A pack mentality

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 23, 2015 9:14 PM

My grandparents on my mother’s side evidently moved a lot. My mother often referred to them as gypsies. My grandmother was always restless, always looking for something else, but never quite sure what it was. While they moved a lot, they never moved far. They were always in the vicinity of Pittsburgh and its suburbs. It’s one of the reasons why when we went to Pittsburgh to visit, we always stayed with my mother’s aunts, Beryl and Eleanor. They were always in the same house and there was always room.

My grandmother on my dad’s side never moved. My dad was raised in the same house that my grandmother lived in until she died. My parents friends Charlotte and Ed, who bought the house next to us in Fairview, Pennsylvania when I was about six, still live in that house, though my mom just told me that Ed is in a nursing home, recovering from a fall. He’s in his 90s.

When I was a kid, we moved quite a bit because my dad kept getting promoted and transferred. We started out in a very small apartment in Eldred, Pennsylvania but I think we only lived there a year or two. Then we moved to Erie, PA, to another apartment. My brother was born and we moved again, though I don’t think he necessarily had anything to do with it. We still stayed in the Erie area, moving to the aforementioned Fairview. From there we moved to Staatsburg, New York, then to Hyde Park, New York. We were in New York for about six years before we moved to Columbia, Maryland for a year, then to New England where all of my family – save for me – still resides. I moved to Durham, New Hampshire to go to college. Immediately after I graduated I moved to San Diego where I lived for a year, then to Scottsdale, Arizona where I lived for another year, then to the Los Angeles area where I moved a total of six times in 27 years.

In 2013, we moved to Tucson. Now we’re getting ready to move again, to the home we moved to Tucson for.

Each of these moves, whether they’ve been mine, or my family’s or my grandparents before me, have one thing in common: they all entail packing. I would like to state for the record that I absolutely hate packing. I especially hated it when we left Oak Park because we had to have every. single. thing. out of the house because we were moving so far away. There was no, well, we’ll move a few things this weekend, or after we move the furniture, we’ll go back to the house and clean it.

Nope. Everything. Every thing had to be wrapped, boxed, stacked and moved.

I don’t know how my mother didn’t go insane for all of those years when she had to pack not just a house, but three kids worth of stuff, too. I suspect that she didn’t get much help from my dad because he was usually traveling for business. He also was probably already in his new position in the new city to which we’d be moving. When we packed up the Oak Park house, we thought we were on schedule and everything would be fine. It wasn’t. We didn’t end up sleeping the night before we left to drive for 10 hours. It was a nightmare.

And now we’re getting ready to do it again. Hopefully in about a month, we’ll be moving to our forever home. That means packing. Again. Granted we didn’t unpack everything from when we packed and moved 18 months ago because we knew this place was temporary. Still, it’s amazing how much needs to be packed again. Everything in the kitchen, the laundry room, the bedrooms and the baths. The offices. The living room.

Ugh.

It occurred to me the other night, or morning, rather. It was about 2:35 am. I was staring into the darkness of the bedroom, listening to the occasional woot from my dreaming dog, and the quiet of the wind outside. And I thought: we’re moving in a month. And I’ve done nothing to prepare. I haven’t packed a box. I haven’t even pulled boxes out to get ready to pack. The closest I’ve come is thinking that I need to start packing soon.

Soon has arrived. The big hand is on the S and the little hand is on the oon, and boxes will be deployed this weekend. For another move, another trip, only this time it will only be across town. And this time, dog willing, will be the last time.

I’m ready. I’m channeling my grandmother on my mother’s side. I’ve got the pack mentality. Let the wrapping, boxing, taping and stacking begin.

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.

Kevin and the magic keyboard

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:39 PM

I did something incredibly stupid on Sunday night. I spilled wine on my computer keyboard. I’m still cringing and still beating myself up. Kevin had poured me a little bit of Zaca Mesa. We had opened a 2009 Syrah for dinner on Saturday night but we hadn’t finished it. I had it sitting on my desk, to the left of my computer as I was gathering my stuff together to take into the living room. I had worked in my office most of the afternoon but it was time to pretend to have a life.

I reached over to unplug the laptop and I don’t know if the cord was somehow wrapped around the stem of the glass or what. All I know is that the glass tilted to the right, spilling the wine across the keyboard. I panicked. I shouted for Kevin. Grab some towels! I grabbed the glass and righted it, took my hand and swiped it across the keys pushing as much wine off as I could. I raced into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, and ran back into the office where I began soaking up the wine. Kevin, dog bless him, said “pick it up and turn it upside down.” Brilliant. Wine poured out. I couldn’t believe how much. It was maybe a third of a glass to begin with and there was still some in the glass.

Wine ran down my arms and onto my white shirt. It was as if my machine was bleeding. Worse, it was as if I had killed it.

Kevin ran to grab a can of compressed air and started blowing at the keys, dislodging all that hadn’t flowed out of its own accord. I just held it up and shook my head. Stupid. Stupid. S-T-O-O-P-I-D.

When nothing else seemed to be coming out, I moved the machine to the kitchen bar. I did a backup, which I usually do on Monday mornings, just in case everything started wigging out. But miraculously everything seemed to be OK. All of my programs were working. I had dodged a technological bullet.

Except I hadn’t. After about an hour, right after I said “I think maybe we got it all and there’s no indication anything is wrong” the “h” key started to wig. It was small at first. hhhhhhhhh

Then I’d thhhyphe and it would just insert itself randomly. Uh-oh. Not so lucky after all. I sent a note to my Mac guy Dave and he sent a note back. “Turn it upside down, keyboard on a towel. I’ll call you in the morning.” By morning I couldn’t even open a word document without hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I was screwed. I knew it.

Dave called. He tried to help me long distance. He said to use more compressed air, shoving it right under the keys if possible. The h was flipping out, I couldn’t get a new document to open on command (actually command n) and the computer was running at high speed. The internal fans, which usually spin around 2000 rpms on each side, were at 5200 each. Usually when that happens, which is rare, I just put the computer to sleep and it calms down. But it wouldn’t go to sleep. I called several places in town. “We might be able to fix it but you’ll have to leave it for a week.” The undertone was ‘not our fault lady. You were s-t-o-o-p-i-d.’

By lunch time I was beyond frustrated. I was getting nothing done, my machine was out of its mind, I had destroyed it and I was in tears. I’m not a crier but when I get frustrated, I bawl. Kevin called a place that said the first thing they’d do was hook up an external keyboard. If that worked, it was just the keyboard. We figured we could do the same.

We hooked up Kevin’s external keyboard and I got hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So screwed. Then he said, what about opening the Mac version of notepad, meaning Text Edit. I did. Same thing. Completely screwed.

We unhooked the keyboard, and just because, I tried again. Suddenly and inexplicably it worked. I was typing. I had an “h.” I could open new documents with command n; the computer slept soundly. I was saved, at least for a little while, even though my keys now have a lovely syrah tint within the backlight.

The moral of the story: My husband is a genius even though there is really no earthly reason why it started to work, as he himself pointed out.

Moral part deux: Always keep the wine far away from the keyboard in order to continue typing it out loud.

Splendid in the bag

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 23, 2014 8:36 PM

I buy bed-in-a-bag. There, I said it. I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and work my way around the store until I get past the really expensive bedding in order to get to the cubby section were they keep all the beds in bags. It’s a wondrous invention, bed-in-a-bag. It allows people like me, who don’t like to make a long commitment to bedding to change fairly regularly without spending a fortune. It is also advantageous when one has a pet which we do.

When Maguire was little, the only piece of furniture he was allowed on was the bed. A big furry dog who spends time on a bed leaves half of him on said bed every time he's on it. Along with fur, he also leaves oils and dander. I replaced the comforter about every 8 months or so. It gave me a good excuse to get something new, and change the look of the room.

Cooper, too, is allowed on the bed though now that it's summer he doesn't tend to get on it as often. I think it's too hot. Too hot for a boy in fur, as Kevin would say. I go through lint rollers like I have stock in the company, but no matter how hard one tries it is virtually impossible to remove every piece of fur from a comforter. Anyone who has or has ever had pets knows this drill well.

I've been threatening to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for several weeks now. I've been hoarding coupons, the 20% coupons that show up alone in the mail, along with the $5 coupons that show up in mailers. I had two of each. Armed with all four, and a debit card, off I went.

First, let me say how much I love Bed, Bath and Beyond. Next to Target, it may be my favorite store. Scratch that. It is my favorite store. I can disappear inside for hours at a time. Usually Kevin goes with me in order to prevent such a calamity. He was unable to attend this particular trip. I am also apt to spend many dollars after being inside for many hours. This trip was no different.

I started, like everyone, on the left side of the store. When you walk into a Bed, Bath and Beyond, it is always on the left side of the store. The cash registers are to the right. Ahead is the kitchen area. If you’ve been to a BB&B – and who hasn’t – you know the layout. This is so they can get you to buy things you weren’t planning on but now that you’ve seen, you can’t possibly live without. Things like new salt and pepper mills (I was only looking for a salt shaker), and pepper corns and mineralized salt to go into the mills. I don’t even use salt, but I bought both anyway.

I had gone for new pots and pans. In addition to bed-in-a-bag, I also am partial to new cookware. I usually buy complete sets because I like having everything on my stove match. In the past, I have bought black with black non-stick interiors. This time I decided to get out of my comfort zone and went with copper with a pearlized non-stick surface. 10 pieces, $99 minus 20%. Bargain.

I also bought a griddle to go along with the set.

I made my way to the bedding department and found three bags of beds that I liked. I put them all on the floor in front of me and gradually eliminated two. Then I second guessed myself and re-thought it all and still ended up with the one I had originally chosen. Armed with my chosen bed, also $99 minus 20%, plus two king size pillows, I moved toward checkout. Along the way I grabbed two things that I’ll tuck away for Kevin for Christmas, items that will remain nameless for the time being since the aforementioned Kevin reads this blog.

I spent way too much money but once I got home and put my new pots on the stove and my new salt and pepper mills on the counter, along with my new paper towel holder, I set about making up the bed.

Bed-in-a-bag comes with a comforter, shams, bed skirt and a set of sheets. I washed and dried the sheets, and remade the bed. Suddenly the room was brighter. The bed looked brand new.

The only problem was Cooper, on the floor, watching intently, eyeing the new bed with lust in his little brown eyes. Maybe it’s not too hot after all.

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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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Joy in the walk

by Lorin Michel Saturday, March 29, 2014 10:23 PM

This morning, Cooper and I went for a long walk, just the two of us. It’s usually all three of us. In fact, since we got Cooper nearly a year and a half ago, we all go out twice a day. But Kevin was working on the car and there was absolutely no reason that the furry one and I couldn’t go off on our own for a bit. It was a gorgeous day, already 72º when we left and headed north along Campbell toward Allen where we stopped and waited for the light so that we could cross and get into an area where there is no traffic, in fact no cars at all, and just meander. Meander we did, him wandering in and out and around the brush, the trees, the well-placed rocks. I simply held the leash loosely. The walk is his time.

It’s also mine. Walking the dog alone allows me to think or not think at all, and I have been known to do both. Maybe it’s being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I don’t know. But the fact that I don’t have anyone to talk to means I can truly just relax and let my mind wander to wherever it decides to go. There are no restrictions. I might find myself in a childhood memory or on a sailboat off the coast of Maui. I might think about the day ahead or last night’s dinner. My brain may attempt to work out a creative problem with a story I’ve been writing or plan to start. Rarely do I think about work. I think my sub conscious takes over and I simply drift.

Which is not to say that I stop paying attention. I am vigilant when it comes to watching for other dogs or animals. Cooper, as I’ve mentioned, is a nervous dog. We’re not sure why though we’re fairly sure it has something to do with his life before us. He is terrified of other dogs, so we keep him away from them because he shows his terror by working himself up and attacking. I know this sounds counter intuitive but we have been assured by many dog trainers and behavior specialists that it’s actually quite common to react to terror with aggression. It’s impossible to avoid other dogs entirely and we don’t try to. We simply pull up on his leash so he is walking right next to us. The idea is to assure him that as pack leaders, we will take care of any and every situation and he doesn’t need to worry.

This morning, as Cooper and I walked down Allen toward a farm, there was an older couple walking toward us. They were on the other side. They had two dogs. I pulled up on the leash but we just kept walking. Cooper glanced at them as they passed but didn’t get upset or worried. He just went back to sniffing and peeing and being a dog. I nodded to the people, wished them a good morning.

Maguire and I used to walk alone nearly every day, until he got older. It became my job early on in our relationship to trot the pup as we called it. I’d ask him if he wanted to go for a walk and he’d turn cartwheels on his way to the door where he’d wait for me to put his harness on, raising his left front paw so I could slip the harness over it and then buckle it. Off we’d go. I came up with a lot of good ideas while he and I were out slumbering along. Maguire was not a fast walker. He was a grazer, a sniffer. When he got older and his gait slowed even more, Kevin started walking with us. I think he realized that we weren’t going to have our precious boy forever after all. The walks became our family time.

This morning was mostly quiet. Cooper’s prancing feet in the rocks and dirt made a lovely percussive melody. I walked along slightly behind him, my flip flops snapping as flip flops do. Behind us and in the distance, the sound of tires churned on pavement as people did whatever people do on Saturday mornings, going to wherever they need and want to go.

The solitude of the day was wrapping around us. In that, I found – I find – great joy. 

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Up, up and away

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 27, 2013 11:37 PM

In 1967 the pop-soul group the 5th Dimension released a single called Up, Up and Away. The lyrics talked of drifting up and away “in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.” I like the Fifth Dimension though I have no idea why. I think it’s nostalgia. I remember when I was a kid and visiting the big brick house in McKeesport where my Aunt Eleanor and my Aunt Beryl lived with their husbands.  The radio was always on in their house. It was a big console radio that sat on the floor under the window that overlooked the Youghiogheny river below. To the right and left the steel mills, then still producing, would belch thick plumes of smoke into the air. And from the radio, I remember the lush tones of Marilyn McCoo singing about marrying Bill (I would find out later that she was, in fact, married to Billy Davis, Jr) and about not getting to sleep at all the night before.

This morning, we took Justin to the airport and on the way back, to the east, three hot air balloons hung suspended in the sky. The sun had come up not much earlier and was blazing across the desert from the east, golden red and cold. The air was still.  The balloons lazed high above the earth, high enough so we couldn’t make out the people, the size of the basket or even graphics on the balloon itself. They were off in the distance; we were on the freeway. And they were majestic.

I wondered what it might be like to hover above the desert in the morning when the sun is just beginning to warm the ground, to alight on the cactus, to make the sand dance and send any creatures scurrying. I love the desert. Love its peace and majesty, its magic and spirit; its mystery. Even its danger. In the summer, under unrelenting temperatures it can destroy every living thing caught in its thunderous heat, with no shade or water for miles. Only cactus and reptiles seem to survive and even thrive. When winter descends, those once scorching temperatures plummet past freezing. People and animals can succumb to exposure if not careful. The desert can kill you easily and in a hundred different ways. I respect its power even as I marvel at its beauty.

Hot air balloons floating above this danger seems a complete dichotomy. No one thinks of danger when they think of hot air balloons. They’re too peaceful to be dangerous; too eerily beautiful. That’s a misunderstanding. Anything that floats above the earth at heights reaching thousands of feet is vulnerable. There is propane gas that ignites to heat the air inside the balloon, keeping it aloft. The wind can come up suddenly. My mother was a hot air balloonist for years and knew of several accidents, a number of which were catastrophic. As with anything wondrous and mysterious, there can be an undercurrent of the unknown. It’s that unknown that keeps many people away even as it attracts so many others.

The song Up, Up and Away was written by Jimmy Webb. It celebrated a genre called sunshine pop, cheerful and upbeat with warm squishy music and vocal harmonies dripping from the vinyl on which they were recorded. It also celebrated hot air ballooning and went on to win Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards the year it was released.

I thought of the song today as I watched the balloons hang in the air, as we flew by and left them behind too quickly. As we did, I knew that Justin, too, was up, up and away, on his way back to New York to start his post-college career. Like the balloons he was here and then, he was gone. But we’ll see him again soon. And perhaps we’ll see the balloons, too. Perhaps when they next make an appearance, it will signal Justin’s impending arrival. As they descend slowly, drifting lazily to the ground, Justin too will descend and then we’ll all celebrate with champagne and orange juice.

At least that’s how my mom’s crew celebrated the end of a successful Up, Up and Away ride.   

Some thoughts about Justin

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 30, 2013 8:08 PM

Justin has been here for the last week and today we take him back to the airport. He’s on a plane at noon, back to Buffalo, via Las Vegas. We’ll miss him as we always do but he’ll be back in three weeks, on December 22, for Christmas. Next time he arrives he will be officially finished with school. He may have a job waiting for him; he may have two. It’s a very exciting and nervous time.

Last night, after we returned from wine tasting, and had munched on some dinner, we all sat here at the bar in the kitchen, drinking wine and listening to Justin tell us about how his chosen career will unfold. Union work versus non-union work. How to get into the union and how hard it is. How expensive New York City is but how that remains the center of the theatre universe. How he doesn’t really want to live in New York because it’s so expensive.

He talked about getting on a tour that might take him all over the world. He talked about how hard his chosen profession is on a relationship; about how he doesn’t want to get into anything heavy until he’s a bit older, has some money in the bank and the possibility for a more steady work environment, something that doesn’t take him away via air, train or boat.

It’s a very transient life he’s chosen, one with so much potential to see the world, to explore all that there is out there, but one that has perhaps more ups and downs than the ordinary boring life the rest of us lead. A six-month job can be very lucrative, but then it ends and he starts all over, looking for another gig, another month, or three or six, until that too is over and he begins yet again. There is little job security. There is little grounding. And he’s very excited about it all.

We listened to him and asked questions. Once again, I tried to impress upon him the idea of saving. He’s not a good saver, by his own admission, and given how sporadic his work life could end up being, he really needs to change his pattern of spending most of what he makes. Since he went away to college in 2009 I’ve been sounding like a proverbial broken record: you need to put money away when you’re working for when you’re not working. That was even more clear last night as we listened to the life he will lead, work and personal wise.


Justin, yesterday, with the winery dog at Keif-Joshua

It’s exhilarating and terrifying, as parents, to watch your child head out into the big bad, cold cruel and every other cliché world. For his entire life (and for me, most of his entire life) we have been there to take care of him; to feed and clothe him, get his hair cut when it needed it; to buy toys and school supplies; to get him new computers; a car when he started to drive; assistance with college applications and visits and interviews with schools that accepted him. In college, we paid for the majority of his tuition, and all of his books and living expenses. We had him take out a student loan because Kevin felt that it was important for him to have “skin in the game.” It needed to be Justin’s nickel as much as it was ours. We’ll probably help him pay his loans though he doesn’t know that. We want him to understand that being in the real world has real consequences and real responsibilities. The minute you’re out of school it begins. You may end up staying with your parents temporarily but kids don’t want to do that any more than parents want them to. It’s time to be, finally, the adult he’s been preparing to be; the adult that he wants to be. The adult that he, in many ways, already is.

I was up half the night last night. Part of it was all of the usual anxiety that swirls through my head about getting my work done, paying my bills, living a good and true life; a celebratory life.

It occurred to me that Justin, too, will soon be partaking in this dance. He will have sleepless nights wondering where his next job is coming from, if he made the right decisions, what the next year or three or ten will look like. He can’t wait of course because it’s time. But part of me wants to hug him and protect him and spare him from the rigors of being all grown up. But then he also wouldn’t have the joy that accompanies living a full life out loud. 

Health insurance versus cookies

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 15, 2013 10:31 PM

Many things happen in any given day. Most of them are expected, occasionally there is something unforeseen. A day in the life of Lorin almost always begins the same. A cup of coffee while raking a brush through her hair, followed by a selection of clothing appropriate for both the morning and the coming day, and then a walk with her husband and dog.

Lorin’s day started exactly this way this morning. It then quickly became about more coffee and numerous phone conferences. She talked with people in different industries about different projects. She tried to catch up on projects that she was behind on, especially as related to those previously planned phone calls. The phone meetings gave her and her clients something to discuss so that decisions could be made and more work could commence.

Perhaps it was because one of her clients has been battling breast cancer, and they had the opportunity to speak this morning, and to start working together again after a long absence. Perhaps her client’s brave fight was what spurred Lorin to finally visit the health care exchange website to see if it was truly as awful as those in the news media had decided it was. She wonders sometimes if those reporting on things, like the sign up process, have actually tried to use it themselves in order to gain first hand knowledge, or if they simply take it as gospel that if the politicians say it’s bad, it must be and write about it accordingly. Lorin gets agitated by that kind of reporting. It’s why she tends to read newspaper accounts rather than getting reports from the evening news or from partisan blogs. She wanted to believe that the website was workable; she is a fan of health insurance reform. As an individual insurance buyer, because both she and her husband are self-employed, she is therefore not able to hook up with a group where costs could be shared. Her insurance premiums have been terribly high; their deductable embarrassingly so.

She did run into some difficulty almost right off the bat, trying to get a user name and password. Lorin is fairly web savvy; she has signed up on a great number of sites requiring a user name and password but this one seemed particularly problematic. It was enough to make her declare that the website was, in fact, a disaster. That, however, did nothing to diminish her support for insurance reform, and so she persevered. To her surprise, it was not nearly as difficult and horrid as it has been proclaimed. There were some areas where a bit more explanation could have been given, but after about an hour and a half, she had three “saved” plans to compare.

Many people might balk and exclaim: An hour and a half! That’s terrible! In an ordinary situation, it would be. But here’s the thing: it’s health insurance. As anyone who has ever attempted to find out about health insurance plans knows, it takes forever. One has to read everything to find out what each plan covers, to decide whether they want an HMO or a PPO, what kind of deductible, how much of a co-pay, what the monthly premiums will be. It goes on and on. Plus an application. It can take days out of your life and off your life.

Plans saved but not chosen, because she has to confer with her husband, was a good start and so Lorin logged out of the website and decided that it was time to get some work done. Only she was severely lacking in motivation. For the majority of the afternoon, she tackled only tiny, insignificant work. She surfed the internet, she had a late lunch, she had more phone calls and she answered emails. She also paid her car insurance bill.

It was all very stimulating. At the end of the day, she didn’t yet have a topic for her blog post, something she has promised herself to do every day, and so she went for a walk with the dog and her husband. The sun had already set; the night was ascending. The moon, bright and white, nearly full was playing hide ‘n seek with the scant cloud cover giving the sky a ghostly look. The trees were calm. As they rounded the corner into a parking lot they sometimes traverse in order to get to another sidewalk, a van roared through and nearly hit them.

Lorin called the driver a bad name.

They continued on their walk and finally made it back to the ‘hood. Lorin was leading the three of them; Kevin and Cooper were just behind, walking in front of the mailboxes. A car drove toward them, one of their neighbors, a woman named Laura, driving a little too fast. She pulled in to check her mail, and came within inches of hitting Cooper. Kevin yanked his leash, Cooper yipped. Everybody panicked.

Lorin wanted to call Laura a bad name but as they’re neighbors decided against it.

Finally the three made it home. Lorin hugged on Cooper while Kevin went to get some dog cookies, anything to alleviate the terror of the speeding car and the near collision with our precious boy.

The moral of the story: Bad names make you feel better. Cookies actually make you better. The jury is still out on health insurance.

The end. 

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