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Down but not out...

That's it. I've officially given up on my life "settling down" anytime in the near future.

In addition to my trip to Japan last month (which I promise I'll sit down and write about someday, but you can follow Shaenon's detailed report in her current series of Comixology columns), here are some other recent doings:

In late March, I got to visit Skywalker Ranch to discuss some work-related business with LucasFilm's animation department. I didn't get to see Mr. Lucas himself, but we had a nice picture taken with a Yoda statue just before we left:

Then we went to Japan. Apparently someone at the SF Guardian reads my blog or my Facebook page, since the trip scored a mention in their write-up promoting the Cartoon Art Museum's Comics 4 Comix event:

The headliner for that event was Carlos Alazraqui, who's best known for his role as Garcia on Reno-911!, as well as his voice acting as the infamous Taco Bell Chihuahua and as Rocko in my first-or-second-favorite Nickelodeon cartoon series (along with the early seasons of Ren & Stimpy), Rocko's Modern Life. Carlos and I both got hats from SF-based designer Cassel Goorin, which we're sporting here:

In the midst of all that, we took a 12-hour drive up to Portland for the Stumptown Comics Fest, where we enjoyed the hospitality of Jesse Hamm and his wife Anna. I exhibited with my friends in the Couscous Collective, and I caught up/chatted/met/palled around with loads of comic folks including Derek Kirk Kim, Charles Brownstein, Steve Leiber, Jeff Smith, Graham Annable, Vera Brosgol, Chris Turnham, Diana Schutz, Jacq Cohen, Gail Simone, Jeff Parker, Kurt Busiek, Ivy McCloud, and other people that I'll probably offend by forgetting to mention here.

That photo of me and Miyazaki had really been making the rounds since I'd posted it online (whereas that photo of me and Paris Hilton, fortunately, has been largely unseen), and was a frequent topic of conversation. I felt *really* impressive when I asked Ivy if Scott McCloud had ever met Miyazaki, since I figured he was the most likely person in our circle of friends to have done so, and she revealed that no, Scott actually hasn't traveled to Japan yet. She followed up with, "I'm not sure if Neil's met him." It took me a few seconds to remember that she and Scott are on good terms with Neil Gaiman and get to casually refer to him by his first name, and I smiled as I realized I might actually be able to top some of Neil Gaiman's "I met so-and-so" stories if I ever run into him at a bar and feel like showing him up.

In the midst of all of this, though, and overshadowing everything else that's happened this spring, my mom came down with a terrible case of pneumonia and had to be hospitalized in the middle of April. It was really, really scary and was touch-and-go for a while, with ventilators and all sorts of machinery used to help her with her breathing. She's been getting better bit by bit, and moved from the ICU to the general population within a couple of weeks. I flew home last weekend as she moved from the county hospital to an assisted living center in my hometown, just a ten-minute walk from my parents' house. They've got her on oxygen and an IV drip, but she's slowly regaining her appetite. There's a lot of physical therapy to be done before she gets to go home, too, but she seems to be getting a little bit stronger every day.

And I'm 99% certain that the reason my mom kept the fact that she was feeling so sick a secret is that my dad, who had a heart attack in December, had a pacemaker installed in late March, and I'm sure that she felt she didn't have time to be sick while he was going through all of that.

It really drives home the fact that I still have no clue how to be a grown-up. I've paid off my student loans, I've been saving money, I haven't asked for money from my parents in several years...but seeing both of your parents go from your own personal indestructible protectors to suddenly having to help them cope with life-altering illnesses over the course of five, I'm exhausted. On top of all that, one of my mom's best friends died from cancer just before I flew home, so I had a funeral added to what was already going to be a not-terribly-upbeat weekend of helping my dad clean the house and making sure that he was looking after himself during Mom's absence.

My birthday's coming up next week, and I'm hoping that my next year on this planet has a little less excitement in it. Healthy parents and some stability...I think that's all I really want this year.