Category Archives: family

Anything related to my family, immediate and extended

Raising a girl-child and a boy-child

I’m the proud owner of both a girl child and a boy child—and they couldn’t be more different from each other if we had tried. (okay, okay, neither of them are actually a “child” anymore…just roll with it) Thing is, we didn’t do anything different with the two when they were babies.

I can remember before my girl child, my firstborn, arrived. We were in California at the time and were offered untold suggestions, hints, advice—all un-solicited—but all welcomed from veteran parents. Most of the advice was good as it was practical: avoid these foods, watch out for this diaper, be sure this happens before you leave the hospital. It came from the voice(s) of experience, and they were passing that “been there, done that” experience on to us.

One common thing we read, though—and we read a LOT—wasn’t about practical stuff, it was about how not to brainwash your kid. Okay, that’s not what they said, but it was essentially the meat of it. In a nutshell, the argument was that kids turn out the way they do because of the way we raise them. If we provide all gender neutral colors, etc., they won’t grow up like the “stereotype.” Whatever that means.

So, when my first—the girl child—came along, we did much of that: we avoided pink, and girly, froufrou stuff. Yeah—like that mattered. As soon as girl child was old enough to pick what she liked, she went pink. ALL pink! EVERYTHING was pink because that is what she wanted. We didn’t push it on her, she chose it!

She’s since moved on from pink, preferring the more subtle purple, but still…the whole point of this was that all those magazines and books we read about what to do when raising the girl-child were so much hooey. She was born with her unique personality and she wanted to do the things she wanted to do…and that was to be a pretty in pink princess. (she’s still my princess, but that’s another blog for another day)

My boy-child is a completely different story. Like his sister, he chose his own unique style, and gravitated towards blues. (today it is blacks and greys) When BJ re-decorated his room—without talking to him about it first (it was supposed to be a surprise from him, moving from his “little boy” bed to his “big boy” bed)—he was very blunt. She asked, “what do you think?” His response? “I don’t like it.” And yes, we’ve got it all on video.

Moral of the story? All the so-called child-rearing experts (the social ones, not the medical doctors—them, we love!) are full of so much hot air. Dress your kids the way you want to when they’re babies. Put them in dresses, or spots outfits—they’ll make their own choices when they’re old enough to figure it all out. God’s already got a plan for them, so when they DO make those choices…roll with it. It’s all good.

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Update on my dad

So many of you already know that Dad has been in the hospital since Jan. 23rd. As of this writing, he’s out of ICU but still in an ICU-step-down unit. Mom has been with him the entire time and Angie, my sister, has been with him most of that time. I drove up with my family on the 25th, arriving on the 26th—it’s a 14 hour drive from Orlando—and we stayed for nearly two weeks.

While he’s doing much better, he’s still in the ICU step-down unit and still has a long road of recovery in front of him. We’ve been very happy to get reports that Dad is highly motivated in tackling his physical therapy to get full movement back.

What happened?

Well, Dad has this rare disease called sarcoidosis. If you google it, you’ll find there are fewer than 200,000 cases in the U.S. In the U.S. the most common demographic is overweight, black, women. Yeah, Dad is none of those.

But Dad’s case was even more rare as it often affects the respiratory system. Dad’s case struck his pituitary gland, destroying it. For those of you more keen on biology than others—yeah, you can’t live without the pituitary gland. It’s basically a CPU for the endocrine system. It hit Dad in 1984 and we nearly lost him then.

What it’s done to him, though, is effectively destroy his natural immune system so that he’s more susceptible to sickness.

Taken in November 2016. All of us!

Taken in November 2016. All of us!

And that’s what got him this time; he got both the flu AND pneumonia at the same time—and it just really whacked his body. Because of the shock to his system, he got sepsis shock…and then that’s when he got what the doctor called “a systemic shutdown,” meaning, he was so sick his body just began to shut down. That’s when they had to insert a ventilator.

While he struggled with the pneumonia in his lungs, his blood pressure dropped, his heart rate was all over the board, his kidneys failed…and while that haven’t confirmed it for sure (they said it was something they could worry about after he gets out of the hospital), it even looks like he may have had a minor heart attack and a possible mini-stroke.

Yeah…it was pretty bad. So much so that for a brief couple of days, the doctors weren’t really offering us a lot of hope.

Once his flu fever broke, though, the doctors had to play a balancing game between getting liquid to and through his kidney and drying out his lungs. That wasn’t easy for them. They ultimately decided that his kidneys could take the most punishment and that they needed him off the ventilator and his lungs in better shape. Fortunately for Dad, that’s what happened…and then he began to fight some of these other things.

So 18 days later Dad is working to regain much of his physical ability that simply atrophied quickly as he laid in bed unable to do anything for so long. Thank you all so very much for the prayers. We believe they were heard! As I said earlier, he’s still in the hospital for a reason—so any and all continued prayers are highly welcomed!

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Happy New Year and looking ahead to 2017

cmcoloredHappy New Year everyone! I know some of you are ready to put 2016 behind you, but I’m ever the optimist so I’m anticipating 2017 to be a great year. I’ll add the obligatory “I can’t believe it’s 2017 already! Where has the time gone?”

I don’t have a lot of convention appearances lined up just yet, but one is fairly immediate. On Jan 19-20, I’ll be a guest at Auburndale City Con (near Lakeland, FL). The other shows I have lined up are: Daytona Beach Comic Convention on April 23, MegaCon in Orlando in May, Wizard Orlando in August. I’ll do something for FCBD (Free Comic Book Day) in May, but don’t have that hammered down yet. Wherever I end up, it’ll likely be with my pal Barry Gregory—three years running. Last year his lovely and talented wife, Jenni joined us, as did Thomas and Rene Florimonte. So, I’ll be somewhere, just not sure where yet. I hope to add a few more shows to the list, and I’ll be sure to let y’all know.

silverblade-cover-posterOn the family front, Brittany is starting 2017 off in LA as she seeks work there. I’m anxious to learn all that she’ll be getting to do this year and anticipate seeing her on the screen before the year is up! Brett will become a senior this year—OH MY!—and he’s becoming quite the young man. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but one of my weekly (mostly) pleasures is my Friday night game session with Brett. Now that Brittany is in LA, she’s talked about joining us…if she can figure out the time difference. BJ’s still working hard on her Young Living business venture and we’re both pretty excited to see what’s in store for her there. If you haven’t “liked” her FB page yet, I’ll ask that you please go do it now: CLICK HERE!

I’m pretty excited about several things on the creative front. I’m working on two projects with long time friend and artist Dean Zachary. I’ll give you more as they develop, but a peek at them looks like: the first we’re calling SilverBlade and the high concept is Indiana Jones meets John Constantine. Joining me and Dean on SilverBlade is Barbara Kaalberg on inks and Thomas O’Connor on colors. You should see an image on this page somewhere. The second project Dean and I are working on is a revamp of Cat & Mouse, a series I did with the talented Mitch Byrd (and Steven Butler on some of the early issues) back in the late 80s/early 90s. Dean and I have made changes and updates, obviously, but the spirit will remain. The first story is about human trafficking, something I’m pretty passionate about. While Barb inked the image you see on this page, we’ve got another super-talented inker in mind to join us here, and the coloring is done by Kevin Gallegly.

Demon's Tails Ad

Demon’s Tails Ad

I can’t mention C&M without folks thinking about Demon. I’m excited to say that Paul Pelletier has agreed to reunite with me and produce a second Demon’s Tails mini-series. As I write, we’re still working on the story details, and—of course—the story will have to move at Paul’s pace, but I’m excited that we’re getting started on it. Thomas Florimonte has agreed to round out the reunited team as inker. So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about it. Long time pal Barry Gregory colored the image you see here, and we’re currently planning for it to be part of the Gallant Universe where Barry and Steven have just wrapped up their incredible John Aman, Amazing Man series. If you haven’t seen it, you need to check it out!

There’s nothing really specific that I can mention, but I’ve been talking to Barry about some pretty cool comic-related projects. I’m looking forward to more on that end. Sorry about being so mysterious about it. You know that you’ll be the first to know when I can talk about it…but the possibilities are pretty exciting.

Hope your year looks to be as exciting as mine. Happy New Year one and all!

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Merry Christmas and 2016 in review

Where oh where has the blo-ger gone? (to the tune of “where oh where has my little dog gone”). Yep, it’s been a full month since I’ve posted here. As I frequently tell my students, there’s no excuse for submitting work late. I’m just glad that my blog isn’t for a grade or for a paid assignment!

It has been a hectic month…and I’ll talk about some of that in a minute, but since I’m at it, I figure I’ll just do my annual year in review!

Though many have decried 2016 as a terrible year (the deaths of many celebrities seems to be the main cause of this), 2016 was a pretty decent year. I was fortunate to be able to do a big handful of comic conventions this year, including ACME Comic Con, Daytona Comic Con (in both April and December!), Lebanon MegaCon, FCBD, MegaCon (Orlando), Friendly Neighborhood ComicCon (Paragould, AR), SanDiego ComicCon, Wizard Richmond, SmashCon, and Clermont Comic Con. While they were all good fun, the highlight was probably the SDCC where I got to go thanks to my pal Barry Gregory of Ka-Blam. It was my first visit there in over 15 years and I got to see a lot of pals and colleagues I have seen in about that same time. Of course, while I love comics and enjoy talking with readers of my work (old and new readers alike), one of my enjoyments of comic conventions is to see and hang out with friends, particularly those other oddballs who also make comics.

Another highlight was the Kickstarter I ran with super-talented artist Deonna Herrold and the following release of our comic TINY. The responses, while few, have been overwhelmingly positive. The most common question I’m asked—which is good for a writer’s ego—is will we do more. The answer is that I don’t know. Deonna is still in school and the work on Tiny was time-consuming and she wants to give it her all in finishing. Once she graduates, she has assured me she’d let me know if she’s up for more. You can grab a copy of Tiny #1 here at IndyPlanet in either print or digital. It will also be available on Comixology in just a matter of days. #2 will follow.

I got involved in a critique group that has really helped me on the writing front. We may have actually started in ’15, but this year we were active and it helped me a lot! I really appreciate the other three writers!

Taken in November 2016. All of us!

Taken in November 2016. All of us!

The stats of my blog aren’t available to me yet as wordpress hasn’t sent me the annual report just yet—still 5 days left in the year. 2009 likely remains my “best” year in terms of numbers. I blogged a lot that year about writing (sometimes twice a week) and I spoke at multiple writer’s conventions, generating a lot of traffic. As noted above, I sometimes go an entire month without blogging. >sigh<

It continued to be mostly good in the classroom. The animation portion of my class has been removed and I now focus 100% on comic writing. I’ve been doing that for just a couple of months and I really enjoy the content a lot more. My students are still about 85-90% uninterested in comics; most of them want to be screenplay writers. Though I have seen an uptick in fledgling novel writers (why they’re at Full Sail, I don’t know). It’s greatly illuminating about comics today and I wish there was a way to get the larger comic-creating community to take note: the most common “negative” comments I get from these students is that after reading a work, they have no idea who the characters are/were, where the story took place, or any of the basics of story-telling. I find it’s because many “modern” comic writers are so afraid of words they don’t give readers the information they need to understand the story.

Ah well.

The biggest change in the Mann household this year is that my daughter has made the big move out to Los Angeles to find work in the entertainment industry (good news! She’s already been approached for work in January! Woo-hoo!). Momma is going to hang with her a bit to help her get settled before coming home. It will not be easy for her to get on that plane, so prayers and good wishes are greatly coveted from you about that.

Okay—Merry Christmas all. Thank you for reading my blog. Next week I’ll talk about my expectations for 2017!

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Comparing worship services

Recently, thanks to the invitation of a good friend, I had the opportunity to attend a Catholic Church service for the first time in my life. I’ve been to weddings before that were held in a Catholic Church building, but that’s not the same. It both was and wasn’t what I expected. Lemme ‘splain…

First, it was very ritualistic. All jokes aside about how ritualistic Catholics are, the service was very much so. But I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s just they do things just so. In fact, when I think about the Southern Baptist services I attend and have attended over the years, they’re almost ritualistic, too. We’re more informal about it, but we do the SAME thing week in and week out. If that isn’t “ritual,” I don’t know what is.

I expected to see the congregation at the Catholic Church a bit more dressed up than my church…but I guess down this way everyone attends church in “Florida casual.” Even at my church, it still feels awkward to me as I was raised to put on my “Sunday best” for church. The Catholic priests dressed far better than my own Baptist preacher, who often wears blue jeans with his shirt untucked.

The message by the priest was shorter than any Baptist preacher I’ve ever heard. It was short, but just as hard hitting and he pulled no punches (he talked about abortion!). While I much prefer our preaching; the Catholic message was poignant, just short. Our preacher comes across more as a teacher/lecturer. I quite like our pastor because he also doesn’t shy away from the tough subjects.

The biggest difference—and it was a stark difference, one I wouldn’t have even thought about had I not attended the service—is the reverential atmosphere at the Catholic Church. It felt like worship. Heck, in my church, the music often come across as a performance; our “worship band” actually uses dry ice to fog up the stage and 1980s style light rigs. I often feel like I’m at a rock concert (and I went to plenty of those in my younger days) and want to hold a lighter up over my head. They tell us to sing along with them and then blind me with lights in my eyes. Half of the time I have to sing “watermelon, watermelon” because I don’t know the words and then I can’t even see the screen to read them! (Okay, “half” may be an exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying) And when I can see the lead singer—I mean, the worship leader—he’s dressed for a concert, even wearing a hat in the sanctuary. I don’t know about you, but my mama taught me that you were to never wear a hat inside a building, and you sure as shooting don’t wear one in the house of God. Our lead singer should have been informed by the pastor (or at least one of the crew of them) that he can wear his stage vests, but he needs to take off the hat while performing in the sanctuary. More times that not, this video springs to mind when our worship band plays.

(in a note of fairness, and because probably one or two of my church pals may read this, the worship leader mentioned above is no longer at our church and the new one does not wear a hat)

All in all, my experience in the Catholic worship was a very positive and I’m thankful that my good pal, Doug Texter, invited me and my family to attend with him. I should have said “no,” though…because after I visited with him, he up and moved to a different state! 🙂

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That happy summer magazine

With kickoff to the new season of football starting…today! (we’re talking college football, ya bums, which is the only football that really matters!) I thought I’d yak about it a bit.

NewMadridEarthquake1990Some years ago—long before the internet and email—I used to receive regular packages from my dad full of newspaper clippings of assorted stories of interest and sports pages. Now, he didn’t just save me all the sports pages, but only the ones that had news about the Arkansas Razorback football team. Back in the pre-internet days, it was very difficult to get news of my favorite team because I was outside the state of Arkansas. In fact, when I was living in California, during football season I’d get a vhs tape around Thursday that had the game from the previous weekend in addition to the sports pages.

I absolutely loved getting those packages. I’d read up the papers, watch the game…and often I’d call dad. This was in the day when you had to pay for your long distance call by the minute, so our football conversations were often brief.

Dad used to send me the summer preview edition of Hawgs Illustrated, which is loaded with roster/player/coaching info to get Razorback fans hyped about the upcoming season…after he was finished. Somewhere along the way—and I don’t remember exactly when—I got a copy in the mail addressed to me! And it was NEW! I called and asked Dad if he’d sent me a copy because I was confused why the publisher was sending me one…and he said he’d ordered me a copy when he ordered his copy. One year my magazine even came with a post-it note attached that said something like “From Dad.”

He’s been doing that every year since.

My happy summer magazine, courtesy of my dad!

My happy summer magazine, courtesy of my dad!

And it’s STILL a happy surprise to get the magazine in the mail…mostly because it reminds me that my dad was thinking about me when he ordered his copy.

Thanks, Dad!

Here’s to a fun football season! Go Hogs, WPS!

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A health victory

If you’ve seen any of my posts on Facebook in the last year or so, you know there have been a lot of changes in health and such in the Mann household. I’ll never get it all right because I don’t pay near as much attention to it as I should. So I want to be sure that I give all the credit where credit is due, and that is to my lovely wife, BJ. She’s the one who grabbed the bull by the horns and said we were getting it done!

So some time back, my cholesterol was as high as 378. Yep. Scary. (For those who might not know, anything above 200 is considered “high”) I started taking one of the statins…and it came down, but only to about 330ish. Once we moved to Orlando, I just let my prescription lapse. Oh. Each time, the docs told me to lose some weight.

Nearly two years ago, BJ got introduced to Essential Oils. She wanted to give it a shot and help us stop taking so many over the counter drugs (advil, suda—stuff[sinus issues run amok!] Tylenol, etc). So we did…and they have played a big part of our entire get healthy journey. We’ve spent less than $50 this last year on prescription drugs (if that). And yeah, we bought Essential Oils, but the thing about them is that they are all natural.

Last year, after…ahem…an important birthday, I did the checkup…you know, rotate the tires and get the oil changed. My cholesterol was high—again. And the doc pulled out a calculator and gave me some pretty scary numbers…percentages or heart issues if I did nothing…and then numbers for if I changed things. The old role-playing gamer in me hated the percentages she was giving me, so we got busy. We changed how we ate, we drank more water, took some essential oil supplements and walked some (though we haven’t walked hardly at all since May—it’s HOT here!)

In January of this year, I had my cholesterol checked and it was 136. It was lower than 200 for the first time since around 2003! I’m now down about 12 pounds, but would still like to lose another 20-25ish.

One of the most difficult things I’ve done is “quit” drinking coke. Every other time I’ve tried, I’ve failed. So my approach this time was a little different. I decided I wasn’t going to “quit,” but was going to drastically cut back. As part of our eating change, BJ got us drinking water…a LOT of water. I’m trying to drink about a gallon of water a day. And yes, that means I make a lot of trips to the john…but I still like what it’s doing for me health-wise. I gotta tell you, it was extremely difficult at first—but water is just boring to me. After about two weeks, though, it got easier. I still drink cokes, but I consider them more of a treat, now. So I don’t feel like I’ve “failed” or “cheated” when I have them…I just try not to drink too much of them.

BJ talks more about the nitty-gritty details over on her site: drmomknowsbest.com. I’m not as concerned about all the details, but she’s up on all of it. Me, I pretty much just eat what she tells me—and I’ve seen the results so I know what we’re doing this time is working.

In all of this…our family has been healthier than we’ve ever been. Yeah, we still have the occasional thing (I still have sinus based headaches, but not like I used to get them—and certainly not the migraines which I truly believe were primarily caused by nutrasweet found in diet cokes!), but on the whole, we’re healthier than ever.

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