Coming to terms with it all

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while.  In all honesty, probably even before starting to write for the blog.  How to write it, what exactly to say, and doing it with honesty and vulnerability.  I’ve written a lot here that is bare bones honest and maybe overly direct.  I’ve talked about my diagnosis, my first sexual experiences, my counseling and therapy, and even my time in the military.  If you’ve purchased Courageous products from me, you’ve seen this blurb: “On that day, {the day of my diagnosis} my world quietly shattered.  My hopes, my dreams, my plans, everything I thought I would or could do with my life…shattered.  Yet, somehow my life continued.  As I look back on my young life, the things I did and didn’t do…I look back at a young woman who learned to be Courageous.”

I work to spread the message that you WILL get through this.  You WILL grow and you WILL find the inner strength you need to also be Courageous.  I also work to ensure that every young woman who is diagnosed with MRKH never has to feel the utter isolation I felt for over 25 years.  I never met another woman with MRKH until an evening in August 2014 when I met and had dinner with 2 MRKH sisters.  I’ve since had many more occasions to get together with MRKH sisters; time to bond and share stories, but to share hope and to heal as well.  I do believe it’s a necessary part of the healing process: to meet someone who has the same thing as you do, to remove the isolation and to talk with someone who totally gets it!

But for 25 years, I essentially walked this path on my own.  I knew what I had, I knew what it was called, and I knew what it kept me from doing.  I didn’t have trusted girlfriends and sisters that I could ask awkward questions to.  I had to vaguely explain to acquaintances that no, we don’t have children, I was born without a uterus.  Family and close friends knew some of my struggles and the inner fear and sorrow I felt, but most did not.  I’m a pretty private person about most things.  I sit on the fringes and watch rather than participate fully in picnics and parties.  I can’t relate to most women my age because I don’t have children or grandchildren of my own – both because I hold myself back…but also because they unwittingly say “oh, how would you know, you’ve never raised a child!” That comment in particular hurts me, because there have been many times in my life where I’ve wanted a child of my own so badly I cry and scream and shout at the unfairness of it all.

Through many therapy sessions, and over 100 pages of journaling for answers I began to notice a pattern.  Times when I was distraught, angry, grieving, and the paths I took in those times to find some peace.  Some were destructive paths that I’m not proud to have traveled – but travel them I did.  Over time it became clear that I got the most peace and comfort when I spent more time on my relationship with God.  Please, don’t run for the hills because I’m bringing up religion.  Give me a chance to explain.

I was raised in the early 70s by two loving hardworking parents.  My dad worked in the shipyards of Seattle – blue collar union jobs.  It wasn’t glamorous, and he got laid off a few times.  We had a beat up, run-down farm house.  The roof leaked, the floor creaked, it had character…and it had love.  My mom stayed home and managed our little farm and raised “us kids”.  We had dairy goats, a garden, she baked bread and cookies, and we had chickens, pigs, and raised cows for beef every year.  She did everything to give us the best she could on a very fixed income – we even received food baskets a few times.  We said Grace before dinner for the holidays, but we didn’t go to church – it just wasn’t important to them.

As a little girl, I went to Sunday School and/or church with different friends in the neighborhood sometimes, and a few times with my Grandma.  With Kathy, we sat near the front of the church and I was fascinated by the organ and watching her feet when she played.  I was part of the Christmas pageant that year and we learned to sing the alphabet backwards.  I still can!  With Tina and Lori, we went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in the summer.  One year we got invited to participate in AWANA.  It was a group meeting in the evenings, and we played games and learned bible stories and we learned to pray and ask Jesus to forgive our sins.  It was at an AWANA meeting that I asked Jesus to be my savior and accepted him into my heart.  I asked my parents for a bible, and they bought me one.  When I asked them why we didn’t go to church, my mom told me that she believed that you don’t have to go to church to believe and to pray and ask God for forgiveness and help when you need it.  She said you just have to close your eyes and believe.  I took it at face value, and used it as my model to follow as I grew up.  I went to church with my friends when I could, but I mostly just believed that God was there if I needed him.

Fast forward to me as a late teen, getting diagnosed with MRKH, graduating high school, and planning a wedding.  My fiance was raised Catholic – I didn’t know what that meant really, just that it was one of the Christian denominations, but he wasn’t a practicing Catholic, wasn’t a member of any church or anything.  So the whole “where are we going to get married?” question came up.  My grandparents had attended a Unity church in Seattle, but now they had moved, so we looked at the Unity churches north of Seattle.  My grandma made a connection with a Unity pastor she knew and asked her if she would marry us.  We also got in touch with the Unity church in Everett.  And so that’s what happened…we had a place and a preacher…problem solved.  But I really liked that pretty little church on the corner, and so we started attending services.  I was an adult now (in my mind anyway!), and with my new found adult freedom and these really friendly people in the church office, it felt right to attend.  Unity is a Christian based non-denominational church.  We sang hymns, we read scripture, we prayed, and we drank coffee and ate cookies.  But Unity’s focus is leaning a bit on the side of metaphysical, inner peace, spirituality, connection with the world as a whole, and less on the ritualistic side of religion.  Each sermon ended with some guided meditative prayer and visualization to promote peace.  It worked well for me.  It wasn’t scripture being shoved down my throat, but it afforded me an opportunity to foster a connection with faith and like minded people.  When I joined the Army I kept in touch with my pastor for several months, and again it gave me the strength and peace I needed in a time of great stress and transition.

In Colorado, once I was settled into a routine with the Army, I started looking for a church home.  I found a couple of Unity churches in the yellow pages, found out their worship times and packed myself off to church on Sunday morning.  The first one I went to was a bit shocking.  I kind of felt like Forrest Gump in church, with lots of large black women in choir robes and me the only “white chick” in the building.  They welcomed me profusely, but this was way out of my comfort zone, and so I did some more research.  The second Unity church I found was quite a bit further form where I lived, but I felt much more at home there.  I went several times, but the congregation was much larger than my small church “back home” so I struggled to make any connections.  But I went whenever I had the time.  I had a few friends in the Army too, and as so many of us were the same age and same stages of life, we often were doing the same kinds of things and trying to find our niche.  My friend Donna had found a great church that she was LOVING, and she asked me to come with them to service.  While I enjoyed the time with Donna, it was not a church I was comfortable in.  It was one of those mega-churches with several hundred people, pastors with head sets and lots of charisma.  There was no quiet time with solemn connection with the Lord.  It was not for me, and I only went the one time.  And so I just kind of quietly drifted away, feeling a bit like an outsider, but remembering the lessons from my mom and the Unity church that “where ever you are, God is, and always will be.”

The next chapter of my life, I met Jeremy and his family.  His mother’s family was from the Lutheran church, and while they didn’t attend regularly, they were members along with his grandparents.  We said Grace before holiday meals, and when we decided to get married, were married by their friend and Lutheran Pastor Darlene.  I was content in my life and my relationship with God.  I knew if I needed something, I could (and would) quietly close my eyes and ask for help – aka divine intervention.  It was trivial and superficial, but it was a connection I knew I could fall back on if I needed it.  And so my life continued on – quietly content but without any true religious structure.

Eventually Jeremy and I moved to Idaho, and we started our lives up here.  We met many people over the years, and got a few invitations to attend services with this or that friend.  We never went.  We attended a couple funerals, a couple of weddings, but that was pretty much the only time we spent in churches.  As time went on, and “life happened”, and the seasons of our life started shifting I started struggling more with depression and my overall state of mind.  It affected relationships, decisions, and came to a point when I realized I needed to get back into counseling to try and mediate some of my stress.  This started the ball rolling.  I started to really work at my life and to take a good hard honest look at what I had going on and who was in my life and the rolls they played.  I started journaling at my counselor’s suggestion, and as I’ve said, patterns started to reveal themselves.  It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without a lot of anger and frustration and pain.  I thought long and hard about my life, my actions, my behaviors, and what I was going to do about it all.  What was I going to change in order to be a better/stronger/healthier person?

It was a long process, but eventually I saw what had been in front of my face for a long time, just waiting for me to notice.  When I had been at my most peaceful were at the times following great strains in my life.  I instinctively knew that when I was at my lowest, I had relied solely on my faith to get me through.  Where ever you are, God is, and always will be.  I of course had to question the obvious, deny it over and over…but then maybe?  Once the thought was planted, and I allowed myself the chance to acknowledge it…things started to make themselves known to me.  How many times did God send me a sign that I didn’t ever really see?  How many times was I nudged a certain direction?  So I really opened my eyes to it….started keeping track.  I looked at the people in my life that had been there for ages, and some that were new.  I started watering that seed….checking on it regularly to see what was growing there….and making adjustments.  I read a lot.  I searched the internet.  I searched my heart.  I started to ask God for some input, and he finally gave me the strength and courage to reach out.  Or maybe he just showed me that I had it all along.  So I called her.  Then I emailed her, and I asked her to walk with me, pray with and for me, and be my rock as I fostered my faith in a more deliberate way.

So we got together, and we talked, and laughed, and cried…and we prayed.  And I went to church.  And she held my hand as I cried and we prayed some more.  Week after week I continued to go to church.  I cried a lot.  I prayed a lot.  It was emotionally draining – but necessary.  I made connections within the church, and bolstered myself as I listened to the sermons and reaffirmed my faith and fostered my relationship with God.  It’s been a couple months now, and I can see and feel a difference in my life.  I am more peaceful, loving, and forgiving.  I still cry some, moved by the humble grace and mercy shown by these beautiful souls that I have chosen to spend my Sunday’s with.  I’ve journaled a lot about my first few weeks attending services, and can recognize that I was finally letting go of some long held grief and sorrow and worries, and by doing so I was overcome with profound relief.  There is freedom in letting go.  There is freedom in trusting a belief in something greater than yourself.  While I have been walking this planet mostly on my own for the better part of 45 years, carrying the burdens of normal life – I’ve also been carrying around a diagnosis that has shaped my life, and at times overpowered my life.  What I try to see clearly now is that I can allow my diagnosis of MRKH to empower me to do bigger and better things.  I can trust in my faith and my relationship with God to ease my worried mind and let him do the heavy lifting.

I know this is long, and I’m wrapping up I promise, I just want to give a shout out to some beautiful women in my life who have inspired me and impacted me and my decision to walk closer to God recently.  My thanks to each of you! xoxo     Janice, Karen, Eileen, Chel, Lisa, Angela, Julie, Diane, Amy, Janine, Erica, Chris, Lindsie, Janet, Debbie, Linda, Carole, Sally, Mary, Crystal, Christina, Judy, Cathy, Phyllis, Carrie, Leslie, Tina, Kristen, Janna, Laura, Denise, Laurie, Barb, Dawn, and probably a million or so others.



Putting it out there

Today is move-in-day for one of the bigger craft shows I do each year.  So this morning after making coffee, milking the goats, and feeding the dogs…I also loaded the soap trailer.  I hope I haven’t forgotten anything, although I do already have a list of “don’t forget to grab tonight” things rattling around in my head.  It would probably be a better plan to write the list down…but where’s the challenge in that?

So, after my day job, I’ll trek back across campus where I had to park with my trailer, drive around the block and hopefully get a spot close to the main door and start unloading the trailer.  It takes a lot to do a craft show…let’s start from the bottom and work up…this is an indoor show, so no tent, walls, and weights:

  • squishy floor mats
  • carpet
  • 3 tables
  • table risers (PVC pipe)
  • 1 small cash table
  • fabric back drop
  • signs
  • tape to hang the back drop and signs
  • wooden shelf risers
  • table covers
  • display baskets of various sizes and shapes
  • fake pine trees
  • box of kleenex
  • bath tub and stand
  • box of “bubbles”
  • 40-ish scents of soap (12-20 bars of each)
  • 3 primary lotion scents (5-10 assorted sizes of each)
  • foot cream (10-15 jars)
  • Courageous box – soap, lotion, cream, lip balm
  • 3 lip balm options (20 or so tubes of each)
  • crochet wash cloths (20 or so)
  • Salves – tattoo and newborn (4-8 of each)
  • lotion bars (20 or so)
  • display signs and pictures
  • decorative miniature bathtubs
  • directors chair
  • cash box
  • assorted bags for purchases
  • business cards, information sheets, pens, notebooks, stylus, CC reader
  • COFFEE, Water, Food

I think that about sums it up.  If I hustle I can get unloaded and completely set up in about an hour and a half – but I usually plan on 2 hours.  Tonight I’ll mostly just get the floor, tables, and probably the back drop up.  I will unload everything, but tuck it away overnight and not have the whole display ready to go.  An hour or so is my guess.  Friday morning I’ll arrive about an hour before the show starts to set up the product and make sure I’m all set for the day.  After a very long day on Friday, I’ll cover everything for the night and head home.  Saturday morning, I’ll grab more stock from the soap room if need be and head back in to do it all over again.  Except that Saturday we are done at 5pm, and I have to pack it all up and haul it all back out to my trailer and load up again before driving home.  Sunday I’ll unload the trailer and probably do some restocking of my boxes to get ready for the next show.  I know I need to place a couple supply orders, and I need to make some more lotions and lip balms and such for more shows this fall and winter.  Good thing I have boundless idle time on my hand and zero other responsibilities, right???

So this begs the question:  Heidi, why do you do it?  Well, lots of reasons…I like to make my products available to the public.  With a scented product, internet sales are difficult (would someone PLEEEEEEZE invent scratch and sniff internet????), so getting my soaps out in the public space where people can pick them up and smell is great.  Goats milk soap is kind of the Cadillac of the soap world – true soap snobs generally enjoy goats milk soap above just water based soaps because they are so much more gentle and nourishing.  I also focus on natural colorants and the highest quality oils – no hot pink soap or neon green in my stuff – sorry!  My target audience is generally women ages 28-63….ready to spend a little more money on a high quality treat for their skin.  They have some discretionary money to spend, and they are paying closer attention to health and wellness.  I also want to appeal to the local people, and the local economy – buy local, use locally sourced ingredients, and that sort of thing.  So I like promoting my small local business, my excellent products….but you know what???  In a lot of ways…I totally hate it.  I’m socially anxious.  I hate small talk.  I hate pushy sales people who get all up in my business.  I hate obnoxious customers who tell me what is wrong with everything I do, how terrible something smells, and how I’m committing highway robbery charging FIVE DOLLARS FOR A BAR OF SOAP….do you know how many bars of soap I can get at the Dollar store for $5???  Ugh.  I hate the long hours.  I hate the way my muscles ache after sitting in one chair for 12 hours.   I hate the back aches after carrying in and out HEAVY boxes of soap.  It’s exhausting…the planning, the execution, the tear down and go home.

And again:  So, why do you do it then???

To challenge myself.  To make myself get out of my comfort zone.  To talk to strangers, to start conversations, to push my own boundaries.  To inform the public about the benefits of my products, and to encourage them to support their local artists, farmers, crafters, and business owners.

I’ve also used this platform – this venue to spread awareness about MRKH through my Courageous Project.  It’s my voice, my way of putting MRKH in the public.  By simply setting up a display in soft feminine appealing colors, adding a selection of elegantly packaged products, and a subtly framed sign with basic details about MRKH, I am letting the world see our beautiful flower logo attached to lovely products and a name that begs the question – What is Courageous?  What is MRKH?  And I take a deep breath and I tell them it’s a congenital form of infertility that affects 1 in 4500 women world wide, I was born without a uterus, cervix, and the upper 2/3rds of my vaginal canal.  Responses vary of course, everything from pity to embarrassment to respect.  I’ve had many poignant conversations over the past year while standing in my soap booth – and THAT is why I do this.

To challenge myself.  To push myself out of my comfort zone.  To spread awareness about my life and my experience with MRKH.  To learn to be more Courageous.

Be Strong.  Be Courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Patterns of Behavior

Self-destructive behavior usually is trigger or caused by something subconscious – and until you can identify the cause, it’s difficult to stall, stop and even correct the behavior.  Often we don’t even realize we are into the pattern until reality slaps us in the face.  We are so busy living that we don’t stop and recognize that something pretty significant is going on.

I’ve done lots of therapy over the years.  I’m not crazy in the clinical sense, but sometimes my life is pretty crazy and I need that objective view to help me deal with “stuff”.  Sometimes the “stuff” is anger, or grief, or fear, or confusion, or anxiety – but it doesn’t always manifest in some nice neat little labeled box.  So figuring out what the predominate emotion is can be a challenge.  And even when the emotion is identified, finding the cause or trigger is even more troublesome.   One of the best things I learned through therapy is that sometimes you have to unpack layer by layer before you can figure out what is really bothering you.  For me, journaling is the best way to accomplish this task.  And even more specifically, I’ve found that (for me) using an interview technique really opens things up.  Much of what you see and read here on my blog are things that I’ve journaled about over the years, and so I thought to myself, maybe it would be helpful for you as readers to see the process in action.  What is to follow is likely to be pretty raw and ragged, but with any luck…I’ll find some preliminary answers.  Here goes!

Q:  So what seems to be going on?

A:  I’m not sure really…but I seem to have lost my focus and motivation.

Q: on what specifically?

A:  Everything, but we’ll start with the eating healthy and weight loss

Q:  So what were you doing and how was it working?

A:  I was doing JUDDD, calorie cycling, intermittent fasting – whatever you want to call it.  I was doing well, was in my sweet spot as far as my target maintenance range, feeling good.  I was tracking my food daily and starting to ease up on strict weekend rotations, easing my way into maintenance.

Q:  That sounds like the perfect storm – target range, easing up…your work is done so let’s just stop what we know works and kick back…

A:  Right?!?!!?!?  I knew it would be tricky…but I was busy and had all kinds of interruptions and reasons why I needed to make exceptions.

Q:  Excuses…just excuses.

A:  Of course.  There’s always something…and always something on the horizon…So I did my usual thing of “I’ll get back to it when this is over…next week after this passes” And I just let myself be dictated by my circumstances, instead of exerting some control.

Q: Now we’re getting somewhere…so let’s go back…when did the control start slipping…what was going on?

A: Well the semester started, so things started to get busier and more projects going on.  And the weather started to turn more fall like.  So that meant being hungry for/craving more comfort food type things.  Less light stir fry and grilled this or that…more creamy, saucy, soupy things…more bread.  But also those things taste good emotionally…soothe my weary soul.

Hmm…there’s more here…now that I really think about it.

My parents sold their house.

Even before that…I started going to church again.

Q:  ok…so let’s talk about this a minute.  You have 3 big things going on…

  1. Work getting busier, semester getting ready to start
  2. Parents selling the house, potentially digging up all kinds of things
  3. You started going to church again.

Let’s pick that apart one by one.  Obviously any of those could be emotional landmines on their own, with many other issues, but combined…it’s a great big issue with the only clear solution…stuff your face, right?

A:  Right…when in doubt…eat bread.  I have a feeling that we won’t be able to fully tackle all 3 of them succinctly…but they all three feed into why I’ve turned to stuffing my face and eating my way right back up and out of “safe maintenance level”.  When I got on the scale this morning to face the music and see what kind of damage my mindless emotional eating had done, I knew I need to take back some control.  So I made the decision to get back to tracking calories, and to see if with sheer grit and determination I could pull off a real DD today.  I’ve got my coffee for now, will drink water all afternoon – tea if I get chilled – and I packed a diet root beer for this afternoon.  I won’t eat anything until dinner, and will plan on a protein and veggie filled dinner – and NO WINE.  Willpower will get me through the day.

Let’s work on #1 for today…work schedule, busy projects and how my schedule in general has been upended, and has affected my eating patterns.

Q:  That sounds like a reasonable plan.  You’ve done many, many, many of these DDs, so the routine should offer you some comfort if nothing else.  Some return to normalcy and predictability…which ties in nicely to your request to focus on #1 and your schedule and its many interruptions.  So what are some of the highlights you’ve had to deal with in the last couple of months?  And how do those specifically relate to food choices?

A:  Ok…so in August…A couple of Saturday craft shows, so those make for extra tired and long weeks.  When I’m tired, I’m more apt to eat convenience foods, and want things that are fast and readily available.  Cheese and crackers, portable snacks, and easy fast dinners.  Not taking the time to prep good meals, and skipping salads and veggies and such in exchange for protein and carbs for fuel to just keep going.

Also in August, I started attending church regularly.  I’ll not go into the whys of that, but simply introduce the fact that following church every Sunday is treats in the fellowship hall.  Cakes, cookies, breads, etc.  Add in the fact that church can fuel some strong emotions, and you can see how this might lead to some emotional eating and justification of it.

Q:  Ah yes…ok…September?

A:  Another Saturday craft show – with chicken and joe-joes on the way home.  Busy September work schedule – interviews, meetings, planning for upcoming seminars and PEAB meetings and such.  Add in the fact that my father in law came up for a visit and well…things just got crazy.  He was here for 2 weeks, and part of that time he was sick.  So I was cooking only things that he would eat, and making plans and adjustments with him in mind.  It stresses me out to have company for that long, and so that more or less started the end of rotations and the start of indulging in wine every night as a “stress management tool”.  <eye roll>  I know it’s destructive, but it’s how I could manage.

I also did a much needed, but long single day road trip.  Road food – jerky, pretzels, 2 lunches, chicken and joe-joes on the road…you get the picture.  By then, the busy schedule and lack of privacy at home had me indulging in lots of things I had no business eating or buying…I was just trying to cope and cover my emotions in a layer of comfort food.

I think I was starting to recognize that things were out of control…but I wasn’t ready to sit down and really “deal” with any of it, and I knew I still had some crazy stuff on my calendar coming up…so the delaying tactic worked its way in as well.  After I get through this…as soon as I come back from…It’s pretty much my standard MO.  Take care of everyone and everything else…I’ll deal with ME when I have more time.

Q:  Yes, this is a well-established pattern for you.  Putting others needs above your own, to the point of self-destruction.  But you are wrestling back control now, yes?

A:  That’s my plan.  Tracking calories and back into solid JUDDD rotations.  But I also know that I need to unravel some of other stuff rattling around in my head.  I know that I need to deal with the emotional issues that make me turn to food in the first place.

I know I need to unpack the box surrounding my parents move and how I really feel about all of it.  And I know I need to process my feelings in and around my decision to go back to church and what that has stirred up.  It’s all tied together, and I need to unravel it all.  But not today.


That’s it for today.  I hope that my personal Q&A session will help show how I approach digging deeper into stuff that bugs me, but how it also guides me to a deeper understanding of my own behavior, in the hopes that I can find real change.  I think that many people see only the surface issues, and don’t take the time to figure out exactly what it is that drives their behavior.