Tattoo Reveal

One of the photographs that served as an original inspiration for my tattoo

The day has come…I am very proud to reveal to you all my tattoo.  This personal journey was worth the wait and more importantly, the money.  Tattooing is not a cheap gift to one’s self.  I am very thankful Justin Nordine from The Raw Canvas in Grand Junction, Colorado is only a short flight away because I absolutely love his style and know already that I will be commissioning another piece with him down the road.

When I initially provided a deposit, I had in mind a negative space tattoo which in some way incorporated ‘freedom’ written in Arabic.  I knew with my year timeframe to fruition I could hone the desired result and certainly events over the past year changed my opinion about how I saw this piece and how I saw my body.  There’s a lot to say about my experiences during OIF 2-2 and because I am no longer in the Marine Corps, I am not limited to placement or size of a tattoo to stay within regulations.  I did not know when this journey started what the finished product would look like although I did know I was finally ready to commemorate my military service.

The images I provided Justin as we got closer to my appointment included:

  • A photograph of the Euphrates River (to emphasis an important blue to include in the color work);
  • A photograph of the 1st Marine Division logo (again to emphasis an important blue);
  • A door located on Camp Blue Diamond (for the scrollwork);
  • A photograph of Peruvian lilies (the meaning of these flowers are friendship and devotion); and
  • I discussed the dual names attributed to the second assault into Fallujah (in lieu of an additional photograph).

I didn’t realize how much I was asking of Justin when I provided these images but during our phone consultation we touched base on making a new memory.  He reminded me I am commissioning a piece of art.  I had been putting so much pressure on finding the right way to speak to the complicated nature of the deployment and he reminded me quite gently that I knew what the tattoo meant and if a concrete representation was important that he might not be the artist for me.  I think his willingness to have this conversation so I was happy with the final product is very important and because his talent truly speaks for itself I made the decision the tattoo did not need to convey all these things.  This opportunity was the first time I allowed someone so much control over something I would carry with me for the rest of my life and I am happy with this adventure.

After providing additional images to Justin for review, I waited until our meeting to see his creation.  Originally, we discussed doing an upper arm piece and he crafted a sprig of black sketched lilies capped by a geometric pointillism design which pays tribute to my appreciation for Islamic architecture.  Behind the flowers, a beautiful wash of colors included green, blue, rose pink, and orange.  The orange, by far, is the color that fascinated me the most.  It was so unexpected.  Since he had layered images of the sketched flowers and the pointillism separately I was able to see how the design could be easily altered to fit my forearm which didn’t need a cap like the shoulder.

I do have a tendency to carry extra weight in my upper arms (which I never noticed until I was pregnant with my daughter!) and was a bit worried if I don’t always maintain my upper body physical fitness consistently, my tattoo might not look the way I want it to look over time.  However, my forearms always look pretty nice even if I don’t hit up the gym regularly and I was very happy to see how the flowers complimented my body structure.  He was right that by having the piece of my upper arm I could control who saw it but by having it on my forearm it is available for public display; this decision is not a light one to make depending on who you are and the industry you work in or may choose to consider for professional opportunities.  For me, I am past that stage in my life.  I wanted my tattoo to be a highly visible work of art I see and share daily with others.

My journey is unique and I am grateful for Justin’s ability to give me a beautiful way to honor that experience.





The Marine Corps’ Birthday & Veterans Day

Yesterday was, and will always be, one of my favorite days of the year.  I get to run around saying “Happy Birthday” to my Marines and future Marines, as is the case with the NROTC cadets I saw running around doing 239 laps to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday.

I brought in a cake to celebrate.



This year was also the first year I was personally given presents for my husband and I.

Pretty nice little gifts, huh?
Pretty nice little gifts, huh?

Starbucks surprised our office by coming in with some cartons of free coffee and pastries to honor our military service. Some of my work study students got in on a photo op but I slipped away so as to not be roped in. I don’t mind having my photo taken but I tend to have a lazy eye when a flash is involved and most public photo opportunities I encounter almost always involve flash photography, so I like to not be involved. I don’t like to look drunk in my photos, especially when I haven’t been drinking! (Don’t let the little bottles of booze fool you. Those are still on my counter waiting to be opened.)

I want to bring up something really important that I don’t always acknowledge and should acknowledge. I don’t entirely like freebies offered to veterans. I make some exceptions. I do enjoy, and don’t turn down, free t-shirts honoring military service. I received an ASU Salute to Service t-shirt last year and one again this year. Last year’s shirt was fairly simple, but this year’s design brought things up a notch:

The design on the back of the 2014 ASU Salute to Service t-shirt
The design on the back of the 2014 ASU Salute to Service t-shirt

I also didn’t mind that some Starbucks workers brought down some goodies to share with our office. They were polite, did their little photo op, and I was pleased to see how happy everyone was by this unexpected display of generosity. Although marketing was involved on the part of Starbucks, which is part of the critical thinking my classes’ recent discussions on public pedagogy, now is not the time or place to describe these attributes.

Coffee and baked goods courtesy of Starbucks as a thank you to veterans for their service.
Coffee and baked goods courtesy of Starbucks as a thank you to veterans for their service.

What I do not engage personally is the free dinner offers by various restaurant chains. Many of my friends and peers choose to do so, but it is not something my husband or I are comfortable with for personal reasons. He and I paid full price for our dinner last night, breakfast this morning, and a snack this afternoon. We specifically targeted restaurants that were not offering veteran deals, although we were surprised this morning by Biscuits Cafe’s menu statement.

Military discount for those who want it!
Military discount for those who want it!

My husband told me before about some Yelp reviews for Biscuits Cafe and some individuals were bothered by the fact Biscuits Cafe, which used to do a 15% discount for veterans and active duty personnel, only had a 10% discount. I am disappointed by such an entitlement attitude. Civilian businesses should not feel compelled to provide a discount to veterans; if they choose to do so, they should do so out of the generosity of their own hearts and because it aligns with their business practices and values. Maybe Biscuits Cafe came under some hard times and found it easier to reduce the benefit discount offered to veterans rather than to cut corners elsewhere. Who knows and by no means should they feel it necessary to explain their business model to myself or others.

There is a serious problem my husband and I do see with providing an equal reward to veterans for their service. It is making the assumption that all veterans are deserving of recognition for their service. Civilians may not always consider the fact some veterans leave the military because they committed heinous offenses. An easily recognized example is Lynndie England and the other soldiers in her unit who tortured prisoners at Abu Gharib. Can you imagine being the waitress having to serve that woman a free meal on Veterans Day?

If you do not know who Lynndie England is, just Google her name and check out some of the stories written about Abu Gharib.

As Veterans Day draws to a close, I want to mention that I have continued to wear dog tags as part of my social experiment. I have done so since October 3rd. No one commented on them last week, yesterday, or today. As you can see from the photos below, I wear my dog tags with any outfit in my wardrobe.

Pre-veterans day festivities (Sunday, November 9th)
Pre-veterans day festivities (Sunday, November 9th)

I was wearing an open button down with my sequined tank top earlier today, but the dog tags were still highly visible.

I was hesitant to do so today, because I was concerned people would see it as a desperate move to get some extra veteran entitlement. Oddly enough, no one asked me about them. I was another face in the crowd. The upside to the situation is my family had a great uninterrupted outing this afternoon with a coworker of mine and her husband. My husband and I also kept true to our desire to pay full price for our food purchases even though there are numerous veteran freebies being offered today.

Dreams Versus Reality

Yesterday, my ex, Ryan, posted a link on Facebook to images from a website called justWarthings.  The images are just incredibly and very thought-provoking.  The Army veteran, Casey,  who created the site takes images from justgirlythings and shows a war/service related scenario that depicts the same sentiment.

Casey’s responses to his audience’s questions is interesting as well.  Some people antagonize him for being critical of the young girls’ self-centered aspirations and a lot of materialistic goals, but he has a point.  He is entitled to his own opinion about the matter and he is very specific as to why.  I love the following statement he makes on his site:

“I think it really says something when the biggest stresses for a lot of teens is whether or not they got the right flavor starbucks and colored iPhone.”

Sometimes, I am no different than those teenagers even though I’ve served two tours in Iraq.  I get a little ticked that I order something and get the wrong thing in return.  However, it’s partially based on the fact that I am spending my money on something and I expect to get what I purchased. It’s also based on the fact that I expect others to try to do their job well.  I do try to not act this way when I order food and get the wrong meal.  Earlier this year, I was a bit mortified when the waiter at Brio took away a plate of entirely edible food because he brought over the wrong dish (and I already cut into it).  I would have gladly paid for the omelet and eaten it.  It’s important to mention, too, that on our table was an advertisement for No Kid Hungry and I know the uneaten omelet was destined for the trash.  A perfectly good omelet that I cut into and was willing to eat.

Instead of a “Just Girly” batch of dreams, I do have a Pinterest Bucket List.  I just deleted two items on this list because I needed reminding that those “goals” were unimportant.  One was to win a shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret.  The other was to regain my flat stomach.  The rest of my dreams remain here.  Please note, there is a dream on there to write a book-mentioned as a memoir.  That dream is meant as a memoir for my family and not a piece of writing for publication.  My grandma mentioned before about wanting to write her memoir.  She never accomplished that dream and our family lost a lot of details about her personal history that certainly shared the generations of our family.  I don’t want my family to miss out on the written knowledge about my history, their history, and the history of the world I lived in.

Below are some of my dreams:

Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.  I must go at least once in my lifetime.
Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I must go at least once in my lifetime.
Our world has a responsibility to never forget the horrors of WWII.
Our world has a responsibility to never forget the horrors of WWII.
Purpose and happiness are more important than a high paying income.
Purpose and happiness are more important than a high paying income.
8 years and counting.
8 years and counting.
I helped an acquaintance not too long ago with $40 to help pay for her groceries.  It's not entirely the same thing but I know she has fallen on hard times and needed someone to look out for her.
I helped an acquaintance not too long ago with $40 to help pay for her groceries. It’s not entirely the same thing but I know she has fallen on hard times and needed someone to look out for her.