So back in August 2014 I met my best friend. February 13, 2015 (Friday the 13th and the day before Valentine’s Day) we got married.

Shortly after my divorce and before I met Mr. J I made this list. I decided that if I was going to ever try to date again I needed to learn from my mistakes and do all the things better. And I wanted to find the exact opposite of my ex.

Funny thing: somehow we both forgot to ask each other what our political affiliations were until after we got married. Boy was that a surprise. I was all like: how did we go this long without having one political discussion? But it’s okay. Even though we disagree about some things, we still love each other, accept each other, and work together to make both of our lives better. That’s how respect works.

Henna for the civil ceremony.

It was a lovely, crisp, clear night when we got married.

In the morning it looked like this:

It’s was an awesome day! Today is awesome too! Here’s to this life and the next! Together forever! I love you Mr. J!

Me: (texts Mr. J. a list of things I want him to bring from the apartment when he comes to visit)

Mr. J.: (calls me three seconds later) What do you mean by cat brush?

Me: The cat brush. Like the brush for cats?

Mr. J.: Oh ok, I just wanted to clarify that it was the cat brush and not some weird cat shaped brush thing that you have.

Me: (Laughs)

Mr. J.: (Laughs)

Me: I’m laughing because I can totally see why you need clarification.

Mr. J.: Yeah.

Do you have one?

Did you have one?

If you’re a writer, are your characters your imaginary friends?

Today I binge watched all of Sci Fi’s Happy on Netflix and it made me think a lot about the distinct lack of imaginary friends in my life.

I never made up a taking animal or another human that only I could see and interact with. I’ve always felt slightly less human because of that. I feel like everyone who’s truly creative had an imaginary friend somewhere in their childhood, which cuts me out of the True Creative category.

I did have a stuffed rabbit named Fuzzy in elementary school and later a stuffed frog named Filbert that I had all through high school and college. Filbert was more of an emotional support plushie, a therapeutic tool, while Fuzzy was my BFF.

Somewhere in first grade Fuzzy disappeared. I don’t know if I lost him at school or if my father threw him away because I was too old to be so attached to a stuffed animal or whatever. But with Fuzzy gone I was devastated.

At this point you may be wondering if I had any real friends growing up. The answer is not really. There were a few people but we only interacted at school or through school related activities, I never kept up with them and they never kept up with me once we changed schools.

So in a sense I made my own friends but I used inanimate objects to build my stories and characters upon. I never invented a creature out of thin air, from scratch until I started seriously writing fiction. But I don’t see my characters walking around helping me kill bad guys or cheat at poker. And even though my characters do talk to me it’s only in the context of their stories, they don’t exist in this world with me.

I kinda wish they did, it might make writing easier.

To anyone reading this: what’s your experience with imaginary friends? I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject. And if you’ve seen Happy and if you liked it. I personally thought it was amazing.

I’m going to preface this post with a statement that may seem contrary to its title:


Ever since I was a little girl, like old enough to process what pictures were, I wanted tattoos. Most girls wanted American Girl and Barbie dolls. I wanted GI-Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And tattoos. I drew on myself, to the misery of my mother and teachers, every chance I got. The other kids thought I was weird. Whatever.

I tell you this to illustrate how much I love tattoos. I love looking at tattoos, mine and other peoples’, and I love getting tattoos and watching tattoo artists work on other people.

The only thing I don’t like about tattoos is the healing time. Mr. J can heal a tattoo, no matter how big, within a week. I take 2+ weeks because my skin is useless. But other than that, I love tattoos.

In 2016 I came to one of those life crossroads that either yield great rewards or completely fuck you over. (The last one was in 2006–so once every 10 years this happens I guess–when I married my ex-husband.) Go into the medical field and remove my most favorite visible tattoo or keep the tattoo and risk future shitty retail jobs and/or unemployment.

At that time I was tired of following the same “career” paths I had been stomping down and I wanted to do something that would make me feel more useful to society and be a few steps up from an entry level job in a department store or office.

My previous jobs have included: teaching, retail, various positions in libraries on the East Coast, truck driving along the West Coast, and market research. None of these things were particularly lucrative, emotionally gratifying, or economically stable.

So I decided to become a phlebotomist. Why? Because I am was scared to death of needles and I make it my mission in life to run towards things I’m afraid of.

I enrolled in a phlebotomy training course at a local clinic and guess what…I fucking love phlebotomy. It’s the funnest thing I’ve ever done. And I’m pretty good at it too. Sure, I’ve missed veins before, everyone misses veins. But for the first time ever I thought to myself: I could do this for the rest of my life and be happy.

Here’s the down side: most medical facilities, especially ones in the American South where I currently live, discourage visible tattoos. I have noticed that hand tattoos are becoming more and more acceptable depending on the facility/clinic.

But here’s the thing: I had a tattoo on my neck. But not just on my neck, under my chin. You know that space where your lower jaw and your neck meet? That really, really tender spot? Yeah, I got a tattoo there.

Yes, employers are now more tolerant than ever of visible tattoos in the workplace.

Yes, the tattoo artist who did the work said, “That’s a job stopper.” And I said I was fine with that because I was convinced I would hate every job I ever worked at because my real job was writing and I’d never get paid to write poetry so what the fuck ever. (I know, real mature.)

But I still got passed over for jobs, irregardless of whether my tattoos were covered up or not, because the boss knew they were there and that was enough.

Yes, there is makeup to cover up visible tattoos. I personally don’t wear makeup (ok maybe mascara once in a blue moon). I experimented with multiple brands. Kay Von Dee’s tattoo cover up is NOT that great. I had to apply 5 or 6 layers to hide all the color (But that’s my skin, it might work great for you). The best cover up makeup I found was Merle Norman’s extreme cover up foundation. It’s a close cousin to stage makeup and very effective at covering scars, birth marks, and even my tattoo, I only needed 2 or 3 layers to hide it completely but I felt so gross wearing it. It was like I had to walk around with slime smeared under my chin all day and was constantly smearing it, even with setting spray it would melt down my neck and into my shirt collars. I even had a boss tell me to wash it off because I looked “sick” or “had something wrong with me.”

It might seem shallow to prefer something as drastic and painful as tattoo removal treatments instead of putting up with a little bit of makeup discomfort but in my mind the tattoo removal treatments are more temporary that applying mounds and mounds of makeup for the rest of eternity. My choice. (And having runny makeup when you’re trying to prep a sterile field is not very professional.)

Before 2016 I didn’t really care that I was working in “dead end” jobs and living from paycheck to paycheck. But I reached the decision that I didn’t want to struggle financially any more and I wanted to have a “day job” that I could take pride in and, more importantly, enjoy.

So after 6 years of having a tattoo under my chin and putting up with people either going “WOW!” or “WTF?” whenever they saw me, I decided to bite the bullet and get it removed so that I could have a better chance at getting a phlebotomy job.

In addition to the job thing, there were also a lot of personal elements between myself and Mr. J, which I will not go into. When I described the situation to one of my former co-workers, he made this analogy: “It’s like the motorcycle you give up when you want to have kids.”

I wouldn’t be that extreme, in my opinion a motorcycle is way more valuable than a tattoo but yes, that’s it. You can use your imagination to fill in the gaps. Mr. J. and I had several adult conversations about adult things and I have learned that it really sucks being an adult but sometimes you just have to buck up and be an adult.

So that’s what I did.

My first tattoo removal treatment was May 23, 2016. Since then I’ve had 12 laser treatments using 3 different lasers.

Picosure (5 treatments)

Enlighten (4 treatments)

Lumenis PiQo4 (3 treatments)

I had my treatments done at a Dermatology clinic. I had a consultation with the doctor and all of my treatments were facilitated by either certified laser technicians or medical assistants.

Treatments 11:

Lumenis PiQo4

Wavelength: 532

Fluence: 1.5 j

Pulse Energy: 5 pps

Pulse Duration: 800 ps

Spot Size: 5 mm

Treatment 12:

Lumenis PiQo4

Wavelength: 1064

Fluence: 2.7 j

Pulse Energy: 10 pps

Pulse Duration: 800 ps

Spot Size: 10 mm

The Picosure worked better than I expected it would but the results weren’t as impressive as the other lasers.

The Enlighten demolished all the black ink like it was going out of style. Serious pigment eating action here.

The Lumenis PiQo4 removes the most color out of all three lasers.

Later this year I’m going back to have one more treatment done to get rid of the remaining shadow.

Getting a tattoo removed feels like hot oil spitting up from a pan and burning you. It’s tiny little burns in a concentrated area. Depending on the lasers’ settings, the burning sensation can be mild or severe.

For most of my treatments I chose to use lidocaine injections to numb the site because:

1. I’m tough but not that tough

2. I wanted the laser to be on the highest settings possible

As seen in Table 1, the laser settings changed depending on the laser and how much ink was left over. In the beginning stages and whenever they switched from one laser to another, the techs turned the settings down so they wouldn’t burn me. I really appreciated that.

And now, if you really want to see them, here’s some pictures of the blistered, scabby healing process…(under the cut for sensitive eyes)

My tattoos and tattoo removal process and motivations were unique to me (how much color ink, my skin’s reactions, etc.) and may not be your situation. If you’re thinking about removing a tattoo, do your research, keep an open mind, and do what the laser tech tells you to do.

More thoughts on long distance relationships:

Mr. J. and I have been living apart (work reasons, we’re still married) since December 4 and I’ve surprised myself because I can’t mark his absence from my life in a tally of days. I’ve tried, thinking that will make things more bearable.

Instead I putter along, going with the flow of the day, until something happens, some stupid little thing that makes me realize I haven’t seen my husband/best friend in FOREVER.

The first occurrence was when I had to do laundry for the first time since moving. And I thought to myself: seriously? I’ve already run out of clothes? And this is my first time doing laundry away from Mr. J? And then I thought about how many loads of laundry I will be doing in the 3 years we will be apart. That’s a lot of fucking laundry.

The second occurrence was when I cut my fingernails (I cut them the day before I said “goodbye”). Sorry if fingernails gross you out. But as I was cutting them I thought: seriously? I have to cut my nails already? Surely it hasn’t been that long. But it was.

And then today I realized my new (purchased the week before my move) bottle of Vitamin C is almost empty. I don’t take vitamins regularly even though I should. You could hold a gun to my head and say, “If you don’t take your vitamins every day for a week I will kill you and your cats,” I still wouldn’t be able to do it. And now that fucking bottle is almost empty. I can see the bottom of the fucking bottle.

It’s like hitting the pan on your favorite eye shadow and going: WTF I just bought this!

I can still talk to him almost every day, thank the gods, but whenever I have one of these moments where something little jumps out at me and screams: BEHOLD THE UNYIELDING PASSAGE OF TIME HAHA! And I realize it really hasn’t been that long and I have thousands and thousands of other little moments waiting in the wings to jump out at me.

I’m going to turn 33 next month and I’ll be 35 or 36 when we get to a place where we can live together again. That in itself gives me pause.

And, like an ostrich with head in the sand (is that even a real thing?) or a cat that’s just fallen off of something and doesn’t want to admit there was a moment when it wasn’t graceful and in control of everything around it, I pretend I’m not upset, that that little thing/monster didn’t happen, and I move on with my day.

I don’t know if that’s the most healthy thing to do or that it will keep working but it’s working for me so far and that’s really all I can ask for right now.

Having a creative outlet also helps. Working with characters that I love helps.

What helps you?

Me: (making a cup of green tea after 2 cups of coffee) I’ve already written 1000 words this morning and committed a heinous act of violence!

Mom: (not looking up from her newspaper) Well, easy come, easy go.

Let me know if you have family and friends who are not impressed when you tell them one of your characters has murdered another because it’s just another day at the office for them.