Slouch to Bethlehem - part 2
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woohooligan Mar 9, 2017
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Are you a dog person or a cat person? Maybe both? Tiffany and I had two cats when my kids came to live with us and the kids grew up with dogs. It was a stressful time when they came to stay with us, since their mother had developed Alzheimer's. Because of that stress and because the kids had been asking about it, I agreed to adopt two small dogs from the humane society in Texas. Just before we moved to Ohio, Tiffany saw a baby tortoise in a pet store she really wanted and I wasn't opposed to having one, but I felt like the timing was bad since we were moving across country within a week or so. Once we'd been here a while and finances were more predictable, we mail ordered her a sulcata (native to the Sahara), and despite being pretty sure it was illegal or at least against policy to ship an animal in a small plastic tub with a couple of heated gel-packs in dead winter, I'm happy to say that Kaylee arrived no worse for the wear.

Early last year we found out my mom was in serious trouble in Texas. A neighbor's son had been shot and killed and she had been mugged at gunpoint in her complex. So, not wanting anything more to happen to her there, we agreed to take her in. I rode the Greyhound back to Texas to help her make the drive up here to Ohio. I helped mom pack the moving truck and I drove it back to Ohio, just me and her pug-mix, Angel. Mom drove up behind me in her pickup with her cat, Luna, and was delayed two whole days because even after I gave her our GPS, she still got lost at least three times. Every time mom called to let us know she was lost I expected her to be scared but instead she was always really happy. She was sixty-three years old and this was the first time she'd been outside of Texas. On the other end of the phone she sounded to us like Bilbo Baggins leaving the shire: adventure! That childlike sense of excitement continued once she arrived in Ohio and was fascinated by Rite Aid (pharmacy) and the United Dairy Farmers (gas station), for which she'd seen TV commercials, but had never lived near one. Oooh, look, the milk is on sale! In a way I kind of envy her ability to look at a Rite Aid or a UDF and instead of seeing just another massive, corporate chain store, she sees a land of wonder, like Willy Wonka's factory floor. Perhaps I'm jaded because I'd already lived in six different states in every corner of the country before my fortieth birthday.

All told, our animal family is currently larger than our human family. Tiff and I live with two of my three kids (Alex moved out early last year before mom moved in), my mother, Rowena, and her mother, Carol. So that's six people. Our two cats and two dogs, plus mom's cat and dog, plus Tiffany's Tortoise, Kaylee, (who we recently discovered is probably male), makes seven animals. And everybody has a different style of communication. These are the kinds of things that are challenging for an autistic person like myself. The animals are easy most of the time, but the people are often a real source of anxiety. As with most things there are a few easy rules of thumb. Dogs are easy -- you always know that they're happy to have our attention as long as you're not overtly abusive to them. I think cats get a bad rap for being aloof. Yes, they communicate differently than dogs, but that doesn't mean they're indifferent to your presence. Just about every night, our oldest cat, Dexter, climbs up on the headboard, kneads Tiffany's shoulder, and drools: that's love. And the other cats show their love in their own way: Luna rubs on everyone all the time, despite being the most skittish, and although Mocha is rarely interested in any kind of play (with people or the other cats), he never misses an opportunity to pester us on the toilet. It's like that with our kids too. My oldest daughter, Alex, always jumps on me and hugs me, despite her probable autism -- she's more like me. Her younger sister, Calli, hates hugs... at least from family members. Both of them do that obsessive rambling thing that autistic people do, that I still struggle to avoid in my early forties.

Like I said there are some convenient rules of thumb. Like cats and dogs, men and women communicate differently. I think many of the stereotypes are reasonably fair, despite the bad rap stereotypes get. For example I think it's fair to say that most men are pretty easy, like dogs. It's usually not too difficult to figure out what men are after. And for the most part, I think men don't tend to care much bout the gender of people they talk to for various things. I think most men wouldn't care that their proctologist was a woman... if it was a urologist, in many cases all the better, to the possible dismay of female urologists. Women on the other hand tend to want to see female gynecologists. They also tend to want to talk about their feelings and experiences in ways that men usually don't. You find women at a parties talking about PMS, but you don't usually find men talking about their prostate problems. And at times, the way a lot of women communicate strikes me as another bullshit headgame (to be fair, I feel the same way about communication from male work managers)... but given the amount of bullshit women have to put up with on a regular basis, I can't say that I really blame them. I think men would probably learn to communicate in really different ways if they had to worry about pregnancy, put up with cat-calling, were constantly questioned about their competency, etc, etc... So I don't think any of us should be particularly surprised when a woman doesn't want to talk about something with a man, even if that man is a father or grandfather. My younger daughter, Calli, doesn't particularly care to discuss her feminine hygene supplies even with her stepmother, Tiffany. So while I wouldn't care one way or the other, there's no way she's talking to me about it.

Amity's situation is a little more complicated. It's one thing to want a woman to talk to about an unwanted pregnancy... it's another thing when you're worried that you're carrying the antichrist. I think you could expect more empathy in that situation, whether you're talking with a man or a woman, but how do you even start that conversation? "Hey, have you seen the new Star Wars movie? Speaking of movies, have you ever seen the Omen? Rosemary's Baby? Have you ever thought about selling your soul to the devil?" But that's not even the real problem here... because Amity is only a few days or maybe weeks away from a previous conversation with her grandfather in which she pressured him to stop sleeping with (or even hanging out with) Lucifer's daughter, Delilah... and she's not even a prince of hell, she's just a succubus. So here she is in hell, needing comfort from a family member. Her mom's still living and her grandmother's in heaven, she never knew her father (though it hasn't been mentioned yet in the story), leaving her grandfather. "Hey pappy, you remember how I said dating a succubus might be dangerous? You remember how I insisted you not do that? Funny story..."

In other news, things have been really busy at home the past month or so. We've had a lot more errands and doctor's visits than usual and I'm still the only driver in the house. Also, this past month I had a bunch of dental work done for the first time in many years and my teeth have been really sore and temperature sensitive for several weeks, which has me more on edge than usual... but I'm doing my best to keep up with work and bring you this comedy. Of course, pledging as little as a dollar a month to our patreon or just sharing these comics with your friends is always a huge help to me, and I appreciate it. :D I also recently started writing webcomic reviews to help out other webcomic authors, because I know how hard it is to get the word out and so many webcomic reviewers come and go (just like many webcomics themselves). But I've been doing this for ten years now, so I'm not about to give it up. Check out my first two reviews for Next Town Over and Hanibal Tesla Adventure Magazine. More will come.

This past week I met with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) about help with marketing these comics. Unfortunately it's harder for the state to measure the success of people starting their own businesses, and so because that made our conservative governor Kasich "look bad" when he took office a few years ago, they told the OOD to stop helping people with their own businesses. My caseworker, Debra told me she would keep my case open until the end of the month in case I wanted them to help me find another W2 software engineering job (I don't). She did however refer me to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) downtown and I was on the phone with them this morning setting up a meeting. I also called the Ohio Self Determination Association (OSDA), a non-profit that helps disabled people with work and entrepreneurship. So there's not much progress on that front yet, but I'm getting the leg-work done.

I also plan to work on a Patreon bonus comic this week. Wish me luck! :D

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