oh the carnage

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 12, 2015 7:44 PM

We have had three dogs. Regular readers know all of them fairly well. Dogs make for easy blog posts because they are such characters. Each has an individual personality. Like people, no two are exactly alike. They all like to eat different things, they’re all afraid of different things. There are some similarities. They all like to go for walks, or at least all of ours have liked that. They like going in the car to varying degrees. They like toys. More to the point, they like to destroy toys.

When Maguire was a puppy, before we knew better, we often bought him rubber-plastic toys. He loved them. Within 30 minutes, he had loved them so much they were in little rubber-plastic pieces on the floor next to him, the squeaker carefully deposited on top of the pile. Then he’d sit there and smile at us, so proud of the carnage he’d inflicted. It was as if he was saying: “look what I did, mom. Isn’t it great? Thanks so much for that guy. Please, can I have another?”

Paging Oliver Twist.

As he got older, we gave him plush toys. These didn’t fare much better. He would grasp these guys between his two massive paws and pick at them with his teeth, trying to dislodge a thread. As soon as he had a thread he would pull on it and pull on it until it unraveled a seam. Stuffing! He would systematically pull the stuffing out one mouthful at a time, depositing it in piles on either side of him. The once plush toy was reduced to a mere shell of its former self. We used to re-stuff the toys and put them in the hospital. The hospital was the top of the refrigerator where re-stuffed toys waited to be sewn up. After two or three trips to the hospital, the toy would be properly buried in the trash can. 

Cooper did much the same, though since he was older when we got him he had a bit more self-control. He would still work his guys, chewing on them, pulling to find that elusive thread. And once found, the same process would begin. A hole would open, and stuffing would be pulled out and deposited. It often looked as if a small snowstorm had happened just around him. By then, we’d closed the hospital. If he destroyed a toy, it got thrown out. Sooner or later a new toy appeared. He had several toys at any given time, so he was never without and he rarely went from destroying one to immediately destroying another. 

Enter Riley Michel. 

Oh, the carnage. Like those who came before, he loves his guys. Like those who came before, he will work a guy until he finds that one loose and offending thread and then he will pull until it opens and he can systematically dig out the stuffing. If he finds a squeaker or a rattle along the way, all the better. It’s like bonus carnage. 

What carnage?

Lately he’s been on a true tear. Just this week we have had to “bury” – and by bury I mean toss in the trash – Joe, a camouflage dinosaur that my mother brought him; Beav, a very dapper beaver that Roy and Bobbi brought him; Bear, a supposedly tougher toy that I bought him from Ace Hardware; and Cow, several tennis balls with a thick rope going through and a stuffed head and tail.

We have tried to explain to him that if he destroys all of his guys in one week, he’s going to be a very lonely boy. And that if he thinks I’m going to go out and buy more toys, well … he’s absolutely right but probably not until this weekend. 

As I write this, there is another guy in the foyer. Santa Bone. Santa Bone was Cooper’s and we just recently discovered him in a box. Riley took to Santa right away, and vice versa. But the attraction has turned violent. There is carnage. Everywhere. Again. 

This is the legacy my boys share. Their love and the eventual destruction of their guys. But as Kevin pointed out with Riley, they’re his guys. I worry though that he may be pathological. He may be a serial guy destroyer. I wonder if there’s a program he can join. What’s a puppy mom to do? Except buy more toys and expect more carnage. Like Cooper and Maguire before him, it’s Riley’s way of living it out loud. 

The price we pay

by Lorin Michel Thursday, April 2, 2015 10:15 PM

As it’s April 2, Kevin and I thought it was about time we tackle that yearly chore known as taxes. We actually had an appointment with our accountant earlier in the week but there was simply no way we would have been ready. With the move and most of our lives still in boxes, with the loss of Cooper and our devastation; with our general exhaustion, we actually were worse than not ready. We hadn’t even started.

Our accountant, a great Irish guy named Grady McNutt, has been doing my taxes since before Kevin and I got married, and both of our taxes since we did. I found Grady after I got divorced. I had no idea how to find an accountant so I looked for one who was close to me, which he was. I also loved his name. It sounded like something out of a Leon Uris novel. That was back in the early 1990s. I probably could have used a service like H & R Block, or even done my own since I still had a “real” job at that point. But by 1995, when I decided to become a freelance writer, I definitely needed someone who was well versed in the art of taxes for the self-employed. This is not a rap on H & R Block. It’s just that I wanted to develop a relationship with someone who would know me and my business as well as he knows tax stuff.

Twenty years later, Grady and I are still together. Now we include Kevin in our coupleship and we’re all very happy. Oh, sure. There was the one year when we went to see him and had absolutely nothing prepared. We thought we had more than we did. Turns out we had the equivalent of a shoe box of receipts that we proceeded to dump on his desk. He was not happy. In fact, he got very mad at us. I’m sure, like today, it was very close to tax day and he really didn’t have time to screw around. Kevin and I were both shocked, shocked I tell you, at how mad he was. We felt like chastised children. We were sure we would be getting a new accountant. But Grady realized how horrible he had behaved, even if we were the ones at fault, apologized and showered us with tickets to Dodger games.

Today it occurred to both Kevin and I that we were meeting with Grady at 3. Neither one of us had done a thing to prepare. Actually that’s not true. I had downloaded all of my bank statements. Since I do almost everything electronically, I simply go through each one of those statements to decipher deposits and expenses. It’s not efficient and for my more business minded friends, I realize I should be using something like Quickbooks or whatever. But this works for me in the same way not balancing my checkbook ever works for me.

That sound you hear is my father, groaning from beyond the grave.

Kevin’s record keeping is much more detailed and business like than mine. It works for us and more importantly, it works for Grady, supplying him with what he needs in order to prepare our taxes by April 15 so that we can file an extension. We never actually file until October so that we can make SEP contributions. That doesn’t mean we don’t and won’t owe though.

On April 15, I’ll write a check to the US Treasury and another to the state for the taxes that will bring us up to date on last year. Then I’ll start paying monthly amounts. Since both Kevin and I are self-employed, we are paid in gross amounts and thus not taxed. Therefore, we must make it up to the government.

And I’m OK with that. I understand that taxes are necessary to fund things that make our country possible. I don’t like writing the checks, but I don’t really begrudge it. I like my roads paved, I like good public schools, and police and fire departments.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court, said this in a dissenting opinion issued on November 21, 1927: “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure.” He was known to confront anyone who would say “I hate to pay taxes” with “I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

I’m with Holmes here. We live in a democracy, we have a country of some 330 million people. Do people who are being honest really believe that a country of this size could exist as this one does without money coming in from its civilians? Could we have the military we have?

Taxes are what we pay. For dams and national parks and clean air and water. For air traffic controllers and airport security and drug regulation. For teachers. For animal shelters. For helping children. For being civilized. While I don’t like everything my taxes help pay for, I do understand why. And I’m good with that. It’s the price of living it out loud.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 8, 2015 8:44 PM

When we got satellite radio several years ago, one of the stations I made sure to program into my 18 buttons was NPR. While I rarely listen to the regular radio, I also have the local NPR station programmed into my FM stations. I think it's one of two. In Los Angeles, I had two stations programmed, one out of Santa Monica, the other out of Pasadena. If I'm in the car it's not uncommon for me to turn the satellite off at the top of the hour to ensure that I hear the news, both the national report and then the local. I love hearing "I'm Ann Taylor," or "I'm Lakshmi Singh." It brings me comfort.

When I listen to NPR, I feel a sense of peace, even when I'm disgusted or horrified by the news. I trust them. They are simply reporting, often in depth. There is no agenda. It's just good information. I don't always like what I hear. I don't always agree with it. But I respect it.

This morning on my way to get my hair cut, I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show. She has a shaky voice due to spasmodic dysphonia – she’s also 78 –  but once you get used to her, it's a pleasure to listen because her guests are smart and civilized; her topics are always relevant and interesting. Not surprisingly, today she and her guests were discussing the events in Paris yesterday. It was highly intelligent and in-depth. It made me think about the concept of free speech and what it truly means. Even the callers and the emails that are read on the air were well thought out, articulate and nice. I say that because I've become so used to the vitriol and nastiness of some online comments. It's a breath of fresh air to hear people being respectful and thoughtful. It renews my faith in humanity. NPR does that for me, and for others.

I've never understood why Republicans want to get rid of funding for something that is so vibrant and so vital for a well-informed public. I suppose because maybe a well-informed public wouldn't be so willing to support them. Not all republicans think this way. I've heard that some actually enjoy NPR. They should. It's what freedom is all about.

At one point NPR was simply National Public Radio. It replaced the National Educational Radio Network following congressional passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. This act, signed by President Johnson, also created the Public Broadcasting Service. Founded in February of 1970, it had its first official broadcast in April of 1971 when it covered the Senate hearings on the Vietnam War. Its longest running program, All Things Considered had its first broadcast on May 3, 1971. NPR was primarily a production and distribution organization until 1977 when it merged with the Association of Public Radio Stations. It’s now headquartered in Washington DC and funded largely through endowments of $258 million annually. There are 900 national stations. The average listener is Caucasian, 49 years old with an annual income upwards of $93,000. You’d think Republicans would love it.

Today NPR produces and distributes news and cultural programming. Individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs, and most broadcast a mixture of NPR programs, content from rival providers like American Public Media, Public Radio International and Public Radio Exchange as well as locally produced programs. NPR's flagships are two drive time news broadcasts, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Both are carried by most NPR member stations, and are two of the most popular radio programs in the country. 

I've listened to both of those, and then some, including The World with Lisa Mullins and Marco Werman, and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. I feel smarter when I listen, I feel like there are smart people out there in the world who are trying to make us all better humans. It makes me want to know more about things I didn't know about before listening. That's the mark of education, information and an informed public. And it's worth celebrating every day.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 31, 2014 5:44 PM

It’s the last day of 2014 and you know what that means. Tomorrow is Lorin’s annual and official de-Christmasing. But as I have this last day to muse and mull, I thought I would share a little something that has gradually occurred to me. I am no longer 35. Yesterday was my birthday, and I haven’t been 35 in actually quite some time. But I use 35 as a metaphor. When I was 35, I was at my physical best. I was tall and thin, still running so I was in great shape. I could slip into my old 501 jeans and have them look spectacular.

I haven’t been able to wear those jeans in a while now though they still hang in my closet because I remain hopeful. I have aspirations.

But I will never be 35 again. I am now safely in my 50s and I am actually very OK with that. I am beginning what many have come to term the more ideal second phase of life. This isn’t to say or even imply that the first phase was un-ideal. In fact, quite the opposite. The first phase saw me get an education and embark on a career that I loved and miraculously still do. It allowed me to appreciate my family. It gave me the opportunity to make real, true, and lasting friends. It gave me my first husband to show me exactly what I didn’t want in a marriage, and thus gave me my favorite husband, Kevin who in turn gave me Justin. And Maguire. And now Cooper. The first phase was the time of my life where I began.

The second phase is the time when I enjoy. Justin is out of school and making his own living. We are now at the time in the parents-child relationship when he actually likes talking to us. When there is no agenda, just love, laughter and joy. It was a long time coming. I’m glad it’s here.

It’s a time when we have reinvented ourselves, picked up our lives and moved to a new city with a new culture, where we can spend time rediscovering things that we like. Art galleries. Restaurants. Sitting by outside fireplaces listening to nothing but music. Watching a house get built on a hill. Meeting new people. Engaging with those our own age. Being unapologetic for it and embracing this second phase as opportunity. Opportunity to live differently and possibility to change because we can. And did.

It’s a time to also realize that 50 is the new best age. We don’t look like we did at 35. We have more lines. Things sag that didn’t used to. Things don’t fit the way they once did. Hair is thinner, for both men and women. But it’s all OK. Because it’s real and true and honest and life.

I titled this post “I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen.” The fact is, I bet Gisele Bündchen, also known as Mrs. Tom Brady and the highest earning super model in the world, probably doesn’t always look like her magazine-self either. She’s pretty; makeup and hair and clothing and Photoshop make her stunningly gorgeous. But she’s 32. I wonder how she’ll look and feel at 53.

I was perusing the internet earlier, just bouncing around as I often do between projects. It’s how I cleanse my creative palette. I came across something entitled “GQs Sexiest Women of 2014.” Naturally I clicked. I’ll tell you about it so you don’t have to look yourself. It was filled with what men seem to think women actually look like. Most of them were women probably in their early 20s who had lithe, ridiculously hairless bodies that they showcased readily, squirming in the sand, writhing on satin sheets, all sex and foreplay. There were only a few whose names I even recognized, like Lizzy Caplan, Rashida Jones, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the latter of whom is also 53. She will never look like Gisele either and I suspect she, too, is just fine with that. It’s called acceptance, and reality. And being OK with who you are, without Photoshop.

As we wrap up 2014, I hope that some of you, too, have decided that this next phase of life will be one of wonder and fun, love and laughter, and yes, beauty. And that when you look in the mirror, you’re OK with the person looking back because that person is truly worth celebrating, this day, this night and always.

Finding "it"

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:35 PM

I wonder sometimes what it is that I’m looking for, what it is that continuously drives me forward. What do I want? What is it? What is “it?”

It is one of those tiny words with huge meaning. Try to write a paragraph without using it at least a dozen times. Try to read one. Try to talk without referring to it constantly. It is something and nothing. It’s conjecture and it’s a contraction. It’s a pronoun, objective, possessive. It’s descriptive and decisive.

But what is it?

I guess it can be anything which is probably why it seems so elusive. Most people spend every day searching for something. Sometimes that something is as frustrating as me trying to find the right word when I’m writing an article, an ad, a blog post; a text. Sometimes it’s searching for time. There never seems to be enough time for what we really want to do, whether it’s for the day, the week, the year, a lifetime. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t mutter the phrase there isn’t enough time in the world to do what I want. But what is it that I want?

Sometimes it’s something salty to snack on. That’s an easy one. Of course I don’t act on it. Sometimes it’s a way to make my hair lush and thick. Of course I can’t find it.

I wonder if it’s contentment I’m looking for and yet I realize that, for the most part, I know where that is. I see it every time I look at my husband, see my son’s name pop up on my text message, hug on my dog, hear the voices of my family so far away. I’m content. And yet I look for more. I don’t know what it is that I’m looking for and because of that, I’ll never find it.

I wonder if it’s happiness I’m seeking and yet, I’m happy. I have moments of being completely and totally blissed out. I’m healthy, I have an extraordinary life and I live it out loud every day. I’m happy, so how can I find what I already have?

I wonder if it’s joy that I want to find. But is there a difference between joy and happiness?

Sometimes I don’t look too hard for it because I’m afraid of what I’ll ultimately find. Some nebulous thing that doesn’t exist and it scares me. It, then, becomes fear and fear will stop you dead in your tracks. I’m afraid all the time but I don’t give into it. I practice active denial by not thinking about the things I’m afraid of, things I have no control over. I’m a control freak and a worrier and so I’m afraid. Of “it.” But I don’t know what that it is and I don’t want to know.

I wonder if it can be found when I don’t know what it is. I wonder if it wants to be found. I wonder if I really want to find it.

And then I realize that maybe, just maybe, I already have it. “It” is how I live my life, the people I surround myself with, the laughter I experience daily. “It” is taking a leap of faith, of possibility. Of whatever. “It” is the fact that I love what I do, I adore the written word; that I found what I was born to do at an early age. “It” is the house on the hill, a dream in the building. “It” is a deep love of life in general, of my place in it in particular; of the people I’m surrounded by. It turns out, “it” was never lost to begin with.

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live out loud

Invoice therapy

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 6, 2014 10:34 PM

I’ve had one of those days where I have too much to do and no energy to do any of it, and no creativity to create. This is a problem when one creates for a living. I have this problem at least once a week. I work 12 – 14 hours a day and sometimes I don’t sleep well and after several days of working like a nut and sleeping like a baby – which, let’s be honest, should not be a metaphor for sleeping well because babies are up all the time. I use it here as a metaphor for being up too often, and without feedings – I stumble into my office as I suck down the first of too many cups of coffee. I fire up by Mac and in the few seconds it takes for that to spring to life in all of its symphonic glory, I turn on the PC. I always have both going because I need the PC for the content management work I do on four hospital websites and I never know when or if I’m going to need it so I turn it on just in case. Four days out of five, I need it, some days more than others.

While the PC finds its way from sleep to morning, taking an interminable amount of time to finally get to where it’s useable, I sign into iChat, then begin checking my four email accounts. I answer a few that need answering right away, then I peruse several website. I click through The Animal Rescue site, clicking to give free kibble; the Breast Cancer site, clicking to give free mammograms to underprivileged women; the literacy site, clicking for books for kids. I check the news, sometimes I look at Facebook, sometimes I forget. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I love to see what’s happening with my friends, but sometimes I find it too full of stuff I don’t care about, at least not at that moment.

I have found myself taking these ridiculous quizzes on Facebook lately, though. Last week it was what 70s celebrity would you be and I was Cher, based on my answers. Bobbi took one of the quizzes today, one about your dream profession, and she posted that she would be a writer. She’s a good writer. We’ve written together and talk often about writing together again. But I chuckled a bit. Right now she spends all of her time therapizing, but she should be a writer. I clicked to take the quiz myself.

Then my smile faded as I thought what if I shouldn’t be a writer? What if I should drive a garbage truck or be an electrician, neither of which appeal to me in the least. What if I should be an architect or a lawyer? Again, yuck. What if the quiz told me I should be a therapist? I like being a writer. I can’t imagine being anything else.

I took the quiz. I should be a writer. Phew. Crisis averted.

That would have been the high point of my day but then, after too much time doing nothing, I decided to do some invoicing. I’m already late for the month. It should have been done over the weekend but I’m sure something came up. I just can’t remember what it might have been. When one works for herself, invoicing is paramount to liquidity. If I don’t invoice, I don’t get paid. And if I don’t get paid, I can’t pay the bills. It’s that simple.

So I engaged in a bit of invoice therapy today. I wasn’t doing much of anything else which always makes me feel guilty. Invoicing assuaged some of that. It was a bit like therapy.

I’m not a therapist but I’m writing a book with my sister and perhaps another soon with Bobbi. I engaged in some invoice therapy. Maybe I’m a therapist after all.

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Giving up the Ghost

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 5, 2014 10:30 PM

I start my pottery class tonight. I haven’t taken pottery since I was in high school. I remember it fondly, the art department in the back corner of Milford Area Senior High, MASH for short. There was a drawing studio, a photography area complete with dark room, and a pottery studio with a kick wheel. I spent many afternoons kicking that wheel, especially during the latter half of my senior year when I had painfully little to do since I’d already more than fulfilled my class requirements and all I wanted to do was get out of school.

There was no air conditioning in our high school and as the summer drew ever near, similar to what’s happening today, I’d be up to my elbows in wet clay and sweating profusely from the effort required to keep the wheel going fast enough to “throw a pot.”

Throwing a pot, for the un-pottery initiated, entails getting a good mound of wet clay in a nice fairly round ball, wetting the wheel and kicking to get the speed up, aiming and throwing the clay ball at the center of the wheel, hitting the center as close as possible, squeezing more water while forming a mound that is completely centered and then, eventually, pulled a pot up and out of the ball, all the while kicking, kicking, kicking, smoothing, pouring water to keep the clay wet and phew. I’m tired just thinking about it.

I’ve long missed the primal nature of working with clay. It’s messy. While there’s thought involved in creating and in focusing on the job in hand, literally, there’s something easy about it. It’s natural. Ancient civilizations have been using clay to make pots for thousands of year. With a kick wheel, rather than an electric wheel, it’s technologically simple. Simple these days is good. My life is filled with emails and text messages and phone calls and work and house and husband and kid and dog and family and friends. I’m not complaining but there are times when it all gets nearly overwhelming. The idea of sitting at a wheel and getting muddy sounds extremely appealing.

For the next eight weeks, the class meets on Mondays from 6 to 8. I have no idea what to expect. Perhaps it’s all instruction. I know the studio where I’m going also offers extensive studio hours where you can just go and play in clay.

I was talking to my brother about it over the weekend. He’s been a big supporter of me doing this ever since I told him I was thinking about it several weeks ago. We talked about the pottery studio at MASH. Scott was also very into art and took pottery classes. He was telling me about a place he visits sometimes in Vermont, a studio/gallery owned by a woman named Monica. For the life of me, I can’t remember her last name. We talked about the whole process of throwing a pot. He told me to make sure the wheel was a kick wheel because those you can control. Of course, I can’t control what kind of wheels there are at the studio.

Then he started to laugh and asked me if Kevin was looking forward to re-enacting the scene from Ghost. Without missing a beat I said that I doubted it would happen because the famous scene he was referring to, with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze writhing in wet clay to the sound of Unchained Melody, took place in the middle of the night in the privacy of their own beautiful New York loft. I will be in a public studio in the middle of town with my fellow potters. Also, he’s no more Patrick Swayze than I’m Demi Moore. Though we do like Unchained Melody.

When I told Kevin I thought he was going to explode he laughed so hard. I’m not sure whether to be insulted that he agreed with me or relieved that it’s not what he’s expecting. Not that I mind writhing around in wet clay to the Righteous Brothers. I just always wondered about the cleanup.

The movies are always really good at presenting these incredible situations but they never show you the aftermath. How Demi and Patrick (whose character names I think were Molly and Sam) mopped up the floor and cleaned up the walls so that the house looked normal isn’t addressed; nor is the part about getting clay in all the wrong places.

Tonight I’m giving up that Ghost but I’m not giving up the ghost. To do so would mean I won’t succeed or worse. And I think this is going to be something worth celebrating. 

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Thou shalt not fear the apocalypse

by Lorin Michel Sunday, May 4, 2014 10:21 PM

As desert rats, we understand that in the next weeks, we will be descending into the inferno. We are ready, we think; we are prepared, maybe. We know we will become like pieces of pottery, fired in a kiln only to eventually emerge and cool for use. I use this forced metaphor because tomorrow I start a pottery class. I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. On Monday nights for the next eight weeks, I will drive through the ever-building heat toward a studio where I will sit at a wheel and throw around wet clay. I can’t think of a better way to cool off.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The coming apocalypse. By apocalypse, I mean the dreaded summer heat of the southwest where daily temperatures are usually at 100º and higher. These temperatures can be found in Southern Arizona and Southern California, especially in the San Fernando Valley of SoCal. There have been days when I have driven across the Valley and been told by the temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car that it is a balmy 116º. 

That is nothing compared to the hottest place on earth, the desert’s own Death Valley where the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was 134º. Talk about going into the kiln. Several years ago, my mother visited in the summer and we went to Santa Ynez and Los Olivos to do some wine tasting. It was 104º. She’s not used to living in a kiln, but – as my brother likes to joke – at least it’s a dry heat. Like that matters when the temperature is over 100.

To beat this apocalyptic heat, we engage in several activities. One involves staying inside with the air conditioning running, keeping the house at a comfortable 78º. Another involves traveling by car, also with the AC on. And another involves rearranging our lives so as to exercise before 8 am so as not to melt into a puddle of goo. This was the case this morning as we set off on our bicycles. At 8:40. We had good intentions. Last night we went to bed and said we would ride this morning early because of the coming apocalypse. It was supposed to be 95º today (I think it ultimately topped out at 93º). We woke up early and then because we hadn’t slept well because let’s face it, who can when the end of the world is coming, we fell back to sleep. Or rather, we dozed. At 7:35 we awoke with a start. We still had to walk Cooper. We needed to have a cup of coffee. We needed to prepare for the journey, a process that entails Kevin topping off the air pressure in the tires while I get the water bottles ready.

When we finally mounted the bikes and clicked into our pedals, it was already toasty. We rode 13 miles. Not far but it was mostly uphill. Even the brief periods of downhill were uphill. It’s true. I know you’re probably thinking that the heat has started to fry my brain because how can downhills go up, but they can and they do in the desert when it’s hot. Maybe it’s a mirage. By the time we got back, 52 minutes later, we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced, exactly how I would expect the apocalypse to make me.

I don’t know much about the apocalypse actually. My understanding is that it involves guys on horses, rather than bikes. But if my scant knowledge of the end of the world is correct, there is great heat and fire, and the gates of hell or something.

After a winter of nearly no rain, there will be fires. As I write this, there is one burning just east of Los Angeles. The weather people are predicting an apocalyptic fire season that has already started months early. It’s the price we pay for living in the southwest. But I don’t believe the actual apocalypse is coming, nor do I fear it if it does because I’m fairly used to the heat. And besides, I ride a bike. 

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I am liberated

by Lorin Michel Saturday, May 3, 2014 10:55 PM

Warning: This post may fall under the guise of too much information so for those who are shy, or easily offended, you may want to avert your eyes.

I am a liberated woman today. I am free. I feel unrestrained, alive, ready to take on anything or anyone. I am also comfortable. The reason for this liberation is simple. I have rid myself and my life of underwire bras. For years, I, like many women, thought that it was somehow a better look. It didn’t matter that it was moderately uncomfortable. In the immortal words of Fernando, the character played so hilariously by Billy Crystal on Saturday Night Live, it was better to look good than to feel good.

I found underwire bras extremely uncomfortable. And to be perfectly frank, and again warning, danger Will Robinson, I am not all that well endowed. I’m pretty average. So I’m not sure why I ever decided that I should wear the dreaded wire. But decide I did, and for a while it wasn’t horrible. But then it got to just be irritating, literally.

Like most women, the first thing I do when I get home from being at a meeting, or out with friends, or out to dinner, a movie, the theatre, is take off my makeup and my bra. It’s a ritual. You ladies can understand. It’s just, well, liberating.

It had gotten so bad that I actually dreaded putting the thing on to go a meeting or out with friends or out to dinner, a movie, the theatre. I changed brands. I bought new bras regularly (and let me tell you, good underwear that comes equipped with its own weapon system ain’t cheap).

Sidebar: I read or actually skimmed an article last week that cited a study – an actual scientific report ­– on the fact that men tend to keep their underwear much longer than they should. Up to seven years. And men’s underwear isn’t nearly as expensive as women’s. You can get a three-pack of boxers at Kohls or Target or just about any Walgreens for about $9.

Being a girl is hard. Cue the violins.

Several weeks ago it was once again time to buy new underwear and bras. I decided I was done with the underwire. I had been toying with the idea of ditching the nasty for a while anyway. What sealed the deal was a basal cell carcinoma removed by my dermatologist, right where my underwire rests. Of all the places to get a skin cancer, this is one of the most uncomfortable. I go back on Thursday for a further excision and stitches. This would and will render the wearing of body armor nearly impossible.

So I took the plunge. Instead of my usual online trip to Victoria’s Secret, I went to Amazon. You know, that sexy retailer known far and wide for their lingerie and titillating under garments. It seems that Hanes makes a lovely Comfort Support Wire Free bra. I went for it. I decided to free myself from the confinement, discomfort and evidently skin cancer causing underwire bras.

I am now a liberated woman. I am celebrating. The girls are living it out loud.

[I would include a picture but this is a family blog. My son sometimes reads. I don’t want to scar him for life.]

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live out loud

In which Kevin and Lorin toy with the idea of getting a new used motorcycle

by Lorin Michel Sunday, April 13, 2014 9:22 PM

Kevin and I have long had motorcycles. We like nothing better than to head out on the roadways on a Saturday or Sunday, cruise the canyons or the back roads, drive to a town 40 miles away just to get gas or have lunch. It’s our favorite form of release. For us, there is little more freeing that feeling the rush of the air and the wonder of the day as we meander to wherever we end up.

In 2005, we bought our current bike, a 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad, metallic black with lots of chrome and white wall tires. It’s a bike made for two, rather than a bike that tacks on a passenger after the fact. It’s always been fairly comfortable for a big fat cruiser. The ride isn’t the smoothest and occasionally Kevin will hit a bump that launches me into space at which time I curse loudly and smack the side of his helmet. It’s not productive but it works to communicate the basic message.

The bike has a little over 25,000 miles on it, all but 3500 of those ours. We bought the bike used and we have been in love with it since. We’re still in love but we’ve started talking seriously about getting something different, more of a touring bike rather than a cruiser. A bike with more storage, like a trunk. A bike that is built for longer distances and travels those miles with grace and a gentle ride.

Years ago, we had a neighbor who had a big BMW touring bike. He and his wife would disappear on that thing for weekends, often towing a small trailer behind it. It was metallic gray and impossibly quiet, at least compared to our bike, which we affectionately call the Kaw (pronounced “cow”). They would wave as they rounded the corner on the way to their latest adventure and we would watch until they were out of sight, a bit envious since our bike is simply not built for any kind of distance.

For our 10th wedding anniversary, we drove it to Las Vegas. About 395 miles of straight freeway in blazing heat. We stopped frequently just to wring out our pants and to guzzle more water; several times to get fuel. By the time we pulled into the Ritz Carlton in Henderson, with the Strip in the distance, we looked like we had been dragged through the desert and left for the buzzards. It was not fun. Two days later we had to do it all over again as we drove home. We vowed never again, certainly not on that bike.

The Kawasaki rumbles and vibrates. It does not have the kind of shocks one wants when one is traveling for hundreds of miles. It certainly doesn’t have the kind of shocks that can help to make the passenger (read: me) more comfortable for a long haul. I also sit high so the windshield does little to save me from wind battering my head. A full-face helmet helps but not enough.

Lately we’ve been having the itch. It’s something that no amount of Cortaid or Benadryl cream will heal. It’s the same itch we had when we upgraded our Suzukis from an 800 to a 1500 and then to the Kawasaki. It was an itch that could only be scratched by getting something different, in this case something with a smoother ride, better shocks, a trunk, communication, the ability to play music, cup holders, essentially a car on two wheels.

I mentioned the BMW and we’ve looked at those but they’re expensive. The other day we were in one of the local Power Sport shops and they had a 2002 Honda Goldwing with only 33,0000 miles on it, barely broken in for a big touring machine. We’ve been toying with it for the last few days, even worked out a price with the shop. Now it’s just a matter of saying fare-thee-well to the Kaw and making the transition to a Honda. The big wing. The monster, at 1800 ccs. It even has cruise control, and reverse. All this in a beautiful sandstone package.

By this time next weekend we could be living it out loud on new used wheels. Definitely something to celebrate. 

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