ACW Episode 251 – Rescue me!


Click on the pic to see it full-sized!

This was part of the Girl Scouts small watercraft test I had to take. After flipping the boat, I had to get back into it. Without anyone pulling me in. Which is actually quite hard. Especially since those flotation vests don’t bend. Do you know how hard it is to get back into a canoe when you can’t bend at the waist? I ended up going over sideways, across the part of my torso that wasn’t covered by the vest, and that’s how I cracked a rib. Fun!

I’ve scheduled more time to draw webcomics, so hopefully I’ll start to get them drawn and posted more regularly. The webcomics have gotten more complicated to draw, as I’ve mentioned. This is because I’m trying to draw more detailed backgrounds and do more technically challenging things (like drawing canoes in perspective). I think it’s been worth the effort to push myself to do these things, but it does take more time. Hopefully, I will get faster at this, and I will definitely be spending more time in the mornings drawing webcomics before I do anything else.

Anyhoo, have fun! Now that I’ve got this posted, I’m going to put down my Wacom stylus and head out to the gym! See ya!

ACW Episode 250!!! Row, row, row your boat!


Click on the pic to see it full-sized!

Wow! 250 webcomics and I’m still here. Which is pretty surprising considering the above cartoon did happen. Row the canoe out to the middle of the lake… tip the canoe… turn the canoe upright… get back into the canoe… row the canoe… tip the canoe… etc., etc.

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to get the webcomic done. I do work on it every day, usually for at least an hour, more when I can. But I am slow. Script writing goes very quickly, but penciling takes me forever to get done. Inking is a bit faster, as is coloring and adding dialog, but it still all adds up to a lot of work.

I think part of the reason why is because I’ve gotten more ambitious in what I draw. The backgrounds are more detailed. And every now and then I try to do something I’ve never done before, like drawing a canoe in perspective (that was a huge challenge this week). I think it makes the webcomic better, even if it does slow things down.

So I will keep working, and do what I can to get faster at putting out the comic. Hopefully all the time and effort I put into it is worth it 🙂

Stealing Time

I've been playing with my schedule lately. I know I've been all over the map with getting stuff up on the website. Adventures of Cynical Woman is behind and Bitchcraft is WAY behind. It all comes down to having to juggle my work with my responsibilities as a parent and a Girl Scout volunteer. I think if I only had the one volunteer job – troop leader OR cookie mom – I'd be okay. But instead I've spent a good part of this year putting together events for all the troops at the kids' school, and that's turned out to be a lot of work. Handling the email alone on that takes almost 2 hours every evening, and that's just handling the email! That doesn't include filling out paperwork, budgeting for events, meeting with troop leaders to plan events, preparing for meetings with troop leaders to plan events, etc.

I've also been sick most of this school year, which hasn't helped at all.

I've been working on ways to steal back time for myself. Again, 2 hours of Girl Scouts email every evening (unless I ignore it completely, which some days I HAVE to do, if I'm going to get anything done). And those 2 hours really cut into my free time. I consider free time to be any time I'm not spending on taking care of the house or the family. One hour of my free time goes into exercise because if I don't exercise my blood pressure goes up and my head explode (and that's not good). Another hour goes into getting cleaned up after exercise and doing some meditation (again, head will explode with out that). And that leaves me with about 15 minutes of free time, which I usually end up spending going to the bathroom (another thing I have to do to keep my head, or any other body parts, from exploding).

So how to find free time when my free time has all been used up by doing activities to keep my head from exploding? I think the first key may be prioritizing.

By prioritizing I don't mean deciding what's most important for me to do with my free time. I mean deciding whether Girl Scouts, house cleaning, taking care of Hubster and the kids, or doing my own work has the top priority.

I have a huge pile of “everything must be done NOW” tasks, but they can't all be done, so I have to sort through them everyday to decide which ones are going to the top of the heap and which ones are going to sit at the bottom and sort of ferment or compost until I really do have to deal with them. For example, my parents are coming to visit tomorrow. My to-do heap (not even a list anymore, it's a HEAP) includes exercise, plan the upcoming Girl Scout bridging ceremony, wash and fold laundry, clean Pixie's room (where my parents will be sleeping), draw webcomics, draw artwork for new cards and stuff on Zazzle, touch up the hair dye (it needs it, really), plan the next Girl Scout troop meeting, make some new jewelry because I have a really cool idea for a new ring, work on new clothes because my old ones are wearing out, buy new clothes for Hubster and the kids because their stuff is wearing out, go to karate class…

See, it just doesn't end. And I can't do all of this in one day, so I have to pick and choose. When I can, I pick a mix of things – something for Girl Scouts, something for the house, something for the kids and Hubster, something just for me.

Today, I started with me as the first priority. I have a robot drawing I'm working on, so I woke up at 6:30, grabbed a cup of coffee, and promptly went back to bed and read “Adventure Time” comic books. Because I should also mention that I deserve a little down time each day, and the best way for me to wake up is comics and coffee. I read one comic book, and then I pulled out my iPad and worked on the robot drawing for an hour. I didn't get as far as I wanted, but an hour is all I can spend on it, so I've gotten that priority out of the way.

The next priority was the kids and Hubster. Everybody needs clean laundry. So I got up, got dressed, and sorted through all the laundry and put a load into the washer. I'll probably wash and dry 3 loads today. Will I fold those loads? I'm betting not, because what everyone needs is clean laundry, so folding is optional as long as the laundry is clean and dry. If it doesn't make it into a drawer or closet, my peeps know they can dig it out of the hampers in my room.

Next priority is breakfast, which is happening right now as I blog. I gots to eat. And when I eat, I usually think, and it occurs to me that those thoughts could just as easily go on the blog so I have at least SOMETHING new up. I'll finish this up in a few minutes and post it, then finish my coffee and run out the door for the next priority, which is exercise.

I'll spend an hour today at the gym, and another hour getting cleaned up. It'll be noon by then. I'll grab a quick lunch and move on to cleaning Pixie's bedroom, because my folks are sleeping in it. The room doesn't have to be springtime fresh, but I should remove all the tripping hazards from the floor and put clean sheets on the bed. Also, I should probably check for any cat puke that may be hiding up there.

After that, I need to get a new shower curtain rod for the guest bathroom, since the old one broke. Guests need a nice guest bathroom. I'll wait to clean the guest bathroom until tomorrow though, because I've got to switch gears again and move back into “me” stuff. I've got an almost finished webcomic that seriously needs to be a finished webcomic posted on the website. Once that's done, it'll be time to fix dinner so the kids don't start chewing off my legs. And when dinner is done, then it's time to put together the plan for the bridging ceremony. I started on that last week, so there's only an hour or so of work left. Once that's done, I'm going the fuck to bed because it'll have been a damned busy day!

Yep, busy. And you'll notice that I only just barely made a dent in the ever-growing to-do heap. BUT I got the important stuff done. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

I'm stopping here now and getting a move on my day. Enjoy yours, and while you're at it, enjoy this work-in-progress that I managed to spend an hour on this morning, because I made it a priority.



ACW Episode “This is not a webcomic” – joint pain, priorities, and MEESMo

No webcomic today! Although I promise you there will be some fun cartoon art later down in this post.

But first, let me 'splain…

Over the past few months, I've been having increasing problems with joint pain. It actually started years ago, after I gave birth to the Princess and then had two knee injuries in a row. My knees hurt for months, but eventually the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when I went up and down the stairs. After Pixie was born, my knees began causing me so much trouble, I ended up going to a physical therapist for a couple months to strengthen them and reduce the pain. That seemed to help, and again, the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when heading up or down the stairs.

But the knee pain kept coming back, off and on throughout the years. I realized certain types of exercise – yoga, biking, swimming, water aerobics, and Wii Fit – seemed to keep the pain at bay. Other exercises – high impact stuff like running and karate – seemed to make it worse. I eventually gave up running in favor of water aerobics. As for karate, I started learning how to do things with as little impact on my knees as I could achieve (no more deep knee bends for this karate woman!). I figured it was osteo-arthritis, and it was only natural for a woman approaching her mid-forties to feel aches and pains in her knees from time to time.

Of course, there was also the occasional time when I'd come down with what I thought was the flu and I'd wind up stuck in bed for a day or so. Only I didn't have a fever… Or any congestion… Or any nausea… Or any other symptoms except aches and pains in my joints that put me under the covers with the heating pad for a while.

All of this was okay, though. The knee pain slowed me down a little, the flu-like days were a minor pain but nothing more, and none of it was enough to interfere with my daily life. Then last November I tore my meniscus and ACL in my right leg, and it was all downhill from there.

Let me say up front that I had a very successful reconstructive surgery and that my physical therapy, while it lasted months, did miracles for me. By the time March came around, I no longer limped and I could walk, swim, bike and hop on the elliptical with no pain. But during the months from January to March, I had a couple more instances of those flu-like days. When I went to see my orthapaedist, I told him it felt like I had sick knees; they felt feverish and achy and kept me in bed. The orthapaedist had no idea what it could be, since my knees seemed to be working just fine. He suggested I talk to a specialist, and I said I'd look into it.

I decided to start with a physical first. It had to be scheduled months in advance. The earliest date I could get was in November. Since I was back to normal activity, mostly, and had started easing back into karate classes, I wasn't in any hurry and I figured that was okay. Once the summer started, with all that warm weather, my knee problems mostly seemed to disappear. I was still recovering from the torn ACL, so it seemed natural to me to have problems getting up and down the stairs at the end of a long day. I was in the pool and on the bike with the kids everyday, too, so I expected to be tired. The girls learned to come downstairs to kiss me good night before they went to bed, so I wouldn't have to haul myself upstairs with my tired, aching knees.

And so it went, right through to September. Then sometime in that month, the back ache started. I developed this persistant pain in my lower back that dogged me all day and night. At first, I thought it was because our mattress was overdue to be flipped, so Hubster and I flipped it, but that didn't help. Then I thought the problem might be with our couch. I spend a lot of time there when I draw and crochet, and our couch is over 20 years old. I got some firm pillows to put against my back and made certain to sit with good posture, but that didn't help either.

The knee pain kicked in as well. And then the hip pain. And then the foot pain. That last was especially bad in the morning. In October, when my parents came to visit, I got the shock of my life when I got up early one morning and I met my mother in the hallway. We were both shuffling along with that same, painful, arthritic gate. Only my mom is in her late seventies and I still haven't hit 45 yet.

By that point, I was trying everything I could to get the joint pain under control. I ate gin-soaked raisins and took supplements of tumeric and fish oil and vitamin D. I swallowed huge capsules of OTC pain-relievers. I slept with my heating pad and took plenty of hot baths. I did yoga until I could bend myself completely in half without breaking a sweat. None of it worked.

Finally, November hit and I went in for my physical. I told the doctor everything. She ordered lots of blood tests and prescribed Gabapentin, which is an anti-seizure medication that also works with rheumatoid arthritis pain. I spent a week waking up completely loopy because of the medication I took the night before. When the blood test results came back, everything was normal.

So the doctor forwarded me to a specialist, who I will see in January. In the meantime I am doing everything I can to manage my symptoms. Some days I am so pain-free, I feel 15 years younger. Other days I am back in bed with the heating pad by 6PM. I've learned to pre-set my bed before I head out to pick up the kids from school in the afternoons. I gather up everything I know I'm going to need in the evening – paperwork, iPad, Surface tablet, crochet project, whatever I need to work on – and I lay it out on one side of the bed, along with a comfortable set of sweats or PJs. My work hours have been drastically reduced to 1-2 hours in the day and another 1-2 hours in the evening. I've learned to take advantage of the morning hours, when I have the most energy, for things like exercise and Girl Scouts paperwork (which is probably the most exhausting task I have to face on any given day). I try to save the evenings for drawing and crochet, activities that I can pick up and put down as needed whenever the girls need my help with their homework.

Because of the drain on my work hours, I've also found myself having to make decisions everyday about what I'm going to work on. Last week, I finally emailed the staff at our Girl Scout service unit and told them i needed to step down from the Volunteer Support Team and any committees I was on due to health issues. This weekend, I had to choose between taking a karate test for 4th degree black belt and cleaning the house (no way in hell were both of those tasks going to get done!). And I also had to choose between drawing today's webcomic and drawing a new Christmas card design, something I've been trying to get to for weeks now.

It's probably too late for this card to be done in time for anyone to buy it for is Christmas. I still have several hours of work left to do on it. BUT it will be done in time for any after-Christmas sales that Zazzle may do, so if you're the kind who likes to buy your Christmas cards on sale a year in advance, this one is for you.

(And this is the part where I show you that fun artwork I promised at the beginning of this very long post.)


I'll do a big reveal on the final artwork once it's done and posted to Zazzle, but for right now, the point I really want to get across is this…

I am doing everything I can to draw as fast as I can to keep the webcomics coming. But there are other projects that I need to work on as well. I have a TON of evil greeting cards that I want to draw, and I have promised both my girls that I will illustrate two stories they've written (that's one story per child!) and get those stories epublished somewhere. If for some reason, I don't get the ACW webcomic up on time every Monday, I will at least post something that I'm working on, be it artwork from a greeting card or calendar or an illustration from one of the kids' stories. And you may see more single panel webcomics from me. Honestly, there are plenty of events that happen around me that would make perfect single panel cartoons, and I may even turn some of those into greeting cards as well, if they work out that way.

So what I'm saying is be patient with me. I'm going to see a doctor, and in the mean time I will keep plugging away as best I can. I will even eventually finish setting up the Etsy shop I started working on last month. It will all happen, slowly, over time.

I promise!


ACW Episode 234 – No smoking, please

It's Cynical Woman!

Click on the comic above to see it full-size!

Honestly, I started drawing this one on Friday morning and I spent all weekend drawing and I just now finished it! Lots of work went into this one., and it’s bigger than usual, because that’s the best way I could figure out how to pace the script.

The comic above actually happened, by the way, although I did NOT threaten to set the woman on fire. I did make her leave the campsite, though. And at the end of the day, when I was cleaning up the site, I found two cigarette butts buried in the leaves behind the cabin. I should have checked when the woman left, because had those butts been burning, they would have started a huge fire.

ACW Episode 229 – What I do in real life


Click on the comic to see the full-sized version!

I try not to let my Girl Scouts volunteering overwhelm the rest of my life, but some times it can’t be helped. This weekend I coordinated a school clean up with 3 other troops and I held our monthly troop meeting at my house. The troop meeting is usually 6 hours long. No time to draw fancy cartoons! Enjoy the stick figures.

ACW Episode 225 – Juggling and Struggling

Honestly, I have a 4-panel strip scripted, lettered, and laid out. But it's not been sketched an drawn yet, due to the sheer amount of other work that I had to do last week. No joke, I spent four days straight doing nothing but Girl Scouts stuff – trying to place girls in troops, getting ready for and running my own troop meeting on Sunday, handling paperwork, etc. And this week I have a volunteer meeting every night except Friday. It's kind of brutal and so my schedule is rather screwed up right now.

But I'm just going to keep chugging along. I promise, there will be a webcomic on Mondays, though it may be a bit late, and there will be an episode of Bitchcraft on Friday, though sometimes that may be a bit late as well. Meanwhile, I will also be working hard to keep up with my other work as best as I can. And when necessary, I will take entire days off from Girl Scouts, because hey, I'm a VOLUNTEER and I have A LIFE OUTSIDE OF GIRL SCOUTS.

Meanwhile, do you like the colors on the comic above? I'm playing around with new colors schemes in my non-comics art, and since I had this color palette already set up in SketchClub, I decided to use it in today's comic. It sort of matches my wardrobe now, since I accidentally dyed everything I own slightly yellow. Oops.