A pack mentality

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 23, 2015 9:14 PM

My grandparents on my mother’s side evidently moved a lot. My mother often referred to them as gypsies. My grandmother was always restless, always looking for something else, but never quite sure what it was. While they moved a lot, they never moved far. They were always in the vicinity of Pittsburgh and its suburbs. It’s one of the reasons why when we went to Pittsburgh to visit, we always stayed with my mother’s aunts, Beryl and Eleanor. They were always in the same house and there was always room.

My grandmother on my dad’s side never moved. My dad was raised in the same house that my grandmother lived in until she died. My parents friends Charlotte and Ed, who bought the house next to us in Fairview, Pennsylvania when I was about six, still live in that house, though my mom just told me that Ed is in a nursing home, recovering from a fall. He’s in his 90s.

When I was a kid, we moved quite a bit because my dad kept getting promoted and transferred. We started out in a very small apartment in Eldred, Pennsylvania but I think we only lived there a year or two. Then we moved to Erie, PA, to another apartment. My brother was born and we moved again, though I don’t think he necessarily had anything to do with it. We still stayed in the Erie area, moving to the aforementioned Fairview. From there we moved to Staatsburg, New York, then to Hyde Park, New York. We were in New York for about six years before we moved to Columbia, Maryland for a year, then to New England where all of my family – save for me – still resides. I moved to Durham, New Hampshire to go to college. Immediately after I graduated I moved to San Diego where I lived for a year, then to Scottsdale, Arizona where I lived for another year, then to the Los Angeles area where I moved a total of six times in 27 years.

In 2013, we moved to Tucson. Now we’re getting ready to move again, to the home we moved to Tucson for.

Each of these moves, whether they’ve been mine, or my family’s or my grandparents before me, have one thing in common: they all entail packing. I would like to state for the record that I absolutely hate packing. I especially hated it when we left Oak Park because we had to have every. single. thing. out of the house because we were moving so far away. There was no, well, we’ll move a few things this weekend, or after we move the furniture, we’ll go back to the house and clean it.

Nope. Everything. Every thing had to be wrapped, boxed, stacked and moved.

I don’t know how my mother didn’t go insane for all of those years when she had to pack not just a house, but three kids worth of stuff, too. I suspect that she didn’t get much help from my dad because he was usually traveling for business. He also was probably already in his new position in the new city to which we’d be moving. When we packed up the Oak Park house, we thought we were on schedule and everything would be fine. It wasn’t. We didn’t end up sleeping the night before we left to drive for 10 hours. It was a nightmare.

And now we’re getting ready to do it again. Hopefully in about a month, we’ll be moving to our forever home. That means packing. Again. Granted we didn’t unpack everything from when we packed and moved 18 months ago because we knew this place was temporary. Still, it’s amazing how much needs to be packed again. Everything in the kitchen, the laundry room, the bedrooms and the baths. The offices. The living room.


It occurred to me the other night, or morning, rather. It was about 2:35 am. I was staring into the darkness of the bedroom, listening to the occasional woot from my dreaming dog, and the quiet of the wind outside. And I thought: we’re moving in a month. And I’ve done nothing to prepare. I haven’t packed a box. I haven’t even pulled boxes out to get ready to pack. The closest I’ve come is thinking that I need to start packing soon.

Soon has arrived. The big hand is on the S and the little hand is on the oon, and boxes will be deployed this weekend. For another move, another trip, only this time it will only be across town. And this time, dog willing, will be the last time.

I’m ready. I’m channeling my grandmother on my mother’s side. I’ve got the pack mentality. Let the wrapping, boxing, taping and stacking begin.

A little space please

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:05 AM

One of the biggest phenomena around seems to be small houses. I’m fascinated by these little places. Sometimes they’re fitted into very small areas in very big places like New York City; other times they’re on very big spaces, in the middle of big lots in Montana. People are evidently flocking to these tiny houses because they’re less expensive, for obvious reasons. They’re less to take care of. It gives the dweller the ability to actually have a more fun-filled life because they have more money to spend because it’s not all going to a mortgage.

There are downsides to smaller living, of course. It’s nearly impossible to do with a family. Two can barely live in 200 or 300 square feet, let alone one or two with children. Most small spaces only have one bedroom. There is usually a small kitchen and a convertible dining room. An office area becomes part of both. There is a living area as well, that is also part of the dining room and kitchen. Rather than the great room, these small spaces have all-encompassing rooms. Rooms that do it all. All for one and one for walls.

Small living was what Gulliver’s Travels was sort of about. Lemuel Gulliver, an Englishman, is shipwrecked and awakens to find himself bound by innumerable tiny threads and tiny captors standing next to and on top of him. They live small; they don’t quite understand how Gulliver is so very big. They don’t understand how he can live like that; he doesn’t understand how they can live as they do.

From the time we’re little we accumulate things. When we’re small, it’s toys. We go through school and have radios and bikes. We get out of school and we have a car, if we’re lucky, maybe a stereo. Clothes. That’s what I had when I graduated from college. Everything I owned fit into the back of my Toyota Celica, with room to spare. It was a small car but I had big dreams.

As we grow older, we have more things. We get our first apartment and we need furniture. The furniture goes with us as we move to a bigger apartment. We get a bigger car. We accumulate more and bigger stuff. We get rid of our smaller stuff. Furniture begets more furniture. Dishware begets more dishware. Coffee cups multiply as do wine glasses. One bedroom becomes two becomes four. There are desks and computers and bookshelves and entertainment centers and lamps and rugs and big screen televisions and stereos and antiques and pillows and tables and hutches and music stands.

It goes on and on.

Little almost always becomes big. We’re born small; soon we become big. We grow. Our stuff grows. Our houses grow. Our space on this earth grows.

As people grow older, they often downsize, make their lives smaller. I wonder if it’s an attempt to return to a time when things were simpler, when they were little themselves and had their whole lives to look forward to.

When we were small and had just a little space and all we wanted was to be big and have more.

I wonder if that’s why I’m so fascinated with small houses. We’re building a big house, the biggest we’ve ever had. We’ve lived in small houses previously, though none as little as the ones currently all the rage. Because we have so much stuff, we decided we needed more space. Maybe that means we’re not ready to get older; not quite ready to return to when things were more simple. Perhaps we’ll be ready some day, perhaps we’ll want to be small again, when we need just a little space to continue living it out loud. 

Home is where the heart, the king-size bed, the newly shampooed and trimmed puppy, and the stuff is

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 7, 2013 10:56 PM

There are many people in the world who live to travel. They love to fly off to far off and exotic lands, even if it involves four times zones and three plane changes. They live to sample local color and cuisine; to find small hotels tucked off the beaten path that are filled with culture. They take the hassle of security in the airports in stride. They are completely at home when away.

They are not me. I’m a homebody and proud of it. I love to be home. I’m not afraid to fly; I just don’t like it. The security is a pain, the planes are jammed, the airlines are nasty, the flight attendants disinterested, and there is nothing to eat. I don’t sleep well when I’m in an unfamiliar bed, especially the first night. I don’t like living out of a suitcase. I do like eating out and finding good restaurants, but I often spend much of my time away waiting to go back home.

I know. I’m weird that way.

It’s just that I truly love my home. I love my stuff. When we’re away, I miss my bed, I miss my dog. I miss sitting on my couch in my living room at night and simply relaxing from the day. Watching TV, having a glass of wine, writing my blog.

I love the atmosphere of home, the hominess of it. The comfort of knowing I can get anything I need whenever I need it. Feel a little chill? I can grab my favorite oversized button down shirt or a sweatshirt or wrap myself up in a blanket. Don’t know what I’m going to wear today? Doesn’t matter because my entire closet is right there in front of me.  I can even change my mind eight times if I want. I don’t have to plan ahead. I can figure it out on the fly.

I can cook what I want, I can experiment with different sauces or marinades or salads or whatever. Coffee is there when I want or need it; ditto fresh fruit and snacks.

My dog is here, too, or at least he is once retrieved from the Westlake Pet Motel. My husband is here. My kid used to be here, but kids are raised to leave, to eventually make their own home, one where they can put their stuff, where their bed is their own. Their parents’ home is always referred to as home, of course, much like when I go to visit my mother I’m “going home.” Only I no longer live there.

Home is where one grew up; where the mother is. Home is also where you live.

Cooper, home after five days away

“Home is where the heart is” is a saying that is somewhat overused. I’m not sure I’ve ever really stopped to think about it before this past weekend, but for some reason, I finally got its meaning. Home is where you most want to be because it’s filled with love. I suppose that means you can actually have several homes, or at least several places that feel like home.

After traveling for only four days, I felt like I was gone a month. We flew to Dallas then to Cleveland, rented a car, and drove to Mayville on Friday. We took two carry-ons; nothing more. We drove to Fredonia on Saturday, several times. On Sunday, Khris and Shawn – who had met us on Saturday after they drove for 8 hours plus one speeding ticket – and I drove to Pittsburgh to see Aunt Beryl. Three hours each way. Then we drove to dinner and back to the hotel. On Monday we drove back to Cleveland, then flew to Dallas then to LA and then drove home. I didn’t sleep well while gone. I missed my bed. And when we got here last night, Cooper wasn’t here. One of my loves was missing. It was home but a piece was missing.

We picked him up this afternoon and he emerged from the Motel fluffier than we’ve ever seen him, sporting a new bandana and newly trimmed nails. We got home and he ran from room to room to room, whining and huffing and puffing and whining some more. He grabbed Wubba and trotted around the house. He went up the stairs and then down. He went out into the backyard and then came back in. He drank a bowl full of water and then finally settled on his blanket. His huffing eventually subsided, the whining died down. He was home. He was safe. He could relax.

As I watched him – as I watch him now, sleeping soundly next to me – I realized that I’m not the only one who is a homebody. I completely understand, my little Coop de Ville, the Cadillac of rescue puppies. I know how you feel. 

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live out loud

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