A new favorite

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 3, 2016 10:24 PM

It’s no secret that I’m a wine drinker. I regularly refer to myself as a wine-o, and I mean that in a both farcical and honest way. My love affair with wine began a long time ago, perhaps when I was in college, when I realized that beer was fattening and wine not so much. At least that’s what I told myself.

At the ripe old age of 18 or 19, I didn’t have a clue about wine other than it was alcohol. I didn’t know much about the difference between white and red, other than the color. I had no idea about varietals or vintages. I drank Lancers and Reunite, both red. They had no varietal. Like I said, I had no idea what I was buying or drinking. But I thought it was much classier to drink wine than slog down some brewskis (truth be told, I did my share of that, too). 

When first husband and I lived in San Diego, in our first small apartment when neither of us had a good job and our roommate was a rat in the kitchen, we befriended another couple in the complex and we got together for wine. If memory serves, we had zeroed in on Blue Nun and we consumed mass quantities of it. Luckily that didn’t last very long. Soon, we graduated to better wines and better living conditions. We eventually moved to LA and after a year in a small house in Sherman Oaks bought a townhouse in Northridge. By then, we had discovered red wines and specifically reds like Silver Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon and Kenwood Artist Series Cabernet Sauvignon. The latter was a favorite for years. My introduction to great red wine, and to wine country, was one of the good things to come out of my first marriage. 

My second marriage has only solidified that love and knowledge of wine. We have become people of limited interests. We make wine (cabernet sauvignon and syrah); on the rare occasion when we actually go away, we vacation in places where we can wine taste, often with Roy and Bobbi. We’ve been to Napa Valley twice with them, and to Paso Robles at least five times. We’re going again for Thanksgiving. 

We are all red wine drinkers and tend to look down our snooty noses at anything white. We don’t even taste whites when we go into tasting rooms unless we’re absolutely forced. I use the term forced loosely. Being forced to taste good wine of any varietal is usually not a bad thing. We just prefer the depth and mystery of red wine. As the years have gone on, we’ve also discovered that we all tend to like bigger and bolder reds, the more hair-on-your-chest the better. We used to drink a lot of cabs; that has dissipated, though we still like cabs. We tend toward syrahs and petite sirahs; we are all absolutely in love with Cabernet Franc, which has traditionally been more of a blending grape, to give other reds a more distinct and sometimes leathery/peppery taste. When we find one that exists on its own, if it’s done well, we are in heaven. 

Several years ago when we were in Paso right before Christmas, we discovered a winery by the name of Sculpterra. We had been in the tasting room that day, probably a Friday. They were having a Christmas party that night and invited us. Bobbi and I parked ourselves near one of the tasting tables and proceeded to drink only their Cab Franc. It was – and remains – amazing. 

Another new favorite is a petit verdot. This extraordinarily rich varietal is about as heavy as reds get. Also more traditionally a blending grape, to give something like a cabernet sauvignon a bit of gratitas, petit verdot has lately been explored as its own varietal. Because it’s so exquisitely heavy, almost thick to the palette, it’s not for most people, even those who traditionally like red wine. But we are in love. 

The grape seems to have originated in Bordeaux, France but no one knows for sure. It is a cross between a Tressot and a Duras from Toulouse, and probably dates to the time of the Romans. It’s full bodied and then some, temperamental and difficult to make drinkable all by itself. But there are several winemakers who have figured it out, much to our pleasure.

Today, we got a wine shipment from one of our wine clubs, Victor Hugo, from Paso Robles. Included was a 2013 Petit Verdot. It’s a new favorite, and already salivating to taste, and to celebrate.

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Riley and Bobbi have the best yawn noises. Kevin says Riley wins.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 30, 2016 9:20 PM

My husband is a yawner but a silent yawner. He almost always yawns in the car, but only when I’m driving. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is though it is more pronounced later in the afternoon and especially after we’ve seen a movie. The only sound he really makes is a little bit of a huff at the end as he pushes the air out of his lungs and finally closes his mouth. I tease him about it because I’ve never been much of a yawner. He’s like a little kid. Justin was always a yawner in the car, too. He also almost always fell asleep in the car when he was little.

I yawn only when I am beyond exhaustion. I yawn so seldom that when I do, Kevin stops and looks at me: “Did you just yawn?” The fact that he has to comment on it tells you all you need to know.

But nobody yawns better than Bobbi, who is also very proficient at it when in the car. Last Christmas, when we were on our way to Bisbee, and she was in the back of the Sport, the yawns were prolific, announced with vigor and finesse, an exhale accompanied by a high exclaim. Every time she did it, we’d laugh. We had never heard someone get so much volume and pleasure from a single yawn. We were impressed.

Enter Riley who is quite the yawner/stretcher/squealer. His noises are always fascinating and funny. None of our other dogs have had any particular noises other than what you’d expect from a dog. Maguire would growl with his toys and bark at the squirrels in the backyard. When he stood at the front door and decided we needed to be told about something in particular that may or may not have been of concern, he barked three times. Woof, woof (pause), woof. I don’t remember Cooper being much of a barker, though he did occasionally growl at his toys. 

And then there’s Riley. He is much more vocal. If he wants you to play with him, he’ll bring a toy (a “guy”) over, and drop it near you. Then he’ll back up, drop his ears and issue a guttural challenge. It’s pretty funny. When he bounds outside in the morning, usually with Wubba, he does so with gusto, whipping it back and forth and growling to great fanfare. 

In the early mornings, though, it’s the yawns that make us laugh. He starts by coming to one side of the bed or the other. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern; it’s simply whoever he deciphers as being awake first. He then lays his head on the mattress next to whoever, and as soon as his presence is acknowledged with eyes opening, the tail begins to wag. As we lean over to pet him, he then presses his whole body against the bed for a full length rub. 

But when we get up, the true fun begins. He backs up to allow us room to exit said bed. And then once we’re up, he stretches his front legs and paws out in front of him as far as he can, pushing his head and neck down and his butt up into the air. And while he manages this acrobatic act, he yawns, opening his mouth up as wide as possible so that we can practically look down his throat and see his tail. And then, he issues this high pitched squeal that we’re convinced will someday shatter glass. Then his jaw snaps closed and he pushed himself back up so that he’s completely standing, and he air snaps. Come on! Let’s go! 

This happens over the course of several minutes, several times, as we get ready for a walk.

So in the battle for who has the best yawn noises, we have to give it to Riley, probably also because of the stretch and the butt. Maybe if Bobbi could perfect that, she might be back in the running. I’ll have to talk to her.

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Whiching hour

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 29, 2016 8:30 PM

I’ve always had a soft spot for Halloween. I think it’s my love of the macabre. I used to read Edgar Allen Poe when I was in school, for class, and Stephen King for fun and chills. I remember reading Salem’s Lot and Carrie when I was in high school. I also read The Shining. Later, I read The Stand which remains one of my favorite books, not for the writing so much as the idea of it. He always had and has a way of turning a story into something truly chilling.

I also was a big fan of Anne Rice in the 1980s and 90s. I devoured all of the vampire books, and The Witching Hour remains a favorite. Granted I haven’t re-read it in years so maybe it doesn’t hold up. But I remember it fondly.

When I was in high school, I wrote pseudo horror stories of my own. They weren’t very good by today’s standards, but I got good grades because of my age. And I loved writing them. There was always a monster of some sort, always terrorizing someone unsuspecting. I think it’s common for teens to dabble in stories of the supernatural and horror variety.

Bobbi and I had this conversation often regarding her daughter Michale, who also dabbled in the macabre when she was a teen. Bobbi was worried that it was too dark. I told her that I did it, too, that in my belief it was a way of stretching creative muscles, of trying to construct worlds that you weren’t privy to, of trying to break free of constraints imposed by parents. Or something like that.

Truth be told, I have no idea if it’s normal or not. I thought it was because I had done it but I realize now that I’m far from normal. My brain doesn’t function like a normal human, so perhaps I was wrong. Michale has become a graphic novel writer/artist, so the way her brain worked and works isn’t “normal” either. But what is normal? 

I remain fascinated with the paranormal. I don’t believe in vampires or werewolves or witches, not in the horror story way. But I do believe that there are strange phenomena that occur in our lives. Like thinking about someone, and the phone buzzes with a call or a text message. Like having a feeling that you shouldn’t take that road today, or get on that flight. Like gut instinct telling your subconscious what is best. It’s not so much paranormal, then, as feeling. As something in the universe trying to tell you something, whispering in your ear. It’s the witching hour and the whiching hour combined. 

Roald Dahl said: “The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world all to themselves.” 

In The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, she writes: “I resolved to move just a little bit more slowly through the world, to look around myself with greater care, and to try to remain conscious of all that was going on around me at all times.”

Which is right and witch is write? It’s a matter of perspective, of listening, of embracing, especially in the deep dark of night, when the world is silent and you’re awake, listening.

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Oh the carnage (again)

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 26, 2016 7:04 PM

It is everywhere. Piles of nothing and everything. Discarded remnants of dignity, places where stuffing seems to have been literally beaten out of even the most unsuspecting. It’s a horror show, a disgrace, an embarrassment. I speak, of course, of the disaster that greeted us this morning as we exited the bedroom. 

Riley, as in Mr. Boo, Hey Boo Boo, Riley Boo, and Honey Boo Bear (sensing a boo pattern? And it’s not even yet Halloween), had left us a path of toy destruction that stretched across the walkway, down the steps and into the great room. Tufts of white stuffing, pieces of piping ripped from the edges, an eyeball, shredded pieces of plastic. It all awaited our arrival. We stood there, surveying the littered landscape. And started to laugh. 

Last night, Kevin had dutifully sewn up two of Riley’s toys, his beloved Yellow, he of the stuffed Crayola crayon variety (and who recently went on a camping trip) and a toy that has been in the hospital so long we couldn’t even remember its name. 

The hospital is what we created years ago when Maguire would attempt total toy destruction by mercilessly working on a string until he managed to unravel a seam just enough to open a hole out of which he would proceed to pull more stuffing than the toy looked capable of holding. I guess in some ways that’s similar to blood being spilled, and how it always looks like there’s more blood than there should be, even with a small cut. After distracting Mr. Maguire Michel, Esq., one of us would pick up the limp rag of a toy along with the stuffing and attempt to re-stuff the poor creature. Then, because we’re horrible procrastinators, the re-stuffed but not re-sewn toy would be ceremoniously placed on top of the refrigerator, in the critical care unit, awaiting surgery. Eventually they’d get patched up and returned to play time. Sometimes the toy would go on to live a nice, long life. 

This is not the case with Riley. He gets a new toy and proceeds to tear it apart. If we can get a toy to last more than 30 minutes, we consider it a success. And we try, really, we do. We give him a toy and then try to distract him. We’ve found that if he has two toys with him at once his attention gets split and both survive. 

You’re wondering: Why don’t you buy tougher toys? The answer is: we try to do that, too. But they just don’t make them because if dogs can’t destroy toys, you don’t have to buy as many. His Wubba toys last awhile; others not so much. So we tend to buy toys in the reduced price bin at the front of PetCo because if they’re going to get destroyed anyway they might as well be cheap. 

The hospital now is the top shelf in the back of the pantry which is where the toy whose name we couldn’t remember was resting comfortably. Kevin, the official toy surgeon, pulled him out, after sewing up Yellow (for about the sixth time), and proceeded to restore the toy to chewable condition. Riley, having abandoned Yellow for what he assumed was a new toy (like I said, this one has been out of commission for a while), squirmed impatiently on the floor, scrambling ever closer then pushing himself back. When Kevin was finally done, he presented Riley with – “what should we call this thing?” he asked me. I shrugged my shoulders. “Leo?” “It is kind of leopardy.” – Leo and off he trotted. 

Fast forward to this morning and the toy Armageddon that awaited us. Leo had been gutted; ditto Yellow. Cat, who we didn’t even know was in the mix, was in the middle of a sea of white fluffy stuffing, a twisted, mangled shell of her former self. She’s long been headless, having lost it during her last trip to the hospital, but this morning, well, suffice it to say that we had to call time of death.

I’ve read that toy destruction is actually a sign of a healthy dog and a healthy mind. If that’s the case, then I’m ready to pronounce our dog absolutely brilliant. 

"I voted!"

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 24, 2016 8:01 PM

Justin is in England, specifically in Birmingham, at least for the next couple of days. He’s in England through the end of the year, and as when he was in Japan, appears to be loving it. The weather is a bit cooler. Japan was very hot and humid. And he loves him some good pub grub. 

Because he’s out of the country, he signed up for an absentee ballot. The ballot was, naturally, sent here to the house. Because he literally moves to a different city every week, it would have been difficult to have it simply sent directly to his hotel-home. We got the ballot last week. In order to get it to England in a timely basis, meaning before he moved again, we had to pinpoint his location starting this week (he usually changes locations on Sunday or Monday) and then figure the best way to get it over there. 

Our go-to for quick, overnight shipping has long been FedEx. They’re a little expensive but for more fragile items, they seem to take slightly better care. For a long time, UPS seemed to be a bit haphazard with their handling of packages. I think they’ve gotten much better. But I’m not sure they do international. USPS couldn’t guarantee delivery and FedEx was ridiculously expensive. 

Enter DHL. Kevin took it down to their office on Friday morning. Today we got a text: “I voted!” 

Justin was still in high school when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Kevin and I stood in front of the television for hours, watching the results come in. When Brian Williams said that it was just after 8 pm on the West Coast “and we have news” in that wonderful anchor-y voice of his (yes, we remain fans) and then proceeded to announce that Obama had been elected, we popped open a bottle of champagne and stood crying. We couldn’t have been prouder to be democrats, to have campaigned and voted for Obama, prouder of the country. Justin remained up in his room. We called up to him, wanting for him to share with us the moment where our country changed its history. He came to the top of the stairs, smiled, said something about “cool” and then went back into his room. He was young and the outside world didn’t quite exist yet.

In 2012, he was in college. I don’t remember and neither does he if he got an absentee ballot that year but I tend to think he didn’t. I would think he would have remembered filling it out; I would think we would remember sending him one. 

This year, he’s 25, soon to be 26, and actively engaged with the world in all of its entirety, figuratively and literally. He and his girlfriend were Bernie Sanders supporters. After Mr. Sanders failed to get the nomination, Justin switched his allegiance. While Sanders was his first choice, there was no way he was voting for The Donald, and no way he was wasting a vote on a third party. At 25, he realizes the futility of that. And the danger. And he wanted to make sure that regardless of where he was, he could cast his vote for president. 

Today, he voted. How ironic that he cast his vote for the first woman president in the country we fought for our independence from more than 240 years ago. A country that has already had its first female leader. It’s poetic. It’s exciting. It’s breathtaking in its symbolism. I’m not sure he sees it that way. He sees it as doing his civic duty. But I see it. And I celebrate it; I celebrate him.

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When it rains

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 21, 2016 7:39 PM

I spoke with a friend of mine the other day. She and I have known each other for at least 15 years, perhaps more. Like so many of my friends, we met at Sebastian. Some of the best people I know I met under the pyramid (Sebastian's headquarters, then in Woodland Hills, was under a black marble pyramid). Anyway, my friend who had gone onto other major manufacturers has decided to go out on her own. And so we talked.

One of the things she said was "you probably don't need to stump for business much anymore," and I said that I actually do, all the time.

When you work for yourself, and all my friends who work for themselves are nodding already, it is a constant and continuing challenge. You want a lot of business, almost too much, because even though you're crazy busy, you know there's money coming in. Still, you hope that it will slow down just a bit in order to allow you to have a life outside of work.

And then it does slow down a little. And you start to panic. Oh my dog. What am I going to do? I'm not going to have any work. I'm not going to be able to pay my bills. Oh. My. Dog. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?! I'll lose the house. I’ll be homeless. I’ll lose the car. I’ll have nowhere to live. I'll never work again. What have I done?

And then you get an email or a phone call and you peel yourself off of the ceiling because you have work to do.

I told all of this to my friend and she laughed. It's like she already knew what she was getting herself into. Maybe some of her other friends who are freelance had warned her of the same.

I am a huge advocate of working for yourself. Even though you might work more and longer hours, your commute rocks and you basically work in shorts in the summer, sweats in the winter.

But it's not easy and there is a lot of anxiety. I spend a lot of time emailing people, just a friendly hello. I always make a point of telling just about anyone I talk to, friends included, that if they know anyone who needs words to give me a call. It’s all part of the process. And I live in mortal fear of not having any work. 

I was about to devolve into anxiety the last couple of days and then I got a huge project today and I'm on the cusp of signing a big contract that will potentially go for a year and a half. So now I'm busy. Almost too much so but this is how I like it. Mach II, hair on fire. Balls to the walls.

When it rains, which it's currently not doing or supposed to do any time soon, it's busy. Just like I like it.

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The deep blue mystery of the Colorado t shirt

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 20, 2016 7:50 PM

It was a bright and sunny morning. Oh, and windy. In other words, just another beautiful day in desert paradise.

I pulled on a pair of black cut off sweats and an "it's 5 o'clock somewhere" tee-shirt. For the record, it was 7:21. I was trying to lace up my sneakers - trying because in the morning, when we sit on the bench in the bathroom to put on shoes, Riley takes that as an invitation to get very close, spin around and while gazing back with a look that says "do you see my butt - You know what you're supposed to do" actually presents his butt for rubbing.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Trying to tie my shoes while rubbing the dog's butt. I finally managed to get him to get out of the way by urging him to "go find daddy. Go bug daddy." And off he went to find and bug daddy/Kevin. Who was actually in the closet. Trying to find something to wear. Luckily I did laundry last night so just about everything is clean. He emerged wearing his light gray sweat shorts and a dark blue Colorado t-shirt.

"Where did this shirt come from?" he asked perplexed, holding out the bottom so he could read it upside down.

"I have no idea," I responded.

"It's like one of those shirts you always buy me in airports on your way home from somewhere," he volunteered. It's true. I do always buy him shirts in airports. It's a thing.

"I don't think I've been to Colorado," I said.

"I don't think you have either," he said.

"It's a really nice shirt," I said approvingly.

"It is," he agreed.

We both stood silent for a while, contemplating his blue Colorado tee shirt. It really was a nice shirt. But where did it come from? We contemplated and thought and squeezed our brains about it. To no avail.

Pretty soon, we heard Riley heading back to the bedroom having been unsuccessful in finding daddy/Kevin. Tags jangling, nails clicking he appeared, ears flying, tongue waggling. He stopped and looked at us looking at Kevin's shirt. And then came over and presented his butt again.

No mystery as to what Riley wanted, but the mystery of the dark blue Colorado shirt continues. Oh, well. Something to solve another day.

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A Monday metaphor

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 17, 2016 10:09 PM

I read somewhere recently that I should face Monday with glee, that I should greet it as a day filled with possibility, the beginning of a week equally filled with opportunity. To which I rolled my eyes and thought, maturely, bite me. I understand the sentiment of looking at Monday as a day that begins a new week and thus provides me with untold choices and wonder. The sun will shine, the angels will sing. Blah blah blah. I understand it and unequivocally reject it. 

I am not a fan of Mondays, no matter how much I try. I find them tiring. I almost always start the week being behind so I have nowhere to go but down. But Monday is Monday and so it goes. The day starts early, we do our usual routine, and I’m at my desk by 8 with the first cup of the coffee of the day. Including this morning. It started at 6:05, but it was not usual. Here’s why: a power outage. 

It’s not yet light at 6 o’clock here, so we were still in bed, still sleeping. Even Riley was snoozing happily in his bed. I heard a strange beep. I opened my eyes. In the gray light of the coming dawn, I realized the house had become deathly silent. There was no hum of the wine room cooling unit or the distant refrigerator. The ceiling fan above slowed to nothing. We had lost power.

It was the perfect metaphor for a Monday morning. Powerless to stop it from coming, powerless to actually get it going. 

We are powerless about so many things in our lives. The sun comes up, traverses the sky; the day, no matter how hard we try, moves forward. It becomes night only to become day and night and day and night and so on. The natural power of the sun provides light. It doesn’t however provide access to our electric water pump which allows us to have water pressure – indeed water – up here on the hill. It doesn’t even help capture the power we’re harnessing from our solar panels because today, our solar inverters read “waiting grid” because the power was off. 

The beep in the house continued. About 6:10 I got up to see what it was. Kevin has a desktop computer with a battery backup. When we lose power, it takes over. That’s what was beeping, telling us that it was running because we had no power. Because obviously we had no idea. 

At 6:15, my phone barked. Barking is the sound my phone makes when I get a text message. I picked it up and opened the screen. Susan: “Good morning! We have no power. You?” Susan and her husband Ken have become good friends here in the ‘hood. As I was texting with Susan, my phone rang. It was someone else in the ‘hood wondering if, since the power was out, the gates would open. I assured him that we had a battery backup that automatically clicked on and clicked open the gates in the event of a power outage.

Susan and I continued, equating our power outage to camping, albeit in a 5-star cabin. Susan referred to it as having “first world problems.” Ha. 

By 7:15 the power was restored. So much for roughing it.

We are so addicted to electricity. We don’t even realize it until we’re without it. And this morning, however temporarily, we were without it. We began the week with no power. And thus no power. It was a Monday for sure.

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The secret to a happy marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One of my less messy meals: today's breakfast

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

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

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

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Still I rise

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 14, 2016 10:16 PM

I’m depressed and trying to rise above. I’m not sleeping but trying to clear my mind. I’m tired but trying to re-energize. I’m not alone, I know, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult. 

Everyone I talk to these days is exhausted, frustrated, frightened, and anxious. It has been building for quite some time, but each day, it seems to get progressively worse. I wonder where the pinnacle will be, I wonder about the culmination of this last year and a half. I despair as to what we have become as a country. A laughingstock to the world, a bitterly divided nation amongst ourselves. 

I speak, of course, of the election, that which shall not be spoken about. I only talk to those I know share my views because I don’t want to get into an argument with someone I like because I can’t fathom their supporting the opposite candidate. It’s almost palpable, the level of discomfort, when in a group. No one talks about what everyone is thinking about because of a well-placed idea of civility. It’s the literal elephant in the room.

And so I despair. 

We are, it seems, suffering from a national state of malaise. We are down. We are sleepless. We are addicted to the news and it is all, uniformly, horrible. I spoke with Diane yesterday and we compared our fears and our angst. We also compared our daily routines regarding the accessing of information. Each morning, I reach for my phone. After checking the weather so I know how long of a walk we can go on, I then check Fivethirtyeight. It’s the first of many times I will pull up the website during the day to see what, if anything, has changed. Diane was able to outdo me on that. She keeps a tab open on her computer screen all day long. 

The Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism have found “surprisingly high levels of emotional distress” and that 60 percent of American adults report just that, with 90 percent saying their distress is greater than in other presidential campaigns.

We have become addicted to a train wreck that’s like a continuous crash, a groundhog day of sorts that doesn’t so much replay as it does just continue. It’s horrific. There is mangled steel and broken glass, body parts are strewn as far as anyone can see, the carnage is mind boggling and yet, and yet, we cannot avert our eyes. It’s like an addiction. Please sir, can I have some more abuse. Please. 

And yet, I hope. And still I rise. 

 You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

That’s the first stanza of the late Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise which itself was part of a 1978 collection called, appropriately, And Still I Rise. Its themes focus on a hopeful determination to rise above difficulty and discouragement. She wrote it as a black woman who had long been oppressed but the words ring true today for all women and all people, on all days, and especially this day.

We are down, we are filled with dread. I am, you are. But my hope is that we will rise above all of this hatred and vitriol to persevere as the country we have always wanted to be and have sometimes – not often enough – been. 

Still we rise. We rise.

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