It’s 1:19 in the morning and the phone rings

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 11, 2014 10:09 PM

I was exhausted last night, so exhausted that we ordered a pizza and Caesar salad for dinner. I usually cook; I love to cook. But not last night. We watched the most recent episode of Sons of Anarchy OnDemand and Kevin went to bed immediately following. I had a few more things to do but wasn’t far behind him. He was asleep when I got to the bedroom. I was asleep within minutes.

At 1:19 my cell phone rang. I was long ago conditioned that a ringing phone in the middle of the night is almost always bad news. That, or a wrong number. But in this day of cell-phones only, wrong numbers don’t happen very often and almost never in the night. I was awake immediately. I reached and looked at the display. Justin.

My heart, already racing from being jarred awake unexpectedly, dropped and spun.

“Justin?”

“No, it’s Joanne.”

Now my heart was really pounding. Justin’s girlfriend is calling me at what amounts to 4:30 in the morning New York time, on Justin’s phone.

“What happened? Is he OK?”

These are words a mother does not like to say. Because my brain works in very strange ways, I wondered if there was a difference, more meaning perhaps, in asking those questions in the reverse order. Is he OK? What happened? I decided there was. Asking if he was OK first is better because it begs for the answer “yes, he’s fine” before finding out what happened. The brain also isn’t always completely logical when it awakes unexpectedly because of a ringing phone.

Joanne said that he was fine, that he didn’t want us to worry, but he was in the emergency room with food poisoning. He wanted to know about insurance. His mother has only ever done one thing for him and that was to cover his health insurance. She sent a terse note about a month ago that said she was no longer doing that. We need to get him signed up for a plan. To put him on ours was going to be ridiculously expensive, $300 plus a month. That’s because we’re on a platinum PPO. To have his own plan will only be about $100 per month. We’ll pay for it, of course. Because his biological mother had covered it for so long, it simply fell off our radar. But at 1:19 in the morning, the radar began to scream.

Moonstruck remains one of my favorite films. Its depiction of an Italian family in Brooklyn, with all of its peculiarities and eccentricities always rang true for me. There’s a scene at the beginning when Cher’s character, Loretta, announces to her father that she’s getting married. They have champagne with sugar cubes and then go to wake up Loretta’s mother to tell her the news. The mother, Rose, is played with absolute accuracy by Olympia Dukakis. They nudge Rose awake. Her eyes open and immediately she asks or actually states as if it must be true, very matter of fact: “Who’s dead.”


Who's Dead?

Joanne is Italian. I’m sure she would get it. If you’re being awakened, someone must be dead, or at least very hurt. Thank dog that was not the case last night. He was sick, but would be fine. No we didn’t have insurance for him yet but told him to pay the bill and we’d reimburse him.

The moral of the story: a phone call in the wee hours of the morning isn’t always catastrophic. Moral number two: get your kid secured with health insurance. 

Celebrating our boy today as he recovers. He helps us to live it out loud, always.

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live out loud

Rite of passage

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 25, 2014 10:11 PM

I guess it happens with every child who becomes an adult. Suddenly, they are able to do things for their parents. The parents have paid for everything throughout the child’s life, as is their responsibility. The child goes to college, gets a degree, perhaps graduates summa cum laude, and has a job offer before he even officially finishes school. He starts that job and becomes a functioning adult. He realizes what it’s like to not only make money, but to have money, more money than he’s ever had in his life. For someone just starting out in life, this “child” is doing well. He’s on his way.

As an adult, I have been proud to give back to my parents and my mother in particular. I don’t think I was ever able to do anything for my dad other than to, hopefully, make him proud. As he died twelve years ago so there’s nothing I can do now; he wouldn’t allow it anyway. But years ago I started paying for my mother’s cable TV. I’ve purchased her airline tickets. I am proud to do it. I can afford it. It makes me feel good to do that for her. Especially as a child who lives far away from her mother, it’s really the only thing I can do. While my brother and sister help with things around the house, working in the yard, shoveling snow in the winter, putting the A/C units into the windows, I can only pay for things.

Kevin talks about how he was able to pay for his parents to have cable; about how he got them a garage door opener; buying them airline tickets to visit. It was a rite of passage, a passing of the torch. The parents who have done everything now get to have things done for them, by the children they raised to be good, contributing members of society. Children they raised to care about others and in whom they instilled a sense of family.

Justin was here for the last five days. He and Joanne, his girlfriend, flew into Phoenix last Friday but came to Tucson on Saturday afternoon. They were here Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and left early this morning to fly back to New York. He’ll be starting his next tour with Norwegian Cruise Lines soon, cruising the Hawaiian Islands on their ship Pride of America, as the lighting technician. We’re so proud of him. Already in his still blossoming life, he has overcome issues with his past, graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Arts, Lighting Design. He graduated summa cum laude; he had a job before his official graduation date in December.

He and Joanne love to spend their days exploring the desert. They’d leave the house early each day, armed with lots of water, sunscreen and hats, and off they’d go. To the Tanque Verde Falls, to the Colossal Cave, to Biosphere 2; wine tasting. While they were gone, we’d work. When they returned late afternoon/early evening, we’d have dinner together and visit. Laugh and talk and laugh some more.

On Monday night, he said that they’d like to take us out to dinner on Wednesday. They would research and find a place. Last night at 7:30, a limousine picked us up to take us to a restaurant called McMahon’s, a premier steakhouse with the most amazing wine cellar I’ve ever seen. We were shown to our table and received incredible service. Justin ordered seafood appetizers – calamari and escargot – since we would be having steak for dinner. The prices on the menu were high. Some of the steaks were $47.95. As a parent, I gasped. Hell, as a consumer, I gasped. But Justin insisted: get what you want. I don’t want you guys getting something cheap just because I’m taking you out. He reiterated that several times.

We ordered. We had several bottles of wine, an excellent cabernet chosen by Kevin at Justin’s insistence. For dessert, Justin ordered one plate of champagne fried strawberries. They were amazing.

The bill was undoubtedly several hundred dollars. As a parent, I was mortified. But he wanted to do this; he was proud to do it. He COULD do it and it mattered to him. He wanted to take his parents out for dinner, to show his appreciation, to celebrate his success. He was proud. We may have been even prouder.

It was his rite of passage, his time to officially become an adult, someone who doesn’t need his parents to pay for him anymore, and who wants to celebrate that, and us, by doing something wonderful like going out to dinner.

He and Joanne left this morning, zipping off into the early morning sunshine in their rented red Camaro. We hugged him, we thanked him, we told him how proud we were. And as he pulled away, we stood there crying. Our little boy is now a man, and through our tears, we were celebrating all of his success. And yes, ours too.

My kid emailed me today for advice

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 20, 2014 11:08 PM

Justin is a short timer on his first tour of duty. His six-month tour ends on Monday. He’ll be in Whittier/Anchorage, Alaska. From there, he’ll fly back to New York via Seattle and Dallas. I think he only changes planes twice. He’ll be off for six weeks and then he’s taken another contract, another tour, this time in Hawaii.

The summer stock theatre he has worked at for years wants him to come back there and work, and he’s torn. They’ve been good to him. He loves the people; his girlfriend is there. But he has always wanted to travel and to tour, both of which the cruise ship gives him the opportunity to do. He’s so excited to do his next tour in Hawaii. For six months, he’ll cruise the islands, working, snorkeling, sipping daiquiris. For this, he gets paid and paid pretty well.

On this next tour, they’re going to train him to be a “tech sup ­” – technical supervisor – and an EPM. Event Production Manager. He’s going places, that kid of mine, of ours. It’s so exciting for him, and for us; so gratifying for us.

He sent me an email today about the drama going on with Gateway and them wanting him to return, and not being all that understanding about the fact that he doesn’t want to. I can understand that. They like him. He’s been there for years. He knows the place, the equipment, how everything works or doesn’t. He’s feeling pressured. He’s never made a secret of wanting to travel and tour when he works. But now, most have forgotten. Most, except him.

I sent him a note back. We actually exchanged several emails in total. He wanted our advice, and I sent him some thoughts.

I don’t tell him what to do. I try not to manipulate. He has had enough guilt in his short life. I think carefully about everything I tell him; I change or remove sentences if I think they might be construed as me trying to persuade him one way or another. That’s not my goal and it’s not my role. He has become a smart man. He was always smart, of course, but he hadn’t yet learned to channel it to his own good. He was a teenager and thus devoid of common sense. He has it now. Most important thing is that he uses it. He simply wants someone to bounce things off of; someone without an agenda.

He doesn’t want to be at Gateway but he doesn’t want to disappoint people. He likes everyone there. But he needs to move on. He needs to take his career into the future. His future.

I told him about how I moved to San Diego after graduating. I didn’t have a job, but I figured I could get a job waiting tables. I had done the same all through college; I had catered. I knew my way around a restaurant. I walked into the first restaurant I saw that was hiring wait staff. I couldn’t even fill out an application. I had already done the waiting tables thing. That was my college life. I was ready to move on.

I think he’s in the same place. Unfortunately, his girlfriend and the people at Gateway are literally in the same place. He’s ready to move on. They are stuck. And because they like him, they want him to be stuck, too.

The hardest thing to do sometimes can be to extricate yourself from a situation that you’ve enjoyed but also outgrown. Such is the case with my beloved boy. It’s a lesson he’s learning, one he’ll undoubtedly learn over and over and over again. It’s part of life, and even though it doesn’t always seem like it, it’s worth celebrating because it’s the definition of living it out loud.

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Friends and family

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 13, 2014 10:09 PM

After I wrote about my parents’ friends Charlotte and Ed yesterday, I happened to speak with my mother who had happened to speak with Charlotte and Ed the other day. Ed is 91; Charlotte 85. They are celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and still going strong, at least as strong as people nearing the end of their lives can be.

I told my mother about my dream, and about the salad, and she recounted a story that I’d forgotten. After we moved away from Northern Drive in Fairfiew, where Charlotte and Ed were our neighbors, we bounced around to a number of places. Several in New York, in Maryland and finally into New England. Charlotte and Ed, who in the brief time we were all neighbors had become like family – in some cases better than family – came to visit us in every place. They would pile into whatever vehicle they happened to have at the time, and make the journey regardless of where we were. They were older than my parents, and Ed retired early so they always had time to drive and to spend. They would play golf with my dad; they would visit with my mother. There was always so much laughter in the house when they visited. They had their opinions to be sure, especially Charlotte wasn’t shy about sharing them, but they were and remain good, kind, decent people.

Charlotte trained our dog when we were little. They always had dogs, up until they became older, and when my grandmother gave us a puppy for Christmas one year, my mother was beside herself. I was maybe 10 at the time, perhaps even younger, which meant my brother was 6 and my sister was 3. It fell to my mother to train the pup, and she was miserable. She didn’t know what she was doing and in those days, there wasn’t the plethora of books and videos there are now. She spent many a night on the couch with a whining, whimpering dog that she could not train to pee when and where he was supposed to. Charlotte had the little guy trained within a day.

Charlotte and Ed were designated as our legal guardians in the event of something happening to mom and dad. They were, as I said, family.

I was remembering yesterday the salad incident, being in my mother’s kitchen in New Hampshire and making salad with Charlotte and Ed. Charlotte, I believe was on bread duty. Ed was on drinking duty. I have no idea where the rest of the family was; they all arrived eventually.

Mom told me the story of how Ed used to tease that the only reason they visited was for my mother’s lasagna. When they were coming, my mother busied herself in the kitchen, making a huge pan of lasagna, a salad, and getting bread ready. On one occasion, before she realized the seriousness of Ed’s claim, my dad suggested just doing some cold cuts and making sandwiches. It was easier, and would be ready essentially as soon as they arrived or whenever they wanted to eat. My mother thought that was fine idea. Ed did not.

He was relentless in chastising my mother for years, in a loving way, saying that he had not driven seven or eight hours to have a sandwich. She never did that again, and in fact, the afternoon Kevin and I were making salad, I know my mother had also prepared a big lasagna to feed everyone.

We all have family friends in our lives, people who made lasting impressions and still do. I had Charlotte and Ed. Kevin had Jim and Dora Latner, great friends of his parents who were like family. Justin has Roy and Bobbi, our closest friends who have long been our west coast family. When Justin was growing up, and even through college, holidays were always spent with R & B. When he graduated from high school, the only two people he wanted at the graduation, other than Kevin and I, was Roy and Bobbi. When he went on retreat, and came back to share what he learned, again he wanted Roy and Bobbi with us. When we went to visit him on his ship in May, he wanted R & B there, too.

Friends that become family can sometimes be better than actual family. I am blessed with a great family; people I not only love but also like. Many people can’t say that. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family. It’s just luck of the draw. In the not very good but extremely beautiful to look at film Tequila Sunrise, the late Raul Julia had a passionate speech toward the end intoning just that.

My brother, sister and I have also been blessed with people like Charlotte and Ed. Kevin and his brother and sisters had the Latners. Justin has R & B. I love how it transcends generations, that Kevin and I had family friends, and that Justin does as well. It’s the proverbial cycle of life, with friends helping complete the circle of living it out loud.

The Sun is coming to Los Angeles

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 2, 2014 10:40 PM

Justin is now into month three of his six-month contract with Norwegian Cruise Lines. He’s on a ship called the Sun, sailing with 952 of his closest crewmates and 1,936 passengers. The ship first set sail in 2001 and was refurbished in 2011. He’s been cruising out of Miami, to the Caribbean, on 10 or 11 day cruises. On Monday, the ship left Miami on its way to Los Angeles where it will dock on May 13 and we’ll get to see the son on the Sun.

Each day we follow the ship in and out of ports via a live webcam that’s mounted to something very tall on the bow of the ship. It refreshes every two minutes and we can see where he is even if we have no idea where he is. Just below the camera is a bright blue deck. The hull of the ship is brilliant white, and beyond that has been the Atlantic Ocean, cold and gray, sometimes smooth, sometimes choppy. The weather has been warm and humid. It actually seems to rain in the Antilles. The webcam is often spotted with moisture. It shows the temperature and the relative humidity. The only thing it doesn’t show is Justin, but we can use our imaginations.

This past Monday, the boat left Miami and began the journey west. They stopped briefly in Cartagena, Columbia and today they went through the Panama Canal.

The webcam was down for several days and Kevin called NCL. He called Seascanner, which controls the feed. This morning, he woke me up before 7 and whispered “It’s baaaaccckkkkk!” Yes, complete with exclamation point. He had a huge grin on his face. I muttered something about the webcam and he showed me his phone. I looked at it through very sleepy eyes and saw the ship approaching the Canal. It’s what he’s been waiting for. We’ve never seen the Panama Canal and to be able to experience it almost as if we’re going through it, albeit in 2-minute intervals, was something we’d been looking forward to.

We watched for a bit, and then we went to our offices and each put it up on a browser so we could continue to watch. I got sidetracked and forgot to pay attention but Kevin kept me informed, shouting across the house “check out the camera” every so often so I knew to take a look. It really was quite fascinating.

I had heard about how the Canal worked but I’d never seen it. This 48-mile strip in Panama connects the Atlantic (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific. There are locks at each end to lift the ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial water mass created to reduce the amount of excavation needed to actually construct the Canal. At the opposite end, the ship is then lowered back down to the ocean’s level. It’s 85 feet above sea level and 110 feet wide. France began the construction in 1881 but had issues with the engineering so the United States took over in 1904 and completed the project in 1914. Previously, ships had to round Cape Horn in order to traverse from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Now it takes between 8 and 10 hours (with a reservation) via the Canal.

We watched as the ship went through several locks, the huge gates opening like the parting of the Red Sea. It was raining. The water looked muddy beyond the brilliant blue deck. Water spotted the webcam lens. The temperature was in the 90s. I could almost smell the humidity. They went under Centennial Bridge and then they were into the Pacific.

From there they’ll stop in Puntarenas, Costa Rica before journeying up the coast of Mexico, stopping in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. We got a text from Justin the other day asking where we’d all vacationed in Mexico and we reminded him of Cancun, when he was little. We also went to Cabo, one of our best family vacations, when he was a teen.

Soon enough the ship will power its way into San Pedro, the official Port of Los Angeles where it will begin the next leg of his six months, cruising up the West coast to run cruises between Vancouver and Alaska. We won’t see him again until perhaps the end of the summer; perhaps later. But on Tuesday, May 13, we’ll journey down to the port, present our passports and climb aboard. The son is coming home to Los Angeles on the Sun – how apropos – and we can’t wait to see him. 

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What's in a nickname

by Lorin Michel Thursday, April 17, 2014 9:22 PM

Kevin has long teased me about what I call the dog. It started with Maguire and it continues with Cooper. Maguire was his official name. Maguire M. Michel, Esquire to be even more official. But his nicknames included Magu, Maguski, Magooski.com, the Magu Cat, Maguster, Honey Bear, Puppy Feet. He answered to every one. I like to think it was because he knew them all because he was so brilliant. He also knew all of his toys by name. We could say go get Pig and he’d run to his bed where we kept all of his toys because of course we did. He didn’t sleep in the bed; rather he used it as a pillow. It was the perfect place to lay his head, literally. He always emerged from his adventure with Pig.

Cooper has suffered much the same fate, though he doesn’t yet have a big fluffy bed. He still sleeps in his open kennel. He has toys on what Kevin calls the proscenium and I call the stage. It’s three steps that he uses to get up on the bed. We use the stage to display his toys. It’s where he goes to get “his guys.” There’s Wubba also known as wubba dubba do, and Chip sometimes referred to as Chip-chip-a-roo. There’s also Purp and Bull and Rudy and Yukon.

Cooper’s many nicknames include Coop, the Coopster, Coopertini, the Coopertini man, Honey Boo, Boo Boo, Honey Boo Bear, Coop d’Ville. He answers to some of them but I don’t think it has anything to do with the nicknames. Sometimes I wonder if he even knows his actual name.

My theory of nicknames is that they are terms of endearment. I realize they can also be used as daggers, ways to hurt. Nicknames can be a tool of bullies. But I prefer to think of them as ways to express love.

I call my husband Husbando or Hub, or honey. He calls me wif or HB, also honey. My family, all of them, has long called me Lor. I used to call my brother Scottmandoo. My niece and nephew called my dad Pepe. They call my mother Mimi. Justin calls my mother G-Ma J, for Grandma Joyce. We laughingly refer to it as her rap name. It’s how she signs the cards she sends to him largely because writing is no longer easy for her because of her arthritis.

We call Justin Justino and when we’re going for something more formal, Don Justino, a nickname he earned in 1998 when we saw The Mask of Zorro. In the film, which takes place in the middle of the 19th century, there are a number of Spanish royalty and royalty wannabes referred to as Dons. When Justin donned his Zorro costume for Halloween, he was immediately dubbed Don Justino, a name that has stuck. We also occasionally and still refer to him as kidlet even though he’s now 23.

All of these nicknames are spoken and written with love. Kevin signs his notes with a big H. Our cards and to/from tags at Christmas are often addressed with funny names and quips, addressed to Biker Dude and signed Dudette.

It’s fun. It keeps things light and airy. It makes it even more of an experience to open presents and cards.

Many people develop nicknames for their family members, loved ones, even their pets. It helps us express how we feel. It makes us a little silly. I think it keeps us young, keeps us guessing, keeps us creative. Keeps us in love; keeps us living it out loud. That’s what’s in a nickname. 

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Things sound so much better in French

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 22, 2014 11:08 PM

One of the great romance languages is French. No matter who is speaking it, it just seems to sound sexy, even as you catch certain syllables and consonants in your nose and utter something guttural in response. I don’t speak French as I’ve said before. I can only pronounce certain things by rote. But put something in front of me that I’ve never seen before and I have no idea what letters get pronounced and which ones get swallowed, or where the accents are. I know in Spanish and I know in Italian, another of the great romance languages. I love Italian even though I don’t speak that either.

Yesterday Justin, who is cruising the Caribbean on the Norwegian Sun, as their lighting technician, was in St. Thomas. Or maybe it was St. Lucia. It was one of those small islands in the Lesser Antilles. He posted on Facebook that he was having a banana shake and a croque-monsieur. I smiled. Leave it to the French to make a grilled ham and cheese sound so beautiful. Granted, they often use Gruyère cheese (a personal favorite in a sea of fromage). I’ve made grilled ham and cheese with Gruyere, too, and I live in the land of the Spanish-speaking southwest. Manchego doesn’t melt as well.

Evidently and by the way, if you throw a fried egg on top it’s known as a croque-madame. In this country we call that an Egg McMuffin which is called a Croque McDo in France.

We serve hors d’oeuvres instead of snacks; we’re entrepreneurs instead of self-employed. We order things à la carte rather than just on the side, or à la mode rather than simply with ice cream. We ask about the soup du jour. Some ask about the soup du jour of the day as well, but that just shows pure ignorance. We say bon appétit rather than saying eat good.

Art innovators are avant garde, high fashion is haute couture, we take carte blanche, we eat fine cuisine. Kevin and I live on a cul-de-sac instead of a short road with a nice round-about at the end. I experience déjà vu on a regular basis. My mother has always loved pot-pourri rather than a bunch of dried flowers and spices mixed together. I got an invitation the other day, and we will RSVP, or réspondez, s’il vous plaît

The words appear sexier even when writing them. Maybe it’s the little accent marks. Maybe it’s knowing that I actually know how to pronounce these words because they have been co-opted by the English and the Americans. I mean, who would have thought that saying yes could sound even better when you say oui? Somehow in French it has that certain je ne sais quoi that’s indescribable.

Also redundant, that.

The only word of ours I can think of that the French use is no. No seems to be no in just about any language.

Au contraire, you say? Well, quite to the contrary my friend. But c’est la vie. Such is life.

On this Saturday, after eating a jamon et fromage quesadillas, which I’ve named croque Lorin (because I grilled it and because I used French Canadian bacon) I say celebrate something. Or as the French say, joie de vivre.

Vive la diffèrence.

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Swimming on the French side

by Lorin Michel Monday, March 3, 2014 11:25 PM

I got a text this morning that read, simply, “hello from st. maarten.” It was from Justin. I smiled. He’s into his second week of his first cruise as a seafarer on the Norwegian Sun. This was their last port of call on this 10-day cruise, having been first to St. Thomas, then to Barbados, St. Lucia and now Sint Maarten. For each stop they arrive at the dock at 8 am and depart at 5 pm. For 9 hours, the travelers can leave the ship and go explore the island. The crew gets a bit of time as well, though not in every port. We heard from Justin in St. Thomas, not in Barbados, in St. Lucia and today from st. maarten.

We texted back and forth for a while. He texts me when he can find free wifi because we both have iPhones and he has said that texting between iPhones is free if there’s wifi. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I keep the transcripts and give Kevin a play by play.

This morning he had gone for a swim. I imagine that the water was clear and warm, like in the islands of Hawaii. He said that it was cooler than Hawaii, but still beautiful and a perfect way for him to cool off. It’s been hot and humid; it’s the Caribbean, also known as the Lesser Antilles. He had found a place to have Chinese food. He said it was decent, and better than the crew mess he’s been eating. He was on the French side of the island.

We are so thrilled with what is happening for him. His girlfriend is as well, but she’s having trouble with him being gone and even more so with the lack of communication. In today’s world, we are all connected all the time. Phone, texts, email, iChat, Instant Message, Skype. Except if you’re on a cruise and it costs a fortune. We’re spoiled on the mainland.

She’s experiencing something that I’m sure if fairly common. The person you’re closest to is off on a new adventure. Every day is an opportunity to learn something different, explore someplace they didn’t even know existed. Her life is exactly the same. She gets up at the same time, goes to work at the same place where she does the same thing today that she did yesterday that she’ll do tomorrow.

When a person is left behind, it’s hard not to feel jealous, envious, and angry. You’re thrilled for what is happening to the other person; you’re disgusted with what’s not happening to you. It shines a big spotlight on the fact that your life isn’t changing and that in order for you to experience a similar change, you have to make it happen.

That’s a lot easier to type and to say than it is to do, especially if you’re comfortable. Especially if you don’t know what you want to do to change.

Justin is only 23. He doesn’t have anything that’s normal because he’s been in school his whole life. Now that he’s finally out of school, he’s embarked on the thing he most wants to do: travel, tour, learn. Every day is exciting; every day is more of what he wants to do, where he wants to go.

But the rest of us have been left behind. My friend Diane knows this well. Gene, her significant other for 20 plus years, is the lead guitarist for Joe Cocker. Every year they travel all over the world, playing to sold out crowds in France, Italy, England, Russia. Everywhere. Every day is someplace new for Gene; it’s not for Diane. She is still in their home, caring for the animals, taking care of the house, driving the same roads, going to the same stores, doing the same work with the same people. It’s adventure versus status quo and adventure is always going to evoke envy.

Is there an upside to being left behind? I’m not sure.

Perhaps it’s that the adventures of those living them change and give us the opportunity to live the adventure with them. It gives the impetuous to those who aren’t adventuring to perhaps take a chance and live a change as well. We see that it can be done; we just have to dive in. We need to swim on the French side.

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The son on the Sun

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 24, 2014 11:30 PM

Our Justin has started his first post-college job. He left today out of the Port of Miami on the Sun, a cruise ship owned and operated by the Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Lines. He’s the Lighting Technician, the only one on the ship and as such, he’s responsible for all of the technical aspects of light for all of the entertainment. He will also be responsible for designing the lighting for at least one of the smaller shows. He doesn’t know which one; doesn’t know a lot about what he’ll be doing at all. Though since the ship left port for the open sea at approximately 4 pm EST, he probably knows a lot more than he did.

We’re very proud of our boy. He’s come a long way. He started out so small and unassuming. He was just a little bit of a guy, all red hair and big glasses. Skinny. Friendly. Outgoing. He was never afraid of anything or anyone, other than if he needed to be of course. But he’d go up to any person who worked in a store or a restaurant to ask for help if he needed it. He started flying by himself when he was five, coming to visit his dad and I once a month for long weekends. He took it all in stride. He went to summer camp in California, a new one each year, sometimes with the same kids, sometimes not. He made friends easily and had them throughout the year so that when he came to visit, they came to sleep over and play.

When he moved to California permanently and started school here, he knew only a few kids. Within a couple of weeks, he had friends. He tried out and made the soccer team. He got a girlfriend. He assimilated and never looked back. Yes, we had some issues in high school. Some of them typical parent-teen angst; some worse. But we got through it all. More importantly, he got through it all because of who he is. Strong, independent, fearless.

He started college at the University of Arizona in Tucson, again knowing no one. Two and a half years later he transferred to State University New York at Fredonia where two years after that, he would graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatrical Production/Lighting Design & Electrics. Last fall, his last semester, as he was preparing to graduate, he started applying for jobs. He found job boards in the theatre industry, created a spreadsheet, and sent cover letters and resumes to everything he was interested in. He got two calls. One from a performing arts center on Long Island for day crew. One from Norwegian Cruise Lines. He got and took both. The Long Island gig he can work when he’s not on the ship.


Photo from last week, Justin in the desert. Taken by Joanne, his girlfriend

He had at least three interviews with Norwegian, had to pass a background check and get medical clearance. He’s on the Sun for six months straight. They cruise in and out of their home port every 7 to 14 days, but he has time only to run some errands on the mainland before they ship off once again. Six months, seven days a week. Then a mandatory 6 weeks off. They give him room and board and pay him a decent salary. Out of that salary he has to pay for internet service ($20 for 200 minutes) and phone service ($20 for 60 minutes); also any alcohol. It can add up quickly, especially since he also wants to save anything. His mother has been harping on him since he started school that he needed to save some of the money he makes while working for the time when he’s not. We’ll soon see if my nagging has paid off.

I’ve never been on a cruise and have never had much of a desire to be on one. We have friends who love them. Kevin’s brother and his wife go at least once a year. My sister and her husband went on one for their honeymoon. I’m more of a landlubber. But it’s not me working the cruise; it’s him and he’s thrilled. Anxious. Nervous.

We know he’ll be fine. He’s always good in new situations with new people. He’s personable, and he’s smart. He knows his stuff. And he’s always loved the sea. This will be a good job for him, whether it’s just for six months or if he does it for a number of years.

Our son, the brightest star in our lives, is now on the Sun. And living it out loud. 

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live out loud

Emotional strength defined

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:19 PM

I was perusing Facebook this morning, as I often do as I prepare to meet the day. I don’t tend to post much, nor do I comment. I occasionally “like” something, and it often has to do with dogs. My entire Facebook page is filled with liked pages featuring dogs, wine and politics, in that order. My friends tend to be a bit more diverse. This morning, friend Lisa J posted a link to a site called Elite Daily.

Elite Daily is the voice of Generation Y, and was “created out of a growing discontentment with antiquated media publications mandating that news coverage be presented in a dull, one-dimensional manner. The Elite Daily ethos is centered on reader engagement and fostering a true, unique connection with [their] readership through a platform that facilitates discussion rather than blandly presenting news. Elite Daily’s founding members grew tired of consuming disingenuous content and created a highly-engaging, social content platform that would radically change and redefine the meaning of a media publication, with millennial voices speaking directly to their fellow members of Gen-Y who share a similar passion for informative content.”

Generation Y is the generation born between 1977 and 1994, people who came of age between 1998 and 2006. There are approximately 71 million of them. They are much more racially and ethnically diverse and much more segmented as an audience due to the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, tablets and smart phones.

Many Gen Y kids, as they’re often called, were raised in dual income homes and were more involved in family purchases – everything from groceries to new cars – than generations previous. Generation Ys are also called Echo Boomers or Millenniums.

I am not Generation Y, not even close, but Justin is. Much of the description, as applied to him, is right on the money.

The article today, written by Yers, is geared toward his generation but is applicable to all. It was entitled: 15 things that emotionally strong people don’t do. I was intrigued enough to click and read, since I consider myself to be emotionally strong and wondered if I was right.

Emotions are our greatest motivators. Unfortunately, they can motivate us to act in any direction, even the wrong one. That’s why emotional strength is essential. The article listed some of the situations that emotionally strong people avoid and certain actions they never take.

  1. They don’t beg for attention
  2. They don’t allow others to bring them down
  3. They don’t hold grudges
  4. They never stop doing their own thing
  5. They never stop believing in themselves
  6. They don’t act like jerks
  7. They’re particular about who they let into their lives
  8. They aren’t afraid to love
  9. They don’t dread the day ahead
  10. They’re not afraid of slowing down
  11. They don’t do things they don’t want to do
  12. They have no problem saying “no”
  13. They don’t ever forget to give back
  14. They don’t feel the need to fit in
  15. They don’t forget that happiness is a decision

I actively try to follow those 15 things. I didn’t always, but I do now. I think it’s easier as you get older and naturally develop more confidence in the world around you, and thus more confidence in yourself.

I particularly like the last item on the list. It’s something I’ve long believed, that happiness is a decision you make for yourself, and if you choose to be happy, most of the other emotional aspects of life fall into place as they should.

All this wisdom from kids young enough to be my son. Which leads me to a  potential #16. Never stop learning, even from a younger generation, because they will be the next ones to live it out loud. 

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live out loud

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