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Not Your Father’s Tattoo

Long gone are the days of tattoos being reserved for the military and bikers or for the under belly of society. They have slowly, quietly and consistently made their way into the mainstream. Some body ink is pure artistic beauty. Others, well, they could use a little help. Most tell a story of course – themes of courage, adversity, celebrations and memorials are so common now as they weave their way encircling our skin that we are not shocked by their presence on all sorts of people.

I never really considered a tattoo in my youth. I didn’t think they were bad a thing but I suppose just not my thing. Growing up my Dad had a tattoo on his forearm. It was a youthful lark, without much forethought – it was a heart with an arrow through it and it said “MOM.” He has since had it corrected embellished from its faded, fuzzy outline to a colourful sunburst. Not until I was *ahem* older with kids of my own and with the illness, then death of my sister-in-law did I really consider getting one for myself. asked for submissions for Mom’s with tattoos and their stories. There are hundreds of stories, more likely thousands of stories but here is mine:

I have two tattoos. Each is very significant and important to me. I claim one as “mine” and the other is Joanne’s. Joanne was my sister-in-law. She was a young, beautiful woman I had known since I was 11. She was more like a cherished older sister than an in-law. Joanne battled and succumbed to the evil of breast cancer after a 7 year fight. and fight she did until the bitter, bitter end. She left behind my brother and 3 children. She was 41.

The pain associated with the unfairness of her illness and the eventuality of her death was life altering for me. I wanted a way to connect with her even though she was gone. It took me a long time to find something that was meaningful enough to represented her. I settled on Celtic knot butterfly wings, to celebrate her Irish background and the transformation and freedom imagery joined on the body of the pink ribbon symbol. This September marks the 6th anniversary of her death, but Joanne’s tattoo is a reminder of a life never forgotten.

I got my tattoo at the same time I got Joanne’s. I needed to get something for myself, to balance the sorrow. The spiral is an ancient symbol represented in almost all past cultures. To some it represents life force or motherhood. I chose this symbolism to represent me and my two crazy, beautiful, wonderful girls that I have always affectionately called, my “girlies.” A double spiral—two swirlies, for my girlie whirlies!

You can check out more stories here: Do you have a tattoo? What is it? Tell me your story!


Times They Are a Changing: Death and the Tooth Fairy

When I first started this blog I wasn’t sure exactly how much to talk about the people in my life.  Up until now I have kept most things pretty generic and the people nameless.  If you are the 3.5 people who read my blog (I am being generous, I think) you may know who they are but because I didn’t specifically ask their permission or even let them know I was writing about them, at this point I chose not to name them.  I did name my sister-in-law, Joanne in this recent post but she’s um, deceased and no longer gets to speak for herself.   I mean no disrespect.   Joanne and I are good.  I digress.  What I’m trying to say is this blog really is a work in progress.  While I’m not naming names this particular post gets personal.  That’s a lot of “P”s.  Ready?  Here comes another one… I’m pissed at my sister.

Yep!  I found out yesterday by way of her Facebook status that my aunt had passed away.  Now I know my aunt had been sick, she had a form of stomach cancer.  We all knew it was only a matter of time though clearly I wasn’t prepared for yesterday’s announcement.  I’m not sure what bothered me more, her death and the suddenness of it or that the cyber world knew before I did and before I had a chance to tell my children.   I suppose it was both, I mean this is my aunt.  My younger cousin’s mom.  My dad’s sister.  We shared so many family holidays and celebrations together growing up and she joined us at the family BBQs and parties as my kids grew.   I felt cheated.  How did my sister know already?   I checked my email.  My father had left a message for everyone so he could go to the hospice to be with my aunt, his other sister and my cousin.  Aren’t there family spoiler alerts on Facebook?  I know my sister didn’t mean any harm.  She was posting away her life like we all do.  I wish she had chosen to wait.  My big girlie found out the same way and she was none too impressed, either.   Heavy sigh.

Then last evening I read an article about the Tooth Fairy and how someone,  somewhere did a study saying how all lies are bad lies. Children are confused and have a hard time processing the inconsistencies between their parents telling them lying is bad, don’t lie and the “hey, guess what I’ve been lying to you about imaginary childhood icons in the name of fun or to change your behaviour and that’s bad and wrong and will scar you and render me and other parents completely untrustworthy in their children’s eyes.”  Again, I digress.  I completely scoffed at it but it got me thinking about exposure and our current state of social media.  We are surrounded by the whole world.  It is literally at our finger tips and feels like things happen in our own backyard when they happen half way around the world.  Children will find out about the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus earlier than we did as children simply because the information is there in ways we just didn’t  have 30, 40, 50 years ago.  Things are changing. Things have changed.

So while I showered away the rough day I had because I also chipped a tooth, dropped my bag in the mud, found out my aunt passed away via facebook and shattered a wine glass,  I thought we really have no control over these things the way we once did (or thought we did). Information is power and it’s already out there.  Whether you are ready for it or not.  So Sister, we’re good.

Auntie Barbara you were loved.  You will be missed.

Arrrggh! A Pirate’s Life For Cancer

This past weekend I participated  in “My Sister’s” Pink Pajama Party, a dinner and fundraiser for the walk against women’s cancer.  Cancer is such a horrible, evil disease.  It affects so many people, too many people, with a stunning ripple effect.  I have seen its personal devastation.  I have been consumed by the ripples.  My sister-in-law, Joanne found the lump in her breast in 1999.  At the time she was young, healthy and was going to kick cancer’s ass. Sadly, we didn’t know it then but Joanne would not survive.  It was seven years later when the summer faded and so too did our “angel” Joanne, as her body succumbed to the ravages of a ruthless disease.

During her illness and since her death in 2006 there have been many “find the cure” related activities and opportunities I could have participated in.  I participated in very few of them.   It’s fine for other people.  It just never really sat well with me, my own personal issues.  There was one event however that I have consistently been able to do and that is “My Sister’s” Pink Pajama Party.  What makes this evening particularly special for me is the people I share it with.  My mom, is the matriarch of the group and secures us tickets every year.  I am able to attend with my fabulous sister.   Then there is my brother’s wife,  my “new” sister-in-law.   While she’s no longer “new” I have yet to figure out exactly how to describe her when I am explaining about her and Joanne.   She is one of the most gracious and kind people I know and has done so much to help us heal as a family.  Not better.  Not worse. Just different.  We are lucky enough to have her crazy, wonderful sister join us and then rounding out our unique, little, sorority is my sister’s best friend, who has been around long enough, she might as well be a sister.

Laughter is good medicine.

I feel so grateful when we get together.  We can celebrate the ones who are gone.  We can support “survivors” and we can hope for a cure.  Plus there are laughs.  Such big, belly laughs.  It’s good for the soul to laugh that much.  We have so much fun.  Who doesn’t love a theme night where you get dressed up in your pjs to go out?  Then THEY make dinner.  There is dancing and prizes and did I mention fire fighters?  Oh Yes!  There are nekked fire fighters. Well, maybe not nekkid but they dance without shirts!

This year there was a table decorating theme.  It’s amazing what you can do with a bunch of dollar store items.

Pirates Rock but cancer sucks really bad eggs.

A treasure map.

What? Pirates like pretty bows and feather, right?

Drink up me hearties, yo ho!

Of course we needed a plank! Arrgghh!

We “pillaged” other tables and stole some of their table decorations by knife point, all in good fun of course.  We even managed to nab us a fire fighter.   The table next to us was having just as much fun watching us pillage and plunder.  They decided to steal our whole centre piece… so we made them our crew!   The company was great, the evening was fun and while cancer sucks and makes me mad and I miss Joanne, I am so happy to share this special night with my “sisters”.

Oh and just  in case you thought I forgot about the firefighters…enjoy!

photo: Tina Daquano

photo: Tina Daquano

photo: Tina Daquano