Under The Bus

First, quick COVID-19 lifestyle update — we’ve been continuing to stay home as much as possible. Our province’s numbers of new cases have stayed very low. 280 confirmed and probable cases as of today. “Re-opening” things has been the hot topic for the past few weeks, and Phase 1 of the plan begins Monday, with certain non-essential businesses being allowed to open if they follow certain restrictions. These include limiting the number of customers and workers onsite, emphasizing delivery and curbside pickup options, and cleanliness standards for employees. The provincial authorities and local media are saying over and over that this doesn’t mean things can go “back to normal” anytime soon — whatever normal looks like after all this — but we can carefully begin to do some of the things we miss. Like get haircuts.

Summer festivals in the province are cancelled, which will feel very strange come August. The closure that hit me hardest was actually the shuttering of our long-running Winkler Times newspaper by its parent company PostMedia. I mean, it’s complicated. Papers have been struggling for relevancy in the age of digital for ages now, but the Times soldiered on, until now. Whether or not I took the time to read it, it’s always been around, for my entire life. And next week is the last issue. I’m genuinely going to miss it.

What I really wanted to write about was two stories of our 3-year-old daughter expertly trolling us. These both happened within the last few days.

Incident One: Lori asked me if I knew the origin of a joke Cassidy had been repeating; something to the effect of

What kind of Tiger rakes the yard?
An ordinary one.

We often check in with each other if she confuses us individually, just in case one of us happens to know the show or song or other place that Cassidy gets this stuff from. I laughed and shrugged. Cassidy was around the corner having a snack. Lori called out the question to her to see if she’d repeat the punchline for me. “Cassidy,” she said again, “What kind of tiger rakes the yard?”

“Mom, you’re being silly,” came the casual reply.

Incident Two: Over the past few months we’ve learned a silly song that Cassidy made up called “Han Is A Ladybug”. I have the chords worked out on my uke and we’ve sung it together many times (it’s short but pretty catchy). Often, when Lori and I try to sing the words back to her she’s loudly corrected us, but for the most part we’ve practiced to a pretty consistent version of the song.

Until the other day, when I sang the version we’ve all sung dozens of times, and Cassidy dismissively said “Daddy, that doesn’t even rhyme.”

We learned it from you, kiddo!!

Thing I Saw: Arrival, finally. I read the short story on my honeymoon in 2012 and really liked it, and the movie’s been on Netflix forever, but sometimes…it’s one of those things where there’s just always something you want to watch a little more. Lori and I talked about how some of the events of the movie — a mysterious outside force causing widespread panic and lockdown around the world — took on a new, accidental relevance in our current world. But then, maybe all the media we take in is going to be recontextualised right now.

Thing I Learned: I kept my giant, extraordinarily heavy old Sony CRT around for a good reason. I’m in the mood for retro games while I use my recumbent exercise bicycle, so I dragged the thing into the games room and have been playing with different older systems that I keep around. And y’all! That TV still looks great! Also, and keep this under your hat, but I might actually get around to finishing Majora’s Mask of these days. Better 20 years late than never??

I’m Grateful For: A relatively safe community and province. We’re flattening the curve!

No special significance, it’s just what I’m listening to while I write

Right Now, It’s Like This (pt.2)

It’s been just under two weeks since I last wrote about what’s going on, but reading back that post it also feels like months. Ages. I’ve been working from home almost exclusively since then, stopping in at the office only for a brief moment or two. I got over the cold I’d developed at last writing, and have been fine, but being physically present there isn’t worth the risk. I just wonder what’ll become of my cactus. It’s probably thriving without me there to dote on it.

I’m a person with a fair number of ‘regularly scheduled’ activities and friend hangouts, but those are suspended. Working from home also means I’ve gone days in a row without leaving the house at all, which is unusual for me. It has the effect of blending the days together, which I’m not used to. Last night, in comparing my experiences with Lori’s I realized she’d been through this sort of thing before — on maternity leave. I don’t love it.

At the ends of the days, just before bed, I’ve also been feeling unsettled, tense, and uneasy. It occurred to me that I’m still hanging on to this notion that I’ll wake up the next day and everything will be back to normal. I think I’m suffering because I’m clinging to the hope that this, even though logically I don’t think it will. This pandemic, and our precautions, are set to extend into the indefinite future, and they’re going to leave a mark. We’re not going to be the same on the other side of it.

It seems to me that this is what people talk about when they talk about grieving, but I don’t entirely know what to do with that information. Maybe I don’t need to “do” anything right now, but to open myself up to experiences and feelings the way I tried to when Mom passed; give myself space to get angry, or sad, or reminisce happily, or just feel whatever I feel without judgment.

I’ve got a (video) chat with my counselor coming up. I’m definitely going to be bringing this stuff up.

Let’s look wider. Manitoba has 103 confirmed and probable cases as of yesterday. We’ve officially been in a State of Emergency since the 20th, which gives the government extra powers to tackle the situation. Gatherings are now limited to 10 people or less, so the choir I’m in is almost definitely cancelled (he said bitterly) though I haven’t heard it for sure. The order also came down on Monday that non-essential businesses are to close for the duration, and restaurants have to stick to take-out or delivery only. Somehow, construction is considered an “essential service” so our jobsites are all still going great guns. I heard yesterday that schools are also closed indefinitely. It’s technically Spring Break now, but playgrounds and activity spaces are closed anyway.

I went to the Co-op grocery store yesterday to do our household shopping for the week. Per provincial guidelines, there are handwashing / sanitizing stations in the entrances, and workers are wiping down the shopping carts constantly. There’s signage everywhere about maintaining safe distances from other shoppers and employees, and you’re encouraged to shop alone. Many stores have implemented a hard limit on the number of shoppers inside at any one time.

Inside, the music has been changed from our local country radio station to soothing instrumental guitar tunes interrupted by pre-recorded announcements. The announcements were focused on reminding shoppers about our “current global situation” and things like keeping a safe distance, not touching products you don’t intend to buy, and so on. They mostly ended with a reminder about Community and that we’re all in this together. They were a bit unsettling at first, then started to fade into the background as I shopped. Except! Except for the announcement that tagged on a “Keep smiling!” at the end. Highly dystopian. Do not recommend listening to detached feminine voice reminding me to ‘keep smiling’, zero stars.

Happily, most of the panic-buying seems to have tapered off and only sanitizing wipes were completely out of stock. A lot of stores have implemented policies to limit buying of specific items on a per-family basis. Also, they’re really leaning into grocery pickup and delivery, which is probably something we’re going to keep on doing once the pandemic recedes.

The trip was not tense exactly, but I felt wired up and incredibly aware of my actions and surroundings in a way that I’m not usually dialed into while shopping. It felt like being back in Japan, famously a country of customs and rules and politeness, and feeling entirely too aware of trying to do the “right” thing at all times. People can get used to almost anything. Eventually even this style of shopping will become second nature.

Anyway: Let’s stay hopeful, but realistic, and help each other out where we can.

Thing I Saw: Two Canada Geese on their way North, honking to one another as they flew. They were some distance apart; I guess they get the bulletins as well.

Thing I Learned: A Dazzle DVC100 USB Video Capture device doesn’t get on terribly well with OBS. The Dazzle is for importing console game video and audio to my computer, and OBS is for streaming it online – but they’re so mismatched in age and features that I’m having to tweak a lot of video settings and (apparently) use weird old Japanese programs as go-betweens or something.

I’m Grateful For: After being sick individually and together all year long, everyone in my house is fine these days.

well, we are

Right Now, It’s Like This

I haven’t blogged in a while, and this last week has been quite a year so far. This is one of the few blog posts I’ve ever started in order to “chronicle” what’s happening around me.

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is taking the world by storm. It’s started in other countries around the end of last year, then inevitably made its way to Canada and now Southern Manitoba. As of yesterday there are 17 presumptive cases in Manitoba. Where it’s really being felt for everybody is the number of event cancellations, and the relentless (but important) messaging to practice good hygiene and distance ourselves from each other as much as possible for the foreseeable future. Many public spaces and restaurants are voluntarily closed.

We had a spate of panic-buying of supplies & food last weekend, and it seems that’s evened out somewhat as the supply chain is still functioning. Everybody went quite mad for toilet paper in specific, based on a vague notion that we, our nation I guess, were going to run out (and who wants to be without toilet paper?) Flour and pastas were also quite popular, as were hand sanitizers & disinfecting wipes. Stores have implemented policies and posted signs reminding us to only buy what we need and not stockpile, because that really isn’t necessary and of course impacts people in the community disproportionately.

Bottled water was also very popular, and I’m not entirely sure why. My best guess is that making sure they’re well-stocked is something that people feel they can Control, in these unsettled times, and any measure of control you can gain on a situation is gonna be a plus.

And of course, things are tense. There’s a nonstop flood of discussion and breathless updates everywhere you turn, and misinformation is out there too. The atmosphere becomes oppressive. Seeing the way an event like this bring out the worst in certain people, the isolation, the…up-ending of normal society. I was at my worst on Monday, listlessly trying to shop in an electronics chain store in the mall (which is now closed until further notice). New gadgets or games are my go-to when trying to distract myself or somehow soothe the uncertainty of modern living, but it hasn’t really been working. I’ve tried hard to curtail my consumption of the news, but even so, my favourite online spaces for video games or silly jokes have been taken over by constant reminders of the virus.

Here at home we’re tense too. Cassidy is blissfully unaware, and her biggest problems are power struggles over how much Mario Odyssey she’s allowed to play and what happens when you put cucumber slices in your glass of milk. We totally want to keep it that way for as long as can. This whole thing will be a distant memory to her, though she may live with the fallout forever. Lori suggested that this would be the sort of event that we’d mark historical time with, like pre- and post-9/11. I’m in daily discussions with the management team at our business about how to keep jobs moving while respecting employees’ and customers’ health, as well as the safety of the office. Lori just had her first hospital shift in a while and says the mood is “heavy” — people waiting for the shoe to drop and things to get uglier.

I’m taking a day off today, but I’ve got a scratchy throat brewing and I may be working from home after today. Guess we’ll see.

Thing I Saw: A Gentylle Dogge curled up next to me on the couch while I blog. He gets a skritchy now because he is cute.

Thing I Learned: A good thing you can repeat to yourself to help calm down is “Right now, it’s like this.” This helps bring you an awareness of how things are in the present moment, rather than letting your brain run all over time and space. It also acknowledges that what’s happening now isn’t permanent. Read more about mantras if you want! (h/t MetaFilter)

I’m Grateful For: The resources and ability to work from home, and that our livelihoods isn’t currently threatened by the pandemic. We’re truly privileged that way.

1980s Electro-Funk is an amazing rabbit hole to occasionally fall down

Postmortem

Comic Con was a lot of fun. Not tons of traffic, and I didn’t quite recoup my $25 table cost, but I wasn’t expecting to. I expected to have a fun day and chat with good people, and I did. I think it’ll build into something bigger next year, and I’d definitely go back. Not least because I still have boxes of books to sell.

So the thing about the books is like this; I’ve got about 100 copies left. Which isn’t tons, but it’s still a lot more than I believe I can sell. Also, if I’m being totally honest, I’m not satisfied with them. They’re okay, but it’s embarrassing that they’re so much slimmer than the first volume (despite including three years of selections, instead of just two), and it’s embarrassing that there are at least a couple of pretty bad printing errors that I wish we would have caught. After we got the first book in our hands and discovered the issues we’d missed, I had hoped at that time that we’d learn and take a more careful approach to proofreading volume 2.

What I didn’t anticipate was that we (myself and my friends, who were also the creative team that put the book together) would both have life situations where we didn’t have a lot of extra time and energy for such things. We had little kids! We also put ourselves under a lot of time pressure for dubious reasons — the campaign started at the beginning of December 2017 and we wanted to have the books ready for Comic Con in February 2018, which we did, but barely. As in, we got the shipment of books literally days before the con.

So our approach to the campaign felt rushed, proofing was rushed, and afterward I felt like I was stuck with running around and delivering books and all the goodies we’d promised. Which again, wasn’t the end of the world, and I’m not bitter, but it was a lot of time and energy (and we still made mix-ups, even though we’d hit our initial deadline and could relax a little). The readers who had contributed to the campaign were wonderfully patient and understanding, but I still had a lot of guilt for making them wait and then ultimately delivering a product that I wanted to be better.

Since the comic was officially on hiatus, I tried to create a few opportunities to promote the books over the course of the year; I set a goal of doing a monthly Facebook / Instagram post, which fell by the wayside fairly quickly after the first few got very little attention. 2019 didn’t have a comic con in Winkler, and since then the books have been this kinda low-grade albatross, hanging around my basement, getting lugged to and fro when I need to get to something behind them in the closet or whatever.

I guess what I can learn from it is to try and be more realistic about what’s possible given my life situation, and next time to be more upfront with whomever I’m teaming with about what our expectations are from each other. I felt like I ended up handling tasks that I didn’t necessarily want, but probably that could’ve been dealt with from the outset over a cup of coffee and some pointed questions about who will do what. Unfortunately the whole thing has had a pretty chilling effect, in my mind, about the possibilities of a volume three, or of a reprint of the first one. I don’t want to think about storing more books in my house if I haven’t reduced the number of books I already have, and at this point I’m not sure how long that will take. The good news is that I’m writing comics again, and getting back into peoples’ brainspace. I guess we’ll see.

Woof. I lollygagged like crazy at the outset of the post, not really knowing where to start, but once I got momentum going it all kinda tumbled out. Feels a little better.

Thing I Saw:

Thing I Learned: Speaking to a person that was cosplaying the 11th Doctor, I learned that the pop-up Spirit of Halloween stores in Winnipeg are a good place to find a fez. One step closer to my Sallah costume!

I’m Grateful For: The volunteers and organizers of the Winkler Comic Con, and all the people who came by to say hi!

Let’s get wistful. Get full of that wist

Taking Stock

The third Winkler Comic Con is nearly upon us! It’s actually Monday! For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me until just a few weeks ago that I should get a table, but I did. I suppose I spent most of last year being out of the comics game. Anyway, I want to take this moment to take stock and think through what I have, and what I need:

Books: I still have several boxes of Book 2 (Years 3-5). No more copies of Book One, which is a shame, because I think new readers have this idea that they need to start at the beginning, even though most comics stand alone. There wasn’t really any sales momentum on the 2nd book by the time I initially ended the comic — the Indiegogo campaign made sure that the diehards who wanted a copy got one, and I’m not a salesperson so it was difficult to create new opportunities for people to check it out.

You know what, I’m realizing that I should write a larger postmortem on the campaign and post-launch of the 2nd book, because I think I’m still carrying around some feelings that it would be good to unpack.

Pins: Still have a few of the button packs from the campaign for the first book. They’re cute and come in nice packaging. There’s four little pins with different stickperson faces on them, and they’ve always been something easy to sell to readers and non-readers alike. I’ll be sad when they’re finally gone.

Business Cards: Couple years ago I got a bunch of cards printed with the site address, so I can write “more” on there and still keep handing them out. I found out a million years ago that it’s nice to have a little calling card to hand to folks, even if they don’t buy anything. A lot of the fun of a comic con, for me, is just chatting with people!

Portraiture: I’ve done “I’ll Draw You As A Stickperson!” portraiture at two different Graduation events in the past years, and suddenly it occurred to me that I could offer that at a comic con. You know, as another thing that non-readers can get on board with. I draw a caricature of you, and then you get to pick a fun background to put behind the drawing. I was pretty sure I could just dig up my old files and it wouldn’t be a lot of extra work to get set up.

Well, I did dig up the old files, and found 1.) they don’t really fit my current tools and art style, and 2.) I need to draw new backgrounds. Because a comic con is pretty specifically geeky and while I originally had one or two “geeky” backgrounds, most were generic. So this week I’ve been drawing like crazy trying to prepare new ones, which is time-intensive because I get super into the weeds on nailing specific details in my own style. Anyway I’ve got most of a Star Wars one to finish, and then hopefully I can squeeze in a Trek one, but that might have to wait. I’ve compromised and shelved a lot of extra features I wanted to have ready, because I’m just…outta time!

I still need: Change for my cash box, or a “float” as I believe they’re called, and somebody is selling a Square reader on the local classifieds that I might try to scoop up in order to take credit payments wirelessly at my table. Update: local Staples has new ones too 🙂

I still need: to gather up all the stuff I’m bringing with me. Setup day is on Sunday night / Monday morning, and the doors open 10am Monday. Often I’ve gone the day of to set up and that might be just fine again. My table layout is Not Super Complicated.

I wish I had: More shirts & buttons. That’s actually about it. Something to remember for next year!

Anyway, I think the day should go well. If nobody comes to talk to me I can work on the week’s comics, and failing that just play more Super Metroid on my laptop.

Thing I Saw: The finale of The Good Place, which I thought was beautiful and funny and brought the series to a fitting end. The last season was slightly off in a way I can’t put my finger on, but it came together wonderfully well and I look forward to starting over from the beginning one day.

Thing I Learned: It’s not super hard to become a Commissioner for Oaths in Manitoba (a little paperwork and $50), and then you can say that you’re a Commissioner for Oaths which sounds awesome. Also I guess you can legally witness signings and vouch for things.

I’m Grateful For: A relationship that doesn’t really prioritize Valentine’s Day as some all-important moment. Takes the pressure off! We’re gonna have butter chicken and maybe do puzzles after Cassidy’s in bed 🙂

Happy V-day!

I Get It

Today! Let’s lighten things up and think about things we didn’t like, but came around on. This was a fun conversation I had with Lori last night and I’m sharing my results with you. In no particular order!

1.) Rush

I spent years not being able to stand Geddy Lee’s voice, and since they get a lot of play on Canadian rock radio, I did a lot of cringing / changing the station. Closer to the Heart in particular, a hugely famous song of theirs, would have me diving for the dial. (Or seek button, or whatever. ‘Dial’ suddenly makes me feel old) I also have a specific memory of my friends circling around me while on a camping trip, chanting the “weedoo-deedoo-deedoo” synth riff from Tom Sawyer just to torment me. Good times.

The strange thing is that I can’t pinpoint where or when I came around on them. I think it was mainly time, during which I gained a greater appreciation of their talent and just, geez, the amount of work they continued to put into recording and touring. Probably didn’t hurt that my friends convinced me to get the Moving Pictures song pack for Rock Band, which got me to play through the entire album in one of my favourite games of all time.

I won’t claim I’m a huge fan now, but I definitely appreciate and listen to them, and was at least a little saddened to hear about the recent passing of Neil Peart.

2.)Indian Food

I grew up in a family with little-to-no appreciation for Spicy Things or Challenging Flavours. Also, the community I lived in was pretty homogeneous, and local restaurants mostly didn’t serve anything other than chicken, burgers, and pizza. I didn’t try my first Indian curry dish until I was in my twenties and attending university, on a day that I thought I’d have an adventure. I really didn’t like it, and wrote off the rest of Indian cuisine for quite a while after that!

What brought me back around was the folks that lived next to us when we first moved into our current home, five or six years ago; they’ve since moved, but they were a lovely family originally from Punjab who were celebrating their daughter’s first birthday and invited us to the party. Touched and honoured, we attended, and were treated to a feast of various homemade Indian dishes, including my new favourite, Butter Chicken.

Since then I’ve been growing in my appreciation!

3.)Euro Truck Simulator 2

I got a copy of this game a few years ago through some bundle or another, and initially bounced off of it pretty hard. It seemed extremely boring. Initially you just take jobs as they’re available, and drive, quietly, from city to city. You try not to drive too fast or do anything dangerous, because that will cost you money. I did not get the appeal at all.

And then, last fall and into winter, I went through some pretty difficult and stressful times. Suddenly, a relaxing game with super low stakes, that I can put on some music I like and just zone out to, was perfect. I decide to try it again and it clicked, and while I definitely haven’t put in the hundreds of hours that some have done, I feel like I have a much greater understanding of why things like this are interesting. Also, I’m going to upgrade my garage soon so I can hire another trucker 🙂

Thing I Saw: Our poor lil’ dog is going blind (cataracts), but doesn’t seem to mind terribly. He still wants to play fetch every day, even if he loses track of the ball easily. Then it becomes a game of hide-and-seek, where he can use his nose and hunt around 🙂

Thing I Learned: I always thought Gandhi’s name was Mahatma, but that’s actually a title. His name was Mohandas.

I’m Grateful For: A continued positive reception to my new comics!

Send this to all the Steves in your life

Pausing to Remember

Come, come with me out to the old churchyard,

I so well know those paths ‘neath the soft green sward.

Friends slumber in there that we want to regard;

We will trace out their names in the old churchyard.

Today marks three years, to the day, since my mom passed away. I want to sit down here and say something about it, but off and on today I’ve struggled with what exactly that could be.

That day, a Sunday, I got a text in the morning from my Dad, who had been keeping bedside vigil as Mom’s breathing had slowed considerably in the previous few days. He had wanted to go home and freshen up, but was adamant that Mom shouldn’t be alone; would I mind going over for a short time? I said yes, and brought my ukulele to sing with her awhile. I don’t remember all of the songs I picked, but one was definitely the Israel Kamakawiwoʻole version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Since their first visit to Hawaii, Mom had fallen in love with Iz’s music, so it seemed appropriate.

My brief journal entry from those days indicates she wasn’t responsive anymore, but I like to think she heard me.

Dad came back after less than an hour. I ended up going for lunch with my brothers, and as we sat in the restaurant deciding what to do next, we got the message that she was gone.

Mourn not for them, their trials are o’er,

And why weep for those who will weep no more?

For sweet is their sleep, though cold and hard

Their pillows may be in the old churchyard.

Mom had an easy, bright smile and I loved making her laugh. Her cooking and baking were legendary among friends and family. She was patient and kind, though reserved around others for much of her life. She loved coffee with good people, road trips with Dad, hidden-object puzzles on the computer, and those cheesy Christian romance novels about Amish women looking for love. She taught me much about listening to others, about the importance of music, and about never turning your back on the people you love. She used to tell me I was a “genius” when I’d fix stuff on her computer or solve difficult puzzles in her games. My own struggles with self-esteem didn’t often let me believe her — I’d brush it off with attempted humility — but I really think she meant it.

I miss her a lot today.

I rest in the hope that one bright day

Sunshine will burst to these prisons of clay,

And old Gabriel’s trumpet and voice of the Lord

Will wake up the dead in the old churchyard.

Thing I Saw: The rest of my journals from That Time, which I haven’t really looked at in quite a while. One thing I wrote near the end of my Jan.22/17 entry was “[I] Suspect I am nowhere near over this.” No, you weren’t, 2017-Nathan. But you’ll still be ok.

Thing I Learned: There’s a tabletop RPG called Monster of the Week that uses the same basic principles as the Dungeon World game I ran last year with the Whatevertown guys, only it’s based around urban fantasy and a gang of folks investigating/defeating monsters like on Supernatural or The X Files. Our group is set to get back together next week and I’m wondering if I should suggest a subject matter pivot…

I’m Grateful For: Lori, who’s been incredibly gentle and understanding about the significance of today, and who went out of her way to pick up my favourite cinnamon bun for a surprise snack.

The lyrics sprinkled throughout the post are from this song.

In with the New

Welcome to 2020! As always, let’s remember Campsite Rules for the year — try to leave things a little better than you found them. People, situations, places, whatever. Do your best out there!

In the past week, Lori’s been talking about the concept of having a “word” for the year. The idea is, I suppose, to distill your ideas and choices down to a thematic word, and act on that word to see what happens. For instance, if the word “cat” resonated with you as being thematically appropriate for 2020, you would filter your decisions and goals through that word in order to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Going to lots of parties? Doesn’t seem very catlike. Finding a sunny patch every day and dozing in it? Very on-brand for a cat.

The idea of a single word as a guiding principle seems nice because it’s more open-ended than a standard resolution, AND it’s easier to remember. But: how does one arrive at such a word? I’m not sure. I just did a quiz on a Christian site that suggested my word was “Stand”, which seems as good as any. I’ll shortlist it and see if anything else good presents itself in the next few days. Could be a fun experiment for 2020.

Thing I Saw: The weather is comparatively lovely today, so Cassidy and I toddled around the backyard. As part of our adventure behind the sheds, we discovered the freshly-dug holes that rabbits made to get in and out of the yard. Neat!

Thing I Learned: For certain versions of Rock Band 3 (yes, from 2010) it’s amazingly easy to download and add custom songs that are created by enthusiasts from around the world. Last night, at our extremely low-key NYE party, I got to play some good Sloan songs with friends for the first time — thanks to the efforts of the RB3 fan community!

I’m Grateful For: Days off with my family, and doing small but effective Habitat Improvements.

Before the usual song at the end of the post, some context; it was approaching midnight last night so I quickly found a countdown timer to put onscreen for our “party”. We didn’t have any music playing at that moment, so I quickly opened Spotify and hit shuffle play on my Liked Songs. The song it picked, and that ushered us into the new year, was Lean On Me by Bill Withers. Not sure it means anything, but it seems significant, so here it is for you, too.

Light & Shadow

Got something I’ve wanted to write out for a little while now. Or, as is more commonly said, “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but…”

December brings early darkness in our part of the world, and for me, much increased pensiveness and moodiness. Something about driving down dark, cold streets and seeing warm light coming from house windows tends to make me feel a kind of sad longing, and I tend to get lost in my ruminations as I go from place to place. I don’t really enjoy feeling it, but have sort of accepted it as a given in the winter months.

Several weeks ago I had turned my car on to my home street and the old, familiar, sad pattern was happening again. It was dark and I felt that sensation welling up inside of me. But something else that’s happened a few times this year happened again; I saw the feelings and thought patterns coming and consciously decided “no, I don’t have to feel this way every time.” And then it occurred to me; the street, this place, isn’t any different during the day. So why doesn’t day carry this same automatic association? I supposed it was because my perspective was different.

It was like a lightbulb moment. All of that longing feeling evaporated as I repeated to myself that day or night doesn’t matter — it’s the same place. If I don’t let the sad stuff overtake me during the day, I don’t have to think of it at night either. It might seem obvious when said out loud, but to me it was an important realization.

A few weeks after that I was in Winnipeg for a First Aid training session (that’s right! I’m a certified First Aider now!). Winnipeg is also a place that has carried a lot of complicated feelings and associations ever since my time attending university, starting in 2002. I’ve had a lot of fun adventures there, but at times I was also lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’d go entire days where I said no more than a handful of words to other humans, and usually a couple of those words were just a “thank you” to the bus drivers. And of course, since University terms happen over the winter months, the dark and cold of December brings a lot of this back to me while I move through the city. Even though it’s been years!

So the First Aid session was over and I was slowly driving out of downtown. There was still some daylight left but it was fading rapidly, and I knew sundown would probably send me back to thinking about those times again, especially since I was alone in the vehicle. Stopped at a red light I caught myself ruminating on how sad and depressing and isolating city life can be, and for my “proof” I was watching the faces of pedestrians as they crossed, and drivers in other cars. I thought they looked miserable, and no wonder! They live here!

Then, my phrase came back to me — hey, this place isn’t really any different in the dark than it is in the day. I drove in during the morning hours and wasn’t assuming everybody around me was miserable, so what was different now? Just my perspective. And then it dawned on me; all of the sadness and misery I saw in the people around me was just me, projecting my own history. Pretty much everybody I saw had a neutral expression, as you do when you’re going somewhere in your own little world. But I was choosing to read their faces as negatively as possible.

Again, my rumination evaporated. The rest of the drive out of Winnipeg was far more positive, and I found myself smiling and appreciating small moments of beauty as the sun continued to set. I’ve been back to the city since then, in the dark and the cold, and have felt far, far freer as I did so. I felt like, for the first time, I’m letting some of those old, sad days go.

Anyway, I’m still thinking about the idea of things being the same in light as they are in shadow.

Hey, it’s Christmas Eve! As I write this I’m listening to the Nutcracker Suite and sitting in Cassidy’s room, hoping she’ll eventually get bored of looking at books and lie down for a nap. After posting this I might lean back in this chair and nap as well. Anyway! I hope that your Christmas season is full of warmth and good cheer, no matter how you choose to observe (or not) or with whom you gather.

Thing I Saw: A rabbit in our backyard early this morning. I thought of trying to send Bentley the Dog after it but today it just seemed unnecessary.

Thing I Learned: Rocker Jon Bon Jovi got his singing career started on a novelty Star Wars Christmas album, of all things. That’s him, on the verses!

I’m Grateful For: Christmas!

A nice song from an even nicer wintery album that I discovered recently!

Out There

I did the thing!!

My comics are up and running again. It was a little scary, committing myself to this thing, but reactions have been positive across the board. If people aren’t happy about it, they’ve been kind enough to keep it to themselves.

Actually, as I remarked to Lori last night, over all the comics I’ve ever posted, negative feedback has been vanishingly rare. I know my work is pretty inoffensive to begin with, but I have to acknowledge that it’s a mark of privilege for me to exist online and post my work while dealing with zero trolls or haters. (This is not an invitation to start, by the way). Women, minorities, and LGBT folks share that they’re often criticized simply for ‘being’ in online spaces, and that hasn’t been my experience.

I have a bunch of ideas in my Google Doc for future comics, but I realized most of them are about my daughter / interactions with her. I don’t necessarily want every comic to be about her, because I know I get sick of people who won’t stop talking about their kids, so I want to save them and just sprinkle them in every so often. One reader mentioned bringing back the mailbag, which sounds good as well. Always enjoyed the challenge of responding to folks’ questions in a fun way.

The downside to this new venture is that I’ve reactivated my Facebook account in order to retake control of the Interesting Times page there. Facebook was always a good source of traffic and engagement, so I can’t ignore it. But, you have to have an active account in order to manage a page. In the gap, after ending the initial run of comics, I promoted Lori to page manager and emailed her the rare things I wanted to share so I could deactivate my account. But now that things are happening on a regular basis, I didn’t want to give her the workload of reposting every new comic and being go-between for messages and comments; that wouldn’t be very nice.

I didn’t actually delete my account, just deactivated it, and it was surprising to me at first that reactivation only requires logging back in. No big messages or text boxes about “your account has been dormant for X amount of time”, just right back to the bottomless news feed. Then, after a moment’s consideration, it wasn’t surprising at all, because it makes sense that FB would put up the very minimum amount of barriers to entry to keep folks engaged and scrolling forever. Guh, it bothers me just to think about.

For the time being I am doing my level best to avoid the news feed altogether when I’ve gone there to do Page stuff. I let my eyes sort of glance past it while looking for the link to my Page, in the way you might have to go past really objectionable or scary video covers to get to the family section at the video store.

Ohh, that analogy dates me. Uh, it’s like how when you fire up Netflix Kids and Jim Carrey’s horrible Grinch face is giant on the screen until you scroll down to the content you actually want, and all you can do is hope that hideous thing didn’t burrow into your daughter’s subconscious in that moment.

I was happy being away from FB and I’m not happy to be back. But it’s what I deem a necessary evil so that more people can enjoy my work, so here we are. One solution I’ve considered, and may yet implement, is to literally unfriend everybody so that my news feed is completely empty.

Thing I Saw: Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley as performed by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Company. Lori and I went last weekend as a night out in the big city, and it was excellent. Funnier than I expected, nice and sweet for the holidays, and the set was gorgeous. Click this and then click “Photos” and you’ll see what I mean.

Thing I Learned: A Charlie Brown Christmas, a staple of my holiday season, was commissioned by Coca-Cola and had pretty significant advertising throughout. When it was revised for re-broadcasting, the ads were cut out, and a significant number of tweaks were made to the rest of the special. This video details them pretty exhaustively.

I’m Grateful For: Supportive readers!

I posted Vulfpeck last December as well. This song really does sound like Christmas in LA, somehow