The story behind my tattoos

It’s no secret that I’ve gotten a tattoo .. or ten. So today I’ll break down my tattoos for all those inquiring minds. Really I’m doing this so that next time someone is like “oh wow! Nice tattoo! Why did you do that?” I can be all “link in bio”. Just kidding!

My views on tattoos are pretty simple: to each their own. You may like tattoos on other people but could never imagine them on yourself. Dope! You may love tattoos and get them everywhere on your body. Nice! You may just want a little bumble bee on your wrist to remind you of someone special. Sweet! You may get your girlfriends name on your arm just to have to cover it up when you break up. Sorry? Either way your views don’t effect my views.

Almost everyone in my family has at least one tattoo. My husband and my underage sisters are the closest people to me that don’t have any. I feel like soon though my husband will be on that island alone. I have ten. All gotten between the span of about 9 years.img_0550

1. Familia

This was my first tattoo and like so many people before me I got it in my parents basement by my cousin. Said cousin went to a world renowned art school and was a couple years into this whole tattoo business at this time. My brother got the tattoo first, on his wrist. The idea being that all of the cousins would get the same tattoo and it would be a sort of bond. I was here for it. I love the idea of us sharing something so intimate and always having a piece of each other. None of my cousins ended up getting it but now its means so much more to me. Being that it was my first tattoo I decided I didn’t want it on my wrist like my brother. I wanted to be able to hide it if i needed to. Also I was, I think, 18 or 19 at the time and I was super worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a job with a tattoo (HA!). I settled on getting the tattoo on my back, right in the middle, because my family is in my spine, they hold me up and keep me strong. What I didn’t know then was that my cousin was a very heavy handed tattoo artist. I would say out of all of my tattoos this one hurt the most. The shading alone killed me! If you’ve gotten a tattoo before you’ll know the artist usually draws up a sample so you can see what you’re going to get and approve. With words its usually typed up on a computer in the font you picked and in various sizes so you can put it against the spot you want and decide what works best. I specifically remember there being three sizes; small, medium and large. I wanted the medium one, I thought it was huge and it would go by quicker than the large size. My cousin fought me tooth and nail about this! He went on to tell me that since it will be my only tattoo I might as well go big or go home. So we went with the large. Looking back I know that it was a good choice but I still giggle at the thought that he truly believed I would stop at just one tattoo. To date this is the only tattoo in the back of my body and I don’t really have any plans to get anymore done on my back. But who knows?!

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2. Monster

You ever see that Mary-Kate and Ashley movie Billboard Dad?  In the movie the Dad calls them Munchkin and Monster and I sort of adopted those nicknames and used them for my sisters. Amanda calls me Billboard in return. It’s cute, ok?! This was always supposed to be a set but I was still so scarred for life  nervous about getting another tattoo so I did this one first. It’s shorter..

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3. Munchkin

See #2. Also I always wanted these on my wrist for two reasons:

  1. I wasn’t so worried about my tattoo’s being seen at this point.
  2. I wanted to be able to see these names when I prayed and know who I was working my ass off for every single day.

My only regret with both 2 and 3 is not getting them bigger. Now they have faded a bit and the words are blending. I’m thinking of getting them redone but bigger. Maybe. We’ll see.

4. Double hearts

This was my first really bold tattoo. Its not very big but its on my chest so it’s pretty noticeable.

When I was 16 I had a breast reduction surgery. It was a pretty serious and dangerous surgery. I had to sign all those hospital forms pretty much saying hey! if you die its not our fault. It was really scary at 16 to have to go through that. What was even scarier was when I woke up and the attending nurse told me I was so lucky I had a great doctor because my heart stopped on the table! I immediately cried out for my dad and the rest is history.

This tattoo, to me, represents second chances and living my life to the fullest.

5. “Llorando de alegria y no de meido”

I was 19 when my grandfather passed away in hospice. I was there watching him take his last breaths. He was in this specialty hospice home that was decorated to look more like a home than a hospital. That meant in his room he had his own shower and toilet and no roommate. It was not in a hospital at all. He had a pull out couch so we could sleep there with him. He had table and chairs and big windows with a view of all the snow that was coming down at the time. And he had a TV and sound system. At first we didn’t really know how to interact or what to do but eventually we started looking through the room trying to find some music to play. My grandfather loved music! He was the life of any party.

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This place had a bunch of soothing sounds for the soul and waves of the ocean type CD’s and because we were literally stuck in a blizzard we couldn’t go out and get some real music. (This was before the time of Bluetooth music and cords and things. It wasn’t so easy to share music like it is today.) Someone opened the CD player to see if anything was inside. I think it was my father but I can’t really remember. And you would’ve never guessed it but there was a Spanish CD in the player! Not just any CD either. It was Jose Jose!! My grandfathers favorite singer! We all thought this was God’s last gift to my grandfather before he passed. So we played that CD over and over again. One song in particular really stood out. Lo DudoIt’s a very very sad song about a man losing the woman he loves and about how what once was is no longer. And this line stuck out to me – “llorando de alegria y no de meido” – Crying of happiness and not of fear.

This was the last song I ever got to listen to with my grandfather. So I hold that very close to my heart. I left that hospice crying of happiness for all the love I was lucky enough to share with him and not of fear for a world without his light. I got this tattoo a couple months later up my elbow on my left arm. A reminder that he is always holding my hand and guiding me.

6. I love you O.K

The same day I got the tattoo for my grandfather I also got one for my grandmother. My grandfather was my mothers father. My mothers mother passed when I was in first grade so I have only a few memories of her. This tattoo was for my father’s mother. My Abuela Nina.

Growing up my grandmother’s took care of me, so for a while I didn’t speak any English. Then I went to school and stopped speaking Spanish all the time. Well, my Abuela Nina doesn’t speak English at all. She understands some things and will repeat words sometimes but for the most part she speaks Spanish only. (She called my Husband Mall for awhile before understanding his name is Matt.)

My grandmother also has pretty bad handwriting so it was already hard to read her birthday cards. Now add in that the cards are in Spanish and when we were younger me and my cousins could speak it but we couldn’t read it. So, she learned how to write I Love You O.K. at the bottom of each card so if we couldn’t understand all of it we could understand that part.

7.  Amen

These next three I got on the same day and are my most spontaneous tattoos ever. Let me set the scene:

23 year old Reena, working in the city, spending her nights competing for a spot on the Jersey City Slam team to make it to The National Poetry Slam being held in California that year. I had been doing so well at work I won a wheel spin – a free trip to Florida. (Pretty much they nominate 7 people each quarter and pick out two names out of the 7. If your name was picked you got to spin this big wheel of prizes. The prizes were everything from cash or Broadway tickets to two tickets to some where in the world.) One of my oldest friends had just gotten engaged and he lives in Florida so a couple of us decided to take a trip to Miami and meet up for a long weekend and just have some fun.

The night before my 5 am flight I was at Jersey City slam trying out a new piece. The piece, called “Dear God“, won me my very first slam that night. I don’t think I slept at all before going to the airport I was so excited.

Since my then boyfriend didn’t want to go with me I was able to get a room in a hotel right on Miami beach by myself. My friends all stayed at different hotels depending on what they could afford and what not. So the first night we went so hard. Staying up late and drinking and just having an overall good time. I left them while they were still in party mode but like I said I barely slept so I was exhuasted. So the next morning I woke up way before everyone else. I had breakfast on the beach and did some writing. It was very peaceful. I found myself walking around and I saw a tattoo shop. I did a quick Google search and found out the place was actually really really good.

Originally I had wanted to get the words “Lord hear my prayer” on four of my fingers but after talking to the tattoo artist it just wasn’t worth it because it would probably fade quickly. So I settled on a line I say over and over in “Dear God” – Amen. It is what we say at the end of every prayer and it means “I believe that it is so.” I got it on my right hand to remind me that as long as I believe in Him, God will always reward me.

At the same time I got the letter B and a cross on my middle finger on my right hand. My family and my faith are always the center of everything I do right.

8. B

For my maiden name. My family name.

9. Cross

For my faith.

10. King Leo

My latest tattoo has been four years in the making. Up until now I’ve only had words on my body (not counting my heart). I wanted a specific looking lion and specific looking roses. I reserved the right to be very picky. So when my husband gifted me a tattoo for my recent birthday in March I was prepared.

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This tattoo is for my father. My rock. My king. My Leo. (He actually is a Leo, he was born in August.) Ever since I can remember my father has been rocking the lion and claiming it for himself. I see a lion and I automatically see my father. Following my tattoo’s for people I love theme I’ve got going I knew I wanted this one. Its my largest tattoo to date on my right forearm. The roses represent my great grandmother Rosa (means rose in Spanish). She’s, I think, 96 now and lives in the Bronx still regulating all the men in the family.

So I have a King Leo on a bed of roses. My father’s dynasty.

My opinions on tattoos pretty much have stayed the same over the years. To each their own. I haven’t had any trouble finding jobs because of my tattoos or being judged by them. I think the most I get are some stupid comments if people don’t know the meaning behind them or I just get asked who I went to for them. I also get grabbed a lot by random people who want to see my tattoos. There is like this my horse is bigger than your horse thing that happens when other people with tattoos try to compare tattoos. Like if my work is less than theirs if I didn’t use their artist. I don’t fall for that. I love all my pieces. Can’t nobody tell me nothing! HAHA!

What are your opinions on tattoos?

– Besos! xoxo

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