Power nap in progress

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 7, 2014 10:19 PM

It has been a lovely couple of days followed by a very early morning. Pam was flying back to Baltimore today; her flight left at around ten minutes to seven which meant boarding at just before 6:30 which meant getting to the airport by 6 ish cause it's a small airport which meant leaving the house at 5:30 ish which meant getting up at 5. The only thing that got up earlier than all of us was the coffee maker which was programmed to start gurgling at 4:50.

So I'm tired. Kevin is tired. I have no doubt that Pam is tired, too. The only one who doesn't appear tired is Cooper. Of course he also had the ability to sleep most of the day which is exactly what he did.

When we left for the airport, it was still dark. The sun was starting to paint the sky in the east. Clouds were already gathering, the promise of Simon oozing over Baja and the desert. The rain isn't due until tomorrow but it was starting. Gray gave way to pink and finally turned to a fiery orange before the sun rose higher, leaving the clouds gray and dark again. I'm always amazed at how quickly the sky changes both when the sun rises and again when it sets.

Pam flew off into the risen sun and Kevin and I drove back home. After such a lovely few days the reality of having to just work today was already setting in. I love having company, love sharing life and laughter with the people who matter most to us. It's as if time is somehow altered when someone visits. There is catching up to be done, wine to be consumed. The real world and its requirements take a back seat. And it's lovely and relaxing. The company flies off into the rising and warming sun and it all comes crashing down around the ones left behind.

We were back to our regular lives by the time Pam was taking off. We were on our third pot of coffee by 8:30, in disbelief that it was only 8:30. Kevin and I met in the kitchen. Both yawning, eyes watering, hating the real world.

Kevin said that he was going to get a sign to hang on his door that said ‘power nap in progress.’ I laughed because the idea of a power nap, while appealing, seems incongruous. Also an oxymoron. A nap is supposed to be relaxing, time to chill, and obviously to sleep albeit only for a short time. Power is strength, energy, electric. They don't seem to work together. How do you take an energetic snooze?

A power nap is a short, intense sleep where you wake up before you get into anything too deep. It’s supposed to be a supplement to normal sleep, especially when the power napper has accumulated a deficit of normal sleep. They’re only supposed to be 10 or 15 minutes, but the intense rejuvenation experienced is enough to refresh the mind and restimulate creativity. It’s like pulling into a power station to plug in your brain.

James Maas, a social psychologist at Cornell, is the man who coined the phrase “power nap.” He is best known for his sleep research. He retired from Cornell in 2011. If he was still teaching, I would volunteer for sleep research, though I’ve never been very good at sleeping on command.

Which is only one reason I probably can’t engage in the power nap. My husband excels in sleeping quickly. It takes me a while which would negate the whole idea of power nap. Still, it might be worth trying. Maybe just today, to kickstart my brain.

Maybe it will even do something about the bags under my eyes. Better yet, maybe I’ll just wait until tonight and drift off for the usual 7 hours or so. Maybe the new sign can just say ‘power refueling in progress.’ I can celebrate that. 

Simple, complete joy

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 5, 2014 8:37 PM

I watched the clouds roll in late yesterday afternoon. I sit with my back to the window that looks out onto the street, to the south. If I didn’t, I might never get anything done for watching the world go by. The sun beats down all day, just beyond the glass, keeping the room bright if not sometimes warm. A ceiling fan spins lazily above my head. When the brightness dimmed, I spun around to see. Sometimes, briefly, it can mean that a plane has flown overhead; or, if the angle is right, a large bird. This was lasting. Clouds were accumulating from the south, coming up from the Gulf. Earlier I had noticed clouds gathering to the north and east over the foothills, heavy and white on top, black and ominous on the bottom. Rain.

I love rain, especially in the summer. I love the smell of it when it hits the hot pavement that’s been baking in the sun, the smell of dust. We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, or at least I think we have. It’s our first summer here so it’s perhaps unfair to judge. We don’t watch the nightly news so I don’t actually know if this is more than usual. Perhaps it’s less. Perhaps it’s normal. When the clouds gather and the wind flicks, as the sky turns nearly green, I watch it with great anticipation. Waiting.

Yesterday I watched it, hoping if and when it came, it would be quick. I had plans for the evening and they didn’t involve rain.

Kevin was flying back from Los Angeles, set to arrive at 10:10. I wanted to take Cooper to surprise him. In order to do that, I have to manage to load him into the car, a chore difficult enough when the weather is warm and dry. Cooper has not yet mastered the art of jumping up into the Range Rover and at this point, probably never will. He’ll be 8 next month, and he has some issues with his hips. Bad wheels, Kevin calls it. He’s never been much of a jumper, at least not in the two years he’s been with us. As he gets older, that won’t change.

He’s actually very good in the car, better than Maguire was. Maguire could get into the Rover with no trouble, launching himself from the ground like he was on springs, landing in the middle of the back seat, ready to go. Go anywhere. Go now. But he was horrible in the car, pacing back and forth, always needing to hang out the window, panting, never settling down. Cooper lays down on the back seat. He likes to put his head on the center console so we have a rack that is the exact height of the back seat. That way he can stretch across the floor with ease.

To get him in requires a brute lift from the ground. In the rain, it would not be fun; nor would a wet dog be pleasant. I watched the rain begin. The thunder crashed above; lightning flashed. It poured for an hour and a half. I was still hopeful that it would dissipate in time.

At 9:45, I pulled the car out of the garage. I put Cooper’s rug across the leather and put the shelf in place. It was still sprinkling. I went back inside, got Cooper, lifted him, twisted my hip painfully, but managed to get him into the car where he settled down immediately.

I got to the airport and parked in the cell phone lot. A coyote was trotting around the edges. The lot is located in an area just north of the runways, blocked by the terminal. You can’t hear the planes land; hence the cell phone. I hadn’t been there for more than two minutes when a text came in. Landed.

I waited a few more minutes then made my way to the terminal. Kevin was standing outside of baggage claim, leaning against one of the pillars. He looked tired. No – he looked worn out. He saw me coming and moved to the front of the sidewalk. Cooper was still lying in the back seat. I stopped the car, and hit the unlock button for the doors. Kevin moved to open the back door to put in his bag. Cooper got up and started wagging his tail. Kevin opened the door and his face just exploded in a smile.

“Cooper! Buddy, I didn’t know you were coming!”

He hugged on his dog, laughing – how you doin’, baby – and joyous while Cooper’s tail wagged harder – dad! –  and harder, hitting against the back seat. My two boys.

I was struck by the sheer joy of it all. After an impossibly long day that began at 4:25 am, traveling, fighting LA traffic, sitting in back to back meetings, all the while lugging along a backpack that grew heavier with every hour, the total purity of unexpectedly seeing your dog, who is happiest when he sees you, is what living it out loud is truly all about.

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The adventures of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 11, 2014 9:43 PM

Episode 6: Tail waggin’ crime fighter

Today’s installment in the occasional serial comedy of the intrepid super dog, Cooper Michel, finds our fur-covered hero snoozing in the early morning hours of Monday. The sun was parting the trees, drying the still wet grass. I heard it first, the gate to the east swinging open, squeaking and snarling. Footsteps on the gravel just inside the yard. Cooper stretched, his tags hitting the floor. He sighed, his eyes still closed, his breathing steady. I opened my eyes and waited, listening. Kevin opened his eyes and looked at me sleepily. The guys are here.

Every Monday is when the landscaper’s come. In the summer they come even earlier than they come the rest of the year in order to beat the heat. Into the quiet they sneak, with little to no thought given to the idea that those whose yards they are landscaping might still be nestled deep in their beds, visions of coffee dancing in their heads.

The leaf blowers and weed whackers and lawn mowers whirred to life, shattering any peace not just for us but for our close-proximity neighbors. I rolled onto my side and tried to ignore it, but a raging, gas powered leaf blower right below the window at 6:25 will. Not. Be. Ignored.

I sighed and flipped over on my back, pulling the covers up under my chin, as if that would make the rattle of the windows stop. I watched out the still-open blinds on the French door leading out to the patio, blinds that I usually close at night but haven’t the last couple of nights so that I could watch the super moon, and the eerie light it cast on the back yard, shadows dancing on the grass.

I didn’t see the landscaper as he stepped onto the patio but Cooper did. In a flash of fur and slobber he was up and bounding toward the door. Faster than a speeding food bowl, more powerful than a handful of cookies, able to leap – well, he can’t really get off the ground, which is why he’s on a diet, but you get the general idea. He’s Super Cooper.

He barked once, twice, five times, with such force that he blew his front legs up off the floor. I told you he was powerful. He was protecting the house. He was protecting his people. I snapped my fingers and said shhhhhh, and he gave a little snarl and a puff and then he trotted over to my side of the bed, my tail wagging crime fighter, my great protector.

Maguire was never much of a protector. As big and bad as he looked, he was a cream puff. He never barked at the landscapers. Even when the doorbell rang, it only warranted maybe three deep-throated barks. Whoever was at the door was greeted with a big swish of his plume tail. Come on in, let me show you where the good stuff is. Do you have any cookies?

Cooper will rip the head off of anyone who tries to come into our house without permission. He will do it with a tail swish as well, but he’ll talk lots of smack and he’ll snarl. Anything to keep the intruders away.

He settled his big superhero self on the floor next to me, but near the end of the bed so he could still keep an eye out. He watched, ears alert, puffing as needed. Whether it was a bird, a mower or a leaf floating down where it’s not wanted, he was ready. He was alert. He was Cooper Michel, crime fighter, living it out loud.

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The whimpering case of Cooper Michel

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 29, 2014 10:48 PM

Cooper is a street thug, a tough guy, a back-off-bub kind of dog. Also, too, a momma’s boy. A true dichotomy. This is what makes him so loveably infuriating on a near daily basis. He blusters and blows at any other dog in the neighborhood, including dogs that are far across the street and not really even in proximity. He could care less about thunder or fireworks or loud noises. He has no trouble plowing through puddles and walking in the rain. I bring this up because Maguire, who looked big and bad, was quite the cuddle-bug-bear-wimp. He didn’t get upset over thunder or fireworks, not like some dogs can.

Lucky Loo I’m looking at you.

Our dog growing up would somehow manage to get under the coffee table in the family room whenever he sensed rain coming and would proceed to pant and shake and whine for hours.

Maguire didn’t like rain, but he wasn’t afraid of it. He just took it as a personal affront if he had to go out in it. We’d go out through the garage because there was an overhang and we would both stand there, me urging him to go pee. He’d take a step and then he’d step back. Finally, after much prodding he could go out. He’d always look back at me, squinting through the drizzle as if to say how can you do this me? I’ve loved you since I was a puppy. He avoided puddles as if they were made of acid. He did not like anything out of place. If there was a branch or a bag on the sidewalk that wasn’t supposed to be there we’d have to get off the sidewalk, and walk in a very wide circle in order to avoid the calamity that surely awaited inside the affronting bag or offending branch. He’d keep his eye on it the entire time.

Also, too, he hated the vacuum. Cooper won’t bother to move if you push the vacuum right up to him and try to get him to shift in order to vacuum underneath him. He just looks up at you with a can’t you see I’m napping here look.

Cooper seems to have a slightly stronger constitution than our beloved Maguire. Maguire used to get sick every once in a while for no reason other than he needed to regurgitate whatever was in his stomach. The good thing was that we always got ample notice. Dogs are usually good at issuing a warning. They start to heave and heave. Nothing will get you out of a sound sleep faster than a soon to be barfing dog who is on the carpet. The warning was always long enough with Maguire that I could get out of bed and drag him into the bathroom where there was tile. Easier clean-up.

Cooper doesn’t upchuck often. When he does it’s because he’s been racing through the house after eating, stopping just long enough to go blaach before racing off again. There is never a warning. Luckily we have no carpet.

He’s just a sturdy little gang member, street name Coop d’Ville. So this morning when he woke me up with a sharp cry followed by a whimper, I was up and out of bed as if something was on fire. I already have one boy in the house who is injured. I didn’t want another.

He was lying on the floor at the base of the bed, on his side. As I got down on the floor with him, he wagged his tail. He was holding his right paw up in the air but since he was on his side, I didn’t think anything of it. This is the usual rub on me a little mom pose. We do this several times a day. I obliged, careful to not rub too hard in case I came across whatever caused the yelp/whimper.

I couldn’t find anything. He stretched his back legs as I rubbed them. Nothing there. I looked at the paw that was up in the air, exploring between the pads to make sure nothing had gotten lodged between. Nothing. I asked him what’s wrong, dude but he just pulled his right paw closer to his body. I reached for that leg and it seemed unusually stiff. Still, I couldn’t find anything that hurt him. I stood up, thinking that maybe he’d just had a bad dream; a puppy nightmare that caused the noise. But something about the way he was holding his right paw gave me pause. He was trying to move it, to put it down, and he couldn’t.

I finally understood. The nail on the side of his paw, the one that serves no real purpose for any dog, had somehow caught on the loop that holds the tags on his collar. He couldn’t uncatch it. This is what puppy moms are for. I quickly unhooked him and he was good as new, up and racing through the house to go out to pee, to roll in the yard, then back in the house for a drink, then back into the bedroom to rub his face on the bed, then for a quick pet from Kevin, tail wagging the whole time.

And thus the whimpering case of Cooper Michel was solved, and the little red-furred boy proceeded to live it out loud as he announced that yes, mom, I AM ready for my walk. Please, can we go now, please?

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In which Lorin is terribly late getting a post written and doesn’t really have a topic because she’s tired and uncreative and decides to try stream-of-consciousness writing

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 24, 2014 10:31 PM

Hey, if James Joyce could do it with Ulysses

I think one of my favorite meals is pasta. I don’t care what kind of sauce or what shape the noodles. I love it and could eat it for every dinner-time meal.

I’m making Spaghetti Carbonara tonight a la Lorin which means I’m following no particular recipe or rule. This means everybody in the pool.

I’m not a big fan of pools. I have no desire to have one. The only place I like them is when I’m in a high-end resort. I think sometimes that pools with too many kids can be unhealthy for reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that they can feel dirty.

I don’t like bathtubs either. I don’t find lying in water that gets dirtier by the minute soothing or restful.

We looked at bathtubs today, for the master bath. If we had our way, we wouldn’t have a bathtub in the master bath. But bathtubs make the bath “full,” which is good for resale. In the entire time we had the house in Oak Park, I might have used the tub once. Since we’ve been in our rental, for the last year, we’ve never used the tub and we have a spa-tub.

I’m not big on spas. I’ve never had a massage and have no desire to have one. Bobbi loves massages. She gets them all the time. I find them creepy but realize that’s just me. Unlike many, I wouldn’t miss them if they weren’t on every corner in Beverly Hills or Scottsdale.

I miss my friends. Terribly.

I miss my family. Deeply.

I still miss Maguire and always will, even though Cooper has wormed his way into my heart.

Photo b Jessica Trinh

I have the song “Happy” in my head, and have had for days. I can’t shake it. “Because I’m happy, Clap your hands, if you feel like a room without a roof. Clap your hands, if you feel that happiness is the truth.”

I’ve been singing it all day with different lyrics. “Because I’m Cooper, Wag your tail, if you think you’re a dog that has it all. Wag your tail, if you wish somebody would throw the ball.”

Cooper doesn’t seem to like the song. But he’s still a happy boy, wagging his tail.

Kevin is not a happy boy this week. Definitely not wagging.

I am happy most of the time. I am unhappy tonight because my husband is stubborn. He’s cleaning the kitchen as I write this even though I asked him not to. Bending, turning, stretching. He’ll pay for it in the morning, when his back is a disaster, which means I’ll pay for it and that makes me mad.

I don’t like being mad because then I’m not happy. If I’m not happy, I’m not singing though if I’m not singing maybe I can get that song out of my head.

Because I’m happy…

As I was saying, if James Joyce could do it with Ulysses and have it be one of the greatest books of all time, at least according to academic scholars, who knows what heights to which this post will scale? I predict 5 feet, tops. Just enough to live it out loud.

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Triple salchow sit spin with a twist

by Lorin Michel Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:48 PM

When I was in elementary school, or what we called grade school, I took figure skating lessons on Tuesday nights. I remember it was the year Happy Days premiered on ABC and also the year Steve Miller’s The Joker topped the charts. It was January 1974. I wanted to watch Happy Days and couldn’t. But I did hear The Joker on the radio. A lot. I was taking lessons along with several friends, neither of whom do I currently remember. Our mothers would take turns doing the driving. It seemed like it was very far away. I’m sure it wasn’t.

I was a decent ice skater but I didn’t have any real talent. I could skate backwards and carve a mean figure 8 on the rink. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t a passion. I didn’t know how to do jumps, and when I’d watch professional skaters on television or the amateurs at the Olympics I was amazed at the jumps, things the commentators called sow-cows. Sow-cows, it turns out, are actually salchows and they’re leaps and spins and generally fancy maneuvers. I bring this up because every day I watch the equivalent of a triple salchow that turns into a sit spin courtesy of pro figure skater Cooper Michel.

Cooper is a spinner. Like many dogs, he has to spin around several times before settling into place. He does this three times, like clockwork. Actually more like counter-clockwork. He comes into the bedroom at night, into my office during the day, or into any room for that matter and he spins, spins, spins, always counter clockwise, then tucks his hind legs beneath him. The butt and hips collapse, the front legs slide out and he’s down.

Maguire never did this. He would put his butt in the air, while stretching his front legs far in front of him, his head down between them. He went down front first, then the butt collapsed behind him.

I’ve always wondered why dogs do the spin and flop. It turns out it has to do with genetics, evolution, instinct and general comfort. They still retain many of the traits found in their undomesticated ancestors. According to studies that have been conducted, dogs still have as much as 99% of their current genetic makeup in common with their ancient predecessors, especially wolves. Wolves and dogs are known to turn around three times as they’re preparing their bed. Before dogs were domesticated, they – like wolves – slept in the wild. They had to tamp down leaves and brush, even grass, in order to sleep comfortably.

When pack animals, like wolves and dogs, lie down to rest, they form a tight circle to take advantage of their neighbor’s body heat. Some experts believe today’s canines spin out of solidarity. That maybe they’re also establishing their territory.

But why counter clockwise? I have my theory. I think maybe he’s left-pawed. Or maybe he’s trying to turn back time. Not a lot of time, of course, just to an earlier time that particular day to revisit a particularly good belly rub, or a really fun romp in the back yard. Perhaps he’s trying to turn back time, like Cher. If she could turn back time, then maybe somebody would stay. Maybe he was wanting somebody who went away to stay.

Maybe he’s just trying to find the perfect spot. To get all his fur in place before he lays down. Maybe he just enjoys the spin. We could all learn something from that.

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Lightning stormed

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 9, 2014 10:20 PM

The summer drolls are here. That’s what I call that time when the days melt into the nights, when the television shows all seem to be much the same. Pretty people saving the world. I enjoy seeing the world saved; we’re enjoying shows likes 24 again. But by 10:45 we were bored and Kevin was starting to fade. We decided to head to bed, to fall into a drolling sleep while the ceiling fan swirled around air-conditioned air. I took Cooper outside. The air was thick and cooling. By the time Cooper and I got into the bedroom, Kevin was already in bed and sleeping. I switched on the television just for white noise as I brushed my teeth and readied myself to join my husband.

Cooper had crawled onto his new bed and he was snoring as well. The television was droning on – I think it was the end of Covert Affairs. I vaguely remember Piper Perabo and her inappropriate shoes. Pretty shoes to be sure; but heels and running, jumping and spinning while shooting a gun aren’t truly compatible. I turned off the television before the show was over, twirled the blinds closed, turned off the light and flopped down onto the bed.

As I do so often, I stayed on the fitted sheet, the top sheet and comforter pushed to the side. I needed to cool down. The drolls were roiling. I was staring at the ceiling. Suddenly there was a flash. I thought for a minute there was something wrong with my eyes. Another. Perhaps there was something misfiring in my brain. Another still. I turned my eyes toward the door that leads out onto the patio and watched. Within seconds there was another flash, this time more from the direction of the window.

I got up, went to the window and peered through the blinds. It was as if the sky had come alive. Every second or two, the clouds that had been heavy all day, the clouds directly to the north over the foothills, were illuminated. Another second or two went by and the clouds to the west flashed white. This dance between the north and the west went on. There was no thunder; the rain wouldn’t come yet for hours, something we’d find out this morning when we left to take Cooper for a walk.

I wanted Kevin to see what was happening. I had never seen anything like it, and though he’s from Chicago, where thunderstorms are regular events, this was a true phenomenon. Silent explosions in the atmosphere. But he didn’t want to wake up.

Lightning in the desert during the drolls is to be expected. During our many visits, especially in the summer, we’ve sat on the balcony of our room at the Westward Look and watched the sky dance with jags of light. Lightning is an electrostatic discharge between the electrically charged regions inside clouds, or even between a cloud and the surface of a planet.  Heat lightning is from distant thunderstorms that don’t yet have the sounds of thunder that usually accompany lightning. I think what we must have been experiencing was heat lightning.

I wandered through the house and out onto the patio, Cooper padding along behind me. Together we stood under the cover and watched the sky dance.

Last night, as the lightning stormed, quietly disrupting the night, I stood transfixed. It was magical, strangely alive, eerie and seductive. It was the atmosphere celebrating. Cooper and I were happy to be spectators.

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Splendid in the bag

by Lorin Michel Monday, June 23, 2014 8:36 PM

I buy bed-in-a-bag. There, I said it. I go to Bed, Bath and Beyond and work my way around the store until I get past the really expensive bedding in order to get to the cubby section were they keep all the beds in bags. It’s a wondrous invention, bed-in-a-bag. It allows people like me, who don’t like to make a long commitment to bedding to change fairly regularly without spending a fortune. It is also advantageous when one has a pet which we do.

When Maguire was little, the only piece of furniture he was allowed on was the bed. A big furry dog who spends time on a bed leaves half of him on said bed every time he's on it. Along with fur, he also leaves oils and dander. I replaced the comforter about every 8 months or so. It gave me a good excuse to get something new, and change the look of the room.

Cooper, too, is allowed on the bed though now that it's summer he doesn't tend to get on it as often. I think it's too hot. Too hot for a boy in fur, as Kevin would say. I go through lint rollers like I have stock in the company, but no matter how hard one tries it is virtually impossible to remove every piece of fur from a comforter. Anyone who has or has ever had pets knows this drill well.

I've been threatening to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for several weeks now. I've been hoarding coupons, the 20% coupons that show up alone in the mail, along with the $5 coupons that show up in mailers. I had two of each. Armed with all four, and a debit card, off I went.

First, let me say how much I love Bed, Bath and Beyond. Next to Target, it may be my favorite store. Scratch that. It is my favorite store. I can disappear inside for hours at a time. Usually Kevin goes with me in order to prevent such a calamity. He was unable to attend this particular trip. I am also apt to spend many dollars after being inside for many hours. This trip was no different.

I started, like everyone, on the left side of the store. When you walk into a Bed, Bath and Beyond, it is always on the left side of the store. The cash registers are to the right. Ahead is the kitchen area. If you’ve been to a BB&B – and who hasn’t – you know the layout. This is so they can get you to buy things you weren’t planning on but now that you’ve seen, you can’t possibly live without. Things like new salt and pepper mills (I was only looking for a salt shaker), and pepper corns and mineralized salt to go into the mills. I don’t even use salt, but I bought both anyway.

I had gone for new pots and pans. In addition to bed-in-a-bag, I also am partial to new cookware. I usually buy complete sets because I like having everything on my stove match. In the past, I have bought black with black non-stick interiors. This time I decided to get out of my comfort zone and went with copper with a pearlized non-stick surface. 10 pieces, $99 minus 20%. Bargain.

I also bought a griddle to go along with the set.

I made my way to the bedding department and found three bags of beds that I liked. I put them all on the floor in front of me and gradually eliminated two. Then I second guessed myself and re-thought it all and still ended up with the one I had originally chosen. Armed with my chosen bed, also $99 minus 20%, plus two king size pillows, I moved toward checkout. Along the way I grabbed two things that I’ll tuck away for Kevin for Christmas, items that will remain nameless for the time being since the aforementioned Kevin reads this blog.

I spent way too much money but once I got home and put my new pots on the stove and my new salt and pepper mills on the counter, along with my new paper towel holder, I set about making up the bed.

Bed-in-a-bag comes with a comforter, shams, bed skirt and a set of sheets. I washed and dried the sheets, and remade the bed. Suddenly the room was brighter. The bed looked brand new.

The only problem was Cooper, on the floor, watching intently, eyeing the new bed with lust in his little brown eyes. Maybe it’s not too hot after all.

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live out loud

A stroll through the life of a dog with a good owner, in a nice house, with lots of food and toys

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 PM

It occurs to me on a daily basis that my dog has a damn nice life. It also occurs to me that he didn’t necessarily have such a life earlier in his life and for that, I am forever saddened just as I’m saddened every time I hear about a mistreated animal. It’s something I don’t understand any more than I understand how anyone could abuse a baby or a small child. I know people do it; I just don’t understand it. It’s inconceivable to me.

Maguire had a damn nice life as well. His was nice from the beginning, or at least fairly close to the beginning. We got him when he was 10 weeks old. He had been found, according to legend, in the bushes of Oak Park. Kevin and I have never believed that because we also can’t understand how anyone could have found that puppy and taken him to the animal shelter rather than keep him. We do understand how lucky we are that someone did.

He had the kind of life that all dogs should have. He had tons of toys, good food, pizza bones (what we call pizza crusts), chicken, cheese, dog cookies. He was allowed on the king size bed, something he took constant advantage of when he was younger and more mobile. There was many a day where we found him either curled up against the pillows or stretched out on his back, usually on Kevin’s side because Kevin’s side got afternoon sun. He went on walks, he had run of the house. He was loved.

Cooper’s life with us is much the same. He came to us when he was six, and had more issues than Maguire because he didn’t come from a nice house with a good owner previously. A good owner would never have given him away because they were having a baby. As if the two aren’t compatible.

This is Cooper’s day: He gets up, shakes, pads out to the great room, usually following along behind his dad. He goes out for a quick pee and then trots back into the house, happy as he can be with himself, tail swishing. He comes back to the bedroom to see me because he knows I’m waiting. He hurls himself against the side of the bed and rubs his face as he moves toward me, then he puts his little face on the bed, sighs heavily and looks at me with big brown eyes under white eyelashes. Hi, mom. It’s me, Cooper.

We get up, we walk, we get back and he has breakfast complete with a cookie on top. Then we go to work. He sleeps, he stretches. When we go for coffee he brings a toy along and proceeds to fling it around the house, growling and chasing and pouncing to recapture it. Yo, wubba. It’s me, Cooper.

We have lunch, and the afternoon unwinds much like the morning. He snoozes under the ceiling fan. When it gets too hot, the AC clicks on and he is immediately cooled. He stretches and sighs. Hey, purp.

When the sun goes down and it cools off enough, we go for another walk. There is more dinner and then, when Kevin and I eat, he gets a little of that too, especially if it’s chicken, or salmon, or pizza, or potatoes. Throughout the day he is petted constantly, told what a beautiful boy he is, what a good boy he is, how much he is loved.

I used to joke with Maguire that in my next life, I was going to come back as a dog with a good owner in a nice house. I do the same now with Cooper. It’s how it should be. It’s what he deserves. Because he, and all dogs and cats, should be living it out loud in a nice house with a good owner and all kinds of love.

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live out loud

I knew I shouldn't have said it

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 30, 2014 10:26 PM

When Justin went to college, he was like most kids going off to school at 18. Mature in many ways, and totally unattached to the real world. He was going to be living on his own for the first time but without the responsibility that comes from having to pay for it. It’s a transition. Someone in college gets to experience what it’s like to live while someone else pays for it all. I think it’s one of the reasons that many kids do so badly when they first go away to school. They have all kinds of new-found freedom but no skin in the game. We wanted Justin to have skin in the game.

This is what my husband calls being invested. We paid for most of his education but we wanted him to also pay for some of it. Our thought was that if he was also involved with paying for some of his schooling, he would do better. His grades would matter more. He would be invested. Have skin in the game. We had him take out student loans.

He graduated this past December summa cum laude. He got a job offer before he left school. Our evil plan worked.

This week the loan papers arrived. Next month, the payments start. Even though he’s somewhere on the ocean, he’s well aware of it all and is in the process of setting up an electronic account so that money can automatically be deducted from his bank account. Naturally he’s having some trouble because it’s a government organization. He wants to start paying back the money he borrowed and they’re making it difficult.

Kevin and I were talking about this last night. About how he needs to keep his job at Norwegian Cruise Lines because he makes pretty good money and he is actually now out in the real world and he’s responsible for paying for his life. About how it sucks to have bills. This led to a conversation about our own bills because of course it did.

Yesterday, Kevin’s credit card statement came in the mail. He owes a little bit, not much. We still have a joint credit card that we put last year’s trip to New York on. It’s not a lot but it’s some. My personal credit card has a zero balance. I don’t usually have much of a balance anyway because I pay for everything using my debit card, but every once in a while something happens that requires credit (like hotel reservations). I hate having a credit card balance. I hate having debt. I brought this up last night. A mortgage I understand; regular monthly bills which don’t accumulate unless you don’t pay. I get that.

But my credit card currently has a zero balance and I was doing a little metaphorical jig.

This morning, on Cooper’s walk, something happened. We were at the end of the walk, and he pulled up next to a bush to raise his leg. I noticed that he didn’t seem to have any strength. He almost collapsed. I thought maybe he’d stepped on something. We got home and as he was doing his usual twirling while I was trying to get his leash off, he lost his balance. I checked his paws for something lodged. Nothing. I fed him, which is the routine, but while he was standing there, trying to eat, I noticed his back legs shaking. Then he collapsed. This freaked him out. Freaked us out, too.

When he walked, he seemed fine. He even trotted going across the house. But when he stood, he had no strength. It was very strange.

I called the vet immediately and we went at 11. I’m sure x-rays will be involved. It will be expensive. I should have gotten pet insurance but I didn’t and it’s too late now. My credit card will probably be involved. My debt freeness will temporarily be gone. I knew the minute I said my credit card was paid off that I shouldn't have said it.

But it’s Cooper. My baby. I’ll go into debt if I need to in order to make him better, to ensure that he’s back, celebrating his walks and living it out loud as soon as possible.

Update: The vet gave us an anti-inflammatory and an estimate for a bunch of tests. We’re going to wait and see what happened. As of tonight, he seems to be back to normal. 

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live out loud

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