Thoughts on Courage

Websters says Courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Wikipedia says Courage (also called bravery or valor) is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. It goes on to say that physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.

Urban Dictionary says that Courage is the ability to confront pain, fear, humiliation, or anything else a person would naturally stay away from. Can be divided into Mental and Physical courage. Mental Courage encompasses threats, attacks, and discomfort of the mind. Physical Courage is pain, hardship, torture, and death.

So there seem to be 2 categories, right?  Mental and Physical.  Makes sense, I guess.  With both mental and physical courage, it is the ability/choice/willingness to confront something.  Just do it according to Nike.  Get ‘R Done if you ask Larry.  I think it’s pretty clear in my mind about physical courage.  You just take a deep breath and do it – trusting the outcome you are conditioned for.  Rip the band aid off – knowing it will rip the hairs out, but quickly.  Jump in the pool, knowing the water will be cool and refreshing.  Stumble through the dark to flip the light switch.  To me physical courage is bravery, but talking about mental courage – that’s a different animal all together in my mind.  Mental courage is the strength it takes to be brave, the faith it takes to believe, and the willingness to see it through.

Courage is obviously a buzz word in my life.  I have it tattooed on my arm.  I used it in naming my blog.  I use it as a brand for my Courageous project with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation. It’s a word I easily identify with, and in many ways it’s how I approach my life.  Websters says courage is the mental strength to venture and persevere.  If you had asked me about courage a few years ago, I might not have given it much thought.  I probably wouldn’t have thought that my actions or choices could be viewed as courageous.  I wouldn’t have felt like I could be an inspiration to anyone, or that people would think I was brave and strong.  I was pretty comfortable with myself and my life, but I hadn’t found my niche. I was quietly searching – but for what, I didn’t know.   Always curious (it’s a sign of intelligence they say!), I was wandering around the internet when I found the Beautiful You MRKH pages.  I started reading, and I started making connections, and I was inspired by the bravery and the strength of these women who were publicly talking about MRKH.  The more I read, the more I started to comment – and as I did, I could instantly see the effect of sharing my experiences helped.  I grew more comfortable talking about my own journey, and naturally I began really digging back through my own history.  As I reflected on my own life, and the choices I have made all along – I recognized my own strength, resilience, and the way I faced each challenge was saturated with courage.    The courage to be strong and brave – without knowing the outcome.

I have the courage to talk openly about MRKH and it’s roll in my life.  I will answer any honest question, even the embarrassing ones.  I will use terms that might make you blush, but I do this  knowing that knowledge is power.  I will tell you that I talk so openly in an effort to educate, but more importantly to reduce the shame many women feel when they receive their diagnosis.  I want to empower and celebrate women with MRKH.

MRKH shaped my own life, in many ways I don’t even fully understand all the implications it has, as they seem to change as the years go by.   As a teen, MRKH made me feel like an outsider, a freak.  I never got initiated into the world of periods and staining white pants, needing a pad or a tampon in my purse.  And then there is the whole stretch your vagina in order to be able to have sex…yeah, not one of my friends could have related to that!  That was a quiet and personal shameful journey I had to take completely on my own.  As a young woman, MRKH made me a medical oddity, a freak.  I had to jump through all kinds of hoops just to join the Army – not to mention exploring options for starting a family.  It came to a point where I pretty much just put MRKH on a shelf, and refused to give it any attention at all – because it was just too painful – but putting it on a shelf didn’t solve anything.  In fact, the avoidance tactic just made things worse in the long run.

As I have said many times, when I do take the time to sit back and reflect on my life, I see that I really did have a lot of strength and resilience.  I got through a whole slew of challenges with just blind faith…wait, that’s Courage.

The word courage evokes quite an image for me.  I see strength, honor, dignity.  I see brave men and women fighting in our armed forces.  I see brave men and women fleeing war-torn countries.  I see people taking a stand for what they believe in.  I see proud hard working people achieving their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.

I will leave you with my all-time favorite courage quote from the incomparable Amelia Earhart:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. 

 

Social Media Woes

The past couple of weeks, months really, social media has been a virtual minefield!  Be it the great political divide, or the latest sports team winning or losing, or the announcement of yet another famous person who has died…it’s all been there on social media – the good, the bad, and certainly the ugly.

I generally try to self-moderate what I post on social media – not something everyone does.  I’m a professional, and 99% of what I post on social media I post publicly.  I use the rule of thumb that if I wouldn’t want my grandmother to know it, I shouldn’t post it.  At some point I know that my employer might “look me up”, and so I don’t gripe about my job or the people I work with.  In that same light, my neighbors and community members might look me up – so I don’t post about the funny or annoying things I see or overhear from my property.  I’m also a business owner – actually 2 businesses – and so my customers might look me up, and so I don’t post anything negative about my “competitors”.  If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that I post and share darn near anything related to coffee, many posts about positive, uplifting, empowering sentiments, cute animals, lovely pictures of things in nature, and sometimes things that are just plain hilarious.  I post pictures of my own animals, my family, and my tattoos.  I post a lot of information about MRKH.  And I post about God and prayer.

Remember, my rule of thumb is “would I want my grandmother to know about it”.  Does she know about my tattoos, MRKH, and my belief in God?  Sure, she does.  Yet, somehow…on social media, those are controversial somehow.  They make some people uncomfortable.

I get how tattoos are not for everyone, and the fact that I have ANY tattoos in the first place surprises some people.  Some might even go so far as to say that I’ve violated some sacred rule by getting a tattoo – your body is a temple and all that.  Don’t get me started about piercings! Both are personal expressions, and choices I’ve deliberately made.  Ok, fine, so you don’t like tattoos or piercings, does that mean that now you don’t like ME?  Apparently, for some, yes.

I totally understand how my talk of MRKH can make people uncomfortable.  After all, I talk about “private parts” in public (gasp!).  I use anatomically correct names like vagina, uterus, ovaries, kidneys in regular conversations.  If people start asking questions I go so far as to talk about vaginal dilation, vaginal depth, and sexual intercourse.  Yep, I talk about all those things in public while I’m talking about MRKH, and it makes people uncomfortable – but I also talk about raising awareness, reducing shame, educating our medical providers, and empowering women.

In the past few months, I’ve also posted more openly about my faith – God, Prayer, Forgiveness, and even posted pictures of my own Baptism.  Apparently this also makes people uncomfortable.

I will not apologize for posting things that might make you feel uncomfortable, although it makes me sad to see that some of the people I enjoy seeing in my news feed have now disappeared through the use of the “unfriend” button.  In fact, I find it rather ironic actually.  I self moderate, and intentionally don’t post things I think are likely to stir up an argument.

I don’t post about politics – it’s a topic I dislike discussing.  I’ll not tell you how I voted, or how I feel about the outcome of the elections.  I’ll not forward on memes making fun of or showing blatant disrespect for any politician.  I probably won’t even like a post…even if I find it hilarious or spot on accurate…if I think it will associate me one way or the other to a side of a debate I don’t want to have.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my opinions – I just don’t use social media as an outlet to debate them.

Here are the things I will tell you, knowing full well you may disagree with me on any of them, and THAT’S OK with me!

  • I am a Christian, and believe that Jesus died for me on that cross, and someday he will come back for me.
  • I believe in equal rights for all humans, genders, races, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations.
  • I believe in marriage and the commitment and fidelity it implies – no matter who you love.
  • I believe in the right to have an abortion if you feel justified.
  • I believe that couples who struggle with any form of infertility should have access to treatments including IVF, Surrogacy, and Transplants when medically necessary – and it shouldn’t cost the proverbial arm and a leg for it!
  • I believe our country needs quality, comprehensive, and accessible healthcare for everyone regardless of income level.
  • I believe our country needs quality, comprehensive, and accessible education for everyone regardless of income level.
  • I believe in responsible gun ownership, and the ability to both protect and provide for yourself and your family.
  • I believe everyone should be conscientious stewards of our planet and our natural resources.
  • I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, and their right to share them publicly if they choose to do so.

Bottom line, I am a strong and independent woman.  I self identify as a happily married, tattooed and pierced, heterosexual woman, a Christian, a gun owner, an Army veteran, an MRKH warrior, a business owner, a coffee and wine lover, an animal lover, and an advocate for others just like – or very different – from me!

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in – just do it with dignity, respect, and love.  Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we all did it this way?

 

 

 

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