Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot!

My tea has arrived!!!

Yes, the tea that I won from the Ultimate Blog Party (blogged about here,) which was provided by Littles Rule the Roost, has arrived.
Well, of course I had to try it out.  Earl Grey de la Creme.  Yummy!  It didn't even need any sweetening!
I love tea.  Hot or iced.  I'm very glad that our weather is finally turning summery, so I can start making sun tea again.

This is my tea shelf.  When adding extra shelves to our pantry, I purposefully made a shelf just tall enough for two boxes of tea, to accomodate my collection.

My book also arrived, Tales from a Travelling Mum.  I wasn't expecting it to be personalized or signed.  Bonus!

It arrived the day we left on vacation.  Just in time?  Well, I didn't have a chance to look it over before leaving, but fortunately this was just a two-hour drive away, and we already had plans to drive during naptime.  (For some reason, though, he won't nap for longer than an hour in the car.  Maybe he just rouses at the end of a sleep cycle, realizes he's somewhere mildly more interesting than his crib, and wakes up?)  I've only read the introduction and the summarized travel tips at the back so far, but I'm looking forward to it.  Her writing style seems very easy to follow, and I expect to be pulled in.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Food Fights - My Son Made Me Cry

Now I finally, finally understand the meaning of the cliched parenting phrase "This hurts me more than it hurts you."  Because it does.  A lot.

My son has been refusing most vegetables lately, and even some fruits, and I'm not sure what to do about it.  We've been down the constipation path once already, and I'm not eager to repeat the experience.  One thing I've heard, and seen some evidence of, is that kids are more willing to eat vegetables when they're hungry, so today I decided to start his lunch with only fruits and vegetables, and give him more food if he finished them.

Perhaps I should've started with only vegetables.  On the other hand, it still might not have worked.

He started his lunch with a plate of strawberries (which he had refused to eat for breakfast,) carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and blue cheese dip.  And, of course, milk.  For myself, I also had some chopped veggies (to set a good example) and two slices of leftover pizza.  There was one more slice of pizza, which I intended to give to him, provided he finished his veggies first.

With eyes like an eagle he, of course, immediately saw my pizza and started pointing at it and making noise, requesting some of his own.  I informed him that if he wanted pizza, he needed to eat everything on his plate first.  He promptly ate the strawberries.  I thanked him for eating the strawberries, but reminded him that he needed to finish everything on his plate if he wanted pizza.  After several rounds of him pointing at my pizza and my reminding him of what I expected, he ate the carrots and sweet potatoes.

That left the hard part:  the green stuff.  I tried, several times, to get him to eat his "trees," and then decided to offer him an alternative:  he could either eat his broccoli, or he could eat some peas.  I put some peas on his plate and then went back to my food.

He still refused, so once I was done eating I told him that his time was up, cleaned him off, and picked him up.  At that point he made a huge fuss so I carried him back to the table and reminded him that he needed to eat either his broccoli or his peas if he wanted pizza.  I picked up a few peas and held them out to him, and to my surprise, he ate them.  I gave him a few more and then gave him some milk, hoping it would wash them down (getting something into his mouth will not guarantee that he'll eat it these days.)  In this way, we managed to finish the peas.

Or so I thought.  I felt much better at that point because I didn't want to deprive him of pizza, so I happily put him back in his high chair and put his slice in the microwave.  When I turned back around, his hand was in his mouth, pulling out a few chewed-up peas and scattering them across his tray.  We were back to where we'd been.

As I imagine you can guess, I wasn't able to get him to finish his peas.  Not even after changing his diaper, getting him dressed for his nap, and taking him back to the kitchen for one last chance.  Not even after I grabbed a few fresh peas in case he had an aversion to the masticated ones.

I even took the fresh peas into his bedroom with us while I sang to him, giving the option to change his mind at any time.  I almost thought he was going to, except that after putting the fresh peas in his mouth for a moment, he pulled them out and gave them back to me.  It was hard to sing to him, as tears were threatening to fall at any time.  He remained unmoved, however, and I put him down for a nap with only half a lunch.

I know that he's a healthy boy and he does not lack for nourishment.  I know that he won't starve by taking one nap without a full stomach.  That's not really the part that hurts my feelings.  It hurts my feelings that I ate pizza, something I know he loves, in front of him, and I didn't share.  I feel like the bad guy, like I'm being mean, and I don't want to be mean.  I wanted to give him his pizza, but I didn't because I know that follow-through is the best thing I could do in the long run.

But that doesn't stop it from hurting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Locks of Love

Well, I finally got sick of my long hair. 
This is almost three years of growth.  I stopped getting haircuts because I'd had very short hair for about seven years, and had grown bored. 

I guess I got bored again, of how long it was taking to wash, how much shampoo I was using, dealing with constant tangles, and my hair getting in the way all the time.  So I decided to donate to Locks of Love.

Twelve inches of hair.  Locks of Love will have to trim the ends a bit, but that's what they get for not answering my query about split ends.  I figure that if they're doing all their sorting and manufacturing by hand anyway, they're probably already trimming everything.

My goal with my new haircut was to still be able to get it into a ponytail, which I can just do.  It's nice to have my head be lighter again, and I'll probably do a bit more styling than I've been doing lately, since it was so heavy and thick.

My son and I with our new shades.
(His future is so bright, you know)

I think it's funny that he doesn't want to take the sunglasses off--he even wanted to wear them in the store, when they still had a huge tag hanging down the middle of his face.  After all, a few short months ago, we couldn't keep sunglasses on his head to save his life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Return from a Writing Retreat

My husband and I own a timeshare in Avon, CO. We have it during the off season (late spring and fall,) and for the past few years, we have used it as a writing retreat. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but my husband is also a writer. He's done the occasional story, and has written and produced several short films, but right now he's trying to get a handful of screenplays under his belt before working to find an agent.

For the first few years, our Retreat schedule was usually something like this: sleep late, have breakfast, go do something vacationy/mountainy (hiking, swimming, biking, etc), have lunch, write for several hours, critique each other's work, have dinner, watch a movie, go to bed. Ah, such an excellent way to spend the day; and something that we aspired to doing regularly, if only one (or both) of us could make a living writing!

Well, as I suppose you can imagine, having a kid in tow has changed this schedule significantly. We still managed to sleep late, at the expense of pushing our son's schedule back by over an hour. *sigh* Getting him back on track over the next few days is going to be fun... This time, most of our vacationy stuff was kid-oriented: finding a playground, for instance. Or going for short walks that inevitably turn into "rides" for the little one. No hiking this year; we couldn't find the backpack carrier amongst the pile of boxes in our garage, they'd gotten snow a few days prior to our arrival so all the trails were wet anyway, and we didn't think our son would last very long walking uphill. Of course, swimming is still a hit for all ages, especially at the Avon Rec Center where they had some awesome slides.
He went on this thing at least 20 times in a row. The fun he had was definitely worth the price of admission.

We did still write after lunch, while our son napped. Unfortunately, though, we couldn't lose ourselves in the craft for hours. (His naps seem to be getting shorter, the little booger. What does he think he's doing, growing up or something??) I spent my time sifting through the critiques I received from Critters, and then working on a new story. My husband worked on a horror script. It was on this vacation that I learned of my first sale. Perhaps I ought to go on vacation more often!

The rest of our day was spent doing kid things again. More swimming. Reading board books. Playing in the condo. Taking baths in the ginormous tub with jets (what's happening to the water??!!) We didn't get to watch any TV until he was in bed. We did manage to get a little closer to catching up on Lost, though. We're hoping to finish the series in the next few months.

I was very reassured by the way our son coped with being away from home. I'd been worried about how he would respond to being somewhere alien, but he did very well, and was far more curious than worried. And he l-o-v-e-d the ceiling fans--especially the one that had its controls down at his level. On. Off. On. Off. On. Grab Mommy's hand, point to the fan, squeal. Off. He didn't even fuss much sleeping somewhere that wasn't his room--nights were fine and naps took only a little longer than usual. This gives me hope for future vacations, and for our eventual move.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Okay, so what is it about toddlers and vegetables??

I mean really!  How can they be so fickle about fruits and vegetables?  One week the only green veggie I have is peas, which he gobbles down.  Then he starts to get sick of them, and I cook him some broccoli.  Then I discover that he LOVES blue cheese dip (and he probably eats an adult-size serving of veggies dipped in it.)  The next week he eats plenty of peas, broccoli, and carrots with dip.  Then one day he suddenly decides not to eat broccoli anymore, even with the dip.  The same day he decides he wants Mommy and Daddy's raw broccoli (which he's never had the chewing capacity for before) but only the florets (no stems.)  The same day he also decides he doesn't want sweet potatoes (a staple since about 6 months) anymore, with or without dip.

Fruits too.  One day, banana is his favorite food ever.  The next, he leaves half of them uneaten.  Some days he'll eat every strawberry, cherry, grape or blueberry I put in front of him, other days he pushes them away with a frown.  Pineapple was once heaven, but recently he hasn't wanted anything to do with it.  Watermelon was his first fruit and he ate it regularly last summer, but introductions this summer have fallen flat.  He usually loves pears unless they're underripe, but who knows?  And it's not just that one batch is better-tasting or more ripe than another--if I save an uneaten piece, oftentimes he'll devour it at a later meal.

Seriously, why are they so vacillating when it comes to foods high in vitamins and fiber?  Why do they never refuse things like cake?  And when will he be old enough to understand reasoning such as, "if you don't finish your veggies, you won't get any cake"?

I can't wait--with both curiosity and apprehension--to see what changes to his appetite tomorrow will bring.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Night Terrors Sale!!

I feel so incredibly high right now!  Something I've been waiting for for a long time has happened.

I SOLD A STORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, my science fiction story Night Terrors will appear in the anthology Doomology:  The Dawning of Disasters from the Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy Press.  I'm so excited!  Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!

I don't have any details on publication schedule at this time, but the table of contents ought to be on their website shortly.  Stay tuned for updates!

Happy happy Happy Happy HAPPY!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Deterioration of the Loveys

I recently had to perform emergency surgery on both of my son's loveys, something I'm sure I will be repeating many times if they remain in his good graces.  I thought it might be neat to chronicle their deterioration by taking pictures of them after each repair.  So here's the first installment:

The teddy bear, Zax, was made by my aunt during my pregnancy.  His ears were coming loose (ears make a great handle for carrying bears around the house!)

"Give me back my bear!!!"

This bunny currently lacks a name.  It was part of our Easter decorations until this year, when our son commandeered it and decided it needed to live in his crib.  It's tail came off, so I had to reattach it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What I learned from my first round of Critters

Wow!  The Critters website indicated that around 15 critiques is average for a story, so I was floored when I received a total of TWENTY-FIVE critiques!  Incredible!  I was nervous before opening each one, especially after receiving a few that felt a little harsh (they're not attacking me, they're trying to help me improve my story, they're not attacking me...) but overall I got a good idea of what works, what doesn't, and what to expect from a science-fiction-loving audience.  I've never had a SF/F/H audience in a workshop before, as most of my workshops have been in school with only a few hardcore fans, so a few things they pointed out were eye-opening.  And after reading back through each critique now that the week is over, the effect is blunted a bit--they were hardest to read the first time.  Here are a few things that I learned:

Getting critiques through email is more painful than face-to-face.  As writers, we have to develop a thick skin because of how dearly we hold our masterpieces--and we have to accept criticism, no matter how painful, in order to improve our craft.  I think I have a relatively thick skin--I can usually find the good in a critique and not just get defensive about it (at least, after my knee-jerk reaction is over :) )  But I have a confession to make.  When I first read the "diplomacy" guidelines for Critters, I thought, "Wow, some of these people must have really thin hides."  The guidelines suggest adding "I think" or "I feel" to pretty much every statement, and recommend against phrases I remember using regularly in workshop classes a few years ago.  Well, now I understand why.  When making a statement in a workshop, the author is in the room and can hear the critiquer's tone-of-voice, can see their body language, and can hear everyone laugh when something is presented as a joke or exaggeration.  An email critique is blind, so everything becomes just a little harsher.  This is the same reason why people misinterpret things said in emails, IMs, message boards, etc.  Even with emoticons, the written word cannot express as much as tone and body language.

There are a heckuva lot more people who believe in some variation of Asimov's Laws of Robotics, or at least believe that machines would not be able to break their programming, than I realized.  This is something I never would've learned without a science fiction workshop group.  Of course, now that I've had a little time and am reading the critiques for a second time, I can see that some people may have said this simply because I didn't show much (okay, any) development on the part of my android.  But I was surprised at the number of people who said some variation on this theme.  At least now that I know these people are out there, I can attempt to acknowledge them in my work.

You can never please everybody.  Okay, so I knew this already, but I saw even more evidence in my critiques.  They were about evenly split between liking/disliking the ending, thinking it was original/saying they'd seen it done before, and a few other, minor things.  I'm not trying to please everybody (even though I'd be incredibly flattered if everybody liked my writing) but I thought it was interesting how many things people had split opinions on.  A teacher from years ago (the teacher of a Science Fiction literature class, as a matter of fact) once said "If you haven't offended somebody, you haven't really said anything."  I'm a firm believer of this, although it could easily be the subject of it's own post (and probably a lot of them.)

There will always, ALWAYS, be somebody who Just Doesn't Get It. When the critique itself is confusing--or perhaps the critiquer just doesn't communicate well--it's best to just skim through it for any kernels of truth, and then disregard it. Luckily, there was only one major offender of this type.

People were very friendly (I even got some really nice compliments) and I'm impressed with the quality of this workshop.  I'm looking forward to my next one (early June) and I will probably keep an eye out for the names of people who critiqued me as they go through the queue.  (If you're visiting from Critters, and you critiqued me, please don't be offended if I don't read yours--with an eighteen-month-old nipping at my ankles, my time is limited!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Love Dictionaries

And Thesauruses.  Thesauri?
(Yes!  Both are correct, according to dictionary.com)

I never used to be much of a dictionary person.  Back in the days when the only one available was a book, I often couldn't be bothered to make the effort to haul it out (it's always a very heavy book!) dig through it, find the word, put the dictionary away again... (I know, sounds lazy, doesn't it?)  But now that it's so conveniently online, I use it quite frequently.  Dictionaries come in so handy for dispelling family arguments.

Take yesterday, for example.  A debate broke out at our house during Mother's Day brunch over whether the word "couple" always means specifically "two," or whether it can also mean "an indeterminate, small number."  Now, this is no new argument.  My husband and I have debated it regularly, probably for as long as we've known each other.  He's a "two" man, and I'm a "small number" person.  He keeps trying to tell me that by my definition of couple, we should be inviting other people to join our marriage (har har honey, but there's more than one usage here.)  It turned out our family was also somewhat divided on the issue, so after a few threats to start timing one another the next time somebody asks for "a couple of minutes," my mom jumped up to consult the dictionary.

So here we are:
cou·ple (kŭp'əl)
1. Two items of the same kind; a pair.
2. Something that joins or connects two things together; a link.
3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
     a. Two people united, as by betrothal or marriage.
     b. Two people together.
4. Informal A few; several: a couple of days.
5. Physics A pair of forces of equal magnitude acting in parallel but opposite directions, capable of causing rotation but not translation.
(These definitions came from dictionary.com, and so may vary slightly from those we looked at yesterday in an old American Heritage.)

Now, my mom tried to devalue my definition because it didn't show up until the fourth entry, whereas hers  (and hubby's) was the first--but I think she just didn't like being proven wrong.  (I proved my mom wrong on Mother's Day, does this mean I'm derelict in my filial duties?  But hey, she's the one who ran immediately for the dictionary...although I was trapped at the table with no easy way past people, whereas she had a straight shot to the bookcases.)  I'd like to add one more bit to the argument, quoted from a Usage Note, also on dictionary.com:
"Although the phrase a couple of has been well established in English since before the Renaissance, modern critics have sometimes maintained that a couple of is too inexact to be appropriate in formal writing. But the inexactitude of a couple of may serve a useful purpose, suggesting that the writer is indifferent to the precise number of items involved. Thus the sentence She lives only a couple of miles away implies not only that the distance is short but that its exact measure is unimportant. This usage should be considered unobjectionable on all levels of style."
The phrase is inexact.  Ha!

All familial gibing aside, I still love dictionaries, and especially thesauri.  Hardly a day of writing goes by without my consulting one or the other to learn a definition, confirm a definition, find a good synonym, or find a word that escapes me by looking up its synonyms.  Both dictionary.com and thesaurus.com are towards the top of my Favorites folder.  They're essential for perfecting wordplay, and they keep me learning.

Here are a few things I learned today:

From today's word picks:
blath·er·skite (blath-er-skahyt)
1. a person given to voluble, empty talk.
2. nonsense; blather.

and from Did you know:
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is actually in the dictionary
su·per·cal·i·frag·i·lis·tic·ex·pi·al·i·do·cious (soo-per-kal-uh-fraj-uh-lis-tik-ek-spee-al-i-doh-shuhs)
(used as a nonsense word by children to express approval or to represent the longest word in English.)
Word Origin & History
from song in 1964 Disney movie version of "Mary Poppins;" subject of a lawsuit based on earlier song title "Supercalafajalistickexpialadojus" (1949), but other versions of the word also were in circulation.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Banshee Boy meets Hollerin' Mama

(There really are no good synonyms for "shriek" that start with "m.")

Banshee Boy made another appearance in our house last night.  As I was getting him ready for bed, he shrieked loud enough to burst eardrums.  I told him that hurt Mommy's ears, and covered my ears and made a sad face.  Did he feel chagrined?  Nope, he did it again.  And again.  I sat there for over a minute with my hands over my ears, trying to keep a deadpan expression.  Each time I removed my hands from my ears, he did it again.

Next, I removed all fun items from his crib and dumped him in it, telling him I'd come get him when he was ready to stop shrieking.  He shrieked a few more times and then started babbling, so I went back.  He shrieked again as soon as he saw me.

We repeated this process about four times before I'd decided I'd had enough.  It was time for a Hammurabian lesson.  Upon re-entering his room the last time he, of course, shrieked again--so I moved my mouth within about six inches of his ear and shrieked back, matching his decibel level as best I could.

He was definitely not expecting that.  He jumped back, put a hand over his ear, and looked at me with a look of utter shock and dismay:  "Why would you DO something like that, Mom?"  I told him that his shrieks hurt my ears just like mine just hurt his.  I then distracted him with tickles and continued getting him ready for bed.

I'm happy to report that he remained at a far more decibelly-appropriate level for the rest of the evening.  He let out only a few more screeches and I continued to match him--and each time he looked at me warily.  Whether he recognizes that screaming hurts others or just didn't like the new consequence, we're making strides towards civilizing the Banshee.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Battle of the Antiviruses and MY FIRST CRITTERS!!!

Today is the first time one of my stories is available to members of Critters!  *gulp*  "The French Maid" is a story I wrote many years ago, and even tried submitting a few times, before I decided it needed to be reworked.  After making that decision, I got caught up in other aspects of life, so I didn't start rewriting it until a few months ago.  It now gets to run the gauntlet, and I get my first chance to see the quality of critiques that come from Critters.  Lots of people rave about it, so I'm hoping to get some good thoughts.

As I mentioned in my last post, I got a new laptop recently.  Technically, it's an old laptop, but it's younger than my last.  It's a hand-me-down from my dad, who just purchased a new one of his own (and it's got a photo skin with pictures of my son on it, which was SUPPOSED to be a gift for my dad... but it didn't want to come off in one piece...)  He ran it with linux, so he just restored everything to factory settings before giving it to me.

I've been dragging my heels with the transfer of all my programs and files because that's such a time-consuming process--although the fact that my old laptop likes to act like a snail at times, especially when I have multiple internet windows open, is certainly a motivation to finish the process.  I did discover, with my dad's help (thank you!), that my modem still works wirelessly!  It just doesn't work for my old laptop.  All this time I'd been thinking the modem had been fried, when it was really something screwy with the computer!  At any rate, I can now have both online at the same time, which makes things soooo much faster.

Things were going well until I installed our virus/firewall/tune-up/backup software from our internet provider... and then suddenly I couldn't access the internet anymore.  I was connected, but whenever I tried to open an internet window it would freeze.  If I sent an error report after forcibly closing the program, it would send back a message to "click here to learn more about this problem," which would open another internet window which would freeze, and if I sent an error report it would send back a message....

So I called tech support (dad again) and we spent two evenings trying to pinpoint the problem.  It turns out that there was a trial version of Norton Antivirus and Firewall on the computer, which was refusing to let me access the internet with one of its competitors installed.  As I had no intention of using Norton, I deleted it and things are (hallelujah!) back to working again!

Of course, you can't just delete anything from Symantec.  Residue remains, and the only way to completely get rid of it is by using the Norton Removal Tool, which is not particularly easy to find.  As a courtesy to any readers who may, now or in the future, need to do the same thing, here is a link to where I downloaded it from.  My computer also froze the first time I tried to remove one of the programs.  It really was holding on tooth and nail...

Here's something funny; this was in the user agreement when I installed the Norton Removal Tool:
Darn, now I can't build that missile.  Oh wait, I used the tool to remove all Symantec products from my computer, so the missile is still a go!

At any rate, things are going well now, although I have many more programs to install, and all of my files still to transfer.  I thought Microsoft Office was going to give me a hard time too, since it was claiming I had already installed it onto the maximum number of computers (only if they're counting installs after a crash) but we managed to get that sorted out.  I'm hoping to finish the transfer soon--my desk is getting crowded with two laptops on it.

Hey, how about that?  I already have two critiques!  I was incredibly nervous opening the first email, but they're both positive, with some indication of where things are confusing and a few things I hadn't thought of.  We're off to a good start!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Stat Check

During the month of April, I wrote on 24 of the days (can I get a WooHoo??!!)
I finished my mystery story, rewrote two science fiction stories, and started research on a new science fiction piece
I sent 2 submissions
I received 3 rejections--two on the same day! :(
I retired one story
I have 7 stories currently in slush pile circulation
I took between 5 and 7 days to resubmit a story after a rejection
I made 13 blog posts
Between writing, this blog, and Critters, I took no days off! (can I get another WooHoo??!!!)

This is, by far, my best month since I started documenting on this blog.  I've been able to keep myself busy and motivated, which is a very good thing.  This time my biggest antagonists were a character who woundn't make up her mind, the time committment of networking (though the Ultimate Blog Party was quite helpful, regardless), fighting a losing battle against the must-stay-up-late-to-get-everything-done monster, a slow computer, and a new computer with (I think) battling virus programs and firewalls--if not for which I would have written on two more days, ppbth!  I'll probably blog profusely about the last, hopefully after the problem is solved.

The story I retired is a piece of flash fiction I wrote several years ago and was never quite happy with.  It started with an idea I thought was funny (or interesting, at least) but perhaps I should've known it wasn't the greatest idea when it took me forever to even figure out how to start.  I just couldn't crack into it.  Once I finally did, I was (moderately) satisfied with the then-finished result, but it sat on my computer for a few years.

When I broke it out and revised it, I began to feel that I wasn't happy with the piece in general.  It felt, to me, more like something I would receive as a viral email forward rather than a story (and although it occurred to me to try, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of spreading a viral email--especially not with that topic.)  But still, it felt counterintuitive to me NOT to try to get it published, so I sent it to a handful of flash fiction markets.  And their responses verified my instincts.  I received a few editoral comments, including "Didactic and long-winded," "This doesn't read as a story; this reads as a business plan," and "This doesn't feel like a story. It feels like I'm reading an e-mail forward."  How about that?  Somehow I managed to make an email forward business plan that was long-winded, all in under 800 words!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn't really want this piece out in the literary world with my name attached to it, so I made the decision to retire it.  "No Regrets," may you rest in peace.

My goals for May are to have a similar month to April.  I'd like to write (or do research) on most days, get between 10 and 15 blog posts, network for my blog (hopefully on most days as well, I have more of a plan for that now) and keep up with a critique a week on Critters.  I'm even entertaining the idea of trying to write ten critiques in one week in order to advance my next story to the top of the queue--we'll see how that goes.  I wish everybody else a successful May as well!