Dec 12 2020

Farewell, Dasher

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Dasher in his prime

A year or so after we adopted Buddha, we randomly received a call from a cat rescue org we worked with: “You have an FIV+ cat, right? Would you be willing to adopt another one? He’s the next in line to be euthanized at the shelter where he is, and they’ve put it off so many times because everybody there loves him so much, but they just can’t keep doing that. I think he’s a himalayan, too…”

Well, for the record, Dasher was not a himalayan. What he was, was an energetic, curious clown with impulse control issues but an amazing capacity for love. From “romping around on the newly-changed sheets” (his favorite game) to “eat ALL the food” (his other favorite game) to “claim Laurie’s lap FOREVERRR” (his other other favorite game), Dasher brought light, energy, profound goofiness, and occasional yelling to our lives every day.

A year or two ago he was diagnosed with kidney disease, so we started him on a regimen of fluid injections three times a week. Unfortunately, that wrecked his heart (kidney problems and heart problems are each treated in ways that exacerbate the other, unfortunately). This past summer, he had an episode of congestive heart failure (basically, his heart was full of fluids that weren’t supposed to be there). To treat that we took him off the fluids and started a regimen of pills/diet to treat his heart and be as easy on his kidneys as possible, but we knew then that it was only a matter of time.

And so for the past six months, we have tried to treat every day with Dasher as a gift from the Universe, a little extra time… even more than the twelve extra years he’d already had from his rescue from the shelter. But yesterday, his breathing was rapid and labored. We took him to the Hope Center, where the vet basically confirmed the worst: it was a second round of congestive heart failure, and while it would be possible to keep him alive, he might very well be on oxygen for the remainder of his life and the muscle atrophy and other problems he’d been suffering for the past year would rapidly get worse.

Asking the vet to gently end his life was difficult and painful; even in the hospital, having trouble breathing, he was vital and curious and loving. Just being alive made Dasher happy, even with a blind eye, all of his teeth rotted away from FIV, a grape-sized lump growing under the skin on the side of his head, and everything else. If there was some way to keep his body as alive as his spirit, we would have gladly jumped at it.

It’s been harder on Laurie—she was his favorite, and she held him closely until he was gone. But it hasn’t been easy on either of us.

Farewell, Dasher. We love you, and we’ll miss you. Thank you for spending your time with us, and all you taught us. We’ll see you again.

Don’t harass Buddha in the afterlife, okay? He’ll kick your spectral ass.

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Nov 26 2020

On Being Thankful

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It would be easy to be glib today. “I am thankful that 2020 is almost over!” is a joke that writes itself, while also being an objectively true statement. Yes, the numbers on a calendar are purely arbitrary designations created by a consensual shared illusion, but they have psychological power, and 2020 has been fucking awful for me personally as well as on a national and global stage. So yeah, it’s there.

But I want to be grateful. This year of all years, “thanksgiving” as a concept is one that almost feels like a radical rebellion. The world wants to go out of its way to be awful? Well I’m going to work just as hard to remember what’s good, and to look towards a tomorrow that will be better.

Mrs. Gneech and I have to move. Despite everything we’ve tried, all the hoops we’ve jumped through and how bone-grindingly hard we’ve worked, we simply cannot afford to live the way we have. To describe us as “unhappy” about this is the kind of understatement that Brits used to use when describing the Blitz as “a bit of a nuisance.” We are quite frankly devastated at seeing decades of savings wiped out, at having to lose our home again, at years-in-a-row of constant rejection and unemployment despite both being educated, experienced, hard-working, and talented. But even among this, there is room for gratitude: we are supremely fortunate to have somewhere we can go. We have friends and relatives both who have offered us places to land, somewhere to live besides “out of our car” or “on the street.” These offers aren’t made lightly—in some cases they would make someone else’s already-cramped arrangements even more so. That’s a profound act of kindness towards us, and I’m keenly aware of that and grateful for it.

A pandemic is ravaging the country. Fueled by the antirationalism of a bone-stupid nation, it’s killed hundreds of thousands and done long-term physical and psychological damage to so many more. But I’m grateful that in my own personal circle, only one person has contracted it so far. It was agonizing for her, and at one point she quite literally believed she wasn’t going to survive to the end of the day, but she pulled through. The experience has impacted her—it would be hard for it not to—but she is all right. I am grateful for that, and I am grateful to have friends and family who understand that science is real and protect themselves; I am also grateful to live in a region of the country where “science is real” is the prevailing attitude. I miss restaurants and conventions and all that jazz, but I am grateful to be among people who understand that to have those things back, we have to take precautions now.

I am grateful that the fascist is on his way out. I am grateful for seeing people dancing in the streets, for fireworks in London and bells ringing over Paris, because it shows that most people really do understand what’s been happening and what was at stake. The fight goes on, but this was an important victory and I’m grateful for it.

I’m grateful for Shade-Of-the-Candle. Life without my creative spark is gray, formless, and depressing. If I have to choose between being obsessed with something, or being dead inside, I’ll take the obsession every time. While I’m frustrated that I don’t have much ability to steer my artistic drive in directions I would prefer, I am still grateful that they exist. Around the new year or so this past year, when my despair at seeing there was no way for us to get out of our financial hole was at its worst, being able to draw Shady, to play Shady in D&D, and to come up with stories about my fuzzy problem child, was literally what enabled me to get out of bed some mornings.

Catra, eating a dumpling and being adorable.On a related note, I’m grateful for season five of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and Catra’s messy healing arc. I’ve written elsewhere about what I owe this series, so I won’t rehash it here. But it was important to me, and I’m grateful for it. And honestly, just look at Catra, eating a dumpling. Look! Isn’t that something to be grateful for? I’m grateful for Good Omens, I’m grateful for the Animaniacs reboot (of which I’ve only seen clips), I’m grateful the Twitterponies still exist, even if they’re quieter than they used to be.

As of the time of this writing, Mrs. Gneech and I still haven’t worked out where we’re going. We’ve dragged our feet so long that we ended up having to pay an extra month’s rent that we absolutely can’t afford in our current place, and we’ve got to get over it and move. Which means facing hard decisions where the only answers are various levels of “We don’t want that.” But at the same time, under all that, I feel a weird little flicker of hope, that I haven’t felt for a long time. I put Symphony of Science at the top of this essay because WitchieBunny reminded me of it last night. The past few years have felt like the world was collapsing in on itself (and my life was collapsing in on me), but there are bigger things and better things. I really do think things are going to start getting better soon, and I’m holding on to that thought.

I’m looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. And I’m grateful that it’s coming.

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Jun 10 2020

Pirate Mooncat, Plus Audience Building!

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Pirate Mooncat D&D Portrait
D&D Portrait Commission for Mooncat! Speaking of, commissions are open:

Following up on Monday’s post, I’ve been taking stock of where I am in my art and writing career, and it’s clear that I need to attend to some things. Not the least of which is re-building my audience! I have a small-but-tight core of people who have been following my work forever through thick and thin (❤️ Jungloids!) and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. That doesn’t alter the fact that in terms of treating my work as a proper business, there are times when I need to look at it as a numbers game. Even with the crazy high ratio of followers-to-financial supporters that I have, the actual number of followers is tiny.

So, for an example, another artist I follow on Twitter posted a rough little sketch of a character they were noodling around with. It was a cute little drawing, nothing that exciting, but it still got something like 800 likes. I looked at that and blinked for several seconds—I get excited when a post of any kind, much less a doodle, gets over 20 likes. So I looked at their follower count, and discovered it was something like 12,000—compared to mine, which is currently hovering around 1,600.

Well, I mean, no friggin’ wonder.

Before people hop in with “Followers aren’t everything!” I want to make it clear that I don’t attach a personal meaning to have a low follower count on Twitter (or any other platform for that matter), I’m diagnosing a business problem here. :) Even if every one of those Twitter followers was converted to a $1 Patreon subscriber for instance (which isn’t going to happen, but bear with me), that still wouldn’t be enough for me to put food on the table.

I must grow my audience in order to succeed.

So my priority for a while is going to be doing that—but the truth is I have no idea how. O.o

I’m open to suggestions, and I’d love any help I can get. I’ve started posting art to Instagram to expand my horizons, and I am making it a priority to post at least twice a week there and other places, even if it’s just a little sketch-a-day piece. I also started up a fanart sketch request Ko-Fi, although I haven’t had any takers there yet.

So I’m curious! If you follow my work and don’t mind telling me, why do you? What attracted you and made you want to stick around? Do you have suggestions on how I can grow my audience? How do you do promotion? I’m eager to learn!

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Jun 08 2020

If It’s Your Calling, It Will Keep Calling You

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Roxie and Charity on a Starry Night

Stuff happened. It knocked me off my groove, and I have remained in a state of being off my groove for several years now. And like somebody dangling off a rope trying desperately to scramble back up, I’ve been twisting in the wind, trying one thing after another to get something—anything—to work. It’s kept my head above water… mostly… but it has not led to success. And it has definitely not led to satisfaction.

But a few days ago, I happened on a tweet, nearly swamped in all the World Being So Much With Us right now, but that jumped out at me like an electric spark.

If it's your calling, it will keep calling you.
If it’s your calling, it will keep calling you.

I have ADHD. I can hyperfocus for bursts, but repeated, sustained effort is often difficult for me to maintain. But in all the noise, chaos, new shiny things to chase, and so on, there are two things that keep calling me: art and writing, writing and art. They wax and wane seasonally—I’m usually way more into art in the warm months and way more into writing when it’s colder—but they’re both always there.

And my groove, the happiest and most successful times in my life, also coincided with the times that I was most in touch with those. Suburban Jungle is still my high mark of both sustained personal satisfaction and success in terms of reaching an audience. The one thing it never provided, was a livable income, and that in turn led to me believing that making a living with my writing and art was not possible, and so I’ve spent the past several years trying with little success trying to find a way to make a livable income doing anything else, and being miserable while I was doing it.

Well, I hereby surrender that fight.

I am an artist and writer. That’s the alpha and omega, the sum total of who and what I am, and from here forward anything I do is going to be in service of that. There are people who make their living this way. I know some of them. It can be done. And if it can be done, I can do it, I just need to figure out how.

I need to figure out workflow. I need to figure out finding gigs and building (or re-building) an audience. I need to refocus on honing my craft, which stagnated somewhere.

But mostly I need to remember my mission, every day.

I make my living as an artist/illustrator and a writer, creating fun and engaging work that brings people joy and makes them feel seen and connected. That’s what keeps calling me, and I’m going to answer, again and again.

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Jun 02 2020

Just a Thing I Want to Remember

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So you know those jokes that start with “sits bolt upright in bed, and declares—” type?


I then plopped back down and went back to sleep.

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May 25 2020

So Sick of Being a Yo-Yo

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All other things being equal, my weight goes up.

I don’t eat more than most people; I don’t eat worse than most people. I certainly get more exercise than most people.

But for whatever reason, my body just wants to be heavier.

Every eighteen months or so, it starts getting dangerously close to 300 pounds and I can’t take it any more. I do intermittent fasting, cut out as much sugar and carbs as I can stand without having constant head/body aches, and pursue an aggressive exercise regimen.

The good news is, my body is very responsive to this. Typically, I lose 10-20 pounds within six months.

The bad news, I can’t sustain the effort. I’m not talking about “easy lifestyle changes” here, I’m talking about the focus of my life turns from Literally Anything Else to Lose Weight Again, Dammit. Sometime around the six to eight months mark, I am just too mentally and physically exhausted to keep going, and I start to coast.

And just as responsive as it is to aggressive weight loss efforts, it is to coasting. Maybe moreso.

It’s like my body is a ship with a leaky hull and being overweight is the ocean. As long as I furiously man the pumps I’m okay, but the second I stop, the ship starts sinking again.

I am fucking sick of it.

But it’s the hand I’ve been dealt. And the lockdown isn’t helping.

Ship’s flooded again. Back to the pumps.

Dammit. -.-

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