Hello, Arkansas. Goodbye, Arkansas!

We are saying farewell to March with a short and unexpected Travel Blog. After having the catheter, managing pain, and many unwarranted doctor visits, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to afford a March trip. If you haven’t been following my website, you likely have no clue what I’m talking about. I don’t usually do New Year’s Resolutions, but this year I decided to write down 5 Goals for 2018:

  1. Visit a place outside of Louisiana every month.
  2. Graduate with my Master’s Degree & have my family present.
  3. Take tangible steps toward living overseas.
  4. Save $10,000.
  5. Forgive three specific people.

These are not the most common, at least not for me, but I can honestly say that I’m doing well in my attempt to make them a reality. With that being said, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to leave the state this month, and thankfully, Elijah proved me wrong.

To re-cap, in January I went to Houston, Texas. I know it isn’t far nor is it new, but it sufficed and I had some necessary alone time.

In February I went to Eustis and Orlando, Florida. I also visited Detroit, Michigan, District of Columbia, and Maryland. I’ve already posted the travel blogs for Michigan, Washington, and Maryland (all in one) but I have yet to post about my trip to Florida… I promise it will be worth the wait!

This month, I took a trip to Louisiana Tech University to spend some quality time with my brother, and he drove me across the Arkansas state line. We didn’t go too far into the state, nor did we see what made it famous. This trip was merely my baby brother doing what he could to help me reach a goal I’d set for myself. On the way there, we talked about more things than I can remember, but one thing that stood out is our conversations about how we see ourselves. I didn’t realize how much I’ve grown until I was answering random questions from a “Roadtrip Questionnaire” and it was a beautiful realization.

I think it’s essential that you surround yourself with people who will not only be a part of your journey but are willing to challenge your thinking along the way.

Maybe it sounds silly, but I refuse to surround myself with people who are hesitant to challenge me. Encouragement is a beautiful thing, but in a relationship, any relationship, it just isn’t enough. Question me. Correct me. Test me. He spent most of his Saturday in the car with his lame sister picking her brain and talking about life, love, God, family, anger, forgiveness, fatherhood, friendship, and much more.

I’m not sure what Arkansas had to offer, but I’m okay with that…. for now, …

Here is a map of the United States I’ve visited so far. Clearly I need to get away from the Southeast. I’ve also visited Germany and Turkey (not shown) …

Places up to March

Meet Elijah.

 

I haven’t posted on my “Meet a Friend” page in quite some time, so here goes:

Elijah is my little brother. He’s the oldest of the two but will always be my baby. I’ve watched him go from being a complete MUTE, to shining light in people’s lives with his love and encouraging words. I realized how much I admired Lijah when I was about 18 years old. I was going through some things and I found myself blaming my father, or the lack thereof. I sat down with Elijah, 13-year-old Elijah, and just said I was angry. I’m not sure if he remembers it, but I always will. The only thing he said was, “We supposed to forgive.” I was pissed. I didn’t know how to respond or react, and I don’t think he understood the level of wisdom those words carried. We weren’t necessarily “close” at that time, and he very well could have been trying to shut me up, but it was in that moment I realized, he was going to change me.

I know all of this may sound corny to some of you, but maybe you have to know my battle with forgiving my father and understanding my relationships with men to understand that this was something I did NOT want to hear, let alone from my little brother.

About ten years later, and he’s my best friend. He picks me up when I’m down. He carries my burdens like I will never understand. He hurts when I hurt and rejoices when I rejoice. He talks to me about the ugliest of sins and the most beautiful victories. There are times when I confide in him with things that most people wouldn’t believe, and I do it with the utmost confidence and delight.

He often tells me how much he looks up to me, and to be quite frank, I don’t know why. He’s seen me at my worst. He’s watched me weep over things and people that I can’t change. He’s watched me lose myself in anger and emotion. He’s watched me break myself and other people down. I think the beauty in our relationship, though, is that he’s watched me grow. He’s taught me that I have to stop pushing people away. I have to be devoted to the best and worst parts of my relationships. He’s taught me what love looks like and I’m thankful to call him my brother and my friend. He sees a kind of beauty in me that I don’t see in myself. He’s set the standard for any man in my life, and I’m thankful to have had him do so. His love is overpowering and I know not to settle for anything less than that.

Elijah was our little miracle baby, he barely made it out of that hospital alive. With IVs in his head and tubes all over the place, he came out fighting, and I’m confident that’s exactly how it was supposed to happen. Long before he knew it, he was the epitome of strength, and to me, he always will be.

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Meet Aries.

I know it may seem a bit juvenile for me to introduce my dog in the “Meet A Friend” collection, but he has done things in my life that I’ve failed to put into words-until now.

On March 15, 2016 I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. It was easily the best thing to have happened to me. For years, I’ve struggled with understanding my body and why my reproductive system just didn’t seem to be healthy. I’ve had countless doctor’s appointments, with numerous specialists, and spent thousands of dollars on “trial treatments.” I’d finally gotten a semi-concrete answer for my pain, so I was satisfied. Simultaneously, my doctor found an alarming amount of cancer cells from a cervical biopsy. I didn’t tell my family until about 6 months after beginning treated, and by then, I was having to re-learn the value of self. It wasn’t that I didn’t want them to know, or that I didn’t think they could handle it, I was just too scared to say it aloud.

I was in a relationship, one that I don’t regret, but he was not prepared to carry this sort of burden. I soon found out that I’d tested positive for HPV, so I told him. It seemed like every visit to the doctor came with a bag of bad news, and I was sick of sharing it, but I knew it was my responsibility. I’d broken my virginity that year. I felt safe having unprotected sex with him because I trusted him. I was sure he’d be my husband, and it’s like I set aside what I knew to be true about sex outside of marriage. I took a risk. Luckily, HPV can easily be treated, when caught in time because it’s a virus, not a disease. This was not the case for me. The infectious cells had multiplied at a pace I wasn’t aware of, and those were the now cancer cells, I was fighting.

I know you may be asking, what could this possibly have to do with a dog, but I promise I’m getting there. On more than one occasion, he (my ex) made it very clear that I was becoming “too much” and that he “wasn’t used to seeing me this way.” We separated for more reasons than that one, but I think that one hurt the most. I don’t blame him for any of this. I don’t see him as the enemy. I have no hatred in my heart. I will always love him, but it was necessary that I realized the beauty in letting go. I was not as strong or rational as I’d been in the past. I was sensitive and easily broken. I was fragile. I was afraid. I was damaged goods. Eventually, the only emotions I felt were loneliness and perseverance. I may have been lots to handle, but I needed to be handled, and he was not the man for the job. I was determined to submit my brokenness to someone, and I finally told my mother. The way she held me is a moment I often re-live in my head. I have never wept like that in my life. I vividly remember yelling “He took so much from me, but motherhood?!” I said this because with the treatment and surgeries I was scheduling, infertility was the biggest risk factor. I remember her responding with, “Don’t you let hate fester. This will not break you, Renae.” I fell asleep in her lap, on the floor, in the living room.

At the ripe age of 25, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and Stage 1A Cervical Cancer.

The school year seemed to drag, but as an educator, I had to put on my “poker face” and serve. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. My students knew something was up, and they refused to take “I’m fine” as an answer any longer. The thing about Endo, is that it causes a kind of pain that I don’t think I can adequately put into words. There were days in class when I’d have to walk out, sit on the floor in the hallway, take deep breaths, then reconvene. I remember one of my Senior girls catching me outside on the concrete beside the building, in a ball. She said, “Queen, whatever it is, let me hold you” and I cried. I could not stop crying. It wasn’t a snotty, snorting kinda cry, though. It’s like the tears just fell while I sat there in a blank stare. I felt so inadequate as a leader, mentor, and teacher, but that was the first time in a while that I didn’t feel like a burden. I never told that baby what was wrong. I got up, told her I loved her, and went to my next class. When I talk about my bond with my students, it’s so much more than being their teacher. This was the day after my doctor suggested a full hysterectomy. I hadn’t missed work the day before, because I refused to miss out on that little bit of joy. A hysterectomy meant no kids, no family, no motherhood, and I was broken. If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you know how badly I long to be a mother. You know about the adoption process that came back void. You know about the fostering. You know I’ve tried.. I found myself reading Galatians, where Isaiah 54:1 was referenced, it said,

For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;    break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!For the children of the desolate one will be more    than those of the one who has a husband.”

I decided then, that being barren would never define me, nor would being a mother. I, instead, loved my students as if they were mine. We decided that instead of a hysterectomy, a Myomectomy may do the trick. This would remove the non-cancerous fibroids that had formed, once I’d treated the cancerous cells. This would also increase my chances of fertility. I haven’t made a concrete decision. I’ve mainly been focused on taking care of my body, as is, but I have an appointment this March and we’ll see.

Still wondering where Aries comes in? Here he is!

a year ago, my doctor recommended I see a therapist, just to help navigate through my emotions. He knew that I’d broken up with my boyfriend and he knew how close I was with my moms, but he also knew how prideful I am with my feelings. It’s crazy how necessary mental health is, and how often we cower away from it (that’s a blog for another day). I’d decided “I was fine” and carried on. Soon after I made that dumb decision, a co-worker of mine posted a picture of this long-legged, gray, something or another dog that she’d found. She had 3 huge babies of her own, and couldn’t see herself keeping him. I waited. I prayed. I wrote. I legitimately thought about whether or not I was in a place mentally to care for that creature. I decided I wasn’t, but he would be the driving force behind my getting there.

I adopted Aries Paul Lewis at two months. He was gentle. He was afraid. He was nervous about yet another new home, and person he’d have to trust. I had a connection with him that still blows my mind. On days when the pain brought me to my knees, he’d lay his head underneath mine while I cried. On days when the bleeding just wouldn’t stop, he sat on my feet in the bathroom while I screamed. On days when I couldn’t walk, he’d let kme hold on to him while I crawled to the other side of my apartment. On days when I couldn’t get up out of bed because my pelvis had swollen and my bladder refused to release, he curled up against me and let me lie on his back. What I thought was just a dog being overbearing, was a friend being my protector. I still have some hard days. I still have days when it’s more comfortable to sleep on the floor, and on those days, I text my mama, and curl up with my best friend.

My cancer has since subsided, and I’m down to only about 6% cancer cells. I haven’t tested positive for ANYTHING in over a year. I have no tumors. I have no bleeding, and I thank God for that daily. It sounds silly, but I felt “dirty” and now, I feel like I got my freedom back. Unfortunately, the only treatment for Endometriosis is surgical procedures and pain relievers. I’ve had 2/3 conservative surgeries which is the removal of endometrial tissue. I can honestly say, I have never felt better. I’ve changed my lifestyle. I’ve changed the criteria for people I allow in my life. I’ve changed the way I see perseverance, and I’m thankful for the people who have walked with me through those changes. This sickness took a toll on many of my friendships, because I’d grown exhausted with talking about the pain. It taught me who would and could stick around. It also taught me the uselessness in complaining. It taught me so much. I still have days when the pain can become unbearable, but I’m learning that it comes with the territory.

Aries has played a vital role learning what it means to love myself. He taught me how to, even when I didn’t think I deserved it. I call him my best friend and people laugh. I sing happy birthday and people laugh. I make him waffles for breakfast and people laugh. The laughing is fine, because I’m fully aware of how ridiculous I can get, LOL,  but please understand that this dog played a major role in saving me from myself. So, again, meet Aries.

He’s my best friend.

Thank you for reading, I love you.

Meet My Mother.

I’m 21 years old and I don’t think I’ll ever not want to run into her arms when I’ve had enough of the world and its crap.As long as I can remember, she has had the most trust in the woman I want to become and the measures I’ll go to get there. Growing up it was only us and my younger brothers, no father, no male example at all really, and I know she did the best she could do. Little does she know, her best was better than I could ask for. My moms believes in my faith in God and my faith encourages her faith which encouraged my family to stay faithful as well. She oozes joy and I think that’s something of hers I’ve desired all of my life. No matter the circumstances, the struggle, the pain and suffering, she puts on this smile that instantly melts my insides and makes my face light up. She’s been through all kinds of hell, I just know it but those downfalls have in no way determined the mother she is or the woman I see and fall more in love with everyday. She’s my rock. She’s my refuge in a lot of troubles. I’m still not sure of the way she raised us but we weren’t trapped in caged nor were we allowed to do anything. It was the perfect balance of I know you’ll make mistakes but I trust you can handle them. She hurts when I hurt and rejoices when I rejoice.

Lately I’ve been having a ton of people walking in and out of my life, but she promises it’s for a reason and that she’ll never leave me. I may sound like a child, but I had to grow up faster than the norm and sometimes, I just love to curl up in my mom’s lap and not think.

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