The Batman theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 11, 2018 8:08 PM

Indulge me for a minute while I set the scene. It was Sunday night. The desert had grown quiet and calm after the raging winds of the afternoon and early evening. The lights from the city, so far and incredibly close all at once, danced. Riley was on the floor, sleeping against the wall underneath the window that looks out onto the deck, and Kevin was yawning. It was about 10:15. We had watched the first episode of the second season of Cardinal, a Hulu series that we find mildly enjoyable without being too taxing. We were both tired and rather than even start the second episode, we decided it was time for bed. I got up from the couch and just then, I heard it. 

Fluttering, scratching. Paws or feet or claws tramping across the ceiling out toward the deck. The house creaked. Kevin stopped yawning. Riley immediately sat up and started to growl.

Me: “What the fuck is that?” 

Kevin shhhh’d me as we waited for it to happen again, which it did, louder and more insistent. If someone told me a pterodactyl was on the roof, I would have believed them. 

The desert is the land of many odd, majestic, scary, and prehistoric creatures. It’s not unusual to see Gila monsters and desert tortoises, snakes, lizards, and tarantulas. Last summer I watched a tarantula climb up the front stone of the house, but what was on the roof was either the biggest spider in history or something far more menacing.

“Whatever it is had to have crawled, climbed or scaled up the side of the house,” I said. I don’t know if I was trying to be logical and find reason in what was happening or if I was just proffering some sort of explanation. Either way, the visual was not comforting. 

Kevin was on his feet, at the window, looking up and out. He went into his office and, grabbing a flashlight, started toward the front door. 

“You’re not going out there,” I said and asked all at once.

“I was,” he said. 

“Not without shoes,” I said and he dutifully slipped on his flip flops to avoid any scorpions or centipedes that might be lurking in the portico. I bravely stood in the doorway with my hand on the door as he went out and flashed his light up toward the roofline. He moved along the house, illuminating the stucco and the scuppers. This went on for about five minutes, five minutes that seemed like an hour. 

He turned off the light and shrugged his shoulders. The light from inside the house and from above the garage doors bathed the driveway in an eerie light. An owl hooted from somewhere in the hill above, but the noise on the roof was gone. 

“Maybe a ring-tailed cat,” I suggested. 

“Sounded too big for a ring-tail,” he said. “Maybe it was the owl.” 

“An owl couldn’t possibly make that kind of noise.”

“Maybe the osprey?” We have one osprey that appears occasionally, sitting atop a saguaro up above. The first time I saw it, I was convinced it was an eagle. But the markings were different, and when it finally took flight, the wing span rivaled a small commuter plane.

“The problem with the osprey is that most birds don’t fly at night,” I said before adding, sheepishly, “do they?”

He shrugged again. “Whatever it is appears to either be playing possum or it’s gone.” 

He came in the house and we both took Riley out to pee, just in case there was something lurking on the side of the house. Strength in numbers and all that. When we brought the dog back in, who happily trotted toward the bedroom, Kevin stopped, listening again. Silence. 

“Maybe … it was Batman.” 

That’s our current theory for last night’s roof disruption. I’m just hoping for the Michael Keaton version.

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The curious case of Lorin’s fixation with travel trailers

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 4, 2018 10:46 PM

This weekend we were at it again. It was hot and dusty, and after a relatively pleasant May when we could still sleep with the windows open, June arrived in full Armageddon. For those of you unversed in the ways of the desert, June is the hottest month of the year. It is unrelenting. Every morning by 7, the temps are already in the 80s. By noon, it hovers between 95 and 100. Last year, up here on the hill, we had two days that hit 117º. It gets that hot because of where our weather station is positioned, against the hill behind us, without shade. But still, even with that caveat, it was ridiculously hot, and not all that uncommon lately. On June 19, 2016, the official temperature in Tucson hit 115º. On June 20, 2017, we officially recorded a temp of 116º. Brutal.

But then, come the beginning of July, the monsoon rains finally start and even though it can be hot during the day, when those storms roll up from the south, bringing thunder and lightning and wind, and when they unleash torrential rains, the temps can drop 30º in 20 minutes. It makes summer in the desert bearable. 

Where was I? Oh, yes. Being at it again this weekend. By “at it again,” I mean looking at travel trailers. Airstream has finally released its long awaited (at least by me) Nest fiberglass trailer, and I wanted to see it. Being a retirement destination, Tucson, like Phoenix and other parts of the desert southwest, has a number of RV dealerships. The Airstream dealer is called Lazy Days, and it’s down by the airport. We climbed down into the Z, put the top up and the A/C on, and took a ride.

I ended up being disappointed by the Nest for a number of the reasons. It was supposed to be light because of the fiberglass but it’s heavier than the smallest Bambi Sport. It was also supposed to be cheaper but it’s not, not really. Its tiny self clocks in at about $46,000. For a trailer. 

But while we were there and walking around on the blistering pavement under the unforgiving sun, we happened upon another interesting travel trailer that I decided I liked even better. It’s the Forest River R-Pod, a kind of teardrop shaped trailer that’s also made of fiberglass. It’s several pounds lighter than the Nest. It’s also less than $20,000. Used they’re around $15,000 or less. I was hooked. I got brochures. We came home and I promptly sat down at the computer to learn everything I could about the brand and specifically the RP 180 model. I started looking on RVtrader.com to find used ones. I was ready to buy. 

Except that I really wasn’t. I knew somewhere deep in the corner of my brain that this whole fixation was and is a sham. I was never going to buy a travel trailer for a number of reasons. I work too many days and too many weeks to take enough time to travel the country by road. But the main reason is more simple: I don’t camp. I don’t like to camp. I don’t have any desire to camp. I don’t have some hidden desire to frequent KOA campgrounds. I am an avowed hotel snob. Something that’s four stars isn’t always good enough. 

“So then what’s the deal?” Kevin asked, unsurprised. He has lived with me for twenty-two years. He has heard me rant about subpar hotels. He has never once heard the words “let’s go camping” come out of my mouth. 

I thought about it. And here’s what occurred to me: I am fascinated by the idea of tiny houses, of being able to live in a space the size of my closet that contains a kitchen, a dinette, a bed, and a bathroom. And the idea of being able to travel and pull along my own small version of my big house, is intriguing; to know exactly what the place we’d be staying in after a road trip was going to be. Completely ours, decorated the way we like, with all of the stuff we use, albeit on a smaller basis. My version of “wherever you go, there you are.” And that, I finally decided, is why I thought I wanted a travel trailer. I’m a home body.

My fascination will continue. But my flirtation with actually buying something is officially over. To that I say, bring on the five-star hotel rooms.  

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The thing about greatness

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 28, 2018 12:15 PM

I am a fan of open-wheel racing. I became a fan in 1995 when Kevin and I started dating and he took me to the Long Beach Grand Prix. It was my first adventure with Indy cars and open wheels but it wasn’t my future husband’s. He’s been a fan forever, and regularly made the journey to Road America in Wisconsin. At the time, he was a huge fan of Al Unser, Jr, who happened to win the Grand Prix the year we went.

The Long Beach Grand Prix, whose official name is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, takes place over the course of several days. At that time, there was a Celebrity Grand Prix on Friday, something on Saturday that had to do with the pits, with the actual race on Sunday. Kevin had gone down on Saturday and called me from the pits to see if I wanted to come back with him on Sunday. I had no affinity for car racing – though I’ve always loved fast cars – but I already had a great affinity for him, so I said yes. 

It was a glorious day, as is usual at the beginning of April in Southern California. Because it was in Long Beach, there was a lovely breeze coming in off of the water. He had bought me a t-shirt the day before and I was wearing it proudly, even though I had no idea what I was about to encounter. From the moment the command was given to “start your engines” and those amazing machines roared to life, I was smitten. The incredible power, the growl as they raced through the streets at speeds of 90 plus miles an hour, the disgusting food, the crowd. By the end of the day, my skin felt grimy, I had dirt under my fingernails from the oil and gasoline in the air, and I couldn’t remember having so much fun.

That was the last time we went to a race, but we watch them regularly on television. Over the years, I’ve had favorite drivers – Jimmy Vasser (who won the Grand Prix in 1996), Dario Franchitti. And Danica Patrick. I used to always root for the women who drove, but mostly they were awful. Then along came this 5’2” fireball. She had attitude, she spoke her mind, and she could drive. She raced Indy cars from 2005 until 2010, and she brought some needed life to a sport that had been in decline. She was a competitor, she was fierce inside and outside the car. She led laps at Indianapolis, the granddaddy of open wheel racing, and placed as high as 3rd in that crown jewel. Yesterday, after 8 years in NASCAR, she came back to Indy. She qualified in 7th place, but she crashed on the 68th lap. It was her last race; she retired. Will Power went on to win in what was a pretty good finish. 

Kevin and I watched, of course, me cheering for Danica, him just thrilled to be watching. After the race, we talked about it, and about Danica in particular. I told him that the thing that made me root for her was simple: she had the potential to actually win. Other than Janet Guthrie, who raced at Indy in the 1970s, no other women ever came close. Their names were hardly mentioned. But Danica’s was, and often. It was fun to have a female race car driver to root for, more fun because she always had the chance for greatness. The potential for greatness. 

Wikipedia defines greatness like this: “a concept of a state of superiority affecting a person or object in a particular place or area. Greatness can also be referred to individuals who possess a natural ability to be better than all others.”

Sounds about right. I wonder how many people feel that they ever achieve greatness. I wonder if those people who do actually are great, or just perceive themselves to be. Some greatness is easily understood. Meryl Streep has achieved greatness. Like him or hate him, Tom Brady has achieved greatness. I believe Barack Obama achieved greatness. I suppose the current occupant of the White House has to, if we use the narrow definition above. 

I think, though, that greatness is also about selflessness, about character and grace, humility and humor. For most there is ego involved in achieving greatness but it is matched and perhaps tempered by candor and honesty and dignity.

On this Memorial Day, a day when we celebrate, among others, the men and women who fought and served in World War II – the greatest generation – I wonder what they think greatness means. I wonder if they believe they achieved it or if it was simply conveyed upon them by Tom Brokaw. That generation, the first of the 20th century, grew up during the depression, and enlisted to fight after our country was attacked in December 1941. There was a common purpose, a coming together, a desire to defend our country in any way they could. They didn’t choose to be great – they simply did their duty.   

I wonder when we will come together again to achieve what once made us great. I wonder if we will. 

I wonder.

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A long distance bromance

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 16, 2018 10:16 PM

Kevin’s friend Tony died on May 5. 5/5 at 5:55 according to his fiancé. He had been sick for a long time with an illness that some of the best doctors’ in the country couldn’t seem to diagnose. At first they thought it was complication from a shoulder surgery. Then they moved onto something call Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS. CRPS is a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg. It’s very uncommon and often develops after an injury, a surgery, a stroke or a heart attack. Tony’s symptoms started not long after his surgery. His hand swelled, and he had trouble using it. It traveled up is arm. 

This went on for several years. He tried ketamine treatments, he tried some sort of spinal treatment, he tried shocking his system but nothing worked, and meanwhile, he continued to deteriorate. Eventually the entire right side of his body was affected. He lost his hearing. He started having trouble walking. Still, those best doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. He sold his townhouse on the beach and moved in with his longtime girlfriend in Orange County. He lost his ability to stand and walk. He couldn’t speak on the phone or even respond to emails. His whole body was becoming useless. 

Kevin officially met Tony back in 1985 when Kevin started working for Sebastian. Kevin was still in Chicago at the time and Tony was in Southern California. He worked in finance but they spoke on the phone about the Sales and Marketing job that Kevin was interviewing for and what it entailed and hit it off without ever having met.

The other night I asked Kevin about Tony. He hadn’t said much since we got the word that he was gone. I also knew that Kevin had long considered Tony one of his best friends. When he and his first wife were dissolving their relationship, Tony was there. When Kevin had issues with a company he was working for (after Sebastian), Tony was there. Whenever the Auto Show parked itself at the convention center, Tony was there, along with his good friend, Kevin. One year, Kevin took Justin and the three of them had a great time.

They would go for a while without speaking, but then they’d reconnect and it was as if no time had gone by. The truest sign of a great friendship. Once Tony could no longer talk on the phone or even answer emails, it was harder. Our lives continued as always, as usual, while his deteriorated.

Then came the phone call. “Tony’s in the hospital and not expected to make it through the weekend.” He did. He lasted another week. He had finally been diagnosed correctly, with Corticobasal Degeneration, a progressive neurological disorder where the brain shrinks and impedes its ability to communicate with the rest of the body. It’s progressive. And fatal. There is no treatment.

When I asked, Kevin was quiet at first. He sipped his wine and stared ahead into nothing. Then he started to talk and continued to talk for over an hour. I asked questions where appropriate, but mostly I just listened to him tell me about his good friend, a man he’d met some 30 plus years ago on the phone, and their long distance friendship. 

Their long distance bromance that became something infinitely more lasting, something that bridges even this permanent distance.

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In which Lorin returns and spikes the napkin

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 7, 2018 10:06 PM

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s rumored that Mark Twain said that to a London audience in 1897 after one rumor said he was seriously ill and another one soon reported that he was dead. An American newspaper supposedly even printed his obituary. According the journalist Frank Marshall White, who contacted Twain via cable at the time, Twain’s actual quote is this: I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. [A cousin] was ill in London two or three weeks ago, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration. 

The rumors were greatly exaggerated because Twain did not die in London in 1987. He died in Connecticut in 1910. 

Now I have not died or demised. I have simply been playing possum, hiding out, nose to the grindstone and all that jazz. January happened and I managed to pen a whopping one post. In February, it was two. And that was the last anyone had heard from me in quite some time. I even got an email from a faithful reader to make sure that everything was OK. It is. I’ve just lost hope. 

Kidding, of course. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just misplaced it. I still try to err on the side of positive rather than negative. I tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic, or as my mother would call it “realistic.” I like being happy. I like laughing and finding joy in the every day. I love to discover things to celebrate, and find ways to live it out loud. Lately, though, it’s been difficult. And truth be told, writing about eggplant parmesan or lizards; flowers or a new pair of jeans … none of it has seemed logical. The world is going to hell and I’m celebrating a glass of wine? 

For years, I posted every day. I have hundreds if not thousands of posts on this blog going back to 2011 when I started. 

And then it came back to me. Celebrating the simple is cathartic. It always was before, and it can be again, even with the toddling orange blowhard in the White House. 

So I’ve been jotting down ideas for blog posts. I’ve been looking for fun facts online, and eventually I might get to some of them, like one about white sealcoat for asphalt, and another about dogs under the bridge. I have a post about reaching that age where you start to lose people. It’s a rite of passage, I suppose, and reason to celebrate those we’ve lost. In other words, I have ideas. I’m trying to get back in the swing of blogging, even in the face of political catastrophe, especially with the knowledge that I don’t understand my country anymore and have absolutely no faith in government of, by, and for the people because I have no faith in the people. 

Which brings me to the napkin. A couple of nights ago and maybe it was yesterday, Kevin and I had finished dinner. We’re a couple of old people now and we eat on trays in front of the television, though these trays are definitely not TV trays because they don’t have legs. Rather they’re more like modified servers and we put them on our laps when we sit on the couch and watch whatever we happen to be watching. Naturally, dinner on the tray comes complete with flatware and a napkin (unless we’re doing chicken wings and then it comes with several napkins). Kevin took his tray back to the kitchen, placed it on the counter and came back to retrieve my tray. This is part of our deal. I cook and create a nice presentation; he cleans. When he returned again, he still had a napkin in his hand. 

Now my husband is known to squeeze the life out of a napkin. When we go to an action or political thriller film, he sits with his popcorn and a napkin. Long after the popcorn is gone, the napkin has been reduced to a small ball that he holds tightly in his hand. It’s the movie theatre equivalent of a stress ball. Every time the lights come up and the credits roll, he looks at me sheepishly and opens his clenched hand to reveal what’s left of the napkin. He then ceremoniously dumps it into the trash on the way out. 

The other night after the discovery of the napkin, he proceeded to ball it up, and stand there with a big grin on his face as he spiked it onto the floor. It was symbolic of nothing except maybe the idea that spiking a napkin is kooky, and fun. And fun can be severely missing in our lives, with work (and in my case, school) and news and stress. 

So I have returned and I am spiking the napkin. Let’s celebrate something!

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The return of R2D2

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 27, 2018 10:40 AM

Every Sunday, for the past several months, I’ve been making something in the slow cooker. And every Sunday, I consider it to be somewhat of a challenge, finding something new and also finding a way to make it more to our liking, adding more garlic or pepper or something else I think might add to the flavor. When I first started doing this, I planned ahead. Sometimes I still do. But often I go to the grocery store on Saturday with no ideas at all, so Sunday rolls around and I scramble. I look in the pantry, at what’s in the freezer, and then I consult the google to try to come up with something. What I came up with this past Sunday was Manhattan Clam Chowder.

I pulled out a can of Italian stewed tomatoes, two cans of clams. I got an onion, several fingerling potatoes, and two stalks of celery out of the veggie drawer. I pulled out the spicy hot V-8 – oh, and the slow cooker. Sliced, diced, mixed and poured. Put the lid on, and turned the setting to low. 

Then I started to wonder about something to perhaps go along with the soup. The traditional go-along is, of course, salad. But I wasn’t in the mood for salad. Another traditional go-along is bread, which we don’t usually have in the house. Then I remembered that I have a bread machine. I further remembered that I had several boxes of bread machine mix in the pantry. 

Dog love the pantry.

Here was the problem: The bread mix had been in there for a while and by a while I mean since before we moved to AZ. We moved in August of 2013. Dog knows how long it was in the pantry before we moved. In other words, old. 

But I was optimistic. I pulled out the bread machine, opened up the box, followed the directions by pouring in the water, the mix, and the yeast. Closed the top, hit start.

The bread machine hasn’t been used in years. It, too, is very old. In fact, so old I have no idea how old it is. Kevin’s sister had two from when she got married and she gave one to us after we got married. She was divorced by the time I met Kevin and he and I will have been married 20 years in September. Did I mention it’s old? 

But it worked like it was brand new. Started right up, the kneading tool churning away. The cycles passed easily from one to the next, rising, baking, and cooling. 

The kneading works for at least 20 minutes. Then it sits for a while, then it re-kneads again for another 20 minutes or so. It’s noisy. When it started up again, Riley was in the kitchen and nearly jumped out of his fur. He immediately moved toward the counter and assumed the “I’m-concerned-but-I’ve-got-this-under-control stance.” It’s the stance where his back legs are planted far apart, sunk into the tile, front paws equally wide, his body leaning forward and his head up ever so cautiously to investigate.

We laughed as we watched him, our great protector, taking on the big, bad, old bread machine that looks a little like … 

“Kind of looks like R2D2, doesn’t it?” Kevin said.

 

He’s back!

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The price of stupid

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 3, 2018 3:19 PM

I am, like, a really smart person. I have a very big brain. I’ll stop short of saying that I’m a very stable genius because I’m relatively sure that, even as smart as I am, I don’t qualify as a genius. As for the stable part, it depends on the day. Most days I’d say I’m relatively stable though there are days when I near meltdown. Those pass fairly quickly. 

I am also, like, a really busy person. Like the busiest person ever in the history of persons. I work about 50 hours a week, sometimes more depending on the week. And then I have house things to take care of like cooking, and cleaning, and the dog. Kevin helps with all of that, of course. I’m lucky, but there is still stuff that needs to be done. Today, for instance, I have to go to the grocery store. Already, the dog has been walked and bathed. Breakfast for the husband-unit has been cooked and assembled. Later, I will tackle the master bathroom, a bear of a room that I always put off as long as possible because it takes so damned long. The walk-in shower itself is the size of most walk-in closets. It’s a beast. My To Dos grow by the hour. I lie in bed at night before I finally drift off to sleep and my brain begins to build the list of all that needs to be accomplished the next day. I grab my phone, open the notes app and dutifully type out the items so as not to forget.

Most days, I’m lucky to cross off one or two items while not adding any. Most days, I cross off one or two items and add five more. It leads to me to say out loud, nearly every night that “the sheer amount of things I don’t get done in a day is astonishing.” 

Sigh.

Then there’s school. Because I don’t have enough to do, with work and house and husband and dog, I also decided that now was the right time, the perfect time, couldn’t be a better time, to go back to school. Last spring I applied and was accepted into a two-year MFA writing certificate program at Stanford University. I officially started in the fall, and am now knee deep in my second semester. I love it more than I can explain. Where I didn’t care much about school when I first went to college, right after high school, I care deeply now. It brings me such joy. It feels me with a sense of purpose. It also takes another 10 to 20 hours of time each week. If I could figure out how to make a living while just schooling, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Thus far, such a career alludes me.

Again, sigh. 

The point is not to complain. My life continues to motor along. Things are good. I have a wonderful husband, a nutty dog, a great kid, a beautiful house with a gorgeous view and a well-stocked wine room. My point is to say that because there is so much going on, sometimes things fall through those ever widening cracks in my previously described “very big brain.” Like registering the Range Rover. 

The registration for the Sport is due every January 31. I got a warning email in December and another in January. The car needed to be smogged and Kevin took it in on the 25th, where it passed without issue. The paperwork has been lying here on the counter since, right next to where I often can be found in the evening and where I am standing right now as I type this. It was to serve as a reminder to register the freakin’ truck. Here’s the problem. I didn’t put it on my list; nor was it on my calendar. I simply relied on my very big brain and my very big brain failed me.

This morning, I stood at the counter, saw the paperwork, and realized it’s February 3 and the truck hadn’t been registered yet. Which was stupid because I had the paperwork right here, ready to go. I cringed as I found the last reminder email, smooshed down in my inbox, and clicked the link taking me to the online registration page. I filled it out, and closed my eyes as I clicked “pay” because I figured I was going to get hit with a huge late fee. The price of stupid.

Turns out it was only $8.

Now if only the country can get out of our current stupidity with as small a fee. My very big brain is skeptical. But my stable genius part is sure of it. Bigly. 

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The great slipper rebellion. January 15, 2018

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 15, 2018 7:09 PM

We’ve been having odd weather. It’s been unseasonably warm here, as has most of the west. We’ve had very little winter and a pathetic amount of rainfall. It doesn’t get excruciatingly hot during the day, not like it does in the summertime, and the temps do drop at night. They just don’t drop that much. Last year, when we’d wake up to walk the dog, it was often around 28º. Most mornings this winter have been at least 50º. It makes it difficult to know what to wear.

In the summer, it’s easy. It’s going to be hot – that’s a given. Shorts and tee shirts are the wardrobe of choice. At night, nicer shorts and a v-neck shirt. Plus flip flops. But now, it can feel cool enough for sweatpants, but then it gets too warm and we need to change. Ditto the accompanying sweatshirt that often becomes a tee-shirt. Even at night, once the sun has tucked away and the temps have dropped a bit, we never know quite what to put on in order to remain comfortable. Kevin mostly opts for shorts. If it’s cool enough, he’ll put on a long-sleeve tee. But I’m usually not so sure. And I actually like winter clothes. I like to wear jeans and a sweater. I like to feel like we’re having a season.

Lately, after we shower at the end of the day, we’ve both been opting for shorts and long-sleeves. It’s cool ish. So then we’ll also put on slippers. We both have several pair. Kevin has some low-riders that he slips into and out of fairly easily. He also has a pair with fleece inside that come up over his ankles. I playfully refer to these as either his elf shoes or his Peter Pan shoes. I bought them, so I feel I can have fun. I have three pairs. One is also a low-rider slip-on that I just got for Christmas. I also have an Ugg-kind of slipper that comes up over my ankles and is heavily lined and thus very warm. The other ones also come up high, though they’re not quite as heavy inside. The above the ankle part is made of sweater material, and the bottom shoe part has paw prints. 

Here’s the thing, though. Sometimes those are too hot, too. Or sometimes, especially in my case, I choose the wrong slipper. I get warm; I kick them off. Kevin does the same.

Which leads us to this morning and the scene beneath the breakfast nook table.

Evidently last night – and we both have scant memory of this – as we sat at the table slurping our slow-cooker French onion soup and chomping on our Caesar salads, we both got a bit too warm, and the slippers slipped off. Evidently, also, I had done the same thing earlier in the day when I was sitting at the nook table, watching football while also attempting to do a bit of work.

This morning, there they were. Three pairs, haphazardly dropped, hiding under the stools and table. It looks like a convention, maybe a coffee klatch. A massacre of sorts. Definitely a rebellion. It was as if they were saying “we’re done. We won’t be used as pawns in your ridiculous daily wardrobe dilemma. If you want us, if you can respect us, you’ll find us here. If not, may your feet stay cold.” 

Harrumph.

The great slipper rebellion. Dateline January 15, 2018. It was a thing. You can look it up.

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Chapter one. I am born.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 31, 2017 6:09 PM

Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors, begins his epic David Copperfield with those three words. The actual sentence that contains “I am born” begins like this: “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born …” It’s the second sentence of the book, and goes on to elaborate: “(as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.” 

To me, if someone is born at twelve o’clock, midnight, it could be attributed to the day before of the day after. 

I, too, record that I was born, but on a Saturday some years ago. I don’t recall any of the details, for obvious reasons, but I have been informed and believe it to be true that I made a fast appearance, that the small town doctor wasn’t quite ready for me, and that my father, all of 23 at the time, thought that both my mother and his new baby had died. I won’t go into the details but focus instead on the fact that I made a fast appearance and there was a small town doctor there to catch me. 

I was a big baby, 8 lbs 14 ounces. Almost unheard of in those way-back dark ages for a first baby but there I was. Fat, round, pink and bald. Funny how I seem to be returning to at least three of those things as I get older. I’ll leave it to the reader to decipher which one I’m not but it rhymes with ink. 

My life since I was born has been mostly good. There have been some bad times, some sad times, some happy times, many times filled with joy. There has been angst and turmoil, sturm und drang. I have struggled and I have persevered. I have loved and lost and loved even more. I have been up and I have been down. I have been successful and I have been a failure. My life has been filled with family who love me and who I love dearly, friends who make my life full. I have had a wonderful cat and three extraordinary dogs. One not so good husband and another who makes up for that first unfortunate choice every day. He’s my favorite husband ever. 

And I have a great kid who is healthy and happy, and working in his chosen field in Atlanta. He came home on Friday, his girlfriend in tow. They’re here through next Friday. Yesterday was my birthday and I often do my best to ignore it. Birthdays don’t seem to mean as much when you’re over 40. They seem to be just a reminder of the other side, the approach of a much different part of life, and then of the inevitable. I don’t think about it much. I still like to believe that I’m invincible.

To begin this next year at the end of this past one, I record that I am hopeful. On this night, the last of 2017, at twelve o’clock, we will celebrate. Then tomorrow, we start anew. You and me. All of us. 

The first line of David Copperfield, the line preceding the record of his birth, says: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

I’m in charge of my destiny. I get ample assists from those that I love and from those that love me. I don’t care if I turn out to be the hero of my own life. I just want to continue living it out loud.

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live out loud

Face time

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 16, 2017 7:05 PM

Every morning, we are greeted by the face. The being who belongs to the face seems to instinctively rise from his bed, coincidentally also in our room, as soon as he hears us stir. Evidently awake people make different noises and breathing sounds than sleeping people. That’s the only explanation we have been able to come up with. As we lie there, regardless of whether we’re on our sides, on our stomachs or our backs, we will hear the telling jangle of the tags, followed by the eerie sound of a hauntingly close yawn, a yawn that seemingly comes from the depths of a now-awake and ready to face the world soul.

But first comes face time. 

It starts with the gentle thud of a snout on Kevin’s side of the bed. Dad? You awake, dad? I know you’re awake, dad, because I heard the awake noises. Kevin dutifully rolls onto his side, toward the edge of his side of the bed, facing the window. There he finds a wet black nose, upturned, the snout extended, the ears back. The being who belongs to the face is too short to reach straight across onto the mattress. As Kevin’s hand snakes out from under the covers in order to rub the face, the tail begins to wag. After a few minutes, Kevin says “go see mom.” 

Then the face visits me, doing the same thing, only sometimes on my side, he also pushes his nose under the covers as if to hide. Mom? You under here? 

This is the ritual and it’s one we have come to cherish. It is our best version of face time, and if Apple or Google could make an app for this, I suspect it would be a huge success. Alas, the FaceTime on my Apple devices is somewhat different, not quite as visceral and sensorial. We use that app fairly regularly, especially when we speak to Justin and to Kevin’s brother Jeff and his wife, Chris. I have to admit that it’s nice to be able to see people as you speak to them. This technology, once the stuff of Star Trek, is most people’s reality, and it’s a good one. 

My sister and I still just talk on the phone though that’s largely because she’s often in the car when she calls me. Hard to FaceTime while driving. My mother would probably never FaceTime though it would be nice if I could get her to do it. It’s just nice to be able to see your loved ones. It makes you feel like you actually get to spend time with them, which is lovely when those loved ones are far away. The downside to FaceTime is that a) you have to be on video which isn’t always flattering especially if you haven’t yet showered; and b) it’s difficult to do anything else while FaceTime-ing. I understand that giving people undivided attention is a good thing. I also understand that being on the phone sometimes gives me time to fold the laundry, or start a new load; to chop veggies for dinner; to dust. I rarely just sit when I’m on the phone, not when there are other things I could be doing at the same time, other things that don’t require concentration.

Our morning face time routine is ideal for several reasons. The being who belongs to the face could care less about bed hair or morning breath or dark circles. The being is just happy to be alive and even happier that we’re awake. Simplicity at its best. There’s something to be said for that – something to celebrate.

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live out loud

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