My tattoo stories.

This post has nothing to do with fitness, yet in the sense of fitness being our bodies it almost does (right?). And in the sense of you (the royal. I realize many of you could not care less) ask me frequently about the stories behind my art this post kind of fits.  Sort of.  It (waitforit) misfits.


When people ask about my tattoos (why did you get them? do they mean anything? will you regret them?) I respond:

For me a tattoo is ‘right’ if it feels as though it has always been there—just ROSE TO THE SURFACE when the needle hit my skin.  

Im not sure this helps much if youre a person who doesnt care for tattoos, but in my mind it makes total sense.

All of my ink–from suess to skulls–feels as though it had been carried inside of me and finally ‘let out’ when the tattoo was completed.

I *always* share with kids who ask me about my art the fact I did not get a tattoo until I was old (wink).

I was 28 when I got the Star of David around my navel:



The star, for me, was a natural fit. Being Jewish–even though Im not ‘religious’–is an important part of who I am.  It’s my core.  The centering point of my life.

I was older still when I got my next one (32?).

Ren Man knows me well.  Ren Man knew I did not want a diamond engagement ring.  Ren Man purchased us matching engagement/wedding bands from the Signals catalog (we love him!!)

I loved the choice and sentiment so much (song of solomon) I had the Hebrew tattooed on (excuse the post-Airrosti photo.  you can sorta see the ink.).

My next stop at the tattoo shop was for the tiny image below.

We were newly home from Guatemala and I was feeling, as so many new parents do, wonky and out of control.

I now had a little person I loved more than life itself to protect and look after.  I was experiencing the ‘having a child is like walking around with my heart outside my body’ phenomena.  I decided I needed a little protection from the evil eye.

I got me a hamsa hand for happiness, luck and protection.

I frequently forget this tattoo is even there (some of the point of it for me) and yet clearly recall the morning the Tornado discovered it on my neck.

Oh Mama!! I found a new tattoo!

It took bit of explaining to her three-year-old self that NO, tattoos dont just pop up out of the blue and that YES I was aware this one existed…


More than any question I receive about my tattoos (more even than the “Why do you love Seuss so much?”) is “whats the deal with the skulls?”

(quite frankly with stuff like THIS and THIS it is simply the fact I love the look)

For me, with this tattoo, the sugar skull symbolizes rebirth.  I had this tattoo done fairly soon after I moved home from Guatemala as well.


And then there’s the Seuss sleeve.  Lottsa queries there.

  • Yes I am aware how highly political his writings are—-although that’s not why I inked the sleeve.

I started this sleeve right before I turned forty.  Id always loved Dr. Seuss and yet it was a more childish love.  It wasnt anchored into much of anything—I simply liked his rhymes, characters and colors.

And then we moved home from Guatemala.

All of the stories took on new more personal meanings (how lucky I felt, helping me explain the concept of adoption to the Tornato etc) & the notion of a leg sleeve (tattooed kneecap and all) was born.

Which brings me to a few weeks ago.

Another tattoo which was years in the making and yet feels, as it should, as if it has always been there.

This in-process piece of art:

Times have been rough around here.

Stressful, frazzled, and—to my chagrin—we’ve more turned ON each other in times of stress than TO.

But, after close to NINETEEN years together, we’ve also learned how to push past and work though.  That said, this has been the most challenging time we’ve faced.

All that said (translation: back to POOPING BUTTERFLIES as my friend Dr.Seuss would say) I think we’ve made it.

All that said this made for perhaps my most significant tattoo yet. A re-commitment of sorts to our family and to sticking together through the proverbial thick & thin.

And, of course, in skull-form.

For me tattoos are like I imagine having a gaggle of children would be:  you dont have a favorite one & you love them all for differing reasons.

Yet the family portrait—for its tremendous significance right now—is indeed my current fave.  And my artist, Annie Mess, is as well for her ability to grasp what this tattoo means to me & help the art rise to my skin surface.

(looks up from this LONG navel-gazing post to see if anyone is still reading)

The night after I started my portrait tattoo at Golden Age the Tornado —whom Im 99,9% certain has NEVER heard me share the explanation I did at the start of this post—prayed:

Thank you G-d for my mom’s tattoo showed up today.

That for me is 100% it.

Whether you love or loathe the art of tattoos aside—-for me they all feel as though they’ve always been there and have simply, finally risen to the surface.



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  1. says

    I have come close to getting tattooed many times, but never found the right one or the time was never right. I went travelling through Asia by myself after University and I was sure I would get one then but it didn’t happen and I didn’t want to get one just to get one. Maybe in the future! Love your daughters response to your tattoos, very sweet.

  2. says

    I do have one tattoo that I got when I was 18. It’s a shamrock in honor of my birth day not that I’m Irish. So many people assume that I’m Irish because of it. :)

    I don’t have plans for another right now but would be open. I think tattooing is an awesome form of art. It’s amazing what can be done with a needle and some ink to tell a story.

  3. Joy says

    I have one tattoo, I got it on the first anniversary of my mom’s passing. It’s on the back of my neck – it’s her wings. I love that they’re there and that my momma angel has a place to land and rest when she needs

  4. says

    Love this! I have 2 tattoos that are both music related and very much a part of me – no matter how big or small. I haven’t been able to share them with my family as I’m not quite sure they would see it that way but I do have a few more in mind that are also very important to me and have a great meaning so hopefully someday I can share them comfortably. :)

  5. says

    Fabulous! I love hearing others’ ink stories…
    I have a fractal that looks kind of like bird wings on my upper back. It represents the beauty + infinite complexity of nature, science, art + life.
    I have a large botanical drawing of a dragonfly on my chest that represents health + actualisation.

  6. says

    I am SO glad you did this post – I have always wondered about your tattoos! I’ve always been drawn to people covered in them – my ex was from his neck to his hands. It was so interesting walking around town with him and seeing women hold their children closer when he walked by because people have such stereotypes of people with tattoos still!

  7. says

    Love this post. It tells so much about who you are and your story!

    I’m not the tattoo type but I can still appreciate the significance they hold for others. :)

  8. says

    this is actually one of my fav posts. Your body tells your story and i love the reasons behind each one. The grow into new meanings with each change of season in life.
    no tattoos here. I’m just cheap though.

  9. MizFit says

    OK Lindsay. I laughed out LOUD at the cheap comment.
    Although there is NO TATTOO like a CHEAP TATTOO :-)

  10. says

    What a cool explanation- so glad I got to read it. I have very little experience with tattoos; I don’t have any and I don’t really know anyone who has more than something super small and …to me, seemingly insignificant… like a heart on their foot. I feel like I understand them a bit more now that you’ve described what they mean to you! For the longest time I’ve thought that I’m not cool enough to have a tattoo… haha!! Thanks for the great post again :-)

  11. says

    Love hearing the stories behind your tattoos! I have one, but eventually want to get another one. I’ll know when the time is right! :)

  12. says

    SUCH a great post. Loved reading about the detail behind each tattoo. Thank you for sharing – I know this was/is very personal (especially the last section). Your honest is always appreciated. I will continue to read your blog as long as you write it

  13. says

    Wow, Miz, thanks for opening up so much of your personal side. It’s so neat to know the really deep meaning behind what we usually just see on the surface.

  14. says

    Loved hearing the histories and seeing the pictures!

    Funny, I was just talking with friends last night about tatoos, and I’ve always been certain that I would NEVER have one myself. Not that i don’t love them on others, but the idea of that much committment to a particular symbol scared me. And the pain thing. Not a big fan of pain.

    But, perhaps your influence? I heard myself saying “maybe one day?” And surprised myself!

  15. says

    Wow Carla – thanks so much for sharing this post. I never really ask anyone about their tattoos unless they bring them up because I feel it is a too personal question.

  16. says

    I LOVE tattoos! I have one, it’s a four leaf clover I got when I was in college. Ironically, my best friend from high school (whom I still stay in touch with) has the exact same tattoo, from the exact same place, on the same ankle. Neither one of us knew this until we met up years later. We are frighteningly alike though, so it’s actually not so much a surprise. I want to get mine and Tony’s wedding date on my left wrist. My grandmother wrote it out in her beautiful handwriting and I am so ready to get it done. Tony’s getting it too, but his will be in more of a block style. I was considering getting in done around my wrist, but I’m not sure if I should do that or get it done more like his, just on the underside written stacked style? I need to decide, because I really want it done soon!

    Tony has a couple now and he’s working towards a sleeve. I love the stories behind tattoos. I think being able to express yourself that way is pretty liberating!

  17. says

    I enjoyed your stories about the meaning behind your tattoos. Like all that you do in life each tat was chosen, well thought out and serves a purpose for you. I think I have a new understanding of something that has always felt foreign to me.

  18. Rhonda says

    This is lovely, Carla.
    THANK YOU for being willing to share it with us as I am one who has always wondered.

  19. says

    Love this post! I have one tattoo, a small butterfly on my lower back. I got it when I turned 18 as a way of saying I could make my own decisions. I’ve been itching for another, just haven’t found the right one yet!

  20. says

    Tattoos are always an interesting topic! I have one–got it when I was 18–and love it. It’s a small red heart on my lower back. It’s modeled from the same heart that used to be “tattooed” on every Raggedy Ann doll, back in the day. I was obsessed as young girl with my raggedy ann doll, it was a reminder of my childhood for me.

  21. says

    I love how you explain this… true
    carried inside of me and finally ‘let out’
    I have designed all of my tattoos based on this line of thought.
    My first on my ankle a dolphin jumping out of a wave made of a music staff with 3 music notes coming out of the staff. It represented fun, intelligence, and wisdom with music that fills the heart (no I don’t play any music)
    2nd…a rose bud with a ying-yang in the stem representing the ever budding balance and beauty within
    3rd …ruby red slippers on the yellow brick road with the witch’s tower with light beaming from the windows of the tower…and shooting star off to the side…
    Next was suppose to be a flying monkey Or Glinda in her bubble…I fell into the trap of not listening to my heart when it was the monkey to immerge and let the artist do Glinda….but it was not correct as the bubble appeared flat when he finished it……..
    That was because she was not ready to come forth…
    I am getting Glinda fixed and the flying monkeys next month and after this is decided to be done on a special day to also memorialize a dear friend….

  22. says

    Awww mizzypoo I love this!!! I wholeheartedly agree that a good, meaningful tattoo feels as if it was there forever. I tell my niece they are my birthmarks because, honestly,mthats what they feel like!!!

    Though her mama has a few and now she knows where they come from 😉 haha

  23. says

    I have one tattoo, my sister and I have matching suns. we had a pretty rough childhood and it is the strength that ties us together, for a long time we have always only had each other.

    I love hearing the reasons behind others tattoos, thanks for sharing!

  24. says

    Really cool to hear the stories behind the tattoos…and I love the Tornado’s reactions to them.

    Sorry it’s been such a crummy year for you; here’s hoping the worst is behind and massive amounts of happiness are in store.

  25. says

    I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo, but have never really thought of something that seemed right to me. I want to make sure before I get one that it means something…and will always mean something…to me.

    Hubby has just one on his ankle.

  26. says

    Such cool stories! I love your day of the dead work, it’s what I want next! It was the theme of our wedding even! It’s so important for tattoos to have a story, mine do, and then it lives on to remind you forever

  27. says

    I love hearing the stories behind what people’s different tattoos mean.
    I’ve had one in the works for a while now, and I think, next year when I turn 40, it will come to be… :)

  28. says

    Well, i don’t disapprove of them, but i don’t have any because i don’t want to have to explain them to my grandchildren someday.

    Besides, nothing ever seemed to want to “come to the surface” on me. Again, that’s just me.

  29. says

    I’ve gotten a bunch of really realistic-looking freckles and age spots tattooed on myself, BECAUSE THAT’S THE KIND OF BAD-ASS FREAKSHOW I AM!

  30. says

    My sister and I have matching rose tattoos on our ankle. We got them right before I went away to college. We’ve always been close and it was a bonding experience for us. I usually forget it’s there.
    Everyone insisted I’d be addicted and want more, but it’s been over 20 years and I still don’t have the itch for more.
    Funny story, at the time we got our tattoos, it wasn’t that common for women to have them. The newspaper and local radio personality were there that day to interview us. There was a huge article in the paper about 2 women getting tattooed! Seems so silly now because it’s not so odd anymore.

  31. says

    I’ve always wanted a tattoo – but I could never pinpoint exactly what I wanted… so I haven’t done it (yet).

    I love hearing stories & meanings behind other’s tattoos. I’ve heard that it’s somewhat of a faux paux to ask about tattoos, so I rarely ask, but I’m always curious when I see one!

    Thanks for sharing your stories! I can’t wait to see the family of skulls finished! :)

  32. says

    Love the tattoo stories, and how you feel about them just “rising to the skin”. I’ve always been terrified of tattoos (needles) but curious. Z just got his first, a half-way filled M dot (for the half ironman we just completed) and when we finish the full, he’ll fill it in all the way. It’s the first tattoo (the full m dot) I’ve really really considered. If I can get through the race, I can get through a 15 minute tattoo, right? :)

  33. says

    I love each of those stories. Sometimes I think there is such a negative perception of tattoos but reading these make you realize that they are window into the soul. that you get to learn so much about a person by what they have on their body.

    Beautiful that you like to express yourself that way.

  34. says

    Always so interesting to find out why people do what they do and I am glad to read your story today. Of course when I see this beautiful artwork I wonder about it. Fun to know that these pictures just needed a bit of help to appear!

  35. says

    I have the sun in the morning (on my east, your west) arm, and the moon at night (on my west arm) Every morning that I wake up, and every night I put that day to bed, it’s a good day. I have a gay pride butterfly I got when I finally *knew* my sister was gay. If no one else in our family was going to support her, by G-d, I was getting the gayest tattoo there was! I have the Song of Songs ref with the lily for its verse (I am my beloved, and my beloved is mine, and he dances among the lilies) My next tattoo will be my kids names with their first in Hebrew and their middle in Chinese. (obvi their chinese and hebrew names)

  36. Ren Man says

    In solidarity, I have the same tattoo (but in black and grey) on my left shin! And it is my favorite too.

  37. says

    I so want to read the other comments Carla but don’t have the energy right now due to my crazy illness BUT this is such an amazing, heart felt, OPEN post!!!! I am not even sure what to comment on – it is so intricately written & woven together…. your life!

    I do understand the marriage part very well though & so glad you came out on the other side.

    You are simple unique & amazing – all in the best of ways!

  38. says

    Love your tattoo stories!!
    I got my first (and so far, only) tattoo to celebrate turning 40!! It is a Longhorn (Hook ’em Horns!!), took 8 minutes and HURT!!! I always thought I had a high tolerance but….maybe my next will celebrate 50!!

  39. says

    I got my first tattoo early this year and I love, love, love it. It’s a giant, furry, big fat bumble bee resting on a hydrangea with some weird spiraly green leaf things coming out of the flower. For me this tattoo is symbolic of many things – my marriage (I had a hydrangea bouquet), my love of nature and gardening, and the bee – which symbolizes so much – it represents achieving the impossible as for a long time it was thought that bees should not be able to fly as their wing span is too small and narrow for their giant body (this has been disproven now but the metaphor lives on), that bees represent nobility, wisdom and royalty, the fact that they provide 70% plus of our food thanks to their pollination, and the fact that my husband and I have a mutual love of the work of Mark Ryden, who is a bee aficianado. While I have my girly fat fuzzy bumble bee, my husband has a giant, ryden-esque bumble bee in black on his core. I love our tatts and am already dreaming of my next one. I did a pretty detailed post here:

    and PS: I love this post because while I was sitting next to you at FitBlogging thinking “I’m sitting next to a famous blogger!”, I was admiring your tattoos and even sent out a little tweet about it! :)

  40. says

    I am 30 and just considering my first.
    Have been thinking about it for a while now, but with my rough year it seems pretty appropriate.
    It won’t be easy,
    It will be worth it.
    Want it on the outside of my left foot, but keep wussing out. hmmm…..;

  41. says

    Coincidentally I was writing about tattoos yesterday too. I have about four I’m working on getting, but I hit a bump with the two I was on my wrists. Trying to figure that out now! :) I have a big one on my back and it means a lot. My marriage is in it, my children, my life’s path, all of it. :)

    Love your tattoos!

  42. says

    I have a tiny butterfly…I got it right before I went to military school…felt that it was my way of always being free despite going to be under the army’s control for so long.
    LOVE all of yours and the meanings behind them. Beautiful.

  43. says

    I figure people should be allowed to peacefully live the life they choose as long as it doesn’t hurt others.

    I’ve never understood the things others have chosen to have problems with, such as tattoos or long hair on a guy.

    There was a time when art was much more than a painting on a wall, and tattoos and piercings are two of the life is the medium behaviors that still exist in western cultures.

    Personally, I do not have any, nor do I wear jewelry, perhaps due to having a severe rash on my arms as a child and not wanting to draw attention to it, I don’t know.

    I worry about the chemicals in the inks, but it’s not in me, so knock yourself out :-)

  44. says

    Beautiful: You, the tats, the stories, all of it! I love the family tattoo and the struggle and rebirth (re-death?) it represents. I personally don’t have any tattoos (it’s a religious thing) but I love looking at other people’s and hearing the stories behind them! Thank you for sharing yours!!

  45. says

    I don’t actually have any tattoos Miz. I almost got one years ago but it was more about doing something I perceived to be trendy / edgy than doing something meaningful, so I’m glad I didn’t do it.

    I love that yours all have a special meaning for you!


  46. says

    Thanks for sharing the background on your tatoos. I’m always curious about others’ tatoos, but never want to ask because some people are touchy about that…which I think is kinda funny…I have a red maple leaf. It’s kind of a cheesy thing for Canadians to get, but I didn’t get it for our flag. My family cottage is surrounded by maple trees. It reminds me of a lot of great memories.

  47. says

    Love this post! And your tattoos are beautiful! I have 5 tattoos and each one has special meaning for me. Sometimes people will ask what one of the means, I’ll tell them without going into immense detail and they’ll generally give me a look like “..Oh. Cool.” This never bothers me because I did not get these tattoos for them. I got them for ME. And everyday when I see them, I’m reminded of when I got them, that particular time in my life and what they mean to me now. It’s such an amazing way to express yourself.