The secret to a happy marriage

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 16, 2016 8:11 PM

My first marriage was not happy for a number of reasons beginning with the fact that we got married too young. We’d gotten together too young as well and when we got married we were already starting to grow in different directions. He became more conservative; I started leaning even more liberal. That in and of itself is not always a deal breaker (my current and favorite husband was a Republican when I married him) but it contributed. He listened to Rush Limbaugh and with that infatuation grew an ever increasing determination to make women – and thus me – lesser. Lesser in stature, lesser in intelligence. Lesser in value. One half of a marriage can’t treat the other half with growing disrespect and expect it to last. At least, I hope not. Every person deserves respect, especially in a strong, happy marriage.

We also got married for all the wrong reasons. We’d been together for a long time and it seemed as if our choice was get married or break up. In retrospect, we should have chosen the latter. But if we had done that, in some way, it would have invalidated all of the time, and yes love, we had shared. Longevity, ultimately, wasn’t a good reason to get married. 

I remember asking a good friend of mine once why he’d gotten married. He was 39 at the time, he never spent any time with his wife, rarely talked about her. “I was 39, it was time,” he said with a shrug. That struck me as being a horrible reason to get married. Turns out, I had done much the same. 

So we divorced not long after we got married. Ultimately it was a turning point in my life, changing me, I think for the better. I was free. I lived alone for several years, which I’d never done before. I bought my own townhouse. And my income increased dramatically. My first marriage held me back in almost every way. Freed from that unhappiness, I was able to grow and become, finally, me. 

Enter favorite and current husband several years later. We got married for all the right reasons. Madly in love, never wanting to be apart, unable to imagine life without the other. And we laughed all the time. We still do. In my estimation, the ability to make each other laugh, even after decades together, is one of the biggest secrets to a happy marriage. 

The other secret is this: an equal distribution of chores in the kitchen. I make the mess, he cleans up the mess. It’s been working for us for a while now. I love to cook, but I am not a neat cook. I’m neat in almost every other aspect of our lives and in the house, but when it comes to the kitchen, every bit of counter gets used. And I have a lot of counter space.


One of my less messy meals: today's breakfast

When I cook, I use nearly the entire kitchen. The center island is where I used the cutting board and thus all of the vegetables that I remove from the fridge end up there. The cooktop, on the eat-at island, always seems to have at least two if not all five of the burners going, with various items sautéing, boiling, sizzling, scrambling. Add to that one of the ovens, and sometimes both, baking or convecting, and the kitchen is awhirl. While I cook, Kevin often sits at the bar, with the iPad and a glass of wine. It’s my job to make sure everything we’re having is done at the same time. Once it is, I distribute onto our plates, make sure all of the burners and the ovens are turned to off, and we eat.

Then comes clean up. Kevin is a master. Better, he doesn’t seem to mind. As he often says when I tell him I’ll clean up or that I can at least help: “It’s my job. And it’s the least I can do for always being the beneficiary of good eats.”

So there you have it. One of the secrets to this happy marriage is an equal distribution of roles in the kitchen. It keeps us laughing daily.

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In which Yellow goes camping

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 9, 2016 8:30 PM

So Riley has a new toy. It’s an oversized, stuffed Crayola crayon that we have dubbed Yellow for obvious reasons. It’s brighter than the sun. We got it just days ago, from PetCo. Every time I go to PetCo to buy dog food, which is roughly once a month, I also stock up on whatever cookies-treats we’re low on and I usually buy a toy. Our little blonde nut goes through toys fairly quickly. Excited to get something new, he sits as I remove tags and stickers, his tail sweeping the floor, his eyes hyper-focused. He vibrates with anticipation. Finally, the time comes. I present the toy always by naming it as I give it to him. We started that habit with Maguire. We introduce toys with a name in the hope that when we say “go get Yellow” or “get Wubba” he has at least a clue as to what – who? – we’re asking for. 

Riley sniffs, licks and then grabs the toy, rising, turning and racing off into the center of the house. He whips the new toy back and forth, growls and then settles down to start chewing, squeaking, destroying. We try to distract him, but we’re not always successful. If a toy can make it 24 hours, it has a chance of making it for a week or two. If not, it’s usually gone within the hour. 

Yellow was purchased in the reduced price bin because of the destruction factor. Yellow was $4. We like Yellow. More importantly, Riley likes Yellow. After the ceremonial handoff in the kitchen, he and Yellow have become nearly inseparable. Yellow gets carried around the house. Riley sits at the front door, watching out through the glass, holding Yellow. When we go out to pee, Yellow comes with us. It’s his new BFF. Oh sure, he still loves Wubba, but Yellow is bright, shiny –

SQUIRREL! 

Where was I? 

Ah, yes. Yellow and Riley, sitting in a tree, p-l-a-y-i-n-g. They were out on the deck last night, Riley down on the tile, looking out over the deck, a sphynx overseeing his desert. Yellow was next to him, not really paying much attention to the desert, content to be with his new friend. 

I’m sure if Yellow could talk, he would have gushed about how excited he was to be in his new home, how much he loved his new friend, and how great the desert was. In fact, he didn’t have to gush. Because Yellow actually decided to go and explore it a bit. In other words, Yellow went camping. 

I went out to check on Riley and he was standing at the railing, looking down and whining. I went to look and there was Yellow down on the rocks. 

“We have a Yellow down,” I called to Kevin. “We have a Yellow down.” Good dad that he is, he laced up his hiking shoes and trudged down under the house, down onto the rip rap to rescue hapless Yellow. He handed him up to me through the railing and I promptly handed the toy back to Riley who was overjoyed. 

Within two minutes, Yellow had been tossed and nosed off of the deck again, this time rolling under some of the brush down below. Riley stood and whined. Kevin and I looked over and shook our heads. 

The sun had gone down and there was little natural light. We tried to explain to Riley that it was probably best for Yellow to stay outside overnight… 

*whine* 

… that we’d be sure to get him in the morning … 

*whine wine * 

… right after our walk. 

*whine whine sniff snort whine yip* 

I guess this is what happens when a best friend decides to go camping and leaves his puppy behind. There’s a lesson in there someplace. I’m just not sure where.

 

Postscript: Yellow was successfully rescued this morning making a certain puppy very happy indeed.

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There was a dead snake along the road this morning

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 1, 2016 9:09 PM

It was just after 8 am. The sun had long since risen above the house and was busy warming the day. Riley and I got a late start on our walk but since it was only hinting at 70º I knew we’d be fine. We trudged along, me saying “slow” about every ten feet. I’m trying to train him to not be such a puller and I’ve never liked the word “heel.” Dogs know the words they taught, and I’m teaching “slow.” His leash was wrapped around my left hand; I was keeping him close to me.

There were workers at the Strobel’s house. Kevin had mentioned that he heard what he thought were trucks and trailers down below, where the house is being built. He asked me to take a look as I went by, just to see who it was and whether we should call the sheriff. It was the contractor – I recognized his truck – and several others. All were busy working. The contractor saw me and waved. I waved back. 

We trudged along, Riley and I. No one else was out. No cars passed us. I always keep my eyes open for creatures, namely javelinas or coyotes. I look to the right and the left and dead ahead for the entirety of the walk. Javelinas can be nasty and dangerous. Coyotes not so much because Riley is a big dog. But I fear Riley would freak and cause a scene. I watch for Gila monsters that can bite down on a dog and not let go; I watch for tortoises that will bite if provoked and attacked. I watch for snakes. 

As we rounded a gentle curve, and began to walk down a small decline, there was one on the side of the road. A rattlesnake. We haven’t seen many snakes up here. We know they’re around; how could they not be given the terrain and the climate? I saw one in what was call the Cooper Area, where we take the dog to pee during the day and before we go to bed at night. There was the one that somehow got into the house. Another that was on the road another morning. We kept Riley close and made a wide circle to get around it. When we returned it was gone. 

I pulled Riley’s leash closer. He didn’t see it, but I kept my eyes on it as we continued by. When we came back past, it was still there, still in the exact same position, part of its scaly body looped over the other. This time, Riley saw it and stopped. He stood staring, his body extended in the direction of the snake, his head forward and down. He didn’t try to pull. He just watched, waiting.

Slow. 

I picked up a rock and tossed it. The snake didn’t move. It was dead. Completely intact. No apparent trauma. Perhaps one of the falcons or ravens had grabbed it up and then dropped it from a great height. Maybe it just died of old age. It didn’t matter. What mattered was there was a dead snake along the road. 

We continued toward home, my dog and I. I watched and listened for other predators. I nodded toward the contractor again. I thought about the snake and its symbolism. Rattlesnakes are lethal creatures, striking to kill. But it was dead. Could it be that it somehow also symbolized the death of fear?

We all live in fear, sometimes it can be crippling. Most times it just gnaws at the back of your soul. Fear of failure, of loss. Fear that we’re not good enough, fear that we’ll never be what we dreamed of becoming as children. Fear of life. 

A rattlesnake is but one creature representing the personification of fear, but it’s a just representation. If it can die for no visible reason, could our own insecurities and fears die as easily? Can mine?

The death of fear. The death of anger. The death of lashing out, of striking out. All manifested in the death of one snake along the road this morning. Something to think about.

Krevolin’s angels and the art of funky

by Admin Thursday, September 29, 2016 8:52 PM

My mom has two old pieces of sculpture she wants to give me because she knows of my love of both old and especially of funky. They’re not antiques even though they’re from circa 1970. But they’re definitely funky. After visiting last year – can it really be nearly a year since she was here? – she knew instantly that these pieces, which she no longer displays would be great in our house. We are very eclectic in our décor. We love the art of funky. 

When our family lived in New York, we were in Dutchess County. We started out in one of the hamlets called Staatsburg where we lived in a big development. We had a split level ranch at the time, a house style that was very popular. I think we had shag carpeting. My mother hated it. We lived there for a short time and then my parents built a house in Hyde Park, one of the towns in the county. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s summer home was there. There were also several mansions, including a Vanderbilt palace. 

I remember living there, but not well. My mother liked it though; I do know that. There were some interesting areas and many small artist enclaves scattered on the outskirts of the towns. I suspect this was one of the reasons she liked it so well. My mother was always a bit of an artist. She used to do a pen and ink drawing for our Christmas card every year. For a time, she dabbled in watercolor. When she was in college, she studied art. If memory serves, she eventually got a degree in education and taught art. But I was very little and don’t really remember. I know we still have several of the pieces she created while she was in college, from wood engravings to tapestry-like pieces where she used pieces of cloth sewn onto burlap in order to create a landscape. I think my brother still has one of these hanging in his house. 

Evidently when we still lived there, she discovered an artist named Lewis Krevolin. She went to Krevolin’s studio and just loved the funky crudeness of his sculptures. She bought two angels, each about a foot or so tall, for $25. When she brought them home, my dad was not pleased. How could she spend money on something that looked like that?

As my mother likes to joke now, if it didn’t get hit with a bat, dunked into a basket or tossed down a field, my dad had no use for it. 

Those two angels have stayed with her all these years. She still has them. We talked about them yesterday and she said she’d been thinking about giving them to me, ever since she came to visit a year ago, largely because of our tendency toward eclectic, funky pieces of pottery and art. As she was telling me about them, I thought I remembered exactly what she was talking about. If they’re what I remember, I said, I’d love them. And I bet Kevin will even like them since while he doesn’t automatically gravitate toward certain types of art, he does have a strong appreciation for it. 

Great, she said. I have them out in the shed. I’ll take some pictures and send them to you so you can decide for sure. And then next time you’re home, you can take them back with you.

She didn’t think they’d travel well if shipped.

I got the photos several minutes later, and they were exactly what I remembered. Crude faces and yet there was and is something about them that’s intriguing, beguiling even. Lewis Krevolin, who was born in 1933 and is still alive, is no longer doing sculptures or pottery. He now does pastels as far as my mother knows. 

They’re dusty, my mom said, because they’ve been in the shed for years. But they’ll clean up fine.

Because they’ve been in the shed. I thought this a bit serendipitous. My mom’s house was built around 1926. It’s a small, adorable cape, two bedrooms, one bath, somewhere around 900 square feet, plus an attic and a basement. It has a one car garage which she added, and next to the garage, it has a shed. The previous owner was an artist and the “shed” was his studio. It has no plumbing but it has a wood stove, ceiling fans and dormer windows. A lovely porch off of the sliding glass door. The angels created by one artist and purchased by another are now in the shed previously used by yet another.

That’s definitely worth celebrating.

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Something pretty

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 27, 2016 11:40 PM

Yesterday was our anniversary and to celebrate we watched the first presidential debate in separate rooms. Not by design; more by necessity. The debate started at 6 pm here in the west so we were still working. Not that we got a lot done while the two nominees were flailing at each other. 

Correction, one flailed. The other held court.

It wasn’t a romantic way to spend an anniversary but it was a Monday night and we are in the middle of probably the most volatile and horrific election season ever. Romance was not really something we were thinking of.

We watched, we clapped, we giggled. We met afterwards for a glass of wine and – to honor the Obamas whom we love – fist-bumped as all good terrorists do. We are not passionate about Hillary Clinton, not like we were and are about Obama. But we believe she’s smart and competent and head and shoulders above her much taller opponent. We happily and easily support her. Kevin announced he’s going to the Democratic headquarters here in Tucson on Thursday to sign us up for whatever they need us to do. 

But it was our anniversary and we did absolutely nothing for it. We had some wine. We grilled some chicken. We watched MSNBC, again as all good terrorists do. And we went to bed to hopefully sleep better than we usually do. We didn’t, but this time not because of politics. This time was because of the weather. At some point and I think it was around 4:30 or so, lightning began to flash and shortly thereafter, thunder began to crash over our heads. The wind was already howling. Rain was pelting the house. The rumble began. 

Riley doesn’t mind rain. He doesn’t mind wind. But he positively hates thunder. When there is thunder, there is a nutty puppy. And last night, while we were finally enjoying a decent night’s sleep feeling even just slightly better about the election, however fleeting, we were awakened by whining and crying and general puppy agitation. 

So much for the sleep. We were up for a while trying to calm him down. Eventually we did, largely because the weather moved past us and the thunder ceased to roll. 

I swear to dog, if I don’t get some sleep one of these days… 

Today dawned early and because I was on deadline for a huge – someone might say yuge – project, we didn’t walk the dog. I didn’t ellipticize. I worked. I drank coffee. Keven did much the same and then this afternoon, he got his hair cut. He went off into town with a quick kiss goodbye and a vow to see me soon. He was also going to Ace Hardware to pick up a new dryer hose since we’ve been having trouble with our new dryer and the GE technician said it was because our old hose was crushed and twisted. 

He came home about an hour and a half later, walking into the house with flowers. Lilies. Something pretty.

“Happy Anniversary,” he said. “A day late…” 

Something to celebrate.

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Maybe tonight I’ll sleep

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 26, 2016 10:54 PM

I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I’ve mentioned before that this election is killing me; it’s keeping me up at night. I get to sleep but I can’t seem to stay there. Almost every night I wake up and then I’m awake for somewhere between one hour and two hours. I can’t turn off my brain. I toss and turn. I’m not thinking about anything in particular; I’m just a ball of anxiety. 

I’ve tried not to watch politics at night. Sometimes it works. I’ve tried not to read The Washington Post and check Fivethirtyeight, which I’m ashamed to say I’m almost obsessive about. This election terrifies me like no other. I can’t seem to shake the feeling of impending doom. I’m mortified that some of my fellow Americans think that a man like him is qualified to lead the greatest country on earth. I purposely don’t talk politics with anyone unless I know that they think the same and feel the same as I. I don’t want to think – or feel – differently about someone. 

And we now live in a red state so I’m not surrounded, necessarily, but people of the same persuasion, if not necessarily by default. The fact that we’re in Tucson helps. Tucson is very blue, very liberal. The other day I got my hair cut and colored and my hairdresser said she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t know how this state is considered so red and so right because Tucson isn’t like that and neither is Phoenix. I agree with her. Where are these people? 

I’m afraid that some may be people I know and like. And so I don’t ask, and don’t speak, and I’ve no doubt it contributes to my anxiety 

Tonight was the first debate and I almost didn’t watch. Bobbi didn’t watch. Granted she had class tonight but even if she didn’t, she wasn’t sure she would have been able to view it. She couldn’t stand the stress. Kevin said the same thing to me earlier. 

“Are you going to watch the debate?” I asked. 

“I just don’t know if I can do it,” he said. 

Today is our anniversary; 18 years married. Ten years ago, we were in Lake Las Vegas. We’d gone for the weekend, to get away and just enjoy our married-ness. We took the motorcycle and drove from LA. It was miserable. The weather was horrific, the heat unbearable. We couldn’t escape it. By the time we got to the Ritz Carlton, we could literally have been wrung out. We got to our room and took a shower. Kevin got some champagne and, dressed in the white robes that came from the room, we lounged on the bed, drinking some bubbly and watching the first debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. 


Our 10th anniversary

Tonight, we watched the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of whom are we crazy about but we much prefer the former to the latter. We’re Democrats after all. 

“You know ten years ago…” I said earlier. 

“I know,” he said smiling. “We were in Vegas watching Obama and McCain. It’s nice that they schedule presidential debates on our anniversary.”

Indeed. Maybe tonight I’ll even be able to sleep.

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Alarming

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, September 21, 2016 11:11 PM

Every night before we go to bed, there’s a routine. Much like the rest of the world, we stumble through said routine without thinking. Kevin has usually fallen asleep on the couch. I take the dog out, then wake said-Kevin who often looks at me like I’m from another planet while I implore him, gently, coercively, to get up because we need to go to bed. We brush our teeth, I remove the decorative pillows from the bed and retire them to the edges of the bathtub where they remain precariously perched all night. It’s really the only thing the tub is used for. Riley settles himself down with a harrumph and we climb into bed to begin the job of trying to sleep. 

Oh, and I set the alarm. 

One of the things we had put into the house when we moved in was an alarm system. It was installed by the same company who installed our in-ceiling and in-wall speakers for the audio system.  The doors are all wired to elicit a beep when one of them opens, when the alarm isn’t on. That way anyone in the house can tell if someone has entered or exited the building. It’s helpful believe it or not just as a way to know everything that’s happening. 

In the morning, we rise, make the bed, get dressed to take the dog for a walk and then one of us turns off the alarm before we exit the room. 

This morning, I slept in a bit. I had another night of not sleeping well – I swear this election is going to kill me and I didn’t even watch Rachel or Lawrence last night – and I woke up at 6:45. Not quite ready to get up yet, I decided to close my eyes for just a few minutes. Next thing I knew, it was 7:30. Kevin was up and I called to him. He came from the direction of the kitchen. Riley was still in the bedroom, sleeping. When Kevin arrived, he too got up, ready to go out on the deck. 

“He hasn’t been out yet, has he?” I asked. 

“No, but he’s fine for a minute,” Kevin said before turning to the dog. “Riley? Do you want to go out on the deck?” 

I had my first alarm system when I lived in my townhouse. I was living alone, for the first time in my life, and thought it would be a good idea. I had Protection One install the system. I don’t know what they’re like now, but then, the alarm was activated and deactivated with a touch-tone phone. You could have a keypad installed as well, but I didn’t want to spend the money. So I used my phone. 

The townhouse was two stories. There was many a time that I’d come in and the alarm would start to beep, warning of an impending disaster if I didn’t disable it. Only someone would have forgotten to place the portable phone into its charging station and the phone was therefore dead, making disabling difficult. I’d race upstairs, taking the stairs two at a time, down the hall and into my bedroom where I’d grab the other phone and desperately punch in the numbers before the alarm sounded. Most of the time I made it. But it was a stressful way to live. Eventually I had a key pad installed near the front door.

The morning of the Northridge earthquake, as the earth roared and I listened to glass breaking all over my house, as I clung to the door jamb waiting for the violence to stop, the alarm decided to go off, contributing to the mayhem. I hated that alarm. 

The morning we moved, after I had discontinued the service, one of the movers inadvertently stepped on the panic button that was in my bedroom. The sheriff’s department was there within five minutes. Luckily it was pretty obvious what was going on so he left shortly thereafter. Did I mention that I hated that alarm? 

“Wanna go out, sweetie?” Kevin asked again this morning as Riley grabbed Wubba and headed toward the door leading to the deck. 

Me: “The alarm –“ 

But it was too late. The door opened and the house was suddenly engulfed in a cacophony of blaring sirens. Kevin quickly punched in the code and the noise ceased.

“We’re going to get a call,” I said, still in bed. Sure enough, the phone rang and Kevin raced to pick it up. I heard him chuckle, give his name and our password. In other words, it was us being stupid. No need to send the Calvary.

It was an alarming way to start the day, but at least we know the system works. If only that was enough to help me sleep better these days.

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Tonight for dinner we had

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 13, 2016 9:41 PM

Justin spoke those words – "tonight for dinner we had" – this morning when we talked with him. It was the first time we’ve heard his voice since he left so early on the morning of July 1. He’s been in Japan and still is, at least for the next two weeks. It’s a 16-hour time difference so it’s hard. We text, we email; we Facebook. He has dinner when we’ve yet to rise. 

Yesterday he sent a text and asked what we thought about joining him in London for Christmas. The tour will be there from December 21 through the 30 and he thought it might be a nice place for a family reunion. Christmas in London. How Dickensian. Figgie Pudding and all that Scrooge. We looked at flights, not for before Christmas but perhaps just after. We sent a text saying that we should connect today. Just before 7 this morning, we got a text. 

“Hey guys. You up?”

We were awake if not yet up but we got up quickly, took the dog out, started some coffee and settled down for a chat. He told us all about Japan and what they’ve seen, how they’ve settled into the culture. When Justin was little he discovered Pokemon and quickly became enamored with the game, the characters and especially with anime as well as the Japanese culture. As he grew up, his fascination only deepened. He learned to like the food, and studied the ancient Japanese Samurai. He knew he would love it and we just hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed. He wasn’t. He has learned some of the language, loves the people, and is forever amazed at how helpful the Japanese are. 

They’ve been to nine cities thus far with the last one coming up in a few days. They’ve traveled the country by bus and by bullet train. Eventually they’ll make their way back to Narita and fly out of Japan and toward England. 

He told us about each city, about the castles, about the ramen which he was infatuated with before he left and has now fallen into full-blown love with. Evidently ramen is very big there and it’s especially easy to find ramen restaurants that are open after the last shows. The crew goes often.

He told us about the weather, about the pedestrian traffic which is evidently out of control. He said that he would live there in a heartbeat, that if he could get a job, he would move there. Kelsey, his girlfriend, isn’t so convinced. And so they’ve discussed taking two months or so for an extended trip to truly engage. 

He sounded great. He was happy and funny and easy, his usual self. He’s loving his life, even though he’s been working quite a bit and doesn’t necessarily plan to continue with the tour after they eventually end in Australia and New Zealand. The experience is amazing, by his own account. 

We talked about New Year’s instead of Christmas, which we think we’ll do. We talked about how much time he’ll have off between London and Stockholm, the stop after the UK. We’ll rent a flat; perhaps he and Kelsey can stay with us. He loved that. 

Then he yawned. And said “tonight for dinner…” and we smiled because it was still just after 8 our time. His life is so different than ours on so many levels. It’s as it should be. I couldn’t help but find meaning in the idea that he had already lived his day, this day, while ours was just beginning. On one hand, it seemed to symbolize us being left behind. On the other, perhaps the fact that we will now forever be trying to catch up to him. Soon he would be going to bed and rising to start the day again, chasing his life, chasing his dream, chasing the sun in the land known for rising. I – we – couldn’t be more proud.

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Taking inventory

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 9, 2016 11:02 PM

A hummingbird hit the dining room window today. It was a small thud, barely a noise. We looked out and saw it lying still, upside down. Both of us shook our heads sure we’d lost another one. It’s not uncommon for a bird to think it’s going to go through the house, not realizing that there is double paned glass in the way. We started making plans to dispose of the body, but as we watched, the tiny bird began to flutter its wings. It righted itself and soon it had buzzed away. It was as if it had taken just a few minutes to take inventory and clear its tiny bird head. 

Our first bird strike, not long after we’d moved in, resulted in death. It hit the windows that wrap the bathroom, behind the bathtub. We heard a thud but didn’t know where it had happened. It was early. We left the house with dog in tow, on our way for a walk. The bird was lying on the dirt, just below the glass. It was obvious that it was dead. 

We had another strike near the front door, and that one, too, died. It bothers us. When we built the house we wanted it to look – to be – as if it came up from the desert. I suppose we did that a little too well. We also don’t like to displace or kill anything. We painstakingly transplanted cactus plants. We relocated toads and other critters. Even when we had a snake in the house, we managed to push it out onto the deck and off the deck rather than kill it. The exception is spiders. I’m sorry but I just can’t find it in my heart to spare spiders that are in the house. We’d relocate a tarantula, and have. Luckily none have been inside. 

We’ve also helped Gila monsters to safety; ditto desert tortoises. We would help birds if we had the opportunity. 

We had another bird fly into the window in the bathroom and it hit with such force that I was sure it had to be dead. I looked out, wincing a bit as I expected to see it lying motionless. Surprisingly, it was sitting up on the dirt. It was stunned, I could tell. It sat there, still, glazed, for at least 15 minutes. It was as if it was taking inventory of its parts.

Ok. Let’s see. Two wings. Check. Two feet with claws still attached. Check. A beak. Check. Do my wings work? No. Wait. Yes! 

Soon enough, it shuddered a bit, flapped its wings and then lifted up and off in the opposite direction of the windows. Smart bird. 

When Kevin fell from the sky, as we affectionately refer to his in-house mishap, he too took inventory. He had been on his extension ladder, the feet of it on the marble tile of the entrance way, the other end resting against the beam on the ceiling of the second story. We had vaulted ceilings in the Oak Park house and he was doing some dry wall crack repair. The feet slipped on the tile and he had less than a second to realize he was going down and that there was nothing to grab onto, nothing to break his fall, nothing but the floor getting ever closer. He crashed down, but was wrong about nothing to break his fall. We had and still have a wall table that also holds several bottles of wine. He right foot and ankle crashed into that with enough force to flip him over. He landed on his back on top of the ladder. 

Immediately, he started his count: Head and back not broken; ditto neck. Two arms, two hands, 10 fingers. Two legs, two feet – wait. Maybe not. Honey? 

Taking inventory is what we do when we’re checking to make sure all is in order. It’s something we do with our live. We take inventory of where we are and where we’re going. We take inventory of what we’ve accomplished and what we haven’t. We take inventory of how we’ve measured up to our own ideals, and hopefully, we can report that we have.

We’re generally happy. We feel joy, and sorrow. We are healthy, we appreciate, we trust in the future by learning from the past. We love … family, friends, pets. We love more than we hate. We take inventory because it gives us opportunity to make changes. We take inventory to discover what’s important. And to unleash what we find to celebrate every day. 

We take inventory to live it out loud.

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live out loud

It gives me hope

by Lorin Michel Friday, August 26, 2016 11:22 PM

Kevin's new truck broke down today. He was out running errands, Home Depot and weed killer kind of stops, and had pulled into a quick turn-around lane. As he started to make the turn, the radio surged, hiccupped and then the car died. Luckily he had enough momentum to propel the truck across the very busy four lanes of the east bound side of Broadway, and luckily there was an entrance to a parking lot for the Hilton. The truck coasted across then stopped. It had power but it wouldn't crank.

There I was in my office, minding my own business when my cell began to sing. The phone rarely rings on a Friday afternoon and while I have plenty of work to do, no one wants to talk about it. Caller ID identified the caller as "Kevin."

Uh oh.

"Kevy?"

"So my car died."

A quick detail of tools to bring followed and I jumped into the Sport. It took me about 15 minutes to get there. He waved sheepishly.

"You know I wanted to take the bike today and you said I'd be better off in the truck," he said as I climbed out.

My turn to be sheepish.

"You lied." He smiled.

He set about checking the battery, making sure everything that should be connected was.

In these situations, there is really nothing I can do other than stand around and look helpless. I was doing that very well when a couple in a pickup pulled in, asked what they could do to help. Maybe help push it? Worth a shot. The two guys tried while I was in the driver's seat to steer. The truck began to roll backwards rather than forward. Another guy stopped to help. Maybe with three of them they'd have better luck. They didn't. The truck is simply too heavy.

The second guy who stopped also helped Kevin nose around the engine.

"Need a crescent wrench?" he asked. "I got one in the car."

Kevin thanked him, told him he had one, too. They poked around a bit more.
The guy shrugged.

"Sure wish there was something I could to help you out, man," he said. "Good luck."

Soon another guy came by. An older gentleman in a Ford Edge.

"I got a tow rope,” he said as he leaned toward the passenger window to talk to us.  "I can at least get you into a safer spot."

He gave Kevin the rope to hook to the Classic and then to his tow hitch and just like that, the Classic was up the slight incline and onto flatter ground.

"Good luck," the man said as he drove off with a wave.

A woman stopped and said that while she couldn’t do much, she’d be happy to make a phone call. At least one other car stopped to see if there was anything they could do. In the end, we called for a tow truck. The guy showed up in about a half hour, loaded the Classic and with Kevin and I in the Sport, we all drove south to Falconwerks, the independent British repair shop here in Tucson.


The sun was setting, lighting the storm clouds to the west. The sky turned dusty blue, darkening. Kevin was quiet. I was thinking about people, and how just when I'm convinced that we've devolved into a race that can't even manage to be decent to one another the truck breaks down and a number of strangers stop to offer what help they could. My faith was restored at least for today and I said as much to Kevin. He nodded.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

"That I knew I should have taken the bike," he said with a grin.

Next time. Until then, I'm celebrating the goodness of people and not thinking about how much this is going to cost. Next week. Next week.

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live out loud

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