The (Post)Thanksgiving Lowdown…

So every year, the Kaplan family either travels to Florida to visit Jill’s mom or Jill’s mom makes the trip up north. What can I say, it’s tradition. I introduced the “Judy” character the first Thanksgiving “Pajama Diaries” launched. She makes a few reoccurrences throughout the rest of the year(s), but Thanksgiving is always all about Judy.

Thanx_death

It’s apparent she demands attention — as she should. Originally modeled after my own mom, Judy is both a worrywart and a guilt monger. She also happens to be a widow (my dad passed away in 1996). This year, I decided to reward Judy with an early holiday gift…that is, a boyfriend.

Thanx_eh

My own mom has a long-time boyfriend of her own. He happens to be my #1 fan (in an endearing way, not the Stephen King way). I warned him I would introduce “Harvy” into the comics during this year’s Thanksgiving series. He was quite tickled. Yet that’s where the similarities end. Harvy is no doppelganger. He is own person…semi-deaf, semi-blind, and with a heart of gold (the one similarity the two share). He also happens to be Judy’s late husband’s cousin (not a similarity).

Thanx_Jdate

This strip above is one of my absolute favorites. I don’t know what it is about these characters; they start out derived from real people and then take on a life of their own. I suppose that’s the beauty of this medium. Anyway, I’ve always wanted to work “JDate” into a strip, and Harvy provided me with the perfect outlet. God bless him!

So… back to the Thanksgiving topic. In real life, we couldn’t actually celebrate with my mother this year, but we had a great time with family and friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, too …surrounded by the inspiring characters in your life.

HORMONES!

Hormones

My poor, poor husband. He’s surrounded by estrogen. I once jokingly mentioned that when the girls are surly teens, I’ll be on my way to menopause. He craughed (that’s cry-laughed). Then he muttered something about taking a traveling consulting job.

We sporadically deal with a tidal wave of hormones gushing from our older kid. Warning to parents of very young daughters: this starts early. Even a switch to organic, non-hormonal milk hasn’t made a difference.

Now I’m not saying my daughter is a constantly erupting volcano. Most of the time she’s quite pleasant (sibling rivalry aside). In fact, I’d say this year she’s mellowed. But those hormones can sneak up without warning, catching us off guard in the most innocuous situations (much like Vesuvius). And pair that with a low blood sugar episode…well, I usually make like the wind.

Hormones

To put things in perspective, she’s not the only one with the hormones (see above). I just need to hearken back to those college years when my roommates and I shared “cycles.” Those were not pretty times. But we still got through them, friendships intact. Hopefully our family will make it through the coming years much the same way.

If not…well, at least we girls have separate bedrooms.

It’s all about perspective…

It’s funny what readers think versus my own opinion. Sometimes I’m so close to my material, I lose all objectivity. Case in point: I remember writing my September strips (back in May) and feeling “ok” about them…but not as excited as I have been about other months’ strips.

Yet, I’ve received many compliments about this month’s batch. It figures, huh? That’s okay — it’s reassuring, really. And it goes to show just how subjective humor is. Sometimes all I want to do is write the funniest cartoons possible, but it’s usually the relatable ones that draw the most responses.

To me, the comic strip is a fluid art form – like any art form – and it doesn’t always have to be funny or clever or phenomenally artistic. Yet it can be. It is what its creator makes it to be. It is an extension of the artist, an expression. That’s one of the reasons I was drawn to this medium. I love being funny and clever and artistic…but sometimes I just want to get a message across. It’s so nice I have this outlet to do so.

So thanks to all those who made me feel good about these September strips. Somehow, despite my ambiguous feelings, I managed to get my message across. And to me, that’s a big deal.

Cuss

(One of the Sept. strips — ok, technically August — I did really like that received absolutely no feedback. Eh, what can ya do?)

E.T., I.T., & OMG!

Okay, so I had been wondering why my blog had been a dry wasteland of responses for about 6 months. I had been getting emails no problem, but not many hits on the blog. Turns out it was one big administration blooper. Oops. My husband and I went to check on things today and discovered a geyser of responses, mainly from my E.T. posting back in March. We think it’s due to updating the site around that time – apparently something went wrong.

Cuss

I sincerely apologize for this. I am overwhelmed by the sentiments in response to my Essential Thrombocytosis (E.T.) diagnosis, illustrated in the two-week series I did way back when. I’d like to mention I am doing well, my platelet count still remains steady for now.

I’d also like to repost the links to the two foundations I had mentioned in March: the MPD Foundation and the MDS Foundation. I’ll also add two other links a reader had sent: MPD-Support and MPDinfo.org. E.T. is a called an “orphan disease” because it’s so rare and therefore kind of falls under the radar for funding/research. And the three other myelodysplastic (blood) disorders certainly deserve funding as well, considering one or two of them come with limited life expectancy.

Once again, I apologize for the delayed postings. Thank you, thank you for all the words of kindness!

A Second Chance at Puberty

Puberty

So my long-absent daughter has returned from camp. Funny thing, this strip series was written months before she actually left. Call it mother’s intuition, but I just knew there would be a change. And there was.

Not so much physically–I mean, aside from the tan and sun-bleached highlights we adults have to pay professional hairdressers for. No, I mean emotionally. My daughter just seems more grown up. She talks about using deodorant and shaving her legs (which have less hair on them than I have on one arm). She speaks of the enormous connection and camaraderie she shared with her bunkmates (“They’re not like the kids here, Mom. They never exclude anyone, there’s no jealousy, you know?”). She seems so mature and, well, nicer. Boy, I hope that lasts.

We’ve had discussions about puberty before, but now I’m really seeing it firsthand. I’m prepared for the physical changes — and so is she — but now I’m also considering the internal changes. The beautiful thing is, I’m getting a glimpse of the amazing woman she will become. And I’m grateful I’ll be there to witness the journey.

Separation Anxiety… theirs, too

I recently wrote a story arc about Jill’s older daughter, Amy, going off to sleepaway camp for the first time. Yes, this is based on factual events (hey, at this point, what isn’t?). My older daughter is heading out this week for a month-long stay at a renowned camp in Indiana. For. The. Very. First. Time.

Obviously, I wrote the series well before my daughter actually leaves (a.k.a. I made stuff up). But we did have prior emotional experience. Last summer, my daughter visited her aunt in CA for a month. I really thought I’d be fine with the separation. But when we said our goodbyes at the airport gate, I saw a flash of tears in her eyes (mind you, she never shows her soft side if she can help it). That was it for me. I didn’t stop crying for two days.

Luckily, her trip worked out well and the rest of us made it through the wait intact. But the one adverse side effect I was NOT prepared for was the ensuing neediness of my younger daughter. At first, she clung to me like static cling. It made sense – there was never a time when she wasn’t under the same roof as her sister.

Camp_inBed

Thank goodness she eventually worked through her separation issues. Still, WHOA. That first week was tough. Talk about regression. In hindsight, I thought that made for some interesting material. The camp series turned out to be equally about Jess’s clinginess as Amy’s remoteness.

Camp_Melrose

Oh yeah, I also made up some stuff about camper crushes. I mean, let’s face it, we know what summer’s REALLY about.

Reubens, Bones and Cling-ons…

As my family knows, I usually don’t recount our happenings verbatim in the strip (other folks’ experiences…well, that’s a different story). But once in a while, some sneak in. The “Bones” incident, for example.

A few months ago I went out during the evening while my husband watched our girls. He was sitting in the bedroom, flipping around stations, while the kids did their nighttime routines of brushing, flossing, etc.

When they were finished, they came into the bedroom to keep their dad company. Well, he was watching the TV show “Bones,” and apparently decided (even though there’s a disclaimer at the beginning for graphic content) that it was completely appropriate material for a 9 and 7-year-old.

Needless to say………

OhReally

Okay, so I switched “TV show” to “DVD.” But you get the picture. Let’s just say we had company in our bed for the next week. Ahem…I should say, I had company. I was the one they woke up hourly. I was the one they clung to or dragged back to their beds at 2 am. Isn’t it funny how the wife ends up paying for the husband’s mistakes? The only redeeming thing about it was Mike did eventually apologize. Only after he let the 7-year-old borrow a Stephen King novel (joke).

Movin’ on…

SUN_HelpArt

Mike and I did our every-other-year pilgrimage to the Reuben (cartooning) Awards in Jersey City this year. We had a lovely time and, as usual, met some new faces while enjoying time with some familiar ones. We managed to sneak to NYC as well, which rounded out the trip nicely. The only thing I did a little differently this time: I brought along my laptop and actually colored a Sunday strip in the hotel room. Some habits can’t be broken.

Fuh Fuh Fuh…

SUN_40thBday_sample

I finally realize the meaning of that old cliché: “I’m too young to be this old.” I swear I was just twenty-one a minute ago.

I (semi) joke to my husband that I missed the full effect of my 30th milestone because I was busy going into labor (our older daughter’s birthday is the next day). Therefore, it feels like the last two decades just came plowing into me at once.

But overall, I feel pretty darn good. The platelet count is holding steady. I have an amazing family. And, despite the last year of less-than-stellar industry-wide mojo, I’m doing my dream job. Not bad.

Still, I really thought I was above the whole getting older nonsense; alas, I’m not immune. Short of acquiring a convertible and a 20-year-old blonde floozy-on-the-side (Sven), I’m happy to play it low-key. As usual, I’m satisfied to document the whole thought process in this week’s strips.

If you’re turning the big fuh, fuh, fuh this year as well, I hope the series resounds well with you. If you’re still enjoying the glow of youth…well, get over it. It’ll be your turn, too.

Enjoy!

Dipping my toes in new territory…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything, and I apologize. Between illnesses running rampant in the family and a couple of side trips in between, life’s been crazy up the wazoo.

Not to mention…

Yes, pigs do fly. I’ve started working on my first book collection of Pajama Diaries strips. Woo! I don’t know how many times readers have asked me if a book was on its way and how often I’ve delayed doing one. I’ve had good intentions, but honestly, it’s a huge undertaking. And working six days a week doesn’t make it any easier.

But enough excuses. I’ve vowed this year is going to be IT. I hope. I think. Well, maybe…

No, no, it’s really happening. Hubby and I have already done a lot of the leg work, and we won’t turn back now. But please don’t ask me about a time frame yet, because it’s hard enough figuring out when I’m getting my next haircut. Let’s just say I’m hoping within a year (the book, not the haircut).

So we’ll leave it at that and I’ll keep you posted (still talking about the book).

Till then, back to the drawing board.

TerriDesk

Blood Disorders and all that gooey nonsense…

Back in October, I had reached my last straw. See, for about 6 months I had been getting severe migraines on and off. Which was strange, considering I’d never had ‘em before. They were pretty debilitating, causing nausea and occasional blinding auras. Needless to say, it was getting hard to work and take care of the kiddos. Half of the time I was on the couch, fighting the need to upchuck my lunch.

SUN_HelpArt

The headaches were becoming so frequent, I went to the doctor (this time insisting it wasn’t sinus-related, as past sinus medications had proven fruitless). At first, she started prescribing migraine meds. But I really didn’t want meds; I really wanted to figure out the cause of this. After an Oscar-worthy pregnant pause, the doctor asked if I wouldn’t mind taking a blood test to rule out anemia or low iron. I agreed and promptly went to the lab to donate my red stuff.

To cut to the chase, after more tests (including an uncomfortable-but-not-as-bad-as-you’d-think bone marrow biopsy), it was concluded that I had a rare blood disease called “Essential Thrombocythemia.” Basically, that’s a fancy medical term for “my bone marrow produces so many platelets , they can clump up like bad cake mix.”

It was, of course, both a relief and a shock. A relief because the doctor prescribed baby aspirin to prevent blood clots, and this essentially (no pun intended) cured the migraines. A shock because at any time, my platelet count could increase and I’d have to go on special chemo-type meds. Also, this disease can mutate into one of three other more dire and unsavory related blood diseases.

But I choose to look on the bright side: it makes for some compelling cartoon material. Like a sneering, cosmic challenge: “Let’s see you turn THIS into something amusing!”

So I did.

Well, I hope so anyway. If anything, it was another cathartic event for the author.

And on that note, this series compels me to post a link to two foundations: the MPD Foundation and the MDS Foundation. E.T. is a called an “orphan disease” because it’s so rare and therefore kind of falls under the radar for funding/research. And the three other myelodysplastic (blood) disorders certainly deserve funding as well, considering one or two of them come with limited life expectancy.

So if you can and are willing to help out the future of one slightly freaked-out cartoonist, please do so by making a contribution. Or at least by reading the fascinating case studies (hmm, maybe that’s just me — chalk it up to personal significance).

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the series. And really, I’m not that freaked out. Frankly, I’m too busy to worry.