All things being equal the simplest answer is simple

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, May 4, 2011 10:38 PM

Albert Einstein once said that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” It’s a concept that I embrace, or at least I think I do. If I could figure out exactly what it means.

Simple has so many meanings. It can be easy, stupid, boring, ordinary. But I think it means appreciation for the smallest things in life. To watch a butterfly alight and a squirrel clinging to a tree; to watch the jet trails thirty-five thousand feet above the earth and a dog lazing on his back in the sun; to listen to the silence of the air, its crackling energy, and the trucks far off on the freeway, miles away and yet the sound carried easily across the distance.

Simple is without clutter, natural and comfortable. It means not having all the latest gadgets and too much furniture; it means not traveling to far off lands and maxing the credit cards but instead, dining with friends or family, at home, with home-crafted food and good wine.

Simple is a concept that’s starting to gain traction, at least with many of the people I know. We’ve all had the newest clothes and iPods, iPads; now we want the comfortable clothes that make us feel good and the music of nature. With a little bit of internet radio thrown in for atmosphere.

I’ve begun to subscribe to this philosophy myself, especially lately. Simple for me is about joy, about a glass of phenomenal syrah and a plate of pasta drenched in spicy pesto. It’s about laughing with my husband and staying in bed on a rainy day watching old episodes of The Twilight Zone. It’s lying on the floor next to my vintage puppy and feeling the gentle rise and fall of his breathing, of smelling his fur. It’s a hot day with sunshine streaming in the windows followed by a cool night and equally cool air flowing through open windows.

It’s an old sports car, long paid for, a text from my sister, cleaning out the garage, and the closet, taking old paperbacks to the library or donating them to a kid working on a project, driving less and biking more, running less and walking more, cooking more and dining out less, drinking more water and less coffee, eating more fruit, taking more vitamins, smiling at the neighbors, being more patient and understanding, getting rid of furniture no longer liked without replacing it, streamlining phone services, weekend overnights instead of week-long trips, welcoming best friends and embracing the best of family. This is simplifying. It’s being more than content. It’s living without burden.

Occam’s razor, a theory first postulated by the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham, states: When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is better. If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest.

In other words, all things being equal, simple is better.

Or in its simplest form, keep it simple.

And celebrate.

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live out loud

And now for a little exercise

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 2, 2011 10:14 PM

I have always been a fairly active person. My mother used to thread bells into the laces of my little white shoes when I first learned how to walk so that she would be able to find me. It’s not like the apartment was that big, but evidently, I got around.

Then I got a bike, actually a trike, and I motored around like nobody’s business, flying around the driveway at what had to be warp speed. I remember it well. Then I learned to ride a two-wheeler and got the bike of my dreams, a metallic purple stingray with a white seat and purple streamers. I could go anywhere, as long as I stayed in the neighborhood, but that bike took me to places never before seen. Trees that hadn’t yet been climbed, streams that hadn’t been forged, often times in the same place. Then I got older and got a ten-speed, which was my ticket out of the neighborhood. I could ride to my friend Pam’s house all the way on the other side of Columbia. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t that far, but in my memory, it was a ways. We even did a bike-a-thon, 25 miles of cranking through the wilds of Maryland. I also started running, and playing tennis. I loved the power of swinging my aluminum racket and smashing that poor, unsuspecting neon green ball back over the net, or even into the net. I’d practice by hitting the ball against the big wall outside the high school’s gym. I got there on my bike.

As I grew yet older, I kept riding, running and even playing tennis. I upgraded my bike to a 12-speed before I went to college, a little French number that was very lightweight, for the time, and gave me transportation since I didn’t have a car. It got stolen in college. Someone cut through the chain lock that linked it through a fence. I didn’t replace it for at least ten years. No matter. I kept busy, kept exercising, kept my body tuned and fit.

I have a really expensive bike now. It weighs about 17 pounds and has 18 speeds. Kevin’s bike matches it except for the size. His is a little larger since he’s taller than I. We have weight lifting equipment, and an exercise bike in our gym which is actually a section of the patio. We used to use all religiously.

But something strange occurred to me this weekend. I realized I no longer really cared about the constant battle to keep busy, keep moving, keep exercising. I still do some exercise, of course, like my power walks at least four and usually five days a week, hopping on my bike on Saturdays, the husband unit and I doing our best for our blood pressure, our brains, and our waistlines. I no longer feel the driving need anymore though, and I wondered when that happened. I suspect I have been slowly becoming more and more apathetic. Was it when I turned 40? When my workload got too heavy and I didn’t get enough sleep so I was tired most of the time, too tired to exercise? Could it have happened when I realized there is absolutely nothing I can do to stave off the fact that I’m going to get older and that I’m actually OK with that? Perhaps all three and even more.

Then I began to wonder if I really didn’t care when or why it happened. Because I also realized something else: I just don’t want to anymore. I’d rather go out to lunch, I’d rather have another glass of wine, I’d rather read a book, I’d rather go the movies or watch TV. I’d rather. It’s freeing this freeing of myself, and I’m celebrating my newfound liberation.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to run out for a minute.

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live out loud

The invisible string

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 30, 2011 10:37 PM

There is a string, says a lovely children’s book by British author Patrice Karst, that connects us all, tying us together with those who are most important. Even when we are separated, even when we are alone, as long as we have known someone, truly known them, they are with us always. This book is a favorite of my friend Bobbi’s for many reasons.

Bobbi lives here in Southern California with her husband of nearly 29 years, Roy, surrounded by a number of friends who consider her family. Her other family is mostly in Wisconsin, but Bobbi left them and her life there at the tender age of 18 to come west. She brought the string with her, and it connects her daily with the love she has for her father, stepmother, brothers and sisters and their assorted families, and her now grown daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

The string also connects her to many of her friends, both here and all over the world. And she has many. I suspect that were I to ask each of them their true feelings about her, they would likely gush, for she is a true friend, a light shining bright even when times are foggy and dark. Like a beacon, she smiles and the fog lifts. You feel better having talked with her, for being connected to her.

I honestly don’t know how we became such good friends. We met more than 20 years ago when we both worked at Sebastian International, the hair care and beauty company. Since we were both in the art department, which was fairly small at that point, we bonded over deadlines and irritations. But what tied us together was bigger than that; it was a mutual respect, similar senses of humor, background, and dreams. I was married to my first husband then. It was hard for him to socialize with anyone in my little world because he didn’t like it. But after I finally got rid of him, my friendships blossomed. I suspect that’s when Bobbi and I got closer.

She’s also the one responsible for putting Kevin and I together. I’ll never forget the phone call. She and Roy had long left Sebastian to start their own design studio, in a space they shared with a photographer. I was working with the photographer on a short film so I was at the studio for a meeting. As she was leaving to go home for the night, she had a huge grin on her face as she looked at me and said: Call me when you get home.

I did. That’s essentially how I got married for the second time though there were many events and several years between that phone call and Kevin’s and my wedding in 1998. All fodder for another blog post.

We’ve all become great, great friends, sharing many holidays together, certainly the big ones of Thanksgiving and Christmas, always with others there to celebrate as well. But selfishly I like to think of us as the core four.

Today is my friend’s birthday. May 1st. May Day, the worker’s holiday that began in Australia in 1856 and was designated Loyalty Day in the U.S. in 1958. It can also be traced to the Celtic festival known as Bealtain, celebrating the midpoint in the sun’s progress between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. In Germany it is celebrated as Walpurgisnacht, after Saint Walburga, an English missionary to the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. Her May 1st celebration still includes much dancing and bonfires. In the U.S., one of the biggest celebrations takes place in Minneapolis and is called the “In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre Parade and Pageant.”

The maypole, also part of May Day, is a symbol decorated with ribbons or streamers, and has history in the pagan symbolism first introduced by the Celts so many centuries ago. The pole represents the male, the ribbons the female. Today, it’s part of European folk festivals, and an opportunity for children to sing as they dance around the pole, holding the ribbons, expressing joy through giggles.

These ribbons or streamers are strings, too. They are the threads that sew us to humanity’s rich history; they are the ties that hold us together. Perhaps that’s why May Day has become special to me, and to all of us who know her, who are forever tied to her through our invisible strings.

Grab a ribbon and dance to celebrate Barbara Jo – Bobbi – Jankovich.

Happy Birthday, my good friend. Live it out loud!

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Live it out loud

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 27, 2011 10:18 PM

Every day the sun rises, the newspaper lands with a thud – some days with a bigger thud than others – and the dog stirs. Time to get up and see what wonders the day has in store.

It can be hard sometimes to find the good things, the things worth celebrating, but I have come to believe that there is always something that makes it all worthwhile, that gives purpose to what I’m doing, that brings joy and puts a smile in my heart. I believe that everyone can find one such something every day.

I have friends who are having difficulties and I know at such times, when financial worries crowd out all pleasure, when physical pains can be overwhelming, when it feels like the sun didn’t rise at all, this is when we should remember that we have people who love us, that we have people who like us, and that we will get through whatever the world has planned. Because we’re here together. Because we’re a ‘we’ in these circumstances, not just an ‘I.’ Friends are one of the biggest causes for celebration.

I’m celebrating my life here in California, which began so many years ago when I drove across the country with my mother after I decided to move my life with no job, no friends, nothing but the sheer audacity of youth. I thank my parents for not standing in my way, as hard as it must have been for them. I thank my mother for making the journey with me; for believing in me. I still can see my dad’s face, tears falling, as we pulled out of the driveway that June morning. But I’ve never looked back and I celebrate the decision daily.

This is my home, even though I miss my mother, my sister, her family. It is where my friends are, even when they’re far away. They are all in my heart, and embedded in my soul, always. This is where the good grapes are cultivated and great wine is made to be poured. It’s where I live, work and play; where I met my husband and my son; where I love.

This is when I celebrate, not just the glory of the day, but the beauty of the life I lead. Because even when lives can be interrupted, or when they can challenge our very core, I believe that we all came to live our lives out loud.

And so I find cause to celebrate.

Yesterday I blogged about a special dog named Tucker, a therapy dog who works with children with cancer, and I celebrated him, his mom and all of the children he has walked with. But I also celebrated a conversation with my mother even if she began to yawn half way through. I didn’t take it personally; there is a three-hour time difference after all.

Today I’m blogging about nothing and yet everything, about the seemingly innocuous realities that happen every day; about finding the something. The feel of that newspaper and the slight ink stains on my fingers after I read it. The fact that I’m in flip-flops again and the days are warm. The idea that I’m going to change my hair, because I can. It’s been long, it’s time to go short. Maybe I’ll even go blonde. Probably not. That friends and family are finding things to celebrate, too.

I’m celebrating discussing with my husband the duties we have as parents, which today included deciding on a model first and then ordering a new computer for Justin. We also talked about which iPad I’m going to buy, what to have for dinner, if it was time to walk Maguire, what came in the mail and if there was anything worth opening. A funny email, a touching note from a friend with an idea to celebrate called operation beautiful. These are tiny things, but they’re life. They’re my life; they’re everyone’s lives.

And every single one of us came to live it out loud. Celebrate something.

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live out loud

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