Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beyond the Crutches

The personal struggles of others are often not apparent to us.  We sometimes meet someone who exhibits strength, determination and a sense of purpose.  It’s easy to assume they are one of the lucky ones; born with all the right attributes.  The reality is people, like tempered steel, are often forged in the fires of turmoil.

So it is with Kristen, who needed to overcome a huge setback to become the amazing lady she is today.    She writes:

11 years ago I was in the best shape of my life. I worked out 2 times a day.  I taught hip hop, and ran.  I also played baseball on 2 different teams. Then one night 11 years ago it all changed. I just stumbled and fell. Moments later my legs were in massive pain and I could not move them. It all seemed so impossible.

I always played baseball and was just swinging the bat when my legs gave way. Next thing I knew, they were saying I would never walk again. How could that be?  

I was in the hospital for 6 months. The treatment center in the city was too far for my family to travel regularly.  I felt deserted and alone. Depression was setting in and I needed to get past that. I was not ready to just give up.

So after fighting and fighting with all the strength and determination that I had, we started to see tiny signs of progress.  It was soooo slow but I was able to start walking with a walker. Then 2 years later I progressed to a cane, then from there - walking slowly without it. It took about 7 years before I was able to walk somewhat normal again.

It was 5 years after that accident, during my long recovery that I chose to get a hummingbird tattoo as a token of my progress towards recovery. They are such a strong willed bird and they were my inspiration to keep fighting harder and encouraged me to get to the point where I am today.

Walking was not the only issue. I gained massive amounts of weight and was not happy with myself. I went from 115 pounds to 190, all in about 6 months.
I went from being so active and loving life to lying in a hospital bed for months at a time. With low self-esteem and my family away for much of the recovery period I was in a very dark hard place. It was just one bad thing after another, and at one point I tried to end my life. I had to reach deep inside myself to find strength I was not sure I had. 

Today I have 2 other tattoos that commemorate my struggles.  The one on my arm (with the words  love faith strength) and on my rib cage (always remember). They remind me of those inner demons I fought about 2 years ago.  

I chose the words on my arm (love faith strength) as my new life’s motto.  These are so significant to me.

I need to always remember how important it is for me to love myself, have faith in myself and reach for the inner strength to do this when things are not perfect.

Today I see the world as a different place now.  I remember the struggles and know setbacks can and do happen. It is up to me to rise above them. I look back and see how far I’ve come.

This truly was a life changing experience. 

For anyone reading this, know that others can’t be aware of your own inner demons and personal challenges. We all have personal crutches of one sort of another.  We lean on others, past experiences and various excuses;  telling ourselves we can't go further.  Look beyond these. Look inside yourself, deep inside, and you will see strength and resolve you never knew you possessed.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016


We often meet people who are upbeat and fun, but we may not know anything about their past and the tough roads they may have traveled.  Courtney is one such individual and her attitude belies her history and personal transformation.

This is her story:

From the ages of 14 to 17 I lived on the street, a product of children’s aid.  Badly addicted to hard drugs, I didn't have a very bright future ahead of me; anyone could see that.  Back then I didn’t even have a garbage bag worth of belongings … then I got pregnant. 

My son became my inspiration, the catalyst I needed to change. I went to AA and stayed with my parents as I went through rehab a few times before I gained better control.

Gathering my courage I went back to school and became a law clerk.   

The Courage, Strength and Hope tattoo represents what it took for me to get clean, and stay clean. It was time to build a home, a life and a future for my baby.

I added the butterfly after a year of “clean”.  

 It is a symbol of my transformation, my metamorphosis.  Butterflies start out as ugly caterpillars and end up changing in to thing of beauty.  

Back then I felt I was like butterfly – transformed and ready to fly …  now I am older and  realize I have still not really full evolved.  I want to keep growing, always pursuing self‑help books and seminars. 

Personal growth is not always easy, but it is always possible.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Family - Nature’s Masterpiece

At times we can feel alone, gloomy and filled with despair. It’s a natural cycle but when depression takes hold and you can’t shake it, external support can be helpful.
Nicole, reminds us that our extended family is a great place to start.
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Depression seems to run in the family.  My mom and nanny fought with it and I did too.  I’d struggled with it, off and on medication till I got one that worked. Without the support and help of family it would have been so much worse. Family is truly important.  
The quote "Family is one of nature’s masterpieces" was a tattoo gifted to me by my best friend in the entire world.  I chose this quote because I feel like it is very true. Everyone's family is different and every one of those families is beautiful.
When I say “family” it is not only blood relatives, but also people who love and support you no matter what.  I have always believed this and I feel like my best friend is apart of my family.

I grew up in the country near a small town where everyone knows everyone; in many ways were like one huge family.

With so many people supporting me, I feel thankful, but 3 women in particular were especially important and influential.  To keep them close to me I choose three butterflies and a quote to represent the three very important ladies in my life: my mom, nanny (grandmother) and stepmom.

My parents split when I was very young and many people helped raise me. My mom lived with nanny and one of her favorite things are butterflies. To me they
symbolize strength, grace, a free spirit and they are beautiful. All things I have acquired from these women; hence my choice of tattoo design.   Together the quote and butterflies remind me that with family, we can face any challenge and not feel alone.

I know some people alienate themselves from family but there are many types of family, so I encourage everyone to seek out, and if necessary – build a “family”. You’ll be stronger for it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Looks can be Deceiving

It’s all too easy to judge a book by its cover.  So when we see someone who is beautiful and radiant it is hard to picture them with inner demons, hardships and internal struggles.  Today’s tattoo tale shares one lady’s personal challenges and reminds us not all disabilities are visible.

Oceane, was not off to a great start in life.  As an infant her mother would beat her and her father had his own challenges and could not care for her.  Emotionally and physically neglected she was finally adopted at the age of 4, when her grand-parents intervened and legally adopted her.   

The “Mami & Papi” tattoo on her wrist is a tribute to the couple that raised her while also helping to cover up the slashing and self-abuse she inflicted on herself later in life. You see her troubles were not over.  

As Oceane started school and socializing with friends, she realized she was different.  She had a learning disability and school was extremely hard.  Kids made fun of her and she endured constant humiliation and intimidation. 

No matter how hard she tried focusing, learning was a constant struggle. She could not concentrate. Reading and memorizing were next to impossible. She kept trying to keep pace but she only fell further behind.  Once diagnosed with severe Attention Deficit Disorder she at least started to understand what was happening to her.  Medication and coping techniques were an aid but life was still a constant struggle. 

What kept her going is hard to say. Somehow she found strength to keep trying. She says: I just had to believe in myself.  She somehow felt that if one truly believes in themselves then no matter the obstacles you can and will succeed.  The words “Believe in yourself” tattooed on her other wrist are a constant reminder to never give up.  So when the traditional school system failed, she found another way. 

She enrolled in an Adult high school.  

Here she found a more accepting peer group. People with jobs and families, other priorities and challenges; they were all working like her, the best they could to complete their education. 

This school format had more flexibility and allowed students to learn at a pace each individual could sustain. Her adoptive parents had initially viewed this as an admission of failure. Adult high schools were for the drop-outs, and has-beens. But to Oceane it was her way of getting up again; and get up she did  - finally completing her high school diploma and coming to terms with who she was and where she wanted to go. 

She added an amazing tattoo on her ribs that translates to:  The one who falls and rises again, is so much stronger than the one who has never fallen.

This seems to summarize her philosophy and journey. 

Today Oceane still struggles but she draws strength from her accomplishments and doesn’t let challenges or obstacles stand in her way. 

She applied to college with her newly acquired diploma and was accepted.  So she is now willingly embarking on a new chapter and is prepared to conquer the new hurdles ahead.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Religious Devotion

Some tattoos are about transformation, personal milestones, or memorials. This one is about inspiration and deeply held beliefs.

Chris literally wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart belongs to god.
A devoutly religious man, Chris had a sleeve designed to signify his deeply held convictions.  

His entire sleeve is a reminder God’s love and our struggles though life. At the top is a dove with olive that symbolizes peace. The dove is important because the devil and temptation comes in many forms. The devil is tricky and can impersonate any animal, except a dove; so the dove and his religious helps keep Chris safe.

The stone cross and rose ties were designed by Chris.  They convey the love of Jesus and the dove is landing on cross, a reminder to avoid temptation.

Then tip of Mount Everest is the backdrop for cross and dove. The journey through life is like climbing a mountain. There are many obstacles to overcome as you climb but when you reach top, you are with god.  

Other details are a link to his dad who was into Tia Chi and martial arts. Chris, born in year of the tiger relates to the personality and published significance of the tiger.  

Finally he has a reference to Psalm 27 (The Lord is my light …). This vital passage was of special significance to Chris during time of family turmoil.  It says you need the strength to meet challenges. The tattoo also includes elements that symbolize love and has clouds to complete the mountain and dove.  

Together they deliver a powerful message of love and dedication, as well as a constant reminder of life’s challenges. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Familiar

AmansCatti  loosely translated from Latin means Cat Lover. She admits not everyone understands or even believes in witchcraft.  In her experience however, even if we don’t fully understand something, we can benefit from it.  Her numerous cat-based tattoos are a tribute to her first pet, who acted as a “familiar”.
AmansCatti writes: 

I had my first cat at 6 years old and he was with me for 18 years. I have a portrait of this lovely Siamese on my arm as a memory of his eternal bond, and a "My First Love" dedication on my back.

He was much more than a pet. We really shared a spiritual bond.  

My family moved around a lot and my cat was the one constant in my life.  As an only child, my cat was like the brother I never had.  Playing dress up, I recall having a wedding gown and wanting to marry my cat.  

He was always with me… as I did mundane tasks like homework or as I suffered through various illnesses and chronic bronchitis.  When I got older he’d help guide my decisions. For instance he’d judge my boyfriends and I could tell by his reaction whom I could trust. 

For others to appreciate this special bond is perhaps challenging.   In Wiken terminology there is the term “A Familiar”.  It has been described as an animal spirit believed to serve a witch or magician, as a domestic servant, spy and companion ... in addition to helping to bewitch enemies or to divine information.   

 I can relate to this, not from a magical sense but from the perspective of a very special and intelligent companion.

There have been others since, but he was very special.  After almost 20 years, I can still feel him walk on me when I’m drifting off to sleep.
It might all sound like too much, but for me this is real. 

Who else has a shrine dedicated to a cat in their home?