In my next life

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:41 PM

Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Violence. Belligerence. Incompetence. Understanding. Hate. Love. Joy. Happiness. Sadness. Resilience. Resentment. Contempt. Acceptance. I am reminded of the words spoken by Rodney King so many years ago: “Can’t we all just get along?” Evidently not. I admit to hearing the news of today’s shooting and having mixed feelings. I am against guns and violence so my first feelings were of disgust. But then I thought how fortunate that those who required medical attention had health insurance. Good for them. I wondered, then, if being shot would qualify as a pre-existing condition.

I read the articles, I didn’t watch the news. Everyone always says the right things during times like this. Can’t we all just get along? And no one ever takes responsibility for their role in instigating and perpetuating and wink wink nod nod. Perhaps we could all get along if we didn’t demonize and excoriate and condemn and relentlessly criticize and cajole every person who doesn’t believe exactly as we do. Maybe. I am filled with doubtl.

I suffer from these feelings, too. I feel fear and loathing, not for my fellow citizens but for the government. A government of, by and for the people except it’s not. Except that it is. As Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently put it, and to paraphrase: You go to war with the government you have. Only he said army, not government. It’s one and the same these days. The word government can be interchanged with the words representatives, governors, politicians. 

Each day I grow ever more tired. Each day I try to put it all in the background as I concentrate on my work, my life, my good fortune. Each day, I fight the urge to succumb to it all. Each day, I am successful. So far. 

Then I begin to wonder: where does it all end? How much more can we take? Can’t we all just get along? 

My dog is where I find the most joy during the day. He is happy. He bounds through the house, he loves his toys. He lays on his back and joyfully holds his toy, his “guy,” up above him. He has no idea of the angst and turmoil and horror that each day brings. He doesn’t know that we have elected a complete buffoon as our leader. He would greet Herr Hair with the same energy and enthusiasm as he greets our friends. He just loves people. 

My dog is pure. Fun. Energetic. With a wicked sense of humor. Who likes to talk. Who loves to go for a walk and loves being on the deck over-looking the desert even more. Who curls up on the floor to nap. Who has a Martha Stewart bed in our bedroom (it was on sale at PetSmart) and another one in my office. Who alerts us to creatures crossing the driveway. Who has taught us to pay attention when he’s on high alert and looking up the hill because there are always deer descending or ascending.

Who has the life. So much so that in my next life, I’ve decided I’m going to be a dog, with good owners and a nice house, with lots to eat and too many toys from which to choose. In my next life, I’m going to not worry, not fuss, not lose sleep. In my next life, as a dog, I’m going to live in pure joy.

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Bye bye birdie

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 13, 2017 8:27 PM

As of the end of 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database had reported 70,577 incidents of birds striking aircraft. They started keeping track in 2010. The amount, which has undoubtedly risen in the first nearly six months of 2017, averages out to one strike every 45 minutes. Those are just the ones that are documented. It’s possible there are more. The good news is that only 7% are actually damaging events.

One of the most famous bird strikes occurred in January 2009 when US Airways flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia in New York. Two eight pound geese flew into each of the plane’s engines, causing massive failure and the famous water landing that’s been dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson.

Birds have been known to dent aircraft. They also don’t discriminate. In 2012, birds hit Air Force Two, with then Vice President Joe Biden onboard, as it was landing in Santa Barbara.

I bring this up today not because I was in an airplane that was struck by birds. Rather, I was in a house that suffered a strike this morning.

As I have written about before, our house has a lot of glass. Glass on the front of the house, not as prolific as glass on the back, but still prevalent, looking up onto the hillside behind us from the dining room, the front door, and the kitchen. On that hillside, are birds. Ravens and falcons are the big ones that haunt everything and lord over everyone. They occasionally land on the roof but never attempt to fly through the glass. Smaller cactus wrens, woodpeckers, humming birds are more brazen. The biggest culprits seem to be doves. 

This morning, as I was sitting in my office, I heard a horrendous crash, the noise coming from the vicinity of the dining room. Kevin had already asked me earlier if I had a bird hit the glass in my office. I assured him that what he heard was me slamming a fly swatter against a very large wasp. But this noise, this crash, was obviously a bird. I came out of my office, Kevin out of his, and we met in the dining room. There, on the glass, was a lot of red, some feathers and streaks where the liquid was running down the glass. 

I gulped, afraid to look down into the portico below. As I got closer, I realized that what was on the glass was not what I feared. It actually had seeds. And was more pink than blood red. But laying in the portico, not dead, was a white winged dove. We’ve had bird strikes before, some that have killed the poor creature. Most times, though, it simply stuns them. They sit, very still, staring straight ahead. Eventually they fly off.

This bird had obviously tried to fly through the glass with a piece of saguaro fruit in its mouth. It was the fruit that splattered on the glass. The dove was lying in a pool of juice. It was breathing, its eyes were open, but we were concerned. What to do?

Eventually, it righted itself but didn’t move. A longer time later, it began to walk around. We noticed an initial few drops of blood but then nothing. It extended its head, its tail feathers fluffing up and out. It tried to fly but had some trouble, instead settling down onto the portico, in the shade. 

We checked on it regularly. We hoped that it would be OK. We felt bad. After all, someone – us – dropped a house here in the middle of its desert. In the middle of the homes of all the desert creatures. It’s why we don’t kill anything, especially if its outside. Inside might be another matter. We have killed two scorpions and several spiders. We had a red headed centipede that we had to kill. But generally we try to be respectful. And we don’t like that we have caused several birds harm, including today.

After a number of hours, when the bird hadn’t yet been able to fly, I called the Tucson Wildlife Center. They’re a hospital for rescuing, rehabilitating and then releasing all manner of wild creatures here in the desert. I was all set to scoop the bird up and drive it to their facility. I couldn’t let it stay there all night, exposed, hurting, perhaps dying.

Riley stood at the window and whined throughout the day. And then, he stopped. I went to check. The bird was gone, having flown away, finally, and hopefully to continue living it out loud in the desert above.

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There is a delight

by Lorin Michel Sunday, June 11, 2017 8:59 PM

On March 15, 1910, just over a year after he left office, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote that “there are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, and its charm.” He was in Khartoum at the time, leading an expedition to Africa in search of specimens for the Smithsonian’s new Natural History museum. Khartoum is in the Sudan, and at the time, was a burgeoning metropolis. It is now the capital of the region. But at the time, it was surrounded by the white sands of the desert and the rich fauna of the Nile Valley. He wrote those words about the vistas and landscapes he had encountered. I use them today to describe the vistas and landscapes we encountered this morning.

I don’t know what compelled me to move west. This magical place was just where I always imagined myself to be. I do know what compelled us to move to the desert. It wasn’t anything we’d ever even considered but when we brought Justin to school here in August of 2009, we knew it would eventually be our new home. Settling into the east side of town, we continually marvel at the vistas and landscapes. We are surrounded by rock and mountains, by saguaros and ocotillos and trees. From our house on the hill we can see for at least 10 miles and probably more. The desert, rimmed by mountains, stretches before us to infinity.

Kevin was up early this morning, by 6:15, early for a Sunday, the day we jokingly refer to as “the day of rest.” He didn’t sleep well, probably because he was overtired. Yesterday he started rocking outside, finishing the lower swale, at 5 am. He was done by 7:30 and then he switched to finishing the front brakes on the Classic. Luckily, I convinced him to buy an air conditioner for the garage so it was at least somewhat hospitable in there while the temperatures raged outside. He worked all day, and then couldn’t sleep. 

I got up about a half hour later, when I heard the coffee pot sputter and snarl and spit signaling that it was almost done brewing. My boys were on the deck. I poured two cups of coffee and went out to join them. We marveled at the calm of the morning, at the temperature just in the low 70s. At 7:30, I said it would be a great morning for a motorcycle ride and suggested we go. I didn’t have to suggest twice.

We climbed aboard the Gold Wing and took off south and east. We weren’t going anywhere in particular so we never reached a destination. Instead, we simply meandered, finding a road we’d never taken before and following it. The day was still early; there were almost no cars where we were. Even the churches we went by, and there were many, weren’t yet open for business.

We went past Saguaro National Forest east, something that often makes us smile since we seemingly live in a saguaro forest of our own. We headed toward Colossal Caves knowing that we weren’t going to stop, but it gave a place to turn around. The road surface was smooth, unlike so much in the desert. There were no stop signs or stop lights, just a wide open two-lane road. The sun was warm but not hot. I watched quail and roadrunners crossing the road; I watched for deer and cattle. We saw horses, and an osprey that landed in the middle of the road to extract something that used to be something else. In the trees to the east, huge black ravens sat perched on the branches of mesquite trees, their feathers glistening in the morning sun.

I was struck by the vastness of it, the desolate nature, and sheer glory of this Sonoran desert we call home.

The fuller Teddy Roosevelt quote says: “There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.” That from a republican president. Something to celebrate on this Sunday.

Lizards, and deer, and rabbits oh my

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 31, 2017 8:51 PM

When it gets hard for me to find something to celebrate, I turn to nature. I do that a lot lately, marveling at the color of the sky, the green of the desert, the harshness of the wind. I find solace in the blooming cacti, so many of them sprouting different colors and different shapes of flowers and fruit. The saguaros have done their annual halo of white flowers. They’ve mostly all bloomed and are in the process of drying and dying, to fall and be picked up by birds. While they last, they’re angelic. The tiny cactus that flood the hillsides – I can’t recall their names – have been vibrant with red and hot pink while the prickly pear have been red, and the hedgehog cactus have been pink. The whipple cholla are currently teasing us with an amber, almost copper colored flower.

The creatures are out, too. We have deer all year long, and javelina, too. But now we also have snakes and spiders and lizards and toads. And rabbits. All of whom send my Riley into orbit. 

This morning, after our walk and is his habit, he takes wubba, dashes onto the deck and whips poor wubba back and forth, growling, barking, and generally announcing that any who would dare show their face in his desert. HIS. DESERT. should consider themselves warned. He does not take kindly to intruders, even those who came before him. 

So there he was, out on the deck, standing guard at the rail, staring into the abyss of the desert stretching beneath him. He seemed fixated on something. His tail was rigid, his ears forward, his body ready to spring. Which he eventually did, bouncing up in the air as if on a pogo stick and barking simultaneously when into his territory came a rabbit. A rather big rabbit by desert rabbit standards. And this one was brazen. Even though there was much commotion happening above him, he seemed to instinctively know that the wild animal in red fur couldn’t get to him. And so, Mr. Rabbit took up a spot just below Mr. Riley, in full view of Riley, taunting, while he proceeded to nibble on a bit of mesquite. He nibbled and nibbled, then sat back on his rear haunches, and stared straight ahead. Riley, big tough dog, could do nothing.

Eventually the rabbit got bored of his game and hopped up and over the deck. I thought we might be able to return to some quiet.

I was wrong.

A lizard, or three, each well over a foot long, shot down the hill and across the dirt below. Riley loves lizards, loves to chase them. Has even caught one or two. But again, from the deck, all he can do is whine and snarl and bark and dance. Every once in a while, he’ll look back at me, sitting inside, at my desk, watching him with a smile, as if to say: “Do you SEE what’s going on down there? How can you be so CALM?” 

Yesterday, as I was getting ready to go meet my friend Stephanie, I noticed movement in the window behind me. In our master bath, we have a pedestal-type tub that sits nestled in front of three large windows that look out onto the driveway and the hillside beyond. It had been windy but the movement wasn’t the wind. I turned to look and there, just feet away from the house, were two – no, three! – deer. They had come down the hill to munch on some cactus and mesquite. My movement made them freeze and stare, directly at me, directly through me. I moved slowly from the bathroom, tucked Riley into my office and closed the door, and then called to Kevin. “Bring your camera.”

We hadn’t seen them that close before. Just like the rabbit had never been so brazen before, or the lizards to teasing. Perhaps we’re getting a reputation for being soft on wildlife. Perhaps they know that no harm will come to them here. Kevin and I wouldn’t hurt them, and Riley can’t get to them.

There are lizards, and deer, and rabbits. And so many more incredible creatures and wonders in this desert, so many colors, so much extreme and so much majesty. Something to celebrate not just today, but every day.

Seeking seclusion

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 22, 2017 10:26 PM

I sometimes dream about existing in a cocoon. Not one spun by caterpillars, not a hard shell, just a safe place. A place where I can be quiet and safe, where the outside world doesn’t intrude; where the inside world comforts. 

I am not prone to cocooning, not usually. I’m not an extrovert but I’m also not an introvert. I’m private, reserved. I don’t necessarily keep to myself but I don’t let people in easily. It’s hard for people to know me and I realize that at this age, I won’t be changing. I am what I am. 

But lately, as the world spirals ever out of control for all of us, I feel the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head, to burrow, to cocoon, at least for the next few years. Nearly four to be exact unless something happens and it’s less. But it’s still four until we have an opportunity to truly change the trajectory of a country leading the way in the spiral down. 

I am consumed by news. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, the last thing I view at night. I get News Alerts throughout the day from various sources, often telling me the same thing. I think – I dream – about how nice it would be to not care but I don’t know how to do that. How do you not care about what’s happening in the world?

How do you not care that there are those determined to hurt others? That some of those doing the hurting are those in great power, those who control the government?

How do you not pay attention to the terror, the fear, the ineptitude, the ridiculousness?

How do you absorb the constancy of change, of not knowing, and continue to be upbeat and positive and work and play and drink wine and spend time with friends and family and enjoy life? 

The answer, of course, is that you simply do. There is no other choice, or rather, the only other choice is unacceptable.

I am an optimist by nature. I didn’t used to be but as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that facing the world, facing the day, going through life with a positive attitude is much more conducive to having a happy and positive life. It’s something I actually learned in college when being miserable and feeling sorry for myself for reasons I can no longer remember made for a very unhappy and unproductive existence. Back then, I had to force myself to be positive, to simply go through each day with a smile. I had to pretend that things didn’t bother me. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I made the decision a long time ago. I embrace it now. It’s part of me. It’s easier. 

And harder. Since November, I find it more difficult to exist in a state of perpetual happiness. I find it easier to be angry and frustrated and hateful. I don’t like it.

So I seek a cocoon; I crave seclusion so that I can get back to my life as I know it, as I remember it. Life that is good, filled with love and laughter and potential. That’s the life I embrace; that I crave. The life that is living it out loud.

Painting: Seclusion Redux, by Roy Guzman

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I have a theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 15, 2017 10:10 PM

Long ago I made the pronouncement that I’m not particularly crazy about teenagers. I’ve never made an attempt to hide it; Justin knew all about even as he careened through his teens. His teens ended up being exhibit B as to why I’m not a fan of the years between 13 to 19. I was exhibit A. 

Unlike many people, I remember well how horrible I was as a teen. I was fairly miserable, not fitting in where I wanted to fit in, not being as popular as I wanted to be, not getting everything that I demanded from my parents. I was impossible, moody, demanding, raging about nothing and everything, in no particular order; rude. My parents tolerated me, even loved me. I was why I decided that teenagers weren’t fit for human consumption.

I also know that I eventually became human again. It happened sometime during college and the metamorphosis, that time after I finished school and went out on my own. I still had insecurity issues and occasional bouts of mood, but I softened with age. I liked my parents again; more importantly they liked me again, too. While they always loved me, the like thing was difficult during “those years.” 

Much the same happened with Justin. We didn’t much like him. He was moody and difficult and demanding. He continually pushed us to the edge, and sometimes we went over. We didn’t like him, he hated us. Then he went to college and suddenly, we liked him again. He liked us. We were reborn as a family. 

I think the teenage years are some of the cruelest. Your body is betraying you, your moods are uncontrollable. You hate everyone and mostly yourself. When you get old and your body is once again betraying you, it’s also cruel because you know how good you once had it. As a teen you can’t imagine the wonder that awaits. I think that’s why it’s more cruel. 

Regardless, being a teen totally sucks. This is something I thought of today as I spoke with my sister who is in the midst of her own teen turmoil. I mentioned my theory, one she was familiar with. Here it is: 

Teens become awful because they’re getting ready to leave for college and by the time they do, as a parent, you’re so ready for them to go, you don’t really miss them. If they left when they were wonderful, when they were loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, as a parent, you’d be totally bereft.   

So kids go to college and become human again and as a parent, you start liking them again. And then they become wonderful. At least ours did.

Justin has been home for the past month or so, on a break from his tour. Where he was difficult during those terrible teen years, he’s a joy to have around now. Easy, personable. Smart as hell. He likes wine and conversation; he laughs easily and quickly. For Mother’s Day, he had a dozen roses delivered for me along with a lovely card. And today, before he left, another package arrived. He presented it to Kevin and I. We opened it and inside were four gorgeous wine glasses. Matching wine glasses. He had noticed that many of our pairs had become singles, had lost their mates. He thought it would be nice for us to have a nice set that we could use to entertain, that we could use on the deck for sunset, that would like nice and that we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking. These glasses are made with a slightly heavier stem; they’re harder to knock over. 

The point is he noticed. He’s thoughtful. He’s wonderful.

My new theory is better: Kids grow up and become teens and then they become people you like and respect and enjoy. They become equals. They become incredible. In our case, they become Justin.

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Powwow

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 29, 2017 10:20 PM

I got a text from my neighbor earlier in the week about going to the powwow this weekend. If I was interested, we’d have to leave fairly early as it started at 7 and if we got there too late, it would be over. Or there wouldn’t be any goodies left to be got. I had tried to go to the one last week but got there too late so I know of what she spoke. I texted back “absolutely.” This morning at 7:17, I texted her that I was on my way.

I was first introduced to the idea of powwow just over a week ago. It’s actually an acronym: Produce On Wheels With-Out Waste. POWWOW. This program “rescues” 30 million pounds of fresh produce from the warehouses of produce distributors. For whatever reason – and based on what I “rescued” today – it has been deemed unmarketable. The grocery stores don’t want it; neither do the restaurants. You show up at one of their locations around the city, and for a $10 donation, you leave with a box full of fresh stuff, up to 60 pounds worth depending on what they have for that week. The donation goes to help feed the homeless and the needy. Each year, they help with over 4 million healthy meal supplements.

Susan (my neighbor) and I got to the powwow around 7:45 or so. We paid our $10 and then we started through the rows. There was eggplant and Brussel sprouts, neither of which did I take. Try as I might – and I have – I just don’t like eggplant. I think it’s one of those vegetables that you’re either for or against. Nothing in between. I’ve parmesan’d it; I’ve fried it. It just has a weird texture. 

Brussel sprouts I don’t mind especially if you cover them in garlic and mushrooms, but Kevin absolutely. Will. Not. Eat. Them. 

But then I came upon chilis. There were hatch chilis and the fiery red chilis. There were sweet peppers and red and yellow bell peppers. There were onions. And tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes. I felt myself starting to grin. I was in my element. Since we moved to Tucson, I use chilis and peppers a lot more than I ever did before. I put them in everything. Needless to say, I loaded up my box and came home from POWWOW with a bunch of stuff.

Stuff that I immediately set about using once I got home. I made a big pot of marinara sauce, using one of the onions and all of the tomatoes. I found my garlic in my veggie drawer, along with some celery and carrots, all diced very thin. I cooked and simmered and stirred and tasted. I added spices; I cooked some more. 

Then I turned it off and let it cool. Once cool, I put it into my food processor, added some fresh basil (coincidentally from a plant given to me by Susan) and distributed it into several containers to freeze. 

Cooking all day is not something everyone likes. But for me, it was the perfect way to spend my Saturday. In fact, I’m not sure I could have been happier. 

I powwow’d today. I got veggies. I cooked. I lived it out loud.

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So this came in the mail

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 28, 2017 9:08 PM

Once upon a time, it was 1957. I was not yet born and wouldn’t be for several more years. This was back when a crooner named Perry Como was popular and that year he gave the world his second RCA Victor 12” long-play album. It was called We Get Letters and it was a concept record, based on requests from the singer’s television show. It was a soft, breezy record and did not include a song by the same name. Years later, David Letterman had a regular skit on his show where he sang, gleefully, “letters, we get letters” while opening his mail. 

This morning, Riley was on the deck and I was in my office, a ritual we engage in daily. He had just had a bath and was drying in the cool desert breeze; I was working. It was about 9:30. I had just taken a sip of coffee when suddenly, from the general direction of the deck, came the apoplectic barking and carrying on of my dog. I got up as I usually do and went to the door with the intention of asking what I usually ask when the dog is apoplectic. What is the issue? But before I got the door open I saw exactly what the issue was: trotting up the hill toward the house, as nice as you please, were two dogs, one a beagle, the other what looked to be a beagle mix.

I sprang into dog wrangling mode and headed toward the front door, yelling behind me that there were two dogs and for Kevin to grab a couple of leashes. As dog people, we have at least six leashes, only one of which do we use on a regular basis. Outside, I crouched down and in my friendliest voice called to the dogs who both came to me willingly. Kevin got the leashes, I attached them, and down the hill we went. 

I hadn’t met them but knew they were our new neighbor’s dogs because I knew they had beagles. I also know every other dog in the neighborhood. It’s not that big of a ‘hood. My neighbor, Alan, who had several workers at the house, couldn’t believe the dogs were out. 

“How…?” he asked, his question trailing off. 

“Gate’s open,” I said just as the worker – a pool guy – came in apologizing for leaving the gate open. 

Mission accomplished, I decided to head back up to the house. Alan remembered something as I started out the door. 

“Oh, hey,” he said. “I have some mail here. It has your house on it.” 

My house? How could that be? Someone was sending mail that showed my house? Our house? What? 

Alan handed me an oversized postcard and there, sure enough, in the place of honor taking up the top two thirds of the card, was the home we affectionately refer to as Il Sogno. The card had been sent by our architect/builder because our neighbors had pulled permits to build a house and he was advertising his services. Better late than never, since the house is already built and the card was stamped 4/18. 

So our house is being sent all over the city, perhaps further. We’re famous. Just like Perry Como. Without the crooning.

My husband's shorts

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:12 PM

We sold our house in Oak Park in July 2013 which meant that we were actually and finally going to move to Tucson, something we'd dreamed of doing since we bought our property in 2010. There was one issue: we had dirt but no place to live. And we had a month to get out of our house.

We booked a flight to Tucson for the following Saturday morning. And that's where it all started to go wrong. We got to the airport and waited at the gate. We were delayed. And then they changed gates and terminals. We dutifully followed the herd and waited some more. Finally they cancelled the flight. We scrambled to find something else but nothing was going to Tucson. We found a flight to Phoenix, and decided we'd do that and then drive the two hours.

We were supposed to meet our real estate agent/friend at 10 am. She had a bunch of interim places for us to look at where we could move and live while the house was being built. We finally got to her at 2:30. We had lost four plus hours, hours we needed that American Airlines stole.

We went to look at 13 houses. They were all fine, all in the price range but nothing seemed right. After leaving Stephanie and driving back to the Westward Look, where we were staying, we were quiet at first. Then we started to talk and then we started to fight. We weren't finding anything. Our day had been blown up, we were stressed and tired and hated our beloved Tucson.

The hotel had changed from our previous visits. It had been purchased by a big chain – I think Wyndham – and it had transformed from quaint to ordinary. Even the rooms seemed less charming. We went to the restaurant and ordered salads and a bottle of wine. The waitress who took our order had one tooth. There was a party going on in the bar, and it was rowdy. We ate a bit of our salads, then took our bottle of wine and went back to our room.

It was probably 9:30 by then. The black sky was lit up by lighting in the distance. We could smell rain. We hadn’t planned on being there long, literally just overnight, leaving early the next morning, so we hadn’t brought much with us. We stripped off the clothes that had become glued to us in the heat and disaster of the day. I pulled on a clean t-shirt, but hadn’t brought anything to lounge in. Luckily, we’d brought several pairs of shorts and boxers for Kevin – I have no idea why. I pulled on a pair of his boxers, grabbed the bottle and we went out onto the balcony to watch the sky, and wonder if we were about to make the biggest mistake of our lives. Both of us were wearing his shorts. 

Sitting in the cooling desert night, sipping a decent though not fabulous wine, we came to the conclusion that the reason we hadn’t liked anything was because none of the houses we’d looked at during the day were better than the house we were leaving. And while it was only going to be temporary, while our dream house was built, and even though they were all in the price range we’d requested, psychologically it bothered us that we were moving “down” in the world. 

The next morning, Kevin got up and went to the business center of the hotel, looked up rentals rather than places to buy, and we went and looked at several. One of them was perfect. Bigger than what we were leaving, relatively new, and for a rental price about what we paid in mortgage in Oak Park. This allowed us to keep all of the money we were going to invest in a temporary home and ultimately put it toward our eventual home. The trip was saved, our faith was restored. We caught a flight on that Sunday afternoon, and flew home to continue packing. 

I thought of that horrible weekend this morning when I finally got up. I’ve been burning the proverbial candle at both ends and at the nubs. We had company last night for sunset and tapas. Justin is home. I’m exhausted. Kevin let me sleep later than I had requested. He made an executive decision he told me once I finally got up. 

He and Justin had been on the deck having coffee and he must have seen me stirring. He came into the bedroom with a cup of a coffee as I was trying desperately to find a pair of loose, sloppy shorts to put on. Morning shorts. Everything was in the hamper reminding me that I needed to do laundry.

He went into the closet and grabbed a pair of his, and handed them to me. Big, sloppy, comfortable. And perfect.

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Vindicated

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 14, 2017 9:48 PM

Justin is home. He got in late last night and has been regaling us with tales from the road for a good part of the day, or at least when I can get my butt out of my office for a cup of coffee, a bit of lunch. He spent nearly three months in Japan before traveling to Europe where he spent another six and a half. We asked him what his favorite place was, or if it was too soon to know. Without hesitation he said Japan. This didn’t surprise Kevin and I. Justin has had a symbiotic relationship with Japan since he was little and started collecting Pokemon cards. We still have a full set of the original cards, all first editions. 

He loved the culture, the people, the food, even when he couldn’t get a piece of cheese, or a cup of coffee. He felt at home there. I get it. It’s much how I felt when I traveled west. I knew it was where I belonged. 

I went to Japan years ago, and didn’t like it. I had no affinity for it. But I appreciate and applaud his love of the place. Maybe it is because I understand the draw of another place, far from home. Maybe it’s because we know that he knows his own heart.

One of the things he loved most were the hot spring baths. We haven’t ever really indulged in something like that though from the pictures he showed us, they looked gorgeous. Even if we had the opportunity, I’m not sure we’d do it. It’s not really our thing. Neither of us is big on baths. 

But I just came across something that may change my mind. According to a new study, dipping into a hot bath burns as many calories as a 30-minute walk. It has something to do with the physiologic effects of heat exposure on the body. The researchers set out to see how exposure to heat can alter the molecules in the body. They had 14 men take hour-long baths in water at 104 degrees, which burned about 61 calories more than if they’d been sitting in a room that was 98.6 degrees. They then had the men exercise on a bike for an hour and they burned between 515 and 597. 

But 61 calories is nothing to sneeze at. It’s also, evidently, the amount of calories that you burn when you go for a walk, albeit probably not a very brisk one. 

The point of the study, interestingly, wasn’t about the amount of calories burned but rather the fact that counting calories is ridiculous. I’m not a calorie counter though I do admit to looking at labels on foods to see how many calories, how much fat and from which group, how many carbs, etc. But I long ago came to the realization that calories are like just about everything else. They’re different for different reasons for different people, based on metabolism, and genetics. And whatever. 

I exercise. I try to eat right. I don’t take baths. And today I feel a little vindicated. Because it’s not about how many calories are burned.

Because ultimately, what matters is… my kid is home and he’s happy and he loves hot springs and Japan. Burning calories doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t have that.

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