In tears

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, January 10, 2017 9:06 PM

I am a proud if frustrated democrat. I always have been and always will be. I have proudly worked to help elect presidents and sometimes I have gone to bed elated and sometimes in tears. When Kevin changed parties in 2004, not because of me but because of the rise of the frightful right, I told him I was sorry. Being a democrat is not fun. We're more caring and less full of fight; we want to help others and not leave people in the ditch; we believe in climate change and that the earth is still round. We believe in people rather than corporations and we don't believe that corporations are people.

We regularly sit in the corner and eat our hair. So I told him, grow it out, baby, and pull up a wall.

Through all the good and the crap, I remain a democrat, proudly, even when I live surrounded by wealthy Republicans; even when I reside in a red state.

I have watched in horror the incoming group of people. I can't quite get myself to call it an administration because to administer you have to know what you're doing; you have to care. I have stomped my feet and screamed and yelled. I have pulled at my hair and gritted my teeth. I have lost sleep. I have and remain angry.

But tonight, was proud. Tonight, I cried. I watched President Obama's final address to the country, and from the moment BJ The Chicago Kid sang the national anthem, until the announcer said "Ladies and Gentleman, the 44th president of the United States" I've been in tears. Barack Hussein Obama strode onto the stage and I lost it. This man, this amazing man, who I worked to elect twice, is our president for the next nine day, my president for much longer. I was and remain proud to call him Mr. President. I was and remain emotional about it.

I cried the night he was elected, too. I remember standing in the great room of our house in Oak Park. Standing because we were too nervous and excited to sit, watching MSNBC, watching the returns, listening, waiting. And then at 8 o’clock, as the polls closed in California, Brian Williams came back on the air and said: “We have news.” Kevin popped the champagne and we cried. We watched him and his phenomenal family walk out on the stage in Grant Park, Chicago. We listened to his acceptance speech. And we cried.

I know I will never see another like him. We will never see a man like him, a president like him; a family like theirs. I can only hope that our son will. Because for eight years I have been proud. For eight years I have felt safe. For eight years, I had hope.

And for eight years I, we, all were able to celebrate and live it out loud.

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That’s my tray

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 9, 2017 7:16 PM

In the United Kingdom, 60% of people eat dinner in front of the telly. I don’t have the figures for this country though I would venture to say that at least 75% of us eat in front of the television. Kevin and I do nearly every night. The exception tends to be Friday or Saturday, but rarely both, holidays and when we have company. We rarely even turn the television on when we have company.

I don’t know when the practice started but it was sometime when Justin was little and we lived in Oak Park. We had a rectangular coffee table between the two couches. Each night, we’d all sit on the floor with our legs under the table, Japanese style. It went on that way for years. Then Kevin hurt his back so getting down on the floor to eat was difficult at best and painful at worst. In shop class at school, Justin made us a wooden serving tray. It was for use when we entertained, like on Thanksgiving when we always had a houseful of people, but Kevin quickly commandeered it for use as a TV tray. Several years later, I got my own tray for Christmas. It was long after Justin had left for college. It was just the two of us, and our habits hadn’t changed. Each night, we’d fix our plates in the kitchen, with whatever we were eating, and then settle ourselves on opposite sides of the table, on opposing couches. 

It’s a practice we continue here. We have a routine. As I cook dinner, he gets the two trays out of the pantry, puts a placemat on each, and then sets them as mini-tables. A napkin, and whatever eating utensils we need. Forks and knives usually. Sometimes chopsticks for me if we’re having Chinese food. Then he gets out two plates and puts them on the center island. When I’m done cooking whatever I’m cooking, I arrange the food on the plates, put each on a tray and then off we go to the Great Room, still sitting on opposite couches, though now those couches are perpendicular.

Last night was no different than most, other than we were having something terribly healthy – grilled chicken Caesar salad. Kevin worked the grill, also part of his job. I fixed the salad which consisted of romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, a bit of onion and shaved parmesan cheese. Once the chicken was done, I sliced it and arranged it on the portions of lettuce, drizzled some of Ken’s Creamy Caesar dressing on top, added some fresh ground pepper and then Kevin took his plate and I took mine, and we adjourned to the couches. It was then that I realized what had happened. 

I looked at him. 

“What?” he asked.

“That’s my tray,” I said.

We sat there, eating our salads, watching Madam Secretary, me coveting my tray.

“Do you want to switch?” he asked, raising his plate.

“No, of course not,” I said, even though I secretly did. I like my tray; I’m used to it. It fits well on my lap, and it’s mine.

Can you covet your own TV tray? Last night, I was doing just that, and then I realized the ridiculousness of it, and the retentiveness of me. And I laughed out loud.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 7, 2017 8:40 PM

We have been conditioned to believe that the only reason something bad happens to a person is because of poor habits, bad karma, or family history. The medical profession perpetuates the latter by asking questions on the forms we have to fill out prior to seeing someone for something or nothing at all. Is there a family history of… heart disease, cancer, ingrown toenails? I understand this because sometimes genetics are involved. Family history can lead to genetic testing and you might find out you possess a BRCA gene. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins that help repair damaged DNA. When these genes mutate, they don’t function correctly and they can lead to breast and ovarian cancer. 

That’s a rudimentary explanation. Essentially, gene mutations aren’t good. You get your genes from your heritage, your family history. It’s genetic. And therefore, family history matters. 

Except when it doesn’t. 

I’ve gotten very cynical as I’ve gotten older, about everything, including health and medicine. I know that the biggest risk of developing breast cancer, for instance, is age. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether your Aunt Bertha had it. It just happens. 

But as humans, we need a reason and when something bad happens, we want to know why and sometimes to assign blame. My mom has said to me in the past, when discussing things like health care and even cancer, that we don’t have a history of that in the family. We don’t. And yet, there’s never history of anything until it happens. Until someone does it first, and then blammo, history has been made.

So much of what happens to us is random. There is no reason, no matter how hard we try to find one, to assign one. My friend Lisa’s son has had cancer twice. I think he’s 14 now. Why did that happen? It just did. Why does someone who’s smoked two packs of cigarettes every day for 40 years not get lung cancer but someone who’s never smoked a single butt get diagnosed and die within a year? 

I suppose I’m pragmatic. If it happens, you deal with it. There is no other choice, not really. You can curl up into a ball, push yourself into the corner and eat your hair, but it’s not going to help change the fact that you’ve just made history. You’ve just changed your family’s history forever. 

My nephew is in the hospital again. On New Year’s Eve they rushed him to Children’s Hospital in Boston because he had a bowel obstruction. It turned out that he was a rare case, an 11-year-old, who still had a small piece of his umbilical cord inside and his intestines, in trying to expel it, ended up wrapping themselves around it so tight nothing else could get through. Another rudimentary explanation of something called Intussusception. He had surgery and was discharged several days later only to develop a raging infection so they’re back in Boston and Caden is on a high-dose antibiotic drip. He should be able to go home Monday morning. I was talking to my sister this morning. She’s exhausted. Drained, is the word she used. Even so, she realizes that when this is over, after a not too long while, they’ll all forget about it and move on. What happened to Caden isn’t genetic. It’s more like a freak occurrence. But he has history now, even though it probably won’t happen again and if he has children, he won’t pass it on to them. 

History happens when one day passes into another. It can make us look back fondly or with fear. But it is there, always. Today will be history soon. There won’t be any evidence of it until it happens, until it changes the course of a life, however mildly, however small.

History happens, and we embrace it, or not. But it becomes part of us, for the better and often for the worse, but it helps us to understand more as we muddle through this journey called life and living it out loud today so that someone someplace tomorrow can say “I heard you loud and clear.”

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Hate watching

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 6, 2017 8:53 PM

I heard a new term today. I was at the salon, sitting with color in my hair, and the girls were all talking about feeling obligated to watch a show they no longer like because they've already invested so much time in it. I smiled because I understood the phenomenon. But I admit, I also smiled because I thought what they were talking about was going to be about something else, especially given the current state of the world, of politics and of our screwed up system in general.

The new term was hate watching. I thought it was the act of watching nasty people do horrible things to other people. It would make sense. Like those four teenagers in Chicago who tortured another and broadcast it live on Facebook. That's hate and those who watched it without doing anything about it we're watching hate in real time. I don't know all the details but I do know that the police were able to press charges against the four perpetrators. I think I read where they were actually being detained on another charge.

We are a country of voyeurs. We watch. We're embarrassed by the sappy and romantic and horrified by the horrific but we stay in our lanes; we don't disturb our own peace. We wallow and marinate in all of it.

Kevin and I are voyeurs. We sit behind our glass walls or stand out on our deck and we watch the comings and goings in Mira Vista Estates. We see neighbors come and go; we see when delivery trucks are headed in and up our hill, or to anyone else. We know when someone gets a visitor or a new car; we see who's walking their dog when. We watch but in this case we don't hate. There's no reason to. We like our neighbors and we love where we live.

In the salon today, Meg was talking about how she watched the first season of Scandal and how she was completely hooked. Couldn't wait for the second season. But when that second season premiered, she didn't like it as well. She kept watching though because she felt invested, and guilty for not liking it. It's sort of like having a good friend you don't really want to spend time with anymore. You feel guilty because you have history; because that person - or show - mattered. It meant something. You were invested.

But eventually displeasure turns to hate because you feel trapped, you feel obligated and while you’re not invested anymore, you can quite let go. You hate yourself for it. You hate the other person for it. In the case of a television show, you hate the show, and you hate yourself for continuing to watch.

Evidently hate watching is a new thing and practiced by a number of people. We hate but we keep watching and waiting for something to get good again.

So maybe it is like our current political situation after all.

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I have discovered

by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 5, 2017 9:29 PM

This week I have discovered old made-for-TV movies. This happened entirely by accident. Let me explain.

Regular readers might remember that every Christmas I engage in a ritual. It starts right around December 1, coincidentally right around the time I start playing Christmas music. I watch Christmas movies online. I don’t actually “watch,” of course. More like listen as they play in the background while I work. I’ve seen them all too many times to count. The 1951 version of Scrooge with Alistair Sim; the 1984 version with George C. Scott. It’s a Wonderful Life. I also manage to listen to An American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler (my brother’s favorite) and It Happened One Christmas, the twist on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Marlo Thomas. There are others. The Christmas Story Lady with Jessica Tandy and Stephanie Zimbalist; Silent Night with Linda Hamilton; One Special Night with Julie Andrews and James Gardner. I’m a sucker for Christmas movies in the same way I’m a sucker for Christmas music. I don’t like old sappy music like anything by the Carpenters, Andy Williams, or Ray Conniff. And I don’t like sappy movies. Well, actually I do. I just like them when they’re well done. 

For several weeks before Christmas I’d fluctuate between playing music and movies in my office. And then, Christmas was over. Roy and Bobbi went home. I de-Christmased the house, putting everything away in its proper place until next year. We settled back into our routine as early as Monday when everyone else was still celebrating the holiday. 

Maybe it was that fact, that everyone was off and still having one more day of the 2016 Christmas season, but on Monday, as I sat at my desk, I opened a browser to youtube. I hadn’t finished It Happened One Christmas and I thought, what the hell? I was still feeling a little Christmas-y. I hit play, shrunk the browser down to a small square in the top right corner of my computer screen and then continued to work. When it was over, another movie started to play. I don’t even remember what it was, but it wasn’t bad. Soon enough, anything holiday related moved into just interesting. And they were almost all made for television.

I’ve let them play for the last few days while I work and I’ve seen/heard some pretty good films. Many of them were nostalgia based, set in the plain states during the time after World War I or World War II. A simpler time. They weren’t sappy at all, just sweet. One of my favorites was actually one that I don’t think was made for TV. Called Sweet Land, it was positively charming. Most were obviously made for television but well done, including one from the 1980s called Little Girl Lost.

I have discovered that sometimes you can discover good things when you’re not even looking. Not important things, just fun things. Things to keep you occupied when you’re working and need a little company in your office. Things that help you live it out loud.

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It rained again last night

by Lorin Michel Sunday, January 1, 2017 9:19 PM

It rained again last night. We heard it first pinging the skylight in the bathroom before it became a deluge. The wind kicked up a notch and soon it was shushing against the glass of the windows. Steady and strong, drenching. Not nasty, not retaliatory as it can sometimes seem here in the desert. Just rain. And I wondered. 

I wondered if maybe it was a metaphor for settling. The latter part of 2016 was spent dealing with a great deal of angst and turmoil, of wallowing and fermenting in anger by a great many of us. It’s exhausting being angry all the time. I find myself wondering how right wing talk show hosts do it every day, how so many people find so many things to be completely outraged about constantly. I can’t do it; I don’t want to do it. The rain evidently agrees with me. But I wondered if it’s steadiness was giving in rather than fighting. 

Our rain in the desert is almost always vengeful and mean. It blows in and announces itself with gusto and bravado, as if shouting at the earth and the sky and anyone who will pay attention to pay attention. I’m here. I won’t be ignored. I’m the biggest and the baddest and the bestest ever. It reminds me of a certain toddler.

On Christmas Eve we had a harsh storm. It whipped the desert into a frenzy, sending trees sideways and causing the saguaros to sway with such speed we were sure many would snap and fall. They didn’t. Deck furniture skidded and stuttered; pillows on the outside couches went airborne. And then the rain came, pounding, determined, loud. All it needed was a bad comb-over and the impression of the toddler would have been complete. It raged for hours, and then, getting tired as all toddlers do, it finally yawned loudly and went to bed. 

Yesterday, New Year’s Eve day, it rained again. But it was resigned. The wind didn’t blow, the trees didn’t snap. The rain simply fell, heavy at times, but steady, drenching the ground, leaving standing water in the hollows where drainage is slow. It was the kind of rain that will leave the ground wet for days, even in the desert. And then it rained some more. All night long. 

Last night we went out to dinner with friends and were home by 11:30. It was just as well. We’re not big New Year’s Eve people and generally don’t like to be out on the road when the rest of the world has been drinking. I guess it’s different out here on the east side because there was little traffic, and the only police we saw was the big SUV parked across the road, blocking the way up to Mount Lemmon because of the snow. We changed into sweats and Kevin poured us a glass of wine. It was too cold and too wet to go outside, and so we turned off all of the lights except for the Christmas tree and sat on the couch, a throw over us for warmth, and watched the city sparkle as fireworks went off. We counted at least 20 different places where the sky lit up through the rain and the cold. 

And then, it was 12:01 and 2016 was over here in the desert. I was happy to bid it farewell. It wasn’t a bad year; a lot of good happened. But in the last quarter, and up until last night when my nephew was rushed to Children’s Hospital in Boston for emergency surgery, it was awful. Frightening. Depressing. Bad.

Yesterday, it rained; last night, too. Today it rained again. It was cold, fog drifted over the hills from the mountains above. It partially obscured the beauty of the desert, but when it lifted and the sun shined briefly, there was sparkle again. And the promise of beauty, and of something better to come.

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Twas the day after Christmas

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 26, 2016 6:07 PM

And all through the casa, not a human was stirring, not even Mufasa. You’ll have to pardon my lack of creativity but a) I’m tired and 2) I’m a big fan of Mufasa, always have been and it’s the only thing I could think of that rhymed with casa. We’re tired today, exhausted really. We had a lovely day yesterday, filled with Facetime and texts and presents and mimosas and coffee and coffee cake and stockings. And then we cleaned everything up – including ourselves – in order to prepare for guests and dinner. Said guests arrived just after five, in time for sunset, and the festivities began anew.

Roy and Bobbi are here, of course. It’s our third Christmas with them, here in the desert; the second in the new house. I think they enjoy coming; I hope they do. I know it’s always hard to be away from home and life, but we so look forward to them being here. We live well together, all of us. There’s never really an agenda. We sit around working or playing on our computers or texting with our phones. We listen to music, we eat good food and drink great wine. It’s always lovely. 

Ric and Jane joined us last night for dinner. They’re new friends, who live here most of the year. For the three summer months, they live in Michigan. They bought a house west of here and had it remodeled. It’s actually how we met them. Our architect had used us as a referral when they contacted him about perhaps doing their house. Jane and I hit it off on the phone and the next time they were in town, they came to the house to see in person what Mike had done. They didn’t end up hiring him but, as we like to joke, they “hired” us. We’ve all become friends. They’re from Chicago, and they’re rabid democrats. They like good food and good wine. We get along wonderfully. 

Kevin and I made prime rib. I made twice-bake potatoes, and asparagus with a touch of lemon juice and blue cheese crumbles. We had martinis and wine and talked politics and therapy, there being no real correlation between the two other than the obvious. 

They left and the four of us sat in front of the fire for a few minutes before going to bed. We were tired, and sated with too much good food and good wine. At 3 am, a smoke detector decided its battery needed to be changed, this one right outside of the guest room. Annoying, tiring, and requiring a ladder. Kevin changed it out, and while he and I got back to sleep OK, Roy and Bobbi didn’t sleep well at all. I felt horrible all day because of that. I know that I didn’t make the 3 am chirp happen and that it’s one of those random house things that happens to everyone. But still. You like to have guests be able to rest and relax when they’re in your home. Ours have only been able to do so sporadically. I feel bad. 

Today we went out to a healthy lunch then to a shop Bobbi likes. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home so that I could get stuff to make chicken and mushrooms with asiago gravy, mashed potatoes and baby French carrots. Comfort food. 

When we walked into the house, the same smoke alarm was once again chirping. We’re hoping it was just a defective battery, and not that there’s something more nefarious going on. Kevin got the ladder once again while I retrieved Riley whose back legs where shaking with fear. He doesn’t understand the loud and piercing chirp; it scares him. 

We replaced the battery again with the last of our 9 volts, and while Bobbi when to take a much-needed nap, the boys trucked back down the hill to Ace Hardware to get a fresh supply of batteries. We’ve decided we’re just going to change the batteries in all of the detectors that haven’t yet beeped so that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get a few years in before we’re once again, rudely awakened by beep.

We’re tired. We’re Christmas-ed out. Tonight we relaxed, Roy and Bobbi, Kevin and I, and our own Mufasa, king of the house, who spent the latter part of the day hiding behind the bathtub, cowering out loud.

A traditional Christmas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:36 PM

When we were growing up, my mother always worried that we weren’t having a traditional Christmas. We rarely had any extended family; it was usually just the five of us, plus the dog. She would make cookies, seemingly for weeks, putting them in the freezer. Pecan tassies, apricot twists, thumbprints. She was a phenomenal baker.

When we lived in New York, we had a split-level ranch, and one tree. It was in the living room and on Christmas morning we’d all gather around on the shag carpeting and open presents. When we moved to New England, we had a kid’s tree in the family room and my mother’s tree in the living room. That tree, all white and gold, with garland, glass ornaments, white and gold “space balls”, glass icicles, and white and gold and red birds, was the tree under which all of the packages went. On Christmas morning, we’d gather in there and open presents, one at a time. It was her way of making sure that everyone was involved, and that Christmas wasn’t over in a flash of flying wrapping paper, bows and string. 

She would sit on the couch and watch, collecting wrapping paper that she would dutifully fold for use next year. She did the same with bows. And then it was over. And she was always a little down. Years later, we talked about it and she said that one of the reasons she felt that way was because she had convinced herself that everyone else had a more traditional Currier and Ives kind of Christmas, with extended family gathered around and everyone making merry. Then she found out that no body actually had that; that the paintings and prints were fantasies made of snow and sleighs. 

For the longest time, I was often down at Christmas, too, especially because I was away from my family. But then, I too, realized that there really isn’t a traditional Christmas. The traditions are yours and your family’s to make. Kevin and Justin and I, along with Maguire, made our own. We would get up, just the four of us, on Christmas morning and with a nod to how we did things as a kid, we’d open packages one at a time. Justin was in charge of picking out presents for everyone, and he was always so good about waiting. He actually seemed to enjoy the process. Maguire would lay on the floor and watch everyone. We’d give him one of his toys and he’s chew for a bit, then, keeping it close, return to watching. After presents were opened, but before stockings, we’d all go to the kitchen. Kevin would pour coffee and we’d make Justin some hot chocolate. I’d put the cinnamon coffee cake I made every Christmas into the oven, then we’d all go back into the great room to open stockings. 

Because we live west and away from immediate family, we long ago created our own western version. We’d spend Christmas late afternoon into the evening with Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and whoever else. We’d make a great meal, open more presents and enjoy each other’s company. On the 26th, we always went wine tasting. It was tradition, and a great way to extend the holiday.

Today I baked cookies. We listened to Christmas music and wrapped presents. We gathered in the great room, the five of us – Roy and Bobbi and Kevin and I and Riley – and we huddled around the fire as a cold storm blew in. It’s the new tradition, having Roy and Bobbi here with us in the desert. It’s the third year they’ve come, and it’s lovely. We went out to dinner, listened to some jazz and came back to once again gather around the fire and listen to music.  

I’ve decided that traditions are anything you want them to be, anything you make them. There’s no right or wrong tradition. There’s no Currier and Ives, except on paper. We are our own Currier and Ives. We do our best to embrace those we love, both near and far. We wish for snow and accept rain and cold. We eat cookies and drink wine and enjoy each other, always. It’s what traditions are made of. 

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and more. Feliz Navidad from the all of us in the desert where we’re celebrating out loud.

Baby, it’s cold outside

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 22, 2016 9:00 PM

Rainy. Wet. Miserable. In a couple of days, there will be snow. It’s Thursday, the 22nd of December and I’m sitting in my office, looking out at the wall of wet that is threatening to obscure my house and has already obscured my view. It’s been raining since yesterday afternoon. It poured on and off all night. It is pouring now. And it’s cold. Outside.

Rain is caught on the railing, in the mesquite trees. As the sun fights for equal time today, it catches the drops and they sparkle. It’s like the entire desert has been decorated for the holidays. It’s pretty, naturally; ornamental without any help from me, or anyone. If it was a bit colder, these drops would freeze in place and become mini icicles. The rocks above would appear permanently brilliant as they wore their individual sheets of ice.

But they won’t freeze, at least not today. Because while it’s cold, it’s not yet in the 30s, the requisite temperature for things, other than human things, to even contemplate freezing. It’s going to get cold though. Tonight will be in the low 40s, tomorrow night, too. By Saturday night, the temp will be in the 30s and Sunday we might get snow. Snow. In the desert.

Baby, it must be cold outside. 

The song of the same name was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser and originally recorded for the film Neptune’s Daughter, a romantic musical starring Esther Willams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc. Loesser won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The lyrics have come under some fire, especially of late, because they supposedly are predatory and portend sexual assault. The male lyric seems to be pressuring the female to stay the night even though she’s trying to leave. In today’s world, that’s true. But in the time of the song, the culture was a little different. Women weren’t socially permitted to spend the night with a boyfriend or fiancé, and when the female sings that she wants to stay and askes “what’s in this drink” which evidently was a common idiom of the time, she’s using it to rebuke social expectations by blaming her actions on the influence of alcohol. 

I don’t like the song and never really have. It was first recorded by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, in 1949, but in Neptune’s Daughter, it was sung by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan recorded it, as did Ray Charles and Betty Carter, Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, and thousands of others.

Not sure when it became a Christmas song either, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. Its lyrics of snow and treacherous conditions ring true at the holidays. And on Sunday, if we’re lucky, baby, it will be cold outside. But warm inside, so nice and warm, and we can look out the window at the storm, watching snow and rain fall, and the drops freezing like ice. And baby, that’s going to be really nice.

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The big wrap up

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 17, 2016 7:44 PM

A storm blew in last night. Earlier in the evening, the winds had been strong, so strong that we had trouble keeping the grill lit. It continued until we went to bed and through the early morning hours. Right after 2 am, the winds became even stronger. We had the window open in the bedroom, the cool air nice but becoming too cold. We listened as the wind chimes whipped and clanged. The howl of the wind through the desert is an eerie, almost ghostly thing to listen to. Frightening and mesmerizing all at once. Soon enough, the rain began, pinging the glass of the skylight and then the windows of the bedroom. We tossed and turned, trying to sleep, but the noise of nature was deafening.

At 3:30, I finally got up and closed the window. It muffled the sound but didn’t eliminate it. We both drifted in and out of sleep. The occasional clang and bang of something outside would jar us suddenly awake and we’d both whisper “what was that?” Neither of us wanted to get up and investigate. One of the chairs on the deck just outside our bedroom took flight and slammed against the railing, coming to a rest upside down. I wondered how the furniture on the main deck was faring, if the pillows on the couches had been swirled up into the atmosphere and deposited somewhere down amongst the cactus. At 8 am, the other chair on our bedroom deck slid across to join its mate and I woke up from a deep and restless sleep. I was in the middle of a not very good dream, and it took me a minute to get my bearings. Riley was curled up on his bed at the foot of ours; Kevin was gone. I hadn’t heard or felt him leave.

He brought me coffee after I called out to him – “Kevy?” – and thus the day began.

It was still cold, though the winds were more respectful. A blanket of cold fog hung over the valley. Kevin didn’t work outside today as he often does on Saturdays. We had actually discussed it last night in front of the fire. We have guests coming next week, and there are things we want to do in the house. His time would be better spent inside than out. As it turned out, he couldn’t have worked outside anyway. All’s well that plans well. 

As he busied himself doing things like painting the television insets above the fireplaces, replacing lightbulbs, and getting the fireplaces ready, I finally got some Christmas cards ready to send. I don’t send many these days, mostly just to family. To all my friends and colleagues, I usually do a fun electronic message. How modern of me. 

After that was done, and before I started work (because even though it’s the holidays, clients still want their stuff), I decided to also wrap some presents. I have things that need to ship and because I am once again and forever behind, it’s going to cost me a fortune. This happens to me every Christmas. I always have good intentions. Those intentions never seem to make it to realities. Oh well. 

I organized according to what was going to who (whom?), pulled the wrapping paper rolls from the closet along with the new batch of to/from tags I bought yesterday, and wrapped. I love to wrap presents. I find it soothing, and pretty. I’ve always felt this way. One of my jobs in high school was in a pharmacy in town that had quite a gift selection. At the holidays, I became the de facto wrapper because I liked it and I did it well. 

My mother called the other night to ask me if I could come home and wrap presents for her. I used to do that every year when I lived at home or came home for Christmas. I haven’t done that in a long time. As nice as it would be, travel is too difficult at the holidays, and so we stay here. She even offered, teasingly, to pay my airfare if I’d promise to wrap. We laughed and then talked instead about what everyone was doing on Christmas day. 

Today I boxed my gifts for sending. I put some under the tree. There is more to do, there always is. But I made progress. And then I started back to work. It was a Saturday spent living it out loud from the wee hours and on through the day.

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live out loud

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