Christmas Letter 2015

Merry Christmas!

2015 was a good year for us. Sibylle’s piano studio continues to flourish, and I am settling into my new system administration role at Kansas State University. We traveled to Pennsylvania in July so that I could attend a week long cello camp for adult beginners and we bought a new car. Sibylle continues to grow and shape the new flower beds and kitchen garden. Except for a cold around Thanksgiving we’ve both been healthy all year.

In January we traveled to Kansas City with Jonathan and one of his friends to see the symphony perform. The new performance hall is stunning and we have enjoyed all of the concerts we’ve seen there.

In April I ordered an Apple Watch, and then spent several weeks anxiously awaiting its arrival. I am thrilled with the watch; making very good use of its fitness tracking abilities. At the end of 2014 I had bought a treadmill desk for my office at work and I have walked 3 hours a day at work ever since. Between a daily walking regime and eating reasonably sized portions I have lost 23 pounds so far this year.

In June I attended cello camp here in town, hosted by my teacher. It’s three half days and it’s something I have done every year for 5 years now.

Sibylle’s studio performed two public recitals at Meadowlark Hills retirement community  in July.

At the end of July we traveled to Bryn Mawr College just outside Philadelphia so that I could attend a week long cello camp called Cellospeak for adult beginners. Both Sibylle and I found the week fascinating and very rewarding. In addition to daily lessons and group sessions there were recitals every evening by both faculty and students. Some of the student performances were outstanding, and the faculty performances were out of this world. We are looking forward to returning next year.

In September I bought a MINI Cooper S – a car I have dreamed about owning for years. The car was actually ordered the day before we flew to Bryn Mawr in July, but delivery happened September 10th. It’s a 6-speed done up in Volcanic Orange with a black roof. I love the car and use any excuse I can find to drive it.

For the third time I participated in the Gold Orchestra, which gives me ensemble play experience. This November marks the 6th anniversary of starting cello lessons.

Sibylle’s students continue to do well at both local and state competitions. In addition to teaching, she is also busy preparing to accompany two violin students on a recorded submission to the ASTACAP audition in January.

We wish our friends and family Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays,
and a Joyous, Prosperous and Healthy New Year 2016!

Sibylle and Mark

Ten Sundays

Like all established relationships, Sibylle and I have our own lexicon, our own set of phrases that have special meaning or words that mean something more than their standard definition. Sunday is one of those words.

My work week is filled with meetings and I have a weekly cello lesson on the calendar. Sibylle teaches six days a week, often times until 7 pm in the evening. We frequently attend recitals or concerts. The only day of the week that even has a chance of not having an event scheduled is Sunday. For us a “Sunday” is a day with nothing on the calendar, no outside (even pleasurable) demands on our time.

For the past ten days we’ve both been on vacation. Her studio is closed for a week between the end of the spring semester and the start of the summer session and I took the four days following Memorial Day off. I was also off the Friday before the holiday and as luck would have it, Sibylle had no make up lessons that day.

Ten glorious days with nothing on the calendar. Ten Sundays in a row. We stayed up late, we napped and slept in. We gardened and ate out. We watched movies and we read. Yesterday we took a glorious trip to nearby Kansas City for a day of shopping end exploring.

Ten Sundays.

Sundays

Mark and I live a very privileged life. We both have good jobs that we like (most of the time), with good benefits, and a certain measure of flexibility. Both our jobs involve much personal interaction with other people and while we enjoy this aspect (most of the time) we also need a certain amount of time away from people. We are introverts and recharge best when there is much nothingness on the calendar for the day.

There are many things Mark and I do well but I think we are particularly good at Sundays. We seem to find the perfect balance between relaxing, reading, watching a movie or documentary, napping, going for a walk, and still getting stuff done: taking care of the huge pile of washed, to-be-folded laundry that has been accumulating on top of the dryer, or cleaning up part of the basement to make room for new shelves to better organize things. Bigger gardening projects tend to happen on Sundays because I may need Mark’s help to dig holes for new plants, or to put together the raised beds.

We try to not schedule anything that needs to happen at a certain time on Sundays. We function best when we give ourselves, and each other, permission to float a bit so that by the end of the day we are able to say, we had a good Sunday: it was relaxing, and we still got stuff done.

Wedding Anniversary

Today, February 12, is our wedding anniversary. I am taking yesterday and today off from teaching, and Mark took today off from work. The plan was to go to Kansas City, visit the IKEA store, maybe Crate&Barrel, Nebraska Furniture Mart, eat out, have a nice day. Unfortunately, the headache I got yesterday evening after a consulting visit to the orthodontist caused a somewhat puny night with a bit of nausea on top of the (mild) headache = not-good sleep, and the headache stuck around this morning until I took pain meds with and a nap after breakfast. By the time I felt better and ok to leave the house it was almost noon. Add lunch and a shower and it felt too late to drive the two hours to Kansas City and still make good use of the now short afternoon.

We had before-hand talked about alternatives and decided to visit the local Flint Hills Discovery Center instead. Everything there is, of course, very well designed, very informative, with beautiful displays and good lighting: bright enough to illuminate the displays but not glaring and cold. Yet, after about only 30 or so minutes of browsing through the exhibits, I could feel my interest wane. It was very quiet there, like in a library, hushed, and the not-glaring lighting actually turned out to be subdued, and everything felt a bit dark. Even though there are hands-on activities – spin a wheel and see a new flower, etc. – and it is definitely not a stuffy museum, my attention span was such that I suggested to Mark that we browse the gift shop for a bit, and then move on to a coffee shop where we knew the energy to be pleasantly bustling.

The only table available in the coffee shop was by the window in the sun which doesn’t work for Mark, so we decided to take our latte and lemon cake and cookie and go home. Mark had been working on a posting for his cello site and he was looking forward to getting back to it. I have tons of stuff to do in the studio – preparing new materials (always …), and it wouldn’t hurt to practice a bit, too. We may go out for dinner to continue to celebrate.

A good day.

Christmas Letter 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

A year ago, December 2013, I asked Mark if we wanted to write a Christmas letter. He shrugged his shoulders and with a heavy sigh said, “What is there to say? ‘My dad died’?”
George Nichols had died in September 2013, shortly after his 88th birthday, completely unexpectedly and not long after he had been told at his annual physical that he was “good to go for at least another five years”. We were in shock. It seems this sudden death overshadowed everything for several weeks or months. Mark spent the following months making many trips to his childhood home, organizing, packing, and ultimately helping his brother Christopher to get the house ready to be sold in May of this year.

Music continues to play a major role in our life and brings much happiness: Mark is continuing his cello studies with David Littrell, attending weekly lessons, summer cello camp, Gold Orchestra, including the Rock Springs retreat at the end of October; and I continue to enjoy helping the students in my studio figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to playing the piano. One of the joys for Mark and me is making music together: cello and piano, cello and viola, we cherish that we are able to share our love of music.

Naturally then, the happy highlights of 2014 are musical in nature: in March, we took a trip to Chicago for the MTNA Conference. We arrived a few days early, did some shopping and wandering around the city, and were able to meet with old friends. While I was attending the conference, Mark went to the Adler Planetarium and visited WH Lee Luthiers where he played different cellos. His hope had been that in a big city like Chicago there would be at least one store that sold electric cellos – something he had been interested in for a while – but no such luck. In preparation for our trip he had contacted several string stores in Chicago ahead of time but none offered what he was looking for. He ended up buying a NS Design NXT 5-string electric cello online in May. He says it’s “Darth Vader black” 🙂  At June’s cello camp he took both cellos, and the other students got a chance to play the electric one.

In April we went to Emporia for Jonathan’s Emporia Symphony concert and two days later for the premiere performance of his new composition, NEBULAE.

Mark already had both CD’s by cellist Zoe Keating so when the opportunity arose to see her live in Omaha we jumped at the chance. Mark got to meet her after the concert May 2 and she signed the new CD we had bought.

At the end of July, we decided to trade in one of the grand pianos and invest in a new Yamaha C7, quite an upgrade but so worth it. The new piano has a bit of an attitude, lots of personality, very different from the other grand, a very smooth Kawai. The studio now has two excellent instruments with which I am thrilled and happy.

Finally, at the beginning of December we went to see Yo-Yo Ma perform three Bach Suites in McCain Auditorium here in Manhattan. Not only was the concert – predictably – exquisite, we also got to meet Mr. Ma after the concert: Mark’s cello teacher David Littrell had tried to arrange for his cello students to meet Mr. Ma after the concert for a minute or two but until the moment the door opened for the students we didn’t know whether they would be allowed to see him. Mr. Ma was gracious, enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy himself among the students as much as the students enjoyed having a chance to be in the presence of this great artist and teacher.

Two conferences for Mark this year: in April, he attended the Chef Conference in San Francisco, and in October, he went to Chicago for DevOps Days.

At the end of May I finally managed to not just smash and bruise (as usual) but actually break a little toe. But despite the impressive x-ray with a jagged broken bone the whole thing was a non-event, beyond the first few days fairly painless – although that could have been because I was on painkillers for the aftermath of a crown prep … It took seven weeks for the jaw pain to subside to the point where I didn’t need drugs anymore. A second opinion with another dentist confirmed my suspicion that there was nothing wrong with the actual dental work, but during the procedure joints and muscles had been stretched and stressed too much and the healing took a long time.

In July we started the process of having some landscaping work done – something we had talked and dreamed about for a very long time: we wanted to add a 7-8′ retaining wall to make the backyard level, add some flower beds (just the beds, outlined with steel edging, as I wanted to do the planting myself), plus another retaining wall to incorporate an existing (and very ugly) concrete retaining wall more organically into the landscape, adding stairs to get down to the lower level. The project manager of one the local landscaping firms estimated “seven to nine business days” but it was the end of October before everything was finally finished. We are very much looking forward to next spring when the flowers and bushes I planted will bloom and add color and structure to the new backyard. The new lawn will take several years to become established but we hope that the newly installed irrigation system will help keep it healthy and thriving.

Mark had been having an unexplained pain in his left foot, unlike any pain he had experienced before – it didn’t seem related to a muscle or tendon or joint. Dr Palmgren diagnosed a ganglion cyst and offered treatment options. Since this is not an emergency we haven’t quite taken the time yet to decide what to do about it.

At work, Mark recently invested in a walking desk. He is looking forward to being able to move a bit while he works, instead of sitting still all day.

For next year, we are dreaming about maybe creating a family room in the basement and turning the current TV room into an office for Mark (making good use of the woodworking tools he brought back from his father’s woodworking shop), and maybe a trip to Europe.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our friends and family far and near,
and a joyous, prosperous and healthy New Year 2015!

Sibylle and Mark

A new phone

In August of 2011, on the spur of the moment while at the Apple store in Kansas City, I decided to replace my Nokia “feature phone” with an iPhone.  They had the 3GS available, and the iPhone 4.  I didn’t like the feel of the 4 – it felt square, and cold due to the metal on the side.  The 3GS was a big enough improvement over the Nokia, and it was less expensive, so we went with the 3GS.  I kept my AT&T plan as I’ve always been happy with the features and details.  It works well in Germany and my plan allows me to temporarily change / adapt to a foreign country  =  I can add overseas roaming, for instance, for the two weeks I need it and then cancel again.  My data plan was 200 MB/month which AT&T has since discontinued (but allowed me to stay on, as long as I didn’t change anything else).

In February of 2012, when eligible for an upgrade, Mark replaced his android HTC Droid Incredible with an iPhone 4S, staying with Verizon.

A few days ago, Mark reminded me that I was now eligible for an upgrade.  The choices were: upgrade to an iPhone 4S ($99), or to an iPhone 5 ($199), or wait until they release the new version of the 5 and the price for the “old” 5 drops and get an “old” 5.  Or, of course, go with a different kind of phone. Jonathan has a Samsung Galaxy Note II and is beyond thrilled with it – he loves the large screen, the long battery life, and its many features.

Then we started talking, again, about some kind of shared/family plan.  We were paying a total of around $150 every month for the two plans, one with AT&T and one with Verizon.  So, Mark called AT&T and started a google spreadsheet, looking at options.  He was about half way through his contract with Verizon which meant that breaking that contract and joining me with AT&T would incur an early termination fee of $210, a number which would have to be taken into consideration when looking at expenses and potential savings.

Of course, Mark’s phone was a Verizon phone, so in order for us to be on some kind of family plan with AT&T he would need an AT&T iPhone – early upgrade to the iPhone 5 for him.

We had pretty much decided to go with the iPhone 5 (for both of us, one for Mark, one for me), which, at $199 each, was quite pricey.  To which we needed to add the early termination fee for Verizon.  The savings from any kind of family plan would over the next year make up for that.  But it was still a big expense to look at.

A couple trips to BestBuy to look at phones and plans, and to the AT&T store which offered differing details on some of the plans, and then some – no, a lot of – mulling, thinking, revisiting spreadsheet … going online to look at BestBuy’s trade-in value (in the form of gift cards) for used electronics … My 3GS was worth exactly $0.00, but Mark’s 4S could be worth more than $250, and if instead of a gift card they would apply the trade-in value to the transaction it would bring the price of two new phones down quite a bit.

With AT&T, there are two ways to combine plans: one, the family plan, and another, the “Mobile Share Plan“.  For two phones/people, the price for both plans was identical but for our purposes, the mobile share plan was the better option because it gets us a combined 1GB of data, and unlimited calling and texting.  Plus, this plan allows for a free Mobile Hotspot (free tethering) which is very attractive as it’ll allow us to get iPads and laptops online outside of our home or otherwise free Wi-Fi.

The savings (over two separate plans with two different carriers) aren’t that great, definitely not as big as I had hoped and expected, but it will be less than what we have been paying.  Of course there is AT&T’s one-time change-of-plans fee of $36 per phone.

Tuesday, after dinner, we went to BestBuy. The plan was to see if they would use Mark’s phone as a trade-in, applicable right away, not some gift card we’d get in the mail at some later point.  We were prepared to walk out if that was not an option.

Not only was trading in Mark’s phone (for $256) an option and acceptable, the sales representative, when we asked for two iPhone 5’s brought over two boxes and asked whether we would be interested in an “open box” phone  =>  $149 instead of $199 per phone.  We looked the phones over, very carefully, and one of them did indeed have one itty-bitty tiny nick on the side but it didn’t bother me enough. The warranties and guaranties were the same as with a brand-new phone, plus a 14-day return policy (with no restocking fee).  A deal too good to refuse.

I like to add an “Invisible Shield” to my phone to protect the screen, and, as luck would have it, they even had a soft shell case similar to the one I had had for my 3GS, this one by Rocketfish instead of Belkin.  There was a special “buy two accessories for $45” deal (which our sales representative brought down to $35), so by the time we bought two iPhone 5’s with shield (plus installation fee) and case for one of them, we had spent exactly $115.81.

Without the soft shell case, I still wouldn’t like the feel of the iPhone 5, but between the case, and the improvements over the 3GS – I am thrilled.  It will be a while before I don’t marvel anymore at how crisp the display is, the high quality of the pictures it takes, and how immensely fast this phone is.

Oh, and the sales representative at our local BestBuy was an absolute joy to work with: competent, friendly, unhurried but efficient, efficient but unhurried.  Partly because Mark’s phone had a lot of pictures, it took a long time to transfer them to the new phone, so we spend a good two hours at the store before everything was finished.

Christmas Letter 2012

December 2012

Greetings,

2012 has been an eventful year: two surgeries, a trip to New York City, an orchestra audition, rehearsals, and performances, music camps, district and state honor’s auditions, a trip to Germany, gardening, and settling into life at 1009 Laussac Drive.

At the tail end of last year, Sibylle’s persistent nausea resulted in numerous tests and finally gallbladder surgery. After a few days recovery time Sibylle was back on her feet and feeling better. We were warned that it could take up to a year for her system to adapt to not having bile storage in the gallbladder, and true to that warning she suffered from low-grade nausea for several months.  New medication has alleviated the nausea and allowed her to gain back some of the weight she lost a year ago.

After nearly a decade of increasing pain and decreasing flexibility due to arthritis, Mark had surgery on his right big toe at the end of November. The surgery successfully removed the osteophytes that had built up in the joint and he is expecting a full recovery and regained full motion in his toe.

Last March we traveled to New York City for the Music Teachers National Association national convention. Our hotel, also the location of the conference, was just 5 minutes walk south of Central Park. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed a tiny taste of big city life, and both of us are looking forward to a return visit soon.

Over the summer Mark attended two music camps. The first was his teacher’s second annual cello camp, and the second was a music camp aimed at new orchestra members. In April Mark successfully auditioned for a spot in the Gold Orchestra. Starting in August he has had weekly rehearsals, and in October spent an entire weekend with the orchestra at Rock Springs 4H camp for extended rehearsals. The highlight of the weekend retreat was videoing demonstration performance in anticipation of a return to Carnegie Hall in 2014.  In November the orchestra gave two very well received performances.

Twice over the course of the year we were able to attend world class performances at the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. In February we attended an incredible performance by Yo-Yo Ma, and in June, Jonathan joined us to see Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Sibylle and her youngest son, Chris, traveled to Germany for a week in October. Working long hours they were successful in boxing up and shipping the last of her mother’s belongings to the States. They were fortunate to have wonderfully mild weather and got to do some sightseeing in and around Stuttgart.

Sibylle’s piano studio continues to thrive. This year, three of her students participated in the State Honors Audition in Topeka. One of her students earned a second place – the only student from the district to be awarded this honor. She is also preparing several students for the bi-annual Concerto Competition which will be held in early February 2013. After attending a viola recital and falling in love with the sound of the instrument, Sibylle began playing viola this summer, and has been sitting in with the Bronze Orchestra.

Our home and yard continue to be filled with lots of green growing things. Sibylle has had wonderful luck with roses. And after the first year’s rather dismal lawn, we are both pleased that our grass is green and thick. We feel settled into our home now, and consider ourselves to be very fortunate to have such a nice house located where we can see the far horizon.

We are looking forward to a prosperous and healthy 2013.

Merry Christmas  and  Happy New Year!

Christmas 2012

What Mark and I did for Christmas this year.

It started Sunday when we went to buy a Christmas tree.  We went to all the usual places: Optimist Club, Eastside / Westside Market, Menard’s, Orscheln, Dillons, Walmart, Home Depot, Horticultural Services, checked Ray’s, on Monday went to Blueville Nursery  –  and every single place was out of trees.  Because of Mark still wearing his post-surgery boot (sandal more like = open toe), walking through a tree lot wasn’t an option.  And besides, we were not in a space to want to make nice conversation with the tree-selling people.

We realized to our surprise that we were ok with the possibility of not having a Christmas tree this year.  I am sorry for the very beautiful ornaments we don’t get to put up.  But I was surprised that it didn’t bother me to not have a tree.

Christmas Eve we normally have the traditional German Heiligabend meal: designed to be simple = what they would have had in that manger 2000 years ago:  fish (Cod, white, not oily and rich), potatoes and bread, maybe carrots.  Designed to be as un-fancy as possible.

Driving on Christmas Eve in the Jimmy to the store with Mark, I realized that my stomach was NOT in the mood for fish, I just couldn’t muster any appetite for fish (maybe because I had had salmon for lunch).  We discussed for 3 minutes and realized that the traditional German Heiligabend meal was just not as important this year as it had been the previous years.  In previous years I would have been terribly upset and distraught without the traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  There was coddle left over from the day before, and that’s what we had Christmas Eve, and it was delicious.  We tried to watch Christmas in Connecticut but the VHS tape was weirdly dark, and no subtitles = makes it so hard for me to understand, so we stopped about 20 minutes into the movie and went to do other things: Mark resumed watching the extended special features from Lord of the Rings (Christmas gift from Ted) and I went to work at my new desk.  It felt strangely surprisingly good and right and not-weird to do things so very differently this Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day.  We had pondered what kind of people would go eat out on Christmas Day at our favorite Asian restaurant, Bamboo Buffet (“The Bamboo” we call it), that had put up a sign “Open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!” about a week or two before Christmas.  I suggested that people traveling between home and relatives might stop, on the road, at The Bamboo for lunch.  Mark, with a twinkle in his eye, said, “Well, you know, we could find out for ourselves who exactly is having lunch at The Bamboo on Christmas Day …”  So, we had lunch at The Bamboo.  Nothing Christmas-y about it, except for the Christmas tree by the entrance to the restaurant, and again, it felt surprisingly good and right and not-weird.

Christmas Day dinner was similar to what we had had for Thanksgiving: baked chicken on stuffing, corn and cranberry sauce for Mark, carrots, brussel sprouts, and acorn squash for me.  We had picked up some pecan tarts and pecan/chocolate cookies at Dillons which were perfect for dessert.

Throughout the day, every day since Sunday, we have been checking in with each other, “Are you ok? Are you having a good day?” and the answer has always been a smiling “Yes.”  It is a bit startling to break with tradition, and be ok with it.

We hadn’t set out, intentionally, to not have a Christmas tree this year – it just happened, and it felt surprisingly ok.  We hadn’t set out to not have the traditional Christmas Eve dinner – it just happened, and it felt good and right.

So. That’s what Mark and I did for Christmas this year.

Oh, we also didn’t do presents (for ourselves / each other).  Over the last couple of weeks we had splurged here and there – new desk for the studio, a new vacuum cleaner, books, a laptop stand for Mark to use during his recuperation from toe surgery – all of these have felt like presents so there was nothing on the Christmas present list.  Except for one little thing I am getting Mark.  Should arrive in the mail tomorrow  : )

Bio

Amazing how two completely accurate and fine short bios about the same person can paint such a completely different picture:

Mark is 51 years old and works in the Office of Mediated Education at Kansas State University. He is married to Sibylle Kuder, who has a private piano studio. Mark has been playing the cello for 3 years and was honored to play with the Gold Orchestra, his first orchestral playing experience, this year. He enjoys reading, movies, travel, and cooking.

Mark has studied cello for three years, having started at age 48. He is married to Sibylle Kuder who owns a piano studio, and works for Kansas State University. His favorite movie is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and he just saw part one of The Hobbit and is eagerly awaiting parts two and three. Mark holds a 2nd degree black belt in karate-do, has parachuted, and has been to 49 of the 50 states.

(This is for the cello recital program next week.)

A week-end in Kansas City

(Originally posted by Mark on his site)

Sibylle and I just had a fantastic weekend in Kansas City. We took in Yo-Yo Ma’s appearance with the Kansas City Symphony Saturday evening, spent the night in a wonderful hotel near Country Club Plaza, treated ourselves to a late night snack at Cheesecake Factory, visited some of our favorite shops in Leawood and Overland Park, and attended a Stanislav Ioudenitch piano master class.

It all started on Tuesday when I discovered that Yo-Yo Ma was going to be performing in the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts with the Kansas City Symphony. We were stunned to discover that there were still tickets left. Exactly two seats for the Saturday evening performance.

Knowing that the drive home is two long hours in the dark we started looking around for a place to stay. We choose the Courtyard by Marriot on J. C. Nichols Parkway and were delighted with our room and the entire experience there. The hotel was originally apartments, and the hotel has preserved much of the 1920s charm in the building. There are still milk closets in the hallways that allowed milk delivery while maintaining peace and privacy in the apartment. Our room, while cozy, was clean and wonderfully inviting.

The concert with Yo-Yo Ma was exquisite. When I was a child, perhaps 10 or 12 years old, my father took me to see him and Emanuel Ax play. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen him play live twice. The Dvořák Cello Concerto performance was very good. His encore performance of the Sarabande from the D Major Bach Cello Suite was simply superlative. After the performance we treated ourselves to a late night snack at Cheesecake Factory. We each had an appetizer and a piece of cheesecake. We returned to our room around midnight completely satisfied with our evening.

Sunday we had a long lazy start to the day that included the breakfast buffet in the hotel. Around 11:30 we headed south to Leawood and Overland Park to visit some of our favorite shops. Sibylle found two sweaters and I got a chance to visit the Apple store and drool over the iPhone 4S I’ll be getting in a couple of weeks when I am eligible for an upgrade. We also shopped at Whole Foods, picking up a small lunch there too.

Park University north of Kansas City has an excellent music department including Cliburn Gold Medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch. Sibylle learned that he was giving a piano master class at UMKC on Sunday afternoon, so we timed our shopping to allow us to return to central Kansas City to attend. Even a beginning cello student can learn many things from a well presented master class.

We packed a lot in to two days (especially since Sibylle had her normal Saturday lessons prior to our departure Saturday afternoon) and enjoyed every moment of it. Recently we almost forgot about a cello recital in Manhattan and had to rush to the hall. The spontaneity of that evening managed to make it better. Our trip to Kansas City this weekend had that same air of spontaneity, and it too has been wonderful.