Decisions, decisions

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 13, 2014 8:47 PM

One of the many quotables from the film Forrest Gump was this nugget: “Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” There was wisdom in that message. There would have been even more if it had been extended to say “based on your decision.” Yes. Life is ever changing. We never know what one day will share that was completely unforeseen and unexpected. The one constant, the one thing we can always count on is that with each day comes a never-ending stream of decisions that need to be made.

We have to decide when to get up and what to put on. We have to decide if we’re going to eat and what. I know my days begin with whether to wear flip flops or sneakers, shorts or sweatpants. Do I have time for a walk? I have to decide how much coffee I want and whether I really want to make another pot. I pull up my emails and decide which ones to open immediately and which ones to wait on; which to answer. I decide what I want to work on first and what I might get to throughout the day, and in what order.

At lunch there is the decision of what to eat, a decision that is often predicated on how recently I went to the store and what’s in the house. These types of decisions continue throughout the day and up through early evening when Kevin starts asking “what’s for dinner?” This too is predicated on what’s in the house, how much time I have or want to spend cooking and whether I even want to cook. There is wine to be decided on and what shows to watch on TV. All minor decisions but the types that plague every person every day. Our lives are made up of minor decisions that don’t really affect our lives.

But lately, we’ve been making decisions that will have an affect on our lives for a very long time. On one hand, they’re extremely frivolous, and on the other, they’re important. Things like cream or gray for the LED cans, windows that open or don’t, what design for the front door, what color for the interior walls and ceiling, what color for the exterior. Stone for all five pillars or just the two leading up to the front door? What cheap tile can we live with on the deck. Crema Bordeaux, Junapara Florence or Diamond Red for the granite? Shower floor tile, grout color throughout, stain color on the cabinets and interior doors. Paper or plastic. It’s exhausting.

We are experiencing what is known as decision fatigue. And yes, there is such a thing. It’s even been scientifically studied, several times. In one of the more famous, Stanford researchers set up a sampling of 24 types of jam in an upscale grocery store. A week later they set up a sampling using only six jams. Their findings were that people liked having choices, with more people visiting the 24 jams. However, only 3% of the people bought any jam while 30% of people visiting the six-jams bought a jar. Researchers called it choice overload.

Researchers also observed self-control, which takes subconscious thought and effort. They called that ego depletion or decision-fatigue. People who are ego-depleted or decision-fatigued want ways to get out of making decisions, so they tend to be more passive than active.

According to Stanford, making decisions and employing self-control are normal and unavoidable daily activities. When we get overwhelmed, we can make bad and impulsive decisions. But being aware of all of this can help us stay productive, focused, and to hopefully make better decisions. Their advice is to make a decision and stick with it. Second-guessing a choice can deplete your cognitive resources. Not second-guessing may lead to greater happiness. That’s something I’ve always subscribed to.

I happen to be one of those weird people who believes that self-control is an infinite resource; that making decisions can actually increase performance and stamina, thus rendering the decision-making process more interesting. It leaves me with more energy and more power. I’m weird that way.

Though I could be wrong. I’ll have to decide for sure and get back to you.

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Nobody is that happy

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 2, 2014 10:27 PM

My mother has a friend, a lovely woman who is also named Joyce. They’ve been friends for as long as I can remember, and at least since our family moved to New England in 1977. With the exception of me, my family remains there.

Mom and Joyce met, I have no idea where, and became instant friends. Joyce was married to a man named Dwight who has also since passed. She has remarried and she and her new husband spend their time in Ocala, Florida and Denver, Colorado.

Joyce is one of the most genuinely nice people you’ll ever meet. She’s preternaturally joyous. When I first met her, as a teenager, she made me uncomfortable. She was just so nice. I remember thinking that no one can possibly be that nice and be sincere about it. I’ve since come to know that she is, in fact, that nice.

She’s warm, inviting, loving. Even though she and my mom don’t see each other often, they do speak on the phone. They may even exchange emails though I know Joyce has been somewhat electronically challenged. They visit each other as well. My mom was down in Florida not too many months ago, and I believe she attempted to show Joyce the various ways she can surf the ‘net and find some wondrous things. I don’t know how successful she was though, in her tutelage; I hope it helped. Being able to communicate electronically is, to me, one of the wonders of the universe.

I text with my sister almost daily; we text with Justin almost as often. I text with other friends as well. We all exchange emails regularly. While we don’t always hear each other’s voices or see each other in person, the fact that we can still be in communication is something I celebrate.

My dad always used to laugh and say: “No body is that nice” when he was talking about Joyce. He knew, of course, that she was in fact that nice. It’s human nature to automatically distrust someone who smiles and is nice for no reason. We always think there must be a motive, a method to their nice-madness. We are cynical. We look for the why rather than simply accepting. I do it myself. I rarely trust anyone who is sugary and nice. It doesn’t seem real. I am hardened by my years of working, by the news I consume daily. I am hardened simply by getting older and wiser.

The wiser though has also afforded me with wisdom. I can now see that yes, there are people who’s basic makeup is nice. They are gentle souls who the world doesn’t trust and who must have something wrong with them. But the fact is, the rest of us are the one’s who have something wrong. Where we could be nice, we are reserved. Where we could greet people warmly, we stand back. Where we could be open, we remain closed. Where we could be happy, we refrain.

Happy is subjective but nice isn’t. Happy can be learned but nice simply is. You’re either nice or you’re not. You’re either happy or you can be. Are people also preternaturally happy? I don’t know. I’m relatively happy, but there are days when I have to work at it. I’m nice enough but not as nice as my sister and certainly not as nice as Joyce. When I’m happy, I feel content. I feel privileged. I feel accomplished. I try to find some happiness every day. I don’t run around grinning all the time. I don’t dance, though sometimes I groove a little to the music (badly, I might add). I don’t shout it from rooftops or hilltops or anywhere else. I don’t clap because I feel like a room without a roof.

Because nobody’s that happy…

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Cape optional

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:57 PM

It's that time of the month again, the time when Lorin gets her hair done. I'm sitting here with my hair sticking out in all directions, as if I stuck my iPhone in a light socket and got an obviously big shock. It's not attractive, getting my color done. The only thing funnier is getting foiled. Then my hair sticks out in every direction and shines and clacks when I move. The saving grace to getting my hair done and looking like this is that it's temporary, and when I leave I'll be freshly coiffed, complete with cut. Also, all of the other women around me - I'm currently in the color lounge - look the exact same way.

When I used to get my hair done in Woodland Hills, Tammy used a different kind if color. It was liquid and squirted from a bottle. She would use the nozzled end to part my hair as she squeezed the color into my hair at the scalp. Once the bottle was empty, she'd comb it all through so I looked like a gel-head.

Zell, my new stylist, uses a thicker gel color that she paints on so she only focuses on the root. She uses the pointed end of a brush to part my hair then flips the brush around and paints. The interesting thing about this type of color application technique keeps the chemicals off of my scalp so I suspect it might perhaps be healthier. Because let's face it. Putting chemicals on your scalp where they soak into your skin and thus into your body can't be a good thing.

My eyebrows have also been painted.

After my color has cooked, which happens even though I'm not under a dryer, I get washed and then they apply some sort of shine sealer. I should know what it's called but I don't. I should know because I am in the hair business, at least sort of. I write about it. And I should know what the product is because it's similar, only better, to Sebastian's Cellophanes/Colourshines. I worked at Sebastian and wrote a bunch about C/C.

The shine sealer seals in the color and locks in shine so my hair looks vibrant and healthy. There's that word again.

Then I get blown out (Zell did my cut first), I pay, leave a good-size tip and then I go home.

Until that time, though, here I sit. I'm on a black leather couch. There is some funky music playing softly if funky music can play softly. I like this salon though I preferred the music at Tammy's salon. I am dressed in jeans and a maroon colored fitted t-shirt with a tan silk-screened motorcycle on the front. I have a pair of cowboy boots on with low wooden heels. I make a lot of noise when I walk especially on concrete floors.

I am also draped in a black cape. It is nearly 4:30 as I write this. Justin and Joanne, having finally made it out of Chicago, will be arriving shortly; so says the text that just came in from Kevin. It is a beautiful day here in the desert, nearly 80 degrees.

I am getting my hair done and my eyebrows darkened. My son will be there when I get home. I'm flying high. The cape is optional.

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Emotional strength defined

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:19 PM

I was perusing Facebook this morning, as I often do as I prepare to meet the day. I don’t tend to post much, nor do I comment. I occasionally “like” something, and it often has to do with dogs. My entire Facebook page is filled with liked pages featuring dogs, wine and politics, in that order. My friends tend to be a bit more diverse. This morning, friend Lisa J posted a link to a site called Elite Daily.

Elite Daily is the voice of Generation Y, and was “created out of a growing discontentment with antiquated media publications mandating that news coverage be presented in a dull, one-dimensional manner. The Elite Daily ethos is centered on reader engagement and fostering a true, unique connection with [their] readership through a platform that facilitates discussion rather than blandly presenting news. Elite Daily’s founding members grew tired of consuming disingenuous content and created a highly-engaging, social content platform that would radically change and redefine the meaning of a media publication, with millennial voices speaking directly to their fellow members of Gen-Y who share a similar passion for informative content.”

Generation Y is the generation born between 1977 and 1994, people who came of age between 1998 and 2006. There are approximately 71 million of them. They are much more racially and ethnically diverse and much more segmented as an audience due to the rapid expansion in Cable TV channels, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, tablets and smart phones.

Many Gen Y kids, as they’re often called, were raised in dual income homes and were more involved in family purchases – everything from groceries to new cars – than generations previous. Generation Ys are also called Echo Boomers or Millenniums.

I am not Generation Y, not even close, but Justin is. Much of the description, as applied to him, is right on the money.

The article today, written by Yers, is geared toward his generation but is applicable to all. It was entitled: 15 things that emotionally strong people don’t do. I was intrigued enough to click and read, since I consider myself to be emotionally strong and wondered if I was right.

Emotions are our greatest motivators. Unfortunately, they can motivate us to act in any direction, even the wrong one. That’s why emotional strength is essential. The article listed some of the situations that emotionally strong people avoid and certain actions they never take.

  1. They don’t beg for attention
  2. They don’t allow others to bring them down
  3. They don’t hold grudges
  4. They never stop doing their own thing
  5. They never stop believing in themselves
  6. They don’t act like jerks
  7. They’re particular about who they let into their lives
  8. They aren’t afraid to love
  9. They don’t dread the day ahead
  10. They’re not afraid of slowing down
  11. They don’t do things they don’t want to do
  12. They have no problem saying “no”
  13. They don’t ever forget to give back
  14. They don’t feel the need to fit in
  15. They don’t forget that happiness is a decision

I actively try to follow those 15 things. I didn’t always, but I do now. I think it’s easier as you get older and naturally develop more confidence in the world around you, and thus more confidence in yourself.

I particularly like the last item on the list. It’s something I’ve long believed, that happiness is a decision you make for yourself, and if you choose to be happy, most of the other emotional aspects of life fall into place as they should.

All this wisdom from kids young enough to be my son. Which leads me to a  potential #16. Never stop learning, even from a younger generation, because they will be the next ones to live it out loud. 

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Thank you. Really. Thank you for being there always.

by Lorin Michel Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:40 AM

The premise of this blog is to navigate the abyss of life, wading through all of the horrid and depressing news in order to discover something good; to find something to celebrate every day. Some days my celebrations are intensely personal, others they border on irreverent. I often get philosophical and even when I veer into the bad or the negative, I always try to discover the positive in the end.

There is a LA based group called Soul Pancake that does something similar, though not in blog form. Wikipedia describes them as being a media company that “seeks to provide platforms to explore big think topics such as spirituality, creativity, religion, arts and philosophy.” Their tagline is “chew on life’s big questions.” Their home page states, quite eloquently and appropriately: “Our brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor is designed to open your mind, challenge your friends, and feel damn good.”

They recently did a campaign that they called the science of happiness. In it, they challenged people to tell those who had meant the most to them, simply, thank you. The study was about how it made the tellers feel; not how it made the recipients feel. I suppose that’s probably fairly obvious. When someone tells you that you’ve meant the world to them, that their lives are better because you’re in it, then that makes a person feel good, worthwhile; proud. But what of the teller? I was fascinated.

It seems that sharing your feelings about your best friend, your mother, your sister or your brother, a teacher from your past, a co-worker can increase your happiness by as must as 15%.

Think about it. Someone changes your life for the better just by being in it. Telling that person can make their day, their week. But it can also make yours. We don’t tell the people in our lives what they mean to us. We say “I love you” and mean it, but we don’t say why. We don’t explain why someone has forever changed our lives. I don’t know why but I can speculate.

Telling people thank you for what they’ve meant to you is awkward and seems to indicate that something has happened; that someone is dying. People don’t get all gooey unless it’s the end and they know there isn’t much time left. It’s uncomfortable and people avoid the uncomfortable. I know I do. It’s human nature.

I wish I could have told my dad how much I appreciated him. I wish that every day but it’s too late now.

I don’t want that to happen with anyone else in my life. 

Mom: you have been my guiding light, and the one constant in my life since even before I was born. You have inspired me to always do better, do more. You’ve challenged the way I think and I thank you.

Scott: I’m proud of you and what you’ve done in the past few years. You took a bad situation and you turned your life around. That’s not easy and I understand and appreciate that. And you.

Khris: Little sister. You are the light of my life. I am so proud of you and who you’ve become, the family you’ve created. You’re my best friend, now and always.

Kevin: My heart. To borrow a quote from Maguire’s namesake movie: You complete me. I don’t know what I did before you. I don’t know what I would do without you.

Justin: My boy. I couldn’t love you more. I am so proud to be your mom.

Bobbi: I don’t know when we became the friends that we are, but I believe it was destiny. You are one of the best people I know, and I am blessed to have you in my life. I am blessed to call you friend.

Roy: One of my oldest friends in Los Angeles and I don’t mean that derogatorily. From the first moment you walked in the door at Sebastian on Variel and I was waiting in the lobby, I knew we would be friends.

Pam: My longest friend. I thought of you so often over the years when we lost touch and I am forever grateful that we found each other again. You mean the world to me.

Diane: The laughter you bring, the wit and humor you add to almost any situation, fills me with a profound sense of gratitude.

Connie: We lost touch for a while and that was my fault. I’m so glad we reconnected and I’m so thankful that we’re still friends, still have that easy camaraderie we developed back at McCann.

There are so many others that I could thank. All of my readers, all of my clients, all of the people who have changed my life through the years. Every person who has touched me, and who I have, hopefully, touched back. It’s a uniquely human phenomenon to touch each other, not just literally but emotionally, spiritually, creatively, artfully, all stacked together and served with syrup on top. It’s a Soul Pancake and I celebrate it today and all days.

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Making someone happy

by Lorin Michel Saturday, June 8, 2013 2:49 AM

Recently I was privy to a Facebook conversation between two long-ago co-workers, now Facebook friends, about happiness and how they had tried for so long to make other people happy, often at their own expense. I was fascinated for several reasons. First, I’m always fascinated when people share personal information on Facebook. And second, because it’s a topic that I have long thought about myself.

I think it’s human nature to want to please. We start out wanting to please our parents. Then we segue into wanting to please our teachers and then our peer group so that we can remain in good standing within that group. We get into a relationship and we want to please that person, doing what we think they want and what they like, what will make them happy. Then we get married and we do the same.

We go to college and we try to please our professors. We get jobs and try to please our employers. And while that’s part of being a responsible human and a responsible adult, it is also, in some ways, about not being responsible to ourselves.

Here’s the gist of the conversation:
“I realize I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to make other people happy.”

“How old are you?”

“Too old to be doing that. I realize that while I was spending all of that time making other people happy, I was doing nothing to make me happy.”

“I know what you mean. I spent so much of my life trying to make other people happy and I’m not sure that you can do it.”

“It’s sad when you think about it because I really want this particular person to be happy but I’ve realized that I can’t be responsible for his happiness.”

“When you realize that, you’re actually on your way to true happiness for you.”

“Maybe I’m finally on the way to happiness then.”

And then it ended. I don’t know why the person who started the dialogue was talking about making others happy without making himself happy. I don’t know who he was talking about. The person he was talking to didn’t mention any specifics either and that’s when I realized that happiness is an abstract. There is no definition for it. It doesn’t exist because someone says it does. It exists because you choose for it to exist. It’s not big and round and fun. It simply is. Happiness is something you need to find inside. It’s about self-awareness. You can’t be responsible for making someone else happy because you’re not inside their soul. They have their own unique situation that allows them to find, or reject, happiness. They can choose to see if they can make someone else happy but they do so at their own expense. They need, instead, to choose to make themselves happy which will then make others want to be with them, and thus perhaps find happiness.

People can and should be responsible for each other. We can care for each other, love one another. We can put food on the table and supply shelter and clothing from the storm. But we can’t make each other happy because we don’t know how. We can only do what makes us happy and hope that it’s enough to help those we love to be happier, too.

It’s a matter of self-awareness. And yes, self-preservation.

It’s a motto I share, the religion that guides me. I am responsible for my own happiness because if I am I can hopefully brighten the lives of those around me because I can. I can be content and smile. And I can live it out loud.

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Happiness for stress

by Lorin Michel Sunday, October 21, 2012 8:57 PM

Everybody is so stressed these days, suffering from the dreaded physical, mental and emotional pressure of day-to-day living. We’re not sleeping well, we’re eating badly, we’re snapping at each other.

My friend, Bobbi, a licensed marriage family therapist, said the other day that all of her clients are fairly vibrating with the stress of uncertainty. It is permeating every aspect of every day. People seem angrier than usual, they’re uncertain about what they did yesterday, what will happen today and are downright terrified of tomorrow. Good news is almost automatically juxtaposed with bad. Good feelings are countered with bitter. Genuine reflection is rebuffed in favor of retrospection. Let’s look back, not forward. No! Let’s move forward, not in reverse.

It is driving everyone I know, including me, nuts.

I believe we all have a strong desire to be optimistic about who we are and where we’re going, but all of the fog can shroud, clog our intentions. We want and yet we get buried in the multitudes of fear that surround us. We turn on our computers and the headlines scream: many have died, more are sick, the sky is falling and chicken little has been proven right. We turn on the television and are treated to much the same in the guise of talking heads sharing, sometimes with a bit too much glee, the horrid news of the day. Other talking heads simply shout at one another. You suck, no you suck, well you suck more, no you suck the most.

The newspapers only report good things on the entertainment pages and even those aren’t uniformly joyful. Sometimes they report about a beloved entertainment figure that has passed away. Sometimes they provide a story about how a particular part of the industry in a particular city is losing money and thus people are out of work. Generally a downer. Sometimes there are stories about Lindsay Lohan or the Kardashians, enough to bring an honest, hard-working, non-reality-show-watching woman to her knees.

Talking to friends and family isn’t always better. Some are suffering through tough economic times. Jobs aren’t materializing; promised work never arrives. Most have some sort of financial strain if not bordering on financial ruin. There are illnesses and maladies and fears of illnesses and maladies. There is loss and grief.

As if on cue, here come the holidays. I saw the first Christmas commercial about a week ago, for Target. I nearly threw my wine glass at the TV but didn’t want to waste the grape.

Even closer is the looming and glooming presidential election. Nearly everyone save some mysterious three percent whose existence I’m beginning to question has a stake in this fight. Most of the people I hang with are blue; some are red. Each side is equally passionate, equally nasty, and consumed with dread that the other guy might somehow, against all odds, win. The world as we know it will come to an end. Dogs and cats will begin living together. I will begin to drink white wine. OMG.

Stress vibrates. It keeps us up at night, keeps the heart racing and the brain waves waving. Blood flows a little too quickly and pounds at the temples. Joints ache. Extreme ideas surface and the imagination works overtime creating all manner of hysterical scenarios.

But what if the imagination worked instead to create something positive? Imagine, instead, that you get a new job, that the election will be OK. Imagine, instead, the twinkling lights of the holidays, the music, the crisp air and snuggly fires. The opportunity to be with the people you love, engaging in activities you enjoy, even if those activities involve not being with the people you love.

Imagine there’s no war, no killing, no anger.

Imagine channeling stress so that it becomes happiness. Turning hopeless to hopeful, pointless to the point. Seeing the potential of turning bad into good, of looking to the morning sky and realizing that with each new day comes a new opportunity. Imagine the joy of digging deep into your happiness reserves in order to find a way to make anger a kinder, gentler contentedness.

How do we do it? Some people exercise, some meditate, some surrender the gloom, some open a nice bottle of wine. What brings you the most comfort? Wherever you hide your happiness, you can instead hide your stress. Swap them out, for an hour, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime.

Celebrate the rainbow you find. It might just change your life. 

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Shiny happy people everywhere

by Lorin Michel Friday, February 10, 2012 9:33 PM

I’m generally a happy person. I have my days, like everyone, when I’m decidedly not happy. In fact, I can get stressed and cranky with the best of them. But for the most part, I err more on the side of a smile and a light disposition. Turns out, I’m not alone. The results of an international poll conducted by Ipsos Global came out today and it turns out that despite the problems with the economy, constant war and strife, and natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis, people are happier today than they were four years ago. Ipsos surveyed 18,000 people in 24 countries, and discovered that the happiest place in the world is Indonesia, followed closely by India and Mexico. The US is the 7th happiest place, which kind of surprised me given how vitriolic the news has been lately. It was a pleasant surprise.

The rest of the top ten: Brazil (4), Turkey (5), Australia (6), Canada (8), Argentina (9) and Great Britain (10).

I think what I found most gratifying is that the economy and money weren’t what people cited as the reason for their happiness. Rather, many said that just having a cooked meal was happiness itself. A roof over their head made them feel fulfilled. Relationships, those with friends, family and even associates, are what made almost every respondent, to a person, feel the best.

What makes me happy are the same, basic things cited by others. Talking to my mom last night made me happy; just hearing her voice always makes me feel better, no matter what kind of day I’m having. The same with talking to Justin. Just hearing him say “Hi, mom” gives me incredible joy and immense fulfillment. Ditto my husband’s voice, and my friends’ voices. I live so far away from most of the ones I love that my immediate connection to them comes through a landline or cell phone. I have to imagine them in my mind, feel them in my heart, but their voices coming directly into my body via my ear is happiness itself.

Also Maguire’s bark.

The happiness wave

I love a great meal. I don’t know that there’s a more simplistic route to primal happiness. It’s filling both literally and emotionally. To sit in a restaurant or even my own home, or the home of another, and to place a fork full of something dripping in garlic or tomato or both, is happiness on a utensil. Listening to great music is the same. I’m currently listening to Carlos Santana just because I was in the mood. His guitar is velvet and electricity.

Also really great Chicago jazz.

Back to the study. Married couples tended to be happier than single people though there was very little differentiation between the happiness of men and the happiness of women. People under 35 seemed to be happier than people older than 35. I’m not sure I agree with that. People who are under 35 haven’t ever been over 35 so they have no point of reference. I think I’m happier now than I was then. More content. I looked better at 35 but I think better now. Higher education also meant a higher happiness quotient. I found that intriguing. I wonder if has something to do with education being the door that opens one to the world of possibility and doubt and wonder and knowledge and wisdom; it allows one to know that there is more out there.

Latin America is the happiest place on earth. And all these years, I thought it was Disneyland. North America is pretty happy too, with all three countries having made it into the top 10. Asia-Pacific countries are smiling as are the people in the Middle East and Africa. Those last two surprised me a lot. Just goes to show that perception is not always reality. Only 15 percent of Europeans say they’re happy. I blame Greece.

As for the least happy people, you have to talk to Hungarians, South Koreans, Russians, Spaniards, and Italians. I blame Berlusconi for that last one. He was kind of … creepy.  

Still, I was pleasantly surprised overall. With all of the strife that exists, all of the bad news that we are constantly bombarded with, to have people happier now than they were four years ago is a good sign.

It’s just too bad about the world ending on December 21, at least according to the Mayans. I think we might have really been able to ride this happiness wave for sometime forward. I can see it cresting now, can see standing up, catching it perfectly, the sun glancing off of the water behind with nothing but excitement ahead. 

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The home office vs the office at home

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, February 8, 2012 9:14 PM

I am one of the approximately 44.4 million or maybe it’s 55 million people – the number varies depending on who you ask – who work at home at least one day a year. Of course, I work at home at least 6 days a week, so I’m probably a different kind of stat, one I haven’t quite been able to locate. According to Home Business Magazine and U.S. Census statistics, though, there are 38 million home-based businesses, which means those businesses have to have offices. In addition to those 38 million offices, there are as many as 36.6 million homes that have offices in the home, offices they use to either have part-time businesses, or to pay bills, surf the ‘nets, or do some work at home. Those are telecommuters and the ones who fall between the 44.4 and 55 million.

Or maybe it’s just 2.8 million.

Statistics are just numbers but they do provide some insight as to what’s going on out there in the world, especially for someone like me who only knows what’s going out there when people tell me. Or when I read it somewhere. Or research it. Or hear it on NPR.

I was listening to NPR today on my way to a meeting. It’s the only good thing about driving in Los Angeles in the morning as far as I’m concerned. Traffic is ridiculous and a colossal waste of time and it makes my hair hurt and my blood pressure rise. Also, it makes me tired and cranky.

I digress.

The ultimate home office. President Obama’s oval office.

On NPR they were talking to the New York Times writer, Jodi Kantor, who just put out the book The Obamas, and they were discussing the White House. Evidently in the book, which I haven’t seen but have heard quite a bit about, she includes floor plans for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m sure the Secret Service loves that. The floor plans show the residence, where the First Family lives, along with their grandmother, Marian Robinson – the First Grandma – and the First Dog, Bo, as well as all of the different famous rooms, the places where the tour takes place, the gift shop and of course, all of the offices. As I was listening to that I started chuckling as it occurred to me that the White House is the ultimate home office.

Think about it, the President lives AND works in the same building. Granted, he has quite the staff, and the White House is 55,000 square feet, a bit larger than most people’s home offices, with 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases and 3 elevators. It has six stories, the top two of which are the residence, which is about 3,000 square feet. Still pretty good size by most people’s standards.

No doubt that home office is full of all of the usual office equipment. Computers, cell phones, wireless networks, multifunctional printers, indispensible cell phones, PDAs, tablets and more. They also have the Situation Room, so they win in the cool home office department. Business News is estimating that the incidence of home offices and offices in the home will increase greatly by 2015, with 2 million more home-based businesses and 3 million more home offices for out-of-home businesses. They also anticipate that working at home won’t make the work day any shorter or easier. The need to be more productive is already translating into very long work-days. The number of people who work longer than the stereotypical 8-hour day will also increase by more than 27 million. That number won’t include me. I already work more than an 8-hour day. My days are at least 10 and usually closer to 12 or 14 hours.

Part of my office, photographed tonight with my cell phone. So similar to the president’s, don't you think?

But I’m not complaining because my commute it amazing. My wardrobe is easy and comfortable. I have everything I could possibly need to be successful all in the confines of my 10 X 12 loft. Two computers, a nearly obsolete fax machine, a printer, a TV, a DVD player, a desk top phone, a cell phone, Mulder and Scully dolls, other toys, and tons and stacks of books, both in shelves and on the floor. Of course, mostly what I need to be successful is locked inside my brain and I take that everywhere.

Still, I love my home office. It is my sanctuary, my home within my home, the place I go to work every day around 8am, the place I’m in right now at 7:37pm. If working at home is good enough for the president, I think it’s also good enough for me.

Living it out loud every day up here overlooking the rest of the house.

78 degrees

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 29, 2011 7:23 PM

It’s December 29th, a time when much of the country is experiencing some cold temps. In New Hampshire where my family lives, the nights have been so frigid that the news reports suggest bringing any domesticated animals into the house. Outside dogs and cats will freeze to death if left to their usual devices. My mother has a cat, a beautiful Maine Coon affectionately known as Chow Mein for reasons unbeknownst to me, who cats around outside all year long. In the winter, she used to curl up in the space under a spare room my mother calls ‘the shed.’ My brother lived there for a time, even though it has no heat and no plumbing. Luckily it’s not far from the main house. Since my brother moved out and got his own place, Chow Mein likes to sleep on the screened-in porch. In the winter the screens are replaced by storm windows. Regardless, it’s freakin’ cold out there. Freeze-the-water-in-the-cat’s-bowl cold. My mother puts a heating pad on one of the benches and the little miss curls up happily for a good night’s sleep.

78º as painted by artist Mike Glier

The point is, everything is frozen. The world, at least that part, has turned to gray. It’s the time I always disliked most when I lived there. The leaves were long gone so the trees were gray. The sky was always trying to snow, so it was gray. The roads were gray because of past snows and ashes and salt. Even the people were gray, all bundled up in black boots and black or gray wool coats and hats. It was like living in a black and white movie. Interesting for a while but then I started to crave Technicolor.

I have that in spades out here in the southland. The palm trees sway in the breeze, all misty green. The hills, so brown and desolate in the summer months when they get no water at all, blossom in the cold and the wet. Even when we don’t have much rain, just the fact that the nights are in the 30s somehow feeds needed moisture into the ground. Everything becomes more lush. Granted the lawns begin to get more brown. Even the sprinkler systems can’t seem to keep the blades of grass from going into hibernation. And yes, many of the trees also lose their leaves so the branches stand silhouetted against the sky, but the sky is mostly blue, the sun golden and the air warm. This is winter in California, and while it may not necessarily seem festive to those on the east coast, it is for us. There’s nothing like seeing a palm tree decorated with white lights to get someone in the holiday spirit.

By artist Mike Glier

Today was a typical late December day in LA. Warm with just a hint of a breeze. The sky was painted light blue with a few streaks of high white clouds, enough to diffuse the sun ever so slightly. When I drove from our house in the OP into Woodland Hills for a meeting, it was 78º. Not quite warm enough to put the AC on; the windows or in my case, the open sunroof was enough to keep a nice cool air circulating through. It was lovely. It made me appreciate the desert southwest. It made me celebrate the quietness of the week, this week between Christmas and New Year’s when there’s not a lot going on other than what I really choose to have go on. It’s a nice reprieve, an ideal way to say goodbye to one year and to welcome another. So I’ll take my 78º today and tomorrow, and maybe even on Saturday. And as the clock rolls from December into January, I’ll raise a glass (if I’m even still awake) and welcome what’s coming.

Even if it’s rain. Especially if it’s rain.

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