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Ten Years of Ink—How it began, and what it has become.

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Everything below I wrote first, and now I am just writing this intro. The paragraphs below flow chronologically, as I am trying to talk about my tattoo story, but it does get kind of long-winded. There isn’t really a nicer or “neater way” to put this story into written form. So, I am just giving a heads up that this is a bit all over the place, but in the end, I hope you get what I am trying to convey.

My dad had a tattoo. On his left bicep. What was it? Well, it was supposed to be a snake and an eagle. But it ended up looking like an eel and a weird polygon. He got this tattoo while he was enlisted in the Marines. My mom thinks he had to be 19 or 20 when he got it, as he was born in 1952, graduated in 1971, and then was off to boot camp. He was stationed on a boat in the Philippines for some time, and it was at a sketchy island tattoo shop that he got this done. In theory, I think he was going to go back and have it finished. But, even though my dad looked like someone who could handle any level of pain, he really had a pain tolerance of zero!
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My dad obviously had this tattoo on his arm for all to see my whole life. He never hid it or said he regretted it. I grew up seeing it was acceptable to have a tattoo, albeit an unfinished one. I honestly don’t remember when I first started thinking about getting a tattoo, but I knew I wanted one. I got my first tattoo about a month after my 18th birthday. I was dead set on getting a Snoopy on my lower back—but, my mom had an opinion about that. Her worry was not that I would be old and wrinkly and not want a tattoo there, but that I would someday be old and wrinkly and regret having a Snoopy. Her wise suggestion?—a butterfly. OK MOM, HOW CLICHE DO YOU WANT THIS TO BE?!? Anyway, my dad was fine with me getting a Snoopy, because it was my body and that was something I have always loved, so I made an appointment and all was said and done.

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Yes, there’s the warning people with tattoos give out that you “won’t end up with just 1. They are addicting!” In my first year at college, I got two more pieces inked for life—-Another Snoopy, on my right lower hip, and a set of flowers on top of my foot. I will touch back on those flowers later, as that is the one tattoo I had gotten that really didn’t have a meaning:

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When my dad passed away in April 2004, shortly after the flower tattoo, I began to think about a way to ink his memory. This was done in the fall of 2004, during my sophomore year at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I found a document at my mom’s house with his signature, so it could be replicated on the lower right side of my back. Angel wings were added, along with a Canadian maple leaf, since he was from Canada (Ironic how now I live in Canada, eh?)

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My final Peanuts tattoo (for now) was added a short time later. I had a tiny Woodstock flying around under my left ankle bone added.

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I started to step it up a notch in Spring 2007. This was my senior year at UWL, and I wanted to do something more with honoring my dad. Even though it had been three years since his passing, I was still not really dealing with his death that well. I was angry, confused, mad…it was unfair. I still didn’t deal with it properly and talk about it, but I booked an appointment and had three stars inked on my right rib cage—-1 for me, 1 for my mom, and 1 for my dad.

This held as my sixth tattoo for five years. I had said I was done. But a lot changes in five years. For instance, I had moved to Alberta. It is funny how things work that I meet a guy, my husband, on vacation while in the Bahamas, and he lives in Canada. So then I move to Canada, and the move was easier than it should have been, since I could get Canadian Citizenship, since my dad was born in Quebec. So thank you Dad for being born in Canada! Also, I finally started to confront the fact my dad was gone, and while it wasn’t fair, I had to deal with it appropriately. I started talking—not yelling or crying, but talking with people who are well-versed in this area.

In August 2012, I got the largest piece put onto my body—a fleur de lis with the inscription “je me souviens.” I have clung to this quote once finding out it is the motto for the province of Quebec. It translates to “I Remember.” The motto has helped inspire me to do this site, among other things. This piece was so large that we linked it with the stars already in place and the signature. In a way, it mad three individual pieces work together as one.

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In December 2012, I had the simple words “Blackbird Fly” placed on my left wrist, as a reminder to shed away all the negativity and unhappiness. I had had my friend Melissa sing the song “Blackbird” at our wedding as I walked down the aisle in December 2010. I was flying away from the wings of my mom and dad, to my new life as a “mrs.” The song can take on all sorts of personal meanings, depending on your interpretation, but I saw it as a symbol of living the next chapter of my life proudly, full of love, full of appreciation for the past, and full of happiness.

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Now lets go back to that flower tattoo on my foot. All my other tattoos have deep meaning—-sure, Snoopy images may not seem deep, but it is of personal value and importance. I had images on my body either related to Snoopy and the gang, or for the memory and love of my dad and my family. But I had nothing to do with running, a passion I took to the next level of road racing back in Spring 2004, shortly after my dad passed away and ironically shortly after this flower tattoo.

I decided I wanted this tattoo to be “enhanced.” It had faded over 9 years and need to be brought back to life. I also wanted more vines to be added and some shading to make it look more embedded onto my foot, rather than a stamp. But most importantly, I wanted a simple 13.1 and 26.2 hidden somehow within the vines, to signify the race distances in miles of a half and full marathon.

I planned this tattoo around a Septoplasty surgery I was going to have done. On June 17th, I went in for a day surgery to have a deviated septum taken care of, and I will now hopefully breathe easier out of my right nostril when I run and do day to day activities. (I have had a scab on that side for 7 damn years….it bleeds and forms again and makes breathing a pain. This was a possible solution that will hopefully work!). This surgery was set after my last half marathon of Spring, and since I can’t run for about 5 weeks from the surgery, I thought having my foot touched up during the time would be smart, as flip flops are a must as it heals. So, in celebration of my running (and the two month break I will be having from running!) I went to Peppermint Hippo Tattoo in Lethbridge, Alberta, on June 21st.

Carla was my tattoo artist, and she drew right on my foot her ideas. She decided to hide the numerals in the vines! She would re outline the whole old tattoo, along with the new additions, and then starting shading and coloring. The finished product is more than I could have hoped for! You can see from a onlookers view how my foot looks now—-the 13.1 is hidden near the bottom by my toes, while the 26.2 is a little trickier to see near my ankle (tilt your head sideways and turn it a bit and you’ll see it weaving.)

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So that is my tattoo story. Yes, it doesn’t really flow linearly, and it kind of goes all over the place. And I know there are people out there who do not understand why people get tattoos. But they are all important to me, and I am proud of every single one. And I realize I will become old and wrinkly at some point, yes, but at least I will have some beautiful art to look at on my body! If you are considering getting a tattoo for the first time, make sure it is something you have always loved or has a special meaning to you. and don’t worry about what others think—you aren’t forcing them to get it on their own body!

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Andrew A. Lammers-The Teacher

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I feel it is important I have a post about my dad’s line of work. No, he did not go to a university receiving a Bachelor Degree in education. He actually went to Cardinal Stritch University for about 3.5 years for social work before leaving. But, he still became a teacher. No, he didn’t get hired without proper credentials. But, he taught at the same alternative school for 27.5 years. Where did he work? The Milwaukee County House of Corrections.

Let me explain…..

After graduating high school in 1971, my dad enlisted in the US Marines, where he served for 2 years and was also in inactive reserves for 2 years after. He was usually stationed on a boat near the Philippines. My Uncle Ed has told me that my Grandpa (a pilot in the Marines during WWII) tried to buy my dad out of joining the Marines by offering to purchase him a convertible. My dad declined. After his bout in the US Marines, he enrolled part-time at Cardinal Stritch University, a private school on the north end of Milwaukee County. His plans were to go for social work. He needed a job during this time. So, in January 1976 he was hired as a correctional officer at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections, in Franklin, Wisconsin.

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During his years at Cardinal Stritch, he realized he didn’t want to stick with social work. Going to school really wasn’t his thing. After his military benefits ran out, he left the university and stayed with working at the HOC. He held various positions while there-correctional officer from the rank of sergeant to lieutenant, recreation specialist and program facilitator. When he started as a correctional officer, he even worked on the farm for a bit when they still had livestock that they slaughtered. But, his favorite position had to be when he was Recreation’s Officer. Basically, he was the Physical Education teacher for the inmates. And he loved it. He had “Rec. Porters”-an inmate or two who earned the privilege of extra gym time because of behavior. Dad would have them do cleaning jobs around the gym and weight room, and they got to work out with my dad for extra time than regularly allowed. My dad had a special bond with the inmates. Keep in mind, this was a correctional facility where most inmates my dad dealt with on a daily basis were in for shorter periods of time, either for drug issues, theft, petty crimes, etc. He was not working out with people suspected of murders. He taught them proper weight training and that they should not use the weights as a tool for “bulking up” so they could then go out and commit more crimes.

In about 1994, there was a major issue about allowing inmates in these type of facilities to use free-weights. My dad was in support of keeping the free-weights and not moving to just machines. It caused quite the stir in the news and the papers. 20/20 did a segment at the House of Corrections with John Stossel, and my dad was interviewed. I remember us watching the segment at home. There he was, in his red HOC rec. officer polo! That was his 15 minutes of fame, even if it was only an 8 second clip that got included. Online you can still find a few websites with some articles relating to this issue that include quotes from my dad. The quotes are ever-so-thoughtful, in only a way my dad could convey. But he stood by his beliefs. If there was a properly certified employee who was passionate about weight-training and athletics, who would supervise the inmates with an iron-fist and put the smack-down on misbehavior or mistreatment of the weight room, there was no reason why inmates should not be allowed time in a weight room. The exercise was a healthy outlet for them.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-03-24/news/9403240266_1_prison-riot-lifting-inmates

Sadly, they dissolved the rec. officer position. My dad still held a place in the weight room at the HOC. When my dad got promoted to a lieutenant, the inmates drew and signed two pictures to congratulate him. He had a bond with them. It was a common occurrence for us to run into former inmates while at county and state fairs, as they were working as carnies. They would always, always yell things like “Sergeant Lammers! Hey! How are you! Look! I have a job! I haven’t been in trouble since being let out!”. My dad would remember every single guy. He would take the time to talk about them and how they got their life together. Some of the stranger places my dad ran into inmates was at the zoo and even at a wedding. Please note, that this wedding was not for someone in our immediate family!

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My dad’s final position at the HOC was Program Facilitator. He arranged programs for the inmates and coordinated volunteer programs. He also organized the pastors who travelled from Indiana to come in and work with the inmates. I never heard it, but apparently on a late-night radio feed at around midnight on Sundays, these pastors did blessings for my dad and the inmates at the HOC. My dad use to make my mom get it tuned in so he could hear it.

Including my dad’s years in the military, my dad had 29.5 years of service with Milwaukee County when he retired in August 2003 at the age of 51. There was a small gathering at Jim Dandy’s in Franklin where they had a retirement party. He was one of the longest serving employees at the HOC at that time. The retirement came 10 months earlier than originally planned, all due to county-wide budget cuts. It turned out to be the right decision, as my dad passed away 8 months later.

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No, my dad did not teach at an elementary, middle or high school. He did not even teach at a “traditional-alternative school”. But he taught. He worked hands-on with those inmates who had run into tough times. He could have treated them like the criminals everyone thought they were. But he made connections with them and got them prepared for life after being released. People may feel uncomfortable with this idea of a teacher, but I know my dad made a lasting impact in hundreds of men’s lives. I am forever proud of him.