SUNROOF WORLD PREMIER!

The wait is finally over, friends. It ran 2 minutes over Youtube's time limit so I had to split it into 2 parts.

SUNROOF!!















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SUNROOF....delay....

My serial killer thriller teen family drama, SUNROOF, is following the path of such troubled but highly anticipated films as WATCHMEN and THE DARK KNIGHT, suffering through what we in Hollywood refer to as "development hell". I have one last delay to report---but I'm happy to tell you this is a short one.

SUNROOF will be released tomorrow instead of today. I'm ALMOST done with it, but I have to go to work in five minutes and probably won't be able to wrap this project until later tonight. So, since 7:00-11:00 AM on a workday is the internet-movie equivalent of an 8:00 Friday night premier for "real" movies, I'll be posting the finished movie tomorrow morning.

Get ready to laugh, cry, scream, and maybe eat a snack or something.

Don't open your SUNROOF!!

Beautiful

Spencer and I were talking this weekend about how it feels like the weeks are flying by, and the weekends are flying by even faster. I wish there was some button on the remote control of life that would allow me to just put everything in slow motion for the next nine days. I don't know if it's the fact that we have had so many doctor's appointments recently, or that I am just keenly aware of the fact that the time we have left until October 7th really is that short. Regardless, I just wish it would all slow down.

Anyhow... to the title of this post. When I think of beautiful things, I think of the sunrise I saw this morning on my way to work which I told Isaac all about... the way that the sky was just starting to illuminate and strokes of clouds were delicately brushed across the sky. I think of the numerous rainbows I saw right after summertime thunderstorms. I think of the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume, and the beautiful sacrifice that she made.

And I think of Isaac.

At my appointment last Friday, I asked my doctor to explain to me exactly how a c-section works. She was very honest about it, but her explanation definitely did calm my fears a little bit. I am pretty nervous about getting a spinal; yet, she explained that she didn't think it would be nearly as painful as the CVS testing I had done back at 14 weeks. I am nervous that the procedure is more complicated than usual, and she explained that although this may be true, it isn't anything that is putting me in any more jeopardy. And then, as she was measureing my stomach to see if I was measuring on track (which I was), she said something to Spencer and I that we will not ever forget:

Stacy, I want you to know that when he's born, he's going to look like a real baby. He will be beautiful.

It was all I could do not to lose it laying on the table in that tiny examination room.

Beautiful.

It would be untrue to say that there hasn't been some fear about the fact that Isaac has so many anomalies and how I would be able to handle that. It didn't help that the doctor who has given Spencer and I a little "trouble" in the past "kindly" explained to us that babies with "deformations" can look a little scary. (Really... who says that to a patient in this situation?!). I was so thankful for my doctor's words that afternoon, and to know that she is with us in this.

Beautiful.

He will be... how could you not think that of your own son? I just wish I knew that I would get to keep him.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us as October 7th approaches. Our hearts are definitely becoming increasingly more heavy, and we really need and appreciate your prayers.

SatCom at SPX: Collaboration & Katchor

The first weekend in October brings this year's installment of the Small Press Expo in Bethesda, Maryland. It's also bringing Isaac down to DC from Vermont, and we'll be teaming up again for some comics-related activity, though I doubt we'll have time to collaborate on any comics ourselves. Instead, we'll be co-moderators of a panel on "Cartooning in Collaboration/Collaboration in Cartooning," with featured artists Becky Cloonan, Mike Dawson, Jim Ottaviani, Frank Santoro, and Dash Shaw. Their works include material in a variety of styles and genres in venues from self-published minicomics to wide releases from such publishers as Vertigo, Fantagraphics, and Picturebox, and among them these artists and writers have explored a number of different approaches to comics-making, both in collaboration and in solo efforts.

I'll also be moderating questions at an artist's spotlight on one of the cartoonists I admire most, the inimitable Ben Katchor.

If you're in the area, please do consider these events and other programming at SPX (a full list of panels and presentations may be found here).

Something I Hadn't Noticed in Jimmy Corrigan (Until This Week)

This has to be another light post. I still haven't read everything from my last Swansea find (which was back in July!), so I can only present another trivium that has surfaced from my comics-reading this week.

I have been retooling that paper on Chris Ware's diagrams from last year's MLA, for a collection of essays that should be forthcoming from University Press of Mississippi. As I was writing about the last diagram in Jimmy Corrigan—the one that reveals Amy's ancestry, and shows that she's actually a close blood relation to all of the Corrigan men in the book—I noticed something about the diagram that I hadn't seen before. (This surprises me, because I've taught the book several times, and I'd already written about this diagram once.)

You'll remember, probably, the diagram I'm talking about. Toward the end of it it, it looks like this:



That little girl is the half-sister of James Corrigan, the little boy in the nineteenth-century parts of the book and the shriveled old "Granpa" in the twentieth-century parts of the book.

Those panels are all set against a background that shows the William Corrigan house in the foreground.



What I had never noticed is the tiny figure in the background of that background, under this last diagram panel with the little girl. Here's the last image in the diagram's "chain" again.



... and if you look really closely...



Not only is Amy related by blood to her adopted father and grandfather, but her great-grandmother grew up just a few hundred yards away from young James, or so it seems. I've always argued that this diagram is in the book to heighten our sense of the sadness of the failed connection between Jimmy and Amy; I hadn't really taken into account the way that it also adds sadness to the story of little James. (As if that story needed more sadness.)

That's it for now. Stay tuned for an announcement about this year's SPX.

Isaac's Playground

We have received some questions about whether or not there has been a fund set up in Isaac's name or a cause to which Spencer and I are connected that people could donate to in honor of Isaac. We are blessed by your inquiries.

Spencer and I have been working on bringing to life an idea that we had back in the summer time, and I am excited to share that the wheels are in motion. We wanted to provide folks the opportunity, if they felt inclined, to give to something (in lieu of flowers) in honor of Isaac. We wanted it to be something that seemed like a really good fit and that felt right in our hearts.

And so...

We are going to have a playground built in Isaac's honor at our church. We've been working with our pastor and the director of children's ministries there, and they have both been tremendously supportive of the idea and of our vision for this. We are grateful for the way God is putting the pieces together.

Our church currently meets in a high school, though we just broke ground on our new property. Our building is expected to be completed in fall of 2009, though we know there's a chance things could get backed up with permits, etc. Since winter would not be a good time to install the playground, the hope would be to build the playground in the spring of 2010.

We are still figuring out the details of who checks should be made out to, but we will let you know as soon as we do.

More details to come...

Thirteen

Some people say 13 is a lucky number, some say it's unlucky. It had been my dad's number on his softball team, and the number on my jersery for a few soccer seasons.

Now, it's the time we have left with Isaac. If I were to write out all the things that this fact stirs up within me, I am not sure it would sound a whole lot different than my post entitled 20 Days... except in some ways worse. The closer October 7th gets, the harder my days are becoming.

So instead, I decided to include 13 ways for you to pray for us...

1. For a miracle... we know that it's not too late, and that God had the power to heal Isaac should that be His will. Please don't stop asking.
2. For His peace that surpasses understanding... there's a lot we don't understand about all of this; but we desire to rest in the peace of the truth of who God is.
3. For strength... just getting through our days at work has become a pretty laborious task.
4. For my body to continue to cooperate with this medicine and not go into labor prior to October 7.
5. For my fears to be calmed about having a c-section.
6. For the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff that will be working with us... that they may see Christ through our choices, through our love for Isaac, and through our love for each other.
7. For the doctors performing the c-section... that they would be able to navigate this more "complicated" procedure in a way that would be as pain-free as possible for Isaac and that wouldn't put my body or health in jeopardy in any way.
8. For Spencer... that God would strength and uphold him as he continues to comfort and support me.
9. For our parents and sibblings... they, too, are experiencing a loss.
10. For the details we're trying to work on regarding a burial service and a memorial service for Isaac... that the details would come together and they would both honor Isaac and bring glory to God.
11. For the details we're working on with our church regarding having a playground built in Isaac's honor
12. For a good night's sleep each night, and particularly the night of October 6.
13. For God to carry us and make His presence very real to us in the weeks and months to come.

Thank you so much for praying.

Chula the tarantula Redesign for thesis

SUNROOF trailer!





The bad news is: the planned release date for my serial killer thriller, SUNROOF, Sept 22, has been pushed back a week due to production delays. It will now premier next Monday, Sept 29.

The good news is: I have a trailer for you.

SUNROOF!!!!

I Will Carry You

I posted these lyrics a while back, but I was listening to this song again as I was re-doing the music on my iPod this morning. This song, "I Will Carry You," was written by Todd and Angie Smith, for their daugher, Audrey, and was recorded by Selah. I was so moved when I first heard the lyrics, but now, as October 7 approaches (way too quickly), it rings even truer with me.

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


It is so hard to think about all the "would have been's" and "could have been's..." about how I want so much to be able to read Isaac stories and rock him to sleep, take him on walks, play in the surf at the ocean with him, teach him to ride a bike and put a Band-Aid on his knee when he falls off trying to learn. It's hard to think about how we're not only going to miss our son, but that grandparents will miss their grandson; aunts and uncles will miss their nephew; and maybe one day, our future children will miss out on knowing their big brother. It's hard to think about what he might have been... somebody's teammate, best friend, husband, or Daddy.

I am thankful, though, that Isaac's life matters enough that his presense will be missed... that his life has significance, value, and weight. I am also thankful for the chance to be his Mommy, even though I know that time will be cut way too short.
And I am so grateful that Isaac will end up in a place where he will be loved by a God who loves him more perfectly and more completely than I ever could.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us in the upcoming days and weeks.

Little Lulu and the Arbitrary Signifier

Another minimal post for me, because I'm still swamped. Weeks go by pretty quickly when the semester's in full force. I'm still learning to tame the constant flow of work.

Discerning bloggers have already picked this up—the original post went up a couple of weeks ago—but I keep being amused by a little story from a 1956 issue of Little Lulu.

In it, Lulu and Alvin discover the arbitrary nature of linguistic signification.

I excerpt just three panels from the story here, but you can read it in full—and with brilliant comic timing—at the link above.



The kids are charmed by the slippage between signifier and signified, you see.



In one of the most joyful panels ever, language is revealed to be a mere construct. Chaos ensues.



By the time the adults get hold of the game, "foot" and "feet" have become so destabilized that they can only be construed in terms of natural (as opposed to arbitrary) signifiers: as a kind of onomatopoeia.



Ever notice how you never see pictures of John Stanley and Ferdinand de Saussure in the same room?

For extra credit: read this and watch:

Volcano Taco

I was recently asked by a reader to review Taco Bell's latest entry in their increasingly cartoonish line of heart-stopping junk food: the ominously titled Volcano Taco.

I used to eat Taco Bell pretty much on the daily, during what I like to call my "college days"--ie, the period of my life where I would have been going to college, had I gone to college. Ever since "graduating", however, with my masters' in Not Going to College, I pretty much avoid fast food like something really nasty that everyone tries to avoid, I dunno, poop or something. Don't expect me to come up with good metaphors, I didn't go to college.

So the idea of eating this "Volcano Taco" sent shivers of nausea through my digestive tract, but since I love the idea of getting "requests" sent in by "fans", I decided to do it. On my way to Taco Bell, I was nearly lured away from my mission by Taco Del Mar, which is directly across the street. Today is Friday, you see, and at Taco Del Mar, that means it's FISH FRIDAY, and that means 2 fish tacos for 3.69! All I'd need is 2 loaves of bread and I could eat like Mexican Jesus. But no. I had a job to do.

I crossed the street, and ordered the taco. It cost $1.09. The drivethru lady seemed baffled. How could I survive off just one little dollar taco? I smirked and said, "I guess you folks don't get a lot of professional food critics in here. Obviously I can't have my sensitive pallette getting confused by any Steak Fajita Melts or Zesty Chicken Bowls, can I? Just one taco please. One...Volcano Taco." I said that with some dramatic breathiness to show her I meant it. She got the idea.

I got the taco. I considered taking it home, but decided I should eat it in the Taco Bell parking lot for maximum authenticity. To really soak up the vibe. When I opened the taco, the first thing that caught my eye was the corn tortilla shell. It was red. I had seen this on the poster, of course, and based on that poster I had expected the shell to be covered in pseudo-delicious flavor powder. It was not. It was just a regular taco shell, dyed a vivid, eczema red. Yum.

Inside the flamboyant shell, basically what we have is a taco. With hot sauce. There's the shredded cheddar cheese, there's the shredded iceberg lettuce, there's the finely ground powdered-beef, and saturating it all, there's the thick, oozing hot sauce, which is actually just gas-station nacho cheezz pumped full of chili powder. So that's it. That's the Volcano Taco. The name seems a bit hyperbolic for a taco that's not even particularly spicy. Maybe the "Volcano" refers to what awaits me on the toilet later this evening.

20 Days

I realized this morning that if all goes according to plan (which, as it seems we're learning lately, it rarely does), we have 20 days left with our sweet Isaac. Before, I was able to think of the time until my c-section in weeks; now it's days.

I have been thinking a lot about why moving my c-section up 10 days bothered me so much. I understand why it's the best decision from a medical standpoint, but it has been a hard thing for me to accept these last few days. I think the reality is that I feel like those 10 days are days that have somehow been stolen from me... days that I would rather get to feel Isaac kick and wiggle, knowing that he's safe and that he's alive.

I was asked yesterday if there were certain things I wanted to do or get done before he came. Truthfully, the answer is no. I just want more time. 20 days just doesn't seem like enough, even though I know that no finite number of days ever would be.

Tuesday evening I scoured every book in the Bible that had a chapter 10 verse 7, trying to find a verse that I thought would fit Isaac. Not one of them did. Some were sort of morbid, a few were generations in geneologies, and others seemed sort of random out of context. So instead, I turned to Psalm 107. I loved it. In particular, these three verses were of great comfort for me...

19 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.

20 He sent forth his word and healed them;
he rescued them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men.


I had a little bit of trouble with verse 20. We, along with many of you, have been pleading with God to heal Isaac on this side of heaven. So far, the answer seems to be no. But I know, because His word is true and His love is unfailing, God will in fact ultimately heal Isaac; the grave is not the end. We know that he will be in a much safer and more perfect place. In that there is comfort, though I still would rather have him here for a while first.

Please continue to pray for us, that God would continue to sustain us with His strength, grace and peace, allowing us to enjoy even one more day with Isaac. Please pray that He would calm my numerous fears about having major surgery, and that the surgery itself would go smoothly and be free of any complications. And, please don't stop asking for a miracle.

Update

Hello,

Thanks so much for the many words of encouragement and prayers that were offered in even the short time since I last posted.

My doctor's appointment went okay. She did say that I am 1 cm dialated, which initially freaked me out, until I remembered that women can walk around for weeks beng 1-2 centimeters dialated. Let's hope that's the case.

She did, however, move up Isaac's scheduled birth date. My c-section is now scheduled for October 7th. This was a really difficult thing for me. Mentally and emotionally I have been preparing myself for mid-October, thinking that I had 4 weeks left getting to feel Isaac kick and wiggle. Now it's 3. I know that may not sound like a big deal, but somehow for me it really is.

We could use your prayers for quite a few things...
1- That my body doesn't decide to go into labor and that Isaac stays put until October 7th
2- That Spencer and I would be able to juggle things with our long-term subs at school without any problems
3- That all of the preparations, like having the specific nurses we've met with at the hospital, having the right rooms available for us, our very generous photographer not having a conflict on October 7... that all of those things would fall into place.
4- For grace and peace and strength in the 3 weeks we have left with sweet little Isaac.

Prayers for Today

We could use your prayers for our doctor's appointment today. We have an ultrasound scheduled as well. Please pray that there would be some clarity as to what our best next steps are with scheduling my c-section... whether it's sticking to our original time frame or possibly scheduling it early (which is not my favorite idea). Please ocntinue to pray that the terbutaline continues to keep the contractions at bay and that my body continues to adjust to it. And please pray for a sense of God's peace for us. I think having a plan in place was helping to give Spencer and I a feeling of some stability in the midst of a really difficult time, yet it feels as if all of those plans are completely up in the air right now. We know that God's timing is what's right, and we want to be open to that.

Thanks... I will update later this afternoon.

Darkwing Duck

I haven't been doing a lot of updates lately, as I've been pouring all my time into writing a zombie romance novel and making horrifically offensive videos, so to hold you over while you wait for the world premier of SUNROOF, allow me to give you this list of interesting ways Darkwing Duck's catchphrase "Let's get dangerous!" has been translated for various overseas broadcasts....







Danish Lad os så vove fjerene! Now let's risk our feathers!

Dutch Laten we lekker link gaan doen! Let's get really risky!



French Ça va craindre un max! It's gonna get scary big time!

German Zwo, Eins, Risiko! Two, one, danger!



Hindi Ho Jaye Khatron Se Takkar (हो जाए खतरों से टक्कर।) Let's tackle danger!
Indonesian Hadang bahaya!! Charge the danger!

Italian Dagli addosso, Duck! Go for it, Duck!

Japanese 危険が俺を呼んでるぜ!
Danger is calling me!

Korean 덤벼 보라고! Go ahead and attack me!

Mandarin Chinese 讓我搞破壞! Let me do some destruction!

Norwegian La oss bli farlige! Let's become dangerous!

Polish Oj, powieje grozą! Oh, it's gonna be dangerous!

Portuguese(Brazil) Vamos encarar o perigo! Let's face danger!



Russian Ну-ка, от винта! Clear the propeller!










Clear the.....? Nevermind.


NOTE: SUNROOF will premier next monday, Sept 22nd!



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So THAT'S what a contraction is...

This morning I woke up and for reasons from which I will spare you, realized that things weren't quite right. I called the on-call doctor who wanted us to come down to Holy Cross so I could get checked out. Assuming the worst, I grabbed my hospital bag, a bag full of things for Isaac, my camera, and forgot my ID. Great! Meanwhile, Spencer DVR'ed the Jets game and got the car ready :)

We went to Holy Cross Hospital, had a horrendous time checking in (I was literally frustrated to the point of tears), and I was taken to triage in the labor and delivery unit and hooked up to a monitor. As we were there, a few other girls were admitted, chatting up a storm about how excited they were, how this is every grandparent's dream, etc. and at that point I did just burst out crying. Of course, that's the way it should be... excitement, anticipation... but it was hard to hear.

The on-call doctor came in, I filled him in again on what was going on, as well as the brief history of this pregnancy (he was somewhat familiar with it, but we havent' seen him at all through this), and the fact that should I need to deliver, it would have to be at Shady Grove due to the fact that we have met extensively with folks there and they are expecting us.

He took a look at the feed from the monitor, and apparently I has having contractions that were coming about 2 minutes apart. Nice. I suppose I might have recognized a contraction if we ever talked about "normal" pregnancy things in my prenatal visits, but since we don't, I had no idea.

I almost lost it again, mostly because I was just scared that they wouldn't be able to get them stopped. I was told they were Braxton Hicks, which they say are different from labor contractions, but you can never be fully sure. So, they (like me) wanted them stopped. After an IV and two shots of some "stop the contractions" medicine they let me come home. I have a perscription for an oral form of the medicine that I need to take every 4 hours from now until the end of the pregnancy. I was also told to take off of work Monday and Tuesday until my OB appointment Tuesday afternoon. So, it looks like I get an extended weekend :)

When I asked the doc what was causing the BH contractions, he said that sometimes with babies with an omphalocele there can be excess amniotic fluid which causes your uterus to enlarge, thus making your body "think" you're farther along than you are. He said that could be what was happening here. At each of my ultrasounds, my fluid has been at the highest end of the normal range, but perhaps it has now crossed over to the plain old high range. In addition to my OB visit on Tuesday, he wants me to get an ultrasound to have the fluid checked.

Anyhow, PLEASE pray that this medicine will do the trick and keep the contractions stopped. Not that I will ever be ready, but I am not ready for Isaac to be here yet. Also, it would really NOT be a good thing for this to turn into an emergency c-section because of all of the staff that needs to be present, how unique of a situation it is, etc. And please pray for my nerves :)

Highbrow Kirby Character Collage

Not much time today. Maybe my last "Swansea Find" post will come next weekend.

But this floated (electronically) across my desk today, and I thought it was worth taking out of context:



There are two Simon & Kirby heroes, The Fighting American and The Guardian, both of them variations on Captain America. (To me that looks like fanzine art, maybe even traced from a couple of different comics, but not Kirby.) In the background, the Smithsonian Castle, in an old postcard image (printed badly, with seriously off-register color).

The creator of this little collage? This man:



Here's the New York Times article, to provide some context.

Discuss.

Long Week and a Few Updates

This week was incredibly long. I wanted to write this post to update last night, but I am pretty sure I feel asleep somwhere around 7:30. Between several appointments, Back-to-School Nights, and work, Spencer and I are both exhausted.

I finally was able to talk to the doctor from CHOP yesterday afternoon, about 2 hours before our meeting with the hospital staff at Shady Grove. She said what I had been anticipating... that after reviewing the fetal MRI and our most recent ultrasound images, she agreed with the reports from Children's and from our maternal-fetal medicine group. She explained that she believes that this is more than just a giant omphalocele, and that the combination of anomalies that Isaac displays leads her to believe that he has what is called limb-body wall complex (LBWC). This is consistent what the doctor from the maternal-fetal medicine group mentioned on Tuesday. Both of them said that this was in no way a formal diagnosis, but rather their best hypothesis at this time since Isaac displays some, but not all, of the characteristics of LBWC.

We then met with folks at Shady Grove Hospital yesterday afternoon. The chief of neonatology was there, along with a charge NICU nurse, a labor and delivery nurse, and a social worker. We were able to ask more questions, discuss our birth plan, and take a short tour of the maternity ward. The neonatologist doesn't necessarily agree with the LBWC theory, but didn't really disagree either. Basically, she said we need to wait until Isaac is born to really see. She also has a background in genetics, so she will be a great person for us to consult with regarding follow up testing that Spencer and I may need to do to see if we're carriers of something that may put us at risk for something like this again. Clearly, there's still a lot left to find out and determine.

The nurses and social worker were absolutely wonderful and accommodating. Typically, after a c-section, you recover in a sort of triage-like area, with stretchers seperated by curtains. However, there is one private room across from that area that they will reserve for me to recover in and will wheel in a portable EKG machine (since I will need to be monitored after surgery). This way, we can have some alone time with Isaac as soon as possible, as both the doctor from CHOP and the neonatologist are predicting that his time on Earth will last somewhere in the realm of minutes, possibly an hour. Regardless, we're getting the sense it will be very short.

I gave the team the potential dates of my c-section, and the neonatologist recommended doing it on October 16th since it is a Thursday. She said that the pathologist should be able to do an autopsy that Friday. If I had my c-section on the 17th, then that would have to wait until Monday. The date still has yet to be confirmed, though.

They are also reserving an extra-large room in their maternity ward for me. There are two rooms like this, one at the end of each hall. They are also much more spacious, and are a bit more quiet since they're out of the way. We've also been told that we'll have no restrictions on visiting hours or number of visitors so that they can leave those decisions up to us. All in all, I think everyone is on the same page with our birth plan, and I feel very confident in the care that Spencer and I, and sweet little Isaac, will receive.

Please continue to pray for us as mid-October approaches. Spencer and I both feel the burden of this becoming increasingly more heavy, and we are very aware that the hardest part of all this is still ahead of us, despite the long road the past 4 1/2 months have been. I am also becoming increasingly more anxious about my c-section, mostly because of how "complicated" the doctors are saying it is going to be because of Isaac's positioning, the fact that the omphalocele is adhered to me, and how short the umbilical cord is. And then of course, the fact that it is major surgery doesn't thrill me either, seeing as I have never broken a bone or even had stitches.

We also appreciate your prayers for Isaac, that whlie he is with us he wouldn't be in a lot of pain, and that he would just feel so incredibly loved.

Nice Legs!

I don't usually write posts so close together, but wanted to update you all on yesterday's ultrasound.

Everything basically looks the same medically speaking. I didn't expect much to change. Sweet Isaac was hiding his face from us. Both the sonographer and the doctor tried to get us pictures of his face but couldn't. The doctor did get a great 3-D picture of his little legs and feet though...



Isn't that amazing?!

We also learned that Isaac has a head full of LOTS of hair! I was so glad to hear that... I really wanted him to have hair when he was born. It's so neat that they're able to tell those things from an ultrasound picture.

We're still waiting to hear from the doctors at CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) and can still use your prayers for all of the things I mentioned in yesterday's post. Thanks :)

Rain!

Rain today......booms of thunder
Grey skies......weeping
Yellowed grass.....transformed to green

Sound of raindrops upon the roof
makes me want to take a nap
read a book.....or
simply sit
thinking

Scripture says
the rain's a gift
bestowed on all
no exceptions

"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? (Matthew 5:43-47 The Message)

Prayers for This Week

Last night I actually made it to the gym. At this point, I am just doing some cardio (Don't worry... at 8 months pregnant, I have finally parted ways for the time being with weight training :) ). While I was on the elliptical last night, I was reading in an issue of People magazine, and came across an article in which the Chapman family was interviewed. For those of you who don't know their story, a few months ago, their daughter, Maria, was killed when she was hit by an SUV, driven by her older brother as he was heading up the driveway. She darted in front of the car, and he didn't see her. Their story is one of great tragedy and sorrow, but also great beauty.

In the article was a quote that Steven Curtis Chapman had said that really stuck with me:

The only thing more frightening than walking through what we're walking through with our faith, would be to walk through it alone, cursing God.

These words spoke volumes to me, as I thought about how frightening all of this is. As the days wear on, the fear, the sorrow, and the grief mounts. Yet, I couldn't even imagine what it would be like to walk through this alone... without our faith in who Jesus is, without the the love and support of our family and friends, and without the hope in knowing that God does redeem all things for good. I thought of Job and all of his turmoil and anguish, how he wrestled with God, and how God blessed him immensely. I almost had one of "those" moments on the elliptical, but figured an 8 month pregnant girl looked ridiculous enough, and that getting teary while beign 8 months pregnant on the elliptical in a packed gym would only look even more strange :)

There are a few things we would love for you to pray for this week.

1- Please continue to pray for a miracle.

2- Today we have an ultrasound at 3:30. I can't wait to see our sweet Isaac. I know he is growing, both my the size of my belly and because his kicks are always being felt in new places (like my bladder!) Please pray that we are able to enjoy that time getting to see him. One only have one more ultrasound (I think) after this one until he is born.

3- Both Spencer and I have our Back-to-School Nights this week. Mine is this evening, from 7-9. I am dreading it... I am dreading the possible questions and the possibility of grief sneaking up on me... I am dreading the pressure in general that this night always seems to bring. Spencer's is on Thursday night. Please pray that God would give us energy to endure these long days.

4- For our meeting with the chief of neonatology and other folks at Shady Grove Hospital (where I will be delivering) on Friday. Please pray that they would be able to answer our questions, that we would feel comfortable with the care that they will be providing for us and our sweet Isaac, and that we're all on the same page with regard to our birth plan.

5- For Spencer and I as we write up our birth plan this week. For wisdom with the decisions we need to make, that we can artiulate our wishes clearly, and that we would be able to make those decisions with the most love and concern possible for Isaac.

6- For continues strength and perseverence. We are both growing pretty weary, and could really use your prayers for this.

If I have time this afternoon, I will update with some ultrasound pictures of our handsome little guy :)

August Update

Wow! August flew by following Sarah and Todd's wedding. Here's a summary.




- a trip to Giants training camp.


-a night of dirt track racing at Albany-Saratoga Speedway


-a relaxing week at a friends' camp on a small Adirondack Lake


-Mary and I took a bus trip to Shea Stadium for a Mets game


-John and I camping on the shores of Lake George


-a week with extended family at Diamond Point in Lake George where I served as preacher at Diamond Point Community Church
August is the best month of the year
we reflect on what's happened since we last stood here
salt in our hair and our feet in the sand
I wouldn't expect anyone else to understand
August is the worst month of the year
with autumn ahead, I feel so much fear
nothing that summertime offers can last
when September arrives,
you'll be a piece of my past
(from the poem, August, by Jade Leven)

Mike Dawson's Freddie & Me

In a way, this should also be a "Swansea Find" post, like the ones I have been making for the last couple of weeks. (I still have one left to make, but I'm not done with everything I want to read before I write it.) I went into a big chain bookstore in Swansea, hoping they would have a copy of Posy Simmonds's Tamara Drewe, which hasn't been released yet in the States. Alas, their "graphic novel" section looked pretty much the same as an American one: lots of Marvel Comics, lots of Justice League, a smattering of Dan Clowes and the Hernandez Brothers, mostly jumbled in with the superhero stuff so it'd be hard to find. And Tamara Drewe was nowhere to be found. Posy Simmonds is supposed to be Britain's best-loved cartoonist, but her reputation did not extend to the clerks in this Welsh shopping mall.

What was there, though, much to my surprise, was a copy of Mike Dawson's Freddie & Me: a Teenage (Bohemian) Rhapsody. I don't know why it surprised me. Mike's got a serious publisher in Bloomsbury, and the book would certainly have plenty of appeal in the U.K.. It's just that, because I first saw (and bought) the book at MoCCA, where Mike and his wife were selling copies personally, it seemed impossible that one would wash up so far from home.



I finally read it this week. Freddie & Me is a really personal book, a memoir of the author's lifelong attachment to the band Queen. (Well, it's not literally lifelong: he shows us the moment when he first hears a Queen song. But there's not much of his life before that in the book, and Dawson is a "superfan" almost from day one.)

My reaction to the book also turns out to be personal: as I was reading, I was thinking about my own childhood, the way I would listen to Beatles records over and over in my room, the first Talking Heads album I ever owned, my total devotion to Talking Heads when I was in high school, and other assorted memories. There probably aren't very many people who share Dawson's level of devotion to Queen—though every one of those people surely should buy this book—but most of us had some sort of intense teenage devotion, the sort of thing so intense that it shaped your sense of who you were. That's really what this book is about.

Freddie & Me manages to deliver both the manifest awesomeness of Queen and the patent absurdity of an elementary-school boy who has given his soul to them, or a high-school boy whose emotional life is wrapped around the band he loves. In fact, sometimes it gives us both of these things (the sublime and the ridiculous) at the same time, in a way that seems totally appropriate to Queen. Here, for example, is the young Mike Dawson, partway through a routine at a talent show in which he proposed to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" a cappella.



(As with all the images from Freddie & Me, this one needs to be click-and-enlarged.)

Dawson never says this, but I get the feeling that the mustachioed emcee is ushering him offstage to protect the young boy's dignity. It's precisely the sort of performance an un-self-conscious kid can take seriously, but which for a teenager or an adult feels more like a memory we'd like to repress. Reading this sequence both made me want to download "Bohemian Rhapsody" and made me mildly queasy thinking about some talent shows in my distant past.

When Mike comes to America (to New Jersey, from a childhood in Leighton Buzzard), he makes Queen fans of most of his friends, but he's still (of course) the original high priest. When someone praises Queen, he feels it as a compliment; when someone knocks the new album, he flinches. At one point, overwhelmed by adolescent loneliness, he imagines himself leaping onto a cafeteria table and bursting into song, which opens onto a two-page splash so awesome and grotesque that I couldn't fit it all on my scanner:



Again, I want to listen to this song; again, I'm totally squeamish thinking about my own adolescence. (Thanks, Dawson.)

When Freddie Mercury dies, Dawson has to excuse himself from class. He can't keep himself together. This sequence rings really true, too, and when the book ends with him mourning one of his relatives, it's natural to look back on this extremity of emotion and make comparisons. Losing Freddie Mercury, for the teenaged Dawson, was at least as big a blow as losing kin. Thankfully he finds a safe place at school to do his grieving. (I've cut out one page from this sequence, but please click and read.)




I love the way that he's overwhelmed with emotion but also knows that it's "so stupid" to be feeling so much for a stranger. That says a lot about the awakening of adulthood in the teenage mind, and about the way that when we are figuring out who we are, our devotions are just as personal as anything "real."

It might be surprising that a straight guy would write a book about his early identification with Freddie Mercury, since Mercury became such an icon of the gay community, especially after his death and during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. Dawson is careful, I think, to put his wife in the very first panel of the book, and to point out that when he first heard that Freddie Mercury had AIDS, he "was actually surprised to hear in the radio broadcast that he was gay." He doesn't avoid the fact of Mercury's homosexuality, and he doesn't flinch from it, but it's obviously not important to his own sense of connection with Mercury and Queen.

(When young Michael sees his first Queen video, with Mercury in drag singing "I Want to Break Free," his mother says, "Yes, he's a funny man, isn't he, Michael," not obviously worried about her son's response, but obviously understanding more of the implications of word and image there than he does.)

In the end, though Freddie & Me is much less about Queen in particular, or even teenaged super-fandom, than it is about the way that music in particular can nestle into our memories and attach to them, building complicated associations of emotion and meaning that are both deeply personal and always available on compact disc. The book's final rumination on this sort of "soundtrack" memory is really moving and really smart.



I'm glad that the book goes there. There are moments in Freddie & Me when you can tell that it's a first graphic novel—places where the characters get a little off-model, or where the writing is a little too overt, or where the cartooning invites a comparison (to, for example, Joe Sacco) that it can't quite sustain—but I think this book is a hell of a lot smarter, and a good deal more moving, than most first graphic novels. I didn't know Mike Dawson had it in him. Now I'm really looking forward to whatever comes next.

My latest Craigslist sale

Trader Joe's brand toilet paper 12 pack -- 8 packs remaining - $3 (Balard)


Reply to: sale-830784186@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2008-09-06, 7:07PM PDT


I am selling my 12 pack of Trader Joe's brand toilet paper. The package is open but the toilet paper is NOT USED. There are 8 rolls left in the pack. I used the first 4, but would like to sell the rest. I have upgraded to Cottonelle 2-ply with Aloe and E, and no longer want the Trader Joe's rolls in my house. There is nothing wrong with this toilet paper, it gets the job done, but I found it a little on the abrasive side. I have come to realize that you can judge a lot about a person by the quality of the toilet paper they bring into their home. The price difference between quality levels is negligible compared to the ways in which it affects your life and the way you feel on many deep levels. That being said, this is not a "bad" toilet paper, I have just moved on. Let me know if you are interested, I would like to sell by the end of Sept, as I have nowhere to store this extra toilet paper right now.




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Color Version

IM BACK EVERYONE


GET READY!

Words of Hope

I was recently talking with someone about this storm that Spencer and I are walking through with Isaac and about how everything feels so chaotic, unstable, and constantly changing. Whether that's my emotions, still becoming accliamated to a new teaching environment, or the state of disarray (at least by my standards) that my house is in, so much of life just feels as though it has completely unravled.

I've talked before about the many contradictions this experience has brought, such as who I know God to be with the circumstances we're currently facing, and that contradiction alone has caused me to really dig deeper into who Jesus really is.

Later in that conversation, I was asked, "What do you know to be true and unchanging? What anchors you right now?" I had a hard time coming up with things that are unchanging... so much has. My faith is changing, my marriage, my hopes and dreams are changing... and though not for the worse, they are still changing.

I was reading a blog this morning that I hadn't looked at in a few weeks. It's the blog of Greg and Nicol Sponberg. Nicol also sang in Selah, and is Todd Smith's sister (and therefore, Angie Smith's sister-in-law). Weeks after Todd and Angie lost their precious Audrey, Greg and Nicol lost their 10 week-old son, Luke, to SIDS.

On their blog, Greg was recalling words that brought him comfort in the wake of Luke's death, and this statement just captured my attention this morning:

There are only two things I know to be true right now... the Cross and the Resurrection.

I can't imagine walking through this not being able to stand on those truths. And though they are few, they change everything. And although it doesn't take away the depth of the sadness and grief, or the times of chaos, it does bring hope to a seemingly bleak and hopeless situation. Because of them, I know where our sweet Isaac will be should he not be here with us.

On Tuesday we have another ultrasound. Would you please pray that it would be a special time for our family... that we would enjoy our time getting to see Isaac, that the doctors would be able to answer any questions that we have, and that God would just grant us peace? As I have said, those times can be bittersweet, particularly as we approach mid-October; but for now, I just want to enjoy the time we do have with our sweet son.

Thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement, and for walking with us.

Yesterday's Appointment

Just wanted to quickly update on yesterday's doctor's appointment. Thankfully, we were able to see the doctor I usually see. She is absolutely wonderful and has been nothing but supportive through this entire process.

Isaac's heart was still beating strong at 153 beats per minute. It took the nurse a while to find his heartbeat, but we knew he was okay because he kept kicking the doppler as she moved it over my stomach. We both got a good chuckle out of that.

It is looking like my c-section will be somewhere between October 15-17. We won't be able to schedule it with the hospital until a month out, so there are still a few more weeks before we know the exact date. In a way, I am glad for that.

My doctor also said that she wanted both herself and another doctor from the practice there for Isaac's delivery since my c-section is looking as if it will be a bit complicated. It was a great comfort to know that she is taking extra precautions in having a second set of well-skilled hands there at Isaac's birth. She is now hopeful that she won't have to do a classical c-section, but said that it still is a real possibility. They won't know until they start the procedure. This is a little better than the news we received on this last time.

I had also asked her what would happen should I go into preterm labor and the on-call doctor was already at the other hospital where they deliver. She assured me that I would be able to deliver at Shady Grove, the hospital where we've been meeting with the neonatologist and other NICU staff. She even went so far as to say that if the on-call doctor couldn't do it, to have them call her, and she would come and do the delivery. I really couldn't be more thankful for how supportive she has been.

Please continue to pray for a miracle for our sweet Isaac, and for a delivery that is as easy and as pain-free as possible for him and that does minimal damage to my body. Please pray that God would calm my nerves about the fact that I will be having major surgery (the thought of having my blood drawn is enough to make me want to pass out!). Please pray for our upcoming appointments next week... our ultrasound on Tuesday and our meeting with the hospital staff next Friday. Please pray for Spencer as he continues to do his best to support me, juggle a crazy work and school schedule, and still tries to have time to do the things he enjoys that keep him calm. Lastly, please pray that God would just be near to us and make His presence known.

Izzy Challenge #5

I got something neat in the mail this afternoon, and since it's a bit closer to the alleged subject of this blog than my last post, I thought I'd do some show and tell.

This is the new issue of J.B. Winter's Izzy Challenge, a jam / constraint-based minicomic in which Winter tries out new and experimental ideas for collaborative comics.



I'm in it. You see, back when I still lived in Connecticut and Tom Motley (who has a new blog, by the way) still lived in Colorado, we became neighbors in a list of cartoonists from all fifty states...



... Or, wait -- maybe that's not the best way to explain it.

The latest issue of Izzy is a fifty-state, fifty-cartoonist jam, in which each cartoonist drew a vacation snapshot for Izzy the Mouse as he made his way (impossibly, alphabetically) through the entire union. (Sorry, Mike, Izzy skipped DC.) Each drawing started with a cartoon of Izzy in a weird pose (drawn by Winter), and the cartoonist for that state chose a background and filled it in.

It's a fun little book, and well worth a read, if only to see what sorts of trouble Izzy gets into in Rhode Island or West Virginia. It's also cool to see Motley and me in close proximity to the likes of Matt Feazell and the J. Chris Campbell. (Shouts out, too, to my new neighbors in the Trees and Hills cartooning group, Colin Tedford of New Hampshire and Morgan Pielli of Vermont!)

Anyway, if you're interested in getting a copy for yourself, it's only a buck over at Winter's Etsy store. Pick up a copy of Noodle #2 (my favorite of his minis) while you're there!

Refreshment

This past weekend Spencer and I had the chance to go to Annapolis for a few days. A good friend of Spencer's from college was getting married, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. With school having just started back in full-force, we both were in need of a little refreshment.

Annapolis is one of my favorite towns... for its history, great food, an dreally cute, unique shops. We walked from our hotel to the downtown area on Saturday morning, had breakfast, sat on the pier and talked for a while, and then poked our heads in a few shops. One of the shops we stumbled across was called "Bonjour," a really cute baby boutique. There were all kinds of cute outfits, gifts, stuffed animals, and nursery decorations. It was a bittersweet find. On the one hand, I had really hoped to find a store like this in which we could look for an outfit for Isaac. On the other hand, there were so many things in there I would have loved to have gotten for him. Thankfully, we did find a really sweet outfit for him, and we were able to leave the store just in time before either of us became too sad. Here's what the little guy will be sporting on his birthday...


I loved the shade of baby blue and the fact that it looked hand-made out of really delicate thread. It's cotton... not like a t-shirt cotton... but like a very fine knit cotton. It is so soft, and I love that we'll be able to see his little feet when he has it on.

Spencer and I also enjoyed Nick's wedding. I had never been to a Greek Orthodox wedding before, so it was neat to see all of the customs and traditions. The reception was great, and I think we both enjoyed the opportunity to get dressed up! Here are a few pictures from the reception...




After a really long first week back at school with the students, we were thaknful for the chance to get away and have some time together. And I was glad to be able to take Isaac to Annpolis.