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Who needs hair…and the ongoing “ET” saga

As you’ve probably guessed, the late March storyline was deeply personal. Many of you know I was diagnosed with a blood disorder, Essential Thrombocytosis, years ago. Well, it’s a relatively benign but progressive disease, and for the past few years, it’s progressed a lot.

In general terms, my bone marrow overproduces platelets. This can cause bleeding and clotting issues if not controlled. For a long time, I only needed a baby aspirin to thin my blood and a vitamin regimen to alleviate the side effect of migraines. That worked well until about two years ago when my overachieving platelets shot up into the millions.

Time to call in the big guns. I went on a medication that helps lower the platelet count. It helped…for a while. And then my count started going up again. So my doctor increased the dosage.

About 3-4 months later, this happened:

My dermatologist and hairdresser confirmed it — I still had plenty of hair on top of my head, but it was thinning from the bottom. It was upsetting, to say the least. And I felt — to be blunt — ugly and unfeminine. Bless his heart, my husband disagreed.

Around September last year, I finally bit the bullet and got a new haircut. It helped. I still feel more, well, me, with long hair, but this worked wonders. Even my kids liked it.

As for my platelets, the medication stopped working and now I’m on a new one that will hopefully work better in the long run. It’s a wait-and-see process. And it may make my hair fall out again. 

But even I’m starting to realize that there are more important things. Like staying alive. That’s kinda big.

On a brighter note, I leave you with one of the few selfies I’ve ever taken. I snapped this right after I got my haircut and dried off all my tears. It’s actually one of my favorite photos.

Probably because I look pretty alive.

Lake Erie Ink Comic Con

This Saturday, March 4, I’ll be speaking and conducting a workshop at Lake Erie Ink’s 5th Annual Kids’ Comic Con in Cleveland. This is a great event with terrific presenters, and I’m thrilled to be part of it again (third time!).

Hope to see all you locals. Here is the info.


It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Anything interesting happen in the past month? Yeah, okay, I’ll just move right past that.

In case you’ve been more preoccupied with the news than with the funny pages (btw, I highly recommend the comics as an antidote), 2016 was a turbulent year in the PD characters’ lives. Certainly, they’ve managed to retain their sense of humor throughout all of it. For your entertainment pleasure, here’s a little recap.

Nanci has been challenged by her son Ben’s special needs and continues to navigate this new course.

Grandma Sophie has begun to deteriorate. Her dementia is a constant concern for her family. Jill, as usual, internalizes it.

Rob started traveling for work, which presented some new challenges (and comic relief) for the Kaplan family.

Amy entered in her junior year and feels the pressure of school and upcoming college decisions.

Jess is blooming into a full-fledged teenager, which presents new emotional and, um, physical changes.

And Jill is…well, Jill. Still nutty and preoccupied as ever.

A little peek into her Magic 8 Ball: she’ll soon face some physical challenges of her own.

Stay tuned. Until then, stay strong in 2017!

Those strips about Ben, part 2


It’s been 6 months since my last post about the ongoing “Ben” series. Thought I’d share a little update.

After waiting many months, Ben has finally had his autism evaluation, and Nanci and her husband are waiting for the results. One thing I’ve learned through research: it can take a painfully long time to get diagnosed, and the wait can be agony for the family. 


Meanwhile, there is some comic relief. Kids on the spectrum have a myriad of challenging traits, but also some funny ones. Gettin’ nekked is one I can applaud. Sometimes kids with sensory issues just don’t want their clothes touching them. I understand this to the extent of practically ripping off my bra as soon as I step in the doorway (okay fine, IF I’m wearing a bra). Obviously, it runs a little deeper here.


There are other challenges as well. Families can have a tough time. Marriages can suffer, especially if parents aren’t on the same page. Nanci and David can attest:


Not having kids who are on the spectrum, this is clearly uncharted territory for me. But I still think autism is a good topic for the strip and can be addressed with both humor and heart.

So I’ll continue taking on this self-imposed challenge. Stay tuned.

Pre-pre-holiday reminder


This is a friendly reminder to order Pajama Diaries books and merchandise for you or your loved ones before the mad holiday rush.

And yes, I know I’m evil for mentioning the holidays not even a week after Halloween. 

But in case you’re anal-retentive like me, click here for my store page, where you can buy books, t-shirts, mugs, etc., or find information about purchasing prints and originals.

Okay, back to your leftover Halloween candy noshing.

The P Word

Perimenopause isn’t funny.

Oh wait, actually it is.

As the saying goes, if you can’t cry, you laugh.  That’s why I’ve been writing about autism, dementia, my #$@% blood disease, and now this. First of all, it’s cathartic. Secondly, it feels good to laugh about something that essentially sucks. Thirdly, it helps to connect with others that may be going through something similar. And since half the population is female, I’m guessing most of them would relate to this topic at some point.


Fourthly — and this is a big one — I do think menopause and perimenopause are traditionally stigmatized subjects, and we really need to destigmatize them (is that a word?). So I’m taking it upon myself to open up the perimenopausal conversation on the funny pages (Yes! Look at me on my high horse!). Or vent about it, anyway.


I’ve started dealing with this crap life change in the past few years. After all, I’m fortycoughsomething, so it comes with the territory. Top it off with a blood disorder that shares some of the same symptoms, and you get one confusing hormonal stew.

What boggles my mind is this is just starting to happen. I haven’t even come close to being menopausal yet. I cannot even imagine the comedic gold that will materialize then — if I’m not too busy crying into my bed sheets to write.


In any case, if you read the strip, you know I don’t shy away from this stuff. And this stuff is funny. It really is. Night sweats (or leg sweats, stomach sweats, butt sweats…sometimes it’s weirdly specific), chin hairs (I plead the fifth on this one), and fatigue (I almost took a nap on a fallen log during one of my runs)…these are things that are so ridiculous, they’re hilarious. Well, to me anyway.


I hope you agree. ‘Cause being a woman is goddam hard.

So we might as well laugh about it.






Toonfest, 2016!


In just a few weeks, I’ll be speaking at the Toonfest in Marceline, MO. This is the hometown of Walt Disney, and they have a big cartoon festival that takes place annually. This year, Toonfest will be Sept 17. It is family friendly and open to the public. Click here for the speaker lineup. Fittingly, there will be several Disney animators presenting. I’ll be in great company!

“UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital” Cartoon Collage

This has been a looong time coming. Almost a year and a half, to be exact. Bet you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Well, let me provide the back story…

Last October, my younger daughter celebrated a Bat Mitzvah. Part of reaching this milestone included performing a charitable service of her choice. She chose to gather a large group of friends and paint small canvases (with cheerful, “outdoorsy” themes) to give to patients at Cleveland’s renowned Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. In addition, each friend also contributed a new stuffed animal to accompany these paintings. The party was a big success.


(above: our daughter, Nikki, painting away last June)


(above: a few results from the party)

In addition, my husband, Mike, suggested we do an adjoining project for the hospital. We would ask professional cartoonists to donate small character sketches that we’d collect together to form a large, collaborative “collage.” This could be hung in the hospital for patients and visitors to enjoy.

I agreed it was a great idea. I put a call out for b/w 5″ x 5″ character sketches, and over the next few months we received a steady stream of contributions. The artwork included a variety of media, from Sharpie drawings, to pencil sketches, to ink washes, to a full-on painting.

The collage mainly features work by professional comic strip and panel cartoonists. I tried to include local cartoonists as well as those whose work appears in the comics section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper; we thought these would be readily recognizable to local families.

Here is the list of contributing artists, whose work is hung in alphabetical order:

Jim Allen, Mark Anderson, Sunny Artanis, Tom Batiuk, Jim Borgman, Charles Brubaker, Jenny Campbell, Dave Coverly, Brian Crane, Rich Diesslin, Scott Ebisch, Hy Eisman, Jan Eliot (2 pieces), Graham Harrop, Bill Holbrook, Scott Jensen, Polly Keener, Rick Kirkman, Jeff Knurek, Terri Libenson, Mike Lynch, Jef Mallett, Mark Parisi, Jeff Parker, Stephan Pastis, Lincoln Peirce, Hilary Price, John Rose, Pat Sandy, George Schill, Maria Scrivan, John Steventon, Mark Tatulli, Bill Watterson, Wayno

And here is our fantastic result (unframed)! So much thanks goes to all the wonderful creators who contributed.

(click to enlarge)






Here is a photo of the final piece, beautifully framed and ready to hang soon in the hospital. [Couldn’t get a straight on image because of the glass]. I can honestly tell you that photos don’t do it justice.


Finally, here is our Nikki, who did us proud on her Bat Mitzvah. Mazel Tov, kiddo. Look what you started.






Truth or Dare



Having a comic strip that’s semi-autobiographical often brings up questions from friends, family and readers. “Did that really happen?” “Don’t your husband and kids get mad/embarrassed/want to send you to Siberia?” “How do you put yourself out there all the time?”

Well, first of all, rarely do I write anything that is exactly true or verbatim. I take many artistic liberties. Yes, I often use real life as a starting point, like my kids’ Bat Mitzvahs, driver’s ed, and situations like attempting to scale back work hours. But most of the time, these stories veer off course and take on new paths of their own. That’s a beautiful aspect of writing: continually surprising yourself.

As for the reactions of my family…well, they’ve been good sports forever. Also, they read almost everything in advance. My husband is like me, he has completely lost all shame. Anyway, he’s pretty cool and lets good-natured ribbing roll right off him. There have been times when my kids have put the brakes on certain story lines (like one where Amy gets her period), but for the most part, they couldn’t care less are pretty relaxed about it.

And how do I put myself out there all the time? This is an interesting one, because I grew up very shy and closed off. I suppose I’ve always expressed myself through art and storytelling, so this is where I feel most comfortable. True, ten years ago, I was much more wary of “exposing myself” to a public audience, but the more I did it, the more I relaxed and didn’t worry about it so much. I guess it’s akin to how comedians grow in their field. Besides, the more “honest” and “exposed” I am, the more my work evolves and the more my audience appreciates it.

And — I won’t lie — I get a certain thrill from pushing the envelope. We all get our kicks somehow.


Note: the above cartoon is one of the few I wrote verbatim. (*immature giggle*)



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