Ink on a pin, underneath the skin

I’ve wanted to do it for years. Ever since, aged 21, I was in Poland with a group of other people my age, most of whom had beautiful tattoos.

I hadn’t realised that they could be beautiful.

With the upbringing I had, tattoos were not something encouraged. Not tattoos, not tarot, nothing alternative, nothing new age. No, no, no. Not OK. Red! Do. Not. Enter.  The people with unusual hair colours and ink and piercings were weird. They were dangerous. They wore leather. Probably they were going to attack. I remember my heart would flutter in terror when I saw them, how I would retreat into myself, try not to draw attention (as with so very many other people.)

It took me a long time to realise that I wanted to be one of them. That the ink, the colours, are who I am, too.

My first step into this world involved a magic symbol. Magnet magic, to attract the best things for our dreams. A bunch of us realised we wanted it in our skin, each tattoo with our own unique spin on it.

I talked to a friend who has gone under the needle several times. He recommended someone. I found the studio- not too hard to get to, it turned out. Went in, consulted about the design.

On Tuesday, the day of the New Moon (in NZ anyway, a good day to start something new and magical), I sat on the steps of the parlour, talking myself into and out of going through with it many times while my tattooist rushed back from Waiheke Island having missed the ferry. I nearly left when it was 10 minutes after we were supposed to start and he still wasn’t there.

“Hang around the area” said my Best Beloved, who was going to be in the town centre and who I had planned to meet with for mid-shift kisses. “Give him a chance to show up.”

He did. I sat watching him get everything ready, the ink, the carefully sealed fresh needles, the clingfilm, the machine. Talking myself into and out of it again, and back into it. We fussed over placement- I spoke my mind. It was good for me.

Let me tell you, outlining hurts like a motherf***er. Not as bad as the time I had to have local anaesthetic injected into my arm, but still- such pain. Very ouch. “The outline always hurts more than the shading”, my artist told me as I took deep breaths occasionally punctuated with “ow, ow, ow!”. Strange, since outlining uses a single needle where shading uses three. But it was true. The shading was less painful.

Soon there it was in my skin, the magnet magic, the purple swirls (Cadbury purple, my favourite). Then clingwrap over it, and a paper towel, and making sure I got home before the hour was up so I could clean off the blood with lukewarm water and soapless cleanser (he said it didn’t have to be soapfree, but I was glad it was- less stinging).

Now I’m pinning ideas for two half-sleeves, lots of them. I was warned that it’s addictive. They were right. I’m glad, though, that I started small. And magical.

 

Links of Joy: In which Ellen likes many pretty things and cannot buy them all

I have a confession to make. I spend much longer looking at clothes on the internet than I probably should, given my desire to declutter. But I can’t resist! Just because I ogle them doesn’t mean I’m going to buy them all…Anyway, sometimes I like to talk about it. So I am.

Until the convention just gone I had a good excuse for eyeing up pretty dresses in the form of costuming Miss Piggy (who is a bombshell through and through) (I ended up scoring the Erin dress in Berry from Trade Me, though if I had insane money and could spend whatever I wanted on LARP costumes with no consequences in the form of, say, eating ramen noodles and only ramen noodles for the rest of my life, I would have got this pink lame confection.

This week, my friend Kara and I have been chatting online a fair bit and exchanging links to online pretties.  So without further ado, a few favourites.

Can we talk about this dress with fairytale castles on it? One could accessorise, if one was so inclined, with this sky blue aeroplane bag. But lets face it, I am ALL ABOUT this retro My Little Pony bag

I did actually buy this one- the Luscious dress with Neverland pirate skulls. Because pirates. And I love the colour. It was my treat to myself with my first paycheque on the new job. Yes, there will be photos when it arrives. Sadly it was out of stock in my size at Pinup Girl, but a Google search led me to…

Sourpuss Clothing. Who have, for example, this dress covered in krakens (KRAKENS)- which sadly is a halter top. It’s a style I love to look at but can’t wear. Halter necks drive me to distraction. Also this pirate dress (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. PIRATES.)

One day, I will get myself some jewellery from Jubly Umph. Though I would actually be tempted to get this All-Seeing Owl as a tattoo- and I wouldn’t be the first person to get a Jubly Umph design in ink. 

Finally, there’s Black Milk clothing and their interesting Disney collection. An Evil Queen from Snow White bomber jacket? Yes please. Sadly but unsurprisingly, the Ursula from the Little Mermaid one is sold out. 

What about you? Have you found pretties that you long to have in your wardrobe? Show me in the comments!

My Arcana Courts 4/4: Pentacles

Well, I’m less tired than I was last week and mostly recovered from the post-convention cold, so I guess that must mean it’s time to talk about pentacles! (This is one of those ‘if it’s Wisconsin, it must be Tuesday’ type bits of logic that only make sense when you’re on medication). 

Pentacles, as I understand it, are about abundance- financial and otherwise. They often relate to your career, money, that sort of thing. But I think abundance goes deeper than that- it’s not always just about money, it’s about generosity, the gifts you share with the world, because your ‘living’ is a bit broader than just the money going into your bank account. They’re the ‘earth’ suit (apparently).

Anyway.

My Page/Princess of Pentacles is the same as my Knight of Swords- Sophie. She was the one who first suggested to me that I could be good at web content, and put me in touch with the person who gave me my first web content job. Without that I’d still be floundering, and I’m still grateful today for that first move.

My Knight of Pentacles is an old work colleague, Keith, who when I started in my first web content job recommended a bunch of reading to me- allowing me to take action to develop the skills to get really badass at the job. I’ll always be grateful for that.

My Queen of Pentacles is currently Veronica Varlow, who’s been encouraging us to share our gifts with the world, to give back. I’m still finding my feet in Auckland but looking for ways I can start doing that. Talents aren’t meant just for you. They’re how you step out into the world. 

And finally, the King of Pentacles. It’s my Best Beloved. How do I know this? Because when my questions are about my relationship, or when he’s on my mind, the King of Pentacles is what I always pull. In my deck’s descriptions, the King represents “a steadfast man who will help you reach your goals” (of prosperity, abundance and success). Steadfast can seem a bit plodding, but not with the Best Beloved. He always has my back, and I trust him absolutely. That’s a first for me, and something I am incredibly thankful for. 

The little things:

Lemsip, sleep, fun with friends, Cthulhu Fluxx (Secret Cultist ftw!), music, lace knitting, baby Groot, new tattoo excitement (I get my first one tomorrow!), working out a better route to work, Sourpuss clothing (for having the dress I wanted to buy with my first paycheck at the new job in stock in my size), vegetarian and vegan cooking, huge hot bowls of don buri, the local dollar store’s candle selection, quiet time, warm snuggles and the being looked after when sick (it’s been a while), crazy pet names, Pinterest, yarn, tea. 

How about you? What are you thankful for this week?

On compliments: A simple way to boost your self-esteem.

It’s all thanks to Reese Witherspoon. 

I can’t remember how many years it was ago now, but I remember reading an interview with her in which she said that when people compliment her she always simply says “thank you”.

Think about it. When people pay you a compliment what do you say? 

Do you thank them? Or do you come out with something like “what, this? Oh, but it’s really cheap/I just threw it on/I’m not sure about it… and anyway yours is much nicer/it’s all thanks to my hairdresser…”

What are you really saying to them? Do you mean that their compliment isn’t worth that much? That you don’t deserve it? 

Next time someone gives you a compliment, try simply saying ‘thank you’. If you feel the need to embellish, how about “I got it at this great shop…” or “I like your __________ too”. Or just SMILE and say thank you. Notice how different it feels. How much better. 

You’re not downplaying yourself. You’re not downplaying them. You’re taking the kindness they’ve sent your way and sending some of your own back to them. 

Simple, no?

(And when you’ve practiced that one, try this- say something when someone says, does, looks or wears something good. Don’t just think it, let them know. You may well make their day.)

Links of Groot…um…joy [SPOILERS]

My Best Beloved posted this video from the end of the movie on my wall today, and it reminded me of just how much I loved ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. 

Obviously, when I watched that at the movies, I walked out saying that this needed to be a piece of merchandise. If someone makes one for me I’ll be quite pathetically happy and grateful, and will place it somewhere prominent and make people watch it. Just saying. Here’s a Vine of said piece of merchandise in action. It’s hypnotic. 

You can also translate any webpage into Grootspeak with this handy-dandy Grootify button. After all, Cornify isn’t for everyone. 

I’ll leave you with the movie soundtrack on Grooveshark, which I am totally unable to stop listening to for some reason. 

Dance battle, dude. Me and you.

Tired-but-happy Tuesday

Sorry folks but you’ll have to wait until next week for the Suit of Pentacles. I was at a convention all weekend, including running two games, and I am still wiped out. It was a resounding success (well done to my dear friend Anna), something I suspected when my one-card pull for the weekend was the Three of Staves/Wands- successful cumulation of enterprises.

Anyway, so tired. So I’ll keep this short and sweet and grateful:

Things I’m thankful for right now: the Best Beloved (who took very good care of me this weekend) tea, a warm bed, early nights, newbies having a good time in my games, laughing with friends, enthusiasm, healing, moving forward, the borrowing of a deliciously warm and snuggly fleece-lined cloak from my best beloved, shenanigans with my friends, meeting new people, Pin Up Girl’s Erin dress, snuggling, shoulder/neck/head rubs, spontaneous Bohemian Rhapsody, loom band bracelets, the Parlour, SARK, recharged Kindle with new Francesca Lia Block goodness, friendly bus drivers, the Post-Punk Kitchen, having limbo music stuck in my head, big strong men cringing away from me because I had an open tub of glitter, knitting, taking a round off to set up for a game and more importantly nap, paneer makhani at the end of a long weekend, getting portrait photos with my man, seeing people play roles I’d written and it being just how I’d imagined, and delicious sleeeeeeep. 

And finally, a snapshot of what one of my flatmates is like:

*Flatmate W runs up behind me.*

“Ellen! Ellen! Ellen!”

*I turn around from where I have been walking with the Best Beloved.*

“Yes?”

“[Best Beloved] was looking for you.” *grins*

“You, sir, are a helper!”

The Dark Mark (in which Ellen finds she has more to say)

Sometimes it’s there for a reason.

Sometimes it just appears.

You didn’t choose it, but there it is. One day, you’re minding your own business when you notice the pain. Sometimes you don’t even notice the pain. Either way you look down at your forearm and there it is. 

The Dark Mark.

You’ve heard stories about it, of course. Maybe someone in your family had it. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe they survived. Maybe they didn’t. Either way, you have it now.

The Dark Mark.

Maybe you try to ignore it. Maybe you try to think your way out of it. Maybe you hide it, hoping it’ll go away all by itself. Maybe if you don’t press at it, it won’t show. Only you will know it’s there. 

None of these things will get rid of the Mark. You’ll keep looking at your forearm and there it’ll still be, even though others can’t see it. 

The sensible ones are the ones who talk about it. Who pull back their sleeve, push against their flesh, bring it into the light for others to see. Maybe they ask around online. Maybe they talk to friends or family. You know, the ones who had the Dark Mark. If they survived it. Maybe they go to the doctor and talk to them about it. 

And they find that they’re not alone. That they never were. When one person reveals their Mark, others start revealing theirs. The survivors, or the ones who are still trying to get rid of the Mark. Or the ones who know that it’s there to stay, who are living with it and doing their best to keep it at bay.

Maybe after some time, the Dark Mark fades. If you’re lucky. If you put the work in. But the thing about it is, it’s been there. That potential is always there. It could come back at any time. 

I’m sure by now you know what I’m talking about. 

I have depression. It’s fading. It’s taken over a year. When it first showed up it was one of the worst weekends of my life. It’s taken medicine, and help. I don’t want to hide my Mark. It’s there. It could come back. That terrifies me. 

But I know I’m not facing it alone. That’s how I know my depression isn’t as deep as what others have had to deal with (like the former flatmate I had to take to the ER because I knew that if I didn’t he was going to kill himself). I’m one of the lucky ones. 

I pray that one day, everyone will see depression for what it is. That there won’t be a stigma about it. That people who have the Dark Mark will be able to be open about it without fear, because right now, fear keeps a lot of people silent, hiding away when they most need to reach out to others. 

Please, if you have depression, talk to someone. Get help. I know there is a voice telling you you’re alone. That nothing will work. That there’s no point.

That voice is a lie. Together, we can beat it. 

Not. One. More.

Links of hope: Genie, you’re free

So unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll have seen the sad news that Robin Williams passed away yesterday, aged far too young, and sadly it seems he took his own life. 

Even a cursory look at the news will tell you the above, and mention his publicist’s saying he had been struggling with depression. 

There have been many tributes to him, as is only right. I thought Veronica Varlow’s was very beautiful but then I think that about so many of the things she writes. 

Thus in place of the usual curated silliness, I’d like to present some links about depression. I call this links of hope because my hope is that they’ll be useful, whichever group you fall into.

If you’ve never experienced depression:

Ali Brosh explains what it’s like to have depression at Hyperbole and a Half (a famous post).

Here is a friend of mine’s take on the subject

Know someone who is experiencing depression? Buzzfeed published this very helpful guide on things you shouldn’t say to someone with depression (with positive alternatives)

If you are experiencing depression, or think you might be:

There are many tests to help see whether you might have depression and help you access support (because it truly isn’t something you can deal with on your own). This is one of the New Zealand sites with a self-test

If it’s not something you’ve experienced before, it can be confusing and obviously difficult. Here is Buzzfeed again with things nobody tells you about depression.

Most of all, if you’re experiencing depression, I have this to say to you. You’re not alone. Please, reach out to someone.

Here is a list of numbers to call if you live in New Zealand.  

Here are a load of American helplines.

Here is the Samaritans website

Wishing you all good mental health.

 

Monsterful Monday- My Arcana Courts, 3/4: Wands

Special mentions first- tea, Voltaren, fruit pie, quiet nights in, snuggles with the Best Beloved, having a fancypants whole food shop at the end of my street, exciting news from friends, knitting inspiration, Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy was so much fun), Kirk the Ravager, Chibi silliness, washing up.

Wands. Now I admit, I was actually going to leave the Wands until last, because of the suits it’s the one I haven’t fully got my head around yet. According to Veronica, wands/staves are the people who inspire you to do amazing things. World-changing things. Being of service to others. These are the most inspirational people in your life, in many ways. Pure magic, raw, hungry, go-out-and-do-it, be-the-change-you-want-to-see energy.

My pages/princesses of wands, I would say, are my Godparents. In their different ways they’ve each shown me what it means to go out and do something to make your mark on the world. One has faced great personal challenges in the form of disabilities. One has spent most of their life in Africa as a doctor. One is a parish priest, making a difference to many lives in many small and large ways every week. Each, in their different way, has done something good for the world. I’m grateful that I had that example growing up, and I hope that in achieving the dreams I have for my own life I can push out that positive energy into the world and bring good to others.

For me, the Knight of Wands is my friend Vanya.  Burlesque, acrobatics, theatre, fire, he does all of it. He’s busy busy all the time working on new things. He’s action and making a name for himself and pure, raw, go-for-it, a blast of fire magic. He takes 100 times more risks than most other people. Sure he has a few more interesting scars because of that, but he also has more successes. He throws himself into things headlong, commits, grabs hold and doesn’t let go. Because of thta he brings other people along for the ride, because they start to realise that if he can do it, so can they. He’s a great example of going after your dreams hell-for-leather, and as with my pages/princesses, I’m grateful for the trail he’s blazed because it’s shown how it can be done. He makes me want to up my game.

My Queens of Wands, I would say, are my fabulous girlfriends Erin and Hannah. They’re the ones who say “of COURSE you can do that!” to even my craziest ideas. They radiate love and goodness, and make peoples lives better just by being in them. They nurture my dreams, remind me of the unique gifts I have, give emotional support. They want to make the world better, again each in their different way. I feel like they visualise the world as they want it to be, and yes can be dispirited when it’s not that way yet, but they keep on loving, feeding, taking care, bringing light. I am so thankful for them.  

King of Wands is hard. For every achievement I know those in my life have made, I know they want to do more. We’re all growing and changing, all the time. I’m grateful to have that love and support around me, and to be able to offer it to others. I want to lift others up to achieve their goals, be steadfast, just as they are for me. And that’s what I have to say about that.

What about you? Who are your inspirations? Who makes you want to change the world and makes you feel that you can do it, too? Let me know in the comments!

 

Nothing compares to you (except everyone around you)

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about comparison a lot today. I don’t know why, but some bits of ‘8 Simple Rules’ popped into my head, about how one of the tropes that the show returns to again and again is the idea that Bridget, the older sister, has things come to her that her younger sister has to work for. 

We’ve all felt it. We’ve seen someone else doing something really well and thought ‘oh, it comes so easily to them’ and we feel resentful because it’s not easy for us. When I was at school I used to look at the other girls, both in my classes and on TV. Even the supposedly ‘plain’ ones have friends, I would think to myself. It seemed so easy for them to do all the things teenagers were supposed to do. Things I never really did, or not until I left home. There were the girls who had boyfriends, who went out to parties, who did brilliantly at maths or science. 

But here’s the thing. That’s not the whole picture. As I pondered how I would compare myself with these girls, I realised that they would be comparing themselves to other people too. So would the boys. There were things I *was* really good at. Like languages, and computers. Whenever my IT teacher was away for whatever reason, I would end up spending most of the class helping other people. These were things that *did* come easily to me. 

Everyone, as my mother is so fond of saying, is different. “It wouldn’t do for us all to be alike!”. No, it wouldn’t. And the thing about that is, everyone has things that come easily to them. But the energy that we’re spending on being envious of each other’s abilities is energy that’s being misspent. Imagine what you could achieve if instead of getting caught up with sending negative charges towards someone who has achieved what you want, you spent that energy in practicing, learning, getting better- following your own path and not worrying about theirs. Or imagine if instead of letting the envy become negative, you recognised that this person can do something you want to be able to do, and you ask them, nicely, to help you. 

Other people will always be better at some things than you. And you will always be better at other things than they are. It’s what we do with that information that counts. If we learned from others’ strengths, and sought to use our own strengths to lift other people up, imagine what kind of change we could inspire and bring about!

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this other than to say, if you rock at something, I applaud you, especially if it’s not something I’m good at. 

So tell me in the comments- what talents do you have that are easy for you? How do you share them with others? Lets start looking at how we can use what we have to make the world better!