Hiatus is almost over, and I am so grateful to all of you who have been patient for so long.

Expect a deluge of comic pages in the coming week as I catch up from a backlog over a month overdue and start on a new episode as I put two comics and two graphic novels together for print. It has been a long, hard six months, and I am pent-up with stories to write, some of 'em weird, but for those of you supporting me as paying members and on Patreon, I am sure that you are thinking it's about damn time.

Lilo-memorialThis year has been bittersweet. On January 21st I lost my best friend, Lilo, to osteosarcomic cancer. I knew something was up the day in early December when we were walking around in our back yard and she suddenly cried out that she was lost. I called to her, she chirped and ran to me with her happy little smile, and I brought her inside. We later found a bump on her forehead which started to grow at an alarming rate.

On December 4th, our vet, Dr. Beismer, showed us the x-rays and the tumor that lay underneath, situated right above the sinuses. "If you really want to pursue treatment, the surgery to remove that will be something to the tune of $2,000 because of the invasive surgery involved--" she started, and my ears began to ring. My eyes teared up and I stumbled out of the room muttering, "If you really want to pursue..." I already knew from Dr. B's tone that there was nothing we could do.

That tumor would not be stopped. We promised to make Lilo comfortable for as long as she had time remaining with us, and we sure did. Lilo was a bottlefed cat, see, who was found in Elizabethtown in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree Store on June 9, 2007 in a cardboard box with three other siblings at just a day old, and so I'd bonded with her like no other cat I ever had in my lifetime. Penny and I were the only ones who could bottlefeed her. Our friend Cheryl tried, and later brought her to me in tears. whatwedid"All she does is flail at the bottle! I can't get her to nurse!" I grabbed that tiny head in my hand, shoved the bottle in, and off she went. "Look at dat wittle," I cooed.

So I was her Mommy. The nickname "Dat Wittle" stuck with her for the rest of her life. "Wittle", "Wee-woh", "Wee Monster" -- that stinker brought out the baby talk in me.
The point of all this baby talk is that bottlefed pets have near-human or above-human intelligence, depending on the intelligence of the owner and whether you live in Mayberry or not. She understood every word we said and was selectively deaf. Lilo was our constant helper who even oversaw Penny's morning routine. Morning meds. Making Penny pour a tiny cup of milk for her and then making her put it back in the fridge so I could serve it when I got up.
Laundry. Kitchen. Bath Attendant. Bed bug. She helped me make Christmas cookies for a friend of ours, and helped with other baking for a special event, so those were special memories. She was so damn proud of herself.

The last week she was with us, it became more and more obvious that she was starting to have pain from the tumor. She stuck closer and closer with me, and when she slept behind me on the back of the couch, I caught her tipping her head upside down to take the pressure off. It was time.

I don't need to describe that last day in much detail. It's still pretty raw. Lilo acted like she knew what was up, begged me to take her out of the carrier and hold her during the drive to the vet, and she really didn't want to leave. I know my cat. But she also knew that we were not going to let her suffer. Dr. B gave her a light sedative and I held Lilo til she drifted off, hugged her close with her head on my shoulder, cooing, "Shhh, Mama's got you."
I still catch myself saying that to my new cat. I have to work that one out.

When Lilo breathed her last breath, I was beyond grief. If this was what losing a child is like, bless my son's heart, I don't want to go through it again.

I had a bit of a nervous breakdown in the following weeks, I have to admit. Our Black Lab Athena--who has aspirations of being an emotional support dog--was all over me during that time. I think she's the reason I kept it halfway together. Just the other day I was in one of my moods, and was looking for one of my cats, and Athena came over and full body sat right on top of me, intentionally holding me down. I laughed until I cried.

But there was a fly in the ointment that day we had to put Lilo down.

Lilo refused to leave.

Call it what you want: dementia, denial, a wild imagination--my baby refused to leave.

The morning after we had her put down, Penny was already up and about in the kitchen on her morning routine, and I woke to a soft "ploof" at the foot of the bed.

Something was moving about on my pillow, and I thought, "It's her". I started to cry. Then I heard a small voice inside my head.

If you know I am here, why are you so sad?

I've gotten used to it by now, but it challenges my perceptions, even though my grandmother was a psychic and several of my cousins have come to me over the years to tell me they have it too, hoping that I wouldn't think they were crazy even though for some years I thought I was the only one.

Lilo was the ONLY one of our cats who knew how to knock on a door. One evening after we had been to the grocery and put everything away, there was a THUMP-THUMP-THUMP on our pantry door.

I gawked.

I opened the pantry door.

Our tabby Boo-Boo fell out. She kept going back into the pantry as though there were another cat in there. I looked and found nothing, and finally dragged Boo-Boo out and said, "Look, if Lilo is in there, I'm pretty sure she can come and go as she pleases," and closed the door.

The doors in the kitchen still knock from time to time. Boo-Boo, who was never a shoulder cat and too clumsy to be one, came climbing up on my shoulder one afternoon while I was doing the laundry, as that damned song, "I'm Already There" began to play on the radio. I can feel Lilo on my shoulder sometimes as I am driving, can feel a pressure on my left cheek, as that is exactly the position Lilo held when she sat on my shoulders.

After we lost Lilo, this little black cat named Chia started following my partner Penny around the animal shelter she manages.

Chia never had a home of her own. She was fearful, defensive, crabby, isolated herself from the rest of the other cats, but never got picked in 6 years to have a home because no one knew how to take her. I was the only one who could sling her up on my shoulder and hold her, kissing her as she grumbled and whined because I knew it was all an act. Penny came home from work one day and announced, "I think Wee-woh wants me to bring Chia home," and I knew that was that.

ChiaChia's a challenge. She's scared of everything. Intriguingly enough, none of our cats attack her for acting like prey. Pete just wants to play with her and be her friend. Drake, our oldest, an old one-eyed black cat who is 18 and 90 in human years, walks past and wonders what she's grumbling about. Niobe, next in line at 16 and 80 in human years, tells her to knock it off and walks away.
Maddie, Lilo's sidekick, who was once shy and almost feral, has come out as a lead cat and has learned to channel her "inner Wee-woh". She adopted Chia, insists on taking charge over her and sits oh-so-patiently next to her while Chia growls (sometimes as Maddie sits there hunched over Chia, you can see her sigh), trying with an endurance that would make Job proud, to get close to her. Everyone knows it is all an act because when you pull Chia out of her comfort zone, she trembles in fear. I've held her as Drake kissed and rubbed her forehead while she nearly had a stroke.
JacksonGalaxyI've considered calling Jackson Galaxy, the star of My Cat From Hell, whom we had the great privilege to meet last year, to get advice on how to get Chia comfortable in our home. But then we have our breakthroughs and I let it slide. Besides, I have checked Jackson's videos out on YouTube and he's had great suggestions.

As I work so hard on healing Chia, Chia heals us. Maddie tries SO hard to fill Lilo's spot in my heart. And I think Lilo had a paw in arranging that, somehow.

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usa-court-gaymarriage

LoveYouJune 26th, 2015: Twelve years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down bans on sodomy in Lawrence v. Texas. Two years to the day after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that states may not deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples and must recognize same-sex couples' existing marriages.

My partner and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary on January 9th, 2016. Later this year, on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2016, we got a brand-new anniversary to celebrate.

Brown-PuseyIn a historic venue, Penny and I invited friends and family to our wedding at the historic Brown-Pusey House in Elizabethtown, KY:

The Brown-Pusey House built in 1825 by John Y. Hill was home for he and his wife, Rebecca. This warm and stately old home was for many years the Hill House, a boarding house operated by "Aunt Beck" Hill. Among the guests at the Hill House were General George Armstrong Custer and his wife Elizabeth. General Custer's assignment in Elizabethtown was to combat the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and the illegal distilleries.

800px-Magnus_Jenny_LindOther notable visitors to the Hill House were the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind, who sang on the front steps, and General John Hunt Morgan of the Confederate Army who dined at the Hill House on several occasions. In 1923, the Brown-Pusey House was restored and given to the community by Dr. William Allen Pusey and Dr. Alfred Brown Pusey (great-nephews of "Aunt Beck") as well as Mrs. Sallie Cunningham Pusey and the related Hastings family.

The Brown-Pusey House serves the community in many ways, as envisioned by its grantors. This Georgian mansion houses the Pusey Room Museum, a genealogical library, and meeting rooms for private and public functions. There is also a beautifully maintained garden for the public to enjoy.

*******

Now, this is really cool for me, because I am descended on my mother's side from the Hill family, although my Hill family is from Western Kentucky, and we presently live in Central Kentucky.

76It was a day of coming full circle and new beginnings as we made our own landmarks in our families' history. My father finally got to walk me down the aisle, and that meant a lot to me. Over the years I had my struggles with family over being accepted for who I was, but I have to say my father has been there for me all the way.

"I wouldn't have missed this for the world," he kept saying to me over and over. "It means everything for you to be here," I told him.

We had a small venue. We couldn't invite every single person on our friends list. Even so, we filled a 65 person capacity hall, wined and dined everyone on a budget thanks to our friend Mike who both catered the event and was the minister for the wedding.

It was a perfect day. Penny fretted the day before over her iPhone that the day called for rain all through the event. I kept telling her, "Nah, it's not going to rain." After the wedding rehearsal, as the lot of us packed up to go to Denny's for dinner, there was a double rainbow in the distance. "You see that?" I told them. "Tomorrow's going to be a perfect day." And it was. And whenever anyone said so, I said, "Damn, I'm good."

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Life gives us ups and downs sometimes. Life can be like a rollercoaster. We go through good times and bad times, and sometimes it can get pretty rough. But you're never really alone. You look around and see all the love that is there, see all the great people who are there for you in good times and bad, and it makes you feel warm inside. This is our family. Not all of these people are blood family. But they are family just the same. These are the people who stick with you through good times and bad, and all the times in between. And in the end, family is all that really matters.

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Say! Would you like to see the rest of our wedding pictures? Go check it out at Wedding Day 4-22-2016.

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