The fliage of time

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 27, 2016 10:47 PM

Time flies. Sometimes it’s when you’re having fun, but it flies, too, even when you’re not. Time flying is not a new concept. No matter what we do, we can’t stop time from continuing. Each day passes, each week, month, year, decade. It flies by. One minute we’re in kindergarten, the next we’re graduating from college. We make friends, we get married, we get divorced, friendships drift away. We lose people, we lose pets. And still time flies. 

We’ve had Riley for a year today. We’re amazed that it’s been that long, that over a year ago we lost Cooper. Over a year ago we moved in. Over a year ago was Roy’s gallery show and the party. Over a year ago when our lives changed again. I look back at the past year that has positively flown, and I can see moments hanging in the air, memory clouds. The day we moved in when I blew out my knee. That same night, Roy and Bobbi arriving. Cooper being so sick and there was nothing anyone could do for him. Taking him to the hospital on Friday in the middle of the night, having a party  – to celebrate Roy – here Saturday night after hastily arranging furniture to make it look like we sort of lived here after three days. Getting the call on Sunday morning that Cooper was gone. 

And then it was April and we were lonely. Going to the Adopt Love Adopt Local event and meeting Jackson, a beautiful Border Collie mix but he was over 10 and we didn’t think it was right to bring him up here on the hill at his age. In hind sight, he probably would have been fine. He seemed so easy going. 

We looked into adopting a special needs dog, a deaf Lethal White Australian Shepherd named Finn. But we didn’t pass the home inspection. They didn’t like that we didn’t have a fenced in yard and were concerned that he might jump over the railing on the deck and into the desert below. 

But if we’d taken Jackson or been approved for Finn, we wouldn’t have gotten our Riley.

Southern Arizona Golden Retriever Rescue came to do a home visit and we passed, even though we didn’t have a yard. We didn’t even have the dog area fenced in yet, but they seemed to trust us, and they liked the fact that we kept our toilet seats down. Several weeks later, “Bernie” arrived. He quickly became Riley. 

A year later, the three of us are living happily up here on the hill. 

Time flies. 

I wonder if it would fly as quickly if we had to pay airfare, though in some ways we do. The one-way tickets would undoubtedly be astronomical. 

I have a theory that life’s airfare involves coach, business and first class, and that whatever one-way ticket we had to buy would somehow be split between all. Think about it. We start out in coach, then, once we’re working, we get to fly business and then, finally, we’re bumped to first class for our older years. If we’re lucky. It’s life’s version of airfare. Because time flies, and that fliage is what I’m celebrating today.

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Proof of success

by Lorin Michel Monday, April 25, 2016 8:14 PM

It occurred to me this morning as I climbed onto my new elliptical that I am perhaps finally successful at being an adult. There I was, just back from walking the dog, in my new gray Russell workout shorts and my old Bruce Springsteen t-shirt from the Tunnel of Love tour, and my Adidas running shoes. The iPod was playing Is this love? by Whitesnake and I was cruising along. I started at level 1 went to level 2 to level 3. I watched the number of strides, the speed, the calories burned. I looked out the window, and I thought: it’s official. I’m an adult. 

In terms of age, I’ve technically been an adult a long time. I’ve owned several houses – very adult things to do. I’ve bought cars. I’ve married and divorced and married again. I’ve helped raise a child. I’ve lost loved ones – my father, my grandparents, my beloved dogs. I’ve built a house. 

And yet I have continued to think of myself as young and sometimes even vibrant. I feel self-conscious sometimes, as if I can’t live up to who I’m supposed to be. I’m not good-enough. This isn’t meant to drum up sympathy. It’s meant only to explain that I often feel inadequate. Everyone else must be better; I haven’t been doing what I’m doing long enough to be this person that I’m supposed to be. I feel sometimes that I’m living a dream and that any minute, something rude will wake me up and I’ll once again be 22  with nothing but my 1979 Toyota Celica and some clothes to my name. No job. No husband. No house. No things. Certainly no elliptical. 

So this morning, as I was on the elliptical, it occurred to me that I actually have become an adult because only adults seem to have nice pieces of exercise equipment in their homes. Oh, I’ve had pieces before. I’ve mentioned my rowing machine, when I broke my foot, but it wasn’t really a nice one. I had a NordicTrack cross country ski machine but it wasn’t that great. At one point, when I decided I was going to look like Linda Hamilton looked in T2, after having seen the movie, I had a full-exercise unit. But it came from Costco and it was fairly inexpensive. 

But there I was, on this beautiful machine, and I felt like I actually was grownup. It is electrical, my elliptical, similar to the more industrial machines you find in gyms. I was looking out the window at the gorgeous landscape out and below. I was striding along, working my heart rate, which you have to do when you’re an adult, checking my calories burned. 

Not me, nor my view. But the right idea.

In my brain, people who have nice pieces of exercise equipment in their homes are successful adults. We went to a client meeting several weeks ago, at the client’s house. He’s a just-retired orthopedic surgeon and his house is very eclectic and wonderful. He’s an art collector so there were amazing paintings and sculptures everywhere. He showed us around and one of the rooms I found the most intriguing was the exercise room he had built off of the master bath. It’s sunken, down three steps. And it had every type of machine you can imagine. It was more than an exercise room; it was a full gym, on a smaller scale. He’s a surgeon. He’s successful.

I have one machine, my elliptical, and don’t necessarily want any others. I like my elliptical, like the workout, and since I don’t run anymore because of the impact on my aging joints, this is a perfect alternative. Fire up the iPod (the elliptical has an AUX plug and speakers), turn on the built in fan, and off I go. Without having to leave the bedroom. It just may prove to me once and for all that I am really and truly, no kidding, an adult and even successful at it. I might have to celebrate that.

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Smoke detector beeps, Gila monster creeps, and one freaked out dog oh my

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 24, 2016 8:04 PM

We have seven smoke detectors in the house, one in each of the bedrooms, one in the west hallway, one in the east hallway, and one on the way out to the garage. We also have two carbon monoxide sensors. One of the east side sensors calls out a mechanical "fire." We found this out shortly after we moved in and it went off one very early morning. We were up and out of bed like we'd been shot out of a cannon. It turned out it had a short, but it begged the question: why do smoke alarms only ever sound when you're sleeping? 

This question occurred to me last night as well. You can guess why based on the title of today's post. It was 2:50 am. Riley had already become agitated several hours before when he was sure he saw something anything and maybe a bear outside. He squealed at the bedroom window as he stared out into the still illuminated night. The moon is waning but it was full just two nights ago so it's fairly bright. Then he raced to the bathroom window, the floor to ceiling wall of glass behind the bathtub. He wedged himself between the tub and the glass and squealed some more. I didn't have to see him do this to know where he was. He does this all day long. On his third trip between the two rooms, I got up to look. I saw no bears, no things. I gave him a kiss and told him to get back in bed. He did. And all was quiet for about two more hours. 

Then. Beep.

Oh, crap. Beep.

Come on. 


The smoke detector in the bedroom was having a battery moment. It’s the kind of beep you want to ignore because you know it’s not smoke nor fire, but it’s so high-pitched and shrill that it’s impossible to sleep through it. Plus the dog was completely freaked out. I imagine the every 30 or 40 second BEEP hurt his ears. It did mine. We trudged out to garage to get the ladder, Riley leading the way, his tail tucked firmly between his legs. He was getting out of the house and away from the noise and fast. While Kevin maneuvered the ladder into the house I took the dog out to pee. There was a baby deer standing on the rocks looking down at us. I wondered if his parents knew where he was at that hour of the morning. 

We finally got the battery replaced, but it took at least 30 minutes to coax the dog back into the bedroom. Kevin finally lured him with cookies. An hour plus later, we finally got back to sleep. All of us. 

This morning it was as if the beeping had never happened. Except for the fact that we were exhausted and our eyes were puffy and we were cranky and the dog didn’t even want to get up. He finally did, and Kevin let him out on the deck. Within minutes, he was barking and howling and whining and pawing at the edge of the deck underneath the rail. Let me at ’em. This was more than the usual someone-is-driving-by-on-the-road-below-and-I-must-be-alert fuss. This was real. Something was down there. Kevin, manly man that he is, went to check. It was 8 am, the sun was already warm. The morning had been fairly quiet up until that point. He returned to the door within about 20 seconds, motioning me to come quickly. You gotta see this. 

And there it was, down below the rail, on the desert floor, motoring south, as quickly as they ever motor: the season’s first official Gila monster. Pale orange and black and about 15 inches long. And Riley did not like it one bit.

Within a five-hour period he encountered a rudely beeping smoke detector and a slinking lizard. It would be enough to freak out a low-key and mellow dog, neither of which have ever been used to described our Riley.

Somewhere in the hills above, the baby deer was still watching. That’ll be enough to send Riley Boo to the moon tonight. Oh my.

In which Kevin plants a vineyard and Lorin helps

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 10, 2016 8:11 PM

Kevin and I are big winos. This does not come as news to anyone who reads this blog or who knows us. Even people that have just met us get a feel for our wino tendencies, especially if they come to the house. That’s undoubtedly because we have a temperature controlled wine room. We went to Stephanie and John’s house a couple of weeks ago and when I asked what I could bring, she didn’t hesitate before putting me in charge of wine. We love wine. We drink it regularly. When we vacation we go wine tasting. We’re rather boring in terms of what we like and like to do, but it works for us.

Years ago, I bought Kevin wine making equipment for Christmas. It was essentially the equivalent of a starter kit. It even came with a box of wine juice. It was very bad wine. But Kevin got hooked on the idea of making wine. Several years later, in 2012, we took the plunge and actually bought grapes, 100 pounds each of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. We fermented them, listening to the crackle and pop for several days. Eventually we pressed them, removing the skins and preserving the juice, aged them, bottled, corked and labeled them. Ultimately we got 72 bottles, 36 of each. 

Now we’ve taken another plunge and have planted our own micro-vineyard in order to grow our own grapes which we can them ferment, press, age, bottle and serve. I say micro because as of now, we only have six actual vines of Barbera. They arrived, wrapped in wet shredded newspaper and plastic in order to keep the moisture in until they got planted. For nearly two weeks, we worked to ready the area, pulling out weeds and bufflegrass, building walls – essentially making a 30 foot by 6 foot planter. 

On Thursday, we unwrapped the plastic, and saw our vines for the first time. They’re very unattractive. Knarly and long, skinny things that look and feel a bit like bark, with spindly, spidery roots. Kevin pulled out the old fermenter, filled it with water and put the roots into the water. They needed to soak for several hours before planting.

Next, out to the vineyard he went to dig holes. In a large vineyard – even a regular size vineyard – vines are planted in rows that are trenched by a machine. Each vine is planted approximately 4 to 5 feet apart. This is because they grow up and then have to be trained along wires in order to have lots of room to grow and to have grapes drop down.

The holes he dug were about 12 inches deep. We placed the vines into the holes, one vine per hole, put a six-foot stake in the ground next to each, then refilled the holes, watered, and stepped back to admire our work. 

This is the beginnings of our long hoped for vineyard. I say beginnings because we have plans to perhaps get more Barbera vines, maybe some Petit Sirah, maybe some Malbec. We have to get vines that do well in this kind of climate but those three do. Our current six vines will produce up to about 70 pounds of fruit, with each individual one capable of between 10 and 12 pounds of grapes. It won’t happen for about 3 years, but once it does and we can pick, de-stem and crush, ferment, press, age, bottle, cork, label. Drink. 

The vintner and his erstwhile helper; the micro-vineyard in the background

Michel Cellars, our fledging winery, will produce estate-bottled wines, meaning wines made only from grapes grown on the property versus wine made with grapes purchased elsewhere. Kevin has long wanted to be a vintner. He’s on his way. By the time he retires, he’ll have enough grape vines to keep him at least partially busy. Until then, and if all goes according to plan, we should have new Barbera wines to drink in about five years. 

That’s wining out loud.

Finally some fun

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 9, 2016 8:39 PM

It occurred to us recently that we are very dull people. I believe this occurrence happened on or about the anniversary of our one-year of residence in the house. As we were sitting at the bar or maybe out on the deck, perhaps in the great room, one of us and probably me looked at the other, probably him, and said: “You know we never do anything fun anymore.” The other looked at me, blankly at first, and then recognition spread across his face, realization dawning. “You’re right. We don’t.” 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. We live a good life. We have this amazing house. We actually and genuinely like each other, and like spending nearly every waking moment together. We’re lucky.

But all we seem to do is work. During the week, we work our regular jobs and on the weekends we work around the house. Kevin has been obsessed with rocking outside, which is both lovely and efficient since the rock functions as a means to divert the falls of water that rush toward us, bursting off of the other and bigger rocks on the hill behind us. When it rains here, it is usually not polite. It is angry, demanding rain. And it threatens to engulf us. We knew we would have some issues before we moved in. We thought we had taken care of it with the wall we built along the driveway in the back. We quickly realized, with the arrival of the first storm last spring, that we hadn’t. 

I do things in the house, like clean. We long ago opted out of a cleaning service, which is funny because the only thing I ever wanted was someone to clean my house. When we moved into the Oak Park house, I informed Kevin that one of the first things I was going to do was hire someone to clean. I work all the time. I didn’t want to spend my free time cleaning. I wanted to occasionally do something, gasp, fun. Even if someone came just to scour the bathrooms and the kitchen once every two weeks, that was enough. Then Justin went away to school and the house wasn’t so dirty anymore. Then the cleaning people started not doing as good a job as we did. Then they started breaking things. We decided to take back our cleaning and we’ve been doing it ever since. 

But now I have this enormous house, and it’s literally impossible to clean it in a day, so I do it in increments, which means that it’s never done. I’m just moving from the west to the east only to start all over again. I go to the grocery store. I change the sheets on the bed. Kevin rocks. We don’t do much that’s fun.

We sometimes have people over for dinner, or go to someone else’s house for dinner. That’s fun. Every once in a while we meet friends for happy hour. That’s fun, too. But most of the time we’re in the house, doing house things. Or working. 

Then Saturday night, we collapse in a heap and watch mindless television. 

So after the revelation mentioned in the first paragraph, today we decided to do something fun. After Kevin spent just a short time outside and I did just a few chores inside (like changing the sheets), we washed the motorcycle, climbed on, went for a long ride, found some place to have lunch and then came home to collapse in a heap and watch television.

It’s how we lived it out loud – and had some fun – on this beautiful Saturday.

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live out loud

Sympathy for the devil

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 6, 2016 8:00 PM

In the early fall of 1980, I moved into a double room on the 5th floor of Stoke Hall at the University of New Hampshire. It had been built as a temporary housing structure in 1967. It is still there and housing students. The largest dorm on campus at the time, it stood 8 stories tall and had three wings. From above, it resembled a "Y," with two shorter wings and one long wing. I was at the end of a long wing.

Stoke Hall was and remains co-ed. That was still a "thing" in 1980. I'm not sure my parents liked it; I know my grandmother was appalled. I thought it was cool.

Stoke was a pit, a hole. The elevators, of which there were two, were mostly out of service. When they were in service they were slow. They smelled of stale beer and other bodily functions. I always took the stairs.

My room was next to a stairwell so there were people clomping up and down at all hours and especially on the weekends. On Friday and Saturday nights, the guys in the floor below played Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones over and over and over again, at ear splitting decibel levels and walk-cracking vibrations. I hated that song.

At some point, I started to like it. It was after college, when I could pack the memories of Stoke away in a box and enjoy the song for the social and political commentary that it was making. The song was written and recorded in 1968, as the opening track for the group’s Beggars Banquet album, and references everything from the  crucifixion of Christ to the Russian Revolution to the Blitzkrieg to the Kennedy assassination.

It occurred to me today that I know what sympathy for the devil means right now, at least for me, because I found myself having sympathy for some republicans.

I am not a fan of republicans in general even though I have married two. Husband number one became a ridiculous republican and very rigid especially when it came to social issues. It was one of so many reasons why we split. Current husband, also known as Kevin, was a republican mainly because he was raised that way, but after George W. Bush was elected (a man that Kevin voted for the first time) he quickly soured on the party and switched his affiliation. As I’ve said before, it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them, and mostly, again, social issues. And the religious right’s influence. 

Like many people in the country, we’ve been watching the train wreck that is this election season’s republican primary and alternating between shaking our heads in disbelief and being simply disgusted. I don’t agree with anything the republican party stands for, but this is even too much, evidently, for a lot of republicans. They too are in disbelief and disgust and can’t imagine voting for either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Part of me, I admit, has found this to be a wonderful bit of schadenfreude. You reap what you sow and all that jazz.

But lately, I’ve been feeling almost a bit of, dare I say it, kinship. I am not a Bernie Sanders supporter. I just don’t like him. I’m not a huge fan of Hillary Clinton either though if I had to choose, and I did, several weeks ago, I voted for Clinton. I have long assumed that there was absolutely no way Sanders could get the Democratic nomination. I’m still not sure there’s a plausible path, but stranger things have happened, especially this primary season. If he gets the nomination, I’m going to be irritated. I’ll vote for him, because he’s still better than anyone on the other side, but I will be doing so without enthusiasm.

So I now have sympathy for some of the devils in the republican party. It’s hard to have the nominee of your party be someone you just can’t stand and don’t think is up to the job of leader of the free world.

I thought of all of this today as my mind drifted back to my Saturday nights in Stoke when I hated the Rolling Stones and especially that song. The ooooo ooos over and over and over again. I get it now. I have sympathy. Maybe this is something that will finally bring us all together. The 4th floor and the 5th floor living in harmony. If it does, it might be something to celebrate. At the very least, it’s still something to ponder.

Banana bread is in the oven

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 3, 2016 9:17 PM

I realize by the time anyone reads this, the title of this post will be in the wrong tense.  I’m surprisingly OK with that. 

I’m writing on a brilliant, warm Sunday morning. You’ll be reading on a Monday morning. But the gist will remain the same. I’m on the deck, a piping hot cup of coffee on the appropriately named coffee table in front of me. My slippered feet are also on the table. My dog is against the wall with perp. Music is flowing from the speakers overhead. I hear the flap of a flag, snapping in the wind down below. Birds are singing. It’s like I’m in a Disney movie.

But my husband is sick. Hence the banana bread. 

Yesterday was readying the vineyard day. I may have mentioned that I bought Kevin six grape vines for Christmas. He has always wanted to grow his own grapes in order to make our own wine. I found some that would grow in this climate. They arrived just over a week ago. As we live on a rock, there is not a lot of deep soil so we had to make our own raised area. We had dirt delivered and Kevin built gabion walls, using some of our infinite supply of rock, to hold it back and make a level, and large, planter. We distributed the dirt yesterday and had a bit of a mishap. Several of the walls tipped over. So what was a one-time job quickly turned into a two-time job. By 5:30, we were both cooked, him even more so than I since he does more of the heavy lifting. In fact, he was so cooked that it was his idea to stop and go in. 

By last night, he had chills. By this morning, he had a fever.

I don’t think it’s the flu. I think it’s more overdidititis. He’s not very good at understanding his perhaps-limitations. He pushes himself way too hard for far too long, and then this happens. 

One of his favorite things in the world is homemade banana bread, and as I was sitting in the kitchen earlier, it occurred to me that I could probably make some. If not a whole recipe then at least a half. I had a fairly good sized and overly ripe banana, flour, eggs, butter, sugar. I also decided to do something a little different this time and mix in a bit of sour cream. I greased the pan and also sifted some sugar-cinnamon onto the butter. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m thinking it can’t be awful, and if it is, for whatever reason, I’ll just toss it. Since Kevin is still in bed, he may never know the difference.

I just went to check on it. I walked into the house and that warm smell of baking wrapped itself around me. It’s so comforting, the fragrance of banana bread. I’m not a huge fan, though I enjoy it. I think I like the smell of it better than anything.  

It’s Sunday morning. Banana bread is in the oven and the husband unit is in bed. It’s quiet, save the wind which has just kicked up. But the day is lush, it’s welcoming. It’s another chance to get it right, whatever it might be. It’s rather how I approach every day, as an opportunity to live it out loud. Today, with baking.

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live out loud

The fine art of giving a dog a pill

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:22 PM

Riley has allergies. This is fairly par for the course since he’s a bit of a mess of a boy. He has terrible anxiety, is a whining disaster in the car, freaks out anytime he hears the garbage truck, chases lizards with wild abandon and doesn’t come when called. He is also the cutest little dude on the planet, and we love him to pieces. 

For the last two weeks, he’s been on prednisone so that we can make sure that his allergies are more seasonal than food related. We’re already sure of that; we were when we went to the vet. He’s been eating the same food for the past year and we’ve had no issues. Plus spring has sprung pretty quickly this year, the winds have been swirling, there’s all kind of stuff in the air. He’s not sneezing but he’s been itching like crazy. The prednisone has helped.

For the first week, his dose was two pills a day. The second week, one a day. This week, we’re doing half a day. All doses are plus cheese. 

When we had Maguire and had to give him pills we tried to do it the way the vet showed us which basically amounted to opening his mouth, and sticking our hands as far down his throat as possible, depositing the pill, removing our hand and then clamping his mouth shut while gently rubbing his throat to make him swallow. Sometimes we’d blow on his nose. He’d stand there, stoically. He’d blink his eyes. Eventually, he’d swallow and we’d think, perfect. Mission accomplished. I’d kiss his nose, Kevin would rub his head, we’d let go of him and get up from the floor, telling him what a good boy he was. 

Then he’d look at us, wagging his tail, and spit the pill out. The little bastard. 

He was a cheese fiend, so we started wrapping his pills in cheese. He would take the offering gently, as he always did – he was very polite – and swallow. Again, mission accomplished. Then he’d spit the pill out. 

The little bastard. 

It was virtually impossible for us to consistently get pills into him. Luckily, he was healthy for the most part and didn’t require a lot of medication during his fifteen plus years with us.

With Cooper we never tried sticking our hands down his throat. He would never have stood for such a thing. He probably would have bitten us – he was not very polite. When he was so sick last year, right before we lost him, he was on a number of medications including prednisone. He too got pretty good at eating around the cheese. Then I had a brain storm, or perhaps it was just light drizzle. Either way, it worked pretty well. Chicken pill pockets. 

I would boil chicken breasts and then, once cool, cut them into small squares. I would then put a small slice into the square, stuff the pill into it, and feed it to the dog. We never lost a pill after that.

Since Riley has been on prednisone, the first time we’ve had to give him pills, he’s been pretty good. I’ve been wrapping them in a bit of Havarti cheese and he’s been scoffing them down. Except for today. Today, I gave him the half pill, safely ensconced in some pretty decent cheese, and he took it as he’s been taking it. Mission accomplished. 

And then Kevin found the half pill in his food bowl. The little bastard.

I might have to resort to chicken breasts with this boy, too. Anything to continue the fine art of giving the dog a pill so that he can remain itch free as he lives it out loud. 

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 24, 2016 8:12 AM

Kevin and I got married in September of 1998, on a lovely Saturday evening, the 26th, in the backyard of our Oak Park home. This coming September will mark 18 years. This month, we have three anniversaries. March 22 is the anniversary of our first date. The year was 1995. Coincidentally, this week is also the anniversary of me going out on my own as a writer. I had been on staff at Sebastian for 6 years and it was time. All last week, I kept getting “congratulations on your anniversary” emails from Linkedin connections. I finally checked to see what the fuss was all about and there it was. March 1995. Twenty one years. Twenty one years dating; 21 years freelancing.

I don’t think there’s a correlation.

It’s been a good 21 years. A lot has happened. My career really took off when I went out on my own and was no longer under the constraints of one client. Sebastian enabled me to do what I did by becoming my biggest client right off the bat. I gave them three days a week, working at an hourly rate. That left me two days to start building my business. Eventually Sebastian got sold and then sold again. P & G now owns them and all of their creative is done elsewhere other than California. 

Over the years, I had some ebb and flow but mostly flow. I was talking with my friend Diane tonight and she mentioned how amazing it is that I’ve stayed and continue to stay consistently busy. I’ve been very lucky. I also still live with the fear that it will all go away soon.

As for my dating-to-married life, it has been an amazing ride. Even after all this time, we still truly like each other. We spend nearly 24-hours a day together and we’re lost when one of us is away. We’re lucky; we know that. Over the years, we have both opened our own businesses. We have lost loved ones (his mother, my father). We raised Justin and got him through some very tough times. It was all worth it. We loved three dogs and lost two. We traveled, we spent time with friends and family. We built a house.

Which leads me to our third anniversary. This week, on the 24th, we will have been in this house for one year. We can’t believe it. We moved in on a Tuesday afternoon. Roy and Bobbi arrived that night around 11 because Roy’s one-man gallery show was starting on Saturday. (Another anniversary) We were sitting on the deck, on the chairs that Kevin had managed to get together, eating pasta and drinking wine at midnight. We all went to bed, among all the boxes in each of the bedrooms, at around 2. 

I can’t believe that we’ve been here for a year. Once again, the passage of time astonishes me.

All three of these anniversaries are ones I happily celebrate. There are also two anniversaries I don’t. Maguire died on March 6 in 2012. Cooper died last March 29. With March comes the good and the heartbreaking. I’ll take the good, while still remembering the sadness of losing our two boys, and celebrate it all. The good and the sad are the definition of living it out loud.

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I'm a proud mama

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 17, 2016 7:55 PM

Justin is on tour with a Disney show, and has been for over a year now. He lives out of a suitcase, which these days is more like a big duffle bag on wheels, moving from city to city to city, either via a big travel bus or, if it’s too far, via American Airlines. Last year, he was on the east coast, visiting all kinds of cities east of the proverbial Mississippi, and then went down to Mexico for a month. Since August, or maybe it was September, he’s been on the west coast except that this week he’s in Ft. Myers, Florida. Not sure how that’s west coast, but it matters not. We hadn’t heard from him in quite a while. He sometimes goes dark for a month or more at a time and we get nary a text. If he didn’t post via Swarm on Facebook, we’d never know where he was. 

But we had a chance to talk with him last night, and, as it so often is, it was delightful. 

He and several of his buddies on tour, including his girlfriend, have three days off in Ft. Myers so they rented a house. Because he had some time, he decided to use a bit of it to call his parents.

The conversation began with the usual. Him giving us a rundown of what’s been happening on the tour, where he is, what he’s doing; us telling him that all we do is work but that we are trying to have more of a life, and that we even have plans this weekend. He asked about Riley; we asked about Kelsey. Then Kevin asked him about politics, and I started to smile.

For the next two hours, we talked politics. He has been paying close attention to the presidential race, watching the debates on both sides, devouring the Rachel Maddow show, reading up online about what’s happening. He has studied the issues, he had very thoughtful and insightful things to say about it all.

From the time he was little we tried to teach him two things: to question everything unless he knew it to be true; and to never let anyone give him his opinion, least of all us. Come to think of it, both of those things are somewhat inter-related. I’m proud to say that he has actually repeated it to me, when I’ve casually asked if he remembers what I always said when he was little. Without missing a beat, he says: “Question everything.”

I am a flaming liberal and proud of it. I always have been. Kevin was a Republican when we got together. He reluctantly admits that he voted for George W. Bush in 2000. And then, he was done. By 2004, he had come over to the dark side. I had nothing to do with it. I’m not that persuasive. The Republican party did it all by themselves. I’ve never hidden my liberalism, except from clients because it’s just not appropriate to talk politics or religion in certain company, not if one wishes to maintain a good and strong relationship. Both Kevin and I actively supported Barack Obama, in 2008 and in 2012. In 2008, Justin was still in high school and not at all politically informed. It didn’t interest him. On election night, as Kevin and I stood in front of the fireplace, watching the returns, we called for him to come downstairs to witness history. As the polls closed in California and Brian Williams said “We have news,” calling the race for Obama, we wept. I don’t know if Justin realized the magnitude of what had just happened. His generation – and here is where I sound old – doesn’t really think much about someone’s skin color or religion or sexual orientation. The election of Obama was that night and remains to this day one of the proudest moments of my life. 

Justin and Kelsey in Mexico last summer

Justin supports Bernie Sanders. It’s not at all surprising. He listed a number of reasons why, mostly policy related. He understands that it’s an uphill battle. I asked him if Sanders doesn’t win the nomination if he would support Clinton. I know in the heat of the season, many people get almost too enamored with their chosen one and vow to never support the other person. I get it; I do. But it’s counter-productive. The real issue is that the party you support win in November. I didn’t say all of that, of course. Because that’s my opinion. I just asked the question. He didn’t hesitate saying of course, and then went on to explain exactly what I was thinking. That there are issues at stake that are too important. 

As we were talking one of his friends came into the room where he was and gave him some wine. Kevin poured us some, too. 

Justin has also taken to wine. And not just any wine, but good, strong, hair-on-the-chest red wine. Syrahs and Petite Verdots. He goes wine tasting. He asks questions. He has a remarkable palette and nose. When he was in high school, he was very judgmental about wine and alcohol in general. Kevin and I were branded alcoholics because of our love of wine and wine tasting. He has come to realize that it’s an art form, a hobby; something to be savored. And it’s also a lot of fun.

Last night, he was in Florida and we were in Arizona. He was holding court about politics, and drinking red wine. We all were. I was so proud all I could do was smile, and raise a glass to my boy. Here’s to him, and his amazing mind, his personality, his goals. I’m bursting.

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