Monday, September 27, 2010

Be Radical -- Read A Book

It is National Banned Books Week again, brought to you courtesy of those wonderful people at the American Library Association.

I wrote about Banned Books Week last year, and other than noting that Banned Books Week 2010 runs from September 27 through October 2 and is now in its 28th year, everything I said last year goes for this year as well, which is why my original post is set out below.

We live in increasingly polarized times as economic, racial, religious, political, and other differences push us farther and farther apart. Books and the free and uncensored access to them are ways to bridge those gaps.

There is a wonderful scene in the movie "Field of Dreams" in which Annie Kinsella speaks out against banning books. She rouses the other locals in attendance to take a stand on their beliefs. After asking who supported banning books and getting no response, she then asks:

Now, who's for the Bill of Rights? Who thinks freedom is a pretty darn good thing? Come on! Let’s see those hands! Who thinks we have to stand up to the kind of censorship they had under Stalin? [Hands go up all over the auditorium.] All right! There you go! America, I love you. I’m proud of you!

I'm with Annie.

Last Year's Post About Banned Books Week

September 26 through October 3 is Banned Books Week, now in its 27th official year. Created by the American Library Association, it is a yearly reminder to us all that the right to read what you want when you want is a precious one and not to be taken for granted.

Books are removed - or attempted to be removed - from libraries and schools around this country on a regular basis. Those calling for censorship cross the political spectrum from right to left, so despite your political convictions, you can't blame it on the other side.

When I look at my bookshelves or think about my sons' bookshelves, I see a plethora of books that have come under fire: The Wizard of Oz. Slaughterhouse Five. The Grapes of Wrath. The Diary of Ann Frank. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Bible.

So many books, so little time.

Ray Bradbury more than once wrote short stories about a future where books were taboo. In his novel Fahrenheit 451, he imagines an America in which books are torched pursuant to the law: The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.

Bradbury's works pop up on banned books lists from time to time. I suspect that makes him glad he wrote them.

Next week, celebrate your right to read freely during Banned Books Week. Be a radical. Read a banned book. Read 10 banned books. Reread Fahrenheit 451 while you are at it.

And then go out and read some more. Not just this week but every week. Not just now but always.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Morning Notes

I am eating breakfast alone this morning as Warren is giving a talk to an early morning Rotary group. We almost always eat breakfast together.

He just drove off and I am sitting at the kitchen table, with the early morning light just coming through the trees, listening to the birds outside.

My notebook is open in front of me and I am writing these lines out longhand.

The day promises to be hot - the last hot one of a short string of them. I plan on walking to the library first thing this morning before it gets hot to swap my books.

Right now, though, it is cool. There is just enough breeze to clatter the kitchen blinds a bit and stir the wind chimes hanging in the dogwood tree.

I have a lot on my mind. There is a blog post or two stirring around. There are bills to pay and chores to do. My hours have dropped off at court due to changing projects and priorities, so I am stretching already tight dollars a little tighter. I am missing my far-flung children a lot. Little things, big things. The kitchen table still holds a few empty canning jars and I wonder, idly, if I could can my thoughts and put them on the shelf.

I smile at the thought of canning up my cares and concerns.

There is plenty to put my hand to, and I know I need to start the day. But for now, for this moment, I am content to sit here, watch the morning light rise, and welcome the day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Every Day is a Good Day: September 2010

These are the days of miracle and wonder…
"The Boy in the Bubble," Paul Simon

Fall is here. (Note: well, it was when I wrote this out in longhand two days ago. The temps have turned hot again and we may set a heat record tomorrow. But the spirit of the season has moved into my life and I know the cool days will return soon.)

The nights are cool now and crickets dominate the air waves.

The fair is in town for the week.

The canning is done for the year.

The finches have picked over the rudbeckia, now sere and brown. The ornamental cherry and the dogwood are loaded with fruit.

When I go walking, the first leaves of fall crunch underfoot.

Monday night we had homemade soup with fresh cornbread (also from scratch), a salad for Warren, and some of the last of the garden tomatoes for me. It was the first bean soup of the fall.

This is my favorite season. In the fall, I gather up small moments in great bunches.

Every day is a good day.

Especially if it starts like this:

And ends like this:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Things Left Behind

They left behind things. A hodgepodge of things. A helter-skelter of things. Things we wondered about. An unopened ten pound bag of rice. A pruning saw. A little red ceramic pitcher half-filled with pennies.

They left behind a $500 electric bill and a shutoff notice.

They left behind a stack of papers and empty food boxes a good four feet high just carelessly tossed in the small pantry in the kitchen. School papers, old bills, court papers. Photos of the kids.

They left behind two battered tennis rackets, a flat soccer ball, old shoes, broken toys, and three cell phones, one of which blinked a message that the owner needed to deposit more money in order to retrieve any messages.

They left behind empty prescription bottles for meds I know are prescribed for mental health problems and not physical ones.

Dad, mom, and I were cleaning out the things they had left behind when they abruptly vacated the apartment on the heels of an eviction notice for two months unpaid rent. The apartment is one of three in a rundown little rental my brother - the one who recently broke his leg - owns in a down-at-the-heels town about an hour from here.

My mom did not understand why they had left the apartment in such disorder. Her questions peppered the day.

"How could you live like this?"

"Have you ever seen such a mess?"

"How can people live with this kind of filth? I can't imagine, can you?"

After an hour, I ran out of answers. They live like this because…because what?

They live like this because they ran out of options a long time ago.

They live like this because depression, mental illness, and not enough resources will do that to you.

They live like this because these are people who never had a break in their lives.

I filled garbage bag after garbage bag with the papers in the pantry. The eviction notice for an apartment in a town 15 miles that way. The eviction notice for another apartment in another town 14 miles the other way. The court services plans filed by different agencies in different counties for the protection of neglected, dependent children.

My dad and I knelt and ripped up the carpet - stained, dirty, reeking - and carried it to the truck, along with the tennis rackets, the bills, the dirty dishes, and the court services plans. We threw the two different box springs - stained, broken, reeking - on top, cinched the whole thing down, and then drove slowly to the community landfill.

The rental is not a nice one in a good part of town. It is one you would move into if you are just scraping by, or down on your luck, or just fell from "making it each month" to "gotta cut back because my hours got cut." The house is clean and cared for, but it's shabby. My brother, a blue collar guy himself, bought this house with three units in it just before the housing market collapsed in Ohio. He had hoped to work hard at it and make a decent return on his investment, but even before he broke his leg, it was starting to pull him under. His tenants sometimes have to pay the rent in installments, as their unemployment checks come in. Some don't pay at all for as long as they can. With his busted leg, my brother can't get to the house to make the repairs - the broken windows, the new carpet, the scrubbing and cleaning - on this unit, so my parents (and Warren and I when we can) are trying to get it fixed up for him to rent.

The current hard times in this country gnaw at me. I write about them from time to time. The Census Bureau just confirmed what so many of us have known for a long time: the number of poor in this country keeps rising. One in seven adults now lives in poverty. One in five children lives in poverty.

I just cleaned up the detritus of two of those adults and three of those children.

At day's end, I brought home the pruning saw, the rice, and the little red pitcher. The pennies from it went in our loose coins jar. The rice went into canisters.

The little red jug is now sitting on my desk, waiting for better days for us all.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Over the last few weeks, I have been immersed in the works of the late, great Wilma Mankiller, who in 1985 became the first woman to lead the Cherokee Nation as principal chief.

I had spent my law school years working on tribal law issues out in Oregon, and although I was no longer in that field when she took the oath of office, I remember the pride and elation I felt at the time.

Wilma died on April 6 of this year. I was sad when I read her obituary. Now that I have spent my days reading her words, I feel the loss profoundly.

I have been thinking (a lot) and writing (a little) about change - spiritual, personal. Life change. Wilma Mankiller is part of the path I find myself on at present. She has been pointing out landmarks as I walk.

In 1979, Wilma was in a head-collision that almost killed her. In her autobiography, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, she wrote at length about being so near death, about coming to terms with dying, and about coming to terms with living. Then she wrote:

From that point on, I have always thought of myself as the woman who lived before and the woman who lives afterward.

Those words grabbed me. I have used similar words to talk about myself before and after my diagnosis of multiple myeloma. I did not come as near to death literally as Wilma Mankiller did. She was dying immediately; I was dying slowly. The impact was the same, however. My illness forced me to hold death close, touch death, take death into my life. It changed me forever.

To read someone else's acknowledgment of this is very powerful.

Wilma wrote that the near-fatal collision, an accident in which the other driver - a close friend of hers - died, and her long, painful recovery caused her to reevaluate her life. She wrote:

During the long healing process, I fell back on my Cherokee ways and adopted what our elders call "a Cherokee approach" to life. That mean one has to think positively, to take what is handed out and turn it into a better path.

Again, her words held me. I am not Cherokee and, despite stories of Native American blood in one branch of the family tree, I have never seen any indication of it beyond that family story. All the same, I appreciate and hold onto the spirit of what Wilma wrote.

It feels right because it is what I also concluded in the course of my long treatment and healing.

As principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller relied on her convictions that self-help and self-determination would strengthen the tribe and lift it out of poverty. Water, housing, education, and medical care were all top priorities of her administration and her lifework. It was the Cherokee approach Wilma wrote about: take what is handed out and turn it into a better path. Because of her passion and her work, she left the Cherokee people better and stronger. She went on to reach beyond the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation, advocating tolerance, acceptance, self-determination, justice, and unity in the community, this country, and the world. When she died, tributes from around the world flooded the family.

Over her lifetime, Wilma had repeated brushes with death: the car accident, a chronic kidney disorder that resulted in two separate kidney transplants, lymphoma, breast cancer. In late March, 2010, she and her family announced that she had stage IV pancreatic cancer. She said:

I want my family and friends to know that I am mentally and spiritually prepared for this journey; a journey that all human beings will take at one time or another. I learned a long time ago that I can't control the challenges the Creator sends my way but I can control the way I think about them and deal with them.

Wilma Mankiller died a month later.

I have watched portions of Wilma's memorial service online. There are repeated references to her journey into the lands beyond. Clearly she took the lessons she learned in 1979 to heart and brought them forward to the end of her life, sharing them with her family, her friends, and her people.

During the service, her husband Charlie Soap shared a conversation in which Wilma asked him, towards the end, whether he heard horses, saying that she heard them all the time outside the house. Charlie replied that surely the Indian warriors were gathering to escort her on her final journey to the other side of the mountain.

I cried when he related that story. I love the image of the warriors assembling to escort a great chief home.

When my journey comes, I hope I travel to the lands beyond with the same strength and grace that Wilma showed. I don't expect a warrior escort. But I would be thrilled to find Wilma on the other side of the mountain, smiling her trademark smile, wearing her Cherokee tear dress, and saying Tsilugi (welcome).

Wilma Mankiller, November 1945 - April 2010. Photograph by Charlie Soap.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Warren and April's Big Trip

"Are you ever going to write about our trip?"

Warren posed that question to me late the other night.

"I don't know," I replied, adding "I have written about our trip."

Well, a little. And I did write about the wedding, which is, unbelievably, now more than a month behind us.

Warren's question came back to me yesterday as we headed to Mansfield, an hour north of here, for an afternoon rehearsal and evening concert. About three-quarters of the way there, I said, somewhat incredulously, "I think this is the farthest we have driven together since coming back from our trip."

I was quiet a moment, then added, "In fact, this the first I've been out of the county since getting back."

Yesterday was an early fall day. The soybean fields are turning golden. Trees are looking dusty as the summer greens fade. The afternoon sky was not the deep blue we see in October, but it was not the thin, almost transparent blue of high summer either.

A month ago we were driving across the plains at the height of summer.

Am I going to write about our trip? Apparently, judging by this post.

As always, the small moments stick in my mind:

Hot fudge sundaes in Le Mars, Iowa, at the Blue Bunny ice cream parlor and then, as we drove further east into the night, stopping on a two-lane road in rural Iowa, cutting the headlights, and seeing the Milky Way spread out above us.

The golden rolling hills of Montana.

Mount Rushmore being far larger than I remembered.

Clouds above the plains, endlessly changing.

The big buffalo. The big cheese. The big sundae.

The big spaces.

The terrible empty stillness at Little Bighorn.

Coming around a bend in the road and catching our first glimpse of Devils Tower.

Looking at the architecture everywhere we were. At one point, I turned to Warren and said "I've driven over 1700 miles and what do I do but look at buildings?" (To which he replied, grinning, "all you've done on this vacation is show me rocks.")

The Music Man footbridge in Mason City, Iowa.

Sheer American goofiness that works just because it is so goofy: the Corn Palace, the gnome Ferris Wheel.
The joy of crossing the Continental Divide.

Fistfuls of small moments.

Since coming back, the routine events of daily life, not to mention the demands of our schedules, have swept in again like the tide. Meetings, band camp, legal clinic, the first football game, the Symphony office move, coffee with friends, breakfasts, laundry, dishes, groceries - you know.

Daily life hasn't changed one bit.

But I am. Changing, that is. I have written about my disorientation since coming back. I am rooted again, but I am changing. The trip kicked open a door to change. I can't define it, I can't describe it yet, but I can feel it.

After feeding the throngs who followed him up into the hills on five loaves and two fishes, Jesus told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments that are left over, that nothing may be lost." (John 6:12)

We took a great many photos on our trip, gathering memories, that nothing may be lost.

Warren still speaks with reverence and appreciation about our trip. For him, it was a chance to see a part of the country he never thought he'd see. The highlight of his trip was Devils Tower, which we walked around the base of when we were there.

For me, it was the chance to revisit places I never thought I would see again. My highlight was the plains - the Dakotas, Montana - and their vast emptiness. It was driving US 12 across Montana, watching it unroll from east to west, and losing myself and my thoughts in those golden hills.

Sometimes my small moments seem like fragments of the day - a chance meeting of a friend while dashing to the grocery, an unexpected note in the mail, Warren's face lighting up in a smile. Our trip was full of so many of those moments - threaded together by laughter and wonder and shared companionship.

And hot fudge sundaes.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

L'shana Tova

Rosh Hashanah begins here in a few more hours, when the sun sets. It is the start of both the Jewish New Year and the High Holidays, which end ten days later at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.

The High Holidays - the holiest days of the Jewish calendar - are a time of reflection and repentance.

Today is one of those brilliant, crisp, early fall days that holds all of the promise of the season. I find autumn to be the most invigorating time of the year and I thought about Rosh Hashanah as I walked home just now from an afternoon meeting. I always loved the fact that the Jewish New Year began in the fall, instead of in the dead of winter. When I actively practiced Judaism many years ago, I looked forward to this time of year - for the call to self-examination and reflection, true, but also for the visceral pleasure of exiting the synagogue on a crisp fall night and breathing in the newness and solemnity of the year being born.

Traditionally, honey and honey desserts are eaten at Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize the wish for a sweet year. Over the weekend, Warren and Elizabeth baked a honey-soaked baklava and there is still some left. Last night as the three of us shared the dessert, I mentioned to Elizabeth that, without intending to, she had managed to make a dish that was very appropriate for this time of year. By happenstance, I am meeting a Jewish friend for coffee tomorrow morning, and I will carry a piece of the baklava with me so that we both might taste the hope for a sweet year.

I have not written much about my spiritual beliefs in this blog. They change with time and I think I am in the middle of one such change right now. I know, though, that the qualities that drew me to Judaism over thirty years ago are still compelling. One of those is the emphasis on the individual to take moral responsibility for his or her actions, including making up for one's wrongs to others. An equally compelling concept is that of tikkun olam, or "repairing the world," a belief that each of us has a duty to make the world a better place. Along with the inspiration of my grandmother, my belief in tikkun olam has probably shaped my community work as much as anything.

The day is winding down. The new year awaits.

L'shana tova (a good year).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hard Times

Times are tight all over. My older son Ben is looking for work again, having been recently laid off. I know of at least two high school classmates of his who are working three jobs each. My older brother just broke his leg in a freak accident and is out of commission (and work) for at least six to eight weeks. Someone else I know has a home in foreclosure, a chronic illness, and a soon-to-be ex who just left the country, leaving her and their nine year old son, who has his own medical problems, without insurance, without money, without support, without anything.

That last individual recently asked me to please set aside any "extra garden bounty" I might have as we would be seeing each other later in the week. So yesterday before meeting up with her, I picked some tomatoes from our wreck of a garden and even found a couple of red, ripe King of the North sweet peppers to add to the sack. There was a zucchini in the refrigerator - the last from my dad's garden - that my hand hovered over. We love zucchini. Then the bakery scene from A Little Princess, during which a hungry Sarah Crewe divides six hot rolls with a beggar child, came to mind:

Sarah took out three more buns and put them down…

"She is hungrier than I am," she said to herself. "She's starving." But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. "I'm not starving," she said - and she put down the fifth.

The zucchini went into the bag.

My overwhelming social impression as we drove to and from Montana last month? Hard times. Call it what you want - a recession, the Great Recession, or (what I believe along with columnist Paul Krugman) possibly the Third Depression - the signs are evident everywhere. Empty houses, starting on our street and lining the route all the way to Helena and back. Empty storefronts to go with those empty houses. Signs for food pantries, even in towns of 150 or 200.

Increasingly, we are all impoverished. If not literally, then figuratively by the spreading poverty around us. Our piggybanks are worn and chipped. So are our spirits at times.

In the middle of opening wedding presents, Alise suddenly said, anguished, "we can't accept this gift from [a family member]. They can't afford to give us this." She bent her head down, it hurt so much. Her father, a wise and compassionate man, told her to appreciate the love behind the gift and to accept and use it in that spirit. Several times that morning, as other gifts were opened, he or Alise's mother quietly mentioned how certain family members had clearly dug deep into their pockets to gift the newlyweds.

I suspect the newlyweds, on their own shoestring budget, will never forget the love and hope woven into their presents.

Warren and I feel the pinch at times. We each have modest incomes. After he pays support from his and a monthly payment for back taxes comes out of mine, they are even more modest. I'm helping Sam tackle college in my own limited way (his father and Financial Aid are doing the bulk of it). There are always medical bills, and overdue (and uninsured) labs and an oncology appointment loom for me in October. Warren's truck just gave up the ghost after many, many, many, many miles, so there is a replacement in our future.

Warren recently said, as we drove home on a day that had already been too long and during which we had both been stretched too thin, that he wished things would ease up a bit for us. Me too. I worked on the household bills this morning - my income is still recovering from August - and I winced when I summed up the total and then looked at my checkbook. At least I have income with which to pay those bills. I am grateful for that, because there were times during my illness when I didn't have the money or means to pay. There are many around me who do not now.

Many months ago, when we were just starting our relationship, Warren wrote: "you probably aren't going to get Europe, diamonds, many expensive meals or lots of shoes." As I told Warren in response, I never cared for diamonds or shoes, and I can make my own great meals fairly inexpensively. I've seen Europe, albeit many years ago, and there are places in this country I want to see before ever returning. Fortunately, we each learned, separately and a long time ago, to make the most of what we have, including financially, and in that regard, as in so many other ways, we are very well suited.

When it comes to the hard times our nation, my community, and my friends and family are going through, my focus is small and local. I can't fix the Third Depression; I can only hope that thoughtful analysts like Krugman point the way for our otherwise entrenched and polarized politicians.

But I continue to chip away at the grassroots level, one zucchini at a time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Letters with Katrina

Katrina and I have been friends for 36 years, shortly after we were matched (by hand in those long ago days before computers) as freshman roommates at the University of Chicago.

Our friendship has been maintained for that entire time largely on the strength of written correspondence. Not email, not texts, not phone calls, not Skype, but plain, old-fashioned correspondence.

Back and forth, back and forth, for all these years.

We have written about college, about jobs, about life. We have written about romances, about marriages, about divorces, about life. We have written about pregnancy, childbirth, childrearing, and our own children's experiences in college, jobs, marriage, and life. We have written about the death of her parents and about my cancer. We have written about sad times, lonely times, exciting times, boring times, exhausting times, and laugh out loud times.

We are Facebook friends, but we rarely touch base through Facebook except to share photos. We have each other's email address, but largely reserve that for finalizing the details of our occasionally seeing one another (more frequent in recent years with Warren attending the League midwinter managers meeting in New York). Not counting calling for directions, we have talked by telephone less than a dozen times in 36 years.

No, we are snail mail friends of the highest order.

As a result, our friendship has had a rhythm and pace to it that has molded it (and, perhaps, us as well) deeply over the years. When you drop a note or card into the mail and know that there will be a reply not in 10 seconds but perhaps 10 days, you put a little more effort and thought into the whole process. The time lag with written correspondence is such that the superficial "noise" of everyday life drops away. The daily routines, the seasons, and the passing milestones have deepened and have become the framework against which our thoughts and dreams and debates have played out over the years.

In my bedroom closet is a box, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet, that is almost full of Katrina's correspondence with me. There are postcards from almost every place she has traveled as early on we both got in the habit of sending postcards - the more garish the better in some cases - whenever one of us went "somewhere." There are Christmas cards with photos of her children - now young adults - growing up over the years. There are letters in which she chided me or responded to my chiding her. There are political letters (she is a conservative R and I am a liberal D) and there are theological letters. There is at least one letter that caused me to call her in response and the two of us to talk for an hour just so she would know she wasn't alone.

I don't know how many notes, letters, and cards are in that box. Hundreds at this point. I know I am only missing the handful of letters we exchanged in the summer on 1974 before we met in Chicago for the first time.

I believe Katrina has a similar box in her house, holding, of course, my letters and cards to her over the years.

I have left the box of her letters to her in my will.

You can't write that many words over that many years without getting to know someone really, really well. And because of that, when we do see each other, our conversation flows as seamlessly and connectedly as our correspondence has.

There is a scene in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder where Ma is finishing a letter to send back to Wisconsin:

When her neat, clear writing filled the paper she turned it and filled it again crosswise. On the other side of the paper she did the same thing so that every inch of paper held all the words that it possible could.

That is what Katrina and I have done for the last 36 years. We have written down one side, filled it crosswise, down the other, and crosswise again - not just on paper, but on each other's lives. We have written all the words - and all the love, loyalty, friendship, concern, sorrow, and joy - that our lives have held to date.

Last night I sat at the table and wrote a letter to Katrina, in reply to the one she had just sent, which was in response to the one I had written last week, which was in response to…

Back and forth, back and forth for all these years. The letter went out in today's mail.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Honoring Our Community

In recent months, I have been honored twice for my volunteer work.

It is an embarrassment of riches.

Back in June, I received the community volunteer of the year award from our local Rotary (to which I do not belong). From what I have since gathered, being named a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary circles is the equivalent of winning a Nobel Prize.

Then yesterday, at our United Way campaign kickoff breakfast, I was recognized for earlier receiving the Nancy Frankenberg award for "exceptional volunteerism and dedication." The Frankenberg award is our United Way's equivalent of winning a Nobel Prize.

I guess I am now a two-time local Nobel winner.

My good friend Margo, who was at the United Way breakfast with me and Warren, emailed me her thoughts later:

You keep a fairly low profile, you know, so although I'm aware of all you do, the scope of your impact and influence startles me on days like this. It's like looking across the breakfast table and thinking "Whoa! I'm eating muffins with Mahatma Gandhi!"

I replied:

You were eating muffins with April Nelson. Trust me, I was there too.

Or, as I remind Warren from time to time, it's just me.

After I came home last week with the Frankenberg award, which is somewhat large, Warren joked that we are going to have to build a trophy case. That reminded me of the wistful explanation Christopher Milne gave in his haunting memoir, The Enchanted Places, as to why it never bothered him to donate his toys - the Pooh, the Piglet - to the New York Public Library: I wouldn't like a glass case that said: "Here is fame;" and I don't need a glass case to remind me: "Here was love."

So ix-nay on the trophy case, my dear Warren.

What occurred to me was that, had I had the opportunity to say a few words, what I would have said is "when I look out at this room, there is not a table here without at least one person with whom I have worked on a project to better our community."

And that's the truth. From school levies to United Way to the Symphony to the Legal Clinic - they were all there.

It is always the truth. It is always a community effort. It is always all of us joining together, whether it is the 31 volunteers who showed up last Saturday to move the Symphony office to its new location or the friend coming to the Legal Clinic last month "just" to help with intake.

It is wonderful to get recognition and these awards are no exception. I am deeply touched and honored. But ultimately, it's not about me. It's about us. It is about this community coming through time and time again to improve the quality of life for everyone.

And that's worth a Nobel Prize in my book any day.