"Change, when it comes, cracks everything open."
Dorothy Allen

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sebastian's sleeve

You all know about my year of living fiercely (yes, I will blog an update for you soon).  I am trying to grab life by the balls, and do the shit that I have been putting off, or delaying or plain avoiding.  I have been cleaning my house, working on my diet, making plans for the kids, working on my finances and finally, tattooing.

Well, not tattooing, getting tattooed. 

For years and years, I have wanted a sleeve.  I decided a while ago that I would dedicate each arm to my kids.  Sebastian is my left, Sawyer is my right.  I have their names tattooed down the inside of my arm, wrapped in ivy (Sebastian has dragon flies and Sawyer has lady bugs). I put them there so that my kids would always be inside my hugs.  I have my nicknames for the kids tattooed on my upper arm- Halloween Boy for Bastian and Roller Coaster Girl for Sawyer. 

So, I have known that I was going to do this, and I have thought and thought and thought about it.  I knew I wanted a combination of things that make them happy, that remind me of them, that are inherently representative of them to me.  Sawyer, being only 5, is still developing.  I am slowly figuring out what makes me think of her (chances are, there will be a bottle of ketchup on my arm for her) but we have years for that to develop.  Sebastian however, is going to be 13 this year.  And some of the loves of his life haven't changed yet.  There are images so iconic for me of him, that I cannot look at them without him popping into my head and heart.  So, I knew, I was good to go. 

In December I started talking to my tattoo guy, Justin about a sleeve.  I had always struggled with what this was going to look like.  The images I am picturing literally have no association to each other, other than Sebastian and his love of them.  How do you link a hippo and a remote control?  How are Wonder Woman and an octopus similar?  How do you fit a puzzle piece, an anatomical heart and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas together?  The mish mosh I was picturing in my head was bordering on horrifying. 

Justin then had a very simple, but profoundly calming conversation with me.  He told me that was what a good artist was for.  He said with a sleeve, you can do one of 2 things- either pick a theme, with images similar and related, or you can pick a style.  With something like mine, the fact that Justin is drawing and designing the images, means that a similar style would be applied to them.  And it is that style that will unify the image. 

It was so simple.  But it made complete sense.  I signed on immediately and made my first appointment. 
Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas- done January 30, 2014.  Sebastian has loved Sally since he was about 2 years old  He has a stuffed Sally doll that he takes with him everywhere (or at least he used to).  Sally still has the tag on her from SickKids hospital, when she went into the operating room with him for his open heart surgery.  The sleeve wouldn't be complete without Sally.

The count from the Castle Dracula sign on Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls- done Feb 22, 2014.  The count is one of Sebastian's favourite images.  We literally have dozens of printed pictures of the count around our house.  We typically drive down Clifton Hill at least once a week, so that Sebastian can see the count. 

My tattoo (super fresh, still oozy and wrapped) and the sign that inspired it all.
So, for each month of this new year, I have gone back to visit Justin and we have started building this work of art on my left arm.  Justin knows Sebastian, his step daughter babysits for us, and he has heard Sebastian stories for years.  I don't know why, but that makes a huge difference.  It makes it personal, not just for me, but for him.  When he finishes a piece, he asks me if I think Sebastian will like it.  When we changed Sally a little bit, and left her hair dark instead of red, he thought about and wondered about the impact to Sebastian and if he would be ok with it (fyi, he was.)  I don't know if he knows how important it is to me that he keeps Sebastian in his thoughts when we do this together, but it really is.  I know it's not a requirement, but the fact that it happens....well, that's why I go to Justin.  That's why I pick him, again and again.

So, as I fiercely charge further into 2014, I am bringing a bit more colour and decoration into it with me.  And when Sebastian sits beside me on the couch and quietly traces his fingertip along Sally's face, I remember why I am doing this.  When he saw the Count yesterday, and his eyes got big, and his mouth dropped open when he realized who it was on my skin- I realize that this is a good thing to do. 

It doesn't hurt that I like the look of that much ink in my skin.  It's kinda badass. 

Rosie N. Grey
The N stands for "next up- who knows??"


  1. What an awesome tribute to your beautiful children.
    Lisa P

  2. What an amazing idea. Love it! And sleeves totally rock. I have a crush on every single man and woman with a sleeve.

  3. Very awesome, dear! Stay fierce!