Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Bodacious. The year I turned twenty someone used that word to describe me. I had no idea what it meant. I looked it up. I certainly didn't see myself that way.

Fast forward to 2013. Colorado Springs. The Summit, the international calligraphy convention. It is book signing night and I am sitting adjacent to Lisa Engelbrecht. In addition to signing her books she is offering to write calligraphic tattoos on the arms of fellow calligraphers as a tribute to Georgia Deaver who had started the tradition of 'inking' her friends years before. Everyone was on an emotional high that night. There was great laughter and camaraderie as is so often the case at our conventions. It took me a while but I finally warmed to the idea of some ink on my arm. But what to have her write? I though on it for a bit and suddenly the word appeared: bodacious.

Lisa loved it and she did a phenomenal job of lettering such a long word on such a short arm.
The next morning I was careful to keep my arm dry in the shower because I wanted to preserve my ink to show to my class. There was much fun to be had explaining what it meant.  I was safely in the midst of my tribe and laughed along with everyone.

The next morning I wasn't careful in the shower. I was heading home, it was time for the ink to disappear. But for some reason the ink didn't budge. Off I went to the airport with a very splashy, very real looking tattoo. I'm used to being practically invisible out in public, happily flying about under the radar if you will. Not that day! Ticket agents, security guards, the pourers of coffee, fellow travellers....everybody noticed me. The wait for the plane was endless - in fact after many hours the flight was cancelled altogether. I found myself looking for alternative ways to get to Denver for a newly ticketed flight to Toronto the next day. The United agent didn't know how I was going to get there and truly didn't care. There were about a dozen of us from the conference who found ourselves in the same situation. So I channelled all that bodaciousness I had been feeling because of my tattoo and called a limo company and talked the dispatcher into finding a van that could drive us to Denver. I asked my sweet husband to find a budget hotel where we could sleep. I even asked to ride shotgun on the trip into Denver!

The next morning the ink stayed in place despite vigourous scrubbing in the shower. Again I got lots of attention at the airport. Again my flight was late and by the time I was finally heading for home the only thing that was feeling bodacious was the skin under that ink.

The tattoo lasted a full week. My favourite part of this whole story happened in a little fruit market in a small town north of the city. The store employs a handful of young teenage boys who stock shelves, clean the floor and carry out groceries. I rarely even notice them. But this day one of them was trailing me as I shopped, finding ways to stay near my cart while he straightened signs, reformed piles of lemons, picked up random leaves around the lettuce...Just before I headed for the check out he spoke to me. He wanted to know about my tattoo, where I'd had it done, who had designed it. He thought it was the coolest tattoo he had ever seen and he was saving to have one done when he was old enough. I gave him my business card and told him to contact me if he ever wanted to have Lisa design one for him. I've never heard from him and now if I do, well, sadly I won't be able to follow through.

I want to thank Lisa for helping me claim my bodaciousness after all these years. Even after the tattoo faded I was left with a little more pluck. I've added it to the list of internal descriptors that I use to pump myself up when I'm feeling low. It helped me add "she who swims with penguins" to my list of accomplishments. But that story is one for another day.


  1. Made me laugh and made me cry - for Lisa who I have known for a long time and have loved for her talent, kindness, and so much more - and for you who I have met more recently and have learned from and admire. You both have added to my life in creative ways and in life in general ways. Thanks!

  2. You also made me laugh and cry and I didn't even know Lisa. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. Cherryl, you write so beautifully and your stories are so human. I'll have to write the word BODACIOUS on a piece of paper and post it above my desk not only to motivate me but to remind me of you, a most bodacious lady indeed. Thank you for your post and I'm sorry for your loss.

  3. What a lovely memory you have of the wonderful Lisa! She, along with you, can apply the term bodacious to yourselves and wear it proudly!! Lisa was at the periphery of my life for so many years, always a big smile and so much energy, I will miss her!

  4. Love the word, love the tattoo, love the story! A light has gone out in the world… and those who knew Lisa will miss her vibrant presence… but sharing memories will help keep her bodacious spirit alive… Thank you for this memory…


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