this is what i am up to....

Well, if you are reading this you either are a really good friend or you might have too much time on your hands. I am excited to share that I was asked to be a part of a group show in Madison. The show is titled "drawing you in, lead to ink" the opening is Feb. 6th at six pm. statestreetgallery.com - Other news is that myself and friend eric inkala are sending off work to be in a group show in New York. AWP gallery the show is titled "World Of Imagination Vol.2"apwarts.com - I am also working on another group show with great friends Eric Inkala, John Grider, and Keiko Yagishita at First Amendment Gallery. We are currently working out a title for this one. This is the
follow-up show from last years "almost famous" show. There is more news that I cant share yet but stay posted. OH.. My friend Paper Tiger is helping me out with a web page,so hopefully soon it will be up and going..

Artisbd.

Friday Giveaway!

What better way to end the week than with a giveaway? I've seen many of my blog friends doing giveaways on their blogs and I thought it was a neat idea.


So, in light of the fact that Spencer and I saw Chris Tomlin in concert last weekend, how about a free Chris Tomlin Hello Love CD?


Not only is Chris Tomlin a gifted musician, but he has an incredible passion for God and his lyrics will touch the depths of your heart. If you're not familiar with his music, you need to be!


I also wanted this giveaway to something more than people just leaving a comment in order to win. So, here's the deal. To enter, leave a comment. In your comment, let us know what God has been teaching you lately, or leave a verse to encourage us ("us" being Spencer and I, as well as other people who read this blog).


You have until Sunday evening at 6pm eastern time (because shortly after that the Superbowl starts!) to enter. A winner will be randomly selected and will be announced Monday morning!

Have fun, and good luck!

Snow Day

We FINALLY got some measureable snow around here. As teachers, this is a glorious thing! Not only is it an unexpected day off (or on out case... now the SECOND day off!), but it is also so beautiful. Here are a few pictures I took around our neighborhood yesterday...

Here's our house...

A view of some other houses on our street...


As Spencer and I were talking to the pizza place in our neighborhood to have lunch, we saw all these kids trying to sled down the hill here. We obviously didn't get a lot of snow (evidenced by all the grass poking through), so the kids would sled about half way down and get stuck... and they try to scoot their way down the rest of the hill. It was pretty funny...


No, not enough snow to compare to anywhere else in the nation and the feet of snow some places have been getting, but enough snow and then ice to close schools for two days! What a gift... Spencer and I have both been pretty exhausted, and so it has been nice to have some unexpected time to catch up on rest, spend time with each other, and catch up on things we never quite seem to get around to doing (like putting away a box of Christmas gifts that is STILL sitting around!)

Secrets of the Universe Part 2 - BEES!

Friends, I have finished the semi-final draft of Warm Bodies, and the manuscript is currently being combed over by my editor, Laurie Webb. This means I have some spare time, so to celebrate it, I bring you....the long awaited second-installment of the SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE nature documentary series....

BEES!



Cupid

In Review...

I have been doing a lot of reading in the mast several months, and wanted to compile a list of some of the books I have read, along with a little "review" of each, in hopes that this will be helpful for others, particularly other moms and dads who are grieving the loss of a child. as well as friends and family of people who have lost a child.

Before I get to that, though, two quick updates...

1. This is the last week of the Thirty One fundraiser for Isaac's playground. They have a lot of really cute things... if you missed the announcement before, think Very Bradley (but the colors aren't quite as bright) meets Pottery Barn. Really cool stuff. Thank you, Tammy, for offering us this opportunity.

2. Baby Norrah-- lots of good news. Her eye exam went really well last Tuesday. The neurologist also reviewed all 3 of Norrah's EEGs and believes she is not having seizures. The current diagnosis is benign myoclonus... not Tay Sachs. This is huge! Thanks so much for praying for them.

And now... for the books...

When I Lay My Isaac Down
This book was written by the Christian author Carol Kent. I think for obvious reason, it jumped off the shelf at me while I was browsing in Barnes & Nobel. I mentioned this book in previous posts, but wanted to again highly recommend it here. It is one of my favorite books of all time.

The essence of the book is this: Carol and her husband's son is being tried for the murder of his wife's ex-husband. Her son is a graduate of the Naval Academy, and the fact that this was happening was of complete shock. The deep, deep love of Carol's heart of a mother becomes so strikingly clear, as does her grief, as she recounts the events surrounding the murder, her son's trial, and what happens afterwards (I don't want to give that part away). As she does, Carol loosely connects her story to the account of Abraham and Isaac, and delves into some deep issues of the heart surrounding the issue of loss. One of the ones that spoke to me the most was this: What do you do when God DOESN'T provide the ram in the thicket? At the end of each chapter there are some questions for reflection as you are walking through your own grief journey.

This is a book I want to read again on this side of Isaac's birth and death, particularly as I am still figuring out what you do when God doesn't provide the ram in the thicket... when he doesn't show up the way you had hoped and so earnestly prayed for Him to. He doesn't change; we know this... but it is something to work out nonetheless. I really can't say enough about it. I just love it. It is great for the grieving person; and my mom would tell you, as one who has also read it, that it is great for the person wanting to love and support the one in intense grief. And as my mom's daughter, I am glad she read it and thought to make me a big bag of sunshine containing all things yellow (which will make sense when you read the book).

Carol has written several other books, including one called A New Kind of Normal: Hope-Filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down. It's on my list of books I still need to pick up and read.

A Grief Observed
This book, written by C.S. Lewis is awesome. This book recounts Lewis's heart-wrenching grief as he walks the journey of his wife's death due to cancer. One of the most profound statements in his book is this: "You never really know how much you believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you." Wow. I had to put the book down that day and really spend some time thinking about what those truths were for me. It really got me wrestling with the issue of what happens to babies when the die? Of course, I would like to think that in God's goodness and graciousness that they are in heaven, but what does scripture say is true about this? That's a life and death issue... on an eternal scale. Thankfully, through meeting with our pastor, searching the scriptures, and reading some other books (to be mentioned in a minute) those questions were answered. And, I picked the book back up and finished it. Loved this one. Though not specific to infant loss, Lewis's grief is so deep, so pure, and so authentic... and I just felt a little less alone when reading it.

I'll Hold You In Heaven
Written by Jack Hayford, I'll Hold You In Heaven addresses and answers questions such as: What happened to my baby after he/she died? Will I ever see my baby again-and will I recognize him? Does God have a reason for letting my child die? Specific to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss, this book addresses many of the lingering questions in the wake of a child's death, and provides biblical answers and hope. A fairly short read, and really gets to those questions about God that so many of us ask. And yes, as Hayford states in his book and backs up with scripture, you can be assured that the child you lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death is in fact in heaven.

Safe in the Arms of God
John MacArthur is a well-respected Christian writer, and like Hayford's I'll Hold You in Heaven, this book also addresses many of the questions parents ask in the wake of their child's death. He tackles the issue of infant loss with detailed attention to Scriptures that hold the answers. He assures the reader that no death occurs apart from the purposes of God, just as no life occurs apart from the purposes of God. Just as Jack Hayford assured us, so too does John MacArthur assure us based on biblical truths that a child lost through miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death is in the presences of our Creator... safe in the arms of God Himself.

Grieving the Child I Never Knew
Kathe Wunnenberg has carefully penned this devotional in such an authentic way, as she herself has experienced three miscarriages and the death of her infant son. Also taking a biblical approach to the issues of miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death, this devotional is organized by topics that are central to these issues. Each devotion includes scripture passage and prayer, "Steps Toward Healing" questions, space for journaling, and readings for holidays and special occasions. This is a book you can work through all at once, or just a little at a time. I really liked it's sort of interactive style.

Holding On to Hope
Written by Nancy Gutherie, this book offers hope for those walking the path of suffering. Though not specific to infant loss, Nancy herself has carried two babies to term, knowing that because of their fatal condition called Zellweger Syndrome, their time on this earth would be short. Her experience with infant loss is intricately woven into this book. Gutherie offers her readers a fresh breath of hope as she guides them through their own grief journey and all of the feelings and emotions that encompasses, all the while revealing the very heart of God through her use of scripture. This book is great for anyone who has experienced a monumental loss, or who is walking alongside someone who has.

The One Year Book of Hope
Also penned by Nancy Gutherie, this is more of a devotion-style book of similar content. There is one year's worth of devotions strategically organized for the person finding themselves on the road of grief. The product description from Amazon.com said it best: Processing pain, she explains, is an ongoing daily endeavor, so she created 52 weeks' worth of daily devotions, organized around themes like brokenheartedness, faith, and questioning God. Guthrie never runs from hard questions, from the section on heaven (what are our loved ones doing up there? What will our bodies be like?) to a week on finding purpose in pain. (Here, Guthrie discusses how she has used her own experiences to minister to hurting people, and encourages others to do the same as they feel ready.) Where other devotionals offer tiny and undemanding snippets from Scripture, Guthrie's approach is meatier, and we see her genuinely wrestling with some of the more difficult passages of the Bible. Throughout, Guthrie's soul-searching honesty and personal anecdotes make her a perfect companion in times of deep sorrow.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart
Written by Deborah Davis, this book is pretty much the go-to book for those who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. Though not written from a Christian perspective, this book deals with some of the more practical aspects of these issues, such as the death of one or more babies from a multiple birth, the questioning of aggressive medical intervention, and subsequent pregnancy after a loss. There is also a special chapter for fathers. This is the first book I read when I came home from the hospital, and it really met me right where I was in the shock of it all. I haven't read the chapters on subsequent pregnancy because I am just not there yet, so I can't say much about that part of the book. But, I do plan to pick it back up and read that section once I am in that place. This book is great for the person experiencing the loss of a child, but is, in my opinion, also a great resource for doctors, nurses, and family and friends as well.

After the Darkest Hour The Sun Will Shine Again
Not specific to infant loss, this book deals with the loss of a child at any age. Written by Elizabeth Mehren, this book addresses many of the feelings and the journey of grief that a person encounters when their child dies. At the end of each chapter is an excerpt about other families who have experienced the loss of a child... some who are famous (such as Eric Clapton) and some who aren't as well known. One of the lines that grabbed my attention in this book was this: "The death of a child stands the world on its head..." It is so true. The death of your child feels so backwards from the way life "should" go... so against the "natural" order of things. Yet we know that nothing is beyond the realm of God's sovereignty.

I have just started reading Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey. I am only a chapter in, so can't really comment too much on it yet. I will be sure to give a full review when I am through.

So... that's a lot of reading. If you were to ask me, I don't even think I could answer the question, "Well, which one or two should I pick up first?" I don't know. Everyone walks their journey of grief differently. Perhaps you're one who wants a book very specific to infant loss. If that's the case, then I would say that I'll Hold You in Heaven and Safe in the Arms of God are good places to start. Perhaps you want to really connect with someone on the issue of grieving... then When I Lay My Isaac Down is a great one.

Please know that no one has asked me to endorse these books at all... I just hope that by passing them along it is somehow helpful. The title of each book has been linked to Amazon.com so that if you wish to order yourself a copy, you can. Many of them aren't shelved in bookstores.

Thank you for continuing to read, continuing to pray, continuing to ask us how we're doing, continuing to mention Isaac's name... we are so thankful for you, our stretcher bearers. (Again, another When I Lay My Isaac Down reference... seriously... you need to read this book!)

Doodle Penance: "fun easy thing s to draw"

Well, this week's installment of "Doodle Penance" seems pretty straightforward to me. Someone came to the blog this week looking for "fun easy thing s to draw." The alleged visitor spent all of zero seconds perusing our site, which makes sense, because we really haven't addressed that subject until now.

Before I go any further supplying this googler with what he or she was looking for, let me dedicate this post to Bully, the Little Stuffed Bull. I think my reasons will soon become clear.

Okay. Here's how to draw a fun, easy Thing S.

First, you make an S.



Then, you make another, more different S.



Then, you turn the S into a Thing S.


This step, by the way, is totally fun. If you have never drawn and inked the Thing's weird rocky hide, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Finally, get out your Benday dots and stick a bunch of them down to make the S the right shade of orange. (You may click to enlarge.)


And there you go: doodle magic. Check out its majesty. That's an S worthy of the ever-lovin', blue-eyed Idol of Millions.

New photo

Wise Words




Yesterday we had the opportunity to meet Jenna Woginrich, author of Made from Scratch, Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. Here are some wise words you will find in the introduction of her book.


Accepting where you are today,
and working toward what's ahead,
is the best you can do.
But the starting point
is to take control of what you can
and smile with how things are.
Find your own happiness and dance with it.
This is a picture of Jenna's chickens.

Deep Freeze


If you compare the view out my window today with the one below you can see the results of the continuing cold weather here in upstate New York. We actually had a little break yesterday with temps reaching the freezing mark but tonight we will be back in the single digits.
I am thankful that there is a mall nearby where I can get in my 3 mile walk in a warm place where I do not have to worry about slipping on the ice. I have spent most of my time this past week right here at the computer as I prepare to lead preaching workshops next week in Malvern, PA. It will be a cold but dry 5 hour drive early Monday morning. The retreat ends Thursday at noon and the forcast looks pretty good for the week so I shouldn't have any hazardous driving conditions.
Last night we watched a Hallmark Movie that we had recorded before Christmas. I believe the title was "Front of the Class". It is based on the true story of a young man with Tourette's Syndrome who became a renowned teacher in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a very inspirational story with some fine performances. John watched the last hour with us and remarked, "That's right, Dad, don't ever let someone tell you that you can't do something". Of course, John's life is a testament to that fact. He will be performing live this Sunday at 4:45 pm at The Center for Disabilities Telethon. It will be broadcast on our local Fox affilliate. John is very excited for this opportunity. He will perform Billy Joel's Piano Man and will play keyboard, harmonica, and sing.

Lady 2

Lady Caricature

Drawing People












To make up for my shortage of posts, here is a ton of sketches i did over winter break. as you can see i was quite busy drawing people, i went to grand central station, and to a big art fair and just drew people for hours. these are some of my favorite pages, dont be surprised if you see most of them turned into drawing or used as reference in the future.

Dreams

I have heard from a number of moms in the "I've lost a child club" that they sometimes dream about the child that they've lost. Until last night, I hadn't experienced that. I had dreams about the day I would deliver Isaac while I was still pregnant, but since October 7th, I hadn't dreamed about him... until last night.

You know how dreams are... sort of scattered. You're in one place, then suddenly you're in another. My dream started in the hospital delivering Isaac. Like it was predicted, he was born not breathing. But then, he did... almost like when someone has been under water for a while and they come up for a breath. In my dream, I just remember being so... shocked. And so, so thankful.

Then, we were suddenly at home. I remember waking up (in my dream) wondering, "Which is it? Is he here, or is he not?" And to my surprise, I could hear him crying across the hall in the nursery. I remember going in, picking him up, and rocking him as he fell back asleep.

Somehow, it was then about a year later in my dream because Isaac was walking... you know, that cute "I could topple over at any minute because I am unstable and haven't quite figured out how my legs work yet" walk. And he had the biggest grin on his face and was laughing. How appropriate. After all, "Isaac" does mean "he laughs."

The thing that's hard about having such a good dream is that you wake up... you wake up and find that your reality isn't what just unfolded during your good night's slumber. And sure, there are all kinds of studies about what dreams do, or don't, mean. All that aside, I think it just caught me off guard.

I suppose the bottom line is still just that I miss my son terribly. And although that dream may have been a glimpse of the joy that could be ahead should we be fortunate enough at some point to have a healthy child, it still won't be the joy that we'll ever be able to experience with Isaac on this side of Heaven. Thank goodness for the hope we can have in eternity... that the brokenness of this world isn't the end.

Im Back!





So im sorry for the lack of posts, i have been on vacation. doing a bit of traveling and such. But the good news is, i have tons of artwork from my break to show you. later on tonight i will upload about 60 caricatures i did, in the mean time here is some video of george w. bush getting boo'd at the presidential inauguration, and a photo of just one of the lines i had to wait in in order to get into the gated area up front by the capitol. ore to come later!

LITTLE BIRD

Same to You, Captcha.

Sometimes, when I leave a comment on someone's blog, I get something hard to type, and sometimes I get a weirdly appropriate neologism.

But I've never had anyone's blog machinery seem to curse me until this afternoon:



It's being fairly old-fashioned about the cursing, but still: that's the sort of insult that stings.

And to be taunted by random letters generated by software? That's the sort of sting that

and lasts.

Updates

This morning I met with both my general practitioner for a physical, and the genetic counselor at the maternal fetal medicine group Spencer and I went to throughout my pregnancy. Neither were overly eventful... just a regular physical with my doctor, and then basically hearing again what we had already been told about Isaac's condition. It wasn't genetic (which we already knew from the CVS test I had done when I was 15 weeks pregnant), that an omphalocele is multi-factorial (meaning, "they" believe that there are several small little factors that contributed to the omphalocele... though what those factors are aren't known), that Isaac's case was sporadic, etc.

We were told that 1/300 babies is born with a birth defect of varying degrees of severity (though the literature on a giant omphalocele, Isaac's condition, said 1/10,000 live births), and that the recurrence risk is extremely low. Essentially, we were again told that we have just had "really, really bad luck" and that there's no reason to believe that it will happen again. I am hoping that we've been through our share of "bad luck" already as far as pregnancy is concerned... or as far as anything is concerned for that matter :) So no new information, but I do think it was good to talk about it now that my head is a little more clear.

In terms of other updates, both my neighbor and my close friend delivered healthy baby boys this weekend. Our neighbor delivered baby Grant on Friday, and my close friend delivered baby Charlie on Sunday.

I would also like to ask you to pray for my friend Lauren and her baby Norrah. Lauren and I "met" (through our blogs) early on in my pregnancy with Isaac. She has so faithfully prayed for us, had a gorgeous quilt made for Isaac, sent me a cute t-shirt (which I am wearing in my 26-week pregnancy picture), and has just been such a supportive friend, even though we have never met in real life. With her permission, I have copied a portion of an e-mail I received from her below:

Norrah and I went to see the Pediatric Neurologist today after 2 months of her having seizure-like episodes many times a day along with her delayed physical development. The neurologist already ran a few tests on Norrah that all came back normal (EEG, 24 hour EEG and MRI). He also had 6 home videos of her "seizures" that we had taken over the past few weeks which he reviewed. The videos coupled with her normal test results, and her physical exam/medical history have led him to 3 possible diagnosis. 2 are not so bad... and one is a death sentence in human terms.

1. Benign Myoclonus of Infancy - just a twitchy baby, no underlying issues

2. Benign Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy - not totally benign as the name would suggest but a form of epilepsy in infancy that goes away during the toddler years. Requires anti-convulsant drugs for treatment of seizures so that it gives the baby the best opportunity to grow and develop despite the brain "misfiring."

3. Tay-Sachs Disease - this is the scary one... a neuro-degenerative disease, genetic in origin, the baby does not possess the right enzymes within the body to break down certain proteins/fats and they end up basically dying a slow death (by age 4/5) - going blind, deaf and paralyzed. Starts around 3-6 months with twitches and slowed development and progresses. Currently there is no cure to this genetic disease.

We could really use your prayers at this time. First and foremost please pray that Our God would completely heal Norrah of these twitches/seizures and get her development on track. Please also pray that she would not have Tay Sachs disease. This disease has been in the back of my mind all of my child-bearing life (as it is a disease of primarily Jewish origin and I am 1/4 Jewish... as is Ken...). I have know about the disease but did not consider - realistically - that it could affect our children. Now, that this has become a real consideration for the doctors it is back on my radar and it is brewing fear... so please also pray that I would have peace and calm in God's promises that he has spoken over Norrah and her life.

On a positive note, the doctor - after examining Norrah in person - said he felt optimistic that we would be ruling Tay Sach's out soon. She will have an eye exam Tuesday that will help to reveal whether or not she has the disease. Babies with Tay Sachs have red spots on their retinas that can be seen during a dilated eye exam. If she does not have the spots then the doctor said that we have essentially ruled out the disease... since her physical exam went very well today.


Please pray that the doctors can figure out what is causing the seizure-like episodes and accurately diagnose the problem. Please also pray that it isn't Tay-Sachs.

And lastly, we really could continue to use your prayers for peace and for joy. Spencer is under a tremendous amount of stress with work, coaching, the mentor club he runs, and with two grad classes. It's very hard for me to see someone I love having such a difficult time. And we both are just missing our sweet Isaac a ton. Thanks for lifting us, as well as these other requests, up in prayer and for continuing to walk with us through this journey. We are so grateful...

Doodle Penance: "elijah and the widow bread craft"

This week's "Doodle Penance" post comes to us from an anonymous Google-searcher (aren't they all anonymous?) who wanted to find "elijah and the widow bread craft."

I can understand why this searcher must have been frustrated. The encounter between Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath comes up fairly frequently in history paintings, as in this piece by Bernardo Strozzi



—but there are relatively few paintings of Elijah's first, rejected plea for the widow's son's resuscitation.

You see, the Bible leaves a lot of these details out, but after the widow's son dies, Elijah improvises a solution with a few slices of bread and some crusts, hoping that God will breathe the boy's soul back into a new, healthy body:



The widow is apparently not satisfied with this undeniably big favor. So Elijah has to pray again, getting the soul into the boy's old body, along with the additional request that the old body not be sick any more. What a hassle, right?

One thing the Bible leaves out, but this image makes clear, is that there was a big mess to be cleaned up when the widow wigged. Because, you see, that jug of oil was blessed in such a way that it would never be empty. When she dropped it on the floor, it kept pouring out oil until the whole room was ankle-deep in deliciousness.

But fictive things wink as they will, don't you know.

I haven't been able to track down the original Renaissance painting of this image with Google, so I guess our google-searcher will have to console him- or herself with my cartoon rendition. Still, here are a couple of notes I took when I was looking at it.



Okay, Mike— What have you got?

...Okay, Isaac! I'll show you soon! (But first, I will violate protocol to say that I really like your doodle--indeed, I LOL'ed.)

Truth be told, I understood the search term a little differently. Everyone knows the story of Elijah's departure in a mystical vessel, the chariot of fire. And many believe that someday Elijah is fated to return, to herald the coming of the Messiah. Some of those who think they know who the Messiah is have called that figure "the bread of life." So what more appropriate vessel could Elijah use for his later, annunciatory visit than a vessel made not of fire but of the staff of life, bread, itself? And what more symbolic emblem to fill the sails of the One who will overturn Death than the deadly hourglass of the black widow spider, thereby reclaiming a terrible image just as the cross, that tool of capital torture, was reclaimed as the token of resurrection to the life everlasting?


Yes...here comes Elijah, sailing with word of the Messiah on the S. S. The Widow, a craft made of bread. I'm sure that's what our Google-seeker was looking for.

Broken, Not Foresaken

So Spencer and I are going to the Chris Tomlin concert next Saturday in Baltimore. I am familiar with a lot of his older songs, and just recently have started listening to his "Hello Love" CD. I figured that would be a good idea since it is, after all, the Hello Love tour.

I am guessing you know by now that I have a thing for words, song lyrics included. I was listening to the Hello Love CD on my way to work this morning and for the first time heard the song "You Lifted Me Out." Honestly, my mind was in other places, like trying to remember all of the ingredients for this great baked brie dish that I wanted to make for small group tonight, and the music was just sort of droning on in the background... until I hear this:

Lost is where you found me
Shattered and frail
But You love me still
Trouble may surround me
My heart may fail
But You never will
You never will

Okay. Rewind.

As I listened again, I was just so struck; as you can imagine, it was another one of those moments where something just speaks deeply to your heart. It's just so how I feel right now... and the promise that God will find us in the midst of our brokenness, and that He will never fail... what a promise. What hope.

The Psalms are full of promises like this...

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
~ Psalm 34:18

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
~ Psalm 147:3

God meets us in our brokenness; and slowly, He is showing me that even though our prayers for a miracle for Isaac weren't answered in the way we had hoped, He still meets us. He loves us. He carries us. He will never fail.

I recently stumbled across the blog of Molly Piper, daughter-in-law of the highly-esteemed author, John Piper. You may know him for having penned Desiring God. Molly and Abraham lost their daughter, Felicity, in 2007. She was stillborn at 39 weeks due to what they believe was a cord accident. In his blog (found here), John Piper writes this:

This seems so preventable. By God and by man. Yes. So easy. But neither man nor God prevented this. Man, because he did not know it was happening. God, because he has his wise and loving reasons that we wait to learn with tears and trust.

Though I don't believe, at least according to the numerous reports we have received from doctors, that Isaac's condition was preventable by man, I do believe that it was preventable by God, because He is sovereign. And like Piper said, we know that God is wise and loving. He won't fail. And so we do wait to learn those reasons... the answers to all the "why" questions.. through many, many tears, and with trust.

As I continue on the journey of grief and in dealing with some anger with God, I am learning a whole new level of what it means to trust Him. I am learning that in the past I have been such a Thomas... needing to see to really believe. Seeing God working... and then I will trust Him. Now, I am learning that deep, true trust means what Jeremy Camp has written in one of his songs, "Even when I don't see, I still believe." Believing that God is who He says He is, regardless of my circumstances.

Oh, the growing pains with this lesson. The countless times I have surrendered my need to know over to God, only to snatch it right back. It is nothing other then my frailty and brokenness over my son that causes me to do that. But God is ever-patient, never-failing... his love and grace unconditionally meeting me right where I am.

So this post is a bit all over the place, but I felt compelled to share what has been on my mind and in my heart. First, so that you can continue to pray for us. And secondly, as an encouragement to other hurting moms out there whose sweet children have left this Earth far too soon... whose hearts are breaking and arms are aching. God will not fail you, even though it may feel like He has. He will meet you in your brokenness...

Au Revoir, Lame Canard

I have been rooting for regime change, or anyone who could keep Bush out of office, since before George W. was "elected" the first time. But despite the many calumnies and criminal charges that deserve to be heaped upon the mass of tissue he uses for a head, there is one point of acclaim that cannot be denied to our current Decider: he's the only American President yet to appear on the cover of an issue of Satisfactory Comics. Why, here he is, in Mike's version of my doodle of him, in the two o'clock position on the cover of our fifth issue.



Despite the brief presence of an abominable cretin, the book is kid-friendly.

You see, we asked a dozen people to provide "a frightening character" to use in this comic, and from our pal Adam Rosenblatt we received, as a submission, George W. Bush attaining a second term. (We made this comic back in April of 2004, you see. We had no way of knowing then how bad things would get.) Most of the other characters became figures in the story's actual plot, but Bush was brushed off quickly in a sort of a cameo appearance.



(You'd better click and enlarge.)

I put Bush and Paris Hilton (another submission) into an exhibit in the Museum of the Horrible, a corridor dedicated to the Most Horrible American Presidents, including Grant and H. M. Singeberry (who apparently gets elected some time after 2020). I had meant that guy's name to be "Singleberry," but I had a lettering lapse at the last minute...

Anyway, I've always been pretty happy with that cartoon of Bush. I think I managed to translate him recognizably into my clumsy cartooning idiom without caricaturing him too much. In honor of Mike's post from yesterday (and using just a little bit of it), I have colored that old cartoon.



And so I say sayonara to the monster. Here's hoping that the next time he's in the news, it's in the context of his trial and conviction.

Well, I finally finished my re-write at noon. I am exhausted. I have been spending up to 12 hours a day on this project for the last three weeks and I just sent it off to my friend Melba Markham to edit. It feels good to be this far. The next book ought to go a lot faster. It better. I can't take another ten years.


Now the work begins. I still have a cover to design and the layout to complete. I have one month to get the rest of it done. I am excited to finish so I can start on the next book. What a crazy life this writing stuff is.
The picture above is of some of the tools in the Pottery. Isaac's apron is under them.

New story - "Life Expectancy"

This is written almost verbatim from a dream I had last night.






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A Few Prayer Requests

This morning there are a few things for which I would like to ask you to join me in prayer.

The first is for a friend of mine who I met at the infant loss support group I attend at the hospital where I delivered Isaac. On Saturday, she and her husband will be reaching the one year mark of her sweet son, Will's, birth... and a few days later, will reach the one year mark of his death. I know that this is an exceptionally difficult time for them, so I would ask that you would please pray for them during this time.

During the Christmas season, I attended a party with the folks from the school where I previously taught. There is a teacher there who, about twenty years ago, list a baby. I appreciated so much that she asked how I was doing, and then proceeded to tell me, with tears in her eyes, that even twenty years later, it is still hard to talk about her son without crying. I can only imagine, then, what this one-year mark is like for my friend from the support group.

The second is for Spencer. He just has a ton on his plate right now with coaching basketball, running the mentor club at his school, taking three graduate classes this spring, and then of course, his "real" job. That is a busy schedule for anyone to handle, but I think it is exceptionally more wearing on someone who is navigating a journey of intense grief.

Third, two friends of ours are expecting baby boys any day now. One, in fact, is due today; the other is actually a few days overdue. Please pray for healthy deliveries for each of these baby boys.

Lastly, please continue to pray for Spencer and I as we navigate this grief journey. It's a hard and crazy road, and the quick and drastic change of emotions can be really exhausting. Earlier this week I just found myself so agitated over silly things and feeling extremely restless. I looked at my planner and realized, "It's Tuesday." Isaac was born on a Tuesday, and Tuesdays just seem to be like that. I also know that the birth of the above mentioned baby boys is going to be a hard thing emotionally for us... seeing healthy little baby boys who would be just a few weeks younger than our sweet Isaac, and having a constant reminder of what Isaac would also be doing if he were here is going to be really difficult I think. Please pray for protection for our hearts with this... that we would be guarded against anything that would drive a wedge between us and God, and between us and our friends. And most of all, that God would continue to just hold us tight, grant us his peace, and restore our joy and our hope as we still just miss Isaac so much.

Thank you for continuing to support us and uplift us, as well as the other folks mentioned here who could use your prayers. We appreciate it so, so much.

I Hate W Deeply



(click to enlarge)

You may have heard that after eight years, George W. Bush will surrender the presidency of the United States of America. He recently held his last White House news conference, an event that earned a front-page series of nine close-up photographs in yesterday's Washington Post. The layout reminded me of so many of my favorite talking-head comics: Dan Clowes's real-dialogue comics for David Greenberger; Seth's chatty comics critic in the first Comics Journal Special from a few years back; our own "I Fucked Thomas Edison."

In the spirit of that last-named, deeply respectful item, I offer the preceding mash-up as a sort of valedictory valentine to 43. I used the nine photos by Chip Somodevilla as printed in the Post and simply pasted down a few balloons and captions from another favorite piece by Dan Clowes, "I Hate You Deeply." The Post's pictures were titled "A Final Face-Off With the Press"; I guess this is "A Final Kiss-Off to the Pres." Just remember: I didn't write a word of it.

Not Comics: Snow and Frost

As long as Mike's posting holiday snapshots, I thought I'd put a couple of Vermont images up on the ol' blog. Who knows—maybe a cartoonist will find these useful for reference or something.

This is my first winter in Vermont, and I've really been aware of how much different snow, ice, and frost are up here, even compared to New Haven, just a few hours away. When it snows in single-digit (Fahrenheit) cold, you get a really different sort of effect than when it snows in thirty-degree mush. The flakes come down as flakes, like the ones you cut out from folded paper when you're a kid (but with proper sixty-degree symmetry, instead of ninety-degree symmetry). Sometimes they're spiky and blow around like little bits of down; sometimes they're plate-like and sparkle like glitter.

I've been trying to catch some of these pretty patterns with a camera, but it's not easy.



I increased the contrast on that image in photoshop, but I think that's fair. You can click these pictures to enlarge them a bit, as usual.

Here's some frost on my windshield a couple of days ago.



It's really wonderful to live in a place where I wake up to that sort of beauty on a regular basis.

I haven't made any postcards of these images yet, but I get the feeling I probably will.

Doodle Penance postscript: Hero of the Beach!

You may recall the doodle penance entry from a few weeks ago, on the prompt "superboy jamie muscles." There, Isaac drew a witty version of the Charles Atlas "Hero of the Beach" advertisement (which was previously made notorious via the character Flex Mentallo in the pages of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol). I drew a six-year-old weightlifter from the Scottish Highlands, wee Jamie Muscles. But on a recent vacation to the Botany Bay beach of Edisto Island, South Carolina, I was able to put Jamie on the beach his own sweet self. Lo:

Doodle Penance: "dr. strange model sheet"

We had a lot of interesting options for this week's "Doodle Penance," and we settled on one searcher's (implicit) request for a "dr. strange model sheet." Of course, my first impulse was to come up with a character named "Dr. Strangemodel," and design bedsheets with his visage, logo, etc. adorning them, but then I realized what the googler was probably looking for.

Mike and I resolved to do model sheets of Marvel's Dr. Strange, Sorceror Supreme, with the catch being that we'd draw these from memory, without consulting any reference material.

If you're not familiar with the term, a model sheet is something produced so that the artist drawing a character over and over again will get the key visual characteristics right. Doing one of these from memory is particularly perverse, since (at least for me) it meant fudging the details I could remember least well.

But I think my version actually turned out pretty close to accurate. This is a testament either to my obsessive adolescent reading of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe or to my visual memory—or perhaps (and most likely) to Steve Ditko's wonky design chops. The man could really design a hodgepodge costume.



Please click the image to enlarge, so you can read my notes. Having worked that up in my new (ungridded) notebook for 2009, I decided to go ahead and color the main sketch. Here you go.



Mike?

...well, um, yeah. First, I gotta give props to Isaac, who clearly knew what he was doing. By contrast, here's my attempt:
I think I had the right idea, more or less, but this is vague in so many details. I knew the cape had something extravagant going on behind the head; I knew the cape was edged in a sort of brain coral pattern; I knew his hands were scarred; and I thought he might have a sash rather than a belt. But that shirt is wrong, wrong, wrong. I can plead genuine ignorance here: I don't think I ever owned a Dr. Strange comic, though I saw him as the occasional guest star in Spider-Man, and I skipped the Essential Doctor Strange because (a) a lot of the crazed visual effects seemed to disappear in black and white and (b) I don't really care about the character! I'm probably better acquainted with Doctor Orpheus, and even there I'm a few years out of date by now.

Anyhow, it was an interesting challenge, and it confirmed what we already knew: Isaac has a lot more Marvel in his head than I do. Like, a LOT.

Isaac replies:

For what it's worth, this is what Dr. Strange really looks like, as drawn by Paul Smith.



I definitely screwed up the collar shape, the pattern on his chest, the dots on his gloves, and the way the cape hangs over his shoulders. I might have messed up the facial hair. But I still think I did okay, considering how long it's been since I've seen Dr. Strange. Why, it's been days since I read the first Incredible Hercules collection, which shows Steve Strange in a couple of panels. (Come to think of it, though, I'm pretty sure that in those panels he's a little bit off-model.)