bearSheila Schlaggar
~for my “Bear”

My husband, Barry, and I shared a love of bears, especially polar bears. Probably because of our shared love of bears and his huge physical presence, his nickname was “Bear”. He was fairly tall with broad shoulders, muscular arms, and an expansive chest. We developed quite a collection of bears and bear-related items over the years. When he died, I decided to keep him close by getting a tattoo, a polar bear cub tattoo, on my left hip—just for me.

For my 70th birthday, my cousin, Laura, took me to a tattoo parlor in Chicago where I carried with me a small figure of a polar bear cub to show the artist. I was both excited and nervous. Friends and family were surprised that I got this tattoo, but I felt that by getting it, Barry would always be physically with me. While I was getting my tattoo, Laura kept me company as we laughed and talked about the symbolism of the bear. I felt an excitement and a satisfaction while the artist worked and that excitement and satisfaction has stayed with me since getting the tattoo five years ago. When I look at my left hip, I can see my husband and see my husband. I can feel his presence. I smile.


Let It Be


Kristin M. Nalepa
~for Christian

In 2006, I got a heart tattoo on my foot for my boyfriend, Christian, because he swept me off my feet. I had never been in love so completely.

On a June morning in 2012, Christian’s mom called to tell me he had died in a motorcycle accident. Beginning that morning, I began getting signs from Christian that he was okay and still here with me. I was a complete wreck and don’t remember a lot from that day. I do, however, remember my dad rushing over to my condo while I sobbed into his arms. He calmly repeated the words, “Let it be, Kris”.  I sat with my Aunt Phyllis later that day as she tried to relax me using the same words, “Let it be”. My friends rushed to my parents’ house to be with me that morning, as well, several of them took me aside and told me that right now I need to “let it be”. I thought their words seemed odd because there was no way I could simply “let it be”.

A couple of days later, I put together all of the picture boards, wrote the Eulogy I would deliver at his funeral, and created the slideshow of pictures and music for his visitation and funeral. I knew Christian’s favorite music of club music and 80’s music was probably not the most appropriate music to play at a funeral. I signed onto myspace for the first time in years and went to his page to see what songs were listed. His profile picture was of the two of us and the song that began playing from his page was “Let It Be” by Dave Barnes. At the same moment in time, my Pandora which was open began playing “Let It Be” by the Beatles. Chills ran my entire body. I knew it was Christian with me reminding me I had to “Let It Be.”

My tattoo has dove symbolizing Christian’s spirit, hope for my future, and God’s grace which I have felt recently in my life. The placement of the tattoo on my foot is deliberate so Christian will walk with me throughout the rest my life. I know he will always be with me, and I am blessed with his communications from the other side.

Family and Film

filmKelsey Christiansen
~for my grandparents

When I was young my Nana and Grandpa would always take the grand daughters to the movies anytime a new flick came out. They made it such a special time for us all to be together and create memories with the family. I now have such a passion and love for film and family that on my arm I got an old school movie reel and I’m absolutely in love with the work my artist did❤

The Anchor


Abbee Hausman
~for my grandparents

My grandmother and I had a conversation about my future a few days before she passed away. As I was sitting on her hospital bed sharing her favorite chocolate frosty from Wendy’s, she hugged me and said, “You will be something wonderful. You will do great things in this world and you do not need to let anyone tell you any different. When my grandmother died, I became increasingly angry and depressed at the loss of the only person I felt “understood me.”

Growing up in a Jewish home did not leave much creative freedom as far as tattoos are concerned. My mother, the most inspirational woman I know, absolutely hates tattoos.  The fact that something I wanted so badly could change our relationship so dramatically was difficult to grasp.

It was a few moths after my grandmother’s passing I started my sleeve. I wanted to remember this chapter in my life. I had found that tattoos are permanent, material objects are not and I wanted to remember my grandmother and grandfather. The first piece of my tattoo is a traditional anchor with a script of an e.e.cummings poem, i carry your heart.  I carry them with me every. single. day.

I strive to be the best person and most successful young adult. I have made great strides in my young life and looking at my arm is my therapy reminding me how much I have accomplished. The people I ran from I now embrace.  I love my family even if they don’t love my tattoos. I have them for me, my own permanent reminder from where I came and where I am going. Each tattoo I have serves as a bookmark for me looking back during my life. I wouldn’t change that for the world.


Out of the Darkness

nancy lotus copyNancy Perlson ~for my dad who struggled  Looking back, I think I always knew deep inside that my dad was fragile; that beneath his tough exterior, he was a tortured soul struggling daily with a deep rooted darkness. Though it wasn’t until my dad took his own life in 1996 that the depths of his illness became painfully—excruciatingly obvious. The angry rages, the dark sullen moods—the bright hysterical antics of my father had always kept me on my toes.  I towed the line—often taking the silence personally, the rages to heart…and perhaps, I even laughed a bit harder than was necessary during his good times because I knew in my heart—he struggled. I, too, struggled with my own darkness after my dad’s death. It was through the practice of yoga that I finally came to find a sense of peace and healing.

It was on the mat when I first heard the story of the extraordinary little lotus flower—beautiful and delicate on the surface, but willfully strong at its heart.  The lotus flower begins its life in dark, swampy water tethered below the surface by its roots embed in cold, dark isolation. Despite its roots heavily moored below the surface, that little lotus chooses daily to make the journey upwards towards the sun. Like the lotus, I believe we all feel at times the pull of darkness beneath us, but the choice remains ours—to allow the pull downward to drown us or to reach daily for the light.  My little lotus on the inside of my left ankle is my daily reminder that though we may feel tethered to darkness, we are not restricted by it.  The resilience and determination of this sweet little flower is an inspiration to me daily to fight the pull downward and save my strength for the swim to the surface—to the light of every new day.

What Lies Within…

IMG_4697 Story coming soon…

He’s Got My Back

IMG_4217Story coming soon…

Copyright © behind-the-ink, Nancy Perlson