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.

Traveling Awareness

I’m always looking for ways to quietly….passively….raise awareness about MRKH, and the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation of course.  I wear t-shirts in hope someone will ask “What’s MRKH?”.  I wear my lightweight Courageous jacket a lot during the spring and fall.  And now, I have my Courageous backpack too!  I always hope that maybe someone will recognize the logo and even if they aren’t brave enough to come and talk to me, that at least they know they are not alone.

Sometimes it’s lonely being 1 in 4500.  I have to remember that many women never get the chance to meet another MRKH warrior, many don’t even think of themselves as warriors.  We suffer in silence, not aware that we have a voice.  It can be very isolating, really.  While I make it a point now to get together with MRKH warriors wherever I go…it wasn’t always the case.  I simply didn’t know they were out there.  I didn’t know where to find them, or even that they existed!  But now that I’ve found my voice, I’m pretty sure that I’ve misplaced the off switch!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around Washington state a bit.  I’m meeting with students from the program I work with at the university, doing a final seminar with them as they are completing their exit portfolios.  As an ice breaker activity, I have a power point I do with them the involves me asking them to answer 20 questions about ME.  They are a bit baffled as I’m asking them questions like Where did I go to high school, how many years have I been married, what’s my dog’s name, and have I ever flown a helicopter…but they enjoy it.  The point of the exercise is to encourage them to make deeper connections with people in their professional life, to pay attention to the little things, to make an effort to be more gracious, caring, and empathetic to what makes each of us who we are.

With a bit of trepidation, I altered my power point this term to give a more thorough answer to question # 12 Do I have children?  I used to just have the answer as  simple, “No, but I have nieces and nephews that I adore.”  So now I have an animated slide with a couple simple bullets on it:

  • No, I have a congenital form of infertility called MRKH.
  • I was born without a uterus.

I talk briefly about being diagnosed at 18 years old, and never meeting another woman like me for over 25 years, even though 1 in 4500 world wide has MRKH.  I tell them that I want to remove the shame and raise awareness and so I’m working with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation to do just that.

I don’t linger on it, but I do watch their reactions.  Their shock, their awkwardness with me saying “uterus” in this kind of a setting, and usually then followed by their acknowledgment and maybe even admiration for speaking out about my own diagnosis.

Last night, 47 more people heard about MRKH – and maybe at some point they will meet someone else who also has MRKH, and they’ll be able to say – you aren’t alone I know someone else just like you.  That’s my hope anyway!

This weekend is my first fall craft show of the season, and I’ll be putting myself out there again for the world to see.  Day by day, week by week, I’m getting more and more Courageous and I’m getting my products out there in the public.  Setting aside my fear for the day, to provide a voice for MRKH and the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation through my Courageous Project.

So I’ll keep wearing t-shirts, jackets and backpacks, and I’ll keep putting beautiful soap and body products out there, and hopefully someday, I’ll make a connection with another MRKH woman who has not yet learned about the power and strength, and COURAGE of our sisterhood!