Golf Tournament Update

Just a quick post to let you know that the website for Isaac's Golf Tournament is up and running, thanks to our dear friend John! Check it out at http://isaacsgolftournament.org/

Also, several of you have kindly commented asking what those of you who are out of town and too far to travel for this tournament could do to support it. Spencer and I are just in awe. We have a few ideas, and I'll be posting about them once we figure out the nuts and bolts.

But for now, feel free to check out the website... registration information will be posted in the next few days!

PS-- Guess whose concert Spencer and I are going to tomorrow night? Hint: He sings the song that is the namesake of this blog!

More sketches woohoo




Marker Sketches




Throughout my college career, my teachers have frequently told me to stay away from marker usage in pieces. so as long as i can remember i have been trying to abandon any marker use. I now understand why markers are so difficult to use properly. the artists technique and style need to grow independently, before drawing with marker can be used efficiently. Drawing with marker allows you to have solid crisp lines while maintaining a looseness and free flowing line. To draw effectively with marker i think you really gotta know your stuff, you cant draw with marker without total confidence in your lines. Im now trying to bring some marker work back into my sketching, and it is awesome. Later tonight i will scan some more character sketches, using marker line work and digital color, i am very pleased with the results so far.

"This Dinosaur Loves You!" - new story

Doodle Penance: "comic freedom poetry"

The week's "Doodle Penance" has to be a solo effort, because Mike has other things on his mind. But I'm going to supplement my little doodle with a few selections from other cartoonists.

That's because when I read this week's search term — "comic freedom poetry" — a little slideshow started in my mind: it was something like "Stereotypical Comics Hippies I Have Seen Outside the Undergrounds," and featured the following images.

First, of course, Chester Williams, a minor character from out of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing. Chester's the guy who finds one of Swamp Thing's hallucinogenic tubers in the swamp...



(That's a page drawn by Stan Woch, and collected in A Murder of Crows.)

Chester's a pretty sympathetic guy, even if he's not the smartest or most upright of characters. I'd be willing to argue that you can tell a lot about a cartoonist's outlook from the way he treats his aging hippies. Faded idealism is a vulnerable sort of personality, and some cartoonists won't treat it kindly. Early signs of Frank Miller's cynicism, for example, are obvious in his handling of this all-business peacenik in Ronin.



(You'll probably want to click that to enlarge it.)

And of course you'd know that these hippies belonged to the satirical and grotesque world of early Dan Clowes, even if he hadn't signed the title panel.



All of this leads to my own "freedom poetry" doodle. I'm not sure what this says about me as a cartoonist, though.



Maybe I'm trying to say that freedom really isn't the secret to good poetry?

Stereoscopic Cosmic Ukulele

I was so taken with our friend Ben Towle's Kirby-style ukulele (in turn inspired by our own post on Kirbytech) that I wanted to fiddle with the image a little bit myself.

What I've done here is turned it into another stereoscopic 3-D image. If you stare at the picture below and let your eyes relax -- or look at it as if you're looking at something farther away -- the two halves of the image should swim together to assemble a third composite image, which will be in 3-D.



Some people have an easier time seeing the small version of this image, but depending on your screen size or screen resolution, you may also be able to get the full-size image to assemble. It'll be pretty dramatic, I think. Click on it and give it a try.

You may also find it more dramatic if it looks like it's toppling towards you:



The hardest part of creating this image was getting all of the fiddly extra parts of the uke outlined with my "angle-lasso" tool, so I could cut it free from the background. If you've got any questions on how I did this, please post 'em in the comments. I'm happy to offer preliminary tips, for what they're worth.

Update: I wanted to make sure Ben could see what I'd done, so I goofed around with the "Selective Color" feature long enough to figure out how to make a proper red-green 3-D image. Ben, if you've got some spare 3-D glasses, click to enlarge this one!

Untitled

It's hard for me to go six days without providing an update of some sort; but to be honest, this past week has been tremendously difficult, and I had trouble putting my finger on what it was and what God would have me take from it. I am still not completely sure that I know, but I felt like a new post was long overdue. But, I don't have a title for this post. That's why it's Untitled.

Over the last few days, I have just felt really restless and like there was just this huge weight on my soul. Things at work have been tremendously difficult for a whole host of reasons (thankfully, there is some comic relief in working with middle school students!), and truthfully, it has been hard being in a new school this year in light of all that has happened. And then, it all came together for me on Tuesday as to where this restlessness was stemming from.

You see, last year I interviewed for the teaching position I currently hold on April 15th. It was a Tuesday. That Friday, April 18, I went back for a second interview and was offered the position. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Isaac at this point. I decided to take some time to think and pray about the position over the weekend, but really felt like I was being lead in the direction of taking the job. It is significantly closer to where we live, and I thought it would be a wise decision to be working much closer to home for when the baby came.

That weekend, my wonderful mom took my sister and I to New York for the weekend as a belated birthday gift. It was great... we saw Wicked, ate a fabulous Italian restaurant, did some shopping, and even stood outside to wave at the cameras during the broadcasting of the Today show. The only downer was that I felt like my pregnancy symptoms had suddenly dropped. But, I put that aside, and enjoyed the weekend.

We returned home late Sunday night, and I had already taken Monday off. So, still feeling a little uneasy in the sudden drop of symptoms, I called my doctor and they were very kind to have me come in for a heartbeat check.

On my way to the appointment that Monday, I called and accepted the new teaching position and was quite excited to be cutting my commute by two thirds... that would definitely mean extra time with the baby...so I thought.

Upon arriving at the doctor's office, they took me in right away and searched for Isaac's heartbeat on the doppler. After about 10 minutes of trying, they couldn't find it. So, the whisked us back for an ultrasound. They found Isaac's heartbeat, but it was at this time that they found his extremely large cystic hygroma and omphalocele. We met with my doctor, and were immediately referred to a genetic counselor at the maternal-fetal medicine group. It was then that we were told that Isaac had a 5-10% chance of living. After meeting with the genetic counselor, we went immediately to have a CVS done. As far as I knew, life felt like it had just completely unraveled. That was April 21st of last year. No wonder it's been such a difficult week.
One of the things that has been hard lately is that for many people, everything with Isaac seems to be old news. There's a very clear divide in our lives between the people who are still willing, wanting, and able to talk about him with us, and those who are not. And so, when confronted with weeks like this, it can be hard to explain why they're difficult. I don't know if the time surrounding when we were first given Isaac's poor prognosis will always be difficult like I would expect other days, like October 7th, to be; but I do know that this year it was. It's really hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that that was already a year ago.

Today I had lunch with a friend. I call her a friend because it was also around this time last year that she and I connected. Lauren's daughter, Norrah, had been given a poor prenatal prognosis as well. I am happy to report that Norrah was born on July 1st of last year and is here with her precious mom, dad, and sister Izzy. Throughout my pregnancy with Isaac, Lauren and I would joke about he and Norrah being friends, maybe even falling in love??, and the like. I was amazed by God's goodness in providing Lauren as a warrior of prayer and source of encouragement. She had a beautiful quilt made for Isaac, sent me this really cool pregnancy t-shirt, made Isaac a CD since she knew I loved to play him music. She has such a compassionate heart, and meeting her for lunch today was like getting together with an old friend. It was refreshing to be around someone who wanted to talk about Isaac, ask to see his pictures, and who reminded me of God's faithfulness in it all. My soul needed that. And wouldn't you know it, even though I brought my camera, I forgot to take a picture! Next time...

I continue to be amazed at how, in His graciousness, the Lord has surrounded us with so many people who have supported us and upheld us... who have been our stretcher bearers and the hands and feet of Jesus to us. Some of you I have the honor of knowing in real life; others of you I only know via this wonderful tool known as the internet; and others still, I have "met" through this blog (I call you my "blog friends") and have had the privilege of meeting in real life.

I just want you to know that we are thankful for you.

This continues to be a journey, and I have full confidence in the fact that God continues to be very present, even in the days that are hard. To Him be the glory...

And stay tuned this week for more information about Isaac's Golf Tournament!!!

Dream Latency

Here's something weird and trippy and weird I've been experiencing lately:
I'm in a dream.  The dream suddenly starts to get scary and then something abrupt and shocking happens in the dream, an explosion or a monster or something. A split second later I jolt awake to something abrupt and shocking happening in real life. My phone rings, someone knocks on my door, the camera tripod by my bed falls over and crashes against my bed. (Don't ask why the tripod is there, it's not what you think!)

But I'm not waking up AS the shocking event is happening. I'm waking up slightly BEFORE.

Now I'm not going to propose that I'm dreaming a couple seconds into the future. But is there some kind of "latency" going on here? Some time lag between my conscious and subconscious? Is my real-world sensory input actually "buffering" in my brain so that when I wake up, the playback doesn't happen till slightly later? Hence, my dream reality reacting to external events BEFORE I actually perceieve those events happening?

This is still pretty fascinating to think about, but in my semi-conscious stupor this morning it was truly mind-blowing. Suggestion: Go to sleep, then wake up and read this again. Also maybe smoke some marijuana. 


.

Spring in Upstate New York




It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain

The above quotes from Mark Twain are a reminder that the season of Spring is a time of yearning and uncertainty. Nature’s awakening in this season stirs in us a yearning for change, newness, and rebirth. And Spring does not disappoint. Soon the tulips will be in bloom in Albany’s Washington Park, blossoms will adorn the fruit trees, leaves will cover the now bare limbs, and peas will be picked in the vegetable garden. Soon…but when? Like children on a journey we ask each Spring morning; “Are we there yet?” We are impatient after a long and cold winter and desire a rebirth NOW!
And that brings us to the uncertainty and fickleness of Spring reflected in Twain’s second quote. This season of hope does not come to us in a smooth and steady revelatory process with each day becoming progressively warmer and full of more and more promise. No, it is an on again/off again season with ups and downs, joys and disappointments. Today as I write, it is in the 50’s but tomorrow brings the promise of an 80 degree day.
Spring is a wonderful metaphor of what it means to be on a faith journey. The Holy Spirit stirs in us a yearning and desire to walk closer with God. To experience the Holy Presence in all that we do. We wish that we would make a steady progression in this most significant task. The truth is that it is on again/off again and filled with days of hope and days of disappointment. This is not because God is fickle or uncertain. The promises revealed to us through Jesus are certain and assured. It is our fears, anxieties, and impatience that create the uncertainty in our hearts.

The year's at the spring

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;

The hillside's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn;

God's in His heaven -All's right with the world!

~Robert Browning

Hope springs eternal when “God’s in His heaven-All’s right with the world”!

More b+w

Impossibility....I hope not!

Shufflethoughts 2

I saw a man standing at an ATM machine today wearing a helmet and I thought, I didn't know ATM machines were that dangerous. Then I saw a motorcycle parked next to him and I thought, he's probably going to use that to get away from the ATM machine.

If Homeless People are the new Pirates, what are those guys in Somalia who attack ships? Just plain ordinary criminals my friend, and there's nothing glamorous about that.
Alternate answer: Sea Vampires.

Please find attached: worst daycare sign ever.






Interior Sketches


Tree House sketch

Shufflethoughts

Conversation that took place in my head while passing two rough dudes on the sidewalk:

"Yo man gimmie your wallet, we're rough dudes and we want your wallet so give it."

"You guys aren't rough, I just saw you giving directions to that nun back there."

"Fine, forget it."


New good idea for a good product:

White ivory "grillz" shaped like real human teeth, for the more tasteful pimp. Be tasteful, Pimp--don't flaunt your grillz. You know you have them, and that's enough.


Concept in need of definition:

"Makeout Movie"

A film that has just the right balance of amusement and forgetability to be used as background noise for a makeout session. Usually a lighthearted comedy or something you would never waste your time on under normal circumstances.

Sometimes important films become Makeout Movies by accident, leading to the condition of having "sortof" seen the film. I.E, you remember clearly the first 30-45 minutes, but the second half is a vague blur remembered mainly through your periphery vision, which has a very low resolution. This can happen with the most unlikely, unromantic of films.

Example: "Have I seen Pan's Labrynth? Yeah....I think so....I definitely remember some creepy shit going on at the beginning...umm......didn't a guy get his cheek sliced open at one point or......umm....?" (blush)

















Sketch dump



Beaumont Fletcher, Critical Detective

Hey, here's another color portrait of one of our old characters. I mean, it's sort of a color portrait.



To find out what makes Beaumont Fletcher sweat, consult the comics sestina in your copy of Satisfactory Comics #6.

Doodle Penance: "shriveled folks in a comics kingdom"

Okay, maybe I didn't put as much thought into this week's "Doodle Penance" as I should have. I'm not sure.

Someone came to our site looking for "shriveled folks in a comics kingdom," and that googler didn't stay put, because it's a matter we haven't really addressed up to this point.

And so we set about to address it. My own thought process went something like this:

"A comics kingdom? Where could that be? I'm pretty sure Papa Smurf isn't the king of the Smurfs. Babar is a king, but are those books really comics? And Doom is definitely the monarch of Latveria, I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to Latveria as a kingdom. Maybe Wakanda, then?"



I'm sure you'll recognize Ulysses Klaw, there, all Ahab-like, getting his arm shriveled or withered by whatever's glowing in the foreground. (My guess? Radioactive vibranium. That stuff will eff you up.) Later on, of course, he'd transform himself into a bright-red, anosmic being of living sound. This is sort of his origin moment. But you knew that.

Mike? I'm guessing you won't have drawn the same thing as me this time...

—Indeed not. But may I say DAMN? That's a fine doodle! I bow to you!

No, I haven't drawn the same thing as you. When I first saw the prompt, I thought of notably shriveled cartoon characters I've seen: Superman post-nuke in The Dark Knight Returns, a Kurt Wolfgang doodle in my sketchbook, the California Raisins...but none of these was sufficiently kingly. In the end, I did opt for at least one non-royal figure in homage to the Raisins, but mostly I took some beloved cartoon kings and shrank the (occasionally ample) flesh off their bones:
From left to right, that's Otto Soglow's Little King (the fabric of whose robe is gathered in folds on the floor since he no longer puffs it out with his customary girth); Walt Wallet from Gasoline Alley (shoehorned in here as the creation of cartoonist Frank King); Jack Kent's King Aroo, whose hair itself has shriveled (generating an uncanny family resemblance to the Hawaiian Punch mascot); and Grape Ape after too much exposure to the sun (my Raisin homage for bona fide shriveling).

Do You Trust Me?

This past week, Spencer and I met with the genetic counselor and the head geneticist at Children's National Medical Center to review the pathology report from my miscarriage and the death summary from the day Isaac was born. While I absolutely believe that we have been given great advice from the neonatologist who cared for Isaac (who happens to have a background in genetics) and the other genetic counselor with whom we had met, I still wanted the chance to sit down and speak with a geneticist... especially now that it's a while later and my head is slightly more clear.

The appointment went very well... both the genetic counselor and geneticist were very kind in how they discussed the situation, and were very considerate in making sure that they called Isaac by name. They were knowledgeable, and for the first time, presented options for additional genetic testing. Thus far, the other doctors either haven't recommended it, or simply said there was no other testing to do.

The folks at Children's presented two options to us: to have a microarray done, and/or have screening done for Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. The microarray would look for microadditions or microdeletions on each chromosome, while the Beckwith-Wiedemann screening would look specifically at chromosome 11 to see if it presented the changes concurrent with a Beckwith-Wiedemann diagnosis. Both the genetic counselor and the geneticist do not believe that Isaac had Beckwoth-Weidemann Syndrome, and they also concur with the neonatologist's findings that there was not any genetic syndrome associated with Isaac's condition based on the findings of the CVS I had done at 12 weeks, and based on how Isaac looked (which was pretty stinkin' cute!) at birth.

Believe me... this additional screening is tempting. It's tempting because it could tell us why things happened with Isaac. It could provide an answer.

But it could not.

We talked a lot about recurrence risk. Essentially, we've been told that there's a 2-3% chance of recurrence based on what we currently know about Isaac. If the microarray testing came back positive, it could raise that percentage to about 5-6%. I know that to most people, those numbers sound small; but when your son was diagnosed with a condition that occurs in 1/10,000 live births... well, even 2% seems huge.

We also spoke with them about how this information would be helpful. We were told that it could provide a reason for what happened with Isaac, though both the geneticist and genetic counselor believed that the results for both tests would come back negative. We were also told that, if something did come back positive, it would provide information about what may need to be monitored in any future pregnancies more closely "so that we could then make decisions early enough if something was wrong." For us, there is no decision to make. Even if we were faced with the same situation again, we would give that child every chance at life.

So, Spencer and I did some talking, a lot of thinking and praying, and some more talking... and here's what we decided: not to go through with any of it.

There is such a struggle and a tension within me about it. Part of me wants the reassurance that the recurrence risk would really only be 2-3%; yet at the same time, part of me wishes that we would have an answer for what happened. Part of me wants to put my trust and my hope in the statistics, but I know that's not were hope is found.

Hope is found in Jesus.

The past few days, I've really just been feeling like God has been asking me,

"Stacy, do you trust Me?"

And I don't always know how to answer.

"Sure, God... I trust you with our finances. You've proven yourself so faithful in that way. I trust you to provide for our practical needs, because you always have. But trust you when it comes to children? I don't know..."

But I want the answer to be "YES!!" for any of those things... even my children.

The trouble is, it's a hard thing to trust the One who didn't answer the prayer for a miracle... who instead, allowed your son to die.

I know, though, that He alone is worthy of my trust...for everything. Not just the parts of my life where I have seen his faithfulness or the parts of my life that are going well. He is worthy of my trust for ALL of it.

Why?

Because of His character... because He is trustworthy, regardless of my circumstances.

So this is why we decided not to go through with any of the genetic testing. Truthfully, even if the results came back positive, it wouldn't move us into a place where we'd be uncomfortable trying again. Moreover, I want to trust God with this. I'll admit it; it scares me to pieces sometimes.

But I want to trust Him; and I have learned that often, action precedes feeling. Sometimes, a person just needs to live and act in a way, and the feeling follows. I am learning a hole new kind of trust. Truth be known, I am often so much like Thomas... needing to see, and then being willing to believe. But it is clear to me that right now, there is a choice: to trust in God's decision for Isaac because of who He is and even if I don't see the reason or understand why, or run around trying to answer the "why" question and then trusting Him. There's also the choice to trust God with His plans for our family and the possibility of future children, again because of who He is despite what He has allowed to happen, or to put all of my faith and hope in medicine and statistics about recurrence risk.

I know I talk about Angie Smith on here a lot, but I have just learned so much from her Godly example. In an interview I saw with her and her husband Todd, she spoke about the day when they found out about their daughter Audrey's diagnosis. While sitting in the ultrasound room, she said to Todd, "My Jesus is the same before we ever walked into this room."

And my Jesus is the same before we ever started down this path of grief, joined the "bereaved parents club," or lost our sweet Isaac.

And that's why I want to trust Him. It doesn't mean it's easy, and it doesn't mean that it comes without fear... but I want to trust Him in spite of those things.

Skele-Tut's Trip in Space

I've made a little more progress on that promotional image. It's going slowly, but the work is mostly pretty fun.

This afternoon, I daubed a few digital shades onto our old pal Skele-Tut, who is still lost in space...



To find out what Skele-Tut is staring at, consult your copy of Elm City Jams #2.

New story! - "Room Enough In This Town"

I wrote a new story about the difficulties of being cloned.

Easter

I know this post is about four days overdue. I had grand plans of writing something really long and deep on Easter morning. But the truth is, I don't know that I had much to say. I let it all sit for a few days, and still, I find myself without a lot to say.

So I will simply share a new picture with you, and some of the lyrics to the first song we sang in church on Easter morning, because truly, this is what has occupied my heart and my thoughts this Easter season...


Savior
He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save

Forever
Author of salvation
You rose and conquered the grave
Yes, You conquered the grave...


Thank goodness for Easter morning... that time of resurrection and redemption... the confidence in knowing the my sweet little boy is in the presence of our Savior because of the cross, and because of the resurrection.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.
~ Psalm 107:19-21





All Hail the King of Fleas!

I've been working on some color portraits of some of our old characters, for a piece of promotional material—nothing fancy, but sort of a fun way to spend some procrastination time.

I'm particularly happy with this image of the King of Fleas.



To find out more about the King of Fleas, you can consult your copy of Satisfactory Comics #5.

The veldt 2 in progress

Town with fixed color

The Veldt

Doodle Penance: "to draw the triple constraint"

This week's "Doodle Penance" comes courtesy of a googler who was looking for "to draw the triple constraint." (I knew we'd wind up having to pay somehow for the penance we drew a couple of weeks ago.)

My doodle should more or less speak for itself. If you click it to enlarge it, you'll see my re-creation of the opening splash page from an issue of Mr. Miracle that featured "Kartuun the Complicator" and two guest stars from other worlds.



Mike? What have you got?

--This:

You may need to click to try to puzzle out the faint text. Or, hell, I'll just transcribe it here, with commentary:

MAGIC COMICS GROUP presents HARRY HOUDINI 170 (April 09)

Harry (thinking): Manacles...straitjacket...iron cage...Have I met my match at last??

Caption: A bad hand in a poker game with the DEVIL teaches Harry that it's a high-stakes hazard TO DRAW...THE TRIPLE CONSTRAINT!


The idea is that Harry lost a card game with Old Scratch and had to pay up not with cash or his soul but with a triple constraint he had to escape from or die trying (whereupon, presumably, his soul WOULD be forfeit to Old Scratch).

Don't ask me how manacles and straitjackets work at the same time. I was drawing in a damn hurry because I was needled by Isaac's snarkiness about timing. Mistakes were made. And no, I hadn't seen Isaac's design yet when I drew mine. This is how our minds work, apparently. Constraints of another kind...or ruts, if you like.

Easter Eve

With hours to go before this most significant dawn.....I am pondering this statement by Richard W. Swanson...
The task on Easter (which is every Sunday for an Easter-based faith) is to tell stories about resurrection in a world where everyone dies.

Musical stylings

For those of you who maintain an interest in my musical stylings, I have a new song for your perusal. Another of these strange experiments with the far upper reaches of my vocal range, eschewing actual instruments in favor of alot of wonky vocal fuckery. Although Jared's guitar does make a cameo appearance. Jared also played bass. The percussion is me hitting various things.

This is a very rough draft song, just trying out some new ideas. Been strangely fascinated by this primitive tribal chorale thing lately. Expect to see this song, in some form on some future album, in the year 20X6.

http://www.myspace.com/isaacmarionmusic

I Have Been There

There's a song my Mark Schultz that I love. Well, actually several. In fact, on our trip down to Atlanta, GA in 2002 as proud University of Maryland alumni to cheer on theTerps to victory as they won their first men's basketball National Championship, my friend Christina and I listened to his CD over and over... perhaps even for the whole 12 hour drive.

Mark Schultz sings "He Will Carry Me," the namesake of this blog. He sings "He's My Son," a song that tugged at my heart so much while I was pregnant with Isaac (and still does). But the one I was thinking of this week is called "I Have Been There." I won't cut and paste all the lyrics for you, but here is the last verse and the chorus:

An older man up on a hill
Holding flowers but he can't hold back the tears.
Oh he has come to say goodbye.
He thinks about the life she lived,
Thinks about how hard it's been to live without her
Sixty years right by his side.
And he cries, oh Lord I loved her till the end.
And he heard a gentle voice say
You'll see her once again.

I have been there
I know what sorrow's all about.
Yes I have been there,
and I'm standing with you now
I have been there,
and I came to build a bridge
Oh so this road could lead her home,
the road could lead her home

Oh I have been there,
You know I overcame the cross,
Yes I have been there
So her life would not be lost
Oh I have been there, and I came to build a bridge
So this road could lead you home
The road could lead you home
Oh I have been there
Yes I have been there

Tonight, Spencer and I will be going with some of our friends to the Good Friday service at our church. While I was out on my long run yesterday, I had a lot of time to think and pray. I really just spent a lot of time thinking about how a dimension of the cross that I never understood until now was what it must have been like for Mary. John 19:25 says, "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother..." For the first time, I get it. I understand what it is like to watch your son die. No, Isaac wasn't the savior of the world, and no, Isaac wasn't crucified... but I watched him die. I heard the neonatologist as she told me that his heart had slowed down to only 30 beats per minute... and I heard her again when she told me that Isaac was gone. And while Isaac was so peaceful, and I am so thankful for that, it doesn't change the fact that he died.

As I continued my run, I thought of this song. I really identified with the line that says "'Oh Lord, I loved her till the end.' And he heard a gentle voice say, 'You'll see her once again.'" I did... I loved Isaac until the end. I still do. And while my heart is broken over the fact that he isn't here, because of the cross, I can be confident in the hope that I will see him again. I was also reminded of the fact that He has been there. Jesus knows what sorrow is all about. In Matthew 26:38, Jesus says that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He knows what sorrow is all about. He has been there.

I don't know what sorrows you may be facing. Maybe, like me, it's the loss of a child and for the first time this year, you, too, can identify with Mary. Maybe it's the loss of a spouse or a parent; maybe it's a poor prognosis, or something I haven't mentioned here. What I want you to know is that He has been there.

The beauty in the cross is that it is where Jesus, our Savior, has built a bridge from death into life. Because of the cross, Isaac is healed and whole in Heaven... rejoicing in the presence of our God. Because of the cross, we, too, can be reconciled with God if we if choose to put our faith, or hope, and our trust in Him.

Have you? Will you?


So, book sales are going very well considering that I have only one public outlet, Amazon, and then my studio which now has only 1350 books left. Thats right, I have sold over 150 books in not quite a month! I am still waiting to hear something negative...everyone seems to like it which is really encouraging. I spoke to two of the youngest readers last night, ages 15 and 17. They loved the book and are looking forward to volume 2. I got a call today from a man whose wife recieved the book as a gift and made the mistake of leaving it on the kitchen counter where he found it and wouldnt let her have it until he was done with it! He too said he is anxious to read volume two and lamented the news that it wouldnt be finished until November.

Things are actually progressing quite well with volume 2. I am just finishing chapter 15 and things are exciting. Jake is in the hospital after an accident, and the book is leading in me in directions I didnt know it would go. I am having a great time. I have been working hard in the studio, trying to get orders off so I have not had the time to write as I wish I could. I have decided to have a studio open house on the Saturday before Mothers Day and do a book signing. I will be mailing out a newsletter in conjunction with that.

We are headed to California for a much needed vacation. I'll try to drop a note soon. Ben

morning in the burbs





so whenever i try to post an image using bloggers uploader it keeps switching the colors to inverted color? i dont know what the deal is, and whenever i post it with a host, only part of the image shows up on the page. sheesh, ploading is a pain!

6 months

Today, my heart is just heavy. It is amazing to me the way that time can seem to both race forward and stand still; but that's the way the last 6 months have been. The bottom line is this: I can't believe it has been six months since I last held my son, and quite honestly, I just want him back. I miss him so much.

This past week we made an extra trip to the cemetery to see Isaac's headstone. It isn't in place yet, but we wanted to see it anyway. Although I am happy with how it turned out, I just remember standing there while rubbing my fingers over the letters of his name and thinking, "I can't believe that this is something we ever had to think about."

Spring time is in full-swing here in Maryland, and particularly in the DC area, it can be a beautiful thing to see with all the cherry blossoms everywhere. Over the past few months I wondered if the coming of spring would help with my sadness over Isaac, and while in some ways it has, in other ways it seems to be serving as just another reminder that he isn't here. All around me, things are growing, changing, and showing evidence of life... and somehow, that seems to be reminding me lately of how Isaac is not here, growing, changing, and becoming his little self. I wish so much that I would be able to see him smile and giggle, to watch him learn to hold his head up, to put him in the swing on the playground behind our house, or take him out in a jogging stroller when I go for a run. Instead, I watch other people's little ones on the swing, and other moms go for a run with their babies in a stroller.

Yet other days, God uses the beauty of spring to just whisper to me... "I will make everything beautiful in its time." And I believe Him.

There's a song on the Chris Tomlin "Hello Love" CD that I have really come to love these past few months. It's called "I Will Rise." In particular, the bridge often brings me to tears...

And I hear the voice of many angels sing
Worthy is the lamb.
And I hear the voice of every longing heart
Worthy is the lamb.

I guess what really resonates with me in the first two lines is thinking about how Isaac is part of that beautiful chorus of voices in heaven that is praising God. In fact, whenever I hear a song about heaven, I think of him. But I guess to just have this picture of my son being in the fullness of the presence of God is just... wow.

And the second part of the bridge talking about longing hearts... at first I only thought of it in terms of longing for Jesus; but more recently, I realized that it is equally fitting to consider the hearts of people longing for something, or someone else, too and all the while still praising God in the midst of that storm. The parents longing to hold their child again the way that I long to hold Isaac... the couple who desperately wants to hold any child but struggles to even become pregnant... the person longing for a cure for their loved one... and all the while, still praising Jesus's name. There has become something quite beautiful to me about the heart and life of a person who, in their brokenness still praises God... through the questions, the uncertainty, the heartbreak, and the tears.

So I would just ask that you would pray for us today... that God would grant us His peace, that He would just be really present, and that He would allow us to see the beauty He is making from all of this.

Dear Isaac,

I can't believe six months has passed since your birthday. I miss you more than words could ever express. It is so hard to not have you here with us. Daddy and I would love nothing more than to be able to still hold you, kiss your little nose, snuggle with you, and tell you how much we love you and how we're so proud of you. We're sad that we can't take you out on the playground, or go on walks with you in your stroller. We just miss you so much. But since you aren't here with us, we're thankful that you're in the most perfect place... and that there, you are healed, you are rejoicing in the presence of God, and you are safe. I love you so much, Isaac... I am so proud of you.

Love,

Mommy

An Experiment with the Third Dimension

You know what just occurred to me?

In Photoshop, I often compose images in layers. I also often nudge those layers a little to the left or to the right, to get them to line up correctly.

The difference between left-eye perspective and right-eye perspective, in three-dimensional vision, is a shifting of elements in various "layers" to the left or the right.

It should be easy, then, to use Photoshop to compose rudimentary stereoscopic images.

I'm sure this has occurred to many, many people before me, but it felt like such an interesting idea that I decided to try it out.

This is obviously a clumsy doodle, but if you click to enlarge it, then sit back from your computer screen and relax (or diverge) your eyes, as if you were looking at something more distant, you ought to get a 3-D "composite" image between the two "ghost" pictures. You may actually have an easier time getting the images to overlap if you don't click to enlarge: less overlapping work for your eyes.



Give it a try and let me know what you think. It didn't take long to make that image (less than half an hour, from doodle to post). A better one wouldn't take a whole lot longer.

If you think it works, I can try to post a "step-by-step how-to" later this week.

Please Pray

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been several people who have contacted me as a result of reading this blog for whom I really feel called to pray, and I would love it if you would join me.

This first is for Amber. Her daughter, Megan Grace, has been diagnosed with a fatal form of dwarfism. She and her husband will be getting a second opinion this week from another set of doctors. Please pray for God's peace during this appointment, for wisdom for the doctors, for the grace for Amber and her husband to continue walking through so much uncertainty, and even for a miracle.

The second is for a woman who is 33 weeks pregnant with her daughter, April Rose. Baby April has been diagnosed with Trisomy 13, and is not expected to live. In addition, April's health appears to be starting to fail, as her heart rate is low. Right now, the doctors are urging this woman do deliver April so that she has a chance to meet her while she is still alive. Please pray for wisdom for this mother in the decisions she will soon have to make, for God to be just so present, and for Him to carry this mother through such a difficult time.

Finally, I would like to ask you to pray for two women who have been a huge encouragement to me on my journey.

McMama's son Stellan was diagnosed with SVT (an abnormal and extremely high heart rate) in utero, but his SVT has been acting up the past few weeks. It is a long, complicated story, but essentially Stellan has been in the PICU for weeks and the doctors haven't been able to get his SVT under control. Please pray for healing for Stellan.

On Tuesday, when we hit the 6 month mark of when Isaac was born, Angie Smith will be reaching the 1 year anniversary of the day her sweet Audrey was born and went to Heaven. Please pray for peace for Angie and her husband Todd, as well as for their three other daughters, Ellie, Abby, and Kate. Pray that it would be a sweet time of remembrance, and that God would be close to them in their brokenheartedness as they miss their sweet Audrey.

As I was thinking about praying for these families, I was reminded ot the scripture that Spencer and I memorized together to recite in the OR while Isaac was being delivered...


Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills—

where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—

he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel

will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—

the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—

he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.

What a promise. Thank you for joining me in praying for these families.

Doodle Penance: "step by step how to draw funny easy tigers"

This week's "Doodle Penance" is a pretty specific request. Someone came to our site looking for "step by step how to draw funny easy tigers." Apparently a lot of people consult our site while they're playing Pictionary.

Seriously, people. We're good doodlers and everything, but the person you really want to consult about this kind of thing is Ed Emberley.

Nevertheless, I am always willing to provide a service to our reader(s). Let's see... What do tigers look like?



Okay. First step, as usual, is to make an S.



Then, make another, more different S.



Still with me? Add a consummate V and a couple of tipped-over Cs. (I said consummate!)



Perfect! Now all you have to do is draw the rest of the tiger!



After that, it would be a good idea to color your tiger. (Warning: images at that link are dangerously cute.)



No, no, no. Tigers don't come in grape flavor.



That's better. But it doesn't look like a very funny tiger, does it? Let me rethink this a little bit. I need a more funny tiger.



Okay, that's a better start. He sure looks funny. But remember: as I said a couple of weeks ago, spot blacks sell your drawing. (Mike implied the same thing quite a while back, too, now that I think of it.)



Now that's a funny tiger. If you don't recognize this fellow, you need to wean yourself off of that Disney pabulum and read yourself a book.

(Seriously, I could go on and on about differences between the Disney Pooh material and the Milne-Shepard books, but Tigger is one of the major differences. In the movies, he's a goofy, bouncy, older-brother figure, full of self-assurance and manic energy. In the books, he's the youngest creature in the Hundred-Acre Woods: so innocent of his own identity that he spends an entire story discovering what it is that tiggers prefer to eat. (The answer? Extract of malt, naturally.) When Tigger bounces someone in the books, it's with the sort of "I don't know why I acted out" energy that two-year-olds have, not with any sort of intentionality. But that's got nothing to do with how to draw him.)

Where was I? Oh, yes:




Mike? What have you got this week?

—Nothing as adorable as Tigger, I assure you! And I fear that what I came up with is more on the order of "step by step how to draw cute tabby cats" than "...funny easy tigers," so we'll have to let our would-be artists add the essentials to make the creature properly tigerish (more whiskers on the side of the face would help). However, I did at least avoid the temptation to pull a Bob Weber, Jr., as you did with step 4 up there (seriously: check out step 1 of Weber's "How to draw a cow" by clicking here. Step ONE, I tell you!!!). No, I offer genuine, nigh foolproof instructions on how to draw a recognizable striped feline out of eleven extremely basic shapes. You may want to click to enlarge the text, but I'm pretty sure the instructions are legible without the words:



PS: I'd never heard of Ed Emberley, but I seem to have adopted his method, more or less. Because I'm here to serve the people! Step by step! How to draw! Easy! I take the people at their word. (Unless the word is "funny." Or "tigers.")