Monthly Archives: August 2014

To Ink or Not To Ink: A Long Ponder on Finding A Tattoo Bearing Significance

She had a blue rose forever stained into the top swell of her right breast. I know because she wore tops to choir that just barely fit into the dress code. I thought the tattoo and the blatant display of it was rebellious, and badass, and the sort of free spirit action that I wished I had the feminine ballsyness to carry out.

Of course all these years later, I don’t have quite the same perspective about this passive, yet hardly subtle action or the other then-teenage girl whose name I have forgotten (hell, I stared at that tattoo and the beautiful mammary attached to it so often that that is probably why I can’t recall her face! As bad as a guy, I tell ya).

What did the blue rose mean to our nameless siren? Did it mean anything? Or did she just think it looked cool?

The first inquiry originally occurred to me back then in whichever grade that was, when the she in question walked in to the choral space, donning the floral mark on her chest, as the rest of us ran the scale or were already practicing a particular song for a school-wide performance or whatever we were doing.

Any time this female (again, whoever she was…Miss Whatsherface) and her blue tattoo cross my mind, I am still asking the same question. Now, it isn’t just curiosity. It’s the search for significance that comes with maturity. And with maturity followed the second and third questions.

Why has this nameless, faceless former fellow classmate and singing enthusiast stuck so rigidly and pointedly in the history of my thoughts? Well, aside from obviously being in some sort of awe of her when we were kids, she became the physical embodiment of what I’ve been trying to answer for myself all along, ever since then: should I get a tattoo or not?

I know I’d like to get a tattoo. My step-father was one of those Harley-Davidson biker types. So, he as well as all his friends had enough ink to form their own Hell’s Angels pack, if they wanted to. I’ve also had several friends that have gone through — and enjoyed — the experience. One that comes to mind is Steve, who though we were once close, we haven’t been in each others lives for a few years. In any case, Steve has a handful of ink. I can’t recall how many. But I know he loves getting them. During a conversation we once had, he said to me, “Once you get one, you want another one. They’re like Pringles (or something to that effect).”

What I don’t know is what significance each holds for him. Though, I am certain, that Steve put some thought into them; he was never one for getting ink for the hell of it.

Beyond meaning, here are the other things I’ve been mulling over for most of my existence: Is there an ideal age for first ink? (And as I get older, is there an age where if you haven’t yet, you may as well not? Afterall, I just turned 34 two days ago. Has this ship sailed while I’ve been repeatedly circling back to it?) And tending to be realistic, I know that not everything is for everybody. Just because I want to do it doesn’t mean that I should. Just like people who shouldn’t be parents, but bear children anyhow. Am I actually one of those people when it comes to ink? Am I only meant to admire tattoos (as I do; they are works of art on a smaller scale), but not necessarily fated to express myself in that way?

Then there’s the quality and skill of the tattoo artist. We’ve all heard horror stories of a botched ink. Of needles in need of sterilization. Of misspellings (which I can’t stand — a typo is bad enough; permanent etching in the epidermis is too serious already to have that result!).

I don’t know the first indicator of a terrific or terrible tattoo artist. I could ask around, but I’ve done that before, and it did not alleviate my trepidation.

Of course there is a final element, one that can not be controlled at all, even if you have the best ink artist in the world. The aging process, and the effects that skin in the progressed stages of life has on tattoos.

For all that I haven’t figured out, in spite of thinking about it for 20 years, I do know that I don’t want to do something so important and risky if it really isn’t going to end well, and I fear the onslaught of wrinkles as it is — why exacerbate that situation, if that is all I will succeed in accomplishing? But even more clear, and probably equally obvious to you: whatever the tattoo would be, it would have to have a deep meaning for me. It would have to tell at least a small part of my life story. It would have to be as integral as even one lotus flower in a string of hieroglyphics on an ancient Egyptian’s tomb wall.

And because ancient Egypt is one of many of my interests/hobbies (ever since LeVar Burton presented a book on mummies on Reading Rainbow), at one point, I even considered getting a lotus flower or a scarab, or both on one of my upper arms. But because we change over time, all I can see that saying about my life is: she loved the ancient Egyptians. One more word and we have the six-word story challenge that has been so popular on Twitter lately. But in that case, I may as well not because that tells you as much about my life as no tattoo at all.

Two decades of pondering. From that the conclusion reached is merely: I really want one, even though I’ve no clue what it should be, and it’s a more preferable kind of skin tag.

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The Non-Discriminating Monster

I stared down at the rusty razor blade in my palm — I don’t know for exactly how long as I was in a hypnotic trance — but I couldn’t have been considering what I was for much of a span as I was on recess. I also can’t recall how young I was, other than this low moment in my life predated middle school. So, still very much a baby through the mother’s eyes I have now, but old enough to understand that this filthy tiny slivered rectangle of  jagged metal could do worse than assist me in taking my life. It could assist me in botching taking my life, creating further pain, and possibly implanting disease into my little veins.

Looking back, I am not sure if I was mature enough as a grade-schooler to realize this, and if that is why I was fixed in place. Or, if I was just afraid of my own motivation for picking the discarded blade up from the black tar concrete, and found myself frozen, terrified to act further. I also wonder if I would have followed through at sawing away at my delicate-as-rice-paper little girl wrist, if I would have been able to handle the certain sting that must go along with this sort of self-infliction, if the flesh-fountain of crimson lifeforce would have further immobilized me…had a classmate not observed the object I held and the strange way in which I stood in that spot, and run to tell an aide posted in the school yard.

In spite of my hesitation that day — which I believe was my first instance of experiencing depression so acute that it brought on those suicidal thoughts — it wasn’t enough to deflect me from ever approaching pseudo-attempts again.

Later, in high school, while my mother was out, I found myself paused by the bathtub, contemplating just exactly how the ruby and the water would mix, how the latter would coax out the former, once I severed the very visible vessels in the undersides of where hand and arm meet.

That is the last memory I had of considering suicide then. Somehow, I had found a way to cope with life, with everything, found a way to heal just enough to not go that dark, to want to live enough to not want to die. That is, until the actual last memory.

The year is foggy but because it happened in the house in which I currently reside and have for a decade this month, it couldn’t have been any earlier than 2004. If it was that year, that would have been two years before I got married, and six before I became a mother — two very beautiful events in my life that I might have missed out on had I given in to the feelings that enveloped me in my mid-twenties, causing me to carefully think out how I would hang myself from the once too-high pole in the closet of our middle bedroom — now my daughter’s room — with one of my belts.

Obviously, again something more powerful than my own miserable misery won out. But not before I plunged deeper into despair, leading to an extremely emotional and tear-filled one-person intervention with my then-boyfriend.

That, I do fervently hope, was truly the last time. I don’t want to feel that way ever again. I don’t want to be that version of myself ever again. To go a solid decade without ever getting so down (not that I haven’t gotten depressed since circa 2004 — that would be an absolute lie) that I’ve managed to not entertain taking myself out of the world is amazing. And I don’t know how I achieved it, but I suspect it hasn’t been on my own, and that it has been a delicate mixture of things, beginning with my rock, my husband.

Out of all the ways that any of us can be put in front of discrimination, there are certain things that don’t care about our gender, our upbringing, our socio-economic status, our age. Depression is certainly one of those.

Even though I have never gone to a doctor specializing in the treatment of depression, I have suffered in my own ways with it. And because this has always been something I try to keep distance from, I have never written in any way about this part of myself in a public manner before this post.

When I was 13, after family counseling had failed me — not because family counseling doesn’t work, but for a whole other reason — I joined a group at the same facility for kids with one or both parents having issues with drug and/or substance abuse problems. My father is an alcoholic. My already-deceased step-father had a drug addiction. (Finally, somewhere I belonged!) I don’t recall everything that I got out of the group teen counseling sessions, but overall it was good for me, and the female counselor was of decent repute.

In spite of that, one message that didn’t sit well with me at the time was basically this: as a child of an alcoholic, your chances of becoming one as well are higher (no idea what the percentage was said to be) than someone whose parents do not have this issue.

I know I had already entered and been plenty ensconced in my rebellious period by then. So, adolescent me thought this was pure bullshit.

Now with 20+ years between teenage me receiving that information and adult me pulling it out of the depths, some of my little bad brushes with alcohol (drunk and naked one night in college, sobbing to my then-boyfriend on the phone about my activities that evening, which did not involve sleeping with anyone, thankfully; fast forward just a few short years back having a sad and angry conversation with myself on Facebook following the consumption of an entire bottle of wine at the dining room table, causing much concern for my husband and very, very small daughter) I’m thinking, it’s probably not at all an untruth.

I’m very convinced that if a person with my certain life fact — alcoholic dad — does not firmly make certain decisions about how to handle adult beverages way ahead of instances when adult beverages might be procured, as well as how they want to live their life, who they want to be concerning all this, the demons all show themselves, all at once. Putting them back into the dark corners where they lurk, dealing with the undiscriminating monster in all of this… I don’t want to know what that is really like.

There is validity in a child of an alcoholic having the probability of becoming one themselves.

It’s been eight days since actor, comedian, husband, father, and human being Robin Williams took his own life. And I still can’t process it, still can’t accept this as true. Even though he struggled at various points in his life with alcohol and depression. Even though it can not be denied that neither of these discriminate. That either of these can and have affected just about anyone.

Initially, I believed that my shock at his passing and the way in which it came about, was my sensitivity, my heart-on-my-sleeve personality allowing me to be the empathetic soul that I am. Upon reflection, upon seeing how this relates to my own life, I know now after mourning this man that I never personally knew that really my shock was at the realization that this battle inside does not end. He was 63. He had had a streak of time where he had been able to keep demons and monsters alike in the hell where they belong. But they escaped somehow again.

At 34, Williams’ death has me gazing hard out into the foggy abyss of my own future, wondering if I have as much a grip on both issues as I have come to believe that I do.

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Namesake

Half of what I say is meaningless
But I say it just to reach you, Julia.

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia
Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering, glimmering
In the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

When I cannot sing my heart
I can only speak my mind, Julia.

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me
So I sing a song of love, Julia.

Hum hum hum hum, calls me
So I sing a song of love, Julia, Julia, Julia.

“Julia” by The Beatles

The only significant thing that my father ever gave me is also the best thing that my father ever gave me: my name. (“My dad he gave me a name/Then he walked away” ~Father Of Mine by Everclear.) Instead of being the little miss of another female, I am a namesake of a song. That part doesn’t bother me. Sure, it’s a little weird, but also a little cool.

Of course, it took quite a long time for me to have any appreciation for my name at all. In fact, I used to hate it, back when that strong word had too much bearing in my head and heart, and got entirely too much usage vocally, as I threw it around recklessly, the damaged youth that I was…

What did bother me is that in spite of simply siring me but not being a real and constant presence in my life, my father put a permanence on me in being the one to have thought of what to name me. This was a double-fold situation, as I also despised my maiden name (and still do), and even if I had never found real love, (I did, though, thankfully) I might have gotten married just to escape it. I guess I should count my lucky stars I wasn’t born male — would I have had an opportunity to change my surname then? I suppose I would have had it legally changed anyhow. I can only creatively pontificate on what reasons I would have produced for doing so.

In spite of very directly asking my mother the short story behind my name, I never connected to also question directly if she had any girls’ names in mind and what they were. In any case, while pregnant and after finding out that they were having a girl, my mother asked my father about names. He must have been giving it some thought. Although, the surer bet is that she asked him while he was listening to The Beatles, with a possibility that “Julia” was playing from the vinyl recording setup in our dining room.

Julia is one of those names that seems to go through a resurgence every now and again. Plenty of women share my name, a few of them quite well known, whether deceased or living: Julia Child, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, et cetera. (Then there is a particular fictional Julia, of the film The Wedding Singer, whose creation made high school oh, so much harder to deal with! Thanks for that, writer of said motion picture!)

In the congregation of the last church that I belonged to — not only before heading off to college, but forever since — was a family that looking back I don’t believe I knew very well, but all the same seemed sweet, kind, and loving to each other, as well as to everyone else. My hazy memory swears they were the Timlins. The Timlin family had several children — maybe four — when along came another babe, a girl, whom they named Julia Rose. Rose after her grandmother. Julia after me? Seems arrogant to stand by that as truth, but I think the parents did like my name. Really though, they had probably heard it before, as it seems a good chance that they could have also been Beatles fans at one point or another.

Then there are times that if I threw a stone, I could easily hit another Julia with it. Like last weekend. At our local Wegman’s, our cashier was a Julia. When I pointed this out, it became clear that I cared about it more than she did. Whatever. Was she named after The Beatles track, as well? Probably not. Yes, that is pride you are reading. Because not all Julia’s are Beatles Julia’s.

For any one that doesn’t know, the story behind the song is tragic. John Lennon wrote it about his mother, Julia, who was killed in 1958 after being struck by a car when John was an adolescent. (Wikipedia has what I found to be a very interesting write-up confirming this, which includes further detail about his family. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_(The_Beatles_song). Even so, I find both the song and the reasons it exists very beautiful.

The love he carried to his own grave for his mother — who directly influenced his interest in music with her own —  is apparent when you listen to the track. Heck, I think it’s even quite palpable just reading over the lyrics! But I feel that the tune acquires a haunting quality once you know the inspiration behind its composition.

The Beatles weren’t the only ones to pen a song about some lovely named Julia. I am hyper aware of several because a few years back — when I realized I had stopped despising my name and had transitioned into beginning to like it — I went internet hunting. Two of the best that I had found were “Julia” by The Eurythmics (which still tickles me as I have huge respect and love for Annie Lennox) for the soundtrack to the motion picture 1984, which they did the whole of , and “Julia” by Pavlov’s Dog, a 1970s progressive rock band that, even though I am fairly eclectic at times with my musical tastes, I might not have ever learned of their existence otherwise.

I guess you could say that this is one of those instances where positive has been drawn out of something originating from a bitter place.

can only speak my mind.

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‘BrickFair’ and ‘Incredible’ Both Have Two ‘i’s…

…or BrickFair 2014: Our Second Annual Family Tradition

Virginia is for lovers. Chantilly, VA is for LEGO lovers. The Dulles Expo Center is most certainly. At least, this past weekend it was, as enthusiasts of varying degrees occupied the locale to see and to have seen displayed creations running the gamut from history to pop culture to fantasy to mixed media; wares for sale; and a few cosplay moments, such as the lovely young woman dressed as Wyldstyle from The LEGO Movie.

This was my family’s second year attending – you might remember a similar post from around this time last summer. Jog your memory – or read it for the first time – here. (Also, if you missed last week’s post leading up to the big weekend, it had a similar title to this post.)

Because this was my husband’s first year as an exhibitor with the Baltimore-based LEGO fan group, Charm City LUGS, much more of his time (read: much more of our time) was invested in preparing for BrickFair. He and I spent every conversation, breath, waking moment, slumbering moment living for the event. Officially, as all exhibitors do, he prepared more directly in the expo center for the three days prior to the weekend.

That trio of days before the doors are opened to the public are sacred for pulling the final details together. But because those days are for the exhibitors, I imagine that they also have a bit of fun among themselves.

To say that attending BrickFair is a treat undermines the experience, especially if it is more to you than just something fun to do one weekend each summer. What made our second attendance even more special was the opportunity for my daughter and I to be there for both public days, which wasn’t originally in the plans.

Reading about another person’s experience is never nearly adequate. To properly describe all that the senses take in is a challenge itself as details accumulate faster than they can be accurately recorded in the short-term memory. Factor in personal aspects: opinions, beliefs, et cetera, and already my take on BrickFair can never be a facsimile of yours.

As with all large enclosed spaces filled with people, the volume level shifted throughout the weekend. I had planned to capture this, as well as all other elements on video, but I was so enamored with playing photographer-for-hip-magazine that honestly shooting “live” content went from my thoughts.

If I had remembered, you would have been privy to the Bingo caller and his son announcing the letter-number combos, coffee and snack orders passed along to co-workers via shout, exclamations over the coolness of displays, and children’s joyful screams as they bounded around in the moon bounce and raced LEGO cars of their creation in the Stay & Play area.

You still wouldn’t have been able to smell or taste the delicious sugared nuts or soft and salty pretzels. And you definitely wouldn’t be able to touch anything. But “hands-off” is a general rule at BrickFair anyhow. The only direct tactile experiences happen with Bingo, merchandise, and Stay & Play.

Nevertheless, I believe that images — like body language — are universal. Images often tell a story better than actual words. Art is a prime example. When you look upon a painting, chances are you won’t interpret it exactly as the artist intended, nor will you get from it exactly what your friend standing next to you might. Even so, the painting will speak to you.

In pictures, I can show you the sights, certainly much better than telling you what my eyes saw.

So, without further delay, I present to you in no particular order, the best and largest representation of BrickFair through my eyes, via the power of my camera lens.

054 058 060 070 071 073 075 079 081 082 083 086 087 089 090 091 095 096 103 104 105 106 107 109 111 112 113 115 116 119 121 122 123 124 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 136 137 140 143 147 148 150 151 153 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 165 166 167 170 171 173 174 179 183 187 189 192 194 200 203 206 207 208 209 210 211 214 216 217 218 219 221 223 224 228 230 232 234 235 237 238 239 240 243 244 245 247 248 249 250 251 252 253 254 295 255 257 258 259 262 264 265 266 268 269 270 271 272 273 275 277 278 279 284 285 286 288 289 291 294 334 295 296 297 298 299 301 305 306 307 310 311 312 315 317 318 322 323 324 (2) 326 329 331 332 334 335 (2) 337 (2) 338 (2) 339 340 (2) 340 341 (2) 343 (2) 344 (2) 345 (2) 346 (2) 348 349 350 351 (2) 352 (2) 354 (2) 354 356 (2) 358 (2) 359 361 363 364 366 368 370 371 372 374 376 377 378 379 380 381 384 386 387 388 391 392 395 397 398 400 403 404 405 409 410 412 416 417 419 422 424 425 427 430 432 434 435 437 438 440 441 442 446 447 448 452 454 455 457 461 465 466 467 468 473 474 476 477 478 479 480 481 482 483 484 485 488 491 493 495 498 500 501 503 505 506 509 510 511 512 513 514 516 517 518 521 522 523 525 528 534 540

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