Letters to Holly

Friday, May 21

Dr. Gregory (at) House

Your Sister may have caught a bug. She's experienced dizziness and nausea this morning and stayed home. I'm with her. We called the doctor's office and relayed the symptoms, and we were told it might be a stomach flu going around.

I suspect that's what any OBGYN office would say about a sick mom-to-be. It's smart and designed surely to squash any panic we might have had. It also could be true, I suppose. They prescribed a medication to fight nausea, Ondansetron (side effects may include poppin' and lockin'), and bland food. We're to see how she does for the next 24 hours. Roo is still moving, so they're not worried now.

I'm having some stomach problems too, and the flu theory may have merit. Or we might have eaten something off at the awards banquet last night. For the seventh year in a row, she was named a Memorable Educator by a senior.

When I went to the store for bland food, I asked the Starbucks people if they had any compost grounds behind their stand. They hadn't bagged it yet, and I was offered all they had: 15 gallons of grounds. I snagged it. I'll add it to our bin as soon as this rain lets up. I haven't watered the garden in weeks. Haven't had to.

I got my first emailed monster from a comic sold at convention. It's from an 8-year-old, and I adore it. I'm working up sketches for a logo for the new roller derby team, The French Broads. The contest deadline is June 30.

Moving Picture of the Day
Janelle Monae's Tightrope featuring Big Boi. This is a very '80s video. Also, they overdosed on Ondansetron.

Thursday, May 20

Bed Wares

We got your card. It's on the fridge.

I don't know if you heard the chaos that ensued when My Mom decided to get the baby furniture on our registry. Initially, we balked at the months-old suggestion that we get a bureau. There's no room in the room. That didn't go over so well from either set of parents; they took it as a snub of their generosity. But there's an entire wall of shelves already there. We cemented our assertion over a couple of weeks and again when Mom said recently she was going to get the crib and changing station.

We registered at Babies R Us for both items, but there is no store where Mom lives. She went to Toys R Us to order it with the notion that it could be picked up at the BRU store near us. And a good notion it was. But BRU and TRU is a swamp of conflicting store policies.

I used to work for TRU. n fact, I worked for that very same TRU. It was my seasonal job during ECU semester breaks. As retail work goes, it was fine. I could help the parents and kids looking for specific video games and action figures. I was the shopper's friend. But the management instilled an ever-changing stream of policies that we floor employees wrestled with daily. I suspected Mom's plan would hit obstacles.

Yep. The changing station we registered for months back is no longer in stock, according to BRU, and the store could not say when or if the company would produce more. That created parental dismay, no matter how much we assured them that any stable TV tray would work. Back when TVs weighed more than a car, the TV stands had to hold them up for years at a time. They could manage a baby. Eventually we got the station at KMart. I don't care if it matches nothing in the room. Neither will Roo. It's a poop corral. It's not a treasured item. By the time Roo can identify items, he won't need it.

The crib caused more trouble. The bedrails that allow the crib to fully convert to a toddler bed are sold separately. You'd think that the store would have more of them than cribs; after all, not everyone would buy the rails if they don't want to use the conversion mode. No. The store didn't have rails in stock. Nor did they have the cribs in stock. Mom put in an order, and we were told we would be notified when it arrived.

They said they could deliver, and that would b convenient. Then they realized we only had three items (including the mattress) and then they saw our address. Not to our house, not for so small a package. We were told it wouldn't be worth the gas money to drive an hour to our house. Fine. We have big vehicles now. We can carry our items.

I got the call yesterday to pick them up. To their credit, it was almost two weeks earlier than we expected. I got there and was told neither of our names appeared in their shipment folder. But I was called, I said. I was called by name. Here's your store number on my cell phone, I said. It's from an hour ago. They found our names in another folder. But there was confusion. One item was in my last name (because Mom ordered it), and the other was in Your Sister's name (because she ordered it). I proved to them I could receive both items. Our names are on the registry. Yes, she's my baby mama.

Then I was asked if I wanted to buy protection warranties for the items. I was quoted a price. It seemed reasonable, and I agreed. The card was scanned, and the receipt signed. And would I want similar protection for the other item? The price I paid wasn't for both. It was for the cheaper item. The new cost was double. No no no. I canceled it out. At least, I started the process, because then the stockman arrived with my items. I saw the size of the crib box and said we might have to remove the box to fit the crib in the car. I was told the box was only barely bigger than the crib. But, he said, we deliver. I informed him of we had been told (remembering the conflicting policy decrees I dealt with when I wore his apron). I told him what we were told, and that if the crib didn't fit in my car, I'd come back with a bigger vehicle. He argued the policy, and I could only repeat again what we were told.

To our amazement, the crib box fit perfectly. As I closed the hatchback, the cashier arrived with the refund for the canceled insurance. And off I went. All this difficulty will prepare us for a two-year-old. I'm positive.

I put both items together last night, and it took three hours. The crib was easy. The changing station was murder. Because it involves joining supports and shelves and frames, you are required to have six hands to hold items together before screwing them in place. I was exhausted when I finished, and I chewed dinner only out of instinct. But, no, there is no room for a bureau.

Picture of the Day
Closed captioning is awkward in other languages.

Tuesday, May 18

Growth Spurts

Your Sister is very uncomfortable. She can't sit in one position long nor can she easily stand without help. She yogas her back to help the pain, but Roo is now moving when she's trying to stretch, blocking her efforts to keep at any one exercise. Her feet are swelling at the ankles, and we walk or soak them. Her belly is now completely covered by the uterus, and that firm texture is now squishy. She's definitely growing forward now. I need to check our baby-seat boots in the Matrix and assemble the changing station. I might do that tonight.

I added three bags of Starbucks coffee grounds to our compost bin and churned the pile. Nothing has sprouted in the garden yet, but it's been a little over a week.

Tonight's Lost is supposed to be big. Last night's House was the season finale, and interesting doings occurred. They went all out on the direction and editing.

Picture of the Day
Know your geometry.

Monday, May 17

Fanaticon Weekend

We ran by the store Friday night to get snacks and hand sanitizer (which I forgot to buy after all and borrowed a travel bottle from Your Sister). After receiving new monsters from her students on letter-sized paper, I began to worry that the small size of the comic might prevent people from buying it to draw their design. I quickly printed out 75 letter-size versions of the last page, or tried to until my printer ran out of ink. This done, I packed up all the equipment (trading out a back-up surge protector for the one I use daily) and put everything in the kitchen to load in the car the next morning. I could do no more except wait.

Got out the door Saturday morning at 7:30 and arrived at 8:30. We were advised to park on the roof deck of the museum, but I used the first-floor deck nearest my assigned station. That gave me a ten-second walk to my table from my car instead of schlepping my gear on stairs. My table was exactly where they said it would be, and I plugged in the surge protector to the outlet right next to my table. This was a lottery ticket. I had my table set up by 9 a.m. with each comic displays and stacks at opposite corners and a chair set up with pencils and pens if people wanted to draw their monster on the spot.

The photos are up on FB here.
Here is the Citizen-Times gallery.
Here is the Mountain XPress one.

I chatted with the other guests as they set up their tables. The free downtown wifi was useless in the building, and I packed up the laptop. I started sketching to warm up the muscles, and I had nothing. The drawing engine wouldn't turn over. This rattled me; I had hoped to sell sketches throughout the day, and the first minutes of my convention experience were taking me off the rails. Rumors spread that hundreds of people were waiting outside for the show to open. A Ghostbusters car was outside. Darth Vader was playing bagpipes. I met with my Greenville publisher and his table as they set up, and we traded notes.

At ten, one of the organizers (in his Next Generation Star Trek costume) announced the doors were opening, and he was soon followed by a flood of people. Here's the gist: I don't think the organizers dared to hope for this many people. It was a near constant stream, even for us in the first-floor corner. The majority of artist folks were 30 yards away in a clump. We still got great exposure. My friend Jay and his sons (dressed as Jedi) were among the first to come by, and they ahd top tear through the show quickly before he went to work that day. They came back an hour later to buy comics, and he bought the first copy of my hero comic. The monster comic wasn't grabbing attention, and I quickly made a new sign that read DRAW THE MONSTER $2, and that got people to slow down. That's how I roped them in. This is why I brought a spare display stand.

I had joked a few months back that my hero comic -- the story I've tumbled for a decade now -- would collect dust while my last-second notion would sell out. I didn't (I printed too many copies for one-day show, I realized later), but the monster comic outsold the hero comic 5-to-1. I hadn't practiced my sales pitch, but I had it down within an hour.

"This is our comic about a werewolf and a vampire who find an egg on their doorstep one morning (show them second page of pterodactyl leaving them an egg in a basket). They don't know what's inside, and they prepare for their baby. And on the last page, open to show them, you get to design and draw the monster. There's an email address on the back cover, and if you take a picture or scan your age, we'll add it to our online gallery. This (point to display) has some examples of what we've gotten so far."

They were laughing at the egg page, but when I got to "you can design and draw," jaws were literally dropping open. One little girl was wearing a convention Robin mask, and when I showed her the back page, all the skin around her eyes disappeared, and the eye holes were pure eyeball. These were the magic words. That sold the majority of comics. I said the pitch so much in exactly the same way that I apologized to my neighbor tables. They loved the idea. And it was good, I admit. One kid sat down right there and drew his monster. The monster gallery is here.

Around 11, the organizers asked if they could plug into my surge protector to power the equipment for bands in the courtyard behind me. There were three acts: a medley from the ACT Little Shop of Horrors and two comic bands named How I Became The Bomb and The Falcon Lords. Everyone performed in costume. People stood in front of my table to look out the window behind me, and that helped sales. A few people from Your Sister's school came by, and I signed comics for them. I sketched on a convention-wide jam piece, and that loosened up my drawing muscles. In the rare downtime, I worked on my web comics.

Your Sis herself came by a little after noon with lunch for me, and she manned the table while ran to the bathroom. She heard my sales pitch so often that she delivered it as I spoke to other people, and she sold some issues. A few people from the Brevard paper came by and asked if I would want to do a paper feature. We traded business cards. I gave away more of those than I expected. I'm glad I made up new ones earlier in the week. Around three, a local podcaster interviewed me about my con experience. half an hour later, one of the organizers thanked me for the quotes to the paper and said they were his favorite. I thanked him for putting on such a wingding and told him these comics were made only because they presented this show. An hour later, some online friends came by. It was a party. Your Sis left around 2:30.

I realized I made some mistakes in my con plans. My signs were too small and too low. People bent at the waist to read them. I also charged too much for sketches. The table next to me were raking in money with $1 sketches. The vast majority of attendees were happy and friendly. There were lots of families and curious townsfolk. The occasional stereotypical comic geeks came by, but they were relatively rare. One parent worried the baby monster was created in the comic via explicit monster sex, and I assured her of asexual egg-delivery reproduction. Another woman picked up one of my drawing pens and asked if she could have it. She collects pens, she said. I told her I need it to draw.

I took photos of costumes folks who drifted by, including some semi-professional folks hired by the convention. I didn't use one letter-sized sheet I printed Friday night. I'll give them to Your Sis for students to work on between exams.

While I was aware of the hours, the day flew by. It was 5 p.m. out of nowhere, and the show closed. I packed up my stuff, thanked my neighbors, and walked the show for the first time so see what might be left out to buy. I found nothing that called out to me, and drove home. It couldn't have gone much better, and I'd do it again next weekend if I could. I already have plans for next year's show, Roo willing.

Meanwhile Your Sister was trying to lock down a crib that Mom was buying back home. Babies R Us and Toys R Us ran them in circles all day, and the changing station was not bought. The parents were aggravated. Your Sis was enraged. We bought one the next day at K-Mart after I convinced her that no one would care if it matched the crib and we could buy it immediately and have it done with. Problem solved. The crib should arrive at one of the two R stores next week, and I'll pick it up during lunch. When we both met up Saturday evening, I asked for a wings dinner to celebrate, and I got it. And had two beers. And slept like the fucking dead.

I mowed the lawn Sunday at the hottest part of the day only because it was between rainstorms. She slept a lot, and we walked with umbrellas to alleviate her swelling ankles. Over pub food, we discussed parental theories and a communal philosophy on raising Roo in response to how we were raised. We're at 35 weeks today.

Life is good.

Mind Boggling Moving Picture of the Day
Darth Vader plays the Star Wars theme on bagpipes to open Fanaticon.