Gloria has been on my mind lately. I scored a free chair at my neighbor’s yard sale last weekend and it is now placed comfortably in a corner of our living room that needed some love. I am sitting in that chair, which happens to be Gloria’s favorite spot, tucked behind the front window with a nice view of the trees swinging in the breeze.

Gloria was the sole owner of our house before us. She bought it in 1978 and lived in it for about 35 years until her death. During each and every minute that she lived here, she smoked cigarettes. She lived cigarettes. She, for all intents and purposes, was a personified cloud of smoke moving about and doing human things. When she periodically emerged from her back door to walk around the deck, a billowing veil of smog could be observed over the backyard fence.

Prior to her passing, she arranged for ownership of the house to circumvent her adult children. Instead, it went into foreclosure and sat empty for almost five years. The lots in our neighborhood aren’t exactly huge; The empty house needed care — badly — and became the neighborhood eyesore in no time, the proverbial elephant in the room that nobody could do anything about. Neighbors continued about their lives. Walkers took their morning walks, the daycare across the street kept humming away. The house was lonely and ignored.

Then squatters moved in. When I think squatters, I think long-haired hobos you see under bridges. I think of drug addicts and aimless wanderers and thieves. Real squatters, I have learned, often have jobs. These ones had jobs AND cars, and they came and went the way working people tend to do. The sweet Christian woman who lived kitty-corner performed her neighborly duty: she brought food to their door. The occupants were appreciative and, in turn, brought the Christian woman leftovers from Olive Garden after their shifts ended. Nothing was so far amiss that it wasn’t palatable. After all, most folks are friendly and forgiving.

Eventually, suspicious characters frequented the grounds. One man who was believable as a carpenter came and went several times over the course of a few weeks when one day, an occupant shaved his head on the back deck, per his request. “All I know is I need to look completely different than I do now,” he explained to his makeshift hairdresser. Because upstanding members of society say things like that.

What appeared to be normal enough life degraded into drugs and mayhem. A daily neighborhood walker decided he/she was fed up with the activities taking place in plain view and called the sheriff. They cleared out the house with swift determination and slapped a padlock on the door. Leftover food in Tupperware containers was abandoned in the fridge. A cup full of sewing needles was spilled on the orange shag carpet, and left. The bathroom door was home to a hook and bath towel, also abandoned.

Gloria didn’t want her children to have this house. Did she want strangers to have it? Did she know the path the house would take to get normal, quiet, working folks into it? Did she care?

If she hadn’t made that decision, the house likely would have been bought once or a few times, flipped once or a few times, and then flown right out of our price range. It’s a damned miracle we were able to buy something in this neighborhood that’s not a port-a-potty.

So, thank you, Gloria. If you’re still around, I hope you love the sound of our daughter’s footsteps thumping up and down the hallway, the smell of pizza dinners filling the dining room, and the warmth we feel just being here. You gave us the dream. And I love your spot in the living room.


On Identity and Houses

I was an artist once. I used to watercolor and draw and spend entire weekends suspended in time. Having a baby will alter your identity, no doubt about it. But buying a fixer-upper will annhilate it.

So badly I want to fast-forward three months. By then the remodeling will be complete and we’ll (probably… maybe?) have the house in some kind of order. The Giant Baby will have already figured out all of the places where Mommy hides while playing Hide and Seek, and also the places that get her into trouble. We’ll have floors and a functional shower and the hanging smell of forty years of nicotine won’t greet us in the mouth when we walk through the door.

Perhaps by then we will have established a regular eating routine. Maybe we’ll be on friendly terms with our kitchen instead of a first-name basis with the Wendy’s drive-thru employees. Maybe we’ll use the dining room table for sharing meals instead of as a receptacle for sharp, swallowable, and breakable items to keep away from Sally Longarms. And maybe by then she won’t refuse to eat every GD thing I attempt to coax past her lips.

Maybe life will feel sort of normal again. Maybe it will feel like today.

Today was the reprieve in a string of frenetic, emotional, stressful days. Today was a sun break amidst the storm: The Girl and I spent the day by ourselves, being regular and finding things that make us giggle. I decided to stop stressing about her sudden change in eating habits. I decided to move deliberately instead of restlessly. I chased her around Target. She said hi to strangers. I tried sharing a Yumm Bowl with her but she refused, so I ate my lunch and she ate a spoon. She helped me reorganize kitchen. We watched Friends. We played our nighttime game up and down the hallway. She gave me sweet little hugs and I died some. She passed out happily and early enough that I still have a smidgeon of energy left to finish a comic, put a few words together, and soak up the deliciousness of remembering that the artist is still inside me somewhere.

Time, please go faster.


Mama Bear + Baby Bear

Rare footage of the *actual* Kate and Laura spotted in the wild. See them graze calmly in the lush pastures of domesticated indoor living. As not to disturb their early morning ritual, this depiction was taken via drone at a near birds-eye vantage point. A true sight!


Inktober: Week One

October is my favorite art month of the entire year, partly because the changing of the season is so darned magical, but also because of Inktober. (Read about it here: https://www.mrjakeparker.com/inktober-1/) I’m posting this week’s drawings here as a “week in review.”

This is he first time since Baby that I’ve really drawn, like with real paper. And I barely drew anything while pregnant so it’s been a LONG time since I’ve played in this space. I avoided it for a time, too, because I felt like I lost a lot in my hands and in my eyes. I’m happy to report that drawing is muscle memory like anything else, and it comes back way more quickly than you think. Thank god.


Child Portrait 9/25/18

I discovered a tool in Procreate that I’ve never used before. It’s called Dry Ink and MAN it’s a beautiful tool. It ends up feeling like ink and oil pastel simultaneously, offering the precision and responsiveness of a great pen while blending with the sensitivity of paint. My daughter took a few monster naps this week so I got some solid blocks of art time. My tank has been refueled! At least for a minute.



Just Once I’d Like to—

Before I had a baby and I still had some semblance of a life, I kept a fairly substantial number of completed comics in the queue. At any given moment, I could post a comic. It’s like having a fat savings account: most of the time you never need to use those funds, but knowing you CAN just feels damn good.

Then I became a parent, but I was still able to maintain a cushy queue during those first couple months while my daughter was still in the larval phase and slept most of the day. Much too quickly, though, she started sleeping less, requiring more, and leaving a trail of soiled items in her wake, ready to launder. Now I blink and a week goes by, my art untouched in seven-plus days. The comic savings account has dwindled. I’m livin’ on the edge, paycheck to paycheck. I’m always low on funds and can never seem to get ahead. I save up a little and then it disappears.

So, this is my little joke with myself. When I’ve stopped and started a piece twelve times, when I never have a substantial chunk of time to make headway, when I save a little only to then spend a lot…

This is my life now.