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

The Silver Lining.

Hey family! I think that’s what I’ll call you from now on. I’m learning that family is so much more than blood relation, and my readers have walked with me through things that only family would.

 
Last time I wrote, I described my trip to D.C. It was full of medical terminology, tears, and headaches. I found out about the uterine tumor, cervical fibroids, and mass on my kidney. I was full of emotion and frustrations seemed to be at the forefront. Since then, my doctor decided to put a catheter in which lasted for about three weeks. I have never been more humbled in my life. I’m fully aware of how prideful I can get, but when I tell you that catheter bumped me down a few notches, I mean that. Without saying too much more, it was removed on yesterday, and we took steps to handle what seemed to be a recurring problem. I was relieved (pun intended). I caught myself thanking God every time I went to the bathroom which may sound silly, but I think we forget about the little blessings, and I’ve been reminded of them lately.

 
The goal is that my new medication will calm my reproductive system down enough to postpone the surgery until May. I have to re-apply for new insurance, and I couldn’t leave my students for the last two months of school. I’m learning to put my health first, but some sacrifices just have to be made. I know this isn’t the most exciting blog, and it may not be the most interesting one either, but yesterday was the first time in about a year that I didn’t leave my doctor’s office in tears. I walked out alongside my mama overwhelmed with hope.

 
I am encouraged, and I hope this encouraged you. Throughout this entire process, I’ve tried my hardest to stay positive and find the “silver lining” in everything. My joy hasn’t wavered, even if happiness eluded me. I fought. I persevered, and I was thankful to have an afternoon that seemingly relieved some of the pressure I have built up. Even if this new “attempt” doesn’t work, and I end up with a catheter in the next month or so, I can always reflect on the fact that this joy I feel right now, at this moment, has allowed me to step back into my classroom and serve my students with every fiber of my being. It has allowed me to be an encouragement to my friends. It has allowed me to remain steadfast.

 
Thank you for reading
I love you

 
P.S. I graduate next month!!!!!

I’m ready.

This weekend was one that I’m sure I will remember for the rest of my life. I’ve gone through it not being able to walk, crying in front of friends who I’ve been my “strongest” for, and having to physically be taken care of by my family.

Without saying too much, the largest tumor decided to do its own thing, and the result was a Foley catheter. I seldom get embarrassed, or feel a sense of “anxiety” in public places. This weekend was different, though. I didn’t want to walk into Wal-Mart. I didn’t want to walk my dog. I didn’t want to walk to my car. I didn’t want to WALK.  Coincidentally, the day before this, I was praying for the ability to do just that — walk. I went Thursday and Friday without being able to stand up on my own, let alone move about, and here I was, too ashamed to use that gift. After a long night of profane prayers and silent weeping, I was relieved at the fact that I was well on my way to perfection. I know it sounds silly, but that’s all I see in my head.

Two years ago, my heart was broken down and battered. Not only by the man I loved, but by many of my family members’ selfishness, unexpected murders, unexpected death, and the absence of old friends through it all. It was soon after rebuilt.

Last year, my mind was broken down as I realized that my job, my health, and my insecurities had completely stripped me of any mental peace. I was consumed with dark thoughts and a scary lack of hope. I was depressed and lonely, and my mind was the root of it all. It was soon after rebuilt.

This year, my body is being broken down. I’m having to remove, repair, and rethink what I thought its purpose was. I’m being prepared, and as the days go by, I’m able to find the joy in that.

I don’t know what God is preparing me for, but in Hebrews 2:10, it reads

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation PERFECT through suffering.”

That verse has penetrated my entire being in ways that never made sense until now. It reminded me that suffering isn’t always what I see it as. It’s not the absence of God, as much as it is a small dose of His powerful presence. I’m being molded into the woman I am meant to be. That woman serves others relentlessly, sees beauty in herself, and will be a mother of some child that has been abandoned and neglected. There is more to come, but I think that’s a good place to start.

Today I find out when the hysterectomy will be. I schedule the surgery, and although I’ve come in contact with MANY people who disagree with my decision, my health has become an enemy to my service to God, and whether or not you understand that, is outside of my power. Not being able to have children will never define me. Being a mother is more than natural birth. I’m ready. I’m ready and willing to be whoever it is that God has for me. I will walk in obedience and I’d love it if you walked alongside me. Remember to add yourself to my email list so I can encourage you PERSONALLY in your life, as you have done for me by taking the time to read my posts. Please feel free to ask ANY questions, remember, my life is open so we can grow together. I’m confident there are people praying on my brokenness, but I have faith that I’m protected.

Thank you.

I love you.

The Diagnosis.

It’s 3:26 am, and I can’t sleep because my body won’t let me. I realized that I’ve been avoiding all of the things that bring me joy, and writing is easily in the Top 3. In my last blog, I gave you the run-down of what my trip to D.C ended up being, and never actually gave the details of my doctor visits.

In short, those tumors have steadily grown over the past six months, and I have to get them removed. Many people have told me miracle stories of how they shrunk and disappeared because of faith, but I know my faith, and that just hasn’t been my story. They are still growing, and my doctor is ready to remove them. The one on my uterus, which was said to be 5.5 inches is now 6.25. The one on my cervix is still 3 inches, and the kidney tumor hasn’t grown much at all. I have nights like these when I feel like there’s a spear pushing down into my abdomen and I can’t get comfortable enough to sleep. I will soon get up from my desk, get dressed, and go to work, and I pray for the strength and ability to see past pain and be what my students deserve.

The thing that makes me most anxious about all of this is my doctor’s recommendation of a full hysterectomy. Again, people love to tell me their miracle stories, but my body and my God has yet to move in the way theirs has, so I’m trusting my process as is. A hysterectomy changes the plan I had for my future. It makes all of my friends’ pregnancies painful and beautiful all at once. I’m able to pray for them in ways I never thought I could or would. I’m able to appreciate the beauty of childbearing and childbirth while being an encouragement to them. Lots of my family members tell me not to get the surgery, but they don’t have to endure this pain. They don’t feel the tumor when they lie down to go to sleep. They don’t take 15-20 minutes to urinate because their bladder is constricted, and I’m tired of living life this way. I want to enjoy my body again. I want to work out. I want to jog with Aries. I want to live, and these ailments are making it impossible. No doctor has been able to guarantee that they won’t come back, so I’m no longer interested in living my life on the basis of possibility.

I want my freedom back.

Freedom to travel. Freedom to move. Freedom to exist in a way that I desire, not a way that my body allows.

All of this to say, it has been an exhaustive process. My brothers have seen me more broken in the past month than they have my entire life. My mama has had me curled up in her lap more than I think she did in my adolescence. I’m being humbled, and some days, I hate it. I have lost lots of friends, and many of them just don’t know what to do with this, but that’s okay because my love won’t waiver, and I’m thankful for my support system which continues to GROW.

I’m waiting for my insurance to approve the surgery, and upon approval, I will be back here- sharing my journey to recovery. Hopefully I will have more exciting and less medicinal news soon. In the meantime though, whatever it is that’s weighing you down, whatever is stealing your joy, tell it NO. Temporary brokenness cannot define your permanent joy. Refuse. Fight back. Submit it and leave it where it lies. You are not alone, at least you don’t have to be. I’d love more ham anything to walk alongside you. Thank you for walking alongside me. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Today, I Cried.

This is not some rouse to get you to read my blog. Today, for the first time in a long time, I uncontrollably cried.

Here’s how it started:

Last night, around 10pm, I was overwhelmed with insecurity. I felt like I was an embarrassment to a pretty close friend, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt small and irrelevant. I ended up praying until I fell asleep, woke up around 4:30, prayed more, and got ready for work. Now, that insecurity manifested itself into something much more than I’d thought it was. All day at work today, I doubted my ability to serve my students, and work alongside my co-workers. I doubted my own growth and the growth process of my students because of me. Simply put, in less than 12 hours, I’d completely lost confidence in myself and my abilities. At this point, it had nothing to do with the initial hurt, but the fact that all of these underlying feelings even existed. I hated that I still had feelings like those toward myself, and felt like a hypocrite. I teach my babies to be bold, brash, and confident in who they are and who they’re becoming. In my head, I saw the opposite in myself. It was during my 6th hour class, now if you’re a teacher, you know that sixth hour periods generally pack some punch:

  • They’re my largest (27)
  • Most of them are athletes (they don’t sit down)
  • They just left lunch (psychotic)
  • They have 1,573 stories (from lunch)

Now, don’t get it twisted, I LOVE them, they bring me LIFE, but they equally wear me out. I was fighting for them to focus, and I caught myself getting super frustrated. I’d never struggled before, yes, taken a different approach, but not STRUGGLED. I sat in a corner behind my desk and prayed. At this point they were all doing their Bellringer assignment, so most of them didn’t notice. I just asked God to give me some sort of peace and strength. I asked Him to help me serve my kids. I got up, and continued the lesson.

Here’s how it ended:

Terek Warren, a former Senior of mine- and of course one of my babies- came knocking at the door and when my baby opened it enough to see him, I ran out. LOL. I gave him the biggest hug (because I hadn’t seen him since he left for college) and told him I loved him. He proceeded to say, “Ms. Solomon, I’m fareal teachin my roommates how to write essays! Like my grades are so good! Thank you…” I started weeping. Y’all, he was so confused and legit had no idea what to do with me. I explained to him what my night was like, what my day had been like, and the current frustrations in class. He told me he loved me and to “push through, they’ll see.” I continued to cry LOL. I went back in class and the kids said you miss him that much? I responded with, “I needed him more than he knew.” I had a long talk with my class about how my love for them will never waiver. No matter how angry I get. No matter how lazy they get. No matter how lonely I feel at school. I will never compromise my love. It was so pathetic, authentic, and sweet.

So, I cried today, and I think I needed to in order to be reminded that I need to be broken  more than I’d ever admit. My students NEEDED to see me broken. They needed to see me struggle. They needed to see ME. I try my hardest to be authentically Ms. Solomon, but there’s something magically real about a teardrop. Dear educators, let them see you be you! I understand professionalism. I understand boundaries. I understand authority, but my students have a love for me now, that I didn’t think could be established in 55mins.  I’m thankful for them.

Thank you for reading.

I love you.

Istanbul, Turkey.

 

My goal with the “Travel” page on my blog is to give you all an insight on the things I see and experience when I leave home. About two years ago I felt a yearning to see more of the world, but not just see it, experience it and impact it. This was my very first of what I hope will be many international trips. Throughout the blog, I have attached links that apply to pieces of the culture, CLICK AWAY.

My friend Sultan and I met my Junior year in college and it was love at first sight. She ignited a sort of joy that not many people have. She was so sweet and sincere with the woman she was; such a gentle spirit. After being friends for about 2 years, we wept at the thought of her returning home. I promised her that as soon as I was financially able, I would visit her. 4 years after she left, I graduated college, got into my career, and jumped on a plane to Istanbul.

Not only was this trip my first international one, but it was my first time flying. MY FIRST FLIGHT WAS 14R HOURS. Who does that? Apparently, I do. In addition to that, my plane was scheduled to leave the day after there was an outrageous terrorist attack on the Ataturk Airport that took the lives of 41 people. Good thing that wasn’t mine, right? WRONG. I was petrified. My mama was hell bent on me staying home. My friends threatened to steal my passport. Needless to say, it was not looking like I’d see my friend. After crying in my closet like a small toddler, I found myself talking to God about the power of fear. Everyone had decided on MY future, because of their own fear, and I’d slowly started to give in. I had one day. One day to decide whether or not I’d take this life altering trip to the other side of the world or let fear dictate my life decisions. After hours at the cross, I packed my bags, and left.

There were guards everywhere. I wasn’t able to walk through the airport without seeing at least ONE M16. I was terrified, and my phone was dying. I eventually met up with Su, and we were on our way.

I’ve attached images of my most impactful experiences at the bottom of this post, but they are nowhere near everything I saw and felt in the 1 week of visiting. I’ll try to be as concise as possible with my description of each, but if any of you are interested in an in depth explanation PLEASE feel free to comment. I never get tired of talking about it. The culture was so rich and my emotions were ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Before I begin, I feel the need to add that this molded my spiritual walk in ways that scared me to my knees. I had never been in a pl ace where my words held ZERO value. Nobody could understand me, I was unable to express myself, and I felt that my autonomy had been stripped away. For the first time in a long time- I was fully reliant on God, and it was a liberating and frustrating feeling. I had to submit my pride and STILL teach my friend about Christ because on many occasions, He commanded it. Those emotions instilled in me a passion for traveling and teaching, not only English, but God’s truth.

Well, let’s begin:

The Coffee: It took about 30mins to brew that small pot of coffee pictured. It was a delicacy to be prepared by the women of the house for the men as a part of Ramadan. I love cooking, so I was honored when they asked me to do it, but petrified when they told me if the men didn’t enjoy it, they would send it back. I was also taught that in Turkish culture, men could DIVORCE their wives if they were unable to prepare it to their liking…uh….BYE. I was stunned, but they were accustomed to it and Su’s father and Brother-in-law were there so clearly they’d been doing something right. I’m not sure if they really enjoyed it, or didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but they finished their cups and what was in the pot. There are MANY other Turkish traditions and old myths linked to their coffee. I’ve attached a link here.

The Corn: I know you’re probably like, “Why is this fool posting a picture of corn like it’s not in America?” Well, it was special, because I picked and husked it, LOL. So yes, it deserves its own feature. We sat on a blanket on the floor, separated it, and barbecued it outside. We, being the women.

 The Mall: After dinner, we all piled up in the car and went to an outlet mall nearby. The prices were to die for, lol. Mainly because the American dollar was worth three times more than their currency. I felt rich, to say the least. We also visited the Mall of Turkey (Sultan and I) Where I spent about $200, as 600 Turkish bills… it was wild.

The Ferry: I’m standing in front of the ferry that took us on a 30 minute ride to Heybaliada Island in Istanbul. It was absolutely beautiful. I sat next to a girl named Ann, and she shared her cookies because she could hear my stomach growling. I used Google translate to tell her I loved her LOL.

The Language: Sultan’s baby sister took it upon herself to teach me about 20 Turkish phrases to help me as we traveled. It was very seldom I left Su’s side, but in the event I did, I was a bit more confident while encountering natives. She was only 15, and we basically became bestfriends.

Turkish Engagement Party: When I posted this picture on Facebook, most people assumed it was a wedding. It was actually an engagement party. There was easily about 300 people there. We were in a 3-story complex with an outside area. The party consisted of celebrating the couple by watching them dance, then joining in. There was no meal or drinks, just dancing. It was precious. There is so much that goes into Turkish matrimony, so click the link to get a more in depth look!

The Blue Mosque: Last, but certainly not least, I’ve included a picture of us standing at a fountain in front of the Blue Mosque, or Sultan Ahmed Mosque. I didn’t have my Hijab on in the picture, but we both were pretty covered the evening we entered. There were THOUSANDS of people there for worship and celebration of Ramadan. It was breathtaking. We sat in the grass and ate a light supper before entering and there was life ALL around us.

I think I covered each of the pictures, and I hope I gave you just a small glance of what Istanbul did to my heart. I recommend visiting, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it alone. There are programs that offer Turkish tours for prices from $300-$1,000 depending on preference and desire. Thankfully, I have a sister who is a native, but I think that’d be a pretty legit vacation spot.

Until next time!

I love you.

 

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The Year of Growth.

I’ll go ahead and get right to it. I haven’t posted in about a year, and the last time I did, it was a short poem about an exhaustive break-up. I made the conscious decision never to go back to that place. I decided that I would start fresh emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and bloggally. (I know that’s not a word) LOL.

Last year was, in short, one of the most devastating and exhilarating ones I’ve ever had. I felt pain that I didn’t know existed and experienced freedom I didn’t know was inside of me. I could meticulously break it down, and tell you my lowest and highest points, but this isn’t my diary, and I think that until told otherwise, I will be conscious about keeping certain things between myself and God.

With that, I wasn’t sure what the topic of this blog would be, but as I tried to narrow it down to 3-4 ideas, I found that GROWTH was a recurring theme. I’ve been talking about growth all year, and today I went ahead and looked up the formal definition:

“the process of increasing in physical size.”

I was pissed. I mean I knew that growing had something to do with size, but I think the idea of growth has been much more than “increasing in physical size” in my personal life. I decided to define it for myself, because choosing another word would be too easy.

“the process of refining; flourishing.”

The question is, how do we do that? As people, how do we intentionally put ourselves in a position to become more refined and full with beauty? How do we make the necessary changes in our lives in order to become who we are intended to be? I think we’re supposed to just do it. I often hear people say, “easier said than done,” when I advise them to do things they may not want to do, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. The action isn’t always the hard part, it’s the emotional effect of those actions that are hard to handle. DO IT. Break off the relationships that bring all glory to anyone but God. Do away with the self-hate that you’ve justified for as long as you’ve known you didn’t love yourself fully. Remove yourself from people. Remove yourself from things. Put yourself in a position to hurt a little, that lack of comfort may be the push you need. There is nothing wrong with breaking down in order to rebuild.

Growth is a constant and it is imperative that we never think we’ve finished. There is always room for progress, and my past relationships taught me that I am often tempted to stop my growing process for the sake of someone else’s. For years I thought that was love. For years I thought that’s what true sacrifice was supposed to look and feel like. I thought that in order for me to completely and fully serve the people around me- I had to accept them destroying my personal peace. Lies. I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago, and the author stated,

“Fear and anxieties create this world where the only thing that exists is myself and the threat to the thing that I love..”

I wasn’t sure how that related to my life until now. There was an underlying fear that I may not have been loving intensely enough, and that fear convinced me that the only thing that existed was Shakiyla, and whatever was hurting the people I cared for. In that state of being- I lived a life of combat. Every day my sole purpose was to defeat the threat, in hopes that I’d come out alive. It was exhausting. It was impossible. I had a God-complex. I wanted to be the savior of all people I held dear, and in that pursuit, I died.

I say all of this to say, love is a call for sacrifice, forgiveness, and an unconditional presence in the lives of broken people (us). At some point, though, we have to stop and reflect on whether or not we are actually loving and being loved. We have to be sure that we aren’t sacrificing and being broken down for the sake of loyalty to someone/something that isn’t grounded in true love. It’s a complex thing; love. I think that the more we slow down in an attempt to understand it, the better we’ll get at expressing it.

I’m growing. I have forgiven people who ruined all that I thought made me who I am, and I have grown to love the woman I’ve become. I am walking in obedience. I am protected. I am growing.

Feel free to comment, and share.

I love you.