This....heat....

....metling away my will to live...my ability to spell...

The hotter it gets, the shorter my list of Things I'm Capable of Doing Right Now gets....


Things I'm Capable of Doing Right Now (In This Heat)

1. Sweating
2. Laying flat on back
4. Twitching slightly
5. Groaning feebly
3. Thinking about ice cubes
6. Wiping brow
7. Changing shirt again
8. Applying more deodorant
9. Taking off shirt
10. Taking off pants
11. Taking off skin
12. Running toward distant oasis only to find it's just a mirage
13. JogBlogging





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A Walk to Remember

Yes, I happen to like this book by Nicholas Sparks... well, most books by Nicholas Spraks, really. But this was a different sort of walk.

On Saturday, Spence and I went up to Sugarloaf Mountain for a hike. I had looked at the trail maps online and found that the white trail at the top of the mountain was a nice 2 1/2 mile loop... sounded about right. Well, something wasn't measured quite right, because I can tell you that it was a LOT longer than 2 1/2 miles! We eventually figured out a little shortcut (after getting a little lost) back to the car. So, our walk was a bit memorable because we got a little lost, but also because I was reminded of a truth I greatly needed to hear.

It was nice to get out on a beautiful day and do something different. There's something refreshing to me about being face to face with God's creation... wheteher it's being in the woods, on the top of a mountain and being able to see for miles, or at the beach with the crashing waves. While we were there, I was reminded of Matthew 6, where Jesus tells us not to worry, and makes a point of talking about the birds, the lilies, and the grass of the fields, and how if they are taken care of, then how much more will we be? It was a wonderful truth to remember and to be reminded of. Here's a picture from our walk...


Lately one of the things I have wondered through this is how am I going to be okay? I know that I will be; God promises to never leave us or foresake us...but how? How am I going to be okay when I go back to teaching in August? How am I going to be okay when we go to meet with the people at the cemetery and the funeral home? How am I going to be okay the night before my scheduled c-section? And how am I going to be okay in that moment where Isaac takes his last little breath, should God decide to call him home?

I don't really know. I do know that God gives us enough grace for each moment, and that He just wants us to trust that He is who He says He is. He has surrounded us with wonderful people who are being His hands and His feet to us every day.

On Wednesday we have another ultrasound with the perinatologist at the maternal-fetal medicine group. In some ways I am excited becuase we'll get to "see" our sweet baby boy. I am hoping I'll get the chance to both see and feel him move at the same time. Would you please pray for us for that ultrasound? Would you please pray for a miracle, that God would heal Isaac's little spine, unteather his spinal cord, grow his lungs, and heal the omphalocele? Would you please also pray for wisdom for the doctor as he reads and interprets what he's seeing, and that he could clearly convey that information to us and the implications for Isaac? Would you please pray for wisdom for Spencer and I as we think through all that we hear, as we'll be meeting with the neonatologist the following week at the hospital where I'll be delivering to discuss our wishes for Isaac's birth? And would you please pray for continued comfort and peace for us, grace for each step of the journey, and the courage to love little Isaac as perfectly as possibly while he's with us?

Happy birthday, blog

To my great surprise, I note that we launched the Satisfactory Comics blog a year ago today. Most of our posts have aimed at the topics I raised in my inaugural post, though predictably we've fiddled about with the occasional non-comics post or general silliness. I think, though, that with over 160 posts in 365 days--most of them by my colleague--that we can, in retrospect, laugh at Isaac's modest remark (in response to Derik Badman's comment to that first post): "...may[b]e this will develop into something more than a post or two; who knows?"

I also note with some amusement that the image I chose to illustrate that first post is the cover for the only comic of ours that you can't read about on this website. There's some irony there in that it's nonetheless one of our most well-received comics by those who've got their hands on it, and further irony in that we have long had a plan afoot to post the whole comic online. Why haven't we done so yet? I'm sure there are other reasons, but part of it is the judgment of one of its cartoonist-protagonists that his caricature doesn't look sufficiently like him. This offers an interesting context for the question raised at the end of Isaac's recent post about his moving postcards. Regardless of how that question shakes out in general, I do hope that one thing we manage to accomplish with the blog in its second year is to put our last missing comic online at last--even if Isaac has to get all Al Plastino on my Jack Kirby Superman, so to speak.

At any rate, this blog has certainly been useful for us as cartoonists and wrestlers with comics, and I have appreciated every comment (even the snarky ones). Thanks for reading.

Rams, Stretcher Bearers, and Arms

You may be wondering what rams, stretcher bearers, and arms have to do with each other. Truthfully, the answer is nothing, except that all three have been on my mind lately. It has been a few days since I have written, mostly because I have been doing a lot of thinking and just taking in a lot of what has been before me.

I finished reading "When I Lay My Isaac Down" by Carol Kent, the book I mentioned in a previous post. I really just couldn't stop reading it. She addressed so many of the feelings and questions that my meandering heart have felt and wondered. One of them was, What happens when God doesn't provide a ram in the thicket?

In Genesis 22, as Abraham is about to slay Isaac, an angel of the Lord calls out to him. Verses 12-14 read, "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

But what happens when God doesn't provide the way out? What if there's no ram in the thicket? I was comforted to know that I am not the only who has ever asked this question.

Another part of this book that touched my heart was in a chapter about community. Kent introduced the term "Stretcher Bearers," named after the passage in the gospels where Jesus heals a paralytic brought to him on a mat. Here is the story as told in Mark 2:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 1But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 1He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"


This man couldn't get to Jesus on his own; he had to be carried there. What's interesting about a stretcher is that one person can't carry it alone; the job is shared by several people. The same is true about community. One person can't provide everything to someone, but each person can do something.

Spencer and I have been so fortunate to be surrounded, supported, and sometimes even carried by a wonderful group of stretcher bearers. Some of you are people whom I have never met in real life who have committed to praying for us. Others of you are people with whom we are very close, who have also prayed with us, asked the hard questions, shown up just to be with us, and who at times, have carried us to the feet of Jesus. We are so grateful for you and for the blessing you are, have been, and will continue to be in our lives.

Today I was at the pool with our neighbors. They have two kids, one of whom, turns 6 in a few weeks. Her name is Hannah, and she is learning to swim. I was sitting on the edge of the pool with her while her mom was in the water asking Hannah to jump in and swim to her. Her mom was standing a bit further back than she would have liked, and Hannah was afraid to jump. She looked up at her mom and motioned with her arms as she said, "Arms out, Mom." Then, she jumped in and swam to her.

I was struck by how much I feel like Hannah. God has allowed the circumstances Spencer and I are currently facing, and they're not how we want them look. We would write the story differently if we could. Sometimes I feel like I am staring God in the face, not knowing what to make of the situation. What I do know is that His arms are already out, and what He asks is that we trust Him and jump in.

He wants us to trust Him, even if he doesn't provide the ram in the thicket. He wants us to trust Him, even in what feels like one of the most unthinkable circumstances. He never changes, He is who He says He is, and He is worthy of our trust.

I don't know what God's plans are for our sweet Isaac. I know what I would like them to be. I was reminded today by one of our dear "strecher bearers" that God has given me the gift of already experiencing one of the truest joys of being a mother, which is seeing your child's life impact others for God. I couldn't be more proud.

Hippy-Dippy Weatherman


May 12, 1937 - Born. God winces.

(from Carlin's web page)

“The weather was dominated by a large Canadian low, which is not to be confused with a Mexican high. Tonight’s forecast . . . dark, continued mostly dark tonight turning to widely scattered light in the morning.” Those are the words of my favorite weatherman, Al Sleet, a character George Carlin created early in his career. Carlin was a quick, profane, vulgar, brilliant, and hilarious comedian and cultural critic. He was a serious student of the English language and he could creatively turn ordinary words and phrases into bizarre insights regarding the human condition. Here are a few examples that I've enjoyed.

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

When someone asks you, A penny for your thoughts, and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?


When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Is a vegetarian permitted to eat animal crackers?

What if there were no hypothetical questions?

Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?

Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town.

What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?


Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

June 23, 2008 God surprises George by exisiting and welcoming him home!

Little Gifts

This has been a long week... a week filled with a roller coaster of emotions, less sleep than normal, and a lot of energy needed to just feel "normal." I've had moments where I have just been so angry I can't stand it, and other moments where God's peace was just so incredibly real.

A few things have happened this week that have encouraged my heart, and I am so greateful that God has brought these people, whom I have never met in real life, across my path.

On Friday, I received an e-mail from someone who has been reading this blog. She very tragically lost her son when he was five years old. I couldn't even imagine. With her permission, I have included part of her e-mail to me. I love her candor and I love what God is doing in her heart...

So after hearing your plans and that you guys were very faithful in your beliefs, being agnostic at best, I was angry at you for being so stupid and blind to your reality. And for weeks now my son has come to me in dreams, come up in conversations, and is everywhere. Now granted I feel him a lot, but it’s like he was trying to tell me something. So I sat and thought about him, thought about you and how crazy you were to subject yourself to my reality, and it came to me all at once. I cherish every single moment I shared with my son. EVERY single moment, no matter how small, from wiping snot off his nose to him squeezing me and telling me I’m the best mom in the world. And I began to cry…for me and my son, then I fell apart for days and I still do for you and Isaac. There is no way I’d change anything, even if I knew the outcome in advance, I’d do it all the same, just for those precious moments with him, and now I see you are no different. You have no idea how you’ve impacted me. Your story, and your son, what a precious gift he is to you, and to me and I’m sure there are many, many people out there who’ve already been touched by him. I know I’ve not thought much about God since my son died. It’s hard to feel compassion and love for someone who took your child from you. However my rational thought believes he was here to teach me lessons and left when they were over, or perhaps he was here to touch my heart and teach me lessons upon his death, which ever way it was supposed to go it’s worked. I’m a completely different person since he’s gone. All for the better I know. I decided his death wouldn’t be in vain and made some huge changes. Everything about him was such a blessing to me, and continues to be so. I had no idea how strong I was until that day. I had no idea how strong he was either. What an angel. You are so strong and have such faith in God and your little boy. I love you for it. I love your Isaac for God’s presence in my life again.

After reading this I just wept. I wept for this woman's heartache and her brokeness. I wept for my heartache and my brokeness. And I wept tears of pride as a mother who's son is already impacting lives for eternity. What a gift.

I received another e-mail from another woman whom I have never met who has also been reading this blog. She said,

So, I say all that to say this. I WILL BE HERE FOR YOU, each day, as you take this journey. Whatever you need that is in my power to give, it is yours. I lift you up numerous times a day, and will continue to do so in the coming months.

I will be faithful to post to your blogs (by the way, you will break my heart daily with your letters to Isaac - they are beautiful) and to email you so that you never feel completely alone.

I will hold you and Spencer and Isaac close to my heart. I will tell my little one about how brave you and your little boy are. Isaac's legacy begins now.

Your testimony is shining brightly, Stacy. I am blessed to be standing in the shadows around you, holding you up
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This woman's faithfulness to God, to prayer, and to encouraging me is such a gift.

Today is Spencer's birthday, and we're going out later with some friends to celebrate his last years in his twenties with a good old Maryland-style crab feast. It feels almost wrong to be celebrating in some ways, but I don't think that's God's heart about it. I know that there can be joy in the midst of sorrow, and today (well, every day) I am so thankful for my husband... for his courage, his sense of humor, his determination, his authenticity, and the way that he loves God, loves me, and loves our little Isaac so completely. If you don't know him, you should :) He is a gift to anyone who knows him.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers for Spencer and I, and for Isaac. They mean more to us than you could know.

Spring Update

OK. This is the promised update of my busy, exciting, rewarding,fun, and at times exhausting
Spring. Following the early May trip to South Carolina for my 25th Anniversary of graduation from Seminary and a trip to Darlington Speedway for a Nationwide Series race I accompanied John to a Potential Unlimited Music Weekend. It was held at the Rensselaerville Institute where I had the opportunity to take daily hikes to the Rensselaerville Falls.

I then volunteered a week of mornings helping to build a community playground in Ballston Spa, NY. It was hard work in hot weather and great fun. The park was completed in a week with the help of hundreds of volunteers. Here are some photos of the grandchildren playing in the park that "PopPop" help built.
June began with a trip to Rochester, NY for the Annual Upstate New York ELCA Synod Assembly. The highlight of the trip was when Mary and I ate dinner at my favorite BBQ place, Dinosaurs.

On the 12th of June, John and I traveled to Binghamton, NY for the 2008 New York State Special Olympic Summer Games. I served as a coach of the bowling team. John won a silver and a gold medal in the bowling competition. Here are some pics of John and friends at the event.
In between trips I have been golfing with grandson Brendan. He is improving at a remarkable rate and will soon be beating me regularly. Check out his swing.

An Interview With...ME?

Texan Blogger Chet Gasset is one of the fine fine people who bought a copy of my novel, The Inside, and he liked it so much he interviewed me about it. And about many other things. Pretty much EVERY other thing, actually. So if you ever wanted to find out what my answers to every question in the universe are, you please to visit following link:

CHET GASSET INTERVIEW

Isaac Timothy

A while back I posted that I love the name Noah. Spencer didn't, which is okay. With the way that this story has been unfolding, I am not sure it's the perfect fit, either.

Yesterday, we officially named our little boy Isaac Timothy. I am sure the first name goes without explanation, but I'll give one anyway. I wrote a little while ago about how I have always been drawn to the story in Genesis 22 about Abraham and Isaac. God called Abraham to obedience and complete faithfulness to Him by being willing to lay Isaac on the altar and to trust God to provide, knowing that even if he were to slay Isaac, God could raise him from the dead. Thankfully, it didn't get that far, and God provided the ram in the thicket instead. Although Spencer and I obviously don't feel like we're being called to slay our son, we do know that we are being called to lay our son in God's hands, and to so fully trust in Him... not knowing what the days ahead will look like, but knowing that God can intervene at any time.

Timothy means "to honor God." Not only did we think that it sounds good with Isaac, but we want so much for God to be glorified and honored by the choices we make, the way we walk through this (although I know some days might get ugly), and most importantly, by the way we love Him, each other, and our son.

So Isaac Timothy it is. We were undecided about whether or not we were going to share his name ahead of time. Ordinarily, I don't think we would have. But given the circumstances, I want you to be able to pray for him by name. I want his presence to matter and to be real. I want the chance to use his name rather than have it just be something given in rememberance.

I also started another blog with the hopes of compiling it all into a book (I hear there's a website that does that) at the end. It's essentially just a compilation of letters that I am writing to Isaac. The link is http://mydearisaac.blogspot.com/ in case you'd like to check it out.

I was in Barnes and Noble yesterday looking for a book... I didn't know which one really. I wasn't sure if I was looking for a book on infant loss, a book on loving well, or just what. I came across this book by Carol Kent called "When I Lay My Isaac Down." I was captivated by the title and took it off the shelf. The tag line for the book read, "Unshakeable faith in unthinkable circumstances." I had to read more.

This is a true story of Carol and her husband Gene's son, Jason, who was arrested for the murder of his wife's ex-husband. It's not about infant loss, or a pregnancy with a poor diagnosis. I think it's almost better that it's not. What it is about is the grief that these parents faced, the uncertainty of the road ahead, and the helplessness of not being able to help their son. It's about choosing to trust God when He seems to make no sense.

That's what Abraham did... and he was richly, richly blessed. I want that kind of faith... it doesn't mean that it looks pretty or perfect, but it's a faith that knows there's a bigger picture and a God who is in control of it all.

So would you please continue to pray for our sweet Isaac? For God to intervene and perform a miracle? That He would fix Isaac's abdomen, straighten his little spine, and cause his lungs to grow? Would you please pray that he wouldn't ever be in any sort of pain? And lastly, would you please pray for the grace and the peace for Spencer and I to keep walking through this well?

Comics in Hungary: The Saga Continues!

In the last couple of days, my previous post about comics in Hungary has received some welcome additions in the form of comments from a Hungarian comics scholar, zoli79 (author of the very Wikipedia entry on Hungarian comics cited in my post), and from a Hungarian comics artist, Peter Tikos, member of the Hungarian Comics Academy. Since not every visitor to the blog may be as assiduous as others when it comes to combing through comments on previous posts, allow me to repeat the information from their comments.

Peter Tikos kindly linked our post in one of today's entries on the blog of the Hungarian Comics Academy--if you want to see my smiling face above some text in Magyar, click that link! Better still, he sent a link for a gallery of the Academy's artists, as published in the PinkHell anthology. Click here to access the PinkHellComics profile, but be sure to click through from the profile to the gallery pages. Among other impressive works, two complete stories that I excerpted in my post, "Death and the Compass" by Zoltán Fritz and Zorro de Bianco and "The Woman with the Yellow Wig" by Mátyás Lanczinger, are available for your viewing and reading pleasure (in English, yet!).

zoli79 also provided a link for the complete English-language version of the "Noname" story by Miklos Felvidéki that I raved about in my previous post (note, as zoli79 points out, that the thumbnails of the story are in reverse order, so click from right to left to enlarge from start to finish). He also astounded me by observing that Felvidéki was under 18 when he wrote and drew the story. I bow to the Hungarian wunderkind!

And once again, to our Hungarian visitors: köszi!

What Does It Mean?

I want to thank each of you for your encouraging comments, e-mails, and phone calls over these last two days. Sometimes I sit here and just hit the refresh button on my computer hoping that another message will come through and will encourage my heart.

It has been a long two days... longer than any two I can remember, really. Yesterday I watched some videos on You Tube that a church put out. They had to do with what happens when life hands you "Plan B" because your orginal plans and dreams were shattered. They interviewed Todd and Angie Smith, whom I have mentioned before (and sweet Angie even took the time to comment on my last post... THANK YOU!)and I was just captivated. I felt like so many aspects of their story is our story, though their's has unfolded a bit more than ours currently has.

One of the things they talked about was living in this balance of maintaining hope in who God is and the fact that He could at any time perform a miracle and fix all of this, with the need to face and plan for the reality that lies ahead. They put into words the exact tension that my heart and mind are experiencing. I have included the videos at the end of this post.

What does that mean? What does that look like? How does that play itself out when you're at the baby pool with your friend and her kids, and the other moms notice that you're pregnant and start asking if this is your first (I never know how to answer that), when you are due, etc. How do you answer? How will that play itself out when I go back to work in August at a new school, with a brand new staff, looking very pregnant? How do I live out that balance day after day in these next 18-20 weeks so that God continues to be honored by my thoughts, words, and actions?

In the short time I have had to think about that, I haven't figured it out. I feel like God is just saying to me that I don't have to... I just need to bring it to Him. He will show me.

Would you continue to pray with us? Would you pray that God would heal our baby boy and make him whole? That He would straighten his spine, un-teather his spinal cord, heal his abdomen, and cause his lungs to grow? Would you pray that God would teach Spencer and I how to live in the balance of having hope in what God could still do (because nothing is too big for Him), with the reality of what may lie ahead? Would you pray that He would help us to enjoy every moment with our sweet little boy while he is here, whether that's in the womb or out? And would you please pray that we would love well through this? We continue to cherish your encouragement, your prayers, and your friendships.

Smith Family Story Part 1




Smith Family Story Part 2




Smith Family Story Part 3

ALMOST A MODEL

There was a moment last week that I almost became a model.

I got a message on Myspace from a "talent scout" for this New York company, said they were doing a shoot in Seattle and wanted me to be in it. I was a little puzzled, because it's a HAIR product company, and my hair, with its unyielding double cowlicks and limp, unmanageable thinness, is the bane of my existence. It has been since I first learned that my mom's embarrassed buzz cuts weren't actually the "it" hairstyle.

But they were going to pay me 500$ a day just to stand around and look good for a few hours, so I said, "Um, if you say so..." and agreed.

What they didn't mention was that the "meeting" they scheduled with me before the shoot was actually a quality-control meat inspection along the lines of 18th century slave auctions.

The time arrives, and as requested, I head downtown to the ritzy Hotel 1000 (where rapper Andre 3000 is reported to have stayed recently). I make a pitstop in the restroom for a hair check and nervous-pee, and marvel at the softness of the paper towels laid out on the marble counter. If I could have clothes and bedsheets made out of those paper towels....oh I would.




I am escorted into a room in the lobby, and without any preamble or explanation of what's going on or what's going to happen, I am introduced to some kind of director named Voltaire (of course his name is Voltaire). I consider introducing myself as Isaac 4000, but I'm caught up in the assembly line and pushed in front of an angry-looking British/Australian man who looks me over, inspects my gums, kicks me in the shins, and then dismisses me with an offhanded shout to his assistant, "Get a polaroid of Isaac". A woman tells me to look straight ahead and takes two mugshot-style polaroids of me, then gets my number (again) and tells me they'll call me that night to go over the schedule.

They never called me. Nor did they answer my followup email or acknowledge my existence ever again. So, readers, I'd like to take this moment to call for a global boycott of Bumble & Bumble hair products, on account of rudeness. I mean come on, guys...so I don't have the most majestic mane of hair you've ever seen, but what about my personality? What about my friendly smile and warm handshake? What about my thoughts and philosophies on life? Isn't that worth anything to you? Like, 500$ a day, maybe?
The whole experience was a real wakeup call for me. I mean who would have ever imagined that the fashion industry would be so shallow?



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He's My Son

In case you may not have figured out, I love music. Somehow it just captures my heart and speaks to my soul. Mark Schultz is an artist I am particularly fond of because his lyrics express things within me that my words never could. Here's the first verse and the chorus of one of his older songs called "He's My Son"...

I'm down on my knees again tonight
I'm hoping this prayer will turn out right
See there is a boy that needs Your help
I've done all that I can do myself

His mother is tired
I'm sure You can understand
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand
And she tries not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes

CHORUS:
Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place somehow
See, he's not just anyone
He's my son

I always was touched by the pain that this child's parents were experiencing... now I can relate.

Today we had our marathon day at Children's National Medical Center. I wish that I had some positive news to report. In some ways I do. The cystic hygroma is gone, and the cardiologist said that she thinks the heart looks normal. It was still difficult for them to see all that they needed to.

However, the overall report we received today was devastating. The omphalocele is much larger than they had thought. It not only includes the intestines and liver, but also the stomach and part of the bladder. In addition, a new problem arose. Our little boy's spine has an extremely sharp curvature (about 90 degrees) forward, about midway down his back, though higher up then where your back typically bends. It is also bent sideways somewhat. There is also an issue with the spinal cord, something about it being teathered. Consequently, his lungs are extremely small and not developing normally. They are suspecting something called hypoplasia of the lungs.

One of the difficulties with repairing an omphalocele with a normal spine and normal lungs can be breathing difficulties for the baby in the short term. However, with the underdeveloped lungs, the spine the way that it is, and the extremely small abdominal cavity, things do not look good. Although the omphalocele is fixable, the underdeveloped lungs and spine are not.

When we asked the doctors point blank, they said that there's a very strong likelihood that our little boy will die shortly after birth because his lungs would be too underdeveloped to allow him to breathe on his own.

Needless to say, Spencer and I are completely devastated and crushed. Although we knew this could be what we heard today, it wasn't what we were expecting. We really were expecting God to show up in a big way. Maybe He has and I have yet to recognize it.

We could really use your prayers for peace and for wisdom in some pretty significant decisions we're going to need to make with regard to medical intervention. I would also really appreciate your prayers for the boldness to love our baby well while he's still here with us... that I would enjoy feeling him kick and move, even though I know my time with him will most likely be extremely short.

I'll end with some more song lyrics. This is a song Todd Smith (from Selah) and his wife Angie wrote for their little girl, Audrey, who passed away shortly after birth. I changed the word "her" to "him".

"I Will Carry You"

There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?

People say that I am brave but I'm not
Truth is I'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story
Written long before me
Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years

I will carry you
All my life
And I will praise the One Who's chosen me
To carry you

Such a short time
Such a long road
All this madness
But I know
That the silence
Has brought me to His voice
And He says...

I've shown him photographs of time beginning
Walked him through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love him like this?

I will carry you
While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle
Through the coming years
I will carry you
All your life
And I will praise the One Who's chosen me
To carry you

Thanks for your continued prayers and encouragement. We definitely need them :)

THIS IS BLOOD FLOWER

Vocabulary, Taxonomy, Pigeonholes: Thought Balloonists

If you're not already reading Charles Hatfield and Craig Fischer's Thought Balloonists blog, which features smart criticism and discursive reviews every week, now would be a great time to check it out. In their latest entry, Hatfield and I discuss the shortcomings and merits of taxonomy, especially as it pertains to that gray area between the ordinary and the avant-garde. Though I don't say it over there on that blog, my position owes a lot to an essay by Dylan Horrocks that argues with Scott McCloud. Pop on over to Thought Balloonists and watch the pedantic fur fly!

Moving Weekend Hiatus

Poor Matteu. It looks like I'm going to have to face the fact that I won't draw the next strip for a couple of weeks. In a day or two, I'm going to have to pack up my drawing supplies for the big move to Vermont, and I don't foresee having time to draw anything before that happens. (I'm too busy packing books, recycling unnecessary papers, and writing my moving cards.)

But digging through all of my stuff in anticipation of the move has turned up some treasures, and I'm going to share a few of them in this post. More will be forthcoming, though I think they may have to wait until I figure out the internet service in the new place—so you might not hear much from me until it's nearly July.

Anyway, in keeping with the theme of the week, here's a little gallery of the postcards I've sent around, over the years, to announce a change in my mailing address. All of these images can be enlarged with a click.

The first one was drawn by our friend and sometime contributor Jesse Reklaw, way back in the summer of 1999, when I switched apartments in Baltimore.


(Drawn by Jesse Reklaw and hand-colored with watercolor, clumsily in this case, by me.)


When I moved back to New Haven after that summer, I asked another friend (and sometime contributor), Scott Koblish to provide me with my favorite dinosaur, the parasaurolophus.


(I think this would have been watercolored, too, if I had sent this copy out, but I don't have any color copies.)

I stayed put for a few years, and when it came time for me to change apartments in New Haven, I circulated four different designs, all of which I watercolored once and then color-photocopied:

This one's by our fellow Mapjammer Damien Jay, and it features a few creatures I created for the Demonstration book and Elm City Jams.




This one's by sometime Elm City Jams collaborator Jon Lewis.




...And surely you recognize the hand of my collaborator Mike, even if you might not recognize every single one of these Satisfactory Comics characters.




Finally, Tom Motley drew me getting help in the move from some of my creatures from the Demonstration sketchbook. Oddly, I did not hire these movers the next time.




This year's moving cards are both on a Burlington theme. Both of these were colored by the artists and printed on real postcards instead of plain cardstock paper.

Here's one by Shawn Cheng, of Partyka, featuring Champ, the lake monster native to Lake Champlain. Shawn was working from life here, not from photo reference.




... and here's one drawn by Shawn's co-Partyker, Matt Wiegle.


Doesn't Vermont look like a lot of fun? Personally, I can't wait to get there. I just wish these all these comics of mine would pack themselves.

Possible topics for the comment section: which cartoon is the best likeness, and does that matter?

Melanie

Hello again,

I just received a call from my sweet friend Melanie who is 31 weeks pregnant with her second baby. She went into pre-term labor Friday morning, and is still in the high-risk area of the labor and delivery ward at the hospital. The doctors have tried to stop the labor, but she has still been having contractions today and the ultrasounds showed that the baby's head is very low.

Please pray for her... she is scared and worried about her little one. Please pray that the doctors are able to stop her from going into labor, that the baby isn't under any stress, and that she is able to remain hopeful. I am hoping to visit her tomorrow after all of our appointments since the hospital where she is staying is near Children's.

So... lots of updates coming tomorrow!

Philippians 4:6

Hi,

This post will be quick. I have my first "proud mommy" moment to share! This weekend our little guy had been moving around so much, that I put my hand on my stomach to see if I could feel him kick from the outside, and I did!!! Spencer and my sister Kate both got to feel him move too. It was so, so cool. I know for Spencer it made his little presence even more real. I love it. I love him.

Tomorrow is a huge day for us. To be honest, in some ways I have been really anxious, despite repeating Philippians 4:6 to myself over and over, "Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." So when I feel anxious, I pray.

Would you please join us in living out Philippians 4:6 by praying with us for tomorrow? Specifically, would you please pray:
- For God to work out a miracle for our little boy
- That the cystic hygroma has continued to shrink and that hydrops have still not developed
- That our little boy's heart looks perfect and that the cardiologist can conclusively say that it is in his chest
- This his brain and spinal column have continued to develop normally
- That his lungs look perfect and are developing just as they should
- That there are no signs or markers of a genetic syndrome (Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome and Pantology of Cantrell often have an omphalocele as a marker, so additional markers could point to one of these)
- That the omphalocele hasn't gotten any larger and that no other abdominal organs, like the spleen or kidneys, are exposed
- The the baby's limbs and everything else have developed perfectly
- For the doctors-- for wisdom in their interpretations of their findings, that they would be somehow impacted by our faith and that God would use this to influence their lives
- For a heart of peace for Spencer and I, that we would be able to hear and understand what the doctors are saying, and for wisdom as we continue to walk forward through this.

Last night I realized that although living in so much unknown has been hard, one thing that has been great about it is that it leaves room for hope. Knowing that the hygroma had shrunk, that his heart has 4 chambers, and that the omphalocele is fixable has given me a lot of reason to have hope and to believe that our little boy, although will have a tough road ahead of him, will be okay. I think my anxiousness has stemmed from the fact that tomorrow the doctors will be able to see so much more and may be able to more definitively deliniate what is going on. My fear in that is if what we hear isn't good, that there will be less room for hope and that it will be harder to remain optimistic. Would you please pray that God would guard our hearts, my heart, against that?

Finally, I can truly say that this experience is the first time in which I have really had this true desire to fast. I wish I could say that there have been other experiences where I have felt lead to do that, but for some reason I haven't. I don't why. The trouble is that I don't think that being 20 weeks pregnant is a good time to fast because it wouldn't be healthy for the baby. So, if any of you feel so inclined to fast and to pray today or tomorrow on our little boy's behalf, it would mean the world to me.

Thank you to each of you who has read our blog, left notes of encouragement, and has prayed for us and for our son. God continues to be so faithful, and I am hopeful that we see an even bigger glimpse of that faithfulness tomorrow in a way that brings glory to God.

I will be sure to update when we get home.

SASQUATCH! (Beer! Bands! Boobs!)

I suppose it's about time I told you about my Sasquatch Music Festival experience. Let me see if I can distill it down.



FRIDAY

Nichole arrives, we set off for the Gorge with nothing but goldfish crackers, whiskey, and a block of Comte cheese for sustenance. Nichole smokes in the goddamn car the whole goddamn trip. I patiently endure the freezing wind as we drive 80 mph with the windows down.

We reach the Gorge. The Fest doesn't start till tomorrow so we drive around looking for a place to camp. We run across a group of middle aged folks parked on the side of the road, and strike up a conversation. They tell us they just paid 60$ to camp at this nearby campground but it was "a little too wild" for them. They give us their camping pass.

We enter the campground. At first we think this is the Sasquatch overflow campsite, but this starts to seem unlikely, as we haven't met many backwards-hat wearing neckless linebackers in our lives who listen mainly to T-Pain but also enjoy a little Flaming Lips and Beirut. It quickly becomes apparent that something else is going on here. The campground is PACKED with frat-persons, the Top 40 hip hop is blaring from every vehicle, and you can barely see the grass through all the Bud Light cans. This is the kind of scene where--I poop you not--multiple black Escalades roll through the camp sites with three or four girls dancing on the roofs to the song "She Moves Her Body Like a Cyclone" on repeat, grinding on each other and occasionally--when the crowd roars for it like Coliseum spectators calling for death--whipping off their tops and giving everyone an eyefull of titilation. Nichole wants to dance, but the Dance Floor rejects her free-spirited dance moves and near-total lack of ass-grinding, so we ditch the club with a quickness, and hit the road again.

SATURDAY

After ending up at the Sasquatch campground last night, here we are, ready to rock. Some friends arrive and join our campsite. They offer us a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and Coors tallboys. And so it begins.




The first band we all really really want to see is the hit accordian-rock group, Beirut. This doesn't turn out quite as we planned however, as one of the girls in our group has been on a rotating diet of Coors, Tequila, Whiskey and Weed since 8:00 am. And so I find myself trudging stoically across the entire Gorge lawn with this young lady folded up in my arms, murmuring incoherently between occasional stomach spasms. Fabio makes this look so easy on all those romance novel covers.
Everything turns out ok, though. My friends and I listen to Beirut through the fence of the Medic Tent, while our girl enjoys a refreshing saline I.V, and pukes into a bucket.

Not to give the impression that the rest of us are models of sobriety. Despite the 12$ price tag for a can of Pabst, we manage to stay pretty well marinated throughout the day. By 7:00 pm I'm feeling inexplicably cranky and headachy. I laugh a little when I realize that I'm actually hungover, without even having gone to sleep yet. I didn't even know that could happen. Sasquatch is so educational!


(Matt Damer taking his medicine)

SUNDAY


I don't remember anything that happened Sunday.



(Me, Lance, and Nichole)


MONDAY


It rained massively last night, and the zipper on my 20$ tent broke. I had to reattach the doorway by punching holes through it and "sewing" it together with duct-tape threads. By morning we're all feeling a little "done" with Sasquatch. But some of our most anticipated bands are playing today, so we stick it out. We visit the Comedy Tent. Some of the comics are hilarious. At one point this 30 something woman takes the stage, and I turn to Matt and say, quite sexistly, "She's not gonna be funny. Watch."
She's not funny. The entire tent listens in dead silence.

As fate would have it, possibly my two most desired-to-see bands are playing simultaneously. Battles, and Flight of the Conchords. I watch Battles in awe for about ten minutes then run over to the main stage to see FOTC. They are wonderful, and use the word "flip" and "flippin" alot.

FOTC is follwed by Mars Volta On Ten Pounds of Crack. Other than a brief moment of coherency when they play the riveting "Viscera Eyes", their show is an hour of total sonic and physical chaos. They throw mic stands into the crowd. The singer does a backflip off an amp and tosses his mic hundreds of feet into the air. The musicians play furiously, each one apparently playing a different song in a different key and time signature. If you made a "Shreds" video of this show, you wouldn't have to change the audio at all.

Finally, the grand finale, the Flaming Lips. Having seen them last time they played Sasquatch, I wasn't too surprised by the massive-scale theatrics, the exploding confetti, descending UFOs, and stage full of dancing Teletubbies. I was a little surprised by the looping background video of various topless women dancing, and even more surprised when the band invited the crowd to come up on stage and get naked, and they did. Now this may seem counterintuitive, but to be honest, after three days of sleeping next to and being surrounded by hundreds of insanely gorgeous women in the hot sweaty sun, watching ten or twenty beautiful girls frolic on stage completely nude was actually NOT what I needed. Hard times are upon us, my friends.

Finally it's over. I stab holes in my tent with the pair of sheet-metal shears I keep in my car, leave it on the lawn, and drive home. I finally get the shower I've been craving, and when I get out and dry off I think I weigh five pounds less. I have a music hangover. No more music! Get that shit away from me. For a while until I recover, it's gonna be nothing but traffic noise and atonal buzz for me. Oh wait, that's Mars Volta...





.






.

Beer


I took a deep sip. The first sip of beer on a hot day is like that first finger dip when you open a new jar of peanut butter. I enjoyed what only could be called God's nectar. Harlen Coben in his novel, The Woods.

Storms and Rainbows

First of all thank you, thank you to those who continue to check this blog, who have patiently waited, who have encouraged and even harassed me to post again. Thank you! I plan to post an update later today of all that has transpired the past month. For now, a reflection on rainbows.

Yesterday we experienced heat, humidity, and severe storms and the weatherman kept reporting that the conditions were right for tornadoes, which of course, are very rare in our area of Upstate New York. It also occurred to me, as I observed these storms popping up and then rapidly moving on, that it was also the perfect conditions for rainbows.
Isn't that just like life. When we are going through the most difficult storms in life....that is exactly when the conditions are right for signs of God's promise and presence...Rainbows. These rainbows take many forms when we are buffeted by the winds and rain of disappointment and despair. A kind word, an encouraging e-mail, an invitation to have a cup of coffee and talk. Yesterdays unsettled weather was a reminder to me to always look for the rainbows in the midst of the storms.

Better Than Expected

Today we had a "routine" prenatal appointment. My OB and I both chuckle everytime she marks that on her sheet because nothing about this pregnancy seems routine.

Not many details to share... boring things like my blood pressure looks good, and the fact I gained six pounds in five weeks (seriously?!?!). Then there are the not so boring things, like the little man's heartbeat being found right away and it beating healthfully in the 150's.

We talked about the perinatologist's report from a few weeks ago and she was delighted to see in the report that so far the brain looks good and that there are no signs of neural tube defects. I also mentioned to her that the hygroma had shrunk and she seemed glad to hear that. She mentioned that "this isn't good..." referring to the omphalocele, but we already knew that.

What was encouraging was to hear her saying at the beginning of the appointment, "You guys are taking a real leap of faith here, and we want to support you in any way we can." Then, after our discussion of the perinatologist's report, she said, "This all looks a lot better than I expected it to."

You could have picked my jaw up off the floor. Of course, there wasn't any new information to speak of. But, she was surprised... surprised that what she is reading is better than she originally thought.

That's God at work!

I told her, "Well, we've been praying, and maybe those prayers are really working!" She politely smiled, nodded, and said, "Mmmhmmm." I don't know where this doctor stands with any of that. But I knew it was God at work, and knew that He deserves the praise for the good things that are happening (even in the midst of some ugly, not so good things). Would you pray for her that she would recognize that, too?

God is a God who delivers the "better than expected." There's a great promise in Jeremiah 29:11 when God declares to prosper us and not to harm us, and promises to give us a hope and a future.

So, would you pray with us that next week we would be fortunate enough to hear those same words from the other doctors with whom we meet? That things look "better than expected," and that our little boy is free of any heart defects, issues with his lungs or any other major organs, and that despite the omphalocele, he is continuing to grow healthy and strong? Would you pray that Spencer and I would remain joyful in hope, and for a bright future with our little guy... however long that may be? And would you pray for the grace for Spencer and I to handle what we hear that day with courage and peace in our hearts?

Facing the Giants

Well wouldn't it fit that after my own reflection about Abraham and Isaac, that we would go to church yesterday and our Pastor would preach on that very same passage. It was overwhelming.

He has been doing a series entitled "Facing the Giants," focusing on various trials that we face in life. Yesterday's was on the topic of sacrifice. The overiding theme focusing on being willing to give up what you love the most, and allowing God to provide what you need the most. Abraham was willing to give up Isaac, the beloved son that he and Sarah had waited so long for, and trusted God to provide what he would need. And God didn't fail. He came through.

I have been so encouraged lately by the acts of God's faithfulness that I have seen all around me... He always is, and He will continue to be. What has been really cool lately is that I have started to feel the little man move. Often, it's those "flutters" to which people refer, but sometimes there's a noticeable kick or jab in there... nothing to hard, but obvious nonetheless.

I love it. I love that it is a reminder that there is a life inside of me, and a little boy who needs to know how much he is loved, despite what the ultimate outcome might be. Those little kicks and movements just make everything so much more real, and are times that I can truly say that I can enjoy this pregnancy. They are little bouts of ammunition that I can carry with me, allowing me to love my little boy in the face of uncertainty and sometimes fear... the little rocks that I can load in my slingshot, just like David did, while facing the giant battle ahead. God is good... He is faithful.

MoCCA Report



As usual, the best word to describe MoCCA was overwhelming. There are so many interesting (and uninteresting) comics spread out in those four rooms of the Puck Building that the only way to navigate the show is to settle on some sort of plan or compromise from the beginning. Throwing yourself into the crowd and looking at everything seems sort of hopeless to me, because it doesn't take long for eyeball fatigue to set in.



The weather this weekend wasn't too cooperative, either: I think it's a lot easier to get tired of browsing when the room's just a little too humid or just a little too hot, and even before the fire alarm there was just no way the Puck Building's air conditioners could keep up with the heat and the sun. I wasn't on the seventh floor much, but I've heard that it was steamy up there.

Anyway, for me the show was mostly social: I wanted to pick up any exciting new books, sure, but mainly I wanted to catch up with my friends from Artists With Problems and a few other comics pals. Getting our new issue into a few hands was a secondary goal, I guess. I didn't spend a lot of time roving around the convention floor this year, and I probably missed a dozen or more really cool minicomics just because I never passed by the right tables.



That's what our table looked like. I think I managed to sell or trade or give away about a hundred copies of the latest issue, and a few less than that of our little ABC books. Those aren't terrific numbers, but it was still fun to show them around.

Here are five things that made this year's MoCCA memorable for me: one unpleasant thing and four really good ones.

1. The Fire Drill



Midway through the day on Sunday, someone or something tripped a fire alarm in the Puck Building. For a while, business went on as usual, but eventually the Fire Department arrived and the MoCCA volunteers opened all of the building's doors and started herding everyone outside into the humid Manhattan heat.



In a way, it was a kind of happy digression from the convention: everyone was packed together on the sidewalk, and because it was clear that there was no fire,* there was a good deal of sarcasm and levity in the crowd.



After a long ten minutes or so, the firefighters emerged from the building, and Alec Longstreth said, "Should we clap? We should clap, right?" There was a small ovation, after which Evan Dorkin quipped, "But they didn't buy any comics."

*Okay, actually, I just read Valerie D'Orazio saying that there was some sort of boiler fire in the basement. On the other hand, Evan Dorkin suggests that it was an overheated boiler but no actual fire. Anyway, there was definitely no sign of fire or smoke on the convention floor, and I think everyone assumed that it was a false alarm.

2. Catching Up



There's no sense going over this in a lot of detail, but I was really glad that MoCCA turned out to be such a nice aggregator for my friends in comics. I had a few conversations with my pals Damien Jay and Jon Lewis (pictured above), caught up with Tom K (pictured below) and met his fellow Minnesota cartoonist Will Dinski, caught up with Cathy Leamy and Robyn Chapman, bumped into Jason Lutes, had dinner with Bill Kartalopoulos, and shared a table with Tom Motley (who somehow managed to escape my camera completely.



It was also nice to see my former students Caitlin McGurk and John Hagan, who had a few minis to sell from our table. On Saturday, John showed up in a t-shirt that proclaimed his affection for his fictional comics doppelganger:



I also caught up with Shawn Cheng and Matt Wiegle of Partyka, whom I caught in action behind their table.



(That's Shawn on the left and Matt on the right, with Sean T. Collins in the middle.)



Finally, here's a shot of my friend Damien with his soon-to-be-bride Melanie "Minty" Lewis. Even in the midst of a heatwave fire alarm, they look like they're having a fine time.

3. The books I got

As I said, I didn't do a lot of shopping, but I still came home with more than a week's worth of reading. Here are some of the things I'm most excited about:



Spiraling in clockwise from the far left, there's:
Damien's new book The Natural World,
Tom Motley's new collection of True Fiction experiments,
a couple of recent issues of Alec Longstreth's Phase 7,
Motley's little Comic Book Artists I Have Known,
Jessica Abel's Trazo de Tina,
Matt Madden's Minnesota,
the latest chapter of Sarah Glidden's How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less,*
Aaron Reinier's new Uninoodle mini,
a beautiful little Ransom Strange mini from Tom K,
Matt Wiegle's hilarious Is It Bacon?, a new issue of Robyn Chapman's Sourpuss,
a little bitty mini by Joe Lambert (who just graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies),
the fifth issue of Cathy Leamy's Geraniums and Bacon,
and a new issue of John Hagan's Lull.

And these are just the ones I got in trade for our new issue. I encourage you to seek these comics out. (See links above, if there's no link in this paragraph.) They're definitely some fine reading material.

*And hey! Check out my meaty paws setting up some comics in Sarah's photostream!




This is a selection of the minis I bought, followed by a selection of other minis I got in trade. I don't know what's inside most of these yet, but if something emerges as deserving special attention, I'll try to make a follow-up post later.



There were two larger books that I'm really excited to have brought home. One of these was Mike Dawson's Freddie & Me, which obviously deserves a longer review-style post after I read it. It looks great.

Mike was promoting the book at his table with a huge figure of Freddie Mercury. Here he is:



Mike's wife Aliza encouraged me to take another photo of the other side of the figure, which she assured me was remarkably detailed, but I declined.

The other book I'm really excited about is an old copy of the out-of-print Incredible Upside-Downs of Gustave Verbeek. You can now remove that book from my Christmas list. I've been looking for a copy for a long time, and before the show even started I found one at the table of the excellent Belgian publisher Bries.



4. Four Short, Validating Conversations

A. I had a chance to tell Scott C. how much I am enjoying the framed print of his Ninjas All Over the Place, which I received as an awesome Christmas present and now have up over my desk.

B. I had a brief chat with Zander Cannon about 24-hour comics and collaborative comics.

C. I gave a copy of the our new issue to Kazimir Strzepek and showed him the little swipe of his characters that appears on page ten of our story. He seemed really pleased to see his little guys there (and in full color).

D. In general, people seemed pretty impressed with the way the new issue turned out. Tom Hart said he had really enjoyed constraining us, and Brendan Burford said the new issue looked really great. (He also said "I love Satisfactory Comics," but I'm not going to hold him to that.)

4. An Awesome Minute or Two with Lynda Barry

Here comes the highlight of the show for me. Lynda Barry was at the Drawn & Quarterly table, signing copies of her awesome new book What It Is, which I recommend strenuously to anyone who wants to write, draw, or remember. (Seriously.) If she hasn't officially been designated a national treasure, I think Congress needs to get on that at top speed.



There was a super-long line for her signatures, and I hadn't even brought my copy of What It Is, so I tried not to take up too much of her time. But when she saw my nametag, she said, "Have we met?"

I told her we hadn't, but that she had met my collaborator Mike Wenthe, when she was in DC for the PEN/Faulkner Awards. She said, "Then I know your work! You guys draw kick-ass demons!"

There you have it: a five-word highlight of a busy, crazy, intense weekend:

"You guys draw kick-ass demons!"

And yes, hard-core fan that I am, I did ask her to draw a monkey in my monkey book.