I have discovered

by Lorin Michel Thursday, January 5, 2017 9:29 PM

This week I have discovered old made-for-TV movies. This happened entirely by accident. Let me explain.

Regular readers might remember that every Christmas I engage in a ritual. It starts right around December 1, coincidentally right around the time I start playing Christmas music. I watch Christmas movies online. I don’t actually “watch,” of course. More like listen as they play in the background while I work. I’ve seen them all too many times to count. The 1951 version of Scrooge with Alistair Sim; the 1984 version with George C. Scott. It’s a Wonderful Life. I also manage to listen to An American Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler (my brother’s favorite) and It Happened One Christmas, the twist on It’s a Wonderful Life, with Marlo Thomas. There are others. The Christmas Story Lady with Jessica Tandy and Stephanie Zimbalist; Silent Night with Linda Hamilton; One Special Night with Julie Andrews and James Gardner. I’m a sucker for Christmas movies in the same way I’m a sucker for Christmas music. I don’t like old sappy music like anything by the Carpenters, Andy Williams, or Ray Conniff. And I don’t like sappy movies. Well, actually I do. I just like them when they’re well done. 

For several weeks before Christmas I’d fluctuate between playing music and movies in my office. And then, Christmas was over. Roy and Bobbi went home. I de-Christmased the house, putting everything away in its proper place until next year. We settled back into our routine as early as Monday when everyone else was still celebrating the holiday. 

Maybe it was that fact, that everyone was off and still having one more day of the 2016 Christmas season, but on Monday, as I sat at my desk, I opened a browser to youtube. I hadn’t finished It Happened One Christmas and I thought, what the hell? I was still feeling a little Christmas-y. I hit play, shrunk the browser down to a small square in the top right corner of my computer screen and then continued to work. When it was over, another movie started to play. I don’t even remember what it was, but it wasn’t bad. Soon enough, anything holiday related moved into just interesting. And they were almost all made for television.

I’ve let them play for the last few days while I work and I’ve seen/heard some pretty good films. Many of them were nostalgia based, set in the plain states during the time after World War I or World War II. A simpler time. They weren’t sappy at all, just sweet. One of my favorites was actually one that I don’t think was made for TV. Called Sweet Land, it was positively charming. Most were obviously made for television but well done, including one from the 1980s called Little Girl Lost.

I have discovered that sometimes you can discover good things when you’re not even looking. Not important things, just fun things. Things to keep you occupied when you’re working and need a little company in your office. Things that help you live it out loud.

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It rained again last night

by Lorin Michel Sunday, January 1, 2017 9:19 PM

It rained again last night. We heard it first pinging the skylight in the bathroom before it became a deluge. The wind kicked up a notch and soon it was shushing against the glass of the windows. Steady and strong, drenching. Not nasty, not retaliatory as it can sometimes seem here in the desert. Just rain. And I wondered. 

I wondered if maybe it was a metaphor for settling. The latter part of 2016 was spent dealing with a great deal of angst and turmoil, of wallowing and fermenting in anger by a great many of us. It’s exhausting being angry all the time. I find myself wondering how right wing talk show hosts do it every day, how so many people find so many things to be completely outraged about constantly. I can’t do it; I don’t want to do it. The rain evidently agrees with me. But I wondered if it’s steadiness was giving in rather than fighting. 

Our rain in the desert is almost always vengeful and mean. It blows in and announces itself with gusto and bravado, as if shouting at the earth and the sky and anyone who will pay attention to pay attention. I’m here. I won’t be ignored. I’m the biggest and the baddest and the bestest ever. It reminds me of a certain toddler.

On Christmas Eve we had a harsh storm. It whipped the desert into a frenzy, sending trees sideways and causing the saguaros to sway with such speed we were sure many would snap and fall. They didn’t. Deck furniture skidded and stuttered; pillows on the outside couches went airborne. And then the rain came, pounding, determined, loud. All it needed was a bad comb-over and the impression of the toddler would have been complete. It raged for hours, and then, getting tired as all toddlers do, it finally yawned loudly and went to bed. 

Yesterday, New Year’s Eve day, it rained again. But it was resigned. The wind didn’t blow, the trees didn’t snap. The rain simply fell, heavy at times, but steady, drenching the ground, leaving standing water in the hollows where drainage is slow. It was the kind of rain that will leave the ground wet for days, even in the desert. And then it rained some more. All night long. 

Last night we went out to dinner with friends and were home by 11:30. It was just as well. We’re not big New Year’s Eve people and generally don’t like to be out on the road when the rest of the world has been drinking. I guess it’s different out here on the east side because there was little traffic, and the only police we saw was the big SUV parked across the road, blocking the way up to Mount Lemmon because of the snow. We changed into sweats and Kevin poured us a glass of wine. It was too cold and too wet to go outside, and so we turned off all of the lights except for the Christmas tree and sat on the couch, a throw over us for warmth, and watched the city sparkle as fireworks went off. We counted at least 20 different places where the sky lit up through the rain and the cold. 

And then, it was 12:01 and 2016 was over here in the desert. I was happy to bid it farewell. It wasn’t a bad year; a lot of good happened. But in the last quarter, and up until last night when my nephew was rushed to Children’s Hospital in Boston for emergency surgery, it was awful. Frightening. Depressing. Bad.

Yesterday, it rained; last night, too. Today it rained again. It was cold, fog drifted over the hills from the mountains above. It partially obscured the beauty of the desert, but when it lifted and the sun shined briefly, there was sparkle again. And the promise of beauty, and of something better to come.

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Twas the day after Christmas

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 26, 2016 6:07 PM

And all through the casa, not a human was stirring, not even Mufasa. You’ll have to pardon my lack of creativity but a) I’m tired and 2) I’m a big fan of Mufasa, always have been and it’s the only thing I could think of that rhymed with casa. We’re tired today, exhausted really. We had a lovely day yesterday, filled with Facetime and texts and presents and mimosas and coffee and coffee cake and stockings. And then we cleaned everything up – including ourselves – in order to prepare for guests and dinner. Said guests arrived just after five, in time for sunset, and the festivities began anew.

Roy and Bobbi are here, of course. It’s our third Christmas with them, here in the desert; the second in the new house. I think they enjoy coming; I hope they do. I know it’s always hard to be away from home and life, but we so look forward to them being here. We live well together, all of us. There’s never really an agenda. We sit around working or playing on our computers or texting with our phones. We listen to music, we eat good food and drink great wine. It’s always lovely. 

Ric and Jane joined us last night for dinner. They’re new friends, who live here most of the year. For the three summer months, they live in Michigan. They bought a house west of here and had it remodeled. It’s actually how we met them. Our architect had used us as a referral when they contacted him about perhaps doing their house. Jane and I hit it off on the phone and the next time they were in town, they came to the house to see in person what Mike had done. They didn’t end up hiring him but, as we like to joke, they “hired” us. We’ve all become friends. They’re from Chicago, and they’re rabid democrats. They like good food and good wine. We get along wonderfully. 

Kevin and I made prime rib. I made twice-bake potatoes, and asparagus with a touch of lemon juice and blue cheese crumbles. We had martinis and wine and talked politics and therapy, there being no real correlation between the two other than the obvious. 

They left and the four of us sat in front of the fire for a few minutes before going to bed. We were tired, and sated with too much good food and good wine. At 3 am, a smoke detector decided its battery needed to be changed, this one right outside of the guest room. Annoying, tiring, and requiring a ladder. Kevin changed it out, and while he and I got back to sleep OK, Roy and Bobbi didn’t sleep well at all. I felt horrible all day because of that. I know that I didn’t make the 3 am chirp happen and that it’s one of those random house things that happens to everyone. But still. You like to have guests be able to rest and relax when they’re in your home. Ours have only been able to do so sporadically. I feel bad. 

Today we went out to a healthy lunch then to a shop Bobbi likes. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home so that I could get stuff to make chicken and mushrooms with asiago gravy, mashed potatoes and baby French carrots. Comfort food. 

When we walked into the house, the same smoke alarm was once again chirping. We’re hoping it was just a defective battery, and not that there’s something more nefarious going on. Kevin got the ladder once again while I retrieved Riley whose back legs where shaking with fear. He doesn’t understand the loud and piercing chirp; it scares him. 

We replaced the battery again with the last of our 9 volts, and while Bobbi when to take a much-needed nap, the boys trucked back down the hill to Ace Hardware to get a fresh supply of batteries. We’ve decided we’re just going to change the batteries in all of the detectors that haven’t yet beeped so that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to get a few years in before we’re once again, rudely awakened by beep.

We’re tired. We’re Christmas-ed out. Tonight we relaxed, Roy and Bobbi, Kevin and I, and our own Mufasa, king of the house, who spent the latter part of the day hiding behind the bathtub, cowering out loud.

A traditional Christmas

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 24, 2016 8:36 PM

When we were growing up, my mother always worried that we weren’t having a traditional Christmas. We rarely had any extended family; it was usually just the five of us, plus the dog. She would make cookies, seemingly for weeks, putting them in the freezer. Pecan tassies, apricot twists, thumbprints. She was a phenomenal baker.

When we lived in New York, we had a split-level ranch, and one tree. It was in the living room and on Christmas morning we’d all gather around on the shag carpeting and open presents. When we moved to New England, we had a kid’s tree in the family room and my mother’s tree in the living room. That tree, all white and gold, with garland, glass ornaments, white and gold “space balls”, glass icicles, and white and gold and red birds, was the tree under which all of the packages went. On Christmas morning, we’d gather in there and open presents, one at a time. It was her way of making sure that everyone was involved, and that Christmas wasn’t over in a flash of flying wrapping paper, bows and string. 

She would sit on the couch and watch, collecting wrapping paper that she would dutifully fold for use next year. She did the same with bows. And then it was over. And she was always a little down. Years later, we talked about it and she said that one of the reasons she felt that way was because she had convinced herself that everyone else had a more traditional Currier and Ives kind of Christmas, with extended family gathered around and everyone making merry. Then she found out that no body actually had that; that the paintings and prints were fantasies made of snow and sleighs. 

For the longest time, I was often down at Christmas, too, especially because I was away from my family. But then, I too, realized that there really isn’t a traditional Christmas. The traditions are yours and your family’s to make. Kevin and Justin and I, along with Maguire, made our own. We would get up, just the four of us, on Christmas morning and with a nod to how we did things as a kid, we’d open packages one at a time. Justin was in charge of picking out presents for everyone, and he was always so good about waiting. He actually seemed to enjoy the process. Maguire would lay on the floor and watch everyone. We’d give him one of his toys and he’s chew for a bit, then, keeping it close, return to watching. After presents were opened, but before stockings, we’d all go to the kitchen. Kevin would pour coffee and we’d make Justin some hot chocolate. I’d put the cinnamon coffee cake I made every Christmas into the oven, then we’d all go back into the great room to open stockings. 

Because we live west and away from immediate family, we long ago created our own western version. We’d spend Christmas late afternoon into the evening with Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and whoever else. We’d make a great meal, open more presents and enjoy each other’s company. On the 26th, we always went wine tasting. It was tradition, and a great way to extend the holiday.

Today I baked cookies. We listened to Christmas music and wrapped presents. We gathered in the great room, the five of us – Roy and Bobbi and Kevin and I and Riley – and we huddled around the fire as a cold storm blew in. It’s the new tradition, having Roy and Bobbi here with us in the desert. It’s the third year they’ve come, and it’s lovely. We went out to dinner, listened to some jazz and came back to once again gather around the fire and listen to music.  

I’ve decided that traditions are anything you want them to be, anything you make them. There’s no right or wrong tradition. There’s no Currier and Ives, except on paper. We are our own Currier and Ives. We do our best to embrace those we love, both near and far. We wish for snow and accept rain and cold. We eat cookies and drink wine and enjoy each other, always. It’s what traditions are made of. 

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, and more. Feliz Navidad from the all of us in the desert where we’re celebrating out loud.

Baby, it’s cold outside

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 22, 2016 9:00 PM

Rainy. Wet. Miserable. In a couple of days, there will be snow. It’s Thursday, the 22nd of December and I’m sitting in my office, looking out at the wall of wet that is threatening to obscure my house and has already obscured my view. It’s been raining since yesterday afternoon. It poured on and off all night. It is pouring now. And it’s cold. Outside.

Rain is caught on the railing, in the mesquite trees. As the sun fights for equal time today, it catches the drops and they sparkle. It’s like the entire desert has been decorated for the holidays. It’s pretty, naturally; ornamental without any help from me, or anyone. If it was a bit colder, these drops would freeze in place and become mini icicles. The rocks above would appear permanently brilliant as they wore their individual sheets of ice.

But they won’t freeze, at least not today. Because while it’s cold, it’s not yet in the 30s, the requisite temperature for things, other than human things, to even contemplate freezing. It’s going to get cold though. Tonight will be in the low 40s, tomorrow night, too. By Saturday night, the temp will be in the 30s and Sunday we might get snow. Snow. In the desert.

Baby, it must be cold outside. 

The song of the same name was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser and originally recorded for the film Neptune’s Daughter, a romantic musical starring Esther Willams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc. Loesser won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. The lyrics have come under some fire, especially of late, because they supposedly are predatory and portend sexual assault. The male lyric seems to be pressuring the female to stay the night even though she’s trying to leave. In today’s world, that’s true. But in the time of the song, the culture was a little different. Women weren’t socially permitted to spend the night with a boyfriend or fiancé, and when the female sings that she wants to stay and askes “what’s in this drink” which evidently was a common idiom of the time, she’s using it to rebuke social expectations by blaming her actions on the influence of alcohol. 

I don’t like the song and never really have. It was first recorded by Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, in 1949, but in Neptune’s Daughter, it was sung by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan recorded it, as did Ray Charles and Betty Carter, Rod Stewart and Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, and thousands of others.

Not sure when it became a Christmas song either, and ultimately it doesn’t matter. Its lyrics of snow and treacherous conditions ring true at the holidays. And on Sunday, if we’re lucky, baby, it will be cold outside. But warm inside, so nice and warm, and we can look out the window at the storm, watching snow and rain fall, and the drops freezing like ice. And baby, that’s going to be really nice.

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The big wrap up

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 17, 2016 7:44 PM

A storm blew in last night. Earlier in the evening, the winds had been strong, so strong that we had trouble keeping the grill lit. It continued until we went to bed and through the early morning hours. Right after 2 am, the winds became even stronger. We had the window open in the bedroom, the cool air nice but becoming too cold. We listened as the wind chimes whipped and clanged. The howl of the wind through the desert is an eerie, almost ghostly thing to listen to. Frightening and mesmerizing all at once. Soon enough, the rain began, pinging the glass of the skylight and then the windows of the bedroom. We tossed and turned, trying to sleep, but the noise of nature was deafening.

At 3:30, I finally got up and closed the window. It muffled the sound but didn’t eliminate it. We both drifted in and out of sleep. The occasional clang and bang of something outside would jar us suddenly awake and we’d both whisper “what was that?” Neither of us wanted to get up and investigate. One of the chairs on the deck just outside our bedroom took flight and slammed against the railing, coming to a rest upside down. I wondered how the furniture on the main deck was faring, if the pillows on the couches had been swirled up into the atmosphere and deposited somewhere down amongst the cactus. At 8 am, the other chair on our bedroom deck slid across to join its mate and I woke up from a deep and restless sleep. I was in the middle of a not very good dream, and it took me a minute to get my bearings. Riley was curled up on his bed at the foot of ours; Kevin was gone. I hadn’t heard or felt him leave.

He brought me coffee after I called out to him – “Kevy?” – and thus the day began.

It was still cold, though the winds were more respectful. A blanket of cold fog hung over the valley. Kevin didn’t work outside today as he often does on Saturdays. We had actually discussed it last night in front of the fire. We have guests coming next week, and there are things we want to do in the house. His time would be better spent inside than out. As it turned out, he couldn’t have worked outside anyway. All’s well that plans well. 

As he busied himself doing things like painting the television insets above the fireplaces, replacing lightbulbs, and getting the fireplaces ready, I finally got some Christmas cards ready to send. I don’t send many these days, mostly just to family. To all my friends and colleagues, I usually do a fun electronic message. How modern of me. 

After that was done, and before I started work (because even though it’s the holidays, clients still want their stuff), I decided to also wrap some presents. I have things that need to ship and because I am once again and forever behind, it’s going to cost me a fortune. This happens to me every Christmas. I always have good intentions. Those intentions never seem to make it to realities. Oh well. 

I organized according to what was going to who (whom?), pulled the wrapping paper rolls from the closet along with the new batch of to/from tags I bought yesterday, and wrapped. I love to wrap presents. I find it soothing, and pretty. I’ve always felt this way. One of my jobs in high school was in a pharmacy in town that had quite a gift selection. At the holidays, I became the de facto wrapper because I liked it and I did it well. 

My mother called the other night to ask me if I could come home and wrap presents for her. I used to do that every year when I lived at home or came home for Christmas. I haven’t done that in a long time. As nice as it would be, travel is too difficult at the holidays, and so we stay here. She even offered, teasingly, to pay my airfare if I’d promise to wrap. We laughed and then talked instead about what everyone was doing on Christmas day. 

Today I boxed my gifts for sending. I put some under the tree. There is more to do, there always is. But I made progress. And then I started back to work. It was a Saturday spent living it out loud from the wee hours and on through the day.

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Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 14, 2016 9:17 PM

Back in 2001 or 2002, or maybe it was 2003, Kevin joined together with Roy and Bobbi, as well as another marketing person, and they rented space in Chatsworth. They took an old warehouse office and transformed it into something extraordinary. It had a lovely reception area, an office, and a conference room. The back was one big empty space that quickly went from being wall-less to having walls, which Kevin constructed and the rest of us painted. The walls served to create individual open offices, as the ceilings were high and none had any doors. We built a kitchen, bought, stained and hung cabinets. We got a refrigerator and a microwave. Roy had the far back of the space which he took over with his artwork; Bobbi had a space near his. Across from them was another open area where the printer and fax were. There was also a big table used for all manner of art, graphics, assembly, etc. Kevin’s office was next to Bobbi’s. It was quite the set up.

That year, whatever it was, we had an office warming/Christmas party. For the front window, in the reception area, I found an old aluminum tree, from the 60s, on eBay. We put purple lights one it and hung antique ornaments. It was gloriously retro, ought-chic. It was the only time we used the tree, if I remember correctly. I don’t even know what happened to it. Maybe Bobbi still has it. I think maybe one year they put it up in their house, but I could be misremembering. I think maybe there’s a photo of Bobbi, Kae and I in front of the tree. 

Two weeks ago, I put up our tree. It’s 13 feet tall, artificial. It’s gorgeous. I strung it with mostly white lights and sprinkled in two or maybe it was three strands of multi-colored lights. I also strung our grape clusters, which glow red because they’re red grapes because we’re red wine drinkers. We don’t have any ornaments on it because I just haven’t gotten around to it. But it’s up and it’s beautiful. You can see it from down below and it looks very festive.

I also put out my big Santa, a guy my mom and sister got me years ago. He was originally part of a display in some store somewhere but Mom and Khris managed to get the store owner to sell and sent him to me. I think that’s what happened but I could be misremembering. He’s standing in the corner of the foyer, next to the window next to the door. He’s a good greeter. 

On the hearth, I have the Karen Didion wine Santa that Kevin got me years ago. He’s another favorite. Gorgeous in his tapestry coat, carrying grapes and wine bottles and signs. Both of these Santas have some girth to them; they add some substance to the room, as does the tree. They are currently my only decorations. But they’re Christmasy and pretty and make me feel a bit more festive. 

The song Blue Christmas was originally sung by Elvis Presley. I prefer the Celine Dion version mostly because I was never a huge Elvis fan. The lyrics sing, in part: “Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree.” 

I have that. It’s not the same as decorations of purple on an aluminum Christmas tree but it very pretty, very festive. I’m feeling the spirit surround me.

At least until I unplug the lights and go to bed.

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Health insurance and football

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 12, 2016 9:19 PM

So I know I said I was going to be cheery and all but sometimes it’s difficult to follow through on such promises. And besides, it wasn’t necessarily a promise. It was more like an “I’ll try,” as in “I’ll try to not be so cranky” which comes in handy on a celebratory blog. But today I’m having trouble. Maybe it’s because it’s Monday. Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe it’s because as much as I love the holidays, sometimes they become just one more thing that I have to do.

Maybe it’s because health insurance is also one more thing that I – we – have to do. I’ve complained about this before. I’ll complain about it again, and probably now. I have always had health insurance. I don’t mind that I’m supposed to have health insurance. I make a lot of money. I don’t qualify for a subsidy, don’t want one and certainly don’t expect one. I just want to buy health insurance for Kevin and I and I want to pay for it. We have to do this by Thursday as that’s the deadline to start health insurance in January. We’re doing this because our current insurer is no longer offering plans in Arizona, so we are fucked. 

F-U-C-K-E-D.

And we are frustrated. We seem to be penalized for being entrepreneurs and for making decent money. If we didn’t make any money, we could qualify for different plans, and be happy. But we do and we don’t and we’re not. 

Kevin, who I’ve put in charge of this debacle after taking care of it for years, has been on the phone and internet all day. We know there are two horrific plans offered by Healthnet. They are the only two plans for individuals we’ve been able to find in Pima County. And none of our doctors nor our hospital of choice take either of these plans. 

F-ed! 

I honestly don’t understand how people who make good money and want – want want want – to pay for insurance – and can – can’t get it. It makes no sense to me. None. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. 

I am frustrated. Furious. Flabbergasted. Flummoxed. Fucked. 

And so I have poured myself a glass of wine and settled in with Tom Brady and company to watch my Patriots destroy the dreaded Ravens. Apologies to my peeps in Maryland but I need this. I need a crushing win. I need to hear helmets crashing and men much too big for tight pants slamming into each other, pads rustling and snapping. I need to lip read the bad language and watch the Hoodie snort and snarl. I need to see my Tommy  – mine – defy his age once again. Please, just this once, allow me to love my Pats without consequence.

Because I’m in health insurance hell. In fact, I’ve renamed it hellth – clever, don’t you think? And I need something good to happen today/tonight so that I can maintain my oath of celebration. As I try to live it out loud.

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And so I'm offering

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 11, 2016 7:54 PM

Possibility. Hope. Joy? I have decided that these last weeks of the year are going to be filled with cheer. Yes I know that rhymes. But I'm feeling strangely poetic this morning. And I love the holidays.

I have been filled with anger now for a month. I know I'm not alone. My anger fluctuates between seething and settled. There has been hatred wrapped around my heart and it hurts. I have never felt this way. I don't anticipate that it will go away anytime soon and not for years. But I have come to realize that I need to find somewhere to put it, at least for these last weeks, because I love Christmas. I love the spirit of it, no matter how fleeting.

And so I'm offering a temporary cease fire. The cease fire will continue through January 1, unless, of course, the other side does something so horrific that I have to return fire. I am not completely convinced that it will happen but I'm trying.

I'm offering myself if not regular readers a respite, however brief, from my diatribes. It's exhausting being this angry all the time. Though I know it's also cathartic. And it shows that I have passion, that I care. That we, collectively, care. This is not about sour grapes and hurt feelings. No, this is about fear and disgust and despair for where many of us perceive that we're heading as a country. Backwards and into oblivion, and irrelevance. When the guns and ammo of the most powerful nation on the planet have been placed in the hands of a petulant toddler, it can't end in anything other than a tantrum.

When I was little I was prone to tantrums. My mother used to walk away from me as I lay on the floor of a store, kicking and screaming, beating my fists, face red. I was 2. It's what 2-year-olds do. Imagine the destruction I could have wreaked with missiles available to my clenched little fists.

And so I'm offering a day, a week, two to listen to my favorite music, a surprisingly small portfolio of songs done in a myriad of ways. I'm going to turn up the volume - except when it's Barry Manilow or the Carpenters - and I'm going to make merry. Dammit.

I'm going to eat and drink and spend time with my husband and dog, with friends. I'll talk with my family and wish we were all together. I’ll miss my kid. I'm going to wrap presents and place them under the tree. I'm going to sing badly.

My sister's tree; my sister's photo

And so I'm offering this simple phrase, sung by everyone from the late, great Nat King Cole to the not so great Clay Aiken. To kids from one to ninety two. Although it's been said many times many ways. Merry Christmas to you. To me. To all except he who will not be named.

And so that’s what I'm offering. Let's celebrate. Let's live it out loud while we still can.

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In which we celebrate a day of obligation and the feast of the immaculate conception

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 8, 2016 9:21 PM

Today is the husband unit’s birthday. We’re not really doing much to celebrate. It’s a Thursday, which is typically date night, which usually means we would go out, and you know, celebrate. But we’re going to a street fair tomorrow afternoon, then coming back, getting cleaned up, and going out tomorrow night. And we have people coming Saturday night. So going out tonight just seemed like overkill. Plus when you get to be this old, birthdays are best ignored.

Which isn’t to say we’re ignoring his. Not at all. A friend of his, who runs his programming group, was in town and they met for lunch. He was gone for hours. Naturally, I posted something sentimental on Facebook and got lots of responses. Then he came home and Justin called and they talked for hours. Then his brother called and they talked for hours. In other words, there was plenty of celebration happening. Mostly without me, and that was ok.

In the Catholic religion, this day – December 8 – has two powerful things happening. It is a day of obligation, which means that if you’re Catholic, you’re required to attend mass. And the reason you’re obligated to do this is because of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

Here’s what they have to say about that in Italy: The Feast Day marks the Immaculate Conception - that is, the conception of the Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

It's often mistakenly thought to mark Mary's conception of Jesus, but actually marks the conception of Mary herself. Unlike Mary, Saint Anne became pregnant in the usual biological way, Catholics believe, but the conception was 'immaculate' because God intervened, absolving Mary of original sin.

According to Catholic dogma, all humans are born with original sin, which is why babies are baptized shortly after birth to make them worthy of entry to Heaven. But Mary was never tainted by original sin, kept 'immaculate' from the moment of her conception because God knew she would one day give birth to Jesus Christ. 

Typical Catholic stuff. Actually typical religion stuff. It makes perfect sense as long as you don’t think about it too much and don’t actually need it to make sense. When Kevin was young and went to Catholic school, and if December 8 fell during the regular school week, they had the day off. He loved that. Not because he could go to mass and celebrate someone’s conception, immaculate or not, but because he got the day off and could go out and play in the snow.

Tonight we’ll be celebrating at home. There’s no snow. We did not go to mass. There will, however, be a feast and it won’t be immaculate because the husband unit has requested barbecued ribs and fries.

I also bought him an eclair.

Now that’s worth celebrating.

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