April 17, 2007

The Ones Who Matter

While I always have pretty much the same reactions to horrible events like those that capped the news yesterday (shock, anger at the situations that preceded them, a sick fascination with the unfolding story, and especially, sympathy for those in the middle of it), it is this information that saddens me the most.

Before joining in the storm of 20/20 hindsight, as well as thoughtful future preventative measures (if I get around to it...), I figure we should all take a deep breath, pause, and remember the ones who matter the most in this story, and the families and friends who have lost them.

On Average

We have really, neither of us, ever been what most would call "normal". But now, there is proof that at least in a few ways, we are actually close to average:

CNN Money's Median Income Gallery

April 14, 2007

But Wait...We Got One After All!

Because the National Qualifier tournament here is actually held in two parts, it's possible not to qualify anyone during the first part (held already this year, last month) but to still have someone qualify in the second part. That second part of the competition--Student Congress--was held today, and lo! and behold, we've got ourselves a qualifier!

Congrats to the un-named-due-to-confidentiality-on-the-Internet student! And she and Matt will be off to Wichita--yes, in Kansas--in June.

Matt is naturally heartbroken over missing the three days of inservice at the end of the school year (two of them to make up for earlier snow days.) Wichita will have to show him a good time to make up for it, I'm sure...

April 12, 2007

Tomatoes, Broken Ground, Skeeters of Doom

I'm proud of myself; in spite of the zaniness and long list of "things to do" in the last few days, I managed to finally get little tiny tomato seeds into pots under my lovely new grow light. (Also some ground cherries, to which Matt and I have become addicted--they're something like a cross between a grape and a cherry, but a relative of the tomato. And some basil for the kitchen just for kicks.) Since the average last frost date for our fair city is--believe it or not--May 22, I'm just barely in time. Some folks like to push the date with various insulating strategies, but I know I'm not gonna get there...this year.

I also broke a little ground in the "real" (as opposed to "tall") garden, but quickly abandoned the project. The mosquitos were vicious! When I was out there, I thought they were just attacking me; having always been handy as a mosquito magnet, I figured I was taking it for the team, as it were. And in sheer numbers, I was, but now we have two itchy little girls with big nasty welts, too. Those bugs were *hungry*.

I've been especially careful not to leave any places where the skeeters could hatch, draining any water-collecting things whenever I can and such, but....our neighbors (not you guys, Pickerels!) have a horribly clogged gutter, with quite a puddle beneath it, too, and it has become Mosquito City. Ugh. I am planning not to go out again with the girls until I am armed with the best non-DEET repellant (happily, there are a few now that supposedly work really well) I can get (the other good news is, enough sun will eliminate the problem. The bad news is, Laura at least swells up just like Matt does with bug bites. Big nasty hive-like welts around the bites. And scratches. And scratches. And scratches.) And perhaps we'll send Matt over after State to offer to help clean the offending gutter out--I don't think they'll want the mosquitos around their kids, either; they probably just haven't played much yet this Spring out there.

Oh, and State: the team did pretty well at Districts. Our district has become smaller lately--the same teams are competing, but only one (besides ours) fields many members. There were several schools with one or two competitors! That means we don't get to send as many people to State: the number of qualifiers is based on the number of competitors at Districts. And that other big team is really big, and has become quite the powerhouse of speakers (Matt was pleased that they only beat us by 14? points this year in Sweepstakes; last year it was by many, many more points.) Still, I think about half our team members who went to Districts, qualified.

I have not broken the news to Laura that we're probably not going to be driving out to practice after next Tuesday, since State is at the end of next week.....

The IBS Interview

I was fortunate (and the girls were sleepy!) enough to get to listen live today. Judging by the recent press, perhaps I should say, "the FIRST interview". If you want to hear Ellen's authentic "Oregon farm girl" giggle (and some good interview Q&A's), here's the link to the radio show. (Click on "show"--it's "Arts in Review"--or "date"--look for April 12, 2007 at 12:02. It'll stay there for ninety days.). She was interviewed by the same guy who wrote the review in Variety, and joined there by two members of the cast.

Good stuff.

April 11, 2007

Good Reviews for IBS

While it's true, in some ways, that there's no such thing as bad press, good press is always more appreciated by authors and their boosters. Happily, that's just what Infinite Black Suitcase has just gotten!

Variety proclaims: Lewis gives evidence of being a significant talent to watch. "Infinite Black Suitcase" certainly has the legs to move on to a more ambitious staging.

LA Splash says: Stories of lost and languishing life unfold and overlaps onto themselves, entwining and pulling at the living in EM Lewis’ “Infinite Black Suitcase”.

Also, our esteemed author herself will be on the radio tomorrow (Thursday) at noon, in an interview setting with two members of the cast (you can listen to the streaming version online).

We are impressed. It couldn't happen to a nicer person.

April 5, 2007

Infinite Black Suitcase

I've been remiss in not mentioning this sooner, but Life, you know.

The world premiere of Infinite Black Suitcase starts tomorrow in Los Angeles. (If you happen to be in the neighborhood, by all means, go!) I've had the pleasure to read it, and it's fantastic: I laughed, I cried, I wanted more. (Isn't that what all good literature should do for us?) But I'm sure seeing it live with real people will be an even more gripping experience.

Apart from the fact that I know what's in it--and thus, know that, independently, it is worthy of recommendation--I am happy for the playwright, none other than my buddy Ellen (some may remember her as my matron of honor...we've been friends since 1985, and never a cross word. Well, there was that one incident with the Red Hots, but we stayed locker partners anyway [and it was my fault. I was completely obnoxious. There. I said it. ;-)]) I've always felt that saying you were proud of someone implied that you thought you had something to do with the accomplishment; and I don't think I did, so I can't say I'm proud of her. Can you be proud *for* someone? I dunno; but I know I'm excited. This is a big recognition of her years of servitude to that most demanding calling, writing. I'm just so glad that more people in the world will have the chance to see what I've known for years: she's *great*!

April 2, 2007

Matt Washington Cannot Tell A Lie

He really did chop down a cherry tree.

We got most of the things on our list done for Spring Break (possibly a result of trying to only put a reasonable number of things on the list this time, and not including world peace, either). The tall garden is three-quarters of the way planted (and if I don't get the last quarter in right away, I'll just call it succession planting.) The back yard got cleaned up some (though it has, as usual, a long ways to go). While we were out there, we found that the cherry tree nearest my office, which has always had to stretch for the light away from the maple and the hawthorne, was slowly toppling over onto our neighbor's roof (that sounds so terrible, though it wasn't a very tall tree even so; the roof of the neighbor's back porch, where it was resting, is only 2 or three yards from where the tree's base was.) It could have been the result of me redirecting the water from the downspouts into the herb bed, and quite close to the tree's root system. I'd feel guilty for hurting it, but it was suffering anyway from the lack of light (also, I never really liked it; the leaning meant all its branches were in our neighbor's air space, and the trunk was just in the way.) So down it came without incident.

Matt moved his office downstairs to what used to be the guest room (starting, as he puts it, his long migration to the basement.) It is quite convenient, actually, though I'm not sure how I'll feel about it when I have papers to grade again; perhaps by then he will have descended the whole rest of the way. For now, it's kind of silly to raise my voice just a little to say, "Check your email!" and have him read the note or whatever that has traveled through the Internet countless miles, only to land about 20 feet from where it started. Ah, modern technology!

We did manage some Spring Cleaning, notably the windows. (For the record, I do not do windows, which tells you who did. :-) ) One day soon we'll get the curtains hung again (guests be unafraid; we hung a replacement in the bathroom!) Other cleaning was not for Spring but needed doing just the same, and it's good to have caught up since we have three more insane weeks of practice, tournaments each weekend, and all the usual meetings and work and...well, you know how we are. My closet is one particular area that got tidied and rearranged; since it's a walk-in closet that's really a walk-through closet, I can't really close the door to keep the dust away from the clothes; it's been a problem. I'm hoping the current set of solutions will help keep the (DIE BUGS, DIE! ooops, sorry.) allergies at bay until we can move upstairs.

On the social scene, we enjoyed getting to hold Tamara's granddaughter, Irelynd (2 months, give or take). She is a beauty! (Matt asked if that made me want to have another one, and I told him "No! This is much better! I don't hurt anywhere, and I can enjoy the baby!" I can totally see why grandparents enjoy themselves so much. :-) ) We also got to see three of the four Davisons, and the oldest one (Ty) was able to finally get our computers networked. They're both hooked to the router, but we'd never quite figured out how to snoop into each other's hard drives; now we can, and Matt is happy, because he can use my CD burner to back things up. You just never know when you're going to need one of your stored Civ games... ;-) We also played much in the backyard with them, sliding down the slide and climbing on the rocks (one day soon, the rocks will become paths. But for now, they look persuasively like a plaything!)

And finally, I got our taxes done. All the rest of you are not supporting our lifestyle as much this year (in part, at least, because I'm actually employed now), although we still don't owe anything. While I don't enjoy getting a big refund--I'd rather have the money as I go--I also don't enjoy having a big state tax bill to pay. [Insert annual rant about how messed up the state withholding tables are.] So, the numbers coalesced correctly and we have a very small state refund and a several times bigger (though still not awe-inspiring) federal refund. I used the refunds to purchase a freezer (though I scheduled its delivery after the craziness ends), and we successfully Freecycled the fridge that came with the house to make room for the freezer in the basement. (And the location saved us some bucks now and later and hopefully agony down the line; I got a manual defrost, because the basement drain will only be about eight feet--directly downhill--from the freezer.) On my list of things to do is get more local and organic (both at once, which is probably possible!) food into our diet; the freezer will help, hopefully this summer.

April 1, 2007

The Long? Goodbye

Dudley's been diagnosed with a smorgasbord of issues, any one of which could lead to his demise. It's certainly not a threat of an *untimely* demise: he's eighteen and a half, venerable for a cat. Especially one who spent his first eight years as an indoor/outdoor cat, at a ratio of about 30/70 whenever he could get it.

The biggest issue (or, looked at another way, the only one that's actually treatable), is chronic renal failure. The kidneys going is actually what takes out a fairly large number of cats, so it's normal and very much age-related (as opposed to the rash of acute renal failure that's been in the news. Fortunately, his and Fiona's food was not on the list, though the one that Hill's recalled was just one letter away from theirs. Scary.) Another one is a fairly pronounced heart murmur, indicating at least one valve that's wearing out. And his bone-marrow is not doing a very good job of making red blood cells, which probably is a symptom of some kind of leukemia or lymphoma. Again, all pretty usual for a cat of his age. So, we're doing comfort care; fluids a couple times a week to take the strain off the kidneys, and (when it comes in) a heart drug that will lower the blood pressure and also take some pressure thusly off the kidneys.

From his point of view, the good thing about all of these is that generally, they don't hurt. And while he wasn't exactly *thrilled" when we stuck him with the needles today to get his fluids in, he took it with good grace (well, good enough that it all got into the cat.) And in case anyone's wondering, the rule with fluids and helpers is, "She who owns the cat wields the needle." (Besides, Matt doesn't DO needles, so kudos to him for holding the cat while a needle was nearby. On the other hand, it's only an inch long. Not like the freaky foot-long horror-movie kind! Once inserted in the cat, you really can't see it, though I'm sure Matt knew intensely that it was there.)

It's nice to be able to actually do something to ease him; and it's nice to have a chance to say goodbye and give him extra cuddles. It could be months; it could actually be a few years (though personally, I think the fact that there's more going on than kidney failure makes the longer time less likely. Then again, he's always been an exquisitely *stubborn* fellow.)

I told Laura about it right away, and she made the connection right away: "Like Merlin?" So at least she knows to give him extra lovin', too, and it won't come as a shock when he goes. Matt, taking the role of the optimist this time, pointed out that it's probably easier to have her see the whole process this way, so she'll understand when one of the many older people she's fond of goes to that big bubble bath in the sky. (What? You don't think heaven is a bubble bath? Clearly, you're not doing it right!)