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Having fun Flying Solo - Ottawa Citizen

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Having fun Flying Solo

David Kawai, The Ottawa Citezen; Rebecca Rotenberg and her dog, Sammy, recreate a scene from one of the comic strips in her book, Flying Solo

David Kawai, The Ottawa Citezen; Rebecca Rotenberg and her dog, Sammy, recreate a scene from one of the comic strips in her book, Flying Solo

Twenty years ago, as Rebecca Rotenberg was adjusting to the idea of a failed marriage and life as a single parent, she decided to become her own therapist.

What she needed was a laugh.

She developed a movement she called Flying Solo.  It included a logo of a cartoon airplane in flight, and the idea was it could be used on clothing or coffee cups and other items to help single parents identify each other.

There's comfort in knowing you aren't alone.

At the same time, she developed a one-panel cartoon that became a regular feature in the Citizen for three years. She managed to find a funny side to the harried life of the single parent, male or female.

It wasn't difficult, she says, because what she was really looking for was "a little therapy in every Panel."

With a divorce rate creeping close to the 50-per-cent mark, she found a readership and formed lasting friendships.

"When it happens (marriage failure), you have no choice but to accept the situation, turn it on its head, and laugh."

She's back with a new line of humour. This time, the cartoons are in books and desk calendars and still carry her title -- Flying Solo.

It had been 20 years since we talked, and this time she offered a bribe.  It was a muffin.  She makes them, and she swears they contain only a fraction of the calories in a commercial product, and no fat.

Bribe accepted.

At 51, she's a living advertisement for her own health food.  She's not only fit, but she exudes health and happiness.  The secret of the muffin was that it was laced with dates and nuts.  She laughed at the suggestion

Among the written endorsements supporting her endeavours was one from Alex Munter, executive director of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa, her boss, and "president of the Rebecca Rotenberg Fan Club."

He says her job at the bureau "keeps the trains running on time… is our den mother, spiritual adviser and stand-up comic."  He calls her books "reality checks. What is really big in this moment will become small stuff soon enough."

A sample cartoon:  A man in a suit stands on a comer with his briefcase open in front of him. A ragged bum is throwing a coin into the case, but with a worried line. "How do I know you're really going to use this to pay child support?"

Zing. She has nailed the mood of every court-ordered payee I know.

In another panel, a woman holding a baby, with a small child at her side, is taking part in a speed-dating session. The man at the table has a question. "So. What do you do in your spare time?" Zing again. It's the view of men from the perspective of the single-parent woman.

Almost as a parting shot, the last panel in one of the books shows a woman curling up with a dog.

"They may smell the same, but at least this one listens to me."

Does that last one show a little problem with the other gender?

"Not at all.  I have a relationship I'm comfortable in, and at this point have no plans to remarry."

Her two children are raised, she loves her job, and there's no shortage of energy and ideas. She was born in Brazil and lived in France, England and the U.S. before settling in Ottawa. She says living the single-parent life convinced her those survivors are “super parents.”

If the cartoons have a familiar look, it's because the artist is Gord Coulthart, from another one-panel series, Farcus, long carried by the Citizen. Producing the new books had setbacks, but Rebecca Rotenberg is used to such things. They were delayed and she missed her target for Mother's Day and Father's Day. Not yet available in stores, she will launch her books June 28 at Loblaws at Centrum in Kanata, starting at 10:30 a.m.

Part of the proceeds will go to the Youth Services Bureau, and she says she'll keep the prices under $20.  There's a website under construction. Meanwhile, they can be ordered through her This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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