Friday, February 8, 2019

Story in Pictures #UseYourWords

Welcome to February's Use Your Words writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers submitted four to six words or short phrases, for a randomly chosen fellow blogger to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own unique set of words. The fun twist; no one who is participating knows who received the words they submitted, or in which direction the writer will take them.

My words are:
picture ~ blue ~ jammed ~ rock ~ harried

It was submitted by: (Thank you, Diane, for such a cool list of words!)

Many years ago, while living in Buffalo, New York, on a whim, I walked into a tattoo shop, and I got my first tattoo. It was a purple heart with a tribal band behind it. It was on my chest, up near my collarbone. I almost hate myself as I type this, but I chose purple for two reasons. Yes, it was my favorite color at the time, but also because of the Purple Heart military awards. Now, listen, I in no way deserve a Purple Heart. However, at the time, I felt like I had survived some terrible things, and I did not give up, and so the heart being purple felt fitting. I had a small V put on the heart. My ex-boyfriend Von, will tell you that the V was for Von. However, it was really for victorious. I wanted to remind myself that I could be victorious, no matter what life throws at me, if I just do not give up.

Not long after that, I went back into the tattoo shop, and got my second tattoo. It was immediately below my first tattoo. It was of roses, a butterfly, and my ex-boyfriend Von's name, in his exact handwriting. It was awful. Honestly, if I saw a picture of it, while browsing those articles of world's worst tattoos, I would not have even been shocked. I know you first thought, is that it was terrible because of the fact my ex-boyfriend's name was in it. No. That was actually the best part of it. The artist did the name perfectly. It really looked just like Von's name he wrote down. The rest of the tattoo was horrendous. 

Actually, if I am going to be honest, I should tell you that it is not as bad as it could have been. I actually stopped the session before the artist finished, because I knew it could only get worse. I want to first tell you, before I forget, the portfolio of his work, that the artist showed me, before I agreed to let him be my artist that day, could NOT have been his actual portfolio. The reason I ended up leaving before it was done, is because he stopped a short while in, because he needed a bathroom break, and I got up and looked at the tattoo progress in the mirror. Once the shock of what I was seeing wore off. I politely paid, thanked him for his work, and left. Yes, I paid the full cost of the original tattoo quote, plus a twenty dollar tip, and left.

Now, thirty-six year old Jules, probably would have handled that situation quite differently, but twenty-one year old Jules wasn't as bold as I am now. Just so you get the full gravity of the entire situation, I actually did not want the tattoo below my first tattoo on my chest, but Von was with me, during the beginning of the tattoo session, and once the outline had been placed on my ankle, where I wanted the tattoo, he got upset. He did not want his name anywhere near my feet, as if I were walking on him, or placing his name near the dirty ground. So, it was decided by the artist, that for the size it was going to be, my chest would be a good spot. So, since he was the expert with the awesome portfolio, and Von seemed happy with the idea of his name being near my heart, I went with it. 

During the discussion with the artist about the colors, I decided I wanted the roses to be purple, because I am not a huge fan of the color red. I had originally considered having them be blue, but I wanted there to be blue in the butterfly, and I did not want there to be too much of any one color. So, we decided on purple roses, and a butterfly with different shades of blue and some pink, and the leaves would be a dark green with some lighter green areas. One of the first issues I noticed, when I looked into the mirror, after he had left the room, was that the roses were red. I was upset, because we had specifically discussed that I did not want red roses. The next issue I noticed, was the fact the butterfly looked nothing like the picture he had been using to draw up the outline. The butterfly in my tattoo, was not even symmetrical, and that is one of the most amazing things about butterflies, their symmetry. I was scared and confused, as I stood looking into that mirror, and I was unsure how I could make it better, but I knew I was definitely leaving immediately, so at least it would not get any worse.

Over these last fifteen years, I have spent more than enough time brooding over that tattoo. I can honestly say, that I do not think a single day has gone by, where I did not at least once think about how much I hated that tattoo. Due to its location, it is nearly always visible, at least partially, and since I wear tank tops a lot, it is nearly always fully visible most days. I knew from the very day that I got it, I wanted it covered. It took me years, to even go back into a tattoo shop. I was so scared of ending up with another bad tattoo. However, tattoos have always been meaningful for me, even back when I was a kid and did not have any tattoos. To me, tattoos are a way for us to tell the world a story with pictures (and yes, even words). I knew at a young age, that I would be getting at least one tattoo. I figured whether or not I got more than one, would depend on how badly the first one hurt. The tattoo, that finally got me to go back into a tattoo shop, was my neck tattoo.

My neck tattoo is a beautiful K with a halo. If you now me well, you probably already figured out that the K stands for Kateri. I got it after I got sick in 2009, and I was not sure how much longer I would be alive. I did not want to die, without Kateri being represented on my body, as part of my story in pictures. Since then, I have added to my story a bit more. I have the word hope, combined with an infinity symbol, on one of my feet, to always remind myself that there is always infinite hope, even during the most difficult times. I have the word live on my other foot, but the i is a semicolon. That one is to remind me to live each and every day, and to just keep going, because one day my story will end, but God will decide when that is, not me. That is a lesson that I had to learn over many years, but I did learn it well, and I was grateful when I discovered Project Semicolon, and it gave me the perfect way to add a reminder to my story in pictures.

That is what I consider my tattoos. My story in pictures. The story of Jules, but told in pictures, and a few words. I recently got an owl dream catcher on my arm. It represents my maternal grandmother, my mom, and my sisters. I chose the colors carefully. They all add depth to the meaning. When my girlfriend Andrea was visiting, from Michigan, a few weeks ago, I added another bird tattoo. It is on my right arm. It is an adorable purple bird (Andrea's favorite color), and it is sitting on a swing. Andrea got a green bird (my favorite color) sitting on a swing, on her arm. When we hold our arms together, it completes the scene of the two birds sitting on a swing. I really love it. 

For years I have felt harried, by friends and family, to get my disastrous chest tattoo covered, and I don't think they even realized how their nudges felt almost like harassment. Obviously, I hated the tattoo and knew it needed to be covered. There were even a few times, I thought about just cutting that pieces of skin off, and getting it gone completely. (Disclaimer: I never would have actually done that. I do not condone self-harm, nor do I take the subject lightly. I am just trying to convey to you, how much I seriously hated the tattoo, and how deeply my desire for it to just be gone would get, at times over the years.) I was just so scared of making it worse, if that was even possible, so I knew I needed to find the perfect artist, and the perfect cover tattoo idea. Sadly, I never could quite find the right artist, and could never really come up with any ideas for the cover.

As you may remember, early last year, I got a large tattoo on my upper left arm. It is of two coffee cups, one with "#1 Mom" on it, and the other with a W, for Gigi's birth name. The steam coming from the cups combine to form a heart above the cups, and there are some beautiful flowers below the cups. It is a very colorful tattoo, and that is because Gigi colored it. My artist (Chino from Lucky You Tattoo in Manteca, CA) did the outline work of the cups, steam, and flowers. Once that was healed, Gigi colored on my arm with markers and we took pictures. Once I have several to choose from, she and I sat down and picked the one she liked most. I brought that to Chino, and he inked her coloring onto my arm. He did it so perfectly. It looks exactly like her work. It was that day, that I knew he would be the artist to cover up my chest tattoo. I still did not know with what, but I knew the who finally. 

For all these past years, anytime I see a picture of myself, no matter how good I may look, I hate it. Unless I am lucky, and none of the tattoo is showing, and then there is actually a chance I like the picture. Since I practically live in tank tops and rounded neck shirts, it is safe to say that I dislike nearly every picture of me, at least a little bit. So, when I approached Chino about doing the cover up for me, he was more than happy to help. He understood how much I hated the tattoo. When he asked me what I wanted to cover it up with, I told him my mind was jammed full of ideas, but none of them felt any more right than any of the others. I told him, I had reached this point, where I did not know what, and I actually did not really care what. I told him I just wanted it to be pretty. I wanted to be able to look at a picture of myself, and if part of the tattoo was showing, to just simply think of it as pretty. So, we discussed it, and we decided on flowers. Simple and beautiful. I picked the flowers and the colors, and finally I had a plan.

So many people thought I must be so happy to finally have the name of my ex-boyfriend gone from my body. They are wrong. The name was never why I hated the tattoo. I hated it because it was ugly, and it did not even look like the picture I had picked out to have inked onto my body. Like I have said, my tattoos are my story. Von will always be a huge part of my story, and I was not bothered that his name was there, because he was a huge chapter in my story. That being said, I strongly encourage people from thinking twice, before you put a name on your body, that is not your child or a beloved relative. Despite the fact that I did not mind that his name was there, if I had it to do over with, I would have never gotten his name.

The day Andrea and I went to get our cute love birds, swinging on their swing together, I finally got my chest tattoo covered. We spent the whole day in the tattoo shop, but it was worth it. He did the most amazing job. I told him I just wanted it to be pretty, and he really made it beautiful. It is definitely a tattoo, that I will have no problem with it showing in pictures. I will say, that this was the first tattoo that actually hurt. I had to ask him to stop a few times, so I could breathe for a few minutes. The inner side, closest to the center of my chest just really hurt. My skin must be extra sensitive there. I have had so much anxiety over the years, thinking about getting it covered, and worried about it somehow ending up worse, so I was grateful Andrea and Chad went with me, and gave me the support I needed. I am also grateful that Chino was willing to take his time, and make the tattoo a beautiful addition to my story. 

I will be going back soon, to get the tattoo on my upper right arm done. I already paid for it, and we already know what it is going to be. I just need to figure out the right day to go get it done. I won't tell you what it is going to be, because I want it to be a surprise. I will say that it is my official Chad tattoo. I will be adding his chapter to my story in pictures. It is absolutely crazy, which makes it perfect, because our ride together in life has been a crazy one.

Once I get my Chad tattoo finished, I am going to go back, and get my tattoo for my Dad. I almost got it twice already, but I had to stop. I am just not emotionally ready yet. I don't want to have any breakdowns in the chair, or have any anxiety attacks, or to just cause myself any more sadness than necessary. My heart is still healing, and I can wait. I will know what the time is right. I had several ideas of what to get to honor my dad, but in the end, I decided to go very simple. I have his guitar, his main guitar, and many years ago, he wrote his name on it. I am going to have Chino trace his name, and ink that onto me. Growing up, my dad would always draw these ducks for me. He would draw them onto my balls, so people would know the balls were mine. He would draw them on cards he gave me. He would sometimes just draw them on scraps of paper. I loved those ducks. I have a rock he drew a duck on, and I am going to have Chino trace that duck, and then ink it beneath my dad's name. I am also going to have Chino trace "Love you, Dad", from one of the birthday cards my dad gave me, and ink that beneath the duck. Simple and perfect. 

I was going to add a ton of pictures to this post, particularly of the cover up piece, but it is actually still new and not completely healed. I promise I will come back and add some pictures to this post, once it is fully healed. I will also share pictures on my Facebook page, so if you follow me there, you will see them. I will add a picture of the original tattoos and a picture of the cover up immediately after it was finished. Once I get my Chad tattoo and my Dad tattoo, I may just do a blog post with pictures of my tattoos and the meaning behind them, an explanation of my story in pictures. I know that my first two tattoos are now covered, but they are still there, and they will always be part of my story, and I am okay with that. I am just grateful that they are much more beautiful now. Which is poetic, because my life is also so much more beautiful now. 

I would love to hear any stories behind any tattoos you have, if you want to talk about them. Do any of you have any terrible tattoos you want covered, or beautiful cover up tattoos you are grateful for? Well, I am sure when you read my words, you probably were not expecting such a long discussion about my tattoos, and I doubt tattoos even crossed Diane's mind, as she compiled this awesome list of words. I guess that is why I really love this Use Your Word challenge. You never know what words you will get, or where they will take your mind as you write. Just like we have no idea who will end up with the words we submit, or where they will take the recipient as they write. 

Now, that you know way more than you ever wanted to know about my tattoos, please do not forget to go check out the rest of this month's Use Your Words posts, and see which words everyone else received, and where their words took them, on their writing journey. I will meet you there, but first I need more coffee and a snack. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!!

On a quick side note: Thank you, Karen of Baking in a Tornado, for helping me with my sentence debacle, enabling me to turn this post into one I can fully be excited to share with others.

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:


  1. Jules, I loved reading your literal tattoo story. I don't have any of my own, but two of my children do as well as almost everyone on my Japanese side of the family. Thank you for sharing your timeline and reasoning for each tattoo. Your cove-up tattoo is beautiful. <3

  2. I love how you tell your story through these tattoos, and how beautiful the redo came out. Worth the wait, I'd say.
    And I had to laugh at "Growing up, my dad would always draw these ducks for me. He would draw them onto my balls, so people would know the balls were mine." After all, I'd always thought you were female . . .

  3. I have one that I've had for about 17 years. It is a heart with a banner with my husband's name on it. I've never regretted it because we're still together after 27 years, but I want more. I want to get my grandkids name put somehow somewhere I just haven't figured it out yet. My husband always drew ducks for the kids when they were little!

  4. I absolutely love the idea of your life in pictures! (And that new tattoo is truly beautiful!) And I'm so glad to be a small part of that story! :)

  5. One of the reasons I don't want a tattoo is that you never know if you'll still like it ten (or fifty) years from now.
    Also I don't like needles, so there's that.
    I'm happy for everyone who really loves their tattoo and the stories that come with themè



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