Beautiful Women

I’ve had some great conversations with some wonderful women over the past few days – weeks even.  It’s really making me treasure the special bond I have with so many incredible women.  I’m not sure I ever truly appreciated it until I really started reaching out to other women with MRKH.  The sisterhood within MRKH is a powerful thing.  I never had a sister growing up, so finding thousands of them as an adult has filled my heart to bursting.  I find that same beautiful bond with my sisters in Faith, and again it wasn’t something I appreciated until I made the point to reach out to them.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  Matthew 7:7

These are just some of the incredible women in my life, and why they mean so much to me.

My Gram…gracious, loving, forgiving, funny, and fun.  She is in the final stage of her life, she’s 93 and is fading fast in hospice care.  She set a fine example of being a wonderful human, a hard working nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother.  She has instilled a sense of peace and faithfulness in me, and her Faith inspires me deeply.

My Auntie, who is giving such tender care to my Gram.  Her independence and strength, her determination and forgiveness.  She has taught me to question and to remain curious; to stand for what I believe in.

My Mom, she taught me hard work, responsibility, and sustainability.  I’ve learned to be independent and self sufficient, to work hard for what I believe in, to not hold grudges, and to forgive with every ounce of my soul.

My BFF, Eileen.  She has been there through thick and thin, through sorrow and celebration.  We have laughed until milk came out our noses and we peed our pants just a little – and we have spent hours in tears as we each battle our own personal demons.  We have prayed, and questioned, and rejoiced.  She is everything to me -a best friend, a sister, a confidant, and of course – a tattoo-twin.  She teaches me compassion, humor, humility, and that hard work and hard lessons often go hand in hand.

Janine has been a fixture in my life since high school.  She was there the day I had my diagnostic laparoscopy and it was confirmed that I would never carry a child.  She inspires me with her Faith in God, her love of family, and the love she has given to her adopted children.  She has taught me that every challenge has a purpose, that prayer absolutely works, and that if you just take life one day at a time, it’s much easier to recognize and count your blessings.

Karen – the big sister I never had until the day we met.  She has a giant heart, a wicked sense of humor, and inspires deep conversations at the drop of a hat.  She has taught me resilience, trust, and forgiveness.  When I was finally ready to reach out and follow my Faith path with purpose, I called her first…knowing she would talk straight and would understand all the subtleties of my journey.  Our support is a two way street, when she has a problem she needs to talk through, she calls me – and I do the same thing.  We talk girl stuff: make up brands, shoes, and eyebrows – we talk wife stuff: husbands, houses, and laundry – and we talk relationships: mothers/daughters, friends, and God.  We laugh, we cry, we pray.  She keeps it all real in my life.

Chel – the best friend I haven’t met yet.  Chel and I met online in a south beach diet support group and we just clicked.  We are about the same age, height, weight, etc.  We’ve both spent time in the military, and over the years we’ve just bonded more and more.  We text almost daily, and when there is more to say we email.  We’ve actually spoken on the phone a couple of times – but usually  it’s just texts.  She keeps me accountable and honest with myself.  She encourages me to make healthy choices, both physically and emotionally.  She gives me honest feedback and offers a perspective from outside my own little bubble.  When I finally make my way to Michigan, we WILL finally meet face to face and I imagine there will be zero awkwardness and a long anticipated hug and cup of coffee!

There are a whole long list of international MRKH sisters that I treasure.  While most of these sisters I’ll never have a chance to meet in person, we talk regularly through social media and messaging apps.  Deepika of course, my beautiful Indian sister.  She shares recipes with me, wishes me a good morning, reminds me to eat my breakfast, and shares the joys of raising her step-son with me. I am the designated auntie and get to talk to them both on the phone occasionally. My beautiful Faria who is so smart and courageous, doing her part to make a difference in Bangladesh.  Laura, Claire, Aysha, and Hasna in London/UK.  I exchange letters and message them routinely.  Melissa and Kelly in the Netherlands.  Lise, Ally, Bianca, Elaine, Christine, Nicola, Karina, and so many other sisters scattered all over the world, and all of them working to make a difference for women with MRKH.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Stateside MRKH sisters too, Amy, Christina, Kristen, Lacy, Brittany, Lindsay, Jessica, Chrissy, Allison, Hailee, Kimmie, Tina, Jaclyn, McKenzie, Krystina, Denise, Dawn, Sara, Patricia, Kay, Kayla, Jen, Danielle, Alyssa, and Lindsie.  So many beautiful, strong, courageous women.  All speaking out in one way or another, all making a difference in the lives of women with MRKH.  And all willing to stop for a moment and chat when you need to.  The outpouring of unconditional love is quite literally staggering – and that fact that each and every one of them “gets it” when you say whatever is weighing heavy on your heart….wow.

Giant hugs and thank yous to a few very special sisters who have taken some time recently to help me with perspective and direction…sharing their hearts, their beliefs, and their love.

Brittany, you my darling girl gave me such peace when we spoke.  Sharing your knowledge and own journey with me helped immensely.  I’ve told you many times that I feel a very strong pull and connection with you…someday soon we’ll have the chance to meet in person, share a much anticipated hug and snuggle doggies together!  I love you, girl…thank you for everything! <3

Patricia, I don’t even know how to thank you…where to start.  Your wisdom and your Faith have been incomparable.  I’ve enjoyed every conversation with you, but when we connected recently when I was more or less in crisis…your love came through bright and strong.  Your wisdom, empathy, compassion, LOVE, FAITH, reassurance…you lit my path and confirmed what my heart already knew.  You inspire me, you guide me, and the gifts you add to my life are immeasurable.  After our talk and prayer session, I left feeling more joy and peace than I had in many months.  Thank you for lighting my path, and walking along side me as I stumbled.  I thank God daily for putting you in my life.

I am lucky enough each Sunday to share worship and prayer with more incredible women from our small congregation.  We are led by Pastor Erica, a beautiful and humble young pastor.  I enjoy her sense of humor, and her honest and direct way of just putting it all out there without sugar coating it.  I’ve had many deep spiritual conversations with her of course, but I also treasure the casual conversations fostering a love of community and “girl time”. Karen of course attends and holds my hand when I need it – and passes me the kleenex.  Lisa who encourages in her quiet and steady way, and has become a dear friend in just a few months.  Good food and a good dog might play into that a bit, as well as a fabulous sense of humor.  Sally and Diane, Beth and Rita – all strong and faith filled women who all make a difference in my life, even if they don’t know it.  Watching all of you, being surrounded by your unconditional love and support is a treasure and an inspiration to be and do more in my own life.

As I look around, physically and metaphorically, I find myself surrounded by women who are bold and strong, faith filled and compassionate, kind and courageous.  I learn so much from each of you, and am truly blessed by each of your presences in my life.

The past few months I’ve been making a great effort to walk a Faith filled path to enrich my own life, but also to foster my relationship with God.  Along this path I am continually visited by incredible women who nudge me this way and that, shining a light when I need it, holding my hand to guide me, handing me bushels of tissues when I need them, and inspiring me to be the best ME I can be.  I am truly blessed.

Be strong. Be Brave. Be fearless. You are never alone.— Joshua 1:9

Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.— Luke 1:45

Soapy Goodness

I got up extra early this morning, and for those that know me on Facebook, or in person, know that mornings are NOT my thing.  I require a large quantity of coffee in the morning before I’m suitable for public interaction.  Anyway, I got up early this morning so that I could load my craft show trailer before work.  I left more or less on time and drove to work.  When I got to campus, I parked in one of the outlying lots and proceeded to trek across campus to my building.  This evening I’ll trek back to my car and trailer and will head out to set up for my next craft show.

Earlier this week I spent an evening making a fresh batch of Courageous Lotion, and a batch of Orange EO Lotion too.  I probably should have spent an hour or two packing up some more soap too, but I just didn’t get that far.  But I’m prepared, more or less for the show.  Tonight I’ll set up my tables, and get most of the product set up.  While doing that, I’ll make a list of what I need to priority restock in the morning.  I know Courageous soap is on the list, and Honey Almond too.  But I should be able to get everything fairly well set in an hour or so, and then I can head home for the night to do chores, make dinner, pack the soap restock I need, get all the winery stock I need for tomorrow, and hopefully fall into bed before 11.

I’ll be up extra early tomorrow so that I can make it to the show when the doors open at 7.  A bit more set up and then I should be ready to start selling stuff when they open the doors to the public.  This show is a chance for me to represent my own soap business of course, but also to sell wine for the winery my husband and I also own.  Oh…and raise awareness about MRKH too!  Thankfully it’s only a one day show…because I have a feeling I’m going to be REALLY tired by the time I get back home tomorrow night.

I enjoy putting MRKH on display for the public.  The Beautiful You MRKH logo is so stunning, it catches your eye when you see the banners, and people generally are inclined to help support a “cause” especially around the holidays.  I’ll be working hard to raise awareness and empower all women, but especially my fellow MRKH warrior sisters!  If you are local to Moscow, Idaho – stop by and say hi!

Tattoo Stories

I’m no stranger to tattoos.  My sister in law has a zillion of them – well, maybe not a zillion, but she is an impressive walking art canvas.  She is married to my younger brother who also has an expansive collection.  My older brother and his wife both have a couple small tattoos.  I got my first tattoo about 7 years ago, and my second tattoo about 4 years ago, and so it was about time for me to think about another one.  Actually, I’ve been thinking about more all along, but I didn’t want to prematurely upset the beast (aka my loving and mostly tolerant husband), so have been putting it off for a while.

So my first tattoo honors my husband.   We met at a country music bar, on my birthday, and I was pretty well buzzed.  We danced a few dances, flirted a bit, and went our separate ways after a few spins around the dance floor.  Over the course of a few weekends at the same bar, we flirted more and eventually went on a couple of dates.  I had been in and out of a couple dating relationships in the last few months, and let’s just say that I was getting tired of the game.  I was NOT looking for a quick hook up or even a new boyfriend.  I was decidedly NOT LOOKING for love.  But dating him was refreshing, and he was much more down to earth than the rest of the guys I’d been dating before.  I was completely honest with him about MRKH and that I couldn’t have children, and that I was NOT looking for anything permanent.  But he was persistent.  Dinner, movies, dancing, horseback rides, diner lunches, it was a good time – but I was keeping him at arms length.  I was NOT looking to fall in love again.  Apparently at some point I mentioned to him that I was thinking about buying a new belt buckle, so imagine my surprise when one evening as he stopped to pick me up for our regular dinner and trip to the dance hall/bar, he presented me with a lovely new silver belt buckle.  Awwww, how sweet, exactly what I had been wanting.  And then I turned it over.  Darned if this cowboy hadn’t had the dang thing engraved?!?!?!?  Two hearts together forever.  buckle  Admittedly, it was a sweet gesture, but honestly…tattooit scared the beegeezus out of me!  I was NOT ready to fall in love, to BE in love.  And furthermore, I wasn’t WORTHY of love.  He deserved someone who could bear him children and provide him with a legacy.  Not me…I wasn’t the right
one for him.  I gave up fighting it after a while, and eventually later that year when he asked me to marry him, I said yes.

But back to the tattoo story – after we had been married for 14 years, and I wanted a tattoo, I made plans with my sister in law to get my first tattoo. She went with me, and this is what I got.  It’s on my right shoulder blade.

 

A few years later, and I was itching to get another tattoo.  While I loved the one I had, I couldn’t SEE it everyday.  I still can’t see it unless I look in a mirror.  So I thought about it long and hard.  I thought about what kind of a design I wanted and where.  I wanted something I could see everyday, and something that was again very symbolic about my life.  Ultimately I kept coming back to an idea.  I have known my BFF since what seems like forever, but was actually just middle tattoo-earringsschool, but she’s been a constant in my life, and I in hers.  On one visit “back home” while I was in the military, we got together for a day of shopping, dinner, and drinks.  At one of the antique stores we went through, I saw and pointed out a beautiful pair of earrings.  Swirls of antiqued silver and gleaming moonstones.  matching
They were beautiful.  That night when she dropped me back at my parent’s house, she handed me the pair of earrings.  My heart melted…they were perfect, and such a beautiful gift from a beautiful friend.  I wore them and cherished them for years.  I still wear them frequently, they are dainty and timeless and go with everything.  So I called her and I told her, “Hey, you know that pair of earrings you gave me a million years ago from that antique shop?  Well, I think I want to get a tattoo of them.  I love them so much, and every time I wear them I think of you and our enduring friendship.”   We talked about it, and ultimately that became my next tattoo. She eventually came for a visit and got the matching tattoo…because, yes in fact, we are that connected.

 

So my first tattoos are both deeply personal and honor important people in my life.  I have several dream tattoos on my “want list”, but I tend to prioritize them and think about where and when to get them.  To be completely honest with you, I hadn’t really thought about doing an MRKH tattoo before finding the online support groups, and specifically the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation.  But the more involved I became, the more I truly recognized how my life had been shaped by my diagnosis, and how it has truly been a journey my whole life.  The more I connected with other women and embraced the sisterhood that is full of MRKH women around the world, the more I wanted raise awareness and empower women with MRKH.  I didn’t just want to get the BYMRKH flower slapped on my body, I wanted there to be more symbolism, and have it be more personal.  I wanted to show the beauty of the flower, but also to embody my own journey.  I had a good idea in my head of what I wanted to incorporate, so I just had to take the plunge and visit with an artist to see what we could come up with, and figure out how much it might cost.  I wanted it bold, but feminine; powerful, but delicate; symbolic, but personal.  After a lovely visit with Cera from Swan Family Ink, I set an appointment, and asked my friend Karen if she would come with me.

On the day of my appointment, after a lovely lunch with Karen, we headed to the tattoo shop to get started.  Cera and I talked some more, I gave her some reference material, and a few minutes later she called me to her station to get started.  She used stencils for the BYMRKH flowers, and for the text portions, got them all applied and then pulled out a bic marker and started drawing directly on my skin all of the scroll work.  We had discussed that it would likely be a multiple sittings type tattoo, with hours of work in it.  After about an hour of Cera drawing on me, we started in on the process of getting the initial line work done.  She began at my wrist, and worked her way up and around my arm methodically.  The first word she completed for me was Faith.  And then 2 flowers, and back around to the front for Strength.  Another series of scroll work and 2 flowers and she had worked her way around to Courage.  And finally she finished with the BYMRKH flower at the top of my arm.  It was 4+ hours of incredible line work.  I was blown away, it was so much more than I had expected, yet entirely perfectly right.  I have 2 more sittings with Cera.  One for more detail and artistic effect in the line work, adding depth and artistry to the scrolls and lettering.  The third and final sitting will be to complete the color.  But for now, I’m focusing on the healing part – keeping it clean and moisturized.  It’s just beginning the tightening and itching phase, but because it’s just line work at this point, it won’t likely peel so dramatically like fish food flakes!  Here are a progression of pictures from design work to what we got finished this first sitting.  Enjoy!

stencils freehand-scrolls more-scrolls final-freehand-work faith strength forearm inner-arm upper-arm