July 20, 2014

Visual Storytelling at #BlogHer14

I'm so over Italy already! Heading out to California tomorrow afternoon where I'll be hanging out with my cousin and her husband at the very cool Ink + Smog in LA. I'm also going to see some animation industry friends because Hollywood, and then I'll be heading up to the BlogHer conference in San Jose. My friend Neil Kramer is driving and someone has to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel. That someone would be moi. I make an excellent passenger.

This will be my third BlogHer. If we've never met, and you come up to me IRL and say "Hi JC!" I may stare blankly at you. This is because I'm a visual person and I'm used to seeing your avatar and stuff. Also, Internet friendships are contextual, you know? I might know you as the person I talked about magical dog poop with on Twitter. So if I space on you, try saying, "Hi! I'm the magical dog poop person!" And then I'll totally know who you are and we can hug IRL.

Alternately, you can simply whisper the Secret Password:

The Secret Password is "monkey farts".

If you do I'll know that you're MY PEOPLE. You should only whisper the Secret Password if you don't mind being hugged, squeezed and possibly accidentally groped.

There will be Toonswag. Here is a sample (it's Neil. And by the way he will not be taking Instagrams while driving to San Jose...unless he wants to get thwacked.):

This adorkable dude blogs at Citizen of the Month. He hates being called "dude".

Also this is happening:


I'm speaking on Friday afternoon, in a panel on The Visual Web track called "Developing Your Visual Voice". The other speakers on the panel are Jill Krause (Baby Rabies), Melanie Perkins (Canva) and Vanessa Bell (De Su Mama) and you can find out more about it here. My bit will be on visual storytelling, with tips and tricks on how to use simplification techniques to illustrate stories and concepts. Also it will have drawings and animation.

If you're coming to BlogHer I hope that you'll find a way to make it to this session. I can promise you that it will be fun (because cartoons), you'll learn something (because cartoons) and it will likely be somewhat different to what you're used to seeing at social media conferences (...because cartoons). And there will be a free monkey button for everyone who comes.*

*While quantities last.

Wish me luck getting over this beastly jetlag. Who wants toonswag?


July 17, 2014

Half-Italian.

I'm half Italian. The top half. Which makes buying a bikini all kinds of challenging; I always say that together, J-Lo and I make the ideal woman.


Back to the bit about me being half Italian. It is entirely my mother's fault. Both her parents are Italian, and their parents are also Italian. All this is why I find myself here in Italy with twelve other family members, namely my mom, my two brothers, and all our respective partners and offspring. It's a family heritage trip to the part of Italy from whence came my mother's maternal grandparents, my Bisnonno and Bisnonna.

I never met my Bisnonna as she died when my mom was a child. But I remember my Bisnonno fairly well; positively ancient and smelling faintly of parmesan he would ask if I thought he'd get into heaven when he died. Being a non-religious and slightly awkward ten year old with zero knowledge of Italian, I figured the best thing to do was to just keep nodding. I'm pretty sure he made it, because he was basically a good guy (though my Grandma did tell me that he slapped her in the face once for talking to a boy when she was a teenager - times have changed, yo) and from what I understand that's where good guys go who are Roman Catholic or whatever. Heaven. In case you got lost.

ANYWAYS. I just thought you guys might be wondering where I've been for the past three weeks. My great-grandparents were from near this part of Italy that I'm surrounded by. At the moment, I'm on a recliner beside a pool laid out in a beautifully landscaped villa property nestled in the Apennines, farmland and hills of Le Marche countryside, probably owned by British people. I say probably because one is never sure about who actually owns a vacation property. Is it the person you negotiated the rental with, or is it the person who's family photos are staring back at you from every horizontal and vertical surface in the main floor common rooms? I hate that! Seriously, one time we stayed in a vacation rental house in New Brunswick and the "in-laws" official silver anniversary photos were hung on the wall above the bed in the master bedroom. Not exactly conducive to sexy-time, if you know what I mean.


My mom went around the villa, collected all the family photos and put them in a cupboard. Sorry property owner family members! (Not really. We've paid enough money to enjoy this vacation in your crib without having you watch us).

When I say "enjoy" I really mean take turns having meltdowns. Here is a graph:


Are you still with me? Try and keep up because there might be a quiz later.

When you put thirteen (I know, I know) people together in a house in paradise, and the people are my family, you're tempting the most disastrous kind of fate. And fate did not shy away, unfortunately, it was most inconveniently forthcoming. Grown men transformed into macho babies, the food and wine that was meant to be an expression of love was turned into a weapon. Egos exploded left and right, bitter accusations borne of baggage long-dragged flew, tears were shed quietly behind closed doors and hearts... were fractured. I thanked the Universe or whatever that I had quit drinking a few months earlier, because I might have otherwise been sucked into the abyss.


And yet...there were gems. The birds, the hills, the people in Le Marche, the coffee, the shoes and handbags, tiny lizards running through the grass, humble corners of cobbled village streets, and the softest sunlight filtering down on everything. It was a sheer joy to watch the kids fling themselves into the food, the family and the pool in spite of the dramaz. My three year old nieceling was cousining for the first time in her young life, surrounded by five mostly teenagers.


But the best? Was hearing my mom speak Italian; the shining faces of the local people looking up to her and seeing one of their own. Ever the lady, unbroken and lovely, here in Italy. A worthy Matriarch.


Also I have a tan. A half-Italian one.

Follow #jcinitaly on my Instagram for more humble pics of Italy. Coming home in a few days. After that...California.


June 27, 2014

Four Year BLOG-iversary.

HOLY CRAP-A-DOODLE. I missed my fourth Blog-iversary.

It was on June 21st.


There's just too dang much going on around here: two books, three films, three teenagers in my face...life is rushing past me! I barely have time to live it, let alone record it in drawings.

Never mind. You can still wish me a Happy Blog-iversary if'n you want to.

Or...you could draw me a card!! If you do, I will post it below. And it will make me very, very happy. Prolly won't happen, but you never know.

PS I love drawing for you. What was your favourite post this year?


June 18, 2014

Menopause FUQ.

WARNING: This post is bold. In fact, my husband is pretty much convinced that I'm destroying my blogging career with it. Do I care? Not really. Both my daughters and my own mother burst out laughing viewing these drawings. But anyways, if you’re at all squeamish or easily offended by anthropomorphic lady bits you should stop reading now and click away from this blog post. I’m taking no prisoners.

“MENOPAUSE.”

Yeah, I said it out loud. Seriously, nobody* wants to talk openly about this fact of female life. I grew up, got married and had three children, and was all the while blissfully unaware of anything to do with menopause. I only learned how to spell it properly when I got my first attack of the sweaty-undertits. No one wants to talk and no one wants to listen.
*A group comprised of most people.

Just for fun, I Googled some of the female-exclusive reproductive words to compare interest levels (I included a Google search of "sex" just for laughs.):


9.1 billion mentions of "menopause" on the Internet seems like a lot. But is it? I mean, it has a tad more presence than "menstruation", which kinda surprised me, but is still nowhere near the search results for "pregnancy", or "sex", which is totally off the charts.

I’ll say it again:

“MENOPAUSE, MENOPAUSE, MENOPAUSE, MENOPAUSE, MENOPAUSE. 
MENO - wait for it ......pause.”

I feel like sharing. Here’s a list of things no one told me about menopause - think of it as a PSA falling kerplunk! into the category of answers to Frequently Unanswered Questions, or FUQ:

1.  First off - Tweezers will be your new best friend. You'll want a magnifying mirror to see the nasty black bristles you've been oblivious to for the past six months since your eyes have been going bye-bye.


2.  When you look in the mirror, you'll sometimes see a man staring back at you. This is especially true if your teen-aged daughters steal borrow your tweezers. Weirdly, make-up tends to enhance the masculine effect. It’s kind of a drag.


3.  You will need three different bra sizes in one month. Randomly undulating breasts are fun! Try to enjoy it.

You're looking at my star qualities aren't you.

4.  My Hot Flashes are probably contributing to Global Warming. I'm sorry about that. If only there was a Think Tank clever enough to dream up a way to harness this sustainable energy resource...


5.  Night sweats can totally happen during the day. (Note the sweaty- undertits.)


6.  Things that you used to be able to set your clock by, suddenly go haywire. And just when you think you're in the clear because it's been months and months since you've had to tear off a strip, your period will come raging back into your knickers like an old acquaintance that you never liked very much cornering you at a cocktail party.

Wear white at your own risk and above all, avoid swimming in shark infested waters.


7.  Oh the mood swings! Oscillating between crying jags and vicious snarls is exhausting. Too bad those hot flashes are keeping you awake at night.

See what I did there?

SCROLL NO FURTHER IF DIZZY, NAUSEOUS OR UNABLE TO MAKE A FIST.

Still here? Well alrighty then, don't say I didn't warn you.

8.  Vaginal dryness happens to OTHER women. Nobody wants to admit they have it because our plump, juicy vagina is tied directly to our core sexuality. But one day you'll be innocently going about your business when suddenly there'll be a scratching sensation. The closest thing I can liken it to is having sand in your bathing suit and you'll wonder how on earth it got there.

Life is a beach, and then you get sandy shorts. THANKS A LOT, MENOPAUSE.

Sex can be ouchy! You might be well and truly turned on but it still feels dry and it hurts. Some days it feels like if your vagina had a face it might look like this.


But don't freak out - it doesn't have a face.

Actually, I looked "vaginal dryness" up on a reputable site, and guess what?! The vagina is not necessarily dry; it could just be that the tissues are all thin and shriveled due to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. So yaaaaaay.

Also known as "Reasons to die young".

9.  You will lose your memory. You will even lose the memory of your memory.


10.  What was the question again? I'm sorry I can't hear you above the wailing wind whistling through my empty cranial cavity.


11.  Somehow, through this tornado of bleck and uncertainty, The Huz still finds me hawt. Hurrah! I will keep him.

Yay! Someone loves me, vadryna and all!
On the bright side, I've only got another five to ten years of this menopausal crap. I wonder what's supposed to happen after that...?


June 6, 2014

Quality FAMILY Time.

Four years ago, our Zombie Dishwasher finally gave up the ghost.


Since The Huz was doing most of the cooking, a fair chunk of the dish washing was done by ...yours truly.

But before you burst into tears of pity, let me tell you it hasn't been all bad. Sure, there are times when every single dish, glass, pot, cutlery and Tupperware in the kitchen has been used throughout the day, and every single able-bodied person mysteriously disappears after dinner. We're talking about the horrendous aftermath of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snackies, complete with crusted-on cement masquerading as cereal and the horrors of three day old tuna-sandwich plastic containers arising from the depths of an Eight Grader's school bag.

It's enough to give you the dry heaves (if you're lucky).


Rather than face it alone, I nag. I nag expertly. After a 30+ year career in animation production, making sure we get that commercial through the pipeline on time, under budget and with blow-the-client-away quality, I'm capable of world class nagging - I am a nagspert! Of course, animators are somewhat easier to herd than teenagers.


But eventually, during the first year of my unrelenting nagging to "COME AND HELP WITH THE DISHES", something very interesting began to happen. Dish washing time turned into one-on-one time. As I stood scrubbing and rinsing, my normally reticent teenagers would spill the beans about their day, their friends, their crushes and disappointments. The fresh linen in their hands methodically drying crockery still warm from the sink had a relaxing effect on them. I think it helped that I would stand facing the window, so there was no judgmental eye to cast aspersions. Whichever of my kids happened to be helping would soon begin leaking secrets and we began to know our children as people.


Washing dishes had become a safe place.

But that's not all. The Huz set up some speakers and a turntable in the kitchen and there was music. More than one teenager would join in with the clearing, and stacking and drying as I stood washing. We danced to the Beatles, The Jackson 5 and Elton John! We sang along to Grease and Rocky Horror! Old vinyl records were pulled out and played, the history of music was discussed, memories and stories emerged and our children began to know their parents as people.


Washing dishes had become fun.

There's more. The teenagers invited their friends and boyfriends over, who would stay for dinner and help with the dishes afterwards. Jokes, laughter and philosophical conversation flowed as the dirty dishes passed one by one through my soapy hands to wind up clean and dry in the cupboards.


And some days, most extraordinarily, The Huz and I will put our feet up and relax on the sofa while the kids do the dishes without us.


This story has been ripening in my head for four years. I've just come from the kitchen, singing a slew of Bee Gees songs with the seventeen-year-old girl. The sink is clean, the counter wiped and every dish has been scrubbed, dried and put away....tidied after a fashion.


I know that life isn't perfect; there are still days when no one comes to help and I just don't feel like nagging or washing dishes. On those days they get left in a pile until the next morning, and I'm okay with that.

I will never be tempted to trade my quality family time for a dishwasher. There are still memories waiting to be made washing dishes, and I know that soon enough, it will be just me and The Huz.

Do you have any fun stories about doing housework with your family?


June 3, 2014

Exercise & Bras.

I've been making a few incremental changes in my life lately. Most of them are small things, like quitting drinking, spending time with loved ones, and brushing my teeth before bed. But they also include exercise. I am smart.

So today I'm going to talk to you about exercise and bras (my favourite fashion item). Have a look at the animated GIF here:

When I go running I wear a regular bra with a sports bra on top. Even so, I noticed that when I run around the park my bra straps fall down. I have to interrupt my rhythm to push them back up but they just fall down again. This is so frikkin' annoying it makes me want to give up! The health benefits of exercise are surely outweighed by the stress of having to return those dumb bra straps to my shoulders over and over. Right?


Anyways I was thinking, maybe I could do some kind of exercise that builds up my shoulder muscles. The muscle bulges would keep my bra straps from falling down again.

OK geniuses, what kind of exercise do I need to do to achieve this goal?


Sometimes I do a mini-workout first thing in the morning. It can be tempting to roll out of bed and do jumping jacks in my pyjamas before I'm completely awake.


It never occurred to me that my un-tethered gazongas might render me unconscious with their wild swinging.

Jumping-jack TKO.

It was a big mistake and I won't be doing that again.


Next time I'll just put my bra on, on top of my jammies.

Exercise is good for you!


May 26, 2014

Elephant.

"I'm calling this."

Are you sure? You can't take it back once it's out there.

"I'm ready. I'm brave."

Wow. You're really letting go of this.

"Yeah, I love wine. I love the drunkies, I love the way it makes me giggle!"

So why quit?

"Because I love me more. I can finally stop hating myself."

Self-loathing is not cool for someone as lovable as you, JC.

"Thank-you for saying that."

You're welcome. We won't judge you.