Mother’s Day crept up on me this year. I almost ran out of time to draw my wife, Jodie, a Mother’s Day Card, something I’ve been trying to do every year since I started dabbling in comics and illustrations six years ago. Jodie has been really ( and I mean really ) into Paddleball this last year, so this particular theme seemed appropriate. And no – I don’t dare go up her against her on the court less I have my ass handed to me. I’ll stick to drawing her instead.
Yes, rabbits can lay eggs, but only bedazzled pastel ones – and only once a year.
And, that obese man who wears a red velvet suit? The one who is ferried about in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and squeezes down chimneys to give you free gifts? He’s real, too.
It’s no wonder our kids want to be so independent. After all the lies we tell them they just want to figure it out on their own.
This particular comic idea has been lurking in my head for years. It spawned from the Easter Egg Hunts that my cousins, Tony and Michelle, would invite my family and I to every year. The invitations ceased, like many things, during COVID. As luck would have it we received an invitation again for this year, inspiring me to finally put stylus to tablet and draw.
I have been playing guitar with a group of dads in a garage band for a little over a year now. What started out as a breakout session in the bedroom of my friends’ sons’ bedroom has grown into a full-fledged 5-person band. Although we try to meet weekly, a plethora of other dad-related duties compete for our time, making our practices inconsistent at best, but we try. Our adoring fans include passers-by and neighbors, either too young to know good from bad, or just too curious to turn away from the train wreck/spectacle that is transpiring in the garage.
We call ourselves “The Rubber Band“.
Part pun. Park joke. The Rubber Band expands to accommodate – whether that be each others’ schedules, talents, or even new members wanting to “give it a try”. The truth is? We’re not all that good, but we sure have a great time not being that good.
Thank you Shawn Burgwald ( Drums ), Kenn Matthews ( Vocals ), Mike Jock ( Bass ), Todd Vandervort ( Guitar ) and to that 20-something couple walking their dog three months ago that decided to pick up the open mic and join us for a song.
Yes, it’s been a while since my last post. Between the holidays, a busy work schedule, a particularly nasty bout with the flu ( and pneumonia ), and taking some artistic license with this particular comic, it took ….a while.
Normally, I draw using pencil and paper, or with a stylus on a tablet. This time I wanted to try something a little different – vector graphics. With vector graphics you use a mouse to drag, drop, and manipulate shapes and curves to create art. Honestly, it’s a little funky until you try it. The best analogy I can think of is “arts and crafts” in elementary school, where you are given sheets of colored construction paper to cut out and paste together a picture. It’s kind of’ like that – expect without the scissors and paste, at least physical ones. The weird thing is that vector graphics are all math. I converted the image above to a .PNG, but if you were to open the original .SVG file ( that’s short for “Scaleable Vector Graphics” ), you’d see a bunch of numbers. The numbers declare the points and line thicknesses of the shapes that make up the image.
Moving forward I plan on doing a lot more illustrations and comics using vector graphics. It takes longer, but I am getting faster with experience. My reasons are twofold : First, I like the clean crisp lines and colors and simplified designs that vector graphics lends itself to. Second, vector graphics are big in graphic design, illustration, and user interface design ( UXD ), all areas that I am interested in.
So, please be patient with me as I ramp up my skills to accommodate this new style. I have a bunch of ideas – they might just take a while to manifest here as I stumble along.
Lastly, if you are interested in learning how to draw using vector graphics, I use a free application called Inkscape. Adobe offers a competing product called Illustrator, but it is subscription-based and quite pricey for an amateur hobbyist such as myself. Fair warning – Inkscape is not intuitive. If you want to give it a shot I highly recommend taking a course. I have had a lot of luck with these courses on Udemy :
Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t always cool. Back in the 90’s, it was a game played by pimply, greasy, pubescent boys on shag brown carpet under dim incandescent lights with Led Zeppelin rocking in the background. I know because I was one of those boys. Back then I think my friends and I spent more time trying to make each others’ characters miserable, and by extension ourselves, by throwing sadistic, borderline hilarious plot devices at one another.
I had forgotten all about my own experiences until my daughter, Ashley, bought a Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set for her and her friends to play. At first I was astounded that she wanted to play. I mean, Dungeons and Dragons is ( was ) for nerds, right? I was comfortable with it when I was her age, but Ashley? However, after gauging her enthusiasm my attitude quickly morphed into encouragement and finally, well, rejection…
Apparently, at some point in my distant past I was a camper, because I surprised myself and my much more outdoorsy neighbor, Missy, the organizer of the expedition, by the sheer amount of camping equipment I had stuffed into the deepest, darkest corners of garage. It was almost as if I never wanted myself to find it again. Planning ahead I had bought a brand new tent in celebration of Amazon’s Prime Day, only to find two more hidden in my garage during my excavation.
“This new tent will work out better“, I insisted, “It’s bigger and we’ll all be able to sleep together!”
On the first night I realized that our massive 6-person tent was a tighter squeeze than I expected. Worse, I shared an air mattress with Kaylee. Being heavier, I created a depression that she couldn’t help but roll into and subsequently, on top of me. I escaped to the van and spent a sleepless night reclined in the driver’s seat, sleeping for maybe an hour or two in 15-minute spurts. I wasn’t the only one, either. Jodie ended up reading through the night. As for my other daughter, Ashley? She rolled off the air mattress she shared with Jodie and slept, face-planted on the bare vinyl floor of the tent. To each her own.
The toilet and showers gave out early the next day. Suspiciously, the outage coincided with our fearless leader, Missy, contracting a very nasty stomach bug. Being the trooper she was, she insisted on toughing it out, to the extent of trying to follow along on a 3-mile hike in 90+ degree weather. Mercifully, she retreated back to camp only to be voted “off the island” and chaffuered home with a crate of Gatorade and saltine crackers.
A trip to Miner’s Diner in Julian and heaping scoops of ice cream cheered everyone up. Heck, I would have paid good money just to sit in the air conditioned splendor. As luck would have it the diner had an entire basement full of candy which each of the kids took turns exploring.
“Hey, Kay! “Check these out!”, I called to my youngest, Kaylee.
“What are those?”, she asked.
“Sugar candy cigarettes!”, I announced.
“I haven’t seen these in years. Pretty inappropriate for this day and age.”, I reminisced.
She nodded in agreement.
Later that night, back at the campsite, we dined on packaged ramen, canned beans, and store-bought tortillas in an effort to hedge against any more food poisoning stemming from the BBQ’d burgers we had eaten the night before. After getting the campfire started my friend, Mike, strummed guitar while the kids all lined up on a squat fence bordering the campsite.
“Uh, what are they doing?”, Jodie asked.
“Smoking cigarettes.”, I said.
I averted her eyes.
“Don’t worry, they’re sugar. I couldn’t resist.”, I smiled. “It’s nostalgic”.
The second night was quieter. Unsurprisingly, many campers decided to hoof it rather than risk stumbling through the brush in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. My bedroom, the van, was commandeered at least once to make the journey to the remaining operable bathroom a half mile down the road. Sleep was elusive, even more so when Kaylee popped her head in.
“I can’t sleep in the tent”, she moaned, “Can I sleep in here with you?”
“You can try”, I laughed. “I haven’t had any luck.”
She was out cold within minutes in the passenger seat next to me, snoring.
I would say I was up early the next morning, but as I never really went down it’s kind of a misnomer. We managed a pretty good spread of pancakes and scrambled eggs before everyone decided to cut their losses, beat the heat, and head home early.
“Next time? Cabins.”, Jodie suggested.
“Right?”, I agreed absent-mindedly. My exhausted mind theorizing where in the garage I could re-entomb my collection of tents and camping gear so that they would never, ever, be discovered again.
Two years ago today I had my prostate removed as a result of being diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months prior. Surgery or no it was one of the crazier days of my life. The “novel” coronavirus had just made headways into the United States and hospitals were beginning to enforce visitation limits. Jodie wasn’t allowed to stay for my surgery, or even visit when I woke up. It was probably a good thing because my daughter, Kaylee, broke her arm while I was being rolled into the operating room. In some twist of irony Kaylee and I both had operations on the same day, and likely the same time. Jodie and Kaylee were so worried about upsetting me that neither wanted to tell me what had happened, although I eventually found out. It’s incredibly hard to hide a bright pink cast, after all.
We recovered together. We had lots of time to recover, too. What eventually became known as COVID took a lot away, but it also gave Kaylee and I a lot of time to do nothing. And nothing is exactly what it takes to recover from surgery – I mean surgeries, plural.
I’d like to say that was the end of my cancer story, but it wasn’t. Less than six months later I started radiation treatment. This was in addition to two years of testosterone-eliminating hormone therapy, too.
Fast forward two years to today. Today marks three months since stopping all treatments. I had my quarterly blood work done today and it indicated that my cancer is still undetectable. Better yet, my testosterone has returned to normal levels as well. This is all good news.
I’m still not in the clear, and honestly I may never be, but every good test results inches me closer to – what? A cure? No, not cure. My doctor has made it clear that “cure” is not in the vernacular for people in my situation. At best people like me get to stay in remission. Long, happy, grateful, normal, live-life-to the-fullest remission.