside the new/old transplant.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last Day of 27

For the past two years, before my birthday, I've written a post on what I've learned in the previous year.  I have to say these are some of my favorite things to write.  So here goes another one. Enjoy, and, as always, thanks for reading!

Welcome back to this year's "The More You Know" post.  I call it that because the older I get, the more know about the world and myself.  Before I start these posts, I always like to read what I've written the year before.  Before turning 26 I felt the need to offer up an explanation about why I thought Ben and I were still together. This was important to me then because I remember getting a lot of questions about how we managed to work out after all we've been through.  Reading it back now, I'm not sure if I did a good job explaining why. And before I turned 27, I'd gone through a little "multiple personality" crisis. I'm not saying I had multiple personalities but I was essentially trying to figure out how to become more likeable.  

So, pre-28, what do I know now?

A little pre-28 picture of me, at work, because this is real life. And in real life, sometimes you have to take pictures at work and not at...the beach. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How S.A.D. Are You Right Now?

We still have a month and a half left of winter.  And really two more months until it's what I would call "comfortable" outside. 

Winter is coming. No, wait! It's here.
I'm not winter's biggest fan. It's so damn cold outside and add to that the daily duty of dealing with a chronic illness.  It was two years ago, in January, that I started the process of getting a new kidney.  I wrote depressing essays like this and this during what seemed like the longest winter ever!  Gosh...what a time.  

It was only a few years ago that I realized that I may be borderline S.A.D.  Not just sad as in "I'm so SAD it's winter."  But I was showing some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a type of depression that's related to the changes in the seasons, most commonly the shift from lighter, brighter happier seasons like spring and summer to the darker, colder, bleaker seasons like autumn and winter.  When this happens, some S.A.D. people start to feel tired, irritable, low-energy, and withdraw from most if not all social interaction.   Combine this with wintertime kidney failure and you basically have an emotional train wreck/hermit.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vacation Planning--Ready for Big Trip 2015

Hi Everyone! Guess what! We're almost through with one of the most depressing months of the year! I've never been a fan of January.  It's so cold, you know?! At least up here in D.C. it is.  And it's still really dark around here, even though the days are technically getting longer now that we've passed the winter solstice.  I won't be pleased until the sun is setting AFTER I leave work.  

And then there are all those goals and resolutions we want to set at the beginning of the year in the most depressing month. I'm just over all the "fresh start" and "new year, new you" headlines.  I read this recently:  "There's nothing special about January."  Ain't that the truth.  

I guess the one thing I like about January is that it's usually the time that Ben and I plan our annual vacations!  Last year I posted about how I'm pretty spoiled when it comes to vacations.  Some people never take a vacation, either because they don't have the means to or because they don't desire to take one.  And other people, always take a vacation.  I'm the latter.  Traveling is the one thing that Ben and I like to invest in.  We'll go months without buying new shoes or underwear if it means we get to travel somewhere nice for at least a week.  

At the beginning of each year, and sometimes a little earlier, Ben and I get together and talk about what place we want to "invest" our money in.  Our annual trips started in 2010, with Puerto Rico.  Then Hawaii, Miami and the Florida Keys, Sedona and the Grand Canyon after our wedding, and then for our honeymoon, Greece. 

Because we went to Europe last year and hope to go again in two years, we agreed that this year's vacation should be a bit scaled back. We figured we could cut our European travel budget in half by going somewhere in the U.S., Caribbean or Latin America. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Jewel Eats: One Pot Pasta

Hey y'all! It's...FRIIIIIDAAAAAY.  #thankyaLord.  And here we go with the second post in my adventure to try out some dishes from my new cook book, Martha's "One Pot."  Remember the Tuscan Roast, from two weeks ago? Awesome, right?  Yep.

Ben and I are going out for dinner tonight (YES).  I was planning on assembling something with our leftovers.  But last night, after semi-botching a dinner of steak sandwiches and feeling exhausted after the past few days of work, I told him I needed a night off.  Of course he was on board because that meant no dishes for him to do.  So we're venturing around Old Town/D.C./Arlington tonight for whatever fancy cuisine we can find.  But if you're staying in tonight, only have grape tomatoes, pasta noodles, garlic and an onion on hand...and don't want to mess up that many dishes...and only have 25 min...I have the recipe for YOU.

One Pan Pasta: Linguine with Tomato and Basil
And bonus: this recipe is available in the "One Pot" cookbook, and also on Martha's website!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NKF at the Expo!

Earlier this month, my mom, one of my sisters and I volunteered with the National Kidney Foundation at the NBC4 Health Expo! 

Photo Credit: National Kidney Foundation Serving the Capital Area

Friday, January 16, 2015

A 2 Cool Blog Birthday!

Guess what!  

This blog has officially been alive for two years. Yaaaay!  Happy Birthday blog!  I told you last year that it was some kind of miracle that this blog had been running for one year.  Blogging can be really hard sometimes.  Two blogging challenges I faced over the year:

  • SICKNESS!  Even when I was going through kidney failure, I feel like I was able to maintain some consistency in my blogging.  But this year, I was sidelined a few times because of my weak, sloppy immune system!  
  • WRITER'S BLOCK!  It can be downright hard coming up with things to write about.  After having my transplant and not being sick anymore (yay!) sometimes I struggled with what to even say on here.  Was, "Hi! Still not sick!" appropriate?  How do you talk about not being sick anymore when this blog was started for the purpose of documenting my life as a sick person??    
Even with challenges, and the weeks when I only posted once, I'm so happy/thrilled/blessed to have this space on the interwebs to just vent and rant and share my life with you, sick or not sick.  Thank you to everyone who has been here since day one and also to those of you who maybe just stopped by for the first time.  You push me to write better and be better. 

2015 Selfie since it's been a while!  Just me after having seven tubes of blood drawn. NBD.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fixed, but Fearful

Last week, I went to the gym and was unable to get on an elliptical with a connecting TV, so I had to listen to my iPod. I usually use my time at the gym to watch cable, since Ben and I suspended ours six months ago and have been relying on Hulu, Netflix and Amazon for our televised entertainment. But it was OK. I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, Snap Judgment.  It's a radio show where different people, essentially, tell stories about things that happen to them, and it's one of my favorite shows.  The stories are often compelling, funny, shocking, sad...but even the sad ones have a beautiful ray of optimism at the end, which I guess is what makes the podcast so good.

The episode I listened to was a collection of the editors' favorite stories from the past year and beyond. And boy did I pick the wrong time to start listening.  By the end of the first story I was in tears while trying to keep the pace on my elliptical. The second story continued the assault on my emotions. "Heart Failure" is the story of a woman's boyfriend who had  suffered four heart attacks by the age of 27, and it didn't seem like there was cure in sight. I'll leave out a big chunk of the middle in case you want to listen to it later, but *SPOILER ALERT* in the end, her boyfriend is somehow cured!  Fixed! His body simply stops having heart attacks.  It was so amazing.  He comes on for a bit while she's telling her side of the story and says this: 

"I still didn't believe it. It's too hard. It's too hard to get my hopes up. And I was just waiting for it to come back, almost like the worst old friend. It had just been around for so long. But I'm OK. I haven't had a heart attack in over two years now. I run five to eight miles a day. I can make plans for the future now, and I couldn't before." 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jewel Eats: Christmas Cookbook!

One of my sisters gifted me "Martha Stewart Living's One Pot" cookbook for Christmas. And I read it cover to cover in one day.  Y'all know that I love eating and I love cooking what I eat because it's the best way to ensure you're sticking to a low-sodium diet. Low-sodium is good for maintaining a good blood pressure which in turn is good for maintaining healthy kidneys.  Win-win. 

I've had my eye on this book since it came out because I'm a Martha Stewart Living stalker. I started cooking Martha's stuff when I was in college and moved into my first apartment with friends.  I've found most of her recipes to be fairly easy, straightforward, and delicious.  So, when the One Pot cookbook came out...I made a note to put it on my Christmas list so that someone else could buy it for me.  Now, I've only made one recipe out of this book, but I think this is a great thing to have around especially during these cold winter months.  The book is all about roasts, slow-cooker meals, dutch oven meals--full dinners that can be cooked in one pot/pan/dish.  And since it's just me and Ben in my household, most of these big dinners can be eaten over two to three days.  

So the point of this post: I'm inviting you to come on this journey with me, of trying out several recipes in this new cookbook, over the next three months.  By April it'll start to get warm again and we'll all be talking about Easter eggs and salads, and less about roasting and braising things I'm sure.  

The first thing I made:  Tuscan Pork Roast

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Recap

Happy New Year!

First snow of 2015
In my world, the "new year" doesn't actually start until the first Monday of January...or the first day back to work in January.  So, welcome to 2015 people...officially!