Today is yet another big milestone in this wonderful blessed life of mine. I’m celebrating ten years of living with my transplanted kidney from my very own mother. My kidney function began slowly declining shortly before my lung transplant in two thousand seven. Doctor’s told me, it was likely I would need a kidney transplant, sometime after receiving lungs. What they didn’t know, is just how soon after I actually needed a kidney. Due to the high doses of anti-rejection medication, following my lung transplant, my kidney function quickly declined drastically and I needed dialysis right almost right away. I went to Cincinnati Children’s hospital for dialysis three times a week for three hours. A short time later, my mom went through several tests and imaging procedures. She was a perfect match! On July second two thousand seven, my life was saved for the second time. Only this time, instead of a stranger, it was my mom! After all the pain and suffering I endured for 5 years, which, seemed like a lifetime to me, I was finally free of visiting the hospital numerous times a week.
I was ecstatic when I walked into my kidney transplant clinic, for my recent appointment and saw this new bulletin board on the wall:
I feel very lucky and blessed that my mom was a match for me. If it weren’t for her, I would have had to wait much longer to receive a kidney. My mom has loved me unconditionally since I first entered this world. Every time I had to stay in the hospital for weeks, she spent the night with me so, I wasn’t scared and alone. She’s been there to support me at every special event in my life; dance recitals, school plays, art shows, prom and graduation. She even planned my wedding! She’s spoiled me with gifts and made sure I had presents under the Christmas tree and surprises on my birthdays. She’s taught me what it means to genuinely love someone, she’s taught me the difference between right and wrong and she’s taught me to treat everyone equally with respect regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or religious views. There are quite a few photos she hasn’t been a part of because she’s the one behind the camera capturing those once in a lifetime memories. She’s given me the best life I could have. I’m so grateful God made me her daughter. I love you mom!
My mom gifted me this necklace in honor of our ten years. It was made by Angela (@anyangel) on Posh Mark.
10 Things I’ve learned In 10 Years
I’ve learned countless lessons throughout my winding journey so far. While I admit, I don’t always follow my own advice, I continue to try to be the best woman and role model I can be. I’m sharing my personal experiences along with quotes, scripture, and songs that have spoke to me.
10. Laugh. Don’t take life too seriously or show your bitterness. Lighten up. No one likes a resting bitch face. Giggle at yourself. Share funny stories and make jokes. Laugh with others, not at them. Watch comedies. Life is better when you’re laughing.
9. Family & Friendships. Don’t waste your time impressing those who should be free of judgment to begin with. Having a few close friends is better than having a bunch of distant ones. It’s all about quality over quantity. Learn to take constructive criticism and be honest. This is cliche, but if you don’t have anything nice to say then, don’t say it at all. Listen more and talk less.
Offer words of advice or physical assistance if you see a loved one struggling. Be supportive even when your opinion is different. Show your tough love when it’s needed.
Sacrifice your time for the most important people in your life. I found the most common excuse is, “I’m too busy” From this, I have realized, if people truly want to spend time with you they will take time out of their schedule to do so.
Family comes first, whether it’s your spouse, parents, siblings, children or a close relative. Cherish the time you have together. Create lasting memories.
Most importantly, if you’ve been wronged, forgive. If you’re the one who upset someone either intentionally or accidentally then, you should apologize because it’s morally the right thing to do.
My family has always encouraged my dreams and supported me through every step in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their constant love. Life is easier when you have a support system. The love of friends and family is life’s greatest blessing.
8. Give Back. Show your support to those less fortunate than you. Choose a cause that has personal significance to you. In the past, I’ve donated brand new toys to Cincinnati Children’s hospital. I wanted to give back to a place that provided me with top of the line healthcare since the day I was born. I remember feeling like I was in heaven, when I visited the inpatient hospital activity room, where there was a craft table set up with paint, sand art and all kinds of beads. I have made Easter decorations for residents at an assisted living facility. A few months ago, I bought a meal for a homeless veteran I saw standing on a street corner. Find places that accept donations of gently used clothes, books, toys or household items. Pay it forward and fund someone’s meal in line behind you. Volunteer at a local shelter, church or hospital.
7. Gratitude. I have realized, there is always something to be thankful for. Studies have shown those who express thankfulness daily are happier than those who don’t. You could always have more, but you could also have less. Be grateful for the little things in life. Fresh water, a heated home, a washing machine, or living five minutes from the grocery store. Whatever you already have someone else is praying for.
Take a minute of your day to spontaneously text your spouse or parents to let them know how much you appreciate everything they do for you. Mail a thinking of you card to your precious grandparents you haven’t seen in a while or a distant relative, such as, your fun uncle. People genuinely feel good when you let them know how much they mean to you. Showing your gratitude is heartwarming.
6. Time is limited. It’s something that can’t be reversed. We only live once. Some people unfortunately don’t get as much time as you. Find your passions. Don’t keep looking back in the past because you’re not going that way and don’t repeat the same mistakes. If an opportunity comes knocking, I would take it and run. The sand in the hourglass will be at the bottom before you can blink. Time is precious. It could be over today, tomorrow or years from now. Take a moment to think about how you really want to be spending your time.
5. Happiness. Everyone deserves to be happy. After years of struggling with who I wanted to become, I’m finally exactly where I want to be.
Discover what makes you happy, whether it’s your job or maybe a hobby. Don’t base your happiness solely upon one person, because if your support system begins having difficulties in their own life they can’t always be there to constantly give you attention. Lean on each other at all times. Your own happiness always comes first. If you’re not happy then, what you’re currently doing obviously isn’t working. Be brave and change something. Happiness is a choice. Choose joy.
4. Faith. We all need something to believe in. There are many books I’ve read, that have had a profound impact on me. I enjoy reading inspirational stories. Books that give me hope and renew my soul. My favorite fiction novel is The Five People you meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. My favorite non-fiction novel is The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I recently began reading Christian fiction as well.
I have always shown interest in learning more about our Creator. It wasn’t until eight months ago, that I made the first step, to being closer to the Lord. I began attending church at Crossroads, learning about the bible and praying. I joined a wonderful ladies bible study and craft group. I created a religious art journal and log my miraculous journey. I discovered my love of christian music a few months ago. I love the Casting Crowns music group. I praise Him for giving me such a blessed and happy life.
3. Love yourself as much as you want to be loved. I was born with a cleft lip and palate. As I grew into my late teens, I became self conscious with how my nose looked. I even went to a consultation for a nose job. Shortly after, I met my husband and he told me his favorite feature on me was my cute little nose. After his comments, I had no desire to change. My nose is part of who I am. I am God’s perfect creation. Embrace your natural beauty. Show off your curves. Be proud of who you are, unique and one of a kind.
Love others unconditionally. I discovered the man of my dreams when I was eighteen years old. The first and only love of my life. I married him when I was twenty-four. Getting married was the best decision I ever made. Marriage is a lot of work, but is definitely rewarding. My husband is the other half of my heart. He works long hours to provide for us, and because I don’t have my license to drive, he transports me wherever I want to go. We enjoy eating lunch and dinner at our favorite restaurants. If I’m not happy, he goes out of his way to make sure I am. My hubby makes me want to be a better woman than the one I was yesterday. He is my sunshine throughout the day and in the darkness, my moon light. I’m proud to say he’s mine.
So far, during my two years of marriage I’ve learned, to choose my battles. You can’t win every argument and sometimes, it’s just not worth fighting over. I’ve also learned, to spend quality time together every week, as well as, communicating and finally, building trust. Your relationship has no room to grow if you can’t trust each other. Whether you have been married for twenty years or two years, I recommend reading New York Times best seller, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.
2. Believe. Hope is a good thing to have. If you believe you can then, your halfway there already. The word believe has deep meaning to me personally. When my health began deteriorating at a young age, I decided I wasn’t going to allow myself to sit around and have a pity party. Instead, I wanted to show my family how brave I was. I strongly believed that one day my life would be better. As soon as I turned eighteen, I went to get a tattoo on my back shoulder blade of the word believe with a butterfly.
I’m also drawn to believing because of Peter Pan. Anyone who’s met me, knows how much I love this story by J.M. Barrie. I’ve loved the Peter Pan broadway show with Mary Martin, ever since I was three years old. I would dance with the indians and sing along. I was beaming with joy when I met olympic gymnast and actress, Cathy Rigby in 2006. She was almost as tiny as me!
Be courageous. After all, have we lived enough, if we haven’t done something that has scared us? Life is like a baseball game. Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game. Don’t give up. Those who refuse to quit have accomplished many impossible things. Do you see the glass half full of half empty?
1. Live Fully. Follow your heart. It’s as simple as that. Take chances. Travel. Be kind. Move towards the first step in accomplishing your ultimate dream. Accept the job, take the vacation, go on a date or try a new hobby. Our lives can be great if we want them to be. It may take a lot more time and effort to get where we want than we originally thought. There will be rocks thrown at us along the way or we could get stuck in a pothole, but despite these unfortunate events we stumble upon, we will eventually end up at the finish line. Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations. We should be proud of our final stop after such a bumpy road.
Have you told yourself, “I’ll never be able to do what I want” or, “What if I try my best and I still fail?” Think about this, What if you try your best and you succeed? The best thing you can do is stop comparing your life to others. Envy will consume you. Don’t allow yourself to settle for less. Settle for more. With a positive attitude you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
My journey here on earth may not have started out the way my parents had envisioned it. My early teen years were the worst moments I’ve ever experienced, but I made the best out of what God gave me. After the storm ended ten years ago, there was an even bigger rainbow. I learned that, life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain. You’ll miss out on some great things in life if you sit inside and wait for the sun to come out. You must make a living with what you have at that moment. An illness or addiction will ruin you if you let it. While I was at my lowest, I chose art as an outlet, I watched inspirational TV programs such as, 7th Heaven and I found an online support group for those living with Cystic Fibrosis. I was granted my wish for a bedroom makeover from the Make-A-Wish Foundation when I was thirteen years old.
The massive storm I was swept into, so many years ago didn’t drown me. It made me the woman I am today. I’m much stronger and much wiser than I’ve ever been. There isn’t a rainbow every day of my life, but when there is a downpour I give it to God. Matthew 11:28 I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now.
Whatever battles you may be facing on a daily basis, stay strong, keep your head held high and smile. Be your own kind of beautiful.