by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 18, 2017 10:27 PM

As a rule, heat doesn’t bother me. Unlike Bobbi, who despises hot more than anything, I prefer it to the alternative. Bobbi prefers cold. They keep their AC set in the 60s if memory serves. Poor Roy walks around in a parka. 

Southern California gets hot, especially in the San Fernando Valley. I remember days driving from Pasadena/Glendale, west toward either Calabasas (where we lived first) and later on, toward Oak Park. Both were out of the Valley but Calabasas was closer. Calabasas actually starts in the Valley and then rolls up and over the appropriately named Calabasas Grade. Woodland Hills comes right before Calabasas. Both are tucked up against the hill, so the heat gets stuck there. Does it ever. It wasn’t uncommon in the summer, under the late afternoon sun and hanging smog to see the temperature gauge on the car climb into the low 100s. I think the highest I ever saw it was 116º but I didn’t really believe it. I figured it was the heat of the asphalt and car engines that drove it up. 

Still, it was smoldering. 

It was hot. We like the heat. So naturally we moved into the inferno known as the Sonoran desert. It’s a fascinating place, where it freezes in the winter – and sometimes snows – and boils in the summer. We’re not in summer yet, technically. Evidently someone forgot to tell that to the weather gods, however. It was 113º here today up on the hill. Absolutely smothering, smoldering, sizzling heat. The kind of heat where you really can’t go out. The kind of heat that, when you take the dog out to pee, you become very impatient. No sniffing; no dawdling. Just pee and get the hell in the house. 

Several weeks ago, we bought an air conditioner for the garage. A portable one, with a big hose that can vent out one of the high windows. In order for it to reach said window, it has to be raised. Kevin has it sitting on one of his saw tables. This morning, I turned it on early. We did some planting down at the bottom of the road, then came back up the hill. We left the Classic outside in the driveway to bake and keep the garage cool. We had breakfast. We talked to Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law, we read the paper, we cleaned up the kitchen. And then he went out to do some garage clean-up. Our little AC unit kept the area decent. Not quite cool because it’s simply too big of an area and too small of a unit, but it wasn’t horrible. Especially given the outside temps. At one point, when I took Riley out to pee in his designated area which is out the man-door off the back of the garage, and then came back in, I was amazed at how much cooler it was in the garage. 

This afternoon as the sun was drifting down to the west, alighting the smoke of a fire that’s burning somewhere far away from us, we took stock of the weekend. We watched the desert fade into dusk and marveled as it flattened out.

The only word I could think to describe the day was simmering. Something cooking slowly. And yet still beautiful, even in its infinite harshness. Worth celebrating.  

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live out loud

I love my washing machine. Is that wrong?

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 6, 2016 7:08 PM

When husband #1 and I bought our first townhouse, a small three story in Northridge, in 1987, we had to buy appliances. It was the first time we’d had to do that, since when you rent, most rentals come with the requisite stove, refrigerator, sometimes a microwave and occasionally a dishwasher. We bought everything used because we couldn’t afford anything new. When we bought our first house, just over a year later, it was brand new so we did get to pick appliances to install, at least for the kitchen. It was part of the price, similar to the color of the carpet and the countertop tile. We brought our used almond-colored washer and dryer with us. The laundry area was in the garage so I didn’t care, and it worked just fine. 

After we got divorced, I took the washer and dryer with me since the house he was renting had both. I needed them for the townhouse I bought. They continued to work great for several years. Then came January 17, 1994 when the earth shook and Southern California broke into a million pieces. At least that’s how it felt. In addition to all of my crystal dying a shattering death, my washer and dryer were also inexplicably killed. I never understood how since they were both locked inside a small room off of my patio, next to my hot water heater.

I got two new used pieces to replace them. They were barely used, or mostly new which is how I chose to think of them. They were new to me, made by Whirlpool, both white and a bit more modern. Neither was big but they were big enough, even when I once again became two when Kevin moved in. Those two pieces moved with us into our Oak Park home and served us well for another 16 years. We never had a problem with either of them. 

But when we moved to Tucson, we sold them. The house we were renting had a full laundry room including a decent washer and dryer. They weren’t great but they washed our clothes. When we finally moved into this house, we had the opportunity to get everything brand spanking new, including the washer and dryer. We had a budget, of course, and all of our appliances needed to fit into the budget. We couldn’t get the big, fancy washers and dryers that are offered now. The front loading washers; the dryers big enough to put small children or big dogs inside. We went with GE everything and went to a showroom to pick out the refrigerator, the double wall oven, the microwave, the cook top and the dishwasher. We purchased the washer and dryer, sight unseen, based on what money we still had in the budget which wasn’t a lot. I think there was about $1000 left for both. If you’ve done any shopping lately for a washer and dryer you know that each one can cost more than that.

The thing is, they all do the same thing. And there is just Kevin and I. And we don’t have a need for anything fancy.

I was pleasantly surprised when they were delivered and installed. They were bigger than I thought they’d be. They were shiny white which is OK. I would have preferred stainless but they weren’t available in stainless in our price range.

They are my first new washer and dryer. I’m in my early 50s now. I feel like I’ve finally grown up. I don’t have to buy used appliances. Yee haw! 

They have the added benefit of being pretty cool. New washers these days don’t have a center agitator, or at least this one doesn’t. It’s a big stainless steel tub that agitates by swishing the clothes around rather than by twisting them around a center stalk. I love that. It’s much less wear and tear on my sweatpants. As I loaded up the washer this morning with fleece jackets and vests, I thought these very simple words: I love my washing machine. Then I thought quickly: Is that wrong? I’ll just say this, if loving my washer is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Sitting here at my eat-at bar, typing away, and listening to my washer washing it out loud. Life is clean this beautiful Saturday afternoon.

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live out loud

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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live out loud

I think this is why

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 29, 2015 8:51 PM

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot lately. I think it started when we moved two years ago, though it was probably actually when we bought the property in 2010. Something inside was looking forward to what is to be, to what can be. We love California, as clichéd as it is, we love LA, but we needed to make a change in order to move forward.

When I look out the windows in my glass house, I see what we’ve been able to do, that we have indeed moved forward. Yes, our careers remain the same, but we are preparing for what’s next.

I think the reason I think about retiring – something that never occurred to me 10 years ago – is because I want to simply enjoy my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it now. I do. I love my husband and my dog. I love my friends and family. I love what I do for a living. I know many people who can’t say that. But to be able to just go off on a trip, of any length, anytime, would be nice. To know that our income would hold steady, that we’d have enough money to live our lives the way we live our lives, would be lovely. To relax more would be heavenly. That’s not to say I wouldn’t work, or at least continue to write. As I said, I love what I do. But to perhaps be a little less consumed by it, a little less frantic. I think about that. Life in a slower lane. I think about that, too.

I think this is why we chose the desert. It’s just easier here. The city is small, the people are friendly. But it’s a slower pace in general. Maybe it’s the heat, but people move more gently. I think it’s why we also chose to live on the far north east side of the city, no longer even within the city limits. There’s a peace here that was missing before. When we were younger, we thrived on the constancy of Los Angeles. It’s a vibrant city, filled with people and lights. It’s a place to discover yourself but it eventually becomes a place where you lose yourself as well, swallowed up by the traffic and the anonymity of it. When you’re in the 20s and 30s, it’s enough that the sun shines and the ocean glistens, that you can hike to the Hollywood sign and enjoy music at the Hollywood Bowl; that Beverly Hills remains aloof and that the canyons carve a path from the city into the Valley, a city unto itself. It pulses. Then you become 40 and 50, watching life go by too quickly. It’s not enough any more.

I think this is why I wanted to slow it down a bit. Savor it.

I want to travel the country by car. I love road trips. I want to experience every state, just explore, while I’m still young enough to appreciate it all, and still young enough to actually do it. To climb in and out of a car, to hike, to breathe in all that there is from the west to the east, south to north and everywhere in between. Maybe I’ll even go to Texas, a state I have always avoided except for passing through DFW.

I think this is why I want an Airstream. I just want to go, to escape, to live free, live long, live strong. Live riveted to life. I think that’s it. Tonight, I think it’s worth celebrating.

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live out loud

So big it’s claustrophobic

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 20, 2015 8:56 PM

I spoke with my friend Diane today. She and Gene are up in Oregon. It’s their third or fourth trip and they’re in the process of deciding whether or not to move. It’s a big decision, but one they seem on the verge of making and I couldn’t be happier for them.

We all moved to LA at around the same time, give or take a few years. Diane moved from Detroit. I believe Gene moved from Ohio. I moved from the North East, Kevin from Chicago, Bobbi from Wisconsin. Roy is the only native amongst us. One of the lasting jokes about Los Angeles is that everyone there is from somewhere else. I’m not sure that’s as true now as it used to be but I suspect it is.

Los Angeles has long held sway over young people, especially those in entertainment. Diane moved to be closer to the music industry and for a time, worked as a recording studio manager. Gene, a musician, moved to be in the music industry. Bobbi moved to work in the music industry as well. She had actually been accepted into USC as a music major but never went. Roy was already in the music industry. He worked as an artist for United Artists Records which eventually became Capitol Records when Capitol bought them. He designed album covers.

Bobbi worked for Diane. Then Diane moved onto someplace else and Bobbi got a job at Capitol where she met Roy.

I’m not sure how I expected to meet my fame and make my fortune. I had entertained being a screenwriter, and I actually had several things that were nearly optioned. But I soon gave that up and just decided to write for me, and for anyone who wanted – wants – to pay me.

Kevin’s background is sales and marketing but he decided to also go more toward the creative in 2000 when he quit his job and started his own web development, design, and marketing company.

LA was very good to us all. It gave us a shot at our creative careers. Perhaps even more importantly, it introduced us to some of the best people we know. I’ve been friends with Roy and Bobbi since 1989, with Diane since shortly thereafter and with Gene since shortly thereafter that. Kevin and I got together in 1995 but he also knew Roy and Bobbi from before. We’re all just one big happy coincidence.

The ranch where Diane and Gene are staying. Gene posted this yesterday.

We’ve all decided that LA is more for younger people. I don’t consider any of us old, but we’re long past our 20s and 30s, the time when traffic isn’t as bothersome, when the outrageousness of the city doesn’t irritate. When you get to the point where every time you go somewhere it’s a major ordeal because of traffic; when you have to check the traffic reports before you leave the house; when even after doing all of that, you’re still late because of traffic, it gets frustrating. As Roy always says, it takes the fun out of the balloon.

We stopped having fun in LA a long time ago. We rarely left our house in Oak Park because it was just too painful to go anywhere. Diane and Gene are in that place now, too, and like us, they can take their careers elsewhere. Plus, should they move to Oregon, it’s not that far from LA. It’s easy to get back when you need to.

We talked about it all today. She’s ready; Gene is a little more apprehensive. But their lives in LA are now nostalgic. Gene was the lead guitarist for Joe Cocker and toured the world for years. But Joe died just before Christmas last year and none of the other band mates live in LA either.

Los Angeles is wondrous, adventurous, full of possibility. It’s also claustrophobic because it’s so big. All of the concrete and traffic and buildings and people seeking their break close down around you. You don’t really realize it until you get out. We miss the ideal of it but no longer the idea of it. I suspect Diane and Gene may be doing the same in the not too distant future, and we wish them dogspeed on their way to living it out loud.

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live out loud

I am awed and sometimes frightened by the power of nature

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 16, 2015 7:56 PM

I’m not sure my mother has ever really understood why I choose to live in the west. Our family never strayed from the east coast until I decided that I was born to live here. I don’t know if, even now, I can articulate what drew me here but I always wanted to live in the Southwest. It had somehow always been in my soul; perhaps I was a Native American in a former life.

I’ve lived in the west since 1984, first in San Diego, then in Scottsdale, then in LA for 27 years, now Tucson, for nearly 2. One of the things I heard a lot was “aren’t you afraid of earthquakes?” I suppose I never really thought about it. I try to live in the moment and not think too much about what ifs. Like every other human being, sometimes I succumb regardless to worry and wonder, but I also actively practice the “everything happens for a reason and when it’s supposed to” mantra. Granted it can often be hard to see what the reason can possibly be. Disaster and death can be so seemingly random. Think about the person who kisses his or her loved ones goodbye in the morning with a “see you tonight” and then is killed in a car crash.

So I never worried too much about earthquakes, even after I experienced the Northridge quake in 1994. 6.8 on the Richter scale. It was terrifying but not enough to make me pack up and move. After all, every part of the country, indeed every part of the world, has their own version of disaster and most people don’t move from where they’ve made their homes. They simply clean up the mess and continue living.

I remember my dad calling me days after the quake – it took a while for phone service to resume and cell phones were not common – and saying “honey, don’t  you think it’s about time you started thinking about moving back here?” I didn’t think so and I didn’t leave, not for another 19 years and when I did it had absolutely nothing to do with earthquakes.

The awesome power of Mother Nature is always something that astounds me, something I try to respect. As human beings, we believe, foolishly, that we can somehow control our fates. That we can build towering skyscrapers near fault lines and that as long as we include the latest sway technology, those buildings will withstand a quake. Yes it will shake, sure it will sway enough to make you feel seasick, but it won’t fall.

Bullshit. We cannot build anything that truly withstands the power of nature and I am forever humbled and awed by such a fact. There is no force greater than the earth itself. We build bridges and we retro fit our homes and we believe that we are fine. And then Mother Nature clears her throat and a city is leveled in 20 seconds. Look at the poor people in Nepal, or Fukishima, or any other city that has experienced an earthquake. Look at the Midwestern towns that have been laid flat by tornados. Look at the gulf coast that has been flooded and destroyed by hurricanes. Look at avalanches and fire.

We are small and insignificant, and I embrace my miniature status.

Remnants of the storm above and beyond the hill

Last night, sometime around 2, the wind began to howl, that bracing, low roar that alternately whistles through open windows and cactus needles. Soon, rain began to fall. Actually, fall is too soft a word. It began to pound. The skylight in the bathroom sounded like it would fracture. I got up to close the windows as the rain turned to hail and hammered the deck. The winds, I found out today, were nearly 50 miles per hour. The house stood firm but the air vents screamed in agony, the deck furniture scraped and whined. I was sure the pillows from the couches would end up down in the desert, blown over the rails. The cactus bent nearly over in two before snapping up. This went on for two hours, maybe more, and I laid awake the entire time, listening, wondering and marveling. I wasn’t worried; I was awed.

Today, the sky was still overcast. The ground was still wet, the air cool. I watched as heavy clouds oozed over the hillside above and behind us. And as I watched, blue sky opened, just enough to allow the sunshine to squeeze through and bath the hill in warmth. Mother Nature had made her point and now she was feeling better. I smiled and nodded in agreement, forever humbled by this part of the world that I choose to call my home. And as I watched, I realized why I love it so much here. It’s the mystery, and the glory, of it all.

Oh, deer

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:12 PM

The desert always amazes me. Friday night, after several hours spent unpacking boxes, I cut them up, flattened them, and put them in the back of the Range Rover. The hatch wouldn’t close so I started down the hill very slowly. At the second turn, I sensed some movement and slowed even further. A deer emerged in front of me and bounced across the road, up the hill and out of sight. I smiled.

I expected to see rattlesnakes, which I have, though not as many as I would have thought. I saw more in California. I expected to see lizards, and they’re plentiful. I’ve seen gila monsters which generally freak me out. They’re funky looking creatures, black and corral or black and pink or black and lavender. They lumber across the road or through the desert. Every time I see one and it’s not often, I recoil a bit. I’m not generally squeamish. I think with gila monsters I remember what a woman said to me when we first moved here. “Make sure you watch your dog closely because they’ll be curious and go to sniff and the gila monster can’t get out of its own way and so it will bite, and when it bites, it doesn’t let go.” I could just imagine Cooper with one of those things hanging off of his neck, panicking, as we flew to the vet.

My sister has long been worried about scorpions. When Mike was here last week, and Bobbi was here alone, he proceeded to tell her that he was going to beef up the padding around the door and to be very careful because new construction tends to scare out the scorpions. I had never seen one. And of all people to tell, he tells Bobbi who’s not especially fond of spiders and creepy crawly things. Yesterday, when I moved a box in the bedroom, I saw one. They’re smaller than I thought they’d be, and easily and quickly killed. I told Kevin we needed to start emptying our shoes before we put them on, just in case.

Coyotes roam through the cactus freely. We haven’t seen any out here; haven’t even heard their incessant howls in the night. We heard them more when we lived in the city. Coyotes were plentiful in California, too, of course. We used to see them regularly when we were hiking. I saw one brazenly walking down the street one night in Oak Park. It was on the sidewalk and just meandering along. It was late, probably after midnight and I was taking Maguire out to pee. He always had to pee in the front yard. It was routine. I always checked first to make sure the proverbial coast was clear. It wasn’t. That coyote stopped right in front of the house and stared at me as if willing me to bring the old guy out. “I’m hungry, lady.”

We have javelinas, wild pigs. And pack rats. We have two hawks that soar above the house daily. We have tarantulas or actually tarantula. Beetles and crickets that come equipped with saddles. When we bought the motorcycle a year ago, and were taking it out for its inaugural ride, we saw something black flying toward us. It was a weird kind of low cloud, and we had no idea what it was. Turned out it was a swarm of bees that hit us and the motorcycle straight on. It was ugly. We had bee carcasses everywhere.

This is life in the desert. It’s more lush and lovely than I ever imagined, and more prickly. This morning we were hiking in the hills above us and came upon a cactus that was flowering. Most of the others haven’t yet; it’s a bit early. By about the third week in April, the saguaros will all be sporting hats made of flowers.

After we got back from our walk/hike we made some coffee and eventually I made breakfast. It was a beautiful morning, warm but not hot. We decided to eat on the deck. I took the juice and the silverware out and glanced up the hill. I stopped. There was an animal. I thought it was a coyote. But it was big for a coyote. Still, the coloring was right. Then it raised its head and turned to stare at me, ears straight up, still as morning. It was a deer, perhaps my deer from Friday night. It was as if it had come back to say ‘Hi, welcome to the neighborhood. But don’t bother me.’

If this keeps up, I’m going to have to name it. As it is, I’ll just say ‘Hi, deer. Nice to meet you” and celebrate the fact that we have majestic creatures like deer that co-exist with the dreaded gila monsters. 

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live out loud

Desert musings

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 31, 2015 8:08 PM

Last night, I drifted off to sleep listening to the tap tap tap of rain hitting the skylight. I find it very soothing. It’s one of nature’s lullabies and one of my favorites. It had rained all day. There was standing water everywhere, the washes were running. Bobbi remarked that she couldn’t believe how much weather we get here in the desert. I agreed. Of course, part of the reason it seems like we get so much here is because they don’t get any there. California has been suffering through a horrendous drought now for far too many years. When it does rain, it’s never enough. And it’s not snowing in the mountains so there’s no snow pack to melt to deliver water.

It doesn’t rain here constantly but it does rain. I remarked that considering when it does rain, it tends to rain a lot, you’d think there would be better drainage. The southwest in general doesn’t do very well when it comes to rain drains, probably because it doesn’t rain very much in general and because when it does, it pours. Too much rain comes down in too short a period of time, overwhelming the system’s ability to deal with it quickly and efficiently.

Oh, but how green it is. I am forever amazed at the color of the desert. People who have never spent much time in the Sonoran think of it as nothing more than endless stretches of sand. I’ve often joked that my mother thinks we live in a sand pit. It’s not sandy at all, and while we don’t have towering oak trees, we do have towering saguaros and they are green. All of the cactus plants are green, and they are plentiful, making the landscape appear alive, vibrant. The rocks are black and brown and orange. The palo verde trees, as the name implies, are also green, from the trunk through the branches. The entire tree looks almost fake, like how a small child might color it.

In the spring, the cacti flower, the birds of paradise open. The colors dance. It is because of the season, and the rain.

It rained all night. This morning, I was lying in bed, having a cup of coffee. It was just 7:30 and I wasn’t really ready to begin my day. The blinds were open and I was looking out into the backyard. I could hear the scuppers running, draining the water from the roof onto the patio, out into the yard. The palm trees were heavy and dripping as was all of the foliage. The sky was gray. There were no birds flitting about. I’m sure they were all safely tucked into wherever birds go during inclement weather. From the top of the skylight came the cooing of doves.  And the tap tap tap of the rain.

The morning was otherwise quiet, and the rain seemed to make it more so. The sounds of traffic seemed muted. I knew that soon, I would hear the telling splash and slop of tires grabbing at wet asphalt. But until then, I was enjoying my coffee, enjoying the rain, and musing about how green the desert here truly is. Another oxymoron, but one truly appreciated only when you’ve witnessed it and realize that the predetermined notions of sand and dust, where little is alive save the occasional rattlesnake or scorpion, is in fact incorrect. This desert is alive and almost lush, beautiful, especially so when painted against the deepening gray of a rainy sky.

A pack mentality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Veterinary medicine

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, January 14, 2015 9:33 PM

Once upon a time, in the year 3000 BC, there lived a man named Urlugaledinna. He was known as the expert in healing animals, and he began the practice of veterinary medicine. Like much of medicine it remained medieval for hundreds of years until a Frenchman by the name of Claude Bourgelat founded a veterinary school in Lyon in 1761. It was after witnessing the devastation caused by a cattle plague that Bourgelat decided to devote his life to finding out why, and more importantly, developing medicine so that it wouldn’t happen again. He did, and it didn’t.

In England, the Odiham Agricultural Society, founded in 1783, worked to promote agriculture and industry. A founding member named Thomas Burgess began studying more humane ways to treat sick animals. By 1790 the official profession of veterinary medicine was recognized. And thank dog.

When I had Tori, my beautiful tortoise-shell colored cat, and lived in woodland hills, I discovered Dr. Stan Kunin and his Veterinary Medical Center. He took care of my girl and when she got cancer, helped me through the decisions I had to make. When it came time to put her to sleep, he's the one who did it. I was a wreck. We went into one of the back rooms and he told me I could stay with her as long as I wanted. Then they had an emergency and suddenly, there I was with my lifeless little girl while Stan and his team worked to save a dog that had been hit by a car. The juxtaposition was wild; the symbolism couldn't have been stronger.

When we got Maguire, the first place we took him was to see Stan. When our little guy got sick and he was diagnosed with Parvo by the emergency pet clinic it was Stan who called us the next day to say it had been a false positive. We took Maguire there for years for checkups and shots, after he was attacked by a neighborhood dog, whenever he just wasn't right. It was a longer drive by then since we had moved farther away but it was worth it.

After awhile he got to be too old to make the journey and Stan recommended a vet in our area who made house calls. Her name was Lorraine Watson and she, too, was great. When we lost our boy, she was one of the first to send a card. Inside she included a small doggie angel pin. He had crossed over the rainbow bridge.

Over the years, we've visited many veterinary offices, we've gone to the 24 hour emergency per hospitals. Whenever we move, one of the first things I do is find the nearest pet hospital. Then I find the closest people hospital. Priorities.

Our Cooper is sick and has been to the local vet twice now in less than 48 hours. He was weirdly lethargic over the weekend and I called on Monday. They saw him that night (our new vet, Acacia Animal Hospital, has extended hours, until 8pm Monday thru Friday) but they didn't really know what was wrong. Last night we were up with him several times as he got sicker and sicker. This morning we went to see Dr. Laudonio at Acacia. He doesn't really know what's going on since there are no outward or obvious symptoms. We did blood work. Now we wait. It’s hard because, as the vet said, animals don’t always follow the text book to let us know what’s wrong. We have to guess sometimes; we have to hope. 

I am so grateful to people who dedicate their lives to the practice of veterinary medicine. They help our animals, our pets, our furry family members when we can’t. Kevin and I don’t know what’s wrong with Cooper. We just hope that it’s something treatable. Maguire was relatively healthy right up until he wasn’t. He was over 15, long past his expected life expectancy. Vets and the hospital helped us when we couldn’t help him. Same with my beautiful Tori.

Tonight, while we hope that our Cooper starts to feel better, while we wait for the results of his blood work, I sit here in celebration of all the vets I’ve had care for my pets. If I was someone who prayed, I’d pray for my little red-furred boy. I’m not. So instead I’ll just think positive thoughts that he’ll be wagging it out loud soon thanks to good veterinarians and veterinary medicine.

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