It was an ambush

by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 28, 2016 6:53 PM

We were invited to our neighbors for dinner last night. We’ve gotten to know them a bit over the last year and like them tremendously. They were up here right after Christmas, we were down there for the Super Bowl. They live almost directly below us. Since we’re on the hill, we look down onto their roof and part of their back yard which is actually some sort of fake grass sculpted between rocks. Their two rescue dogs, Brody and Jax, can often be seen racing around and back and forth. We didn’t know until Super Bowl Sunday that the yard is at the bottom of a cascade of rocks and a recycling water feature.

Their house is beautiful, about a thousand square feet bigger than ours, and more formal. It was built about 15 years ago before the completely open floor plan, like ours, became more prominent. The back of their house, like ours, is glass. Their view is almost identical to ours; it’s just lower. We probably see a bit more of the mountains to the west because of how high up we are but the rest is the same. The city lights sparkle and dance in the distance. The sound of the coyotes seems more distant when more on their level. From up here, the howls seem to be racing up the hill. 

I got a text yesterday afternoon from Julianne saying to bring Riley, that he could play with the dogs. I thanked her and told her I’d speak with Kevin. My gut feeling said not to bring him. He’s an anxiety ridden little mess of a boy whenever we leave the house. There was no reason to think it would be any different to take him to play with two big dogs he’d never met. 

Kevin and I discussed it and ultimately decided to try it. Why not? We’re close enough that if it didn’t go well, bringing him back home would only take minutes.

Just after six, I slipped Riley into his harness and buckled him up. I hooked on his leash. We had our twice-baked potatoes (my contribution to the meal) plus two bottles of wine in a bag. I had bought three new dog toys at CVS when I was there to pick up a prescription. I put those in the bag, too. I slung my purse over my shoulder, put on my sunglasses, then, with leash in hand and Kevin holding the bag, we set off down the hill. We decided to walk because it’s so close. Also, it was a lovely day that promised to be an equally lovely night. Riley was fine. He’s used to walking down the hill, even used to going around the cul de sac. But when we started to go toward their driveway, he got a little apprehensive. This wasn’t routine. By the time we got to the steps down to their door, he was actively pushing back. We stopped so he could look at the water rushing down the rocks (another very cool water feature); so he could sniff. We walked further and he stopped at the front door. I suspect he could smell the dogs. Ed opened the door, and Riley practically flattened himself on the floor. He didn’t want to go in. After a few minutes, he did.

Then we went out onto the patio. The dogs saw him and flew at him with wild abandon. A new toy! Riley was terrified. The excitement of the other dogs turned into a snarling, snapping match as Riley tried to protect himself from what he deemed an attack. I held his harness and Julianne grabbed Brody and attempted to hold him back. Brody is 75 pounds. Ed had Jax, who is a more manageable 55. Jax and Riley did that sniffing each other thing before returning to snapping. There was simply no way they were going to play together which meant there was no way we were going to be able to enjoy ourselves.

Kevin took Riley and headed home. I took a glass of wine from Ed who then left in his golf cart to catch up with my two boys and offer them a lift home. Kevin and Ed were back in about 20 minutes, sans my little mess of a boy.

We enjoyed our evening immensely. Their dogs, great boys both, played together and eventually settled down to sleep. And even though it was sort of an ambush and even though I should have followed my instinct, no one got hurt and we learned the way NOT to introduce Riley to new friends, not if we want him to continue living it out loud.

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live out loud

TFW

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 11, 2016 9:55 PM

It happened like this. Riley was being his usual Riley self. We came back from the walk, and he grabbed Wubba. Raced around the house, back and forth, swinging Wubba wildly from side to side, effectively flaying himself with his toy. Who knew I had an Opus Dei puppy? 

Wubba, for the uninitiated, is made by Kong and is a relatively sturdy dog toy that consist of a ball wrapped in some type of material with five long tassel-type legs/feet. Riley is currently on his fourth Wubba in nine months as a Michel, which is actually pretty good considering that most of Riley’s toys last between 30 minutes and two days. This Wubba has heavy duty rope as its ball. The streamers are heavy red canvas. One of those streamers has been shortened by half thanks to canine incisors. Otherwise, Wubba is fairly in tact. Wubba is also the toy of choice most morning’s when one needs to swing. 

Another toy that often gets the nod is Bob who used to be Wubba before he lost all of his legs/feet tassel/streamers. The joke writes itself. 

My two boys were playing, Riley grabbing Wubba and bouncing through the house, growling and swinging. Kevin saying variations of “gimme that Wubba.” Occasionally this command works. Riley drops Wubba at Kevin’s feet, backs away slightly, gets down and stares at it, willing Kevin to pick it up and throw it. I didn’t used to allow the throwing of toys in the house because something would inevitably get broken. But because of the wide and long expanse of the main walkway, and the fact that there’s nothing in said walkway save for two steps, I have relaxed this rule. Gimme indeed. 

Kevin tossed Wubba up toward the master bedroom. Riley took off for it, easily clearing the two steps with one leap. He’s Super Riley. He hit the brakes, grabbed Wubba just as it was heading for under the bed, locked it in his jaws, shook him as if to say “dude, you are NOT allowed under there,” pivoted and took off back towards Kevin who was still in the walkway near the kitchen.

Riley raced down the hall, ears flying, Wubba’s legs/feet whipping. He took off, as he usually does when he’s racing, to clear the steps because, really, why actually use the steps when one can fly over them. When he does this, when he flies, the fast clip of his nails on the tile suddenly stops and for a brief few seconds there is a soft silence. He is air born. He is free.

And then he hits the tile about nine feet away from where the steps end, takes a few leaps forward and then slides to a stop. This time, he lost his footing. His front feet splayed, his back feet tucked under and suddenly he was on his side, sliding, sliding, spinning, whirling. Wubba went air born, too, suddenly untethered, and crashed onto the foyer tile. Riley, eyes wide, tongue out, ears pinned, slid right into the corner of the rock column. Kevin, concerned, immediately moved to make sure he was OK but before he could get there, Riley was up, bouncing, racing to get Wubba, growling. Let’s go!

Kevin had him come over, and calm down. “It’s OK. OK. Zen puppy. Ohhhmmmmm.”

I was on the phone with a client while this was going on. I didn’t hear any yelps so I figured it was safe to say – think? – that the dog wasn’t hurt. I got off of my call and went to see what had happened. Riley, Wubba in his mouth, was trying to be calm, standing, leaning actually, against Kevin. Hi mom. Wanna play some Wubba? 

“It was a total f&%^ing wipeout,” Kevin said when he saw me. A TFW. And just like that, new meme was born.

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live out loud

When one has no idea what to write about one resorts to stream of consciousness in the hope that something anything will materialize

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 5, 2016 8:10 PM

It’s Friday and I’m tired but neither is usually a reason for me to not have any idea whatsoever for a blog post. Often times ideas present themselves rather easily. Often when I’m not even looking for them, something will happen, somebody will say something, I’ll read an article and I’ll think instantly, ooooh I should write about that and so I do. But no such spark has ignited today. The news is filled with politics which I’m addicted to even though I hate hate hate it. There aren’t even that many stories out there about the Super Bowl, not that I care because even though I love football I also hate that I love it. It’s a dichotomy, an enigma. I probably need therapy for so many things. 

I thought about writing about my dog who is cute as hell and always worthy of a blog post but I worry that my readers will tire of my laziness. How hard, after all, is it to celebrate one’s golden retriever mix on a daily basis? Woo hoo. Woot woot. Break out the champagne. Even though Riley has developed this exceptionally cute thing where he brings a toy into Kevin’s office and deposits it somewhere out of site, then backs up into the doorway and stares. He stares and stares and the longer he stares, the harder his tail wags. When Kevin doesn’t pay attention to him, he then growls. Short growls, low growls. Playful growls. Kevin, hearing this, will still ignore him because then this happens: the tail stops wagging, and Riley smiles at him. He rolls his lips back ever so slightly to show his teeth. He growls again and when Kevin finally looks at him and says “what?” Riley bounces and growls and airsnaps in the direction of his toy. 

It’s probably something that dog trainers would say is aggressive. But we don’t see any aggression. We see him trying to get our attention so that we play with him. 

But I don’t want to write about that. 

Kevin suggested writing about the Super Bowl party we’re going to on Sunday and how sometimes and often Super Bowl parties are a plethora of chips and dips and beer and tequila. Other Super Bowl parties are catered. This is neither. We’re going to a friend’s house and the only criteria is that everyone attending has to be bring a hot appetizer. I couldn’t decide what to do and finally settled on something easy but good: small Yukon gold potatoes, wrapped in bacon, baked, and then served with a side of sour cream and chives. 

Hey. It’s a Super Bowl party. They’re not supposed to be healthy.

I worked all week and as usual didn’t get nearly enough done. I slept a bit better this week though not great. I went to a doctor’s appointment. I went to the grocery store. I worried that we didn’t stop to watch the sunset every night. I don’t know why and it’s not a habit I want to get into. I cherish our sunset watching. I look forward to it. It’s the punctuation at the end of the day, the time that says “phew, you made it through another one. Congratulations. I know it was tough but you toughed it out. You didn’t let the client critters get you down. Here – have a glass of wine.” 

That’s the punctuation at the end of this post, too. Cheers. Here’s to living it out loud.

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Having a song

by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 28, 2016 6:28 PM

In 1988, Brenda Russell wrote a song while staying in Stockholm, Sweden. Russell was mainly a dance artist at the time, but she recorded the song anyway and it was fairly successful. Oleta Adams heard it as well, and also decided to record it. She put it on her 1990 album Circle of One and when it was issued as a single in 1991, it reached into the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Many attributed its success to these lyrics: “You can reach me by caravan/Cross the desert like an Arab man.” This was during our first Gulf War and those lyrics resonated. The song was Get Here.

I don’t remember hearing the song much before the mid to later 1990s. Kevin and I fell in love with it. Every time it came on the radio – 94.7 KTWV, The Wave, the then smooth jazz station in LA which has since devolved into another contemporary pop station – we would crank the volume. There was something haunting and loving about it; something impossible made possible. We never particularly liked the Brenda Russell version. It didn’t have the depth. We bought the Oleta Adams CD and it quickly became a favorite. We liked the song so much we somehow decided it was “our song.” Naturally we played it at our wedding in 1998. 

The song eventually made it to both of our iPods. Again, every time it came on, we’d crank the volume, whether it was the car or the house. We still do.

Last night, as I was making dinner, we had internet radio on, one of the jazz stations we’ll be losing shorty because Live365 is going off the air, and the song came up. Kevin went to the receiver and cranked the volume. We have six speakers in the wall and ceiling in the great room, including a subwoofer, and two in the ceiling in the kitchen. We mouthed the words and danced around the room. When it was over and we turned the volume back down, it suddenly occurred to me that I really didn’t know how it got to be our song. It just was and still is. 

“How did this get to be our song?” I asked. 

Kevin poured himself a glass of wine and thought about it as he took a sip. He furrowed his brow and finally said: “We used to listen to the Wave. We heard it all the time and we liked it so it became our song.” 

“That’s a terrible reason to make something our song,” I said. “We could have chosen Highway to Hell. We like that, too.” 

“Yeah, but they didn’t play that on the Wave,” he said with a smile. 

I nodded. That was true enough. On no planet does AC/DC get played on a smooth jazz station.

“We need a better story,” I offered. 

He nodded. “It’s too bad we don’t know a writer.”

He had to play the writer card. I pointed out that making up a story about how a song became our song didn’t sound like the way it was supposed to happen. I don’t know if there is a set way and I’m sure there isn’t. Still, deciding it’s our song seemed like a copout.

As the next song came on, I started to think about it. It’s a great song, Get Here. I looked at my husband, slicing the pizza, and decided that I think it’s our song because in 1995 we were both in search. We didn’t necessarily know what we were in search of until we found it, until we found us. Not to get overly sappy, but I think it’s our song because when we heard it we realized we needed to get to each other to finally find happiness. 

That’s the story I’m sticking with, the story we wrote. Together.

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Powering up the sun

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 19, 2016 9:28 PM

Tucson has an average of 350 days of sun every year. That doesn’t mean that the sun is shining each of those days for 24 hours; rather that each of those days, some sun appears to keep us warm, or in the case of the summer, hot. We can have a sunny day that turns black within hours. The skies open and the deluge begins, lasting for 30 minutes or so before retreating. The skies then clear and the sun shines once again. A sunny day. Only rarely do we have completely overcast days. Most of those result in some sort of weather. Even more rarely, it’s just cloudy. 

This type of sun drenching makes Southern Arizona the perfect place for solar power, something that the utility companies fight. For a while, they discontinued working relationships with some of the bigger solar companies, like Solar City. The rebates that were once offered if you went solar have been rescinded. The utility companies don’t like that anything taking money from their little coal-producing pockets so they lobby to have rates increased for using their grid. Some have been swatted down but as this is a “red” state, most have been approved. We wouldn’t want to do anything that might be good for the planet but not necessarily good for the utility company. 

Unless you’re ordinary civilians like us. We want to do things that are good for the planet. We use only canvas bags when we go grocery shopping. We don’t let water run unnecessarily. We even turn off the hose when washing the cars. Lately, we actually use the rain to wash the cars and it has worked well. We keep the air conditioning temperature set at 78º so it’s not running constantly; we keep the heat set at 62º which means it runs rarely. We pick up after the dog. And we don’t drive very much. Yes, when we do drive it tends to be our big 5500 pound SUV, which isn’t good because it doesn’t get good gas mileage. But we only put 7500 miles on it over the course of a year and a half, so we sort of negate that issue. 

When we moved here we immediately started thinking about solar. When we finally got into the house, we started calling solar companies. We went with Solar City. There was zero upfront cost and a flat fee every month regardless of whether it’s a high production month like July or a lower one like January. We signed a 20-year lease at the end of which we can re-up. It has a full-warranty. Our 39 panels were installed on our roof in early December. We can’t see them from the ground, but we can when we climb up the hill. That suits us just fine.

In order for the system to begin generating solar power that can then be turned into electricity to power the house, the electric company had to come out and approve the installation. After they approved the installation, they then had to come back and install a solar meter. The panels feed into two inverters that then convert the energy into electricity and feed that back to Tucson Electric Power, otherwise known as TEP. TEP gets to use our energy and supply us back what we produced. If we don’t produce enough, we have to buy more from them. If we produce more than we use, they get to buy it from us. Win sort of win.

TEP was here on Friday to install the new meter. Yesterday we got official notification that we were go for power up.

We started outside at the meter where we flipped the two fuses to on, and then pushed the lever up, also to on. We went to the garage, where the inverters are located, opened the control box, turned both of those fuses on and then dialed the boxes to go. A hum started. Lights began to flash. The LED panel began charting numbers. Power in, power out. 

Last night, as the sun went down, the inverters powered down. When there’s no sun, there’s no work. Makes sense. It’s how most of us use our days as well, working while the sun shines, retiring once the sun sets. 

We’re officially on solar power now, we’re officially saving money and the environment. Win really win. That’s living it out loud.

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Comfort clothes

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 18, 2016 8:10 PM

We had one of those days where we got up before 7 and didn’t actually get to take a shower and clean up until after 8. PM. 

I’m not complaining except I sort of am. I’m used to rolling out of bed and into sweats (in the winter) or shorts (in the summer), slipping on a pair of sneakers, walking the dog and then settling into a long day’s work. Some days, the work is infinitely long; other’s it’s not too bad. Some days I get a lot accomplished; other days, not so much. Today was sort of a mish mash of all. Long, but not horrible; some stuff accomplished but not nearly enough.

Our days are familiar. We walk the dog, we work; we have coffee intermittently. We have lunch, we work some more; we sunset. We either shower right before sunset or right after, depending on the time of year. Lately it’s been right after because the sun sets between 5 and 5:30. Then we emerge, clean and sparkly, in fresh jeans and a sweater, or fresh shorts and tee, again depending on the time of year. Kevin often puts shoes back on. I’m a slippers kind of guy. I almost always put some sort of slipper on to roam the house for the evening hours. In the summer, I eschew my slippers for flip flops, sort of slippers-light. 

We dinner after we shower. 

Today, after a sort of productive but not enough day, I had a phone meeting. It started at 6:30. It ended just after 8. We had not yet showered and we were both feeling a little grimy, a lot out of sorts. We finally got into our big, beautiful shower about 8:06. The shower is a masterpiece as far as we’re concerned. You step down into and round the corner. There are two shower heads. The entire shower is wrapped with a bench. It’s one of our favorite rooms in the house and it is very much like a small room. The only downside is cleaning it. It takes over an hour.

We emerged clean and sparkly. And both immediately reached for sweatpants and sweat shirts – both clean, as the stuff we wore during the day got dumped into the hamper. We also grabbed slippers, even Kevin. It was too late to put anything else on. It was like slipping into jammies. 

It was late, it was cold-ish, it was dark. We were both tired. Our eyes hurt, our brains ached. Sweats seemed the perfect way to end an otherwise imperfect Monday. Comfort clothes, much like comfort food, just make you feel better. You wouldn’t wear them out in public anymore than you’d order comfort food in a restaurant, but they’re easy, they’re clean; they’re comfortable. 

It was our way of living it out loud casually, comfortably. And as an added bonus, we can simply place these sweats next to the bed so that we can slip into them in the morning as we prepare to take Riley for a walk. And start another day anew.

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Bed hair

by Lorin Michel Sunday, January 17, 2016 7:53 PM

Neither Kevin or I slept well last night. I’m still fighting my sore throat – it seems to come and go depending on how much sleep I get and how run-down I am. Interestingly there seems to be a direct correlation between the two. If I don’t sleep well, I’m more run-down. Cue the flaming throat. Like most people who don’t sleep, not sleeping leads to much tossing and turning. When one tosses and turns, the head gets spun from side to side on the pillow, and the hair gets mussed.

I sleep on my sides. Sometimes almost on my stomach. So does Kevin. I like the cuddle factor that’s present with sleeping on my side. I feel like I can pull the covers up closer when I’m on my side. I can wrap them around me and burrow in. I like to burrow. 

I was up several times last night for absolutely no reason. When I wake up, I get hot, then I have to spend some time cooling down. After flinging the covers mostly off, I gradually add them back on so I can get back to burrowing. This can take some time. Ever since we moved and I tweaked my knee, I’ve had trouble with it. Sometimes at night, it really bothers me. I suspect because I’ve bent it too much in the curling up and burrowing process. That also keeps and kept me up. I had a headache because of the pressure system of an incoming weather pattern. That always gives me a headache. I knew it was coming. I could feel it before I went to bed. I keep a supply of ibuprofen on my side table along with a full glass of water. At least twice in the night I popped three. Between my knee and my sore throat, I was feeling exhausted and yet unable to get into a deep, restful recovery sleep. I tossed and turned; I wreaked havoc on my hair.

Kevin drove back from LA yesterday in record time, about seven and a half hours from Oak Park where he had to stop to deliver something to someone. Labels, I think. It’s at least 540 miles. He was hauling. But when you drive that fast, you have to be completely alert not that you’re not alert when you drive in general. He was tag-teaming with an orange pickup truck; both going nearly 90. Hyper alert. He was exhausted but sometimes when you’re exhausted, you don’t sleep as well as you’d think. At least that was the case with Kevin.

He also sleeps on his sides. He doesn’t tend to toss and turn as much as I do. He pretty much gets into a position and sticks with it unless he wakes up. And he did last night, a lot. Like me, he also wakes up and his body temperature immediately rises. He’s hot. He kicks off the covers. Then he spends time re-layering covers. He tries to get comfortable. 

The only one in the house who doesn’t seem to have trouble sleep or getting comfortable is Riley. Maybe because he doesn’t have covers.

Eventually we both fell into a final, albeit restless sleep. We woke up for the final time somewhere around 7:40. Sunday mornings we don’t walk Riley – it’s our day of rest – so we knew we could relax a bit. We got up, put our customary sweats on, looked at each other, pointed and laughed. Major bed hair. Kevin’s was sticking up and forward on the right side. Mine was sticking up on both sides and in the back, curls curling in all the wrong ways.

I took a brush to mine and did my best to get it to a place where I could at least tuck it behind my ears. Kevin pulled out a baseball hat.  Sunday morning began with bad hair, bed head and all. So what’s worth celebrating? Well, at least we both still have hair to get tangled and pushed and look bad in the morning.

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Anatomy of a butt rub

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 15, 2016 9:07 PM

Kevin has created a monster and it goes by the name of Riley Boo. He’s a cute monster as monsters go, not at all gooey and nasty. His head is not square and flat, he doesn’t have bolts protruding from his neck. He is not green. He does not resemble any kind of imagined alien. He does have pointed canine teeth, much like Dracula, but I have yet to see him using them to draw blood. He does not hunt innocent prey unless you count bugs which I don’t.

This monster wears his reddish-blonde fur easily. His ears flop even in non-existent breezes. He had perfected the puppy prance and spin. In the mornings, when he rises he yawns and stretches at least six times, front paws extended almost flat, butt in the air. He elicits a high-pitched squeal that threatens to shatter glass. While Kevin and I get ready to walk him, donning sweat pants and sweatshirts, he rolls around on his back for a few minutes, enjoying that it’s morning. We do not share this joy; rather we simply deal with the fact that it is. Once shoes come out of the closet, he rolls back to his four feet and merrily trots to Kevin who is almost always sitting on the white hamper stool. As he put his socks on, the monster beings to move into position. Once the shoes are slipped on and the tying of the laces begins, the monster will. Not. Be. Ignored. 

When we had Cooper, he was a leaner meaning he liked to lean into whoever he was near. He wasn’t a hugger and definitely not a kisser. He would position himself so that he was parallel to Kevin’s legs. Then he’d lean and Kevin would rub his butt. Cooper had some hip issues and the butt rub seemed to make his hips feel better. Cooper didn’t abuse the butt rub though. He wasn’t insistent. He was, nearly, polite. Please, dad, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind giving me just a little bit of a rub?

Kevin has continued this practice with Riley, who doesn’t really have hip issues but rather pretends. Or at least he pretended at first. Now he has jettisoned any pretense and instead goes for the blatant. Oh, I see you’re putting your shoes on. Rub. My. Butt. Now. 

Riley does not stand parallel and lean; he stands perpendicular and pushes his butt up against Kevin, making it impossible for Kevin to tie his shoes. As he rubs the dog, laughing, Riley twists and contorts a bit. You missed a spot. Could you get that spot right. There? 

He is insistent. He doesn’t let up. He will not be pushed away. He will, instead, get a butt rub for as long as he wants it, and if he truly had a choice, that would probably be most of the morning, walk be damned. Kevin obliges and fur literally flies through the air. It’s quite funny to watch the monster in action and to watch the monster-creator laugh, and then try, usually unsuccessfully, to extricate himself. Riley will have none of this and so it continues. 

The butt rub is not actually the butt, of course. It’s the top of the tail and then down the back legs. The butt is not really involved. But we call it a butt nevertheless as it’s the rear end of the dog. And Riley doesn’t seem to care what it’s called as long as it continues, indefinitely, into perpetuity, forever. I love you, dad. You’re the best dad, ever. Oh? You’re stopping? Don’t stop. Oh. OK.

Let’s go for a walk instead!

Mornings at the Michel’s. Rubbing it out loud.

Words to sip by

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 13, 2016 9:06 PM

Years ago, Kevin’s sisters gave me a coffee cup. I think Kevin and I both got similar cups though his had a different saying on it. They were probably part of a Christmas present. Kevin’s has long been broken. I don’t remember it well though I suspect it had something to do with building. Like his father, Kevin loves to build things. I’ve always thought that if he could do just about anything, he would make furniture. When Mike was designing the house, we had several requests, one of which was that Kevin wanted a shop. In the past, when he would build things, we’d have to move both vehicles out of the garage, take out all of the equipment. He’d build, then we’d have to clean everything up in order to put the cars back in the garage.

We now have a three car garage, a wide, sweeping arc of a garage that is one big room, large enough for three cars with lots of space between. The back of bay two extends out into the desert. It can’t be seen from the front of the house, from the front of the garages. But step inside, and there it is. This is his shop, with his table saw and other saws and equipment permanently out and always ready to use. He would happily spend all of his time in there if he could. He can’t and I think it brings him down a bit. 

Everyone dreams of something. They want to live somewhere they’re not living, do something they’re not doing. I wrote just a few days ago about my desire to simply write stories and books, and be lucky enough to make some sort of living at it. It’s difficult to follow your dream; scary. There are bills to pay, after all. It makes dreaming frivolous.

Still, we do it. If you lose sight of your dreams, you die. In the horridly successful movie Flashdance, the boyfriend character, Nick, played by Michael Nouri in all of his dark curled glory, said one profound thing: “When you give up your dream, you die.” It has stuck with me. To dream is to hope, and hope is a powerful force.

Kevin would also make wine. I ordered six vines for him for Christmas. They’ll be here on March 21. The first vines for Michel Cellars. He would make wine and build furniture. He likes to work with his hands and use his smarts to figure out what needs to be figured out. It’s probably why he’s so meticulous. Meticulous is a good thing, though not a guarantee that things will always be the way he wants them. The way any of us want them. 

My mug contains a quote that works for both of us. It’s simple, elegant, and unknown. 

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

This is the mug that Susan and Julie sent to me so many years ago. It was and remains perfect for both Kevin and I. We stopped looking for ourselves a long time ago, I think around the time we found each other. But we have not stopped trying to create ourselves, both together and as individuals.

Creating is a process. It takes brain power and concentration; it takes perseverance. It takes optimism and possibility. It takes … believing in a mug.

This mug was sitting on my desk today. Steam curled up and out, toward the ceiling, dissipating into the day. Hot apple cider, our drink of choice after lunch. I sat and stared, and dreamed. Then I reached over, picked it up, and sipped.

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Foxy

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 11, 2016 9:08 PM

We have a fox. I suspect we've had our fox for quite sometime. I further suspect that we may have more than one. But we've only seen one so I'm going singular. Our fox was first noticed several months ago when Kevin was down on the main road meeting with Dan the weed man. Foxy sauntered out from the brush at the bottom of our property and across the road. 

"Is that a cat?" Dan asked. Kevin shrugged his shoulders. He didn't think so but he couldn't be sure.

"Seems like the tail is too fluffy to be a cat."

This morning, Riley was on the deck as he so often is in the morning after we return from our walk. He likes to take one of his toys - one of his "guys" - and survey his kingdom, watch the desert go by. This includes barking at the neighbors who deign to leave their houses and whining at any perceived injustice such as a bird flying too low or the whiff of some creature that can only be seen by him. We heard a whine followed by a shrill yip followed by more whining. Naturally we opened the door to tell him to settle down. 

He was fixated on something down below and just to the east. Kevin recognized it immediately. The cat that is actually a fox. Cute, small, lithe. It moved easily up from the road, at an angle, under the lower cacti, along the rock out-croppings. The rocks are mostly an icy gray and near black but are also sprinkled with corral and terra cotta. The fox continued along the rocks, up the hill, finally disappearing into the desert. Riley, of course, was not convinced and continued to huff and puff, whine and squeal, and stare. He was sure that it was still there, not that he knew what it was. He just knew THAT it was. And that it was sure to come back and when it did, he would be ready. To squeal and huff and whine and puff and let that pesky fox know it was on his land, his territory. By dog.

I didn’t know that foxes were indigenous to this area but I shouldn’t have been surprised. With all of the other creatures we have haunting the premises, a fox is relatively minor. We’ve been told we shouldn’t be surprised to see a bear. A bear. We’ve already seen herds of javelinas, a number of deer, coyotes, snakes, tortoises, gila monsters, tarantulas, falcons, ravens, skunks, desert squirrels and all manner of insects and lizards. We haven’t yet seen the famed ring-tailed cats, nor bob cats. So a fox or two really isn’t out of the ordinary. 

The Arizona Gray Fox has a silver-gray coat with reddish fur on its legs and chest, and white on its throat, belly and inside of its legs. It has a long bushy tail with a black tip and black strip. It’s actually a member of the dog family but is known to use its hooked claws to climb trees. It likes to live in the rocky canyons and ridges. A fox can weigh up to 5 pounds, stand about 15 inches tall, and live their 7 – 10 years in a den.

They’re also fairly adorable. Cuddly. Though I’ve no doubt they’d scratch and claw to get away from a hug. 

We’ve named our fox Foxy. Clever, I know. He or she is gray and black and orange and white. Small. It’s what I’m celebrating today.

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