Friday, February 26, 2010

Carving Out the Moment

I've been pretty quiet on the blog this month. A friend who is a regular reader recently expressed concern that perhaps something was bothering me because otherwise I would be blogging more.

There's a lot on my mind these days, true, but that is not what has kept me from writing. Other demands on my time have kept me from writing. Family demands, work demands, community demands, medical demands. It is United Way time. The March concert is fast approaching, followed swiftly by the May concert (the major concert this season). Final arrangements are being made for a repeat benefit concert for our local food pantry.

There are seedlings to start soon.

In short, life is humming and things are moving pretty quickly around our homestead. Quick as I can be when necessary, my pace is nothing compared to Warren's at this time of year. (This time of year? Any time of year!) Hummingbirds have nothing on him for speed.

Warren and I start each weekday by exchanging emails. I send one over to his office first thing in the morning, often while he is still shaving. When I come in from walking or swimming, I usually have one from him waiting in my inbox.

They are just small notes touching on the day, our marriage, our life. Love notes, really. For me, they are just a little way to anchor the day and to let Warren know what he means to me. Starting my day writing a note to my husband helps me focus on us.

Starting my day writing a note to my husband allows me to carve out a moment of quiet thoughtfulness in the rumble of the daily schedule.

Sometimes, more so lately, the emails reflect our busyness. I might write a flamboyant Zooooooooom! in my note, as a commentary on our schedules. This morning, feeling the press of time, knowing what the next several weeks hold, I wrote:

Hold tight to my hand and never let go. Or, if you must (let go), wait for me in the clearing up ahead. I'll be along shortly.

I was thinking of the calendar, thinking of our respective "to do" lists, thinking of how much has to get done between now and the end of the day, as well as between tonight and the end of the weekend. Life is sometimes a blur and I just wanted to say "if you get too far ahead of me, wait a moment and I'll catch up."

I went swimming this morning after breakfast. When I got to the locker room and unpacked my bag, I found this tucked between my towels:

One of the many joys of this marriage is that we are often on the same wavelength even before we exchange a single word. This morning was one of those times. In the midst of the whirl, in the midst of the rush, we each carved out a moment just for us.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To Make Tomorrow Better

The United Way allocation season is underway. We had our team meetings last week and the volunteers chose which proposals to read and which agencies to visit. Tracy is busy finalizing the site visit schedule. March Madness Without the Hoops is about to begin.

My stack - I read all 39 proposals as the CIC co-chair - awaits me in the living room. I already have a stack of notes on top of the stack of proposals to remind me of questions I want to ask or items I want to look for as I read. Between now and the end of April (the month, not me, I hope!), United Way will get a lot of my time and my thoughts.

We are fortunate in that the campaign appears to be holding its own after taking a hard hit last season. If everything comes out where we think it will, United Way will have approximately $1.7 million dollars to allocate.

That is a very nice number, until you realize that the requests total a little over $2.5 million.

The needs have increased because of the Great Recession. The agencies that receive state funding have lost funding; the agencies that rely on donors are trying to stay even. The local impact of the Great Recession has been significant.

Monday, as Patricia and I walked, she voiced her husband's opinion that "we haven't seen the worst of it yet" here in Ohio. He works in a state office and is watching the state financial picture tilt from precarious to bad to worse. I agreed with her, and immediately thought of all those United Way proposals sitting on my coffee table.

United Way campaigns nationwide are wrapping up in the next few weeks; ours is winding down as well. When our CIC meets on April 17 to make funding recommendations to the Board, we will know the final total we have to allocate. We will know if we indeed have the $1.7 million. We already know that whatever that final number is, it won't equal the amount of requests. It will be in our laps to make the best recommendations possible as to where those dollars should be spent to do the most good in our community.

Many of our local United Way agencies work with folks at the ground level of poverty and need. Others work to prevent their clients from sinking to that ground level. Still others work to help boost their clients a little higher above whatever level they may be on right now. All of them - clients and agencies alike - are hoping for a better tomorrow.

This is my fifth and final year as a United Way volunteer. Volunteers rotate out, to keep the views of the readers fresh, and it is time for me to step aside. It has been a wonderful experience, one of the most significant and meaningful of my community involvement.

I started reading the 2010 proposals last night. 38 other United Way volunteers in Delaware County are doing the same thing over the next two weeks. Tracy and Brandon at the United Way office are doing the same thing as well.

Godspeed to them and to all United Way readers everywhere who are giving their time and commitment to make tomorrow better for us all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Winter Games

The Winter Olympics are going on right now. Lots of people follow them avidly. Over at Dave and Ashley's, they have an Olympic flag up in their backyard. My neighbor Scott flew one the day of the opening ceremonies. The teens in the house across the street and their buddies have rigged up an ice-slicked incline on which I think they are perfecting their techniques for the 2 Meter Snowboard Run. Even we of the House of No Television have had the set on for more hours since last Friday than in the last four years.

Along with the Olympics, we are having record snowfalls this month. As I type in the late afternoon, the sky has darkened again and the flakes are whirling down. I don't know how much is out there: not as much as Virginia got earlier in February, but more than enough for me. Maybe a foot and a half? Maybe more? It was enough that we canceled tonight's monthly Legal Clinic for the first time ever.

As I shoveled again this morning, clearing away the packed snow that the City threw into our driveway when it came through with a plow sometime during the night, I couldn't help but think that weightlifting belonged to the Summer Olympics.

All this snow, combined with the presence of Bob Costas every night, has lead me to reflect on the Winter Games of my childhood. No, not Peggy Fleming in Grenoble, but the sports events of our own contrivance that were the hallmark of the season.

A biathlon is a sporting event made up of two disciplines. The Flax Street biathlon brought together downhill sledding with target shooting. This was a team event. Both sides had a limited amount of time in which to make up a supply of snowballs. One team got the snow fort at the foot of the hill in the backyard; the other team got the sled. The Sled Team's objective was to launch the sled (with a solo driver) from the top of the hill and ride towards the snow fort, launching snowballs when within range. Other Sled Team members followed on foot, screaming at the top of their lungs while they too fired snowballs. Team Snow Fort had to repel the attack without leaving the walls of the fort. If the Sled Team breached the walls (with either bodies or sled), it won. Otherwise, decision for Team Snow Fort.

Downhill Combined
This was performed at an out of town venue, my grandparent's farm out on Hogback Road. There was a pasture out behind the barn that tailed off sharply towards a small creek (pronounced "crick" for those foreign competitors who didn't understand the local dialect). In one location, the creek was only a foot and a half wide, very shallow, and would freeze solid, allowing the sled and its occupant to sail over the water and glide to a halt on the relatively smooth and flat bank on the other side. The course was marked by random objects - a discarded implement, a large rock, some scrap lumber - that were often hidden under the snow and that a competitor had to be sure to steer around while traversing the course. If one were lucky enough to avoid injury upon collision with a random object and kept hurtling downwards, one always ran the risk of being off course. This resulted in either (a) breaking through the ice of the creek at a slightly deeper spot and getting wet or (b) crossing the creek at a bank that was undercut and so sat several feet higher than the other side, thus causing the sled and its driver to become temporarily airborne. Points were given for "hang time" in the event of the latter.

Combined Skating
This event was performed at the Olentangy River Arena, which was a block away from our house and right in the backyard of my older cousins. Our parents would allow us to skate on the river when it froze hard enough. "Hard enough" was always determined by an older cousin - late teens - testing the ice depth by chopping a hole in the ice. If he ascertained it to be safe, anyone old enough to skate ran to the river. Our skates were usually hung around our necks by their knotted laces, flailing our chests as we piled down the hill to the river. Once on the ice, we all (my brothers, a couple of older cousins (also male), myself, whatever friends we had joining us) practiced our compulsory figures ("Look, I'm skating backwards!") until one of the cousins would come flying by in speed skating mode, grab an outstretched arm, and "crack the whip" to send the hapless skater sailing out of control across the ice. The other event was a group event, consisting of all the skaters skating in fast, tight formation downriver and under the Central Avenue bridge, daring one another to skate as close as possible to the low head dam further downriver. At the last possible moment, the older skaters in the group would wheel around sharply, screaming "the ice is breaking!," and skate back upstream as swiftly as possible, leaving the younger skaters in panicked disarray.

Team Toboggan
My cousins had a toboggan, which was a fairly exotic sled for our neighborhood in those days. Their house was on the side of a moderate hill; the street turned sharply left, while the hill continued into a small field. The toboggan was built to hold three, but if one were willing to be squashed, as many as four or five riders could fit on it. This event had a bobsled quality to it as the last person on the sled would push off (from a run) and then jump aboard for the ride down. This was probably the tamest event of our Winter Games. A side event was putting the youngest kid in the front spot, making sure there was an extra forceful push to maximize speed, and then every other rider bailing out on the way down so that the remaining rider was left in an empty sled careening down the hill while the older kids laughed uproariously.

Icicle Duels
The competitors broke off a selection of large icicles from low hanging eaves, choosing them for length and girth. They then faced each other at arms' length and commenced to duel with the icicles until one icicle was too shattered to continue. Obviously, this was an event in which the height of the competitor made an enormous difference in the outcome. The taller one was, the easier one could reach (and manage to break off cleanly) more icicles. I regularly lost this event to my older brother Dale and cousin John growing up, but even in my early years of competition routinely captured the bronze by besting my younger brother Michel.

My friend Patricia and I managed to get a morning walk in on Monday, despite the snow and the unshoveled sidewalks. As we walked, she commented on some of the enormous icicles hanging from the gutters of the houses. Patricia was speculating about the damage to the gutters and potential damage to the house. I was listening, but I was thinking not of gutters but of the past glories of the Winter Games.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Penny Dreams, Quarter Wishes

As 2010 started, Blogville abounded with posts about goals and wishes. Christine over at Monkey Funk posted one on making dreams come true. After I commented on it, she commented back: And what dreams are you going to fuel, April?

Her words reminded me of the lines from a Thomas Beddoes poem, "Dream-Pedlary:"

If there were dreams to sell,
Merry and sad to tell,
And the crier rung the bell,
What would you buy?

I never answered Christine. (Sorry, Christine!) I didn't have an easy answer at the time; I'm not sure I do yet. If the crier rung the bell, I'd be sitting on the bench, watching everyone buy a dream, then shrugging, "I dunno."

About the same time Christine was pressing us on our dreams, Sharon at Musings of a Midlife Mom wrote about breaking her budget into penny increments; she only needed so many pennies to make up the loss of the income from her part-time job.

A penny for my thoughts? I can't begin to price them.

Sharon's post made me smile. Then last week I am the Working Poor wrote about saving change, something I do too.

So many of my dreams are intangible. I am like Whistler in the movie "Sneakers," who, when given the chance to name any sum of money as payment for turning over a decryption chip, says "I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men." That's a good start. Well, maybe that and universal health care coverage in this country. (Of course, the response line in the movie fits with that last request of mine: "We are the United States Government! We don't do that sort of thing.")

So many of my desires come without a price tag. A good book to read. Time in which to write. Hearing Warren's marimba playing float up from the basement in the evening. Seeing smiles on the faces of Legal Clinic clients when they eat my baked goods. Talking about cheese making with Sam. An email from a girlfriend. A letter in the mailbox. Guests at the supper table. Running into friends downtown. Flopping on the couch alongside Warren at the end of a way too long day and knowing I don't have to say a word, quietly grateful for his nearness. Telegraphing that gratitude instantaneously by a touch to his hand.

This is all the stuff of a rich life. It is the stuff of my rich life.

Yet the question posed by Christine was "And what dreams are you going to fuel, April?"

Sometimes I read back over my own blog and wonder whether I even have any dreams beyond the life I am already living. It is already full to overflowing. It is marked by tomatoes and peppers - both their growth and their harvest, by symphony concerts and the Legal Clinic, by books and baking. Almost all of my dreams are already woven into the fabric of my life. If I had one dream more, one maybe-just-slightly-out-of-reach dream for the year, it might be for us to take the train to Montana this summer. Even assuming we put our hands on the pennies with which to do so, there are still all those schedules to juggle, including that of the tomatoes.

Beyond that, though, I can't say. I feel I have enough, more than enough. That's a problem I can afford to have.

I recently wrote about the novels of E. L. Konigsburg and a scene in which runaway children find coins visitors have tossed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art fountain. Jamie speculates that a very rich person must have tossed a quarter into the fountain. His older sister disagrees.

"Someone very poor," Claudia corrected. "Rich people have only penny wishes."

I don't know about Claudia's statement. Penny dreams or quarter wishes, it's still up to us how we spend them. Rich or poor, it's all the same loose change in our hands and hearts at the end of the day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Konigsburg!

I was working yesterday on a post called "Penny Dreams, Quarter Wishes," a topic I have been kicking around in my head since early January. Part of that title comes from a scene in a juvenile novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg.

The novel take place almost entirely in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which Claudia and Jamie, a sister and brother, are hiding after running away from their suburban home. They are bathing in the Museum's restaurant fountain one night when they discover that there are coins on the bottom of the fountain pool:

The bumps were pennies and nickels people had pitched into the fountain to make a wish. At least four people had thrown in dimes and one had tossed in a quarter.
"Someone very rich must have tossed in this quarter," Jamie whispered.
"Someone very poor," Claudia corrected. "Rich people have only penny wishes."

As I reread the above passage, I remembered that From the Mixed-Up Files, which was the 1968 Newberry Award winning book, was only Konigsburg's second novel and that her first had also garnered considerable attention. A little online research confirmed that Konigsburg not only won the Newberry Medal for From the Mixed-Up Files, but also won a Newberry Honor the same year for her first novel. She is the only author to win both the Newberry Medal and a Newberry Honor in the same year.

In the course of my Googling, I learned that today, February 10, is E. L . Konigsburg's birthday.

How could I not write about that?

29 years after her first Newberry Award, Konigsburg won a second for The View from Saturday. View is about four young students, "the Souls," who are chosen by their paraplegic teacher to be a middle school Academic Bowl team. All of them, students and teacher alike, learn about friendship and overcoming challenges in the course of a championship season. The book contains one of my (many) favorite passages in literature wherein the students, who come together for high tea every Saturday, share what day they would like to live over. Ethan recounts:

The Souls listened and were not embarrassed to hear, and I was not embarrassed to say, "I would like to live over the day of our first tea party. And, look," I added, "every Saturday since, I get to do just that."

Learning to read was a life changing event for me, as I imagine it is for many. I still remember the moment, several pages into the first grade reader, when I made the instantaneous and permanent connection between the print on the page and the words we speak. It was a lightning strike, a "Miracle Worker" moment, and it unleashed in me a passion for reading and books that has never been quenched.

By the time I was in second grade, I not only wanted to read books, but I also wanted to write them. I wanted to be a part of the magic of getting the ideas in my head on paper and in between two covers so that I could hold them in my hands. I wasn't that sure, back in 1963, whether girls could even be writers, but eventually I had the answer I sought.

With the guidance of Mrs. Judd, who presided over the children's section of the library in those days, I discovered a whole universe of women who wrote for young readers. Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beverly Cleary, Carol Ryrie Brink, Sydney Taylor, Rumer Godden, Eleanor Estes, Noel Streatfeild, Maud Hart Lovelace, E. L. Konigsburg, Lenora Mattingly Weber, Mary Stolz. (Somehow I missed out on Madeleine L'Engle until I began reading her works to my son Ben, but had I stumbled across her in my youth, she too would have entered my pantheon of favorites.) In looking back, I suspect Mrs. Judd deliberately guided me towards the women writers, somehow intuiting that I needed to know that women could write too.

Learning that women could be authors opened a door to the future for me. That realization - and their wonderful, incredible books - opened me to other possibilities for my life. In my family, the only career path was that of wife and mother. But now I knew something more: I could be a writer when I grew up.

E. L Konigsburg is 80 today. 80! When she was in her forties and writing From the Mixed-Up Files, she had Mrs. Frankweiler tell Claudia, "When one is eighty-two, one doesn't have to learn one new thing every day, and one knows that some things are impossible." By the time Konigsburg was in her seventies and wrote The View from Saturday, she populated several chapters with lively seniors undertaking new activities, celebrating a late life marriage, and wearing turquoise jogging suits. Apparently Konigsburg found the view from her seventies to be different from the view from her forties.

Birthdays are a time for gifts, and in this case, the gifts are all from the Birthday Girl. Thank you for your gifts to us: for Claudia and Jamie, for the Souls, for your willingness to spin tales time and time again for us to read over and over. Thank you, you and your other women colleagues in literature, for opening a door for me so many years ago.

Happy birthday, Mrs. Konigsburg!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Letting Go

Sometimes you just gotta let the ghosts go.

The last 15 or so hours have been an unexpected walk down Painful Memory Lane, with side trips down Sad Memory Lane. It started when I stopped at the library yesterday and checked out Shadow Tag, Louise Erdrich's latest novel.

Shadow Tag is a novel of a marriage gone badly awry. Some reviewers are speculating whether it is an autobiographical rehash of scenes from Erdrich's marriage to Michael Dorris, who committed suicide twelve years ago during that marriage's disintegration.

I don't know if it is. But I do know that several pages into the novel, I had the distinct feeling that Erdrich had somehow been a spectator to the end stages of my marriage almost a decade ago. Had she been sitting in the bedroom closet scratching notes? Did she watch me from afar? I winced as I read last night, almost gasping for air as I finished each page.

And then I woke up this morning to emails from my ex regarding our younger son's plans to attend college in the fall. He wrote in one: "At some point, you and I have to discuss how to pay for this. My preference is to split our contributions 50-50."

Without going into details, let me just say he makes over twice what I do a year, with benefits, which I lack. I emailed back an overview of my financial situation, feeling violated as I typed away. I then hit "send."

This was all before breakfast, and while Warren worried as he watched my fingers fly on the keyboard, he kept his thoughts to himself. When we sat down to eat, I recapped what I had written, then explained what emotions and painful memories that email triggered in me. I stopped talking abruptly and leaned my head on my palm, waiting while the tears flooded my eyes. I did not burst out crying, but there was a long, quiet pause. Warren reached over and held my other hand while I collected myself.

After Warren left for work, I sent a follow up note to my ex: I just want you to know the landscape of my finances. I am not comfortable letting you know that landscape, but I think it is fairer to you that you do now rather than for you to assume things about me and my capacity to pay, then find out I cannot. Your email and my response have brought up lots of painful memories that I would rather not focus on right now.

I ended it by suggesting we revisit the topic closer in time to the start of college.

After I sent the second message, I turned my attention to my day. A major winter storm is moving across the face of Ohio, so that canceled my one outside appointment. The United Way allocation season is about to begin; Tracy and I have already exchanged several emails today on that topic. There is laundry going.

I turned my attention to these other things, grounding myself again in the quiet pace of today. While I worked, I thought back through the emotional walk I have been on since last night.

Then the thought came.

"Just let it go."

Just let it go. I don't need to rehash every penny spent and every wrong handed out during my prior marriage. I don't need to replay the "Worst of" highlights on a big screen TV. Ralph Edwards is not going to pop out of the closet and say "remember this moment, April?"

Just let it go. When Sam heads to school this fall, then his dad and I can reevaluate where we are financially and what each of us can do to help our son tackle his future.

Just let it go. I did. I felt the pain and the sadness lift from my shoulders and dissolve in the air.

As I was finishing up this post, I received an email from my ex that was such a considerate response that tears flooded my eyes for a second time this morning. This time, though, they were tears of appreciation that, despite the painful past, he and I did not tumble headlong into a cycle of ranting emails and flying accusations for the day.

Just let it go. I already had and, thanks to his response, it will stay gone.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gargoyles, Gershwin, and the Guggenheim

What do gargoyles, George Gershwin, and the Guggenheim all have in common? They are all pilgrimages we made when we were in New York last weekend.

Before we left last Friday, the most frequent bit of advice was that we "should see a show." Wicked, The Lion King, something. Sometimes it came in the form of a question. "Are you seeing any shows?" "What shows are you going to see?"

What shows? New York is a show unto itself. We couldn't squeeze in a show because we were too busy exploring places near and dear to our heart.

Warren and I share many things in common, one of the multiple reasons we are so compatible. Among those mutual interests are architecture, cemeteries, George Gershwin, Frank Lloyd Wright, and exploring new places in search of our other interests.

A trip to New York for us is a match made in heaven.

Because of our schedules, Warren and I had all day Saturday as well as Sunday morning before going our separate ways.

The first stop Saturday was easy to pick. We headed for the Guggenheim, the last major structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum sits at 86th and Park Avenue. From Grand Central Station, you catch the Number 6 subway uptown and walk west towards Central Park.

Warren saw it first, wedged into the block. "There it is!"

My first comment was "it looks so much bigger in the photos." From a block away, it looks improbably small. But that is the beauty of Wright's design, tricking the viewer into imagining it to be a small building tucked into the urban streetscape.

Wright designed most of his buildings on his theory of compress and release. You often enter a Wright structure through a small, low entrance (compress) that then opens into a wide space (release). The Guggenheim is no exception. First comes a small, tight entry with a low ceiling, then you walk into that beautiful open space of the ascending spiral.

We both gasped.

It is amazing space. The art is wonderful too, hung in galleries adjoining the spiraled space, but it was the spiral atrium that kept calling to me.

Compress and release, compress and release.

When we came out some two hours later, we were still not sated. We stood outside and took pictures, marveling and commenting. It still looked small to me, nestled into the neighborhood, but I knew better now.

We then debated where to go next.

Further uptown and farther to the west was a building I have wanted to see ever since reading about it in Christopher Gray's Streetscapes column over a year ago. It is only an apartment building, but stands out in Manhattan for the unusual gargoyles decorating the structure.

I started college at the University of Chicago, a campus full of Gothic architecture on which gargoyles abound. Chicago gargoyles are not happy gargoyles. If you find one with a smile on its face, it is probably because it has just watched another undergraduate bite the intellectual dust.

Not so the gargoyles I was searching for in Manhattan. These gargoyles are happy gargoyles, wearing ridiculous expressions. One is known as the Gobbling Gargoyle, because he is lustily consuming a meal with a large spoon raised halfway to his mouth.

So I asked Warren if he would be willing to take the Number 6 further uptown and then look for the gargoyle building. Of course he would be willing.

We disembarked the Number 6 at 110th and Lexington. That's East 110th. The gargoyles were at 527 West 110th.

"Oh, let's walk." (That was my suggestion.)

So we did. Two miles. It was 18 degrees out, before you factored in the wind chill.

The wind was blowing. Hard.

Have I ever mentioned how wonderful a husband Warren is? He was cold, it was freezing, we were hungry, but he didn't complain once. Not one word. Not one criticism of our slogging up 110th into the face of the wind just to see a building. Not one pointed comment about how after finding it, my hands were too cold to hold a camera after a few moments.

Instead, this amazing man I am married to steered me to a nearby Chipotle where we ate lunch and grew warm. From there, we took a subway down to where the World Trade Center used to stand. By then, with evening coming on, it had grown even more bitter and we quickly decided to beat a hasty retreat to our friends' home where we were staying.

The next morning, we joined our hosts, Ed and Katrina, for breakfast. Katrina and I have been close friends since 1974. She had been out of town until late Saturday night and this was the first we'd all had a chance to sit down together.

Before we came to New York this time, Warren discovered that George Gershwin, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 38, is buried in Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, less than ten miles from Katrina and Ed's front door. Over waffles, I asked if they would be up for a jaunt in search of George Gershwin. Sure, why not?

Off we went.

It is amazingly easy to find George Gershwin. He and other members of the Gershwin family, including his brother Ira, are in a large mausoleum right past the office as you pull into the cemetery. We piled out of the car and walked up to the doors to peer inside.

There is a Jewish custom of placing a small rock on a grave marker you are visiting. Some say is a way to let the world know, "Someone was here. This person is not forgotten." The Gershwin mausoleum had a few rocks on the top step and I regretted that I didn't think to bring a rock from Ohio to leave as well.

After the cemetery visit, Warren and I had separate schedules for the remainder of our trip. I spent more time in the City and visited with friends while he attended his meetings. My memories include being in Little Italy Sunday night with Bethany and hearing Italian spoken all around us, taking a Lower East Side walking tour with Katrina on Monday, eating pastrami sandwiches at Katz's Deli (think "When Harry Met Sally") and our deciding to walk to Grand Central Station from there (about 3 miles). I spent my time with my girlfriends; Warren spent his time immersed in the world of symphony management. Our final night, Katrina, Ed, Warren and I shared a meal rich in flavor and friendship, full of warmth and talk and laughter and cream puffs.

Warren once wrote that if I chose to cast my lot with him, "you probably aren't going to get Europe, diamonds, many expensive meals or lots of shoes." That statement, meant to be a commentary on his modest income (and also an inside joke), has become a touchstone of our relationship. The morning after we got back home, I emailed him as I do each workday: You may not give me Europe or diamonds, but you give me the world, starting with your love.

So that's why we didn't take in a Broadway show. Because all the show we wanted, all the world we needed, was already right there in our own hands.