A theory on why I never get enough done in a day

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 17, 2015 7:39 PM

Nearly every night I say this to my husband: “I am forever amazed by the sheer amount of sh!t I don’t get done in a day.” It’s the kind of phrase that is simply a statement, not meant for discussion. If it was a question, it would be rhetorical. I am forever amazed. I am also forever amazed that it seems to happen almost daily. The frequency of my not-getting-doneness has increased exponentially. 

I said it last night as I was shaking my head. I was practically muttering, like an old person walking down the street looking down at the sidewalk, talking to herself incoherently. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like an old person mostly because I’m not sleeping well and not sleeping well can make a person feel ancient. Kevin was walking from the kitchen to his office. I was at the other end of the bar, looking at my never-ending to do list, shaking my head in disbelief, knowing that I wouldn’t sleep again because I’m not getting enough done in any given day. He stopped. He turned. He came back to the bar and placed his hands on the edge, like he was at a lectern.

“It’s more than amazing,” he said. “It’s disgusting. What do we do all day that enables us to never get anything done?”

We started talking about what it is that allows us to start work at 7 am and work through until at least 6:30 pm, with a short break for lunch, and still not complete enough to make us feel accomplished come quittin’ time, a time in this house which is a bit of a misnomer because we don’t ever truly quit until it’s time to go to bed. 

So what is it?

It could be that there's too much to do. It could also be that I haven't been sleeping well which leads to interruptions in concentration also known as brain fog, a malady made even worse because of hot flashes. Power surges. 

Perhaps it's that I'm easily distracted. Ooh. Shiny! Or that we get pulled into different expected and unexpected projects. Yesterday the expected project was the installation of our solar system. We knew that it was happening, hence the expected, but there were still conversations we needed to have with the installers, things we needed to move, to approve. It took up at least 3 hours of our time. Today it was getting Lorin a new computer. Best Buy was having a flash sale and since I’ve been considering it for some time, we thought now might be ideal. It was the best price we’d seen on the MacBook Pro that I want. But it takes time to discuss and to make the decision. Do we really want to spend the money? Should I try to limp along with my current machine which admittedly has issues? And then, after the discussion had worn down, there was the time it took to buy it, even online. There's a process. You have to create an account, enter all of your pertinent information, decide which card to use. Do I want it shipped or should we go get it? What about software?

There are any number of reasons why each day ends without me feeling especially accomplished; with me repeating the same tired phrase. All of the above are good and valid. But I have a theory. I think the real reason is this:

I’d really rather be sitting in my Adirondack chairs, enjoying the view and living it out loud.

Parade of lights

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 16, 2013 10:55 PM

Catalina Highway begins at Tanque Verde to the east and ascends in a straight line, north toward Mount Lemmon. From the moment you turn onto it, you’re overwhelmed by the stretch of road ahead, one where there are precious few cars, and one that appears to be headed directly into the foothills. They jut up into the sky, red rocks and cactus, an imposing feast of nature beckoning you ever forward. Cyclists love this road. It’s not uncommon to find more people on bicycles than in cars.

Along the two-lane roadway, there are houses tucked in and between saguaros and prickly pear, mesquite and other desert brush. They are almost all desert architecture, low to the ground with flat roofs. They are not too close together. Rather they’re spread out and comfortable. Rarely do you see people outside of these houses; occasionally someone will be walking a dog.

Before the climb begins to Mount Lemmon there are two stop signs, one at Houghton, the other at Snyder. Just past Snyder, about five miles up from where the road began, it begins to climb up and to the east, twisting its way through the Catalina foothills on its way to the mountain. Just before this climb, there is a road called Mount Lemmon Short road. It is back off of this road, and nestled into the hills, where our property resides. It’s quiet during the day, pitch black at night save for the twinkling stars and on this night, a full moon tucked behind a veil of clouds.

It’s a beautiful area, peaceful, serene, away from most of the city. In fact, it is outside the city limits though still within the arms of the county. On Saturday, suited up in our leathers we rode the Highway. I happened to see a fire truck parked in someone’s driveway, completely decked out for the holidays, with tinsel and Santa and his sleigh on top. Lights dripped along the metal, nearly obscuring the truck’s true identity; a wreath adorned the grill. Kevin didn’t see it. On the way back down, I pointed it out. We figured it had to be for a parade. People decorate for the holidays, some even decorate vehicles, but not like this.

There is a tractor in a field near where we live that is outlined in lights. At night, it is lit up, the lights lining the wheels appearing to turn. Smoke in the guise of blue lights pushes out the chimney. There is an old Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep, with a right hand drive, in the street across the way. It is parked in someone’s front yard, also strewn with lights. An inflatable reindeer is on top. Inside, at the wheel, an inflatable Santa.

Down the street, in an area called Winter Haven, the houses are all decorated and ready for the steady stream of visitors who walk and drive through each Christmas for two weeks. There are enormous pine trees that reach toward the stars, real smoke curls from chimneys, Christmas music plays. It’s as if moving through a film. It’s a destination for people all over the city, a chance to experience the magic of Christmas. Norman Rockwell meets Clark Griswald.

Today, I saw the fire truck again, on Facebook. It was announcing the annual Parade of Lights, an event that takes place this Saturday night. The truck will undoubtedly be part of the parade that will start with a tree lighting and will see dozens of entrants, all showcasing beauty and creativity. The parade theme is creativity in the use of lights.

Off of Catalina Highway, outside the city limits, was one entry already prepared to lead the way, from our neighborhood to downtown and beyond. It’s going to be something to see. Very festive, joyous. Colorful. It’s the spirit of the season lit up for the world, living it out loud along streets trimmed to be very merry. I can’t wait. 

Because too late is better than never

by Lorin Michel Friday, October 25, 2013 12:29 AM

On the way to get my hair cut tonight, I happened upon a house, right near the road, that seemingly has all of its Christmas decorations on display. Wire framed trees and reindeer, a snowman and several candy canes, all already strung with white lights. The sun was just beginning to drop down into the west so I don't know if they light up at night, but it got me thinking about decorations. What is too early and is it ever too late?

Let's unpack this a little.

It is not yet Halloween. The majority of exterior home decorations right now seem to be of the pumpkin/ghost/witch/goblin/spider/skeleton variety. I'm good with that. These decorations, including the little orange lights and the black silhouette cats stuck to windows, went up about a month ago. Early, but not too. Late would probably be October 31. Really late would be November 1 because then it's time for Thanksgiving decorations of which there really aren't many. Thanksgiving seems like an interim holiday, at least in terms of what can be put on a house that screams “I'm in the Thanksgiving spirit.”

My sister is very good about decorating their house for holidays. She has wonderful witches and cauldrons and ghosts that she places strategically on the front porch and between the two trees in the front yard. It's tasteful. If she does Thanksgiving decorations, I'm sure there are strategically placed straw husks, corn, gourds and something to connote a turkey. Maybe a well-appointed pilgrim.

But her decorations are timely, always appearing when appropriate and always disappearing within a respectable time post holiday. The exception may have been when she was pregnant with my nephew. She was so miserable the holidays had little meaning.

This house along my route today was well kept. I wondered if they just recently put up the reindeer and company or if they never were taken down from last year, perhaps even the year before. I hadn’t noticed before. Then again I haven't traveled this particular route very often.

I have always thought that people who leave their Christmas lights on their house all year long are kind of tacky. Though I've seen some places with nice strands of white lights along the edge of the house or threaded through trees. They burn these lights nightly and they are warm and inviting, not festive just friendly.

But reindeers and snowflakes and candy canes and Christmas trees all arranged in a nice “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” kind of way, in October, might be a little early.

In the restroom of my salon, stuck to the floor, was a tiny corner of a holiday sticker. Just two holly leaves were visible. I wondered how long it might have been there.

Maybe the universe was trying to tell me something, maybe the house on River with the reindeers was also trying to tell me the same thing.

Then again, maybe the people in that house just really love Christmas. Maybe they're sharing the spirit, one that is joyous and happy, where music plays and snows falls gently and never screws up anyone's commute; when life is at its most lush and perfect.

Either that or they're just way late taking them down from last year. If that's the case, I'll go with it. I'll smile and applaud their ho-ho regardless of whether it meets my sense of appropriate. I'll celebrate every time I drive by. Because in this case late is better than never.

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live out loud

A lucky woman

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 24, 2012 8:29 PM

My house is quiet again today. It was lively this morning, with alarms beginning sometime around 2 am only to be placed into snooze mode as it was much too early. The real alarms, the ones that requested everyone to rise, get ready and get out, started at the appointed time of 5. There was a short series of buzzes that emanated from the guest room upstairs. It was soon quieted, no doubt by my sister’s hand. Next came a cell phone, followed quickly by an iPod, both alarms having a softer though no less powerful message. Soon I could hear the floor boards in the bathroom creaking. Yes, they definitely need to be fixed. Some day. Some day.

I lay in bed and listened to the girls getting ready. We had to leave for the airport and they were busy making pretty for the trip, packing their last minute items. The coffee pot clicked on, and soon, I heard the telltale gurgle of it finishing, and the aroma of freshly brewed French roast wafted our way. My alarm was supposed to go off at 5:30 but I was obviously awake. At 5:28, I rolled out of bed, slipped into sweat pants and a hoodie, pulled on a pair of socks, laced up my running shoes, ran a brush through my tangled mess of hair, brushed my teeth and went out to the kitchen. Poured some coffee as I squinted at the light over the sink. Kevin was still in bed. I poured him a cup. I knew he was going to want to get up to say goodbye, to see us off.

Soon the girls came down, lugging their carry-on bags. Khris had some coffee; Shawn took the last piece of the coffee cake I made on Sunday morning, wrapped it up in some napkins. They hugged Kevin and started to say their goodbyes while I took the bags out to the Rover. It was still dark though the sky was turning from midnight to dusty gray. I could see clouds high; the brightest stars still shown but were beginning to fade. The girls came out, climbed into the car. I kissed my husband and told him to go back to bed, hoped I’d be home by 7:30. Maybe I’d even go back to bed, too. It was 5:45.

We drove through the ever-lightening dark, along the 101, into the Valley toward the rising sun. The traffic was heavy but moving as I suspected it would be. It doesn’t start to really pack up until closer to 6:30. We would be nearly to the airport by then. We talked about the flight, about their trip. Khris and I sipped our coffee; Shawn munched her cake. We were tired. By 6:45 we were in front of Virgin America at Terminal 3. It was fairly quiet. I pulled to a stop in the appropriate white zone (for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only), and we all spilled out onto the asphalt. The sun was shining, climbing into the sky; soon they would be as well. The bags were removed from the back and then it was time to say goodbye.

LAX in the morning

I am not a crier, but I’ve spent more time in tears in the last month and a half than probably any time in my entire life. As I hugged by beautiful niece and then my beautiful sister, I felt the tears sting my eyes, felt the lump in my throat, felt the heat in my face. It was so wonderful to have them here but it was just a visit and visits always come to an end. It’s times like this though, when saying goodbye, that I realize how far away I am from many of the ones I love. Sometimes, that’s hard. This morning was such a time.

It is my choice to live out here. It was my choice to move here 26 years ago and I don’t regret it. California has been very good to me. I have an incredible husband and truly remarkable friends, friends who are family. I love the west; I have always believed I was born to live out here. I fit in here. I’m comfortable.

But as Khris and Shawn took their bags and started through the glass doors, as I watched those doors slide open to swallow up my only sister and my only niece, I felt sad. And just for that moment, lonely. I miss them all the time, though I get used to not seeing them. But it was fabulous to have them here, to celebrate some of our great California weather (and some not-so-great California weather), to cook and drink wine (Shawn’s was sparkling cider) and visit and relax. It was a lovely long weekend.

As I type this tonight, they’re home, no doubt already in bed. Khris has her favorite pillow, Shawn is nestled into her sheets and comforter with Lucky, their dog, nearby. May they sleep long and restfully, and wake up tomorrow to enjoy their New Hampshire Wednesday, their routine, their lives. We all lead separate lives that intersect when we allow them, lives that are happy and successful and real and full of love. Maybe it’s how we were raised; maybe we’re just lucky. It’s no wonder that’s the name Shawn chose for their puppy four years ago. She knew.

I know, too. I’m a lucky woman. Living it out loud, here in California. 

The language of the lights

by Lorin Michel Friday, March 30, 2012 7:16 PM

Justin is home for a few days. He and Bethany arrived on Wednesday afternoon. As much as we’d like to believe it’s because he really wanted to see us, we know it’s actually because he wanted to attend the USITT conference in Long Beach. The reason we know this is because we bought the tickets so that he could fly home specifically to go to the aforementioned conference. And we’re really fine with that. If he’d come home just to visit, like for Spring break, I suspect he would have been bored to tears. There’s no one here for him to play with anymore. Any of his old peeps from high school who are still haunting the OP are, in his words, pretty much losers. They didn’t go away to college; many didn’t even bother to go to a local community college. Quite a few don’t have jobs. They seem content to live at home, let mom and dad pay for everything, and just exist to party. He’s outgrown them, and we’re glad. After all, he’s got ambition, passion for what he’s studying and he’s nearly chomping at the bit to get out into the world to start doing it.

USITT is the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, an organization that serves professionals and pre-professionals (like college students) in design, production and technology for the performing arts. They provide a platform to network and exchange ideas; also learning opportunities. Their 2012 conference is at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, which is about 75 minutes or so from here. With no traffic. But anyone who lives in LA or has visited LA, or has even heard about LA knows that there is rarely “no traffic.” Maybe Christmas Eve at 3 am, which would actually make it Christmas morning. Yesterday and today, Justin and Bethany have risen, showered, powered through some coffee and cinnamon raisin bagels and jetted off in Justin’s trusty 1994 Honda Civic. At least there’s a carpool lane now on the 405. Sometimes that can almost help.

Last night, they were going to meet someone for dinner but it fell through. Plus it was expensive, so they opted for home. They got here around 8:30. We had ordered a couple of big salads from Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, along with some bitchin’ garlic rolls (they make the best rolls) and had Justin and Bethany stop on their way by to pick it all up. We gathered around the table to chat and eat and chat some more. Poor Bethany was exhausted, and she had a 1000-word paper due this morning at 10 am, 7 am West Coast time. She hadn’t started it and so as soon as we were done eating, she excused herself to go write. Kevin and Justin started talking about lights and electricity and different filaments and fixtures and gels and stuff I didn’t understand so I cleared the table and then sat down on the couch with my computer to also do a little writing. I wanted to be close, but I thought it would be nice to let father and son talk and bond. Also, all I was hearing was: blah blah blah lights blah blah blah lighting blah blah blah.

It’s very interesting to listen to Justin. He’s so knowledgeable about his field. He has completely absorbed everything that he’s been taught thus far, all that he’s read and seen, in terms of lighting, lights and electricity. It makes sense since he’s studying for his Bachelors of Fine Arts in Technical Theatre, with a concentration in lighting design and electricity. It’s fascinating and will be a truly incredible career for him. To listen to him now is to hear poetry, spoken in French. I don’t speak French but I know it when I hear it, and it’s a lovely language, a romance language whose most famous city is Paris, the city of lights.

There’s synergy in that; in Justin, who speaks high school French, studying the intricacies of lights, lighting and electricity, talking this language of illumination. In his words, words that I don’t understand, I can see the changing hues of the Eiffel Tower on a beautiful spring night, the twinkle and glow of the Champs Elysees, the Paris Opera House. The romance.

Perhaps I can understand his language after all.

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live out loud

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