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Got Ink? A Thoughtful Tribute to my Children & Passions

After much anticipation, I finally got the tattoo I've been eagerly awaiting—the 11th addition to my collection, and undoubtedly the most meaningful one yet. This half sleeve is not just a piece of body art; it's a profound tribute to my children and the passions that drive me. Brace yourself, as this one comes with a story.

TLDR: This tattoo embodies my essence: stars and a moon for Estella Selene, an ocean wave for Marino Luis, an homage to Van Gogh and Hokusai, reflecting my love of art. Expertly crafted by Sadie Bartch.

My History with Stars

In 1st grade, I was so proud of myself because I learned how to draw a star without any of the lines through the center (just the outline). It was a challenge for me at 6 years old and I was thrilled to master this skill that I worked so hard at. That is until a boy in my class (who I really liked) told me it didn't look like a star. He said, "it looks like a retarded angel". That moment left me crushed, a blow to my confidence that still resonates vividly, even after three decades.

As I journeyed through middle school, I shrugged off the criticism. With regained confidence, I began adorning everything with stars – my binders, jeans, hands, and classroom notes. Stars became my signature, extending even to the walls of my bedroom. I adorned myself with star necklaces and donned jeans embroidered with stars. They became emblematic of my identity, even finding their place in my business logo. My fascination with celestial bodies deepened, leading me to explore moon phases, constellations, zodiac signs, and mythology. The deep expansive sky full of stars, planets, and moons beckoned me with its allure. Largely unexplored, an uncharted realm both beautiful and perilous, serving as a guiding light for centuries of sailors.

During college, faced with the requirement of a science credit, I opted for astronomy. Despite my prior struggles with science, this subject captivated me. I delved into the intricacies of stars and space, relishing the opportunity to gaze at the night sky, identifying the constellations I had studied. I even secured telescope time at renowned observatories worldwide, capturing long-exposure photographs of nebulas and stars.

Photo by Left of Center Photography

Naturally, when expecting our first child, I sought a name imbued with celestial significance. After deliberating over numerous options, my husband and I settled on Estella – a nod to the stars. Finding a fitting middle name proved more challenging until my husband, another fan of mythology, suggested Selene, the Greek and Roman goddess personifying the moon. Thus, our sweet baby girl was christened, a tribute to the celestial wonders that had captured my heart as she no doubt would as well.

Falling in Love with Art

Art has always been my passion. From my preschool days, teachers noted my penchant for detail, evidenced by the poofy tails I added to my drawings of dogs, inspired by our family poodle. Throughout elementary and high school, my love for art flourished under the guidance of dedicated teachers.

The pivotal moment came when I encountered Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night. Its vibrant colors, emotive brushstrokes, and captivating beauty resonated deeply within me, igniting a fervent appreciation for art and its history. It was the first famous artwork that spoke to me and inevitably led me to check out all the artist biography books from the school library and truly fall in love with art and art history.

Throughout my academic journey, I immersed myself in various artistic mediums and delved into art history, eventually earning an honorary minor in the subject.

My Heart is an Ocean

Water has always had a profound effect on me. Just being near to bodies of water leave me feeling calm and refreshed. I was diving into swimming pools by age 3 and spent hours of my life pretending to be a mermaid in the bathtub and at the community pool. I never felt more weightless or at ease than when I'm surrounded by water.

Vacations to the beach became cherished retreats, offering moments of reflection and awe as I gazed out over the shimmering horizon. Like the stars above, the ocean's depths beckoned me, stirring a fascination with marine life and the mysteries of the deep. Much like the cosmos, the ocean is a realm of unparalleled beauty and danger, its secrets waiting to be unveiled.

Much like I did with stars, I loved to learn about aquatic animals and species. Captivated by stories of mermaids and the curious evolution of jellyfish. Like deep space, the ocean holds this innate mystery and danger. Largely unexplored, it's full of beautiful colors and creatures, deep and dangerous, but unmatched beauty.

Throughout college, I curated playlists brimming with songs evoking the sea and stars, each melody a testament to my enduring fascination. These songs still live rent free inside my brain: The Tide by The Spill Canvas, Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard, Into the Ocean by Blue October, The Beach by All Time Low, She's Only Happy in the Sun by Ben Harper, Island by The Starting Line, Ships by Umbrellas, Lead Sails (And A Paper Anchor) by Atreyu, The Ocean by Mae, etc. You can check out my old playlist here on Spotify (warning: it could cause musical whiplash).

When naming our second child, I sought a moniker echoing the sea and sun – a homage to my cherished sanctuary. Thus, Marino was christened, a name meaning "of the sea," but to me, a reflection of my heart.

Exploring Japan

Despite my Eastern European roots, Japan holds a special place in my heart. In my high school World Cultures class, I fell in love with people of the world. I couldn't get enough. We learned about world religions and exotic cultures, and the imagery and colors lit a fire in me for the people of the world. One day our teacher presented us with an opportunity, there was a foreign exchange program that would send us to Japan to live with a host family for 2 weeks. I jokingly took the paper home and said to my dad, "do you want to send me to Japan?" He did not take it as a joke and honestly, it's become a pivotal moment in my life. He got to work fast crunching numbers and organizing a benefit cookout to send me all the way across the world at just 17 years old.

That summer five students from my high school (including me) and several others from neighboring school districts boarded a plane for Japan. I was greeted and welcomed into an incredible host family. A mother and father with a son and daughter and the sweetest Shiba Inu. While in Japan, my roommate (from home) and I explored an unknown city on our own with just a hand drawn map from our non-English speaking host mom, we visited several incredible temples and historic buildings, put our toes in the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, perused the Picasso pavilion at the Hakone Open-Air Museum, explored Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Sea Life Park, tried so many foods that were foreign to us (including jellyfish and sushi) and learned so much!

While in Kanagawa, I was reminded of the woodcut print I felt drawn to as a child: The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. Yet again, a piece of artwork that spoke to my soul with its color, movement, and magnetism. I later learned that Van Gogh was equally enchanted by the print and owned a copy of it himself. He even reportedly spoke of the print in a letter to his brother, stating "waves are claws, the boat is caught in them, you can feel it". And I couldn't agree more. It seems only natural that these two works go so well together.

The experience broadened my horizons, igniting a passion for global exploration. It awakened a desire to share the world's wonders with my children, instilling in them a sense of curiosity and appreciation for diverse cultures.

A Tattoo of My Journey

My tattoo embodies the essence of my journey – a testament to my love for my children and the enduring inspiration drawn from celestial and aquatic realms. Three stars represent my beloved offspring, while a crescent moon pays homage to Estella Selene and Van Gogh's masterpiece. A majestic wave symbolizes Marino and Hokusai's iconic print, accompanied by a radiant sun. It encapsulates my deepest passions and fondest memories, immortalized in ink.

Choosing the Right Artist

After years of contemplation, I entrusted Sadie Bartch (at Clover Tattoo in Lancaster) with bringing my vision to life. Her expertise in line work and her ability to capture the essence of my design surpassed my expectations. With each stroke of her needle, she transformed my concept into a work of art, a testament to her skill and dedication.

Sadie took my sloppily photoshopped design and brought it to life exactly how I had hoped she would. After one round of revisions, her final design was ready for tattooing.

My Original Design
Sadie's Much Cleaner Original Design

Stencil Applied
Freshly Done

I had a wonderful experience working with Sadie. She's a true artist and the sweetest person. She took the time to make me comfortable and listened to my feedback. She worked quickly and precisely. The shop is warm and inviting and her station was impeccably clean. She took the time to go over aftercare with me and the options available that would suit me the best (I chose to get the second skin covering).

I couldn't be happier with the final result! I highly recommend Sadie and Clover Tattoo.

My 10 Other Tattoos & Their Meanings

My other tattoos are equally as meaningful to me. All of them were drawn/designed by me except for the jellyfish that was drawn by the tattoo artist.


2.22.06 at Transcending Flesh by Stu

My inaugural tattoo proudly displays two fish, symbolizing my zodiac sign, Pisces. While I may not subscribe strictly to astrological beliefs, I've always found the personality traits associated with Pisces to be uncannily reflective of my own.except for

Pisces, known for their intuitive and empathetic nature, resonate deeply with me. Their creativity, compassion, and adaptability feel like intrinsic parts of my being. Like a fish swimming in the depths of the ocean, I find solace in the fluidity of Pisces' characteristics, embracing their dreamy yet resilient spirit.

(The stars in this tattoo, combined with another, "In Memory," total 13 – the age I was when Pap passed away, adding a poignant layer of significance.)

“Open Sea”

This piece, along with my overarching nautical theme, speaks volumes without words. The Japanese characters signify "open sea," serving as a tribute to the two weeks I spent in Japan, immersed in the vastness of the ocean on both sides of the island. For me, the open sea embodies a sense of belonging, where stars illuminate the sky with unparalleled brilliance and my spirit feels unbounded.

As the quote from Practical Magic suggests, my connection to the ocean runs deep, resonating within me in ways that words cannot fully capture. Similarly, the excerpt from Memoirs of a Geisha speaks to the profound power of water, symbolizing resilience and the ability to forge new paths, echoing the resilience of my own journey.

“I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, probably you could hear the ocean.” –Practical Magic

“Water is powerful. It can wash away earth. Put out fire. And even destroy iron. Water can carve its way. Even through stone. And when trapped. Water makes a new path.” –Memoirs of a Geisha

“In Memory”

3.31.07 at DreamsCollide Tattoo by Wes Schulz

Losing someone dear to you is an indescribable pain, and my first personal loss was indeed a significant one. To honor the memory of Robert "Bob" "Pap" Pickel, I chose a crab to symbolize his zodiac sign of Cancer.

Pap was more than just a loved one; he was a guiding light in my life. He taught me the meaning of unconditional love, discipline, hard work, and strength. Though he may no longer be with us physically, his presence continues to resonate in our hearts.

The lyrics from Jimmy Eat World's "May Angels Lead You In" encapsulate the bittersweet longing for Pap's comforting presence. Each night, as I gaze at the stars, I find solace in the belief that he is watching over us, cradled in the arms of angels. In moments of despair, the words of FM Static's "Tonight" serve as a reminder that Pap's spirit lives on, forever held by the stars above. Though we may feel his absence keenly, his love remains a guiding force, illuminating our path through life.

Pap may have left this world, but his legacy of love and strength endures, a beacon of light that continues to shine bright in our hearts. (1937-2001)


9.22.07 at DreamsCollide Tattoo by Wes Schulz

No matter the twists and turns of life, a mother remains an unbreakable connection. She flows within our blood, intertwined with our very essence. This line of maternal love stretches far and wide, uniting us all. Whether through biological mothers or maternal figures, this bond is sacred.

For my mother, grandmother, and myself, we chose to immortalize this bond with a simple yet profound gesture: matching anchor tattoos.

In ancient times, the anchor held deep significance within the early Christian church. Used as a covert symbol for the cross during times of persecution, it represented faith and resilience.

Today, the anchor tattoo symbolizes stability and strength—a steadfast foundation akin to the anchor securing a ship in tumultuous waters. It serves as a reminder to remain grounded amidst life's storms, holding fast against adversities that threaten to veer us off course.

More than a mere symbol, the anchor represents safety, hope, and salvation. It embodies the enduring ties of family and the unwavering support of loved ones, serving as a beacon of stability in an ever-changing world.

“Guiding Star”

9.22.07 at DreamsCollide Tattoo by Wes Schulz

Throughout my life, my father has been a steadfast presence, a beacon of stability and guidance. To honor his unwavering support, I chose to adorn my foot with a starfish tattoo, a tangible reminder of his presence by my side, guiding me with every step I take.

In symbolism, the star holds profound significance. Often associated with truth, spirit, and hope, it represents the divine spark within each individual. As a celestial body shining brightly in the darkness, the star embodies the struggle against the unknown and the forces of darkness.

In maritime history, stars played a crucial role in navigation, guiding sailors safely home. Sailors would tattoo stars on themselves as symbols of protection and guidance, relying on them to chart their course through the vast expanse of the ocean.

Today, the star continues to symbolize direction and guidance for those navigating the complexities of life. It encourages us to forge our own paths while seeking guidance from the celestial bodies above when we feel lost or uncertain. Like the stars guiding sailors home, my starfish tattoo serves as a reminder to follow my own path while drawing strength and direction from the enduring love and support of my father.


4.18.11 at DreamsCollide Tattoo by Wes Schulz

Sparrows possess a remarkable trait: they unfailingly return to the same location when they migrate and, once they find a mate, they remain faithful to them. In maritime and sailing traditions, this symbolizes the enduring bond between sailors and their homes, emphasizing the belief that no matter how far a sailor travels, they will always return home and remain faithful to their loved ones.

This sentiment holds special significance for me as I remember my four great-grandmothers who were all feisty and free-spirited but firmly grounded in their faith and their homes.

“Best Beating Heart”

4.18.11 at DreamsCollide Tattoo by Wes Schulz

The heart monitor line and the purple heart represent both the courage and the favorite color of my cousin, Iysis Rachelle Allen Wenger, who bravely fought a long and difficult battle with cancer. Her journey, marked by strength and resilience, is forever etched in our hearts.

(9.6.95 - 8.11.10 Always in our hearts)


Jellyfish, among the oldest creatures on Earth, have gracefully navigated the seas for millions of years, their presence transcending time itself. Though often misunderstood, they stand apart in a category of their own, devoid of gills, lungs, or even a heart. Instead, they rely on their long tentacles for protection, skillfully warding off threats or capturing prey with stinging precision.

Effortlessly gliding through the water, jellyfish exhibit a mesmerizing dance, their tentacles poised to deliver a potent sting to unwary passersby. Yet, beneath their delicate appearance lies a remarkable ability to perceive light, shadow, and color, a testament to their evolution over eons. Harnessing the currents around them, jellyfish gracefully navigate their watery realm, adapting to their surroundings with unparalleled finesse.

Symbolizing ancient wisdom, jellyfish embody simplicity and instinct, their existence a testament to the power of intuition in navigating life's currents. Despite the challenges posed by commercial fishing and pollution, they thrive in the ocean's depths, resilient and enduring.

The jellyfish's significance extends beyond its physical presence, representing tranquility, wisdom, and the importance of trusting one's instincts. Beautiful yet deadly, it embodies the art of transparency and self-protection, a timeless reminder to embrace the flow of life while staying true to oneself.


After the traumatic loss of our cherished first dog, Sierra Rosé, my husband and I sought solace in honoring her memory. She was more than just a pet; she was our "first child," a beloved member of our family whose passing left us shattered.

In remembrance of her unconditional love and companionship, we both decided to get tattoos of her pawprint. Placed on opposite wrists, these pawprints serve as a poignant reminder of our bond with Sierra. When we hold hands, her pawprints come together, symbolizing the enduring connection we share with her, even in her absence.

Sierra's presence in our lives, though brief, left an indelible mark on our hearts. She brought us immeasurable joy and taught us the true meaning of unconditional love. Though she may no longer be by our side, her memory lives on in our hearts forever. (January 11, 2013 - July 11, 2014)


9.23.17 at Golden Ages Tattoo by Wes Reed

The 2017 hurricane season dealt a heavy blow to our family. First, my mom and Mike faced the wrath of Harvey and Irma in Florida, followed by Angel's family enduring the devastation of Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico. Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, one truth remained constant: we are not in control.

In the face of such adversity, I find solace in my daily reminder that God watches over us and His will prevails. Though we may struggle to comprehend His plans, His timing is always perfect. In moments of doubt, I find comfort in the words, "Your kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).

Inspired by the song Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family, I cling to the belief that even in our darkest hours, God's guiding hand leads us forward.

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