‘tis Friday and tonight it means exactly what it used to mean

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 19, 2014 10:49 PM

Once upon a time, we would partake in a weekly ritual. After a long and often stressful, strenuous, and arduous week, we would gather with our bestest friends to commiserate. The commiseration usually only lasted a few minutes before laughter and story telling took over, washing away the previous days and leaving in their wake the clarity that is friendship. Along with the laughter, and probably what helped to facilitate the laughter, was Grey Goose.

Kevin has become known in certain circles as the master mixologist. He shakes a mean vodka martini. Ice cold, just enough vermouth as to hint at its inclusion but never so much that it can actually be tasted. Depending on who wants what, some martinis are vodka of the aforementioned Grey Goose variety, and olives. Some are gin, the original martini, which is what Diane prefers especially if it’s Bombay Sapphire. Sometimes martinis are dirty, which is a little extra olive juice to go with the olives. Sometimes martinis have a twist of lemon. That’s how Kevin and I like ours. Grey Goose martini, ice cold, with a twist. Roy and Bobbi, our bestest friends who are with us this weekend, like theirs dirty, with extra olives.

According to NPR, “there’s no cocktail more distinctly American than the martini. It’s strong, sophisticated and sexy. It’s everything we hope to project while ordering one.” H.L. Mencken, the satirist from Baltimore, called the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.”

The history of this “American invention” is kind of fuzzy, and memories of its origins were equally fuzzy, probably due to the imbibing of one or two. Some attribute the ‘tini to a miner who struck gold during the California gold rush. Said miner walked into a bar and asked for a special drink to celebrate his new fortune and the bartender concocted something special with what he had on-hand, namely fortified wine, also known as vermouth, gin and a few other goodies. The bartender called it a Martinez after the miner.

Others say that San Francisco is where the martini was truly born, right around the same time. Another claims that a New Yorker created it in 1911. Vermouth was marketed under the name Martini in Italy in 1863. But the name Martini is actually an Arab name, which maybe is why there are so many martinis consumed in Syria. But maybe that’s because the French occupied Syria from 1920 thru 1946. Which explains Grey Goose, a French vodka, but not the martini because it’s traditionally made with gin, and Grey Goose is our choice, not necessarily everyone’s. Some people prefer Kettle One, or Belvedere or just a speed rack vodka because it’s cheaper in a bar.

Then there is Bond, James Bond, who drinks martinis shaken not stirred. We assume that he drinks gin martinis because he doesn’t order a call liquor, but perhaps he drinks a vodka martini. And he’s British.

All I know is that tonight is awash in martinis and friends, good food and laughter. It’s why it was dubbed, once a long, long time ago in the land of Oak Park, Fritini. It has returned for the first time in a long time and it has brought with it all of the wonder and joyous reunion that we knew it would. Fritini is friends. I think it’s interesting that both words begin with F-R-I, as does Friday. Friday is fritini for friends. And we’re celebrating it tonight. Cheers.

Friends and family

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 13, 2014 10:09 PM

After I wrote about my parents’ friends Charlotte and Ed yesterday, I happened to speak with my mother who had happened to speak with Charlotte and Ed the other day. Ed is 91; Charlotte 85. They are celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and still going strong, at least as strong as people nearing the end of their lives can be.

I told my mother about my dream, and about the salad, and she recounted a story that I’d forgotten. After we moved away from Northern Drive in Fairfiew, where Charlotte and Ed were our neighbors, we bounced around to a number of places. Several in New York, in Maryland and finally into New England. Charlotte and Ed, who in the brief time we were all neighbors had become like family – in some cases better than family – came to visit us in every place. They would pile into whatever vehicle they happened to have at the time, and make the journey regardless of where we were. They were older than my parents, and Ed retired early so they always had time to drive and to spend. They would play golf with my dad; they would visit with my mother. There was always so much laughter in the house when they visited. They had their opinions to be sure, especially Charlotte wasn’t shy about sharing them, but they were and remain good, kind, decent people.

Charlotte trained our dog when we were little. They always had dogs, up until they became older, and when my grandmother gave us a puppy for Christmas one year, my mother was beside herself. I was maybe 10 at the time, perhaps even younger, which meant my brother was 6 and my sister was 3. It fell to my mother to train the pup, and she was miserable. She didn’t know what she was doing and in those days, there wasn’t the plethora of books and videos there are now. She spent many a night on the couch with a whining, whimpering dog that she could not train to pee when and where he was supposed to. Charlotte had the little guy trained within a day.

Charlotte and Ed were designated as our legal guardians in the event of something happening to mom and dad. They were, as I said, family.

I was remembering yesterday the salad incident, being in my mother’s kitchen in New Hampshire and making salad with Charlotte and Ed. Charlotte, I believe was on bread duty. Ed was on drinking duty. I have no idea where the rest of the family was; they all arrived eventually.

Mom told me the story of how Ed used to tease that the only reason they visited was for my mother’s lasagna. When they were coming, my mother busied herself in the kitchen, making a huge pan of lasagna, a salad, and getting bread ready. On one occasion, before she realized the seriousness of Ed’s claim, my dad suggested just doing some cold cuts and making sandwiches. It was easier, and would be ready essentially as soon as they arrived or whenever they wanted to eat. My mother thought that was fine idea. Ed did not.

He was relentless in chastising my mother for years, in a loving way, saying that he had not driven seven or eight hours to have a sandwich. She never did that again, and in fact, the afternoon Kevin and I were making salad, I know my mother had also prepared a big lasagna to feed everyone.

We all have family friends in our lives, people who made lasting impressions and still do. I had Charlotte and Ed. Kevin had Jim and Dora Latner, great friends of his parents who were like family. Justin has Roy and Bobbi, our closest friends who have long been our west coast family. When Justin was growing up, and even through college, holidays were always spent with R & B. When he graduated from high school, the only two people he wanted at the graduation, other than Kevin and I, was Roy and Bobbi. When he went on retreat, and came back to share what he learned, again he wanted Roy and Bobbi with us. When we went to visit him on his ship in May, he wanted R & B there, too.

Friends that become family can sometimes be better than actual family. I am blessed with a great family; people I not only love but also like. Many people can’t say that. As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family. It’s just luck of the draw. In the not very good but extremely beautiful to look at film Tequila Sunrise, the late Raul Julia had a passionate speech toward the end intoning just that.

My brother, sister and I have also been blessed with people like Charlotte and Ed. Kevin and his brother and sisters had the Latners. Justin has R & B. I love how it transcends generations, that Kevin and I had family friends, and that Justin does as well. It’s the proverbial cycle of life, with friends helping complete the circle of living it out loud.


by Lorin Michel Monday, June 9, 2014 10:35 PM

As a writer, I have penned my share of press releases, an announcement by a company to the press about a new product or endeavor, a new person. In these releases, there is always at least one quote, usually from the president of the company or some other equally important person, saying the perfect thing about whatever is being announced. These quotes are perfect for a reason: they’re made up by writers like me. Anonymous quotes are much the same. They perfectly encapsulate something someone feels but that someone isn’t famous. Somebody, like a writer, makes up the perfect quote, slaps the attribute of “anonymous” on it and changes the world.

Yesterday was National Best Friends Day, a day definitely worth celebrating for a number of reasons. I didn’t write about it over the weekend but considering I don’t need a day to celebrate my besties, I decided the day-after National Best Friends Day was just as celebratory.

Anonymous captured it pretty well: “Best friends don’t necessarily have to talk every day. They don’t even need to talk for weeks. But when they do, it’s like they never stopped talking.”

I’ve had a number of best friends in my life. My first was Steve Payne, only because we went to the same babysitter while our parents worked. We were three or four I think. Then there was Gigi who lived behind us. When I went to school, I met Kathy Kallenbaugh. On the first day of kindergarten, she and I showed up in the exact same hot pink pants suit. Please remember that it was the 1960s. We were besties for at least the year.

Sometime during my elementary school career I also had a friend named Bari, who was nearly cut in half in an ice-boat accident when we were in 3rd grade. Then there was Sharon Watson. She and I were in separate classes and rivals, not in sports or with boys, but in intelligence. In fourth grade, the powers that be at the school put us in the same class to make us work harder. We became great friends, at least until we weren’t. I don’t remember why.

When I was 14, my family moved to Columbia, Maryland from Hyde Park, New York and I became best friends with Pam. We were fairly inseparable for the entirety of the year, but after our freshman year of high school, my family moved again. It was the first best friend I’d physically moved away from.

Throughout the last three years of high school I had other close friends, people I would get into trouble with, have sleep overs with, even travel a bit with. None of them really stuck. In college, I had several besties but they didn’t last. There was a lot of hurt and anguish; drama. I was never very good at drama, and we eventually parted ways. Some of them are still “friends” on Facebook; most aren’t. Some I can’t even remember their last names.

Throughout my professional life, I’ve made a number of close friends. People who make me feel better for having been with them, regardless of how the time was spent. Now there’s Connie, and Diane, and of course, Bobbi; Pam.

It occurred to me once a long time ago that I’m not a person who has a lot of friends, but I am a person who has very good friends. People I would do anything for; people who would do anything for me. 2 o’clock in the morning people. And 3 and 4.

Best friends are people you choose for family. I’m lucky in that my sister is also a best friend, perhaps my very best. She and I can talk about anything; we laugh more than we cry. We share. Many people have good relationships with their family because they have to; many people don’t. Like I said, lucky.

Eustache Deschamps, the medieval French poet, said “Friends are relatives you make for yourself.”

Yesterday was National Best Friends Day but as far as I’m concerned, every day you have a best friend is a day to celebrate, and a life to live out loud.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

Finding good in disappointment

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:10 AM

There is no one who hasn’t experienced disappointment in one way or another in their lives. Even small children experience it when a toy is taken away because it’s deemed dangerous. Older people experience it when they can no longer do things they were always able to do with ease, like rake the leaves in the yard. Even animals experience it, though in much lesser ways. I can see it in Cooper’s eyes every time I take a bite of my food and don’t give him a bite as well.

Disappointments happen all the time. A hoped for job offer goes to someone else. The possibility of a beautiful day ends up drenching you with rain. An idea for the next great invention has already been thought of. The story you thought was good goes unpublished. A trip you were going to take can’t happen because of scheduling. A friend you were looking forward to seeing gets sick. The family you were hoping would come for a visit can’t.

Disappointment is part of life. It’s an intricate act of maneuvering through the maze of each day. It can be as mundane as there’s no coffee left in the pot to something as huge as the bank telling you no on a loan you were hoping to get.

Is there any good that can come from disappointment? It’s hard to know in the moment because disappointment is a very self-centered feeling, rightly so. This has happened to me. Why did this happen to me. It’s not fair this happened to me. Who can I slap?

This Thanksgiving, we were having a houseful but most everyone has had to cancel, all for very good reasons that I completely understand. In the same circumstances, I would do the same; anyone would. But I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to sharing and enjoying and laughing and talking and eating and drinking and laughing and talking some more. Our best friends were joining us. Everyone was going to stay here. It was going to be a big slumber party and so much fun.

I decided, though, that I can’t make this about me because it’s not. The reason our friends can’t come has nothing to do with me but rather is about issues that are personal and consuming and understandable. It got me to thinking about finding the good in disappointment.

There is sadness to be sure. We miss our friends; we’ll miss them on Thanksgiving. But they are still our friends. We don’t have to spend time together to solidify that because it is a fact. Spending time is a bonus. Breaking bread is a bonus. Giving thanks is what matters. We have wonderful friends who fill our lives and our hearts with joy. They are inside of us and nothing will dislodge that whether they are beside us or not.

There is some good.

Disappointment allows for re-evaluation and re-examination. If something didn’t work out, it can be opportunity to try something new, to think differently, to explore an alternate possibility. If the people you love can’t be with you, it’s not an opportunity, but it is still a reason to embrace them. Our friends, like our family, are the most important people in our lives, regardless of how often we see them. They are part of us, and while disappointed that we won’t see them, we are so very thankful they’re in our lives. Them not being with us does give us an opportunity to realize how much they mean to us, now and always, in person or long distance. It gives us the chance to ponder.

People are what matters. People are the only thing that matters. 

Damn that was fun

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 16, 2013 10:49 PM

Every once in a while a weekend is so good that when it’s over you’re even more blue than when a regular weekend ends. Such was the case with this past when we played host and hostess to our best good friends and family, Roy and Bobbi. They arrived late Thursday and we proceeded to spend the rest of the weekend visiting, laughing, enjoying wine and art and our friendship. They left this morning and I admit to being a bit blue. But instead of wilting and allowing the blue to completely envelop me, I’ve decided instead to embrace it just as I embraced my friends, literally and figuratively.

In my world, friendship is the glue that holds me together. Because I’m so far away from my family and because I’ve lived west for the majority of my life, friends are what I have out here. People I’ve chosen and who have allowed me into their lives; people who have been with me through some of the darker times, of first husband, of job changes, of the loss of beloved pets; and my father.

There are some people who have a lot of friends. I’ve never been one of them. I used to wish I were, back in high school. I was envious of the populars who had seemingly dozens of friends. I thought that was what I should have; I’m not sure why. Somehow a lot of friends would mean that I was more normal I suppose; more accepted for who I was.

Who I am.

After I graduated from college, I realized that it wasn’t the quantity of friends that mattered. It was the quality. Since then I have gone about collecting some of the finest people in this world as my friends. There are not many of them but they are the best. I hope they know who they are. They are my people, my confidantes, my west coast family; my lifeblood. It’s why after such a lush weekend – and I do not use the term to describe our wine consumption, even though it was plentiful – I feel a little down and lonely.

Friends are like air. And Roy and Bobbi are the freshest air. We have traveled together, we have helped each other move. We have consumed wine and started businesses together, sometimes over wine. They are the original Fritini participants. They are Justin’s official west coast aunt and uncle. When we lost Maguire, they were nearly as heartbroken as we were. They were there the night we brought Cooper home for the first time. They are my oldest friends in California. They are the truest of people, the kind that leave footprints in your heart.

We are lucky to have them. We are lucky to have all of our friends. And we celebrate each and every one with each and every waking day. While we can’t always be physically together, due to the circumstances called life, we are always together spiritually, emotionally; online.

This weekend was about friends and family, about discovery and good times. It was relaxing and easy. It was perfect because of our very good friends. And while I’m sad that I won’t see them in person for a while, I am blessed to have them in my life. I am honored to call them – all of you – good friends.

Groucho Marx once said this about a good friend: “When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun.’”

It was. It was.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

It's always a good time for wine

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:26 AM

As you know, dear readers, I am a wino. I make no apologies about this. I am actually quite proud of my status. I flaunt it whenever and wherever I can, usually with a bit of inky dark syrah or cab franc swirling in my glass. I have come to the realization that wine is life.

Not meant as a biblical reference at all, though if Jesus Christ really could turn water into wine, I might have to rethink my no-religion mantra.

Tonight, I was texting with my friend Pam who mentioned that she had been nursing an emotional headache for about two weeks. I know she’s hurting, in pain, and I wish there was something I could do to help. I also know that no one can really help; something she also knows. It’s all a process, this grief/healing thing, and she’s getting through it as best as she can because as she likes to point out “what choice do I have?”

Wise woman, my friend Pam.

I asked her if wine helped and mentioned that wine is always a good idea. She graciously responded that this was but one of the reasons we’re friends. Pam, it should be told, was the first person I got drunk with. We were stupid kids, 15, who had finished just one year of high school before we decided that we needed to know what it was like to have a cocktail. We went to a liquor store near a mall if memory serves (and it doesn’t always) and managed to get some guy to buy us a six-pack of beer and a bottle of wine. The beer I believe was Michelob. Or maybe it was Coors. The wine was Boones Farm Apple.

We were very sophisticated for 15 years olds.

We had no idea that mixing cheap beer with cheaper wine was a bad idea. We knew absolutely nothing about drinking and even less about wine. We proceeded to drink both and promptly got sick.

It’s a fond memory.

This was my first introduction to wine and one would think it might have soured me on the attributes of this finest of beverages. It didn’t. I went through many years of drinking Lancer’s. I just hope it was the one in the red jug and not the white jug. I honestly don’t remember. I do remember drinking Riunite in college. It had a screw top. Even in college I knew it was horrible but it was all I could afford.

Eventually I moved to California and discovered that wine can be better than that, much better, even though while I was in San Diego I remember drinking a great deal of something called Blue Nun. I think it was a Gewurztraminer. It was sweet and I loved it, but I was 22 and didn’t know any better. Witness the Michelob and Boones Farm episode.

I don’t know when I began drinking red wine but I was still in my 20s. I eventually discovered that red wine can be an amazing thing, a life-altering universe of flavor. Some still say that red wine gives you a headache but I contend that it doesn’t have to. In fact, if it’s good red wine, it will never give you a headache.

Unless you drink too much. And anything you drink too much of will give you a headache so you can’t really blame red wine.

The point is, and I do have one, wine is a good time and it’s always a good time to have it. Especially if you’re having it with people you love. In fact, I’m not sure there’s anything much better in the world than sitting with friends on the back patio, with a couple of exceptional bottles of red wine on the table, a menu of tapas, and a conversation laced with laughter.

That’s the kind of drunk I do now. And it’s the best kind there is. 

The reality of soul mates

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 1, 2012 10:48 PM

A long time ago I read a book by Richard Bach titled The Bridge Across Forever: A love story. It was published in 1984, the year I graduated from college, and I was still a bit of a gooey romantic at that point. I read the book – about hope and love – on a trip to Maui several years later with first husband, Tim. Even then I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the wonder of the book would in any way translate to that relationship. We were already in a death spiral.

The book explores the meaning of fate and soul mates. It’s a bit of a fairy tale, albeit a modern day telling, based on the author’s relationship with the actress Leslie Parrish. Bach described it as a story about a knight who was dying and the princess who saved his life. Ultimately, it’s a riveting love affair between two fully human beings, a real life man and woman who are willing to explore time travel and other dimensions as they struggle with intimacy, commitment, smothering and whose turn it is to cook. When I read it, it gave me hope that true love and commitment were sustainable, even as my relationship was faltering. The story illuminated the idea of life’s soaring possibilities, of the perfect entwinement of two souls. Soul mates. It was a remarkable book, one I should probably read again just because I remember so little about it even though I remember the feeling it engendered.


Bach divorced the woman he wrote the book about after 22 years of marriage. Still, it made me wonder about the idea of soul mates, and if there is truly such a thing, or if we all just wish for it so badly that we make it so.

In ancient Greece, Plato had the playwright Aristophanes present a story of soul mates in a dialogue called The Symposium. The tale was simple: human beings originally had four arms, four legs and one head with two faces. Zeus, the father of all gods, feared the power of these humans and so he split them in half, separating them seemingly forever. These two halves were destined to spend their lives searching for the other half in order to find completion. Notice, however, there was no mention of their souls.

In theosophy, the Greek system of esoteric philosophy, God created androgynous souls, equally male and female and neither of which. These souls spent many lifetimes searching for their corresponding halves, that once found, would dramatically fuse back together and return to God or heaven or wherever they wanted to reside. Today soul mate usually refers to a romantic partner, one with whom we form an exclusive and lifelong bond.

Soul mates find each other and become kindred spirits. Sometimes it’s a romantic partnership, sometimes it’s a best friend. Soul mates are all about forming significant, lasting, deeply emotional relationships that teach you something about yourself. According to some, these relationships don’t even have to be long-term; they don’t have to have been positive in nature. But as long as these relationships teach us about ourselves, about how we can be better people, then we have made a soul connection.


I don’t entirely buy that description. I agree that many people come into our lives at various times to teach us things we need to know. And while the knowledge may be long-lasting, maybe even permanent, the relationship does not qualify as a soul relationship. By that definition, nearly everybody that teaches you something is a soul mate and I believe that cheapens and belittles the term. To me, a soul relationship is one that I can relate to at the deepest levels. Someone who has changed my life and is continuing to change my life.  My first husband was not a soul mate; my second husband is. We connect on every level. I am a better person because of him. I cannot say this of the husband before. I was a worse person because of him, and though I learned things about myself and about love in that relationship, it was not good. It was not a soul connection.

Kevin and I are those two halves spoken of somewhat in jest by Aristophanes. We are the two souls who needed to find one another to become one. We’re still our own people with our own minds, our own eccentricities, our own beliefs, but we’re better together than apart. He’s the laughter to my joke, the half ‘n half in my coffee, the cabernet to my sauvignon.

I have soul mates in my closest friends as well. People who have been in my life for nearly as long as I can remember; others who were in it once and have come roaring back. I am better because of these people. I learn things, I appreciate the teachings, the fun and the not-so-fun. We have soul connections. They make me feel. They are the chips to my dip.

I have these connections with members of my family, specifically my sister. We have very different lives, but she makes me a better person because she is a better person than I. I am better with her in my life. She is the calm to my storm.

My beloved Maguire, too, was a soul mate. Souls, if you believe in the idea of wandering the earth for lifetimes searching for the one who completes you, can come in many sizes, many forms. Maguire enriched my life in ways that are beyond description. He was the bark to my bite, the cheese to my cracker.  Which naturally leads to what happens when a soul mate passes on.

Connecting forever

According to Richard Bach, the connection remains as love transcends the concepts of physicality and time. It is about a truth, about bright hopes, beautiful dreams and magical possibilities. It is about building a bridge across forever. About living it 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. 

Celebrating hug-your-furry-family-members day

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:16 PM

The hug is that most human of responses, one we use in both joy and sorrow. We reach out our arms to say hello to a friend we haven’t seen for months, or just since last week. We reach to comfort. We hug our family close, our children closer. We give a perfunctory hug to colleagues. Sometimes we pretend to be so happy to see them we also throw in a little pretend air kiss. But perfunctory hugs are different than other hugs. The arm motion is wrong. The hugger sort of loops his or her forearms through the huggee’s to apply just the smallest amount of pressure to the huggee’s back. A hug given to someone you know and are happy to see is a full-blown expression of love, a big wrap of the arms accompanied by a squeeze.

This is also the kind of hug most people give to their creature-comforts. You know, those of the four-legged and furry variety. Hugging a dog or a cat, or gently giving a squeeze to a puppy or kitten is one of the great joys of being a person, in this writer’s humble opinion. It’s one of the things I miss most about Maguire. I miss so many things of course, but not being able to sit on the floor and put my arms around him is what made National Hug Your Dog day so heartbreaking.

Yes, I’m a day late on celebrating this wondrous day, a day when it’s OK to hug your pup, as if it wasn’t OK any other day. That wondrous day when you shouldn’t wear black because you’re going to be wearing your animal’s fur after engaging in that hug and the person behind you in line at Starbucks will smile knowingly and ask: “How many pets do you have?”

April 10th was National Hug Your Dog day, per Beneful dog food, but according to a survey of U.S. dog owners, 68 percent of respondents actually hug their dogs more than they hug their people. Thirty percent admitted that they hug their dogs more than any of their other family members and 26 percent said that they hug their dogs more than they hug their best friends. Except that dog is often referred to as man’s best friend, so I think that statistic is a bit suspect.

The most cuddly breeds of dogs are evidently cocker spaniels. They require a great deal of human interaction. Retrievers, specifically of the Labrador variety, are also extremely loyal and loving. Beagles, gentle, sweet, sociable creatures that they are, are also highly affectionate. A Bichon Frise is happy to be hugged and hugged often, as is a boxer who gets five out of five paws for affection by WebVet.

My personal feeling is that it doesn’t matter what the breed – Maguire was, after all, a mutt, an adorable concoction of golden retriever/Australian shepherd and maybe some Akita and perhaps a bit of Chow Chow – they’re all infinitely huggable and fabulous.

And if you have a cat, that hardly matters because cats are dogs, too, just more aloof versions. As the saying goes: dogs have owners; cats have staff. But you can have wonderful relationships with people who work for you. Cats love their people and cat people love their cats as much as dog people love their dogs. I had a cat before we got Maguire. I lost her to cancer but I loved that beautiful little girl; I was devastated when she died and I couldn’t hug her anymore. She actually liked to be hugged, to an extent. When I would get home at night, to my townhouse, I would stand in the entrance way and wait for it. Sure enough, after about 30 seconds or so, I’d hear the soft thud as she jumped down from her sleeping position on the corner of my bed. Soon, she’d come slinking down the stairs, meowing the whole way, and then do that great little cat strut over to me, rub against my leg while stiffening her tail. I’d pick her up and she’d put her front paws around my neck, one on either side, and bury her gray and peach-colored fur head under my hair as she purred. She hugged.

Roy and Maguire

Maguire hugged too, by putting his head under my chin and pushing up against me. He was a hugger from the moment we got him, all 10 pounds of stinky fur, burrowing up against my chest and pushing his head up under my neck. As he got older, he did the same thing, though usually when he was sitting and I was sitting next to him. He hugged. I miss those hugs.

Today, I’m celebrating hug-your-furry-family-members day. I celebrate dogs and cats every day, and I celebrate the memory of hugging my boy. I still think he’s here with me sometimes, laying his head against me, hugging me back in the only way he knows how. It gives me a bit of creature-comfort just thinking about it, thinking about him, hugging him still if only in my dreams.

The subject was roses

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:34 PM

We have six rose bushes in our backyard tucked against the wall. None are in bloom right now but when they are, the backyard alights in colors of blood red, gentle pink, sterling violet and glowing yellow. They’re glorious when they bloom, filling the backyard with brilliant color that is alive and lush. Their fragrance drifts through the house on a soft breeze, light and floral and lovely.

Roses have a long history that stretches to some 35 million years ago, though the cultivation of them began much more recently, in Asia around 5000 years ago. Greek mythology tells us of the goddess of flowers, Chloris. One day while Chloris was cleaning in the forest, she found the lifeless body of a nymph and to bring the nymph back to life, Chloris turned to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, who gave the nymph beauty. Dionysus, the god of wine, added a sweet nectar, and the three graces provided charm, brightness and joy. Finally, Zephyr, the West wind, blew away the clouds so that the sun god, Apollo, could shine and make the flower bloom. The rose was born. Hindu’s have another version. In theirs, the creator of the world Brahma, and the protector of the world, Vishnu, argued over which flower was more most beautiful. Vishnu chose the rose. Thousands of years later, in the tombs of Egypt, wreaths made with flowers, roses among them, were discovered.

Roses became synonymous with excess during the Roman Empire. During the 15th century, the factions fighting to control England used it as a symbol with the white rose representing York and the red representing Lancaster. In the 17th century, roses were considered legal tender. Napoleon’s wife Josephine loved roses so much she established an extensive collection containing more than 250 rose varieties.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, all roses were pink or white. The red rose first came from China in 1800. Bright yellow roses entered the vase in 1900. Since then, the colors have come to symbolize very real emotions. Red means love, pink is thank you, yellow equals joy, orange is desire, peach is appreciation, lavender enchantment, black death; white roses are sometimes called the flower of light.

White roses from Maryann, to celebrate Maguire

Last night we ordered out again. I simply haven’t been in the mood to cook the last few days. Kevin called Fresh Brothers in Westlake for a smorgasbord of edible items mostly bad. Chicken wings, pizza with mushrooms, French fries and a salad to balance it all. He hung up; I poured a glass of wine. There was a knock at the door and we both looked at each other. It wasn’t possible that the food was here that quickly. Even if they’d managed to cook it, it’s at least a 10 minute drive from Westlake Village. As I stood in the kitchen as Kevin went to answer the door.

It was Maryann, with a dozen white roses, brought to celebrate Maguire. We all hugged and cried, then got to talking … about the dog, about her impending move, about life and death. We had a glass of wine together and Fresh Brothers eventually arrived and though we invited her to share our not-very-healthy meal, she declined. She had her own dogs to get home to. Lucky and Tessie. They needed to be walked; needed some attention paid.

I cut about an inch from the stem of each rose. I poured the packet of whatever it is into the bottom of a vase and filled it with water before placing the flowers inside. I stood and looked at them, inhaled their fragrance and embraced what they symbolized. Light, beginnings, purity and love. Perfect.

We were sad, we remain heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful Maguire. But our friends and family have made it so much easier to bear.

Oh, bear. Honey bear.

Celebrate him. Celebrate that. 

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