Middle-aged Moms getting Tats

My tattoo is done. Jackie and I met up at Ritual Tattoo in Denver. We both had appointments with the same artist, Jake, who was covered in tattoos all the way up his neck and onto the temples and sides of his face. He had a buzzed haircut, a big beard, bright blue eyes, shriveled and droopy earlobes from the gauges that weren’t currently in place, a gold-rimmed tooth and a nose ring or two. He was kind, meticulous, a self proclaimed germaphobe and not a big fan of feet. I apologized and mentioned that I had just come from getting a pedicure.

Jackie went first. She got a variation of the Om symbol on her forearm, which she insisted read ‘breathe’ in Tibetan script. It was in memory of her mom who died of a pulmonary issue in 2015. I took photos while she got hers done. She was silent and focused with the occasional leg move, scrunched brow or request to pause, I could tell the pain was hard for her to handle. It made me more nervous than I already was. Hers was done pretty quickly – about 15 minutes and it looked great.

When my turn came I decided I would do a guided meditation while he was working on my feet. I sat up while he did the little traced imprint to make sure we got the positioning of the words right. We had to do it three times until we both agreed it was perfect. Then I lied down on the massage table with my knees bent and my feet flat, I put in my ear buds and started the 29 minute meditation titled ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ by Dakota Earth Cloud Walker. I felt the pain, I did, like someone was inserting a scalpel into my skin and making a shallow incision – but I kept returning my attention to the woman’s guiding words in the mediation, the drums beating, the rhythmic breathing in the background, the imaginary world in my head, her instructions to enter the underground world through a portal at the base of a tree, to go down and meet my spirit guide. My attention would then be pulled back to my feet where I became aware of the pain again, but I quickly directed thoughts back to her voice – where I was led to a circular fire burning large, where I walked in the directions of a compass – East, South, West, North, I thought of the existing tattoo on my pinky toe and back to the pain, and then back to the center of the fire. I was surrounded by my spirit guides, this time a pack of wolves, circling and howling, there to support me. Left foot done – wander.

He had me turn around so the LED lamp could shine on my right foot. I closed my eyes and returned to the fire. Her words instructed me to find something I wanted to let go of, something that I was holding on to that was not serving me in this life. Let it go, let it go, let it go, she had me chanting silently. The idea of body issues popped into my head. I chose to let go of my ties to this earthly body. I reminded myself that I am more than this body, this vessel that happens to be experiencing extreme pain right now. I am more than this body that society constantly makes me feel isn’t good enough. Let go of body issues, remember that I am more than that… this body will turn to ashes some day not too long from now. That’s why I feel okay with this tattoo and why I understand the desire for others to cover themselves in art as a form of expression. We are more than these bodies that we inhabit. That’s what I let go of in the fire. Then I transformed into a phoenix with wings expanded, a large bird prepared to take flight, free.

I opened my eyes and looked at Jake knowing he was getting close to being done with the second tattoo – wonder. “Are you cool with me finishing my meditation even if you’re done. It shouldn’t be too long.”

“Sure. We can just let it bleed for a while.”

I had six minutes left of the meditation so I lay back down, back into my underworld… the drumming slowed. I was led back up to the upper world, back into the studio, I heard the voices of men discussing which tattoo they wanted. The pain was gone. Completely. I felt elated.

Jake did an amazing job even getting the distressed negative space in the typeface. The tattoo was exactly how I pictured it for 9 months. I love it.

Tattoo, Travel and Photography – on my way to a lifelong art project

It has been about 9 months since I came up with this idea. I can’t remember how it came about but I do remember thinking it would be fun. I also remember thinking, getting a tattoo is kind of permanent and it might be a good idea to sit on it, think about, decide if this is something I really want to do. Someone decided having a life growing inside of you should take about nine months, so my guess is that’s a good amount of time to allow an art project to simmer. And now, it’s time to give birth! Yay, tattoo appointment is this Sunday!

Here’s the tattoo turned art project idea. Best described in photos – see below. I am going to get my wander + wonder logo tattooed on my feet. Then while I spend the next 40 or 50 years traveling around the world, I’m going to take my shoes off everywhere I go and take a picture. As a tourist, you’re going to take photos. It’s just part of your job, but sometimes while you’re doing that, you forget to sit, look deeply, observe with awe the wonder before you. I’m guilty of that. For sure. Not any more. Now, I will be forced to literally sit, get down on the earth, stop and take it all in. Hmm, just had a thought, it’s offensive in some countries to point the bottom of your feet at people – I hope that’s not the case with scenery and sculptures. Oh well, sometimes offending people for your art is inevitable.

Here are some practice photos I did in Photoshop – my feet in Mexico and in the mountains.


Here are some sketches of future photo compositions. Thanks to the sketchers on the internet from whom I borrowed their work. None of the artwork below is mine.feet_great-wallfeet_pyramidsfeet_statue-of-libertyfeet_taj-mahal

As an aside. I do already have one tattoo that I got on my pinky toe when I was seventeen. It’s a compass/north star which was supposed to represent direction (and travel) as I fledged the nest and flew out into the world.

I love how now, it will act as sort of an asterisk for the words wander + wonder and how together they speak to the way I want to live my life. I want to constantly be wandering, traveling, exploring, and wondering with infinite curiosity about the world, but I also want do so with a sense of direction. Sometimes I find it in myself, other times I am looking for guidance from a higher source — usually that higher source is speaking through me, I just have to be listening. It’s funny how I write as if this all some kind of desire, because really it’s not how I wish to live my life, it actually IS how I live my life. That is something to be proud of. Maybe the permanence of a tattoo will remind me of that.




Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Sophie

Dear Sophie,

Happy Valentine’s Day! I know that it makes you shy and makes you all squiggly and squirmy when I read you these love letters, but I am so excited to do it, because I can’t wait to tell you how much I love you and all the things I love best about you.

I love that you are someone who wants to always do what was is right. You are very conscientious and I can always tell that you want to do the right thing and be kind to others. It makes you feel bad to not follow the rules or to be mean to other people. I love being able to trust that you are good person at heart.

Of course, I love what a good student you are. You are so smart and love to learn. You read books that are way above your grade level and do great on your report card every time. I am so proud of you for doing so well on your erosion project, for learning to work as a team on the project even if you had disagreements at times, for presenting to the principal, Mrs. Hollman, and I love that if all goes well, you will actually get to see your terrace idea come to life!

I love that you are a leader. You are not afraid to take charge and you take others’ opinions into consideration and think about their feelings and make others feel included. Leadership isn’t about trying to convince a group that your idea is the best, but instead it’s about taking everyone’s ideas and building something even better than the idea that you came up with. It’s about listening and being the person who makes everyone feel like they played an important part in the success of the project or the team. Leadership is about celebrating your team, not about being the boss. I think you probably learned some of this while doing your erosion project but I also saw you practicing some of these ideas while you were writing the scripts for your class plays and seeing how you wanted everyone to have a part. I love that you are a great leader now and that you will be in the future. It’s just in your nature.

I love how you have found something that you are so, so passionate about – theater, drama, plays, acting, play writing and monologues. Your birthday party was so much fun because you got to see what it’s like to be a great actor as a grown-up. And you got to share that with your friends. I’m so excited for these unexpected private lessons that you get with Taylor at the rec center. Although I know you would have so much fun if it were a big class, I think he’s teaching you a lot about auditioning and hopefully this will help you get the part you want in theater camp this summer. Also, I’m excited to see you be the narrator for the little kids’ play in the spring recital.

I love how much you love learning piano. I love the motivational signs that you made around the house that say “Play the Piano, No Electronics” – that is a very creative way to remind yourself that practicing will make you better and better and soon you’ll be writing your own songs.

I love the special moments we have together like early mornings in the big red chair, evenings reading in your room while the bunny hops around doing binkies (I also love that you clean his cage) and I especially loved our recent microadventure sleeping outside with our sleeping bags in January. I can’t wait to do more of those with you!

You are a wonderful girl and I love you so, so much!


Valentine’s Day Love Letter to Lucy

I started a tradition a few years ago of writing love letters to my daughters on Valentine’s Day. I read the letters to my girls and they love it. I thought, now that I have a blog, it would be fun to share them here. Being a mom is so hard at times, but it is also the most gratifying thing in the world, especially when you stop to recognize how grateful you are for your children.
• • • • • • • • • •
Dear Lucy,

You are so, so, so excited about Valentine’s Day. I know it’s because you are having a party at school where you’ll have fun with your friends, exchange the beautiful handmade cards that you made, make ice cream, and eat candy. I’m excited about Valentine’s Day because I get to write this letter to you. I get to tell you all the things I love about you.

I love when in the middle of the day, for no reason, you just blurt out “I love you Mommy!” and come running over to give me a great big hug, you smile up at me and give me a kiss. I love how full of love you are. And I love your smile especially with those two front teeth missing. It reminds me that you are not going to be little forever and that I need to enjoy every moment with you because soon you will be a grown-up and you’ll be smiling down at your own children.

I love your love for art. I love when you want me to make art with you and then you get upset when I want to draw on my iPad. You want us to use crayons and paper, scissors and glue – you want us to get messy together. We don’t do that enough and I would like to do that with you more. I love that you can teach me what real art is all about.

I love how smart you are and that you love to learn. I can see what a good reader you are when you read me stories at night and you make math look easy when I watch you do your homework. Mrs. Kirlin tells us that you are a great student and that you work well with others. I love that you are kind to your friends and classmates. And I especially love watching you give hugs to all the teachers standing outside the school in the morning. You are a lover and I love that.

I love watching you play soccer and really running after that ball. Also seeing you play well as part of a team. You try so hard when you’re the goalie. I love my little soccer player. You’re great at playing games in general, not only on your iPad but when we played Settlers of Catan as a family for the first time, you won!

Lastly, I love your laugh. I love how silly you are and how you don’t take life too seriously. I love how when I am feeling grumpy you can make a funny face and make me smile.

I love you so, so much Lucy!

When you’re not prepared to give a speech and you cry while doing it.

I wasn’t crying because I was scared or nervous. I was crying because I was truly moved. Did I really deserve all this attention? All this validation? Less than 2 months ago I made the decision that it was time to share my art with the world beginning by submitting four pieces to the Brookfield Arts Tenant Show in the Republic Plaza building in downtown Denver. Imagine my shock when I saw all four maps hanging front and center as you enter the building from 16th Street Mall (see photos to understand why I was so excited). Just that was enough recognition to last me a lifetime – hundreds if not thousands of people walk through that lobby every day! Winning ‘Best of Show’ was just gravy.


At the opening reception 15 of my friends and family came to see my art, to see all the other wonderful submissions and ultimately to support me. We rolled in from an earlier after-work-happy-hour just in time for the start of the awards ceremony. We stood through numerous categories and ribbon presentations, honestly, ready for it to be over soon after it started. I admit that I leaned over and told a friend “this is going to be really embarrassing if I don’t win anything” — it wasn’t the most thrilling awards ceremony and I felt guilty that all my friends were having to sit through it, especially since all the free wine and food had run out. Until, of course, I won! And had to give a speech – eek!


Andra Archer, the curator, had these kind words to say before handing me the microphone, “Creating a series of art that features the same subject while still having each piece stand alone in its uniqueness is the work of a true artist.” She said so much more but it’s all a blur. That statement stood out to me because she had just put to rest my biggest insecurity about my art. “I just make world maps,” my inner critic would say, “what’s so creative about that?” I LOVE making world maps. All I want to do is make world maps. So F-U, inner critic! Andra says that’s the work of a true artist! Seriously, though it was that statement that made me cry. Unfortunately, an artist putting her work out there for the first time, needs that encouragement and validation. At least just a little to keep on going.

“We all want to know what gave you the idea to make these maps?” Andra asked.

[Note: You are about to read the speech I did NOT give. Because I wasn’t prepared to give a speech so instead I cried and rambled on. If I had been prepared, maybe it would have sounded a little bit like this]:

I came up with the idea 12 years ago after I moved to Denver from Australia, soon after having met my husband on a plane. I was a traveler in my 20s and a student. I spent a decade traveling around the world, being ‘irresponsible’ in the eyes of the people back home. When I arrived in Denver, I moved in with Scott, I got my first 9-5 job as a web designer and became very ‘responsible’. I also experienced boredom for the first time – both at work and after work. In the past, as a student I always had a project I was procrastinating on; as a traveler my days were filled with exploring new cities, meeting people, speaking foreign languages, tasting new foods. It felt like I had never before experienced a moment of boredom.

In this new life, I didn’t know what to do with myself when I got home from work every evening. My only options seemed to be going to a restaurant where I would inevitably eat and drink too much or else just sit and watch tv. I could exercise but I was too tired at the end of the day. I was coming to terms with the fact that it was going to be a while before I would travel again. Scott had just returned from a trip around the world when I met him and we were doing a lot of serious talk about marriage and children. It was time to settle down. But what about this boredom I was faced with; what about feeling that I had to stay true to myself, the vagabond who was now homebound? I was worried and Scott probably was too. I had an ex-boyfriend in Italy that told me, while breaking up, that “even if you were chained to the ground, still you would find a way to fly.” It sounds more poetic in Italian. He knew me so well. Maybe I just couldn’t take this new stable life and I’d wake up one day, pack my bags, and walk out the door saying “Sayonara, Scott.” Or “Adios, au revoir, ciao! I’m off to see the world, again.”

That’s when the idea of making art came to me. World maps to be specific. Studying art in college had turned me off from it, but that was because I was making art for other people – as assignments to impress and appease my feminist/gotta-be-controversial art school professors. Then, I was making art for all the wrong reasons. Now, I was truly inspired. I felt this need to create, not just to fill time, but because it was a way for me to fly while simultaneously choosing to settle and stay grounded (or in my ex-boyfriend’s words “chained to the ground”).

I suddenly saw this time at the end of the day as a gift. I could use it to make art. Making world maps would keep me connected to the rest of the world in some weird way, remind me of past travels and allow me to dream of places yet to visit. It would give me strict parameters which as an artist I needed. The empty canvas was way too intimidating. The fear of endless possibilities was paralyzing to me. But, I knew I was making world maps and that had meaning to me. Where my creativity could let loose was with what I chose to fill those world maps – old favorites like collages and doodles, new materials I had never worked with like burlap and rose petals. Travel taught me to have courage, to be continuously curious, to explore and to be open minded. Creating art allowed me to continue down that path and it let me do it in one place – actually, it required that I do it in one place because these maps are huge! Suddenly, settling down didn’t feel so scary.

So, put simply I started making these maps twelves years ago to satisfy the adventurer in me and to feel 100% confident saying yes when Scott asked me to marry him (on a plane, by the way). This is my first time exhibiting my art in 12 years! I’ve given some maps away to friends, done a few commissioned pieces but mostly they’ve just sat flat, piled atop one another, under my bed. The fact is that putting your art out there, putting yourself out there, is super scary. Honestly, I’m not sure what takes more courage committing to one person for the rest of your life or showing your art! That’s why I’m standing here in tears. Not because I’m scared, but because I am moved by Andra’s kind words reassuring me as an artist; I am overwhelmed by the love I feel from all the people who are here to support me tonight, including my husband; and I am truly honored to be presented with this award. Thank you.