Adventures at the Tattoo Parlor

So Mo came to town last night– the reasons were manyfold– Mr. Mo is running in a big local race this Sunday, she wanted to hang out with me (hooray!) and also, her favorite tattoo artist, who is booked out for six months at a time, offers a first-come first-serve line the last Saturday of the month. Guess where she was early this morning? She was out the door early, and was second in line, and waiting through a hailstorm to keep her spot.

Having never been in a tattoo place before, after lunch, when her spot came up, Mr. Mo took the kids for me and I headed down to check it out. Ages ago, back when motorcyclces and bad boys were regular parts of my life (have I told you about those days?) it was suggested that I become a tattoo artist. I have drawn lots of tattoos for other people to take their skin artist of choice, but I’ve myself have never actually gone under the needle, and never seen anyone else do so either. I was excited to see a process I didn’t know much anything about and see what all went into it.

First, the tattoo parlor in and of itself is an experience that might make some with delicate constitutions blanche. This place has a fantastic reputation, and the artist working on Mo is well known on the west coast as being top notch. But it’s still a tattoo parlor, and genteel leaves when you open the door. They swear like drunk sailors, it is not the domain of women, Reservoir Dogs was on the TV providing more swearing, and the guys make off-color raucous jokes. There is a motorcycle bar next door and rows of Harley Davidson motorcycles line the street. (saw an FLH, the same bike I rode to Sturgis)

I know better than to think much of the rough exterior though- within minutes of sitting down, it was clear these guys were not only nice and very friendly, but that they knew their stuff, and we quickly fell into talking about geekdom, Star Trek, Firefly, comics, and BSG.

Mo was getting her favorite icon put on her bicep, and the artist was very open to showing me what he did as he moved through the process. He even invited me to his side of the table where I could see better, saying he never minded boobs near his ear- but he said it with a smile and a laugh. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it. The wall is covered in awards and licenses and accolades for this guy’s work, as well as photos of his family and drawing by his children.

I got to watch as he prepped all the needles and ink, and got his supplies together. He transfered the artwork to Mo’s arm with a special transfer paper, just a simple outline that belies the detail that will be added later.

And then he got to work. Even the very thin solid lines that he lays down to start with are actually a cluster of seven needles- which was a surprise to me. There was very little bleeding, which was also a surprise to me- and Mo said it feels like being burned. It was fascinating. The fine needles vibrate incredibly fast to puncture the skin and deposit the ink sub-dermally.

Once the outline is fleshed out (ha! see what I did there?) he swaps the gun out for a different set of needles- this time an array of eleven fine needles that are not clustered tightly like the liner, but spread out so the artist can begin to shade. It’s akin to stippling, creating fine dots of pigment in order to shade. It was really cool to watch the process- he controlled the intensity with pressure, tension on the skin and minute dilution of the inks. He was very patient with my questions and letting me get in close to watch.

After about 3 hours, this was the result:

Rosie the Riveter on Mo’s arm.  From a rough outline, to an incredibly detailed and nuanced tattoo. And I have a new experience to add to my cache. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and while I may not be lining up to get myself inked any time soon, it was interesting to consider different expressions of art and creativity. Broadening of ones horizons is never a bad thing. Got any ink?

p.s. Mo wants me to tell you all that she was very brave and didn’t get all girly and cry or anything, even though it freaking hurt.


I know I’ve dropped off the face of the earth, but I’m still clinging tentatively to the force of gravity and holding fast. Two huge papers, Easter, Abby’s birthday, life and trying to catch up on everything else from being gone have got me chasing my tail. Also, Bean cut all the bristles off of my paintbrushes. I cried for hours. More later… I’ll be back any second, I promise…

Happy Birthday Abby 5.0

My dearest Abigail,

Five years ago today you entered the world, amid cheers and rejoicing from far and wide. From the beginning, everything about you was different than your brothers. You entered the world peacefully, quickly, and calmly. Your spirit was a welcome gift after the chaos of your siblings, and you gave the gift of yourself to us. There were storms lying before us that we could not yet see, but your peaceful, joyful countenance was already a ballast to your family. We rejoiced in you, our little pink surprise.

Your journey from a tiny little hope deep inside me, to the vibrant, brilliant, spunky girl you are today has been a joy and  wonder to behold. Hundreds of people anticipated your birth; you are my only child who’s entire life is documented here in writing. I hope someday this is a treasure to you, but it might just as likely be an indulgence at which you roll your eyes at your crazy mama. Either way, it stands as a record of everything, from the faint pink line on the pregnancy test, through to today, when you woke me before dawn and proudly proclaimed that today was the long-awaited day and you were ready for some cake.

Today, you constantly amaze me with your talents and your intellect. I find your artwork all over the house, and scraps of paper with pieces of writing that no four-year-old should have been able to produce. Your curious but gentle mind makes friends with everyone and seeks the best in others, and having the brothers you do, while surely not easy, has helped you learn patience, compassion and how to fight for your rights, when justice needs be served. You make me proud.

I adore your sense of adventure, and that you are just as comfortable in your Darth Vader outfit as you are in a pink fluffy tutu- which was your choice this morning. The rainbow cake has been baked, the presents are waiting, the banners are strung, and you are busy coloring, awaiting the brother’s return home so we can celebrate together.

I am eternally grateful that your kind, creative, spunky and headstrong spirit came to be my daughter. The sun shines brighter because of you, my sweet girl. Each day I learn from watching you, and hope that I am up to the task of being your mama.

Mama loves you. More than you will ever know.

Barely Balancing Beautiful

When the plane touched down, I felt fine. On the flight from Missouri, I had been seated next to a retired Army Colonel who entertained me the entire flight with a lively discussion of politics, psychology and his opinions of Mormons. After allowing him to wax poetic at length with all sorts of a misinformation about us, I took great delight in finally telling him that he was sitting next to one of them. More lively discussion followed on how I was “too smart to be a Mormon”, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching his paradigm shift as he processed that the intelligent woman he’d been talking to for three hours was, in fact, one of Them.

It was the perfect cap to a stimulating and fun cluster of days spent with people I consider really freaking smart and interesting, and it still floors me that they invite me to be a part of these discussions. Last week, when I flew into Missouri, I had a great opening day with MichelleAM and her delightful husband Ray. Then, later that night, when they headed back across the state, I met up with some of my favorite people on the planet- gathered to Zion from as far as Boston, Arizona, Michigan, Wyoming, Kansas, Canada and Salt Lake City. These are friends who I regularly commune with via email and blogs, but whom I see perhaps once or twice a year- and it was a happy gathering.

My friends: John, Mark, Brad, Me, Kristine and Russell

We headed to barbecue more than once (Independence is, after all, a suburb of Kansas City, and when in KC… well, you best be eating some barbecue) an Gates’ burnt ends kicks the trash out of Jack Stacks burnt ends. Ditto the brisket. Do be prepared to be yelled at as soon as you enter Gates, if you ever go- when you open the front door, the counter woman screams at you to tell her what you want, and you’d better know. To be safe, just yell BURNT ENDS! and trust in God. You won’t be sorry.

Over the weekend, we had our panel presentation with the John Whitmer Historical Society and the Restoration Studies Symposium, and feedback tells me it went very well. I was so proud to stand with the intelligent, faithful and thoughtful people that made up the panel- and it still astounds me that I get to be friends and colleagues with such amazing people.

After spending some time sightseeing and exploring (and experiencing midwestern spring weather) it was time to head home and rejoin real life. These little trips away fill me up and help me remember who I am aside from the frazzled single mama and full-time student. Half the time, I feel like I’m barely managing to meet the unending needs in my regular life, and this- creating a presentation, crafting an essay, speaking to an audience- is something I can do, and do well. I love to travel, I love to write; I get tremendous satisfaction from these trips.

Re-entry to regular life is always a tiny bit bumpy, but almost never a big deal. Just have to pull up my big-girl pants and get back to work. So I got off the plane and wished my seat companion the best, and headed outside to meet my ride. Coming from the midwest, where blossoms bedecked the trees and lush green pervaded the landscape, I was shocked at the cold sleet that stung my face and arms outside passenger pickup. Sharp intake of breath and trying to shrug on my previously unneeded coat, and I spotted my ride. Tossing my bags in the backseat, I sank into the heated leather of the front, and began to shiver- and that was the beginning of an ugly, painful slide…

The woman who picked me up is a relative of my X, and one of the kindest women I’ve ever known. She and her husband are all I have of family here in the northwest, and they love me and my kids. She is also an RN. She enthusiastically inquired about my trip, but I was beginning to shiver violently, and my breath was catching in my throat. My plane landed near 1:00, and by 2:00 I had carpool with 8 kids, X and his mother would be over for visitation an hour later, I had school that night, a paper due, and it all came crashing down onto me the reins I had to pick up, and pick up NOW.

Never in my life have I felt so overwhelmed as I did in that moment. I was coming from an intellectual and personal high, and crashing back into my very difficult life in a shivering fireball. I landed in a city I don’t want to live in anymore, where memories of a life that is no longer mine torment me everywhere I look, to come back to mountain after mountain that I must (must!) climb- and other than wanting to wrap my arms around my kids and take them with me, I wanted nothing more than to run. Get out. Leave. It was panic.

My hands were shaking- my whole body was shaking- and tears were running down my face in uncontrollable torrents. What the hell was going on? My friend wisely laid her hand on my trembling knee, and told me I was okay, that it was just panic, and that I needed to simply try and calmly breathe. Gradually, on the drive home, the trembling stopped and I regained control of myself.

Back in Little House, I had about 20 minutes to gather myself together and head out to pick up and deposit scads of children, three of which were my own. I threw my bags on the bed and looked around. The panic was gone. There are things I don’t like about where I am, there are things I cannot wait to change, and trusting the process is so incredibly hard sometimes. I feel like I’ve been waiting for years for things to be something other than “survival mode” and maybe things already are better- it’s difficult to tell in myopia of my own situation.

I’m ready for some sunshine- literally and figuratively. I know I can do this- that I must do this, and that I will conquer this mountain. And even the next one and next one to come… I just want to set myself down by the river every once in a while, take off my shoes and let the sunlight warm my face. Chat with some friends, write a bit, eat some barbecue, and maybe lay in the grass looking up at the blue spring sky through a bower of blossoms. It’s coming…I have faith… it’s just hard to remember when the sky is still gray and there is sleet on my window.

Bean’s Mad Haircutting Skillz

So, apparently, Bean does not like bangs. What you are seeing above is not Abby’s cute little bob brushed to the side. Oh no, my friends- the lack of bangs is really an utter lack of bangs. Yes, she was in need of a trim, and in fact I had scheduled one for when I returned from Missouri (more on that later) but Bean simply could not wait, and became so annoyed by her hair in her eyes that he took the scissors to her himself. Those bangs are now about 1/4″ long, and any other random hair locks he felt were out of place were also hacked. This picture was taken after (yes after!) the hairdresser had already “fixed” Bean’s improvements.

When I asked him why he did it, he shrugged and said her hair looked bad and he wanted to fix it. When I asked her what she thought, she said “Mom, Bean did a good job, I like my haircut.” Well then. There it is. Far be it from this mama to say otherwise.

Independence & Liberty

Ray and MichelleAM picked me up at the Kansas City airport yesterday morning and took me on a fun tour of church history sites in the Zion/Jackson County area. Get your handcarts ready people! I can now claim the honor of being the first blogger Ray and Michelle have met in-real-life, and I’ll leave the verdict of their opinions to them- but I had a great time.

We’re building a new temple in Kansas City, and after Liberty Jail, we drove by the site, and I was quite impressed.

More to come later.

Heading for Independence

My room is littered with baskets of clean laundry waiting to be folded, and my suitcase is on the bed. Travel always makes me happy, and I have the privilege of heading to the airport and flying to Independence, Missouri this weekend. Anyone in the midwest (vast swath, I realized) near the Kansas City area, feel free to stop into the Restoration Studies Symposium being held in Independence- and make sure to say hello.

If you’re into Mormon-y history stuff, the Independence area is full of good stuff, and I plan on taking in a few sights and hanging with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time as well. There are even rumors of taking in a Royals game. Should I take my Giants cap?

Hope to see some of you there!

A Peek at the Mess: Not a Design Blog

Can’t you just see this door hanging from the conveyors in Monsters, Inc? This is a door to an alternate reality, one that I’ve given up fighting, and am just resigning myself to as a reality. As a matter of fact, I took a look around my house, and just threw my hands up in resignation to the whole fruitless struggle. My kids are busy, messy and very creative. I was too. Oh heck, I AM still- my own creative messes take over the house somtimes, so how can I come down on the kids for doing what they see mama do? So I took some shots around the house. There is exactly one room in my house that’s clean and neat- and even that one has plastic Easter stickers on the window. What’s your house look like? (and I honestly don’t know how mamas have well-designed interiors when they have little kids around… I just don’t get it. I envy. But I don’t get it.)

Here’s what lies beyond that Monster’s Inc. door:

The boys’ beds and accumulated artwork on the walls.

Abby’s creative process in full force:

Abby’s drawings this morning, a bumblebee cat, a dog with a crown, and the solar system:

My one clean room:

Random Crap: Spring Break is OVER!

I don’t think I could have shoved the boys out the door with less ceremony than I did this morning. Oh, I love them, they know that, but after nine solid days together, it was time for them to be out of my sight (and audible detection range) for an entire day. Have a good day mama loves you here’s your snack don’t forget your backpack muah SLAM! Aaaaand exhale now…

It’s so beautifully quiet here with just me and Abby. She’s coloring quietly at the table, bringing me drawings (that frankly amaze me- girls got some skills- I’ll show you soon) and singing to herself. She’s got a countdown calender to her birthday, which is precisely two weeks from precisely right now. Five years. Can you believe it?

What IS IT about kids wanting to be naked? I’m so tired of trying to make people keep their clothes on. I’m about to give up.

My weekend with Mo was awesome. I could make her all squirmy and talk about how awesome our friendship is, and how most people only get one or two friends like this in their lives, and how we both lucked out. I could tell you how she painted my nails again, and how we stayed up until after 2 a.m. talking and watching Dr Horrible while the fire popped in the background. I could. But if you follow my twitter feed, you know that all already.

Who knew you could buy a whole bag of just black jelly beans?? Not me, but it makes my world happy. Also, Bean likes them- because while he claimed not to know who opened the bag, his black dye-stained evil-zombie lips and gums betrayed his ridiculous lies.

Mo and I are absurdly boisterous and goofy every time we get in Trader Joes. I have no idea why, but we have entirely too much fun marauding the aisles of that market, and always leave with a bad case of the giggles and an overflowing cart. Bawdy jokes may or may not have been mumbled in the produce section, and laughing until crying is pretty much gonna be the rule of the day.

Taking six kids, two of whom have ASD, to a crowded Pacific Science Center, is a bad idea. Just in case you were keeping track.

I’m speaking at a conference in Independence, Missouri this coming weekend. Any midwesterners who wanna come say hi, please do. Here’s some information. I already know I’m going to get to finally meet Michelle AM and her husband Ray- couldn’t be more excited about that!

I have three days to catch up on my homework and fine-tune (and my fine-tune, I mean actually pull it out of my brain and commit it to an outline and written form) my presentation. It’s how I roll.

I’m loving my classes this quarter. Really interesting stuff as you get up into the higher classes- much less busy-work, and a lot more real thinking and writing. Sure, it’s harder, but isn’t that why I’m doing this? Well… I guess that depends on when you ask me- for today, yeah, we can roll with that. I really can’t wait to wrap this undergrad and dive into my grad program full time.

I love Seattle.

Getting my hair cut today. Going for some long layers and sideswept bangs. I’m scared- I usually hate bangs on me, but I want some texture around my face. It’s just plain… long… right now. Need some shape and fun for spring. Oh, it’ll still be long- I look like a gremlin with short hair and would never do that, but I could stand to lose a few inches- it’s brushing the small of my back. Also, gonna throw in a few bold platinum swaths just for fun. Haircolor never scares me… scissors, on the other hand, make me hyperventilate. Wish me luck!