Year of the Horse

The one thing I do not want to be called is First Lady.

It sounds like a saddle horse.

Jackie Kennedy

Horse Tattoo by Dmitriy Samohin

 By Ukrainian artist Dmitriy Samohin (Photo from

As tribute to feminine creativity and courage celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Horse, here are a few Asian inspired tattoos and excerpt from Margot Mifflin’s Bodies of Subversion (another delightful addition to my library thanks to a favorite blog fan):

In a culture where surfaces matter, skin, the largest organ is the scrim on which we project our greatest fantasies and deepest fears about our bodies. For women, skin is a work in progress through which we celebrate–and denigrate–ourselves.

In The Decorated Body, anthropologist Robert Brain calls body modification “an attempt to put on a new skin, a cultural as opposed to a natural skin.”  His observation is especially resonant for women, whose ties to nature have historically been used to justify their exclusion from culture. Whether they see tattooing as an embellishment of or an intrusion on the “natural body; whether they build their collections on a bedrock of sexual politics; and whether or not they call themselves feminists, tattooed woman constitute a subculture whose political implications are indisputable.  Life female body builders, who contest the idea that a “built” woman isn’t a real woman, or feminist pornographers, who puncture the myth that objectified sex is necessarily exploitative or degrading, they’re rewriting the ground rules for female self-presentation.

In the never-ending project of women’s self-transformation, tattoos are both an end and a beginning, a problem and a solution.  Written on the skin–the very membrane that separates the self from the world–they’re diary entries and public announcements, conversation pieces and countercultural tomes, valentines to lovers, memorials to the dead, reminders to the self.  They’re scars and symptoms, mistakes and corrections. Collectively, they form a secret history of women grappling with body politics from the Gilded Age to the present–women whose intensely personal yet provocatively public art poses a complicated challenge to the meaning of female beauty.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what having tough skin means to you.  Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Samurai on Horse tattoo by Jill Bonny

Japanese Samurai by Jill Bonny, the first Western woman to be awarded the title Horiyuki by Japanese tattoo master Horiyoshi III

Alphonse Mucha tattoo reproduction by Thea Duskin

An Alphonse Mucha art deco reproduction by Thea Duskin on a fan that reminds me of the Korean traditional

Geisha flower tattoo by Jo Harrison

Geisha by Jo Harrison

koi tattoo by Kari Barba

Koi by Kari Barba


Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

In The Woods

Now it is up to me to take the first step myself–

to listen to the child in me.

Alice Miller


This Powerful Goddess celebrates her first birthday as mother to herself, recently having lost the woman whose love has been a refuge since giving birth to her.  It is a dark and tender time nursing her grief, remembering her mother’s comforting free spirit, so far ahead of her generation in providing a literal haven for women whose life choices defied the simplistic black and white.

She feels bereft in the woods without the familiar guiding hand that had always held hers.  The hand that had given her a firm, gentle push through the rough brambles, the muddy patches, through the forks in the road.  Now  it’s a strain to hear her mother’s voice when she wonders “Where do I go? How do I go on?”

Yet she does.

She ventures forth with small, hesitant steps at first, her spine eventually straightens, finding the strength to keep on.  She is her mother’s daughter after all.  Her mother’s courage lives within her forever, making sure she continues to keep her sights always true to her own North.

What is a woman’s life after all if not to serve as map and compass for other women to find and understand themselves?

To complete the Alice Miller quote from the top of this page:

…and this meant exposing myself

to all the pain once inflicted on her,

which she had had to bear all alone,

without witnesses, without words,

without hope of ever being understood.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share who has lent you strength to keep going when you couldn’t.






© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

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Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Stole N Moments


A garden to walk in and

immensity to dream in–

what more could a woman ask?

A few flowers at her feet and above her the stars.

Victor Hugo


This Powerful Goddess tells me she’s been catching her forehead wrinkled too often lately: short tempered and tired from  keeping up with the never ending shoulds of work and home, nagging kids who turn deaf when plugged into their computers, unseen by a husband happy in his cocoon of all work and no play. Her oft repeated stories of discontent have finally bored her–never mind her friends and family.  She declared, “Enough of the blues!”

“But wait!” I asked, “What if we let the blues help tell your whole story?” Aren’t our joys made greater by the distance we rise from our depths?  The fire inside her refuses to be dulled by the gray of routine and obligation.  So there!   A passionate pop of orange with a warm furry stole thrown in.

“Do I really look this good?” she wanted to know.  Only if you take a moment to remember all the parts of who you are!

It is always humbling to witness the Goddess in a woman come out to play and shine through a life affirming lens.  Oh, how she blooms with praise, how she looks infinitely younger as she enjoys herself fully  in the moment!  I feel so blessed to give a woman a glimpse of the fabulousness she takes for granted in her day to day.

No matter how gray the winter, this gardener of her own soul digs deep and blooms in her own garden of delight.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what helps you through your winters of discontent.







Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Judging Books By Their Cover

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.

Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

I lost 20 lbs over the holidays!  No, not in body weight–in books that usually weigh down my suitcase like bricks.  Big thanks to my sister Santa who dropped a Kindle Fire HD into my stocking right before our family trip!  Here are the best of the bunch from the 11 books I read in 11 days, a virtual world tour highlighting the universal thread of joys and pain that binds all women through generations and cultures.  And as for that adage “Never judge a book by it’s cover?”  I never say never.  Enjoy!

The comfort of sisterhood in China through reversals of fortune,

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow_flower_and_the_secret_fan by Lisa See

To get me in the mood for Carnival next month,

The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

If Anne Boleyn could have written her story herself,

The Kiss of the Concubine by Judith Arnopp

Anne Boleyn the kiss of the concubine by Judith Arnopp

Because women are often misunderstood and conveniently dismissed as crazy, The Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen tells the tale of a Spanish (spare) princess who is packed off to marry a self-absorbed duke in cold Austria. Did she once dream of living happily ever after?

Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen

This one made me cry a few times as I followed the trail of Italian immigrants from a tiny hilltop town to their American dream and the glitz of NYC.  How true it is that an orphan finds many parents,  that love for work, friends and family can sustain you through the worst of times, that life is not only about what you make of it, but more so the strength to survive what is taken away from you.

 The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your book recommendation here.

I wish you the Happiest of New Possibilities in 2014!


Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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