Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Close-Knit Family

Our house has 2300 square feet of space. So why the hell do we all keep ending up in the same 10 square feet every time I turn around?

Just One More Christmas Anecdote

Did I happen to mention that after opening the huge mountain of presents that overwhelmed our living room, Cassie actually ran around the house singing “I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas?”

Really, that’s what she did.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Overload And Recovery




You would not believe the sheer number of presents that got opened in this house yesterday morning. I knew it was going to be bad, because the number of giant packages we had received was already making it hard for people to get in and out of our living room. I swear, the place looked like the store room of UPS.

So many presents, so much excitement. I would have liked for things to have gone at a more leisurely pace this year, but with the kids sick so much of the time prior to the holidays, Michael and I never really got a chance to preplan and prepare, so we ended up running around in chaos like always. Ugh. Maybe next year will be different. Riiiiiight.

Cassie is old enough this year to really get into the whole Christmas tradition. We started with a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, which we ate early (Michael cooked it, Cassie helped). Turkey, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, crescent rolls... yum. Cassie ate a little bit (she’s at that age where all foods that don’t obviously look like candy are “yucky”). Then we all raced to get dressed and head out the door for 5:30 mass. Cass sat through most of mass with her daddy, although I had to leave because Sam wanted to sing... during the homily. Personally, I don’t mind missing mass. I’m Buddhist, and if I’m going to sit that long for any reason, I’d rather meditate than go through the Catholic Calisthenics of stand up, sit down, genuflect, HIKE!

But we got through church and then came home. This is where the real chaos started. I avoided the misery of buying gifts this year by shopping almost strictly online. I gave all the adults the same gift - porn (or rather, the erotica anthology I’m published in this season). However, I hadn’t managed to wrap anything. And of course, neither Michael nor I realized until we sat down that evening that we were almost out of Christmas wrapping paper. Cassie got a few gifts done up in baby shower paper. Don’t think she noticed though.

I wrapped stuff first while Michael got Cassie to bed. Then I spent all evening cleaning while he wrapped. The cats are on a ‘Bah-humbug!’ trip right now, it seems. They went to great pains to puke and poop all over the downstairs carpet (joy to the world, people). But they’re old, so these things do tend to happen. Especially on Christmas Eve.

We made sure Cassie put out milk and cookies. Sometime around midnight, after all the wrapping and the cleaning was done, Michael and I managed to sit down and ‘help Santa’ with his treats. We also put out Cassie’s reindeer food - uncooked oatmeal with silver glitter in it. The glitter is for magic. Then we each exchanged one gift, like we do every Christmas Eve. Michael gave me “Meatloaf: Bat Out Of Hell III” and I gave him a blank book with a love note written in it. The idea is that he now has one week to write a love note as well, and then hand it back to me. Then we’ll pass this book back and forth to each other, adding a love note each time until the book is full and I feel schmaltzy enough to go get another one.

We collapsed into bed around 12:30 AM. I got up four hours later and started working on some caramel pecan rolls. Yes, further proof that I am crazy. My mom always made these things and served them hot on Christmas morning, and they really are good, but they take forever to make. I promised myself that next year, I’d get my act together and make them on Christmas Eve. Of course, I also promised myself that next year I’d have all my presents wrapped the week before and we’d have plenty of Christmas paper to do it with. Michael did buy new wrapping paper this morning at the traditional butt-crack-of-dawn post-Christmas sales, so one out of three ain’t bad, right?

The pecan rolls were ready to eat by 9:30. By then, both kids had been up a couple of hours and we had cardboard boxes and wrapping paper strewn all over the house. Remember how I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we could barely get into the living room for all the boxes? It got worse, a lot worse, once we started opening everything. And it seemed like the boxes were multiplying exponentially under the tree. Open one box and find two more behind it. Open those two and find four more behind that. Open four and find sixteen. Etc, etc, etc.

Around noon I finally had to quit opening gifts to do more cooking. We had an invitation to eat Christmas dinner over at Mary’s parents’ place and I offered to make something. I made a killer spinach soufflé and packed up the second plate of pecan rolls to take with us. By the time I was done, Michael was finishing up with the last package, stabbing it to death with his leatherman to prevent it from breeding any further gifts. The word disaster does not begin to describe the scene in our living room. It was at this point that I really started to feel ill. You can have too many presents, believe me.

And now for some of the highlights on who got what in this gross display of overabundance and wealth...

Cassie: She got a handmade Cinderella costume from her Grandmama. To say it’s gorgeous does not begin to describe it. She had to immediately to try it on, so we caught half a preschooler striptease act on video before Michael was able to turn off the camera. Twenty minutes later, Cassie opened up the Ariel wedding gown her aunt Khaki sent and stripped yet again. She also got a Disney Jasmine and Aladdin doll set. The dolls are dressed in their wedding clothes and look gorgeous, but the look on Aladdin’s face make me think he’s just realized it’s his wedding night and he’s not anatomically correct.

Sam: My little baby got a play saucer, one of those giant contraptions that’s supposed to keep kids entertained and out of trouble. The idea is that you sit babies in the little diaper-style seat amidst a frightful of light-up noise makers, allowing them to scream at the top of their lungs while they flail their little feet a mere inch or two above the carpet and fail to go anywhere at all. It looks like the mother ship from ET. Or maybe Close Encounters. I can’t decide.

Michael: I always try to find something that Michael will enjoy, yet hasn’t been listed on his wish list. I know, I know. Wish lists are there for a reason. But to me, it’s so unoriginal to keep checking off items on his list every time a holiday, birthday, or anniversary rolls around. So this year I decided to give him the gift of intelligent conversation. I got him a subscription to Scientific American, a magazine that looks at what’s happening in all areas of science and talks about topics like relativity and unified field theory (areas that Michael wants to do research in someday). The idea is that he and I can both read the magazine and then discuss it at the dinner table, in the car, wherever we get the chance to talk a bit. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do more than just look at an issue and say, “Oh, pretty pictures!”

Me: In addition to the Meatloaf CD, Michael also gave me sleepwear. You can tell our marriage has only gotten better over time. Years ago, he would have bought me Victoria’s Secret. This year he got me “Nightmare Before Christmas” jammies. The man truly loves and understands me. I also got the “You Can Do It!” book set (a merit badge handbook for grown up girls) from my sister, several boxes of Darjeeling tea from my parents, and the Action Heroine’s Handbook from Angie. Angie is always sending me cool stuff like that. One year, out of the blue, she sent me a psychedelic wall plaque of Ganesh. It’s still up in my dining room today. Cool!

Other odds and ends of note...

Once again, we got Trappist Monk cheese from Michael’s parents. You either love this cheese or you hate it. Whichever you decide, pray that it uses its overwhelming powers of stinkiness for good and not evil.

In addition to Cassie’s spontaneous strip tease acts, we also caught a few other interesting tidbits on tape. At one point, she was sitting with Michael while he worked on assembling the mother ship. Cassie kept putting her foot on the frame, so he responded by taking his screw driver and pretending to screw her foot to the saucer. Cassie was having so much fun she turned to me and shouted, “Mommy, Daddy keeps screwing me! Screw me again Daddy! Screw me again!”

So anyway, now that you’re done spraying coffee out of your nose, that was our Christmas. We headed over to Mary’s parents’ for dinner and had a wonderful time there. When we got home, I went to work on recovering my house. It took me two hours, but I eventually found the living room floor. Now I’m gearing up for a post-Christmas party. I’ve got a cake baking in the oven and once Sam is done nursing, I’m going to sit down with a cup of joe and one of my new books and do some reading. Hope everyone out there had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy New Year’s Day!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

16th Anniversary

December 19th was the sixteenth anniversary of Michael’s and my first date. Wow what a night! I’m talking sixteen years ago, not last Tuesday. Actually, Tuesday night was something else too. Sam screamed through most of it, refusing to fall asleep in her own crib. I of course refused to bring her into bed with us yet one more night. Needless to say, it ended up being a long night.

But sixteen years ago I had one of the best nights of my life. Michael and I barely knew each other, and probably would have run away from each other screaming if we knew what was in store for us back then. Two kids? A mortgage? Helen becomes a stay-at-home mom? Are you kidding me? Of course, it’s not as boring as it sounds. I am not just a stay-at-home mom; I'm a stay-at-home mom who writes porn and has a black belt in karate and kobudo, thereby qualifying me to write kick-ass dirty stories during naptime.

Sixteen years. Who’da thunk we’d last this long? I wonder where we’ll be sixteen years from now?

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for Mars.

Note: Someone pointed out to me this week that I have slacked off on my ‘art-a-day’ promise. Too true. Between the holidays and the sick kids, I’ve been too swamped to draw, even at the computer. That’s not to say I haven’t been doing some creative stuff. I just haven’t been drawing. I may try today to spend twenty minutes with my sketch pad. We’ll see what happens.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Holiday Miracle

I never thought it would happen. Last night, after weeks of dealing with sick children, after weeks of having both kids in bed with us crying and fussing, last night for the first time in ages, Sam and Cassie slept through the night in their own beds!

It’s a miracle! Can I get an amen? AMEN!!

If this happens again, I’m calling the Pope.

Of course, Sam probably thinks it was a miracle that I didn’t stick a thermometer up her butt when I changed her diaper this morning.

Birth Control

To paraphrase Bill Cosby, the reason I have two children is because I do not want to have three.

On Thursday, Michael and I were actually having sex. Yes, folks with kids do get to have sex every now and then, even us. And it was good sex too, the kind you usually only get to have during your anniversary or when you buy a new car. I was in the throws of ecstasy, enjoying every moment, when Sam started to cry.

It was just a little snuffling at first. Then the snuffling turned into fussing, which then turned into wailing and finally screaming. Needless to say, it killed the mood.

I swear, on Sam’s wedding night, I’m going to call her on the phone. Six times at least. Just to make sure she’s okay.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Must Have Been Something I Said

We went to the pediatrician on Wednesday for a follow up appointment for Cassie. That makes seven visits in two weeks. The pediatrician joked that she was going to start charging me rent, I spent so much time there. I said I was just going to find an empty office space nearby and set up shop there. That way I could write between doctor visits. That led to her asking how my writing was going, and she was overjoyed when I told her I had a contract for my pornographic novel.

“Is that what you write?” she exclaimed. When I said yes, she grinned and asked if I wrote from experience.

“Oh god no,” I replied. “I’m not a gay man.”

She laughed so hard she almost couldn’t walk out of the examining room.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hair Today...

Did I mention I cut off eight inches of my hair over the weekend? I got tired of Sam ripping it out by the double handfuls.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Not Dead Yet...

To quote Inago Montoya, “Let me explain. No wait, that takes too long. Let me sum up.”

Cassie’s ear infection came with a nasty case of strep, which I didn’t know about until she’d been home five days straight. Her fever finally broke that day and she went back to preschool just in time for Sam to come down with the creeping crud. Or should I say the creeping croup? My baby sounded like she was trying to hock up a bag of wet cement all last week. The pediatrician put her on antibiotics and sent me home with a nebulizer so I could spray her in the face twice a day with steroids to open up her lungs. Not fun. However, my best friend Mary, who is a nurse, says the screaming helps Sam inhale more of the medication.

Needless to say, I got no sleep for a week straight, because if Sam couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t sleep. She ended up in my arms all night every night. The less she slept, the more tired she got, and the more tired she got, the more she screamed, and the more she screamed the more she coughed, and the more she coughed the less she slept. And on and on and on.

I had such different visions of how this holiday season would go. I had planned to spend my weekends baking and my afternoons sewing doll clothes for Cassie’s Barbies. Instead, I got non-stop screaming and endless hacking and wheezing. My peaceful holiday is shot. And since I’ve had my hands full with sick kids, I haven’t been able to do any holiday shopping for my friends. So I got nothing but love for you guys, and in the spirit of that love, let me just say this. Stay the hell away from the Madden family unless you want to die a lingering death brought on by the plague.

Merry Christmas.

Damn. I just realized I missed Bodhi Day entirely.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Still Sick And Teething

Cassie’s been home four days straight now with a temperature that bounces around between 99 to 104 degrees. Sam cut her first tooth last night, but a second one must be coming in right behind it because she keeps screaming all evening when I try to feed her.

Somebody shoot me. Please.

Artwork For Writing Website

I have to put together a writing website now that I've sold a book. Here's a sample of the artwork I've been putting together. This is going to be the side bar. The red roses will be the navigation buttons, with pop up text explaining what each one is for.

Sick And Teething

Cassie is home for the third day in a row with her ear infection and the flu. I can’t believe I got this kid a flu shot. She’s been sick twice since she got it. Meanwhile, Sam is teething. I swear, in the history of teething this is the longest time a child has ever taken to cut a tooth. She’s been fussing and drooling for weeks. I made the mistake of giving her Anbesol right before nursing her, and now my left nipple is numb.

And of course, I’m still struggling with the writing. I may or may not have had a break through on the “two gay guys and a horse” story last night. I at least was able to write the ending, which was good. However, I wrote it by hand in a notebook while taking a bath, so this afternoon I get to decipher my sopping wet notes. Note to self, buy a small hand-held recorder and get a bath tub tray to make this easier next time.

Cassie is currently tucked in bed for a little morning rest. I can’t stand the idea of her sitting in front of the TV all day again, even if she is sick. I pulled out the comforter we were saving for Christmas and told her it was a magic fairy blanket from Grandmama and it would help her get better if she’d get in bed and curl up with it for a while. There are actually fairies on it, by the way. Wish I had a magic fairy blanket to curl up under...

Sam, meanwhile, is nursing away. I’m wondering if she’ll be awake when she’s done or not. If she’s asleep, I’m going to sit down and write and let Michael run to the pharmacy. I hope she stays awake though. I’d rather work through her afternoon nap. She blew it off yesterday and it just about killed me.

Since both kids are quiet right now, maybe I better get to work while I can.

Book Babe Day 3 & 4

I gave up on inking this drawing in Corel Photopaint. I thought I could get away with doing it, but when I hit the long lines in the dress, I had to quit. The digital tablet just isn't steady enough to handle that kind of line work, at least not in my hands. Here's as far as I got in Corel Photopaint.

The Book Babe, Day 3

This morning I brought the sketch (originally done in Corel Photopaint) into Macromedia Flash and started inking it there. The process is a little different, but the lines come out much smoother and I can do the accents better. Here's the results so far.

The Book Babe, Day 4

You won't really be able to see the difference until I've got the inking done and I delete the digital pencil layer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I Cannot Get A Break...

Michael and I went to bed last night around 10:30PM. Sam woke me up crying at midnight, so I did what any sensible mom would do. I turned down the monitor and went back to sleep. That may sound harsh but honestly, the kid is almost six months old and weighs about as much as a small SUV. She needs to learn to sleep through the night.

Of course, her sister woke up screaming and came running into our room about an hour after that. She complained that monsters had woken her up. I let Cassie sleep in the bed for a little while until it became obvious that she was more interested in playing than sleeping and I had Michael pack her off to her own bed.

Then Sam woke up screaming bloody murder at 2:30AM and this time I couldn’t ignore it (although somehow Michael managed to sleep through it) so I got out of bed and fetched the baby. I nursed her in bed for twenty minutes, right up until she decided to stick her fingers in my nose. Then she went back to her crib.

Around 3:30AM, I woke up to hear Cassie crying. With a HUGE sigh, I got up again and checked on my eldest child. She was sobbing about the monsters again, so I brought her back to bed with me. After about half an hour of being poked and prodded, her father announced that if Cassie couldn’t keep still, she’d have to go back to her own bed again. So Cass turned over and started poking and prodding me and I immediately told Michael to take Cassie back to bed.

My alarm goes off at five these days. Somehow I managed to crawl out of bed and get a shower, finishing up just in time to hear both children wake up screaming (again I wonder, how the hell does Michael sleep through that?). Sam is apparently teething and Cassie complained that her ear hurt. So after a long sleepless night, guess how my day went. No really. Guess.

Yep. Cassie stayed home from school and both she and Sam spent most of the day screaming. Somehow, I don’t know how, I managed to finish off the paperwork for my new publisher (I have a publisher! Joy!) and send that out, but most of the day was spent rocking one child or the other. As of right now, it’s 6:45PM and I’m desperately hoping I can get both kids in bed before 7:30 so I can have a drink and pass out. I really, really need the sleep.

Addendum: Michael went to karate class tonight. I stayed home with the kids. Sam was out by 7PM, but it took forever to settle Cassie. I gave her a bath, hoping that would calm her down, but as soon as she came out, she vomited all over the bathroom floor. She’s finally asleep now, but I may have Michael sleep on an air mattress in her room, just to keep an eye on her. I’m going to try to finish my evening chores and take a bath myself. Since Cassie still has a temperature of over 102 degrees, I will be keeping her home tomorrow as well. It may sound callous to think of work when my child doesn’t feel well, but if the kids keep getting sick, I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to work again. This is driving me crazy!

Book Babe Day 2

More work on this image in Corel Photopaint. I took the pencil sketch layer, changed it to blue and began digitially inking over it with Corel's felt tip pen setting for the paint brush. So far, so good.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Well, I don’t know about you, but we had a nice Thanksgiving here Thursday. What made it particularly nice for me was the fact that I got to spend two hours writing, even though both Michael and Cassie were home all day. I have this little problem, you see, when those two are here. I just can’t get anything done. It’s been especially aggravating the last six weeks as I’ve struggled with writer’s block. I just know that having some time to actually sit down and writer would solve that problem, but it’s almost impossible to do that when the house is in a complete uproar.

What is it about having my husband and eldest child home that makes things so chaotic? It’s probably scheduling, or the lack there of. When I’m home alone with Sam, I’ve got a routine that we follow as close as we can. Nap times are at 8:30AM and 2PM. Bath time is at 7:30AM. Afternoon play time is from noon to one. Etc., etc., etc. I know what we’ll be doing and when, and I’ve built the entire schedule around Sam’s naps which, by the way, are my work hours.

Michael, however, doesn’t have this schedule memorized. Why should he? He’s not home most of the days and he doesn’t do the breastfeeding (which is also done on a schedule). Plus, he doesn’t like to get up at the butt-crack of dawn like I do, so when he’s home on the weekends, he doesn’t set his alarm to wake him up. Without a definite starting point, his day runs in a state of flux. And that’s fine for him because he knows what he has to do and he’ll eventually get it done before Monday rolls around. Unfortunately, his state of flux blows my carefully regimented schedule all to hell.

Things really came to a head on Wednesday. Due to the storm that rolled through here, Michael stayed home from work. I tried to keep Sam on a schedule, but I hadn’t even considered that Michael would be home that day, so I ran around trying to do my usual thing and kept tripping over him. That put Sam’s nap schedule way off, and my work hours too. Plus Cassie was home as well, and we were supposed to do some fun stuff that day so even though I was massively behind schedule, I took a hour or two to sit and paint with her because I promised her I would. I even read her stories and got her down for a nap, but Sam woke up about then and that was the end of my hopes for my afternoon work hours. Michael did try to rescue me. He offered to take Sam for a while so I could write. But five minutes after he left, Cassie woke up, demanding to know where her father was. When she found out he’d left, she threw a major tantrum, one that lasted right up until Michael got home. And when he walked into the house, I decided to throw a tantrum too.

“I hate it when you guys are home! I can’t get anything done! I sold a book last week, damn it, but I’ll never be able to write again because you keep screwing up my schedule! I’m tired of my work being treated like a second class priority just because it’s erotica and I work at home. If I don’t get some time to write today, I’m putting you and little Miss I-Gotta-Scream out on the lawn and I don’t care if it’s raining!”

And on and on and on. To Michael’s credit, he stood there and took it all like a man. Then he slipped out of the bedroom and took Cassie downstairs so I could work for an hour.

After my little tirade, I decided something had to be done, so I printed out a blank schedule form and sat down with Michael that night to review what would happen the next day. We wrote down nap times and meal times, added time for Michael to cook Thanksgiving dinner, and put in my work hours too. Then I posted our schedule on the fridge where we could see it and went to bed. The next morning, I got up at the butt-crack of dawn and Michael got up at 7AM, just like we’d scheduled it. And the whole day just fell into place like magic.

It was amazing how well that worked. It worked so well I was caught completely unprepared when my afternoon work hours rolled around and I had free time to do whatever I wanted. And we sat down again last night with another blank schedule and filled in that one too. So far, the day’s working out as planned. I just can’t believe it.

So there you go. I’m grateful for schedules that work and husbands who put up with temper tantrums and children who nap. I’d be grateful for the husband and kids even if they didn’t act like such angels yesterday, but you know what? It makes all the difference in the world to know they care about whether or not I get work done.

Book Babe

This is a rough sketch of something I'm working on right now. The cool thing about this is that it wasn't done with pencil and paper, but done digitally in Corel Photopaint instead. I'm starting to figure out how to get Photopaint to work as a sketching program, which will go a long way towards helping me do more digital artwork.

The Book Babe

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Experiements In Digital Inking

I'm trying to figure out a way to digitally ink my pencil drawings. I could do them by hand, but am wondering if I could get better results with one of my graphics programs instead. I've obsessed about this for three days now and the answer is 'no.' I'm better off doing it by hand, although I might consider investing in a light table to make this particular chore a little easier. My preferred inking style does not always lend itself to the projects I want to do, and I'd like to avoid a lot of drawing and retracing to make a clean copy of my artwork. Anyway, here are the results of digital inking from two different programs - Flash 5 and ArtRage 1.

Flash 5 inking experiment

ArtRage 1 inking experiment

Hungry Mungry And The Picky Eater!

Dinner with Sam...

Me: Sam, it’s dinner time! Are you hungry, precious?

Sam: Nyum nyum nyum nyum!

Me: Okay honey, don’t eat the high chair. That’s not good for you. Here, try some cereal instead. Mmmmmm, cereal.

Sam: Nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum!

Me: Oh, very good. You’re a good eater, Sam. But Mommy needs the spoon back now.

Sam: Nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum! Nyum nyum nyum!

Me: No sweetie, please don’t shove the spoon up your nose. Mommy needs that back to feed you. Give me the spoon... Sam, give me the spoon... Of fer crying out loud, Sam. Give me the spoon!

Sam: Waaaaaah! Waaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaaaah!

Me: No, don’t cry! Don’t cry! Look, here’s the airplane! Here comes the airplane! Zoooooooooooooom!

Sam: Nyum nyum nyum nyum!

Me: Very good Sam. Now let’s do a choo choo train. Choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, choo choo, WOO WOOOO!

Sam: Nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum!

Me: Good girl! Can Mommy have her fingers back now? Uh, I need those fingers. Thank you. Okay Sam, let’s try another one. Here comes the astronaut. Here he comes in his space suit! He says, ‘Open the pod bay doors, Hal.’

Sam stares at me blankly.

Me: Okay, that’s from the movie ‘2001.’ Maybe you’ll get that when you’re older. Um, let’s do the airplane again. Here comes the airplane! Zooooooom! Zooooooooom! Zoooooo- Augh! My fingers! Sam, give me back my fingers!

Sam: Nyum! Nyum nyum nyum! Nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum nyum!

Me: Aaaaaaa! Call 911! She bit off my fingers! Call 911! Aaaaaaugh!! AAAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!

And that’s dinner with Sam. An hour after all this, she’ll spit everything back up, including my fingers, which is why I can still count to ten. Feeding Cassie has been an entirely different matter...

Cassie: Mommy, I don’t like chicken.

Me: Oh? Well you don’t have to eat it...

Cassie: Okay!

Me: But you’re not getting a treat if you don’t eat your dinner.

Cassie (pokes at her plate): Mommy, I don’t like broccoli.

Me: That’s fine. But you’re still not getting any treats if you don’t eat what’s on your plate.

Cassie (does a little more poking): I don’t like rice either.

Me: Once again, you will not get anything else to eat tonight if you don’t eat your dinner. Do you understand?

Cassie: Yes ma’am. Mommy?

Me: Yes, Cassandra?

Cassie: I’m done. May I be excused?

Me: Yes, you may. But you’re not getting anything else to eat tonight. Remember that.

Cassie runs off to play in the living room. During the course of dinner, she keeps running up to either me or Michael, asking for a movie, telling fart jokes, and in general acting like a little hooligan. After we’re done eating, I clear the dishes off the table. Cassie’s plate is still untouched. It’s the exact same food I tried feeding her last night, which she refused to eat then too, so I just dump it in the trash.

Me: Okay Cassie, movie time is over. It’s time to go upstairs for your bath.

Cassie: Mommy, I’m hungry. May I have something to eat?

Me: Uh, no. Remember what I told you?

Cassie looks at me blankly.

Me: You didn’t eat your dinner, so you’re not getting anything else to eat.

Cassie: But I’m hungry!

Me: Too bad. It’s bath time. Get upstairs.

The crocodile tears begin to flow from Cassie’s baby blues. She wails, screams, gnashes her teeth and throws herself on the ground. It’s all I can do to keep from laughing.

Cassie: Waaaaaaaah! Waaaaaaaaaaah! WAAAAAAAAAAH!

Me: I’m turning out the light and going upstairs now. See you in the tub.

Cassie: Waaaaah! Waaaaaaah! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I turn out the light and head upstairs, as promised. Cassie, who hates to be left in the dark, scrambles up the stairs after me, throwing herself on the ground every third step to throw another tantrum. She keeps screaming at me, but I can no longer understand anything she says. I just keep humming and turning out the lights as I go. Eventually, Cassie makes it to the bathroom. She sobs all through getting undressed, and is still howling when she steps into the tub. When I turn on the water, she screams even louder. By now, I can no longer contain myself. I’m laughing out loud. This just pisses Cassie off even more. However, once the tub fills up, the crying stops (I knew it would). She starts splashing around, playing with her bath toys. We sing funny songs and laugh. Eventually, the bath is over, and Cassie makes it to bed with only one more minor tantrum, this one about how she hates to brush her teeth. Fortunately, Michael is home to handle that, because I think if I laugh at that kid too much more, I’m going to burst my sides.

And that’s dinner at the Madden household.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Queen Of Porn Rides Again!

I got some great news last night. My erotica novel, Demon By Day, is being picked up by an e-publisher. I won’t divulge too many details, but I’ve got a contract to sign and mail in so I’m feeling very good. Demon By Day (originally titled “Helen’s Very Gay Fantasy Novel”) is a work of lus- er, love, for me. I spent ten months writing the first draft, another three doing the second draft, and another two putting together synopses and query letters for publishers. I think I came out lucky on this one, as it found a publisher far more quickly than I had any right to expect.

In other erotica writing news, the Erotica Readers and Writers Association is pleased to announce the release of
, an anthology of the best of ERWA’s story galleries. Yours truly has a piece in there that will curl your hair and probably kill the faint of heart. “A Man In A Kilt” is another work of lus- er, love, and I’m very proud of it.
Winter is coming folks, so if you’re looking for something to read AND keep you warm at the same time, you know who to come to.


ZBrush Tree

Here I am, back with the program I love to hate. Between sick kids, a broken car, and other schedule screw ups, I haven't been able to put paper to pencil lately, so I'm reverting to some digital work to fulfill my daily art requirements (even then, I've still missed a couple of days recently; that's got to stop!). The above may not look like much, but it's a work in progress. ZBrush has a nifty little tool that allows you to easily build branching objects, including trees, people, anything with legs and arms that go off in different directions. This is my first pass at a tree. It's got a long way to go before it reaches it's final form.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You Know You’re Tired When...

You brush your teeth with facial cleanser instead of toothpaste.

You use a tube of bright red lipstick instead of a tube of flesh-toned concealer to cover up the circles under your eyes.

You keep asking the other moms in the play group, “Has anybody seen my kid?” And they keep pointing out to you that she’s sitting right there next to you.

You put orange juice in your coffee instead of creamer (yes Yvonne, I’ve done it too, and you’re right, it is a complete f@cking waste of perfectly good coffee).

You can’t find your eye glasses because you put them in the refrigerator... again.

You call someone every name of every female in your family, trying to get that person to come down for dinner... and the person you’re yelling for is your husband (last time I checked, he was male).

You put your nursing bra on inside out.

You go to change the baby’s diaper, but somehow the clean diaper ends up in the gin and the dirty one ends up right back on the baby.

You give the cats baby food and the baby cat food... and you don’t figure this out until after lunch is over.

There are more signs, I’m sure, but I’m too tired to remember them.

Writer’s Blockhead

I think I can honestly say, I would rather go through another vaginal birth than deal with writer’s block. Yes, vaginal birth is extremely painful. There is nothing quite like having another living being rip its way out of your uterus and then tear up your clitoris as it exits your vagina, but I gotta tell you. At least you know that eventually, the pain will end. You will somehow eject that sucker from your body, and if you can’t, someone is always willing and waiting to cut a four-inch hole in your gut to get that kid out of you.

Writing is not so easy. I have a story stuck inside me. I’ve been working on it for about a month now. I’m twenty pages into it. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d say it’s about two gay men who both love the same horse. No, not THAT way. Get your mind out of the gutter...

Where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve got twenty pages of story written and it’s all crap. I cannot get past page 20 to save my life. I keep going back and rewriting the same scenes over and over. I have ideas for what should come next, but those scenes are still a little ways down the line, like at page 32 or there abouts. What I need to write is what comes between page 20 and page 32, but I can’t figure out what goes there so I keep going back through the first twenty pages hoping I’ll figure out how to get from point A to point C.

If you’ve been hearing some very loud screaming and cursing coming from the southeastern area of Virginia, you now know what it is. It’s me. Oh, and that repetitive crashing sound? That’s also me, smashing my head against a brick wall.

Unlike a baby, no amount of pushing is going to get this story out of me. I know it’s there. I can feel it dancing around the edges of my conscious brain. I just can’t get a hold of it to put it down on the page. And unfortunately, there’s no doctor standing by waiting to cut it out of me, fully formed and ready to go. So I’m screwed. It really is like having the baby’s head sticking out of your wazoo and not being able to get it out any further, and I fear I may go through the rest of my life like this because that’s how bad writer’s block really is.

I tried today to work around the block by sitting at the computer and just typing out whatever ideas came to me, but that wasn’t very productive because SOMEBODY (Sam) decided she’d rather scream than take a nap. Screaming is not conducive to defeating writer’s block (although I must admit, I have been doing a lot of it myself; see my earlier comments above).

I’m hoping a hot bath and a glass of wine might loosen my brain tonight and allow me to figure out what to do with this stupid story. I’m also hoping that if I get Sam up at the crack of dawn, she will go down for a nap with very little fuss. I’m hoping. But if you hear more screaming coming from this corner of the world... well, you’ll know what’s going on.

Happy Birthday, Mary!

I can't remember how old she is (last I recalled, she was a year younger than me, I think), nor can I remember the exact date of her birthday (hell, I can't remember the exact date of MY birthday), but I do know it's sometime this month, and she's still alive and kicking, so happy birthday, Mary! Here's to not dropping dead from sheer frustration.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


To quote Madeline Kahn, “I’m so tired...”

I don’t know what my problem is. I know I went to bed at an early hour (for me at least), and I only got up once with Sam. She wanted to nurse at 3:45 AM, which shot my plans to get up at 4:30 all to hell, but oh well. I just can’t get up at 4:30 if I’ve already been up within an hour prior to that. Now, if Sam would wake at 2 AM, or even sleep through the night, I’d be fine, but she’s not in the mood to cooperate these days.

Being tired hurts when you’re a mom. It hurts because you can’t you just can’t get anything done. Like my work. I’ve spent the last few weeks struggling with a story. I’ve got twenty pages written, but it’s been agonizingly slow work, and I don’t know why. I just can’t get this story written. There are times when I think I’m doing really well with it, then I look at it and realize it’s all wrong. There’s too much dialogue, not enough action. Or else there’s too much action, and it’s too intense for that point in the story. I’m laboring over every single word and nothing is flowing out of me. I’m about ready to scrap the damn thing, which truly hurts because of the amount of time I’ve already wasted on it. But honestly, I can’t get this story to move. It’s just not happening. It’s like trying to walk with a small child strapped to each leg, you know?

So I’m tired. However, I did manage to accomplish a successful switch over to Blogger Beta. At least I think it’s been successful. Maybe I should knock on wood. The site looks pretty much as it did before, but now all my dedicated readers (both of them) can find entries based on topic. That’s right, I did this all for you guys, because you know I love you.

One change you should note. Art will now be posted as a separate entry. Thanks to the handy-dandy category function of Blogger Beta, I can label each art entry as art, so if anyone just wants to peruse through the pretty pictures, they just have to hit the “Art” topic link and they’ll get it. And to make sure I continue to do some artwork every day, I have devised a new rule. I can post art without a written blog entry, but I will not post a written blog entry without art. Whoopee! Don’t that sound like fun.

I’m so tired...

The Happy Flower

I decided to play around with ZBrush today, a program I love to hate. This is about the level of success I can get with this program. I just can't wrap my brain around how it works, and frequently when I try to do things, the program crashes and I lose all my work. But sometimes I can do simple little things like this.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sisyphus, I Feel Your Pain

I spent three hours yesterday morning cleaning my house - vacuuming, sweeping, taking out the trash, scrubbing litter boxes, folding laundry (lots and lots of laundry). Then I spent another hour that evening scrubbing my kitchen until it sparkled. I was so thrilled with how clean the place looked and smelled. This morning, I put in another two hours, scrubbing cat puke and baby spit-up stains out of the carpet, washing windows, wiping down both upstairs bathrooms and doing yet even more laundry. By 1 PM when I left to work out at the Y, my house was pristine. When I got back at 2...

Sigh. I hate cleaning. I always swore to myself that I would not end up like my mother, spending every weekend on my hands and knees scrubbing the house. I swore I wouldn’t spend entire days just washing and folding load after load of laundry.

What the hell happened to me?

To make things even worse, I got nothing else done this weekend, including artwork. For some reason, I cannot seem to lever myself out of bed early on the weekends. I don’t know why. It’s not like I stay up any later on weekends than I do on weekdays. I just can’t seem to get moving. I wonder if the problem is that weekends are just so chaotic. No matter how hard Michael and I try to impose some sort of order on the day, we just can’t seem to put together a plan and make it happen. I wish I knew how to change that, because it’s getting to the point where I hate dealing with weekends.

Okay, I will take that last statement back. I did get to do one thing I enjoyed this weekend, and that’s go to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens with Michael and the kids. It was a wonderful afternoon and I’m grateful for the time I got to spend with my loved ones. I just wish the rest of the weekend hadn’t rolled over me like a twenty-ton stone.


In lieu of the artwork I didn’t do this weekend, here is what I completed last Thursday. The first two images have been posted here previously. The third is the image in its current state. I’ve taken the bed scene and worked out the perspective in Corel Draw, adding details like the bedspread and wall decorations so I can print the whole thing and trace it by hand onto a sheet of drawing paper. Then I’ll scan the traced image back in and start working on digitally painting the final image. Yes, I’m going around my ass to get to my armpit with this one, jumping back and forth between digital and traditional methods, but it’s the only way I can figure out how to do this particular image. It’s ass-backwards, but that’s what happens when you don’t plan things out. No wonder this frickin’ thing is taking forever.

Reclining Figure, September 2006

Beautiful Bed, rough draft, October 2006

Beautiful Bed, perspective draft, November 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good Day, Bad Day

Monday was a good day. I got up at 4:30 AM, was at my desk with a hot cup of coffee by 5:30 AM, had the kids up by 6:30, and saw Cassie and Michael out the door by 7:30. After bathing and nursing Sam, I had her down for a nap at 9:15 so I could go back to work. She didn’t wake up until 11:15 when we headed out the door for the YMCA. Got some karate practice in, did a little swimming, made it home a little too late to have lunch with Michael, but I still got to kiss him on his way out the door. Then I played with Sam a while and had lunch. When she went down for a nap at 2 PM, I went right back to work and didn’t stop until it was time to get Cassie from preschool at 4:30. Dinner was at 6, and both kids were in bed by 8 so I could have a nice long bath and get to bed before 10. Yep, Monday was a good day.

Tuesday, on the other hand, was a disaster.

Sam woke up around 2:30 AM and kept me up for the next two hours, kicking me in the stomach while I tried to nurse her back to sleep. It was 4:30 before I finally managed to get her back into her crib. Normally, I like to get up at 4:30, so I can have a perfect day like Monday, but after being pummeled for so long I was wiped out, so I figured I just forget about my early morning work and catch up on sleep. Ten minutes after I climbed back into bed, Cassie came running in screaming. I couldn’t understand what she was screaming about, but figured it was the usual problem - monsters (i.e. the cats) climbing into her bed again and waking her up. So I let her into bed with us and told her she could sleep safe for a while between Daddy and me. Only she couldn’t settle down. Turns out there was a reason for this. She had an earache, a very painful one, but she couldn’t stop crying long enough to tell me about it. I finally figured it out when I noticed how she kept clutching at one ear.

Needless to say, that pretty much killed my day right there. My baby was in pain and needed my full attention. With Michael’s help, I managed to get her and her sister up and fed. I had physical therapy, so Michael stayed home with the girls while I went to my appointment. When I got home, we rushed out to vote. Then, just before Michael headed out to work, he and I managed to squeeze in a small argument. Joy! After he went to work, I sat down to nurse Sam. Fortunately, Cassie agreed to play quietly in her room rather than demand an all day TV marathon. I did get Sam to take a quick nap, which is how I managed to get some writing done, but then we spent lunch at the doctor’s office, where I found out that I missed an 8:30 AM appointment the day before. It was supposed to be for Sam, and I could have sworn it was scheduled for the next Monday, but I guess I was WRONG! So much for Monday being perfect.

Cassie fell asleep on the ride home from the doctor. I got her down for a nap and then had to fight to settle Sam down. She was fussy, so I decided to take her temperature, only to discover that the digital thermometer was on the fritz. So she may or may not have had a temperature of 100 degrees. While I was trying to read Sam’s temperature, Cassie woke up screaming again. I couldn’t abandon Sam on the changing table with a thermometer stuck up her tookus, so I yelled at Cassie to come find me, which she wouldn’t do. She just stayed in her bed and screamed. Finally, I gave up on the thermometer and set Sam down in the bassinet in our room. I grabbed Cassie and set her on our bed and tried to calm her down. Didn’t work. So I headed downstairs to get the medicine the doctor gave me. It’s an oral suspension, which means I have to mix it with some water. While I was trying to measure out 4 ml of water, Cassie continued to scream even louder. Then Sam joined in, no doubt inspired by her sister. So I had two screaming kids when I came back upstairs. It took me a good twenty minutes to calm them both down. I finally had to resort to turning on the television to get some peace and quiet. Thank god for afternoon cartoons.

Sam eventually took her afternoon nap. Cassie stayed slumped in front of the TV for about an hour. I got a tiny bit of artwork done. Then I cajoled my eldest child away from the boob tube by offering to pull out her Play-Do and play with her. I spent the next hour alternating between making squishy cartoon characters and cooking up tacos. Fortunately, I was able to keep the ingredients for two such diverse projects separate. The rest of the evening went about as expected - dinner, tantrum, movie, tantrum, bath time, tantrum, bedtime, tantrum - with neither child going to sleep as early as I would have liked. As for me, you better believe I didn’t get enough sleep. I, fool that I am, decided to watch an hour of television, which mean that I stupidly decided to trade one hour of snooze time for one hour staring at the idiot box. Now that may not seem like a lot of time to watch TV, but consider that if Sam went down at 9 PM, I watch TV until 10 and then take a bath, I may not get into bed until 11, and Sam has a nasty habit of waking up crying at 11:30. She’ll usually fall asleep after twenty minutes or so, but I can’t sleep through her fussing with or without the baby monitor on, which means I will then be up for a while trying to calm myself back to sleep. One would think that as tired as I am, I would just drop right off, but no, I sleep about as well as I breathe mud, which is to say not very well at all.

I can’t decide if today, Wednesday, is good or bad. Michael stayed up late last night watching election results, and I usually can’t fall asleep until he’s in bed. Can anybody explain to me why the hell that is? Why does a husband have to stay up at least an extra two hours before lumbering into bed, thus keeping me up or, if by some rare chance I did fall asleep, wake me up as he crashes face first into the mattress and starts snoring? Any way, we were up late, so we slept late, except for Sam who was right on time with that 2:30 AM feeding. Not that it matters too much on Wednesday. Wednesday is play-date day, so I don’t plan on getting much work done then anyway, but man, it sure would have been nice to get up at 4:30 AM this morning and do a little work.

Now at this point, after rambling on and on through the tedious details of my day, I feel like shooting myself because I finally have proof that I’m growing old. I look forward to getting up at 4:30 AM to do a little work? Shoot me before I go any more insane, okay?


Okay, today was a good day after all. What makes today good? The artwork below, courtesy of my three-year-old, daughter. This is a drawing Cassie did this morning of her, me, and Sam (who in this picture is still in my belly). She’s also included Sam’s crib and something hanging below me that she calls “The Dump.” I’m afraid to ask what she means by that. But isn’t this picture amazing? I’m so proud of my little budding artist!

Me, Cassie, and Sam, by Cassandra Jane - 8 November 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006

Head... Must... Explode!

My friends tell me they can tell how well or how poorly my week is going by the number of blog entries I make. Lots of blog entries mean I’ve got time on my hands and very little stress. Fewer blog entries mean my head must be about ready to explode. Guess which end of the spectrum I’m at right now?

Cassie is over her flu bug, but has been cranky as all get out. I swear, I think somebody dropped a crab down that child’s shorts, the way she keeps screaming all the time. On Friday morning, after I’d been up with Sam the Fuss Pot all night, Cass came running in at 6 AM, yelling “Mommy! It’s time to get up!” “No, no, honey. Mommy’s tired. Why don’t you lay in bed with me for a few minutes and then we’ll get up and have breakfast?” I swear to you, all I wanted was five more minutes of sleep and a chance to let Michael finished getting dressed so he could take Cassie downstairs and feed her while I dragged myself and Sam out of bed. But apparently Cassie thought I had just told her that I was never getting out of bed because I was an evil sloth demon, because she began screaming at the top of her lungs. “GET UP! GET UP YOU VILE BEAST OF LAZINESS! IT’S SIX AM AND YOU MUST GET UP!” Needless to say, I did get up and I picked that child up by the waist band of her pajama bottoms and hauled her little tookus right back to her own bed where I left her, still screaming, while I went back to my bed. Perhaps I am an evil sloth monster after all.

But Cassie is feeling better and is most certainly going back to pre-school today. Hell, she could have the bubonic plague and I’d still send her to preschool because I can’t take much more of this. I love my child, but she’s driving me crazy.

The upside of all this is that I’ve done some nice cartooning while watching kiddie TV with Cassie. I’ve got designs for three cool characters roughed out, plus story ideas jotted down, and plenty of projects just lined up and waiting for me to work on. Oh yeah, lots of stuff to do, cool stuff, art stuff, writing stuff, stuff I love... stuff I have no frikkin’ time to get to because I AM A MOM! AAAAAUUUUUGH!!

Do you see my problem here? This is why my head is about to explode. Lots of ideas for stories and art, no time to express them into reality. Bummer.

Oh well, such is life. Eventually, both kids will be in school, and then I will have my free time back. Too bad my sanity will have long since departed.


Here is one of the character sketches I was talking about. This is Angel Baby. She’s craaaaaazy!

Friday, November 03, 2006

It’s My Kid Who’s Sick, So Why Do I Feel Half-Dead?

The week got better and then it got worse. I managed to get through Halloween and get a smidgen of work done and also get Cassie in for her flu shot, which is very ironic because she was okay on Wednesday, when I did plenty of work, but she came down with the flu on Thursday and now I can’t seem to get Jack done. Well, not entirely true. I am getting a lot of TV watching in, catching up on all my favorite shows like Sesame Street, the Wiggles, Doodle Bops... I frikkin’ hate Doodle Bops!

To top things off, I don’t even look human right now. Since Cassie is sick, I’m having to take care of her and Sam all day long, and even with the non-stop TV marathon we’ve been running, I can’t find time for myself. So I look U-G-L-Y (You ain’t got no alibi, you UGLY!). I’m running around in ratty old sweats, trying to find a little time for exercise. I’d like to do some karate practice but the best I’ve been able to do is ride the bike for fifteen minutes today and then jitterbug around the house while putting away laundry. The jitterbug would be a great mood booster if I could avoid looking in a mirror. My hair desperately needs to be washed, I’ve got crust in my eyes and circles under them from staying up yet again with Sam all night... Can someone explain to me why, oh gods why, an infant will cry for nineteen minutes (my limit is twenty) then just as you’re about to go in and get her, mysteriously go quiet? Only to start up again the moment your head hits the pillow, of course.

And then there’s the cats. I don’t know what’s up with those three, but I’m gonna start pulling off their little arms and legs if they don’t stop having the “All-Night Fight And Meow Fest” in my bed while I’m trying to sleep. Talk about plucking my nerves. I’m just about to doze off when one of the little twerps decides it’d be a good time to wrestle with the window blinds, thus making enough racket to wake me and the baby, who will then proceed to cry for nineteen minutes before mysteriously going quiet again.

Ugh. Cassie’s temperature is still over 100, so we’ll be home all day again today. She’s getting bored though, and wants to go to the playground. I may take her out for a bit after lunch, if I can pull myself together so I don’t look quite so much like Quasimodo. And maybe, just maybe, if I can get her to take a nap this afternoon, I’ll get some writing done. Maybe.

Today’s artwork is another self-portrait, this one done in Macromedia’s Flash. I wish I looked this good right now.

Self-portrait, 31 October 2006.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stress And The Stay-At-Home Mom

Today is not a good day. I feel frayed and tattered, like one of those terry cloth rags I use to scrub the kitchen every night. I’ve got holes worn through my fabric, and lots of loose threads just waiting to unravel at the wrong moment. Then there’s what feels like a big knot of matted cat hair wrapped up inside me. Naturally, I’m also covered in spit up.

What was it Bilbo Baggins said? “I feel like butter scraped thin over too much toast?” That sounds about right this morning.

Between my parents’ visit and Michael’s business trip, I’m worn out. The house is a wreck, Sam and Cassie are all off-schedule and even worse, I got almost no work done during the last two weeks. If there’s any sure indicator of my mood, it’s the level of work I’ve accomplished. No work means no joy in my book. To top things off, money is a little tight right now, which bothers the hell out of me because I don’t contribute financially to the household - I just suck out more funds. I’m trying to remind myself that there was a time when I made 42 grand a year and paid half the bills, and yet I was miserable because to make that kind of money I had to put in 80 hours a week at a job I absolutely loathed. If I still had that job and that paycheck today, I’d probably still feel even worse than I do now because it would mean I’d be spending 80 odd hours a week slaving away for some idiot instead of spending time at home taking care of my kids. I try to remember that. I try to imagine feeling worse than I do right now.

Yet I still can’t shake that worn out dish rag feeling.

Self portrait, 30 October 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006


My week was a complete bust in terms of meaningful work, except for this one piece...

I am worn out from breast feeding, chasing a preschooler, doing Halloween decorations and otherwise struggling to survive on my own, but I feel like I accomplished something just because I got this one little drawing done. It’s funny. This is my entry for the Ben Caldwell Weekly Cartoon Challenge, and my cartoons look absolutely nothing like the other entries. Very different stylistically (all their stuff is way neato-keen airbrushed) and I think also in subject matter. It’s like watching an episode of Sesame Street and hearing someone sing “One of these things is not like the others...” I don’t care though. I like Claudia. She’s one gnarly chick, and she knows how to swing that shovel, so watch out.

PS - Yesterday was my day off, and once again, it was a disaster. I spent most of it at Sears Portrait Studio waiting to get Sam’s picture taken. The pictures came out beautifully, but by the time we walked out of there, she was in full crank-meister mode and very ticked off with me. I was hoping she’d at least let me enjoy a brief spell at Barnes & Noble’s, but then she grabbed my lunch (a very delicious Italian Strata) and threw it on the café floor, so that was that. At least she didn’t spill my coffee.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Phone Conversation With My Husband

The following is an actual telephone conversation I had with my husband last night...

Michael: Hey honey. How’s it going?

Me: It’s after 10 PM and the baby is still up.

Michael: Uh-oh.

Me: She’s in my lap nursing right now. I put her down at 8:30 but she woke up screaming a little while ago and wouldn’t go back to sleep. Oh well. I wanted to watch “Lost” anyway.

Michael: Poor sweetie. Sounds like you had a rough day.

Me: I guess. Sam only spent three hours in bed with me last night. I did manage to transfer her to the bassinet in our room around 5 AM so I could get a little sleep. Then we all woke up late. Cassie came running in at 7:30 and I let her climb into bed with us while I nursed Sam again. I got a few more minutes of sleep that way.

Michael: Uh-huh...

Me: Then we got up, had breakfast, and everybody took a bath. Cassie played in our tub while I washed Sam. Then I tried to put Sam down for her morning nap. She wouldn’t sleep though. Just kept screaming. But I left her there, because I needed a bath myself. I figure she did about forty-five minutes of screaming. Aren’t I evil?

Michael: Yep. So what else happened?

Me: Um, let’s see. Cassie insisted on helping me with my bath. She washed my hair and cleaned my ears, and then she tried to convince me she should shave my legs but fortunately I won that argument. Then when I got dressed, I got Sam out of her crib. Since she kept screaming any time I put her down, I ended up strapping her to me in the front pack. I must have carried her around for at least an hour while Cassie and I put up the Halloween decorations in the front yard. Cassie wanted me to put up the Christmas tree too, by the way.

Michael (laughing): Oh man! Is she still going on about the tree?

Me: Quit laughing. It took me half an hour to convince her that we weren’t putting up the tree, and she still keeps bringing it up.

Michael: I’m sorry. She saw a Christmas tree set up in Sears when we went shopping last time.

Me: Greeeaaaat. Anyway, I got Cass to forget about the tree by taking her to the pumpkin patch. Only problem is she wanted two pumpkins. One for her and one for Sam.

Michael: What’s wrong with that?

Me: Well, at first nothing, because I figured you’d be the one carving them at Patty’s pumpkin carving party Friday night. Then I remembered you’re not going to get back in time for the party, so now I’m stuck carving two big-ass pumpkins by myself with a couple of screaming kids hanging on to me.

Michael: (laughing hysterically): Oh no!

Me: I said quit laughing! When you get home, I think I’m going to shoot you.

Michael: I’m sorry, sweetie. So what else did you do today?

Me: After the pumpkin patch we had lunch and then I put both girls down for a nap. Sam kept fussing and rubbing her eyes. Cassie wanted a story, but Sam was so cranky I knew I wouldn’t be able to read and nurse at the same time, so I had to give Cass a rain check. She went off to bed and I finally got Sam down. She still screamed, but eventually she passed out. I got half an hour of sketching done before Cass woke up. Then I read her a story like I promised. And then Sam woke up so I had to nurse her. After that, we made some Halloween cookies.

Michael: Oh? That sounds like fun.

Me: Yeah, you weren’t there. It took us almost three hours to finish two cookies.

Michael: Why so long?

Me: Because I had to supervise a certain precocious little preschooler through the whole process, while wearing Sam in the front pack again. Cassie had to help break the eggs, mix the batter, roll out the dough and cut the cookies out. She insisted on decorating them too, but by the time the cookies were done baking, it was almost bedtime, so we only decorated two of them. One for her and one for me. I think we’ve still got about twenty cookies’ worth of dough left to cut out and bake.

Michael: Well, that’ll give you something to look forward to tomorrow night.

Me: Shut up. Anyway, I let Cassie eat her cookie in the tub while I gave Sam a bath and nursed her down for the night. Sam went down at 8:30 and Cassie was in bed by 9. Cass is still asleep but Sam won’t give up the ghost. She woke up screaming and kept at it until I came to get her, and then she spit up all over me.

Michael: Oh, that’s too bad.

Me: Yeah, well, that’s my day. What did you do today?

Michael: I repaired the Hubble telescope.

Me: ... I hate you.

To clarify, Michael is in Huntsville, Alabama, on a business trip for NASA. Yesterday he attended Space Camp at Marshall Space Flight Center. He didn’t really fix the Hubble telescope. It was just a simulation. A really cool simulation where he got to run around in a mock space suit, fly a fake space shuttle, pretend to go on an EVA, and walk through an exercise on repairing the Hubble telescope in outer space. All I can think of this is, ain’t it amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have two kids hanging off of you 24/7?

Screw it. I’m going back to bed...


Here is my sole, non-child related accomplishment for yesterday. It’s the second draft of the cartoon I’ve been trying to get scanned in and uploaded to this blog. I’m thinking of calling this character Claudia L’Strange, Voo Doo Prom Queen. She really digs her date...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Blow-Off Week - Two Frustrated Artists And A Hungry Baby

Remember last time Michael took a business trip and left me home all alone with an infant and a preschooler? Remember our little discussion about Blow-Off Day? Well, how about today we talk about Blow-Off Week.

It had not been my intention to completely blow off work, exercise, play dates, house cleaning and all the rest of my daily grind this week, but due to circumstances way beyond my control, everything I had planned to do has gone right out the window. See, Michael left for Alabama on Monday. My parents, who spent a week riling up the grandkids, left yesterday. Sam developed a fever on Sunday and has done nothing but nurse since then, and Cassie has been her usual exuberant, tantrum-prone self. And me? I’m just plain wiped out.

Michael won’t be home until sometime Friday evening. In between now and then, I somehow have to keep Cassandra occupied and satisfy a ravenous baby. Both tasks are impossible. Attempting to accomplish some meaningful work at the same time is even more so. I had thought that I might catch a break last night. I nursed Sam early and then gave Cassie plenty of crayons, glitter pens and construction paper along with instructions to draw scary ghosts for our Halloween decorations. I figured a well-fed baby plus an occupied preschooler would equal free time for me. Naturally, that plan backfired.

Cassie, seated at table surrounded by a mountain of craft supplies: “Mommy, I can’t draw ghosts.”

Me, reaching for my drawing pad in hopes of doing some sketching: “Of course you can, sweetie. You drew lots of ghosts yesterday.”

Cassie: “No I didn’t. I can’t draw ghosts.”

Sam, lying on her full, distended belly on the play mat: “Waaaah!”

Me, pulling pencils, erasers, and a sharpener from my art box: “You’re not hungry Sam. Cassie, you drew ghosts for Grandmama just last night, remember?”

Cassie, pushing her construction paper away: “That was ghosts for Grandmama. I can’t draw ghosts now.”

Sam, rolling over onto her back and discovering she is now stuck there: “Waaaaaaaaaah! Waaaaah!”

Me, pushing the paper back toward Cassie: “Sam, you just ate. You’re FINE, trust me. Cassie, why not draw more ghosts for Grandmama and we’ll mail them to her?”

Cassie, dropping the paper on the floor: “I can’t. I need markers.”

Me, pencil in hand, ready to sketch: “I don’t know where your markers are right now, sweetie. Use the glitter pens I gave you. You like the glitter pens.”

Cassie, pushing the glitter pens away: “I want markers. Miss Erica let us play with markers in class today.”

Sam, scrunching up her face and turning beet red: “WAAAAAAAAAH! WAAAAAAH!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!”

The conversation halts as a gargantuan fart explodes from Sam’s dinky little butt. The resulting shockwaves are strong enough to knock me senseless while simultaneously launching Sam into the air. She lands in my lap and grabs at my left breast. I regain consciousness just in time to prevent her from gnawing a hole through my shirt to get at my nipple. I can barely fend her off long enough to get my shirt up and my nursing bra open.

Cassie, ignoring my current plight: “We have markers in the craft bin, Mommy. Can you go get them for me?”

Me, as Sam proceeds to latch on and Hoover all the milk from my body; the suction is so intense, it’s a wonder I don’t implode: “My hands are a little full right now, sweetie. Could you please just use the glitter pens?”

Cassie, rolling her eyes: “Mommy, I’m an artist! You just don’t understand.”

Me, wearily eyeing my drawing pad which will remain untouched for yet another evening: “Trust me, Cass. I understand far better than you think.”

So that’s how the week has gone so far, and how I expect it will continue to go. I have plans to write and draw, but realize that I’m probably going to have to chuck all of that at a moment’s notice. Oh well. It’s Blow-Off Week. I’ll just keep doing the best I can.


I still haven’t made it to the scanner yet to scan in my cartoon from this past weekend. However, I managed to get this done on the computer yesterday. It’s a portrait of Cassandra. I think it’s a rather stunning likeness.

Flash illustration of Cassandra Jane, 24 October 2006.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Living With A Sick Baby

Well, the grandparents have been here since Wednesday, and it’s been non-stop activity since they arrived. We’ve been shopping, sight-seeing, playing, arguing, cooking, eating, etc., etc. So that’s probably why I didn’t notice Sam had a fever until yesterday.

Now Sam is not one to make a fuss, not like her sister. Sam will cry a little, maybe whine, but not out-and-out howl like Cassandra does when she’s unhappy. And I expected to see a little whining and fussiness from my darling baby with all the commotion going on in the house. So this fever kind of slipped under the radar because Sam was doing exactly what I expected her to do. But the fussiness got a little worse than normal, so even though she didn’t feel warm to me, I decided to check her temperature last night and whoops! There it was, 102.5 degrees.

I gave her some infant’s Tylenol and a bath and then we both got into our jammies and I took Sam to bed with me. I went down with her at 7 PM, thinking once she fell asleep, I’d be able to get back up, tuck her into her bassinet and go watch some TV with my folks. Never happened. Sam latched onto me to nurse and didn’t break suction until sometime around midnight (that’s five hours, folks!). The she nursed again at 2 AM, 3 AM, 5 AM, and 6 AM. She was in her bassinet from 3 to 5 AM, so I managed to get two hours of sleep, but that’s been about it. I got up at 6:30 to help Michael with Cassie, and then I had a little breakfast with Sam still in my arms, trying to latch on through my pajama top. After that, I gave her another bath, put her in some clean jammies, and we both crawled back into bed so she could nurse some more and I could steal a few Z’s.

That’s about all the sleep I’ve had. Once Sam unlatched, I tried putting her back in her bassinet, but she woke up and started to cry. So I let her sit in her bouncy chair and watch while I took a bath. I was hoping she’d give me enough time to soak my spine until it no longer looked like a question mark (as a result of sleeping hunched around an infant all night), but she started fussing, so now I’m hunched over her again as I sit and type this blog entry.

Michael is off at work. Cassie is at preschool. Mom and Dad decided to head out for one last trip to Barnes and Nobles and I did my best not to cry as they went shopping without me (waaaaaaaaah!). I am at least dressed and clean and I even got my teeth brushed. Once I’m done with this blog entry, I’m considering doing some shopping online for a new set of nipples because Sam has worn out the pair I currently own.

Not much else going on. Michael leaves this afternoon for Huntsville, Alabama and my parents head out for Arkansas tomorrow morning. I’m going to be on my own with a sick baby and a cranky preschooler for the rest of the week. I am so screwed.


If you close your eyes and imagine very hard, I am sure you will see the lovely cartoon I worked on this weekend. It’s a redrawing of the last entry’s work, only done in pen and ink, instead of digital. It looks very cool, and someday I may actually be able to put Sam down long enough to scan it in and display it here on the blog. Won’t that be cool?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Invasion Of The Grandparents

My folks are here. I got a call from Mom on Sunday that they planned to show up this week. They left Arkansas on Tuesday and arrived yesterday. Dad got food poisoning from a roadside restaurant, but otherwise, they made it unscathed.

Of course, we all know what a visit from my parents means... SHOPPING! ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT NON-STOP SHOPPING! AND MY MOM IS BUYING!!!

She’ll buy stuff for Cassie. She’ll buy stuff for Sam. Most importantly, she’ll buy stuff for ME! It’s like Christmas arrived early, but without all the annoyance of tearing off the wrapping paper from the gifts. We already hit the most important store on our shopping list - Barnes and Nobles - for books and coffee. Aaaaaah, coffee. Yes, Mom loves Barnes and Noble’s almost as much as I do. Unfortunately, her “local” B&N is over three hours’ drive from the house. Of course Mom also claims the little mom and pop grocery store just thirty miles down the road is about a three-hour drive away, but that’s because in Arkansas everything is impossibly far away, including her grandkids.

Well, I can’t do nothing about the three-hour drives Mom has to suffer when she’s home, but I can help her shop while she’s hear. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go crash in bed now. I got another heavy day of shopping ahead of me tomorrow.


I’ve been playing around a bit more with Corel Photopaint, trying to get a better grasp on all the natural media settings. This image was done mostly with the watercolor brushes, felt tip pen brushes and a few oil brushes. The hands are terrible in this one, but I was more concerned with figuring out how to blend paint on a digital canvas than I was with drawing this time around.

Claudia, 19 October 2006

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Work Report for 3rd Quarter, 2006

Well, it’s mid-October, which means it’s high time I sat down and reviewed my work accomplishments for the last quarter, rather than sit and bitch about how hard it is to be a mom like I usually do. I dug up the list of goals from the last quarter to see what I did and didn’t manage to do. Here it is:


  • Write new erotica story for ERWA Blasphemy week - finished 6 July, 2006. Story title - The Messenger.
  • Write three ITEM articles for ERWA, one per month - finished 28 September, 2006.
  • Write one flasher per week for ERWA - who was I kidding? I did manage to write four flashers, all of which were published at ERWA this past quarter.
  • Begin background work on novel - "The Mirrored Sun" - postponed. I had my hands full with the baby.
  • Begin background work on novel - "Lady Dragon." This has sort of mutated into a different project. I did end up writing a brief synopsis for a graphic novel/manga that I’d like to do, so the basic idea is written down and stored for later use. Completed 30 September 2006.
  • Submit at least one story for publication this quarter - completed 27 July 2006. I sent the story “Alienated” out to Circlet Press for consideration in one of their anthologies.


  • Finish commissioned book cover for Eternally Erotic books - completed 5 July 2006. If you’d like to see the book cover, click here. The image is fairly work-safe but the link will take you to Eternally Erotic, an erotica e-publisher, so don’t click on it if you’re at work, okay? By the way, the web graphics on Eternally Erotic were done by me too.
  • Create website graphic commissioned for Crimson Succubus website - completed 2 July 2006.
  • Finish Great Hall tutorial and use set in one final image - not finished.
  • Check out and see if I have anything to submit - I checked. Hopefully, sometime in the future I will have some toons to submit to them. In the meantime, I submitted one of my other toons to a competition at Go check it out and vote for me!

    Cynical Woman

  • Continue writing daily blog rant - I’ve written almost two hundred pages worth of material in this blog since the beginning of June.
  • Fix animated header for blog - completed 15 June, 2006.
  • Design creeper/t-shirt for Café Press shop - postponed.
  • Design coffee mug for Café Press shop - postponed.

    Pixel Arcana

  • Review books I use for tutorials and graphics education and make an store link for website site - not done.
  • Archive 2005 work files - not done due to problems with DVD recorder. Hopefully that’s been solved.
  • Set up DAZ affiliate on Pixel Arcana website - completed 30 July 2006.
  • Finish mermaid drawing - finished 24 August 2006. It looks gorgeous too!
  • Matte drawing and prep for Marscon art show - postponed.

    And that’s the whole list of what I had planned to do and what actually got done during the past quarter. Looking at the list, I think things look pretty good. I had 18 items on the list, of which I completed eleven, plus I resubmitted the novel to another e-publisher on top of all that. So I’m giving myself a big high-five for all my hard work. Later, I’ll discuss my goals for the current quarter and my new plan for world domination.


    Since it’s been a few days since my last post, I’m posting three small images today. These are some sketch ideas for an art nouveau style stain glass window that I was going to put in the bedroom sketch I’m working on. I wanted something with wings or angel imagery. The window is out of the sketch now, but I may use the ideas later for something else.

  • Sunday, October 15, 2006

    How To Sleep Late On Saturday

    Friday night, 9:00 PM - 11:00 PM - Stay up late to watch your favorite television show, because you almost never get to watch TV anymore unless it involves cheesy cartoon characters, fuzzy puppets, or a bunch of Australian guys singing about a rose-eating dinosaur.

    11:30 PM - Change into your jammies and slip into bed. Just as your head hits the pillow, your four-month-old baby will begin to sing. This is something new she’s started doing, a little bedtime serenade of cooing, yodeling and not-quite-howling that goes on for about twenty minutes. Lie awake and debate with yourself whether or not she’s actually fussing and needs your attention, or if she’s just screwing with your mind again.

    Midnight - Lie awake for the next hour, waiting for baby’s encore. Eventually doze off.

    1:00 AM - Wake up with a start, recalling that you forgot to turn off your radio alarm which is set to go off at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM, your usual wake up time during the week. You certainly do not want to get up at 4:30 AM on a Saturday, so you crawl out of bed and stumble across the room to switch off the alarm. Curse as you trip over your husband’s shoes and ask yourself: why keep the alarm on the other side of the room? Answer: so you will be forced to get out of bed to turn it off at 4:30 AM, thus ensuring you will be up and wide awake in the morning. Spend the next half hour contemplating this cruel fact of your life before drifting off to sleep again.

    4:00 AM - Wake up to the sound of your baby crying. She’s not quite in full-blown screaming mad mode, but she will be if someone doesn’t hustle his or her ass out of bed to take care of her. Decide it’s his ass that needs to do the hustling this time and jab your husband in the ribs several times while muttering, “The baby’s crying... get up... baby’s crying... GET UP!” Husband eventually rouses and gets the baby. Meanwhile, your three-year-old has also woken up. She starts up her own scream-fest, and since your husband now has his hands full with a howling infant, you become the parent who must deal with this pre-dawn crisis. Stumble into the three-year-old’s room. Listen to her hysterically describe the monster that woke her up by vomiting all over her bed. Sit on the mattress and discover as you land on something squishy that yes indeed, one of the cats has puked up a hairball all over the sheets. Curse at the cats. Then discover that your daughter has wet the bed. No, not just wet it; flooded it, in spite of the fact that you allowed her no fluids after 7:00 PM last night (my god, is it tomorrow already?!). Pull the three-year-old out of bed and change her pajamas. Strip wet sheets and blankets off the bed and remake it. Soothe still howling three-year-old and convince her that she really does need to sleep in her own bed because you just know that your darling infant daughter is waiting to be nursed and you are way too tired to do it while sitting in the glider. Return to bed and discover that yes, you were right, and take whimpering infant from husband as you crawl back into bed. Doze off while the baby latches on and sucks the life out of your right breast.

    4:30 AM - Wake up as the baby unlatches and drifts off to sleep. Swear at your silent radio alarm clock as you trudge back into the nursery and put baby to bed in her own crib. Trudge back to your own bed and crawl under the covers. Swear again as your three-year-old wakes up screaming again and comes running into your room. Swear even louder as she knees you in the gut while climbing over you to get into your bed. Resignedly scoot over to balance precariously on the very edge of your bed so your daughter can have plenty of room to sleep between you and your still snoozing husband. Fight the urge to throttle her when she complains that you’re still hogging the bed and she needs more room. Fall asleep wondering if you’ll wake up before or after you roll out of bed to crash land on the floor.

    5:00 AM to 7:00 AM - Sleep fitfully, waking up repeatedly to catch yourself as you fall out of bed. In between times, answer questions in your sleep as your daughter interrogates you about her upcoming trip to Disney World.

    7:00 AM - Wake up again as the baby begins to howl. Reach over your peacefully sleeping three-year-old to smack your husband in the head. Order him to go take care of the baby. Doze off. Wake up a few minutes later to see husband attempting to hand you the baby to nurse. Realize in horror that baby has blown out her diaper and has stinky, runny poop going all the way up the back of her pajamas. Explain to husband that he will clean up the baby if he values his life. Answer three-year-old’s questions about what she’s getting for Christmas this year. When husband returns, explain to him that the bed is getting way too crowded and he needs to take the three-year-old downstairs and fix her breakfast. Doze off as husband and three-year-old exit the room and let the baby proceed to suck the life out of your left breast.

    7:30 AM - Baby unlatches and rolls onto her back, drooling breast milk from the corner of her tiny mouth. Sesame Street plays at full blast on the TV downstairs. Realize that 7:30 AM is actually three hours later than when you normally get up (remember that 4:30 AM alarm?), so technically, you have slept late and now it’s time to get up. Enjoy your day! And for extra fun, repeat the whole process for Sunday morning.


    And just to illustrate my point, here’s about how I feel after two days of “sleeping late.”

    Self-portrait of a very tired mother, 15 October 2006

    Friday, October 13, 2006

    It’s Gotta Be Friday The 13th

    It’s not even five frikkin’ thirty in the morning and both kids already up. I had to change the sheets on both their beds and now Sam wants to nurse. These kids are supposed to be asleep so I can get some work done right now, ya know?

    What? What’s that you say? When do I sleep? Are you kidding me?

    I don’t even have any artwork to show you, because it’s too frikkin’ early in the morning and I haven’t had a chance to get to the office and scan it in. This is just ticking me off, folks.

    P.S. - I'm looking at switching over to Blogger Beta in the next week or so. I have no idea how badly that might screw things up, but from what I understand, once I switch, I've switched for good. So keep your fingers crossed and pray I don't accidentally flush the whole blog right down the toilet, okay?

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    Why Does Mommy Have To Be The Bad Guy?

    Well, so much for freakish tales of our trip to Washington, D. C. I went there expecting horrific adventures that would curl your hair and I got nothing but a weekend of spit up and sleepless nights curled around the baby. Not much different from being home. Figures.

    However, I do not approach my blog empty-handed today. There have been recent developments in the Madden household sure to make you laugh, even as they make me wince. I’m talking about Cassandra’s continuing fascination with Disney princesses. She grows more and more obsessed by the hour. While watching cartoons with me on Friday afternoon, she saw an ad for the new Light-Up Little Mermaid doll and promptly declared, “Mommy, I need that doll.”

    “No, honey. You don’t need that doll,” I explained. “You want that doll.”

    “Uh-huh,” she said, bobbing her head in complete agreement. “I need that doll.”

    What she also needs, she told me later that night, is the poofy white wedding gown Ariel wears when she marries her darling prince. Here’s how that discussion went.

    Cassie: “Mommy, I NEED Ariel’s white dress!”

    Me: “You mean the big poofy froo-froo gown she wears at the end of the movie?”

    Cassie: “Yeah, that one. I need a dress just like that.”

    Me, pointing to my wedding portrait above the fireplace: “Just like the one Mommy’s wearing in that picture up there, with the nine foot train and floor length veil?”

    Cassie, nodding emphatically: “Yeah! That’s it!”

    Me: “And do you need a big party to go with that dress, honey, complete with a rented ballroom, two hundred guests, a sit down dinner, mediocre disc jockey, and a seven-tiered cake?”

    Cassie, dancing with excitement: “Uh-huh! Uh-huh!”

    Me: “And an open bar where a bunch of disgruntled bridesmaids wearing ugly teal dresses complain about the huge butt bows you stuck them with?”

    Cassie, doing her best Tom Cruise imitation on the couch: “Yeah! That’s it Mommy!”

    Me, going in for the kill: “And do you need ice sculptures to go with all that?”

    Cassie, eyes growing big as dinner plates: “Ice sculptures, Mommy?”

    Me: “That’s right, baby doll. Ice sculptures of you and your prince.”


    Me, pointing to her father: “Then you need to talk to that man right over there, because he’s paying for it.”

    Of course, the upshot of my little bit of fun is that I screwed myself because Michael now claims he can no longer afford to buy me anything as he is too busy saving up for Cassie’s future wedding.

    But back to the subject at hand. Cassie continues to immerse herself in the imaginary world of Ariel and friends. She’s seen the movie enough times now that she can act out entire scenes. Sometimes she’ll do the scene on her own, but most often she likes to assign various roles to others while she plays Ariel. Michael is usually Eric, the prince. Sam gets to be Flounder, Ariel’s little fish friend. And as for me, her beloved mother? Why I get to be Ursula, the bloated sea hag from the Black Lagoon.

    I don’t know why, but whenever Cassie decides I must act out a movie with her, I always play the role of the villain. If we’re doing Beauty and the Beast, I have to be Gaston, the big baboon disguised as a virile hunter. If we’re doing Pocahontas, I have to play ugly old Governor Radcliffe (even though I do not have a mustache!). If the movie is Cinderella, I have to play both step sisters and the wicked step mother, plus the stinking cat too on certain days. It’s like my daughter thinks I’m evil, and I don’t know why.

    Quit laughing. I can hear you.

    I tried to convince Cassie to let me be someone cool, like Sebastian, the singing crab. I even put on my best Jamaican accent and did the whole song and dance routine for “Under The Sea.” No dice. “You be URSULA!” she insisted.

    So I’m stuck playing Ursula, she of the skanky bleached hair with the multitudes of blubbery black tentacles trailing from her tookus. One day I hope my daughter will look back and realize what a hero her mother truly was, to spend all day staying at home, taking care of her, changing her diapers and wiping her stinky little behind. I hope she’ll realize that I was a good sport, a mom who was willing to play an oozing scumbag squid woman just so her little girl could act out her fantasies of being an over-hyped, over-marketed, and over-rated mermaid. I hope she’ll appreciate all that I’ve sacrificed for her (namely my dignity). Until that day arrives, I’ll just keep hauling my ugly squid-butt after her, playing up the villain to the best of my abilities. Feh! I hate being typecast.


    For today’s artwork, I’m revisiting a sketch I did earlier last month. I really liked the figure, so I’ve gone back and added some background this time. I still haven’t worked out all the details. That window on the right side bothers me. I think I may take it out and replace it with a balcony instead. I’m going to keep playing with it until I get it right, then put it on my to-do list for digital painting. I’ve been reading a great book on digital painting for manga, so I’m hoping to put into practice all the techniques I’ve read about when I finally get to sit down with this image.

    The Beautiful Bed - pencil sketch, 11 October 2006

    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    To My In-Laws' House We Go...

    In theory, we are headed out to see my in-laws today. I say in theory because Sam has been running a slight fever the past two days and the weather outside is lousy for travel (3 inches of rain at least since dawn yesterday). I’m a little leery of travel when there are sick kids and bad weather involved. But if Sam’s temperature drops and the skies clear up, well then it’s over river and through the woods to my in-laws we will go!

    Ah, a trip to my in-laws. What a wonderful time we’ll have. If you hear sarcasm in that last line, take it with a grain of salt. The fact is I enjoy visiting my in-laws just like I enjoy visiting my own parents. Or rather I would enjoy visiting both my in-laws and parents if they didn’t live in the foreign countries of Washington, D.C. and Arkansas, respectively.

    Now before you start howling about how geographically ignorant I must be to call D.C. and Arkansas foreign countries, let me just say this. They may not be foreign countries to you, but they sure as hell are to me. See, I grew up in York County, Virginia. Back in the mid-seventies when my dad transferred to Fort Eustis, York County was a very odd place to be. It had farms, but it wasn’t exactly rural. It had highways and shopping centers, but definitely not enough to make it a city. We had enough people to make a town, but no Main Street and everybody was so spread out we really didn’t know each other like the good folks in Andy Griffith’s Mayberry did. Was it a suburb maybe? No, there weren’t enough people to call it that either back then. It was just York County... small, quiet, sleepy little York County, part of the great historic triangle area of the Virginia Peninsula, along with Jamestown and Williamsburg (and if you folks don’t know why these three places are historic, then you’ve got some serious catching up to do on Colonial American history).

    Anyway, way back in the mid-seventies, I lived in the boondocks, for lack of a better word, and over the last thirty years (my god, has it been that long?) this little boondocks has exploded into a happening population center. We’re still not a city - too spread out and no skyscrapers to speak of - but we have become one hell of a sprawling metropolis with shopping malls and Panera Bread cafes and the occasional military base shoved in just for laughs (at last count, we had five military installations within spitting distance of my house). So I guess you could say that I am a lifelong resident of the land of Suburban Sprawl, a relatively pleasant if mind-numbing place that thinks it is immune to the sorts of problems you’d find in places like Washington, D.C. and Arkansas - poverty, homelessness, drugs, gangs, etc. (Although we do happen to have those problems in spades around here, but we like to blame that on the neighboring cities, I think.)

    Nope, we’re not at all like those weird foreigners in Arkansas and D.C. I remember the day I found out my father was going to move my mother out to Arkansas. She was not exactly... how shall I say it? Excited to go? Or rather, she was very excited, but it was more over her plans of how she was going to kill my father and then chop up his body into little pieces and throw it into the canal behind our house so that Dad could sleep with the fishes, because he sure as hell wasn’t sleeping with her anymore (and people wonder where I get my homicidal urges from).

    Having visited the place many times before with my dad (he claims he was raised there), Mom knew Arkansas was a foreign country; a barren, uncivilized place that lacked such social necessities as Starbucks coffee, Barnes and Nobles bookstores, gargantuan outlet malls and multiplex theaters. Arkansas is mostly chicken farms and rice paddies from what I’ve seen, with the most serious sign of civilization being its crystal meth industry. The natives there seem to thrive on folk art and country western music, but since neither Mom nor I were raised on that sort of stuff, it all seems really weird and foreign and it just makes us homesick. I do try to keep an open mind about the place whenever I visit my folks, but that’s so hard to do when I realize that the two major topics of conversation down there are a) when is the Rapture coming, and b) how much weight people plan to loose by the time the Rapture arrives. Apparently, it’s better to be thin when God comes to take you away. Excess weight must make bodily assumption harder to do.

    At the extreme end of the spectrum of foreigness is Washington, D.C. The D.C. I think stands for “Damned City” which is short for “City Of The Damned,” because you know that with that many politicians crammed into such a small area, that whole place is most certainly going to Hell (and unfortunately taking the rest of us with it). D.C. is home to such weirdness as public transportation (something unheard of in York County) and homeless people. I swear to you, I’ve lived in York County 30 years and never have I seen a homeless person on these streets. Probably because they’d get run down by our local lunatic NASCAR wannabes if they stood on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that read, “Homeless. Please help.”

    Every time I go to D.C., I feel like I’ve landed on the Planet-Formerly-Known-As-Pluto during its annual Freak Festival. While visiting our nation’s capitol (see, I’m not that geographically ignorant), I have seen a full grown woman scream at a park full of people while stripping off all her clothing in broad daylight. I have been accosted by winos who reeked equally of alcohol and piss, and could not decide if they were bums or politicians or both. I have watched one of my brothers-in-law’s ex-girlfriends sing karaoke. I have never fully recovered from any of these experiences.

    My darling husband Michael claims that D.C. is not really a freak show, and that the crazies we run into every time we visit are the exception rather than the norm. Apparently they sense my unease at being a stranger in a strange land, and thus feel compelled to come out to greet me and make me feel welcome. Either that or else we keep showing up during campaign season, when all the politicos are out whoring themselves in the name of patriotism and freedom.

    Oh well. Strangeness abounds wherever I go, so maybe it is just me. In any event, I must draw this all to a close. Sam has stopped fussing and her temperature is back to normal. The rain has died off and I think we will be able to drive, rather than sail, to D.C. Wish me luck this weekend. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting stories to tell when I get back.


    Here’s an old drawing I’ve done, just some random weirdness to add to the blog. I figure, it’s October. Why not?

    Roland, 7 October 2006