Seeking seclusion

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 22, 2017 10:26 PM

I sometimes dream about existing in a cocoon. Not one spun by caterpillars, not a hard shell, just a safe place. A place where I can be quiet and safe, where the outside world doesn’t intrude; where the inside world comforts. 

I am not prone to cocooning, not usually. I’m not an extrovert but I’m also not an introvert. I’m private, reserved. I don’t necessarily keep to myself but I don’t let people in easily. It’s hard for people to know me and I realize that at this age, I won’t be changing. I am what I am. 

But lately, as the world spirals ever out of control for all of us, I feel the urge to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head, to burrow, to cocoon, at least for the next few years. Nearly four to be exact unless something happens and it’s less. But it’s still four until we have an opportunity to truly change the trajectory of a country leading the way in the spiral down. 

I am consumed by news. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, the last thing I view at night. I get News Alerts throughout the day from various sources, often telling me the same thing. I think – I dream – about how nice it would be to not care but I don’t know how to do that. How do you not care about what’s happening in the world?

How do you not care that there are those determined to hurt others? That some of those doing the hurting are those in great power, those who control the government?

How do you not pay attention to the terror, the fear, the ineptitude, the ridiculousness?

How do you absorb the constancy of change, of not knowing, and continue to be upbeat and positive and work and play and drink wine and spend time with friends and family and enjoy life? 

The answer, of course, is that you simply do. There is no other choice, or rather, the only other choice is unacceptable.

I am an optimist by nature. I didn’t used to be but as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that facing the world, facing the day, going through life with a positive attitude is much more conducive to having a happy and positive life. It’s something I actually learned in college when being miserable and feeling sorry for myself for reasons I can no longer remember made for a very unhappy and unproductive existence. Back then, I had to force myself to be positive, to simply go through each day with a smile. I had to pretend that things didn’t bother me. I don’t have to pretend anymore. I made the decision a long time ago. I embrace it now. It’s part of me. It’s easier. 

And harder. Since November, I find it more difficult to exist in a state of perpetual happiness. I find it easier to be angry and frustrated and hateful. I don’t like it.

So I seek a cocoon; I crave seclusion so that I can get back to my life as I know it, as I remember it. Life that is good, filled with love and laughter and potential. That’s the life I embrace; that I crave. The life that is living it out loud.

Painting: Seclusion Redux, by Roy Guzman

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live out loud

I have a theory

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 15, 2017 10:10 PM

Long ago I made the pronouncement that I’m not particularly crazy about teenagers. I’ve never made an attempt to hide it; Justin knew all about even as he careened through his teens. His teens ended up being exhibit B as to why I’m not a fan of the years between 13 to 19. I was exhibit A. 

Unlike many people, I remember well how horrible I was as a teen. I was fairly miserable, not fitting in where I wanted to fit in, not being as popular as I wanted to be, not getting everything that I demanded from my parents. I was impossible, moody, demanding, raging about nothing and everything, in no particular order; rude. My parents tolerated me, even loved me. I was why I decided that teenagers weren’t fit for human consumption.

I also know that I eventually became human again. It happened sometime during college and the metamorphosis, that time after I finished school and went out on my own. I still had insecurity issues and occasional bouts of mood, but I softened with age. I liked my parents again; more importantly they liked me again, too. While they always loved me, the like thing was difficult during “those years.” 

Much the same happened with Justin. We didn’t much like him. He was moody and difficult and demanding. He continually pushed us to the edge, and sometimes we went over. We didn’t like him, he hated us. Then he went to college and suddenly, we liked him again. He liked us. We were reborn as a family. 

I think the teenage years are some of the cruelest. Your body is betraying you, your moods are uncontrollable. You hate everyone and mostly yourself. When you get old and your body is once again betraying you, it’s also cruel because you know how good you once had it. As a teen you can’t imagine the wonder that awaits. I think that’s why it’s more cruel. 

Regardless, being a teen totally sucks. This is something I thought of today as I spoke with my sister who is in the midst of her own teen turmoil. I mentioned my theory, one she was familiar with. Here it is: 

Teens become awful because they’re getting ready to leave for college and by the time they do, as a parent, you’re so ready for them to go, you don’t really miss them. If they left when they were wonderful, when they were loving and generous and thoughtful and kind, as a parent, you’d be totally bereft.   

So kids go to college and become human again and as a parent, you start liking them again. And then they become wonderful. At least ours did.

Justin has been home for the past month or so, on a break from his tour. Where he was difficult during those terrible teen years, he’s a joy to have around now. Easy, personable. Smart as hell. He likes wine and conversation; he laughs easily and quickly. For Mother’s Day, he had a dozen roses delivered for me along with a lovely card. And today, before he left, another package arrived. He presented it to Kevin and I. We opened it and inside were four gorgeous wine glasses. Matching wine glasses. He had noticed that many of our pairs had become singles, had lost their mates. He thought it would be nice for us to have a nice set that we could use to entertain, that we could use on the deck for sunset, that would like nice and that we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking. These glasses are made with a slightly heavier stem; they’re harder to knock over. 

The point is he noticed. He’s thoughtful. He’s wonderful.

My new theory is better: Kids grow up and become teens and then they become people you like and respect and enjoy. They become equals. They become incredible. In our case, they become Justin.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 29, 2017 10:20 PM

I got a text from my neighbor earlier in the week about going to the powwow this weekend. If I was interested, we’d have to leave fairly early as it started at 7 and if we got there too late, it would be over. Or there wouldn’t be any goodies left to be got. I had tried to go to the one last week but got there too late so I know of what she spoke. I texted back “absolutely.” This morning at 7:17, I texted her that I was on my way.

I was first introduced to the idea of powwow just over a week ago. It’s actually an acronym: Produce On Wheels With-Out Waste. POWWOW. This program “rescues” 30 million pounds of fresh produce from the warehouses of produce distributors. For whatever reason – and based on what I “rescued” today – it has been deemed unmarketable. The grocery stores don’t want it; neither do the restaurants. You show up at one of their locations around the city, and for a $10 donation, you leave with a box full of fresh stuff, up to 60 pounds worth depending on what they have for that week. The donation goes to help feed the homeless and the needy. Each year, they help with over 4 million healthy meal supplements.

Susan (my neighbor) and I got to the powwow around 7:45 or so. We paid our $10 and then we started through the rows. There was eggplant and Brussel sprouts, neither of which did I take. Try as I might – and I have – I just don’t like eggplant. I think it’s one of those vegetables that you’re either for or against. Nothing in between. I’ve parmesan’d it; I’ve fried it. It just has a weird texture. 

Brussel sprouts I don’t mind especially if you cover them in garlic and mushrooms, but Kevin absolutely. Will. Not. Eat. Them. 

But then I came upon chilis. There were hatch chilis and the fiery red chilis. There were sweet peppers and red and yellow bell peppers. There were onions. And tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes. I felt myself starting to grin. I was in my element. Since we moved to Tucson, I use chilis and peppers a lot more than I ever did before. I put them in everything. Needless to say, I loaded up my box and came home from POWWOW with a bunch of stuff.

Stuff that I immediately set about using once I got home. I made a big pot of marinara sauce, using one of the onions and all of the tomatoes. I found my garlic in my veggie drawer, along with some celery and carrots, all diced very thin. I cooked and simmered and stirred and tasted. I added spices; I cooked some more. 

Then I turned it off and let it cool. Once cool, I put it into my food processor, added some fresh basil (coincidentally from a plant given to me by Susan) and distributed it into several containers to freeze. 

Cooking all day is not something everyone likes. But for me, it was the perfect way to spend my Saturday. In fact, I’m not sure I could have been happier. 

I powwow’d today. I got veggies. I cooked. I lived it out loud.

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live out loud

So this came in the mail

by Lorin Michel Friday, April 28, 2017 9:08 PM

Once upon a time, it was 1957. I was not yet born and wouldn’t be for several more years. This was back when a crooner named Perry Como was popular and that year he gave the world his second RCA Victor 12” long-play album. It was called We Get Letters and it was a concept record, based on requests from the singer’s television show. It was a soft, breezy record and did not include a song by the same name. Years later, David Letterman had a regular skit on his show where he sang, gleefully, “letters, we get letters” while opening his mail. 

This morning, Riley was on the deck and I was in my office, a ritual we engage in daily. He had just had a bath and was drying in the cool desert breeze; I was working. It was about 9:30. I had just taken a sip of coffee when suddenly, from the general direction of the deck, came the apoplectic barking and carrying on of my dog. I got up as I usually do and went to the door with the intention of asking what I usually ask when the dog is apoplectic. What is the issue? But before I got the door open I saw exactly what the issue was: trotting up the hill toward the house, as nice as you please, were two dogs, one a beagle, the other what looked to be a beagle mix.

I sprang into dog wrangling mode and headed toward the front door, yelling behind me that there were two dogs and for Kevin to grab a couple of leashes. As dog people, we have at least six leashes, only one of which do we use on a regular basis. Outside, I crouched down and in my friendliest voice called to the dogs who both came to me willingly. Kevin got the leashes, I attached them, and down the hill we went. 

I hadn’t met them but knew they were our new neighbor’s dogs because I knew they had beagles. I also know every other dog in the neighborhood. It’s not that big of a ‘hood. My neighbor, Alan, who had several workers at the house, couldn’t believe the dogs were out. 

“How…?” he asked, his question trailing off. 

“Gate’s open,” I said just as the worker – a pool guy – came in apologizing for leaving the gate open. 

Mission accomplished, I decided to head back up to the house. Alan remembered something as I started out the door. 

“Oh, hey,” he said. “I have some mail here. It has your house on it.” 

My house? How could that be? Someone was sending mail that showed my house? Our house? What? 

Alan handed me an oversized postcard and there, sure enough, in the place of honor taking up the top two thirds of the card, was the home we affectionately refer to as Il Sogno. The card had been sent by our architect/builder because our neighbors had pulled permits to build a house and he was advertising his services. Better late than never, since the house is already built and the card was stamped 4/18. 

So our house is being sent all over the city, perhaps further. We’re famous. Just like Perry Como. Without the crooning.

My husband's shorts

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 15, 2017 10:12 PM

We sold our house in Oak Park in July 2013 which meant that we were actually and finally going to move to Tucson, something we'd dreamed of doing since we bought our property in 2010. There was one issue: we had dirt but no place to live. And we had a month to get out of our house.

We booked a flight to Tucson for the following Saturday morning. And that's where it all started to go wrong. We got to the airport and waited at the gate. We were delayed. And then they changed gates and terminals. We dutifully followed the herd and waited some more. Finally they cancelled the flight. We scrambled to find something else but nothing was going to Tucson. We found a flight to Phoenix, and decided we'd do that and then drive the two hours.

We were supposed to meet our real estate agent/friend at 10 am. She had a bunch of interim places for us to look at where we could move and live while the house was being built. We finally got to her at 2:30. We had lost four plus hours, hours we needed that American Airlines stole.

We went to look at 13 houses. They were all fine, all in the price range but nothing seemed right. After leaving Stephanie and driving back to the Westward Look, where we were staying, we were quiet at first. Then we started to talk and then we started to fight. We weren't finding anything. Our day had been blown up, we were stressed and tired and hated our beloved Tucson.

The hotel had changed from our previous visits. It had been purchased by a big chain – I think Wyndham – and it had transformed from quaint to ordinary. Even the rooms seemed less charming. We went to the restaurant and ordered salads and a bottle of wine. The waitress who took our order had one tooth. There was a party going on in the bar, and it was rowdy. We ate a bit of our salads, then took our bottle of wine and went back to our room.

It was probably 9:30 by then. The black sky was lit up by lighting in the distance. We could smell rain. We hadn’t planned on being there long, literally just overnight, leaving early the next morning, so we hadn’t brought much with us. We stripped off the clothes that had become glued to us in the heat and disaster of the day. I pulled on a clean t-shirt, but hadn’t brought anything to lounge in. Luckily, we’d brought several pairs of shorts and boxers for Kevin – I have no idea why. I pulled on a pair of his boxers, grabbed the bottle and we went out onto the balcony to watch the sky, and wonder if we were about to make the biggest mistake of our lives. Both of us were wearing his shorts. 

Sitting in the cooling desert night, sipping a decent though not fabulous wine, we came to the conclusion that the reason we hadn’t liked anything was because none of the houses we’d looked at during the day were better than the house we were leaving. And while it was only going to be temporary, while our dream house was built, and even though they were all in the price range we’d requested, psychologically it bothered us that we were moving “down” in the world. 

The next morning, Kevin got up and went to the business center of the hotel, looked up rentals rather than places to buy, and we went and looked at several. One of them was perfect. Bigger than what we were leaving, relatively new, and for a rental price about what we paid in mortgage in Oak Park. This allowed us to keep all of the money we were going to invest in a temporary home and ultimately put it toward our eventual home. The trip was saved, our faith was restored. We caught a flight on that Sunday afternoon, and flew home to continue packing. 

I thought of that horrible weekend this morning when I finally got up. I’ve been burning the proverbial candle at both ends and at the nubs. We had company last night for sunset and tapas. Justin is home. I’m exhausted. Kevin let me sleep later than I had requested. He made an executive decision he told me once I finally got up. 

He and Justin had been on the deck having coffee and he must have seen me stirring. He came into the bedroom with a cup of a coffee as I was trying desperately to find a pair of loose, sloppy shorts to put on. Morning shorts. Everything was in the hamper reminding me that I needed to do laundry.

He went into the closet and grabbed a pair of his, and handed them to me. Big, sloppy, comfortable. And perfect.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Friday, April 14, 2017 9:48 PM

Justin is home. He got in late last night and has been regaling us with tales from the road for a good part of the day, or at least when I can get my butt out of my office for a cup of coffee, a bit of lunch. He spent nearly three months in Japan before traveling to Europe where he spent another six and a half. We asked him what his favorite place was, or if it was too soon to know. Without hesitation he said Japan. This didn’t surprise Kevin and I. Justin has had a symbiotic relationship with Japan since he was little and started collecting Pokemon cards. We still have a full set of the original cards, all first editions. 

He loved the culture, the people, the food, even when he couldn’t get a piece of cheese, or a cup of coffee. He felt at home there. I get it. It’s much how I felt when I traveled west. I knew it was where I belonged. 

I went to Japan years ago, and didn’t like it. I had no affinity for it. But I appreciate and applaud his love of the place. Maybe it is because I understand the draw of another place, far from home. Maybe it’s because we know that he knows his own heart.

One of the things he loved most were the hot spring baths. We haven’t ever really indulged in something like that though from the pictures he showed us, they looked gorgeous. Even if we had the opportunity, I’m not sure we’d do it. It’s not really our thing. Neither of us is big on baths. 

But I just came across something that may change my mind. According to a new study, dipping into a hot bath burns as many calories as a 30-minute walk. It has something to do with the physiologic effects of heat exposure on the body. The researchers set out to see how exposure to heat can alter the molecules in the body. They had 14 men take hour-long baths in water at 104 degrees, which burned about 61 calories more than if they’d been sitting in a room that was 98.6 degrees. They then had the men exercise on a bike for an hour and they burned between 515 and 597. 

But 61 calories is nothing to sneeze at. It’s also, evidently, the amount of calories that you burn when you go for a walk, albeit probably not a very brisk one. 

The point of the study, interestingly, wasn’t about the amount of calories burned but rather the fact that counting calories is ridiculous. I’m not a calorie counter though I do admit to looking at labels on foods to see how many calories, how much fat and from which group, how many carbs, etc. But I long ago came to the realization that calories are like just about everything else. They’re different for different reasons for different people, based on metabolism, and genetics. And whatever. 

I exercise. I try to eat right. I don’t take baths. And today I feel a little vindicated. Because it’s not about how many calories are burned.

Because ultimately, what matters is… my kid is home and he’s happy and he loves hot springs and Japan. Burning calories doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t have that.

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live out loud

Say cheese

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, April 12, 2017 10:21 PM

Back somewhere around the time that time began and Romans started writing cookbooks they included a lovely little dish that seemed impossibly easy to concoct. Take two pieces of bread and slap some cheese between. Eat. Then, sometime in the distant future, some industrious body looked at those pieces of bread and thought “hmmmm. Wonder what it would taste like toasted?” Thus the first grilled cheese sandwich was born. 

Before the 1960s, the gooey delicacy was called toasted cheese or melted cheese. As early as 1902, a recipe for a “Melted Cheese,” designed to be cooked in a hot oven, appeared in Sarah Tyson Rorer’s Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book; a recipe published in 1929 in Florence A. Cowles’ Seven Hundred Sandwiches called to broil the ingredients to make “Toasted Cheese.” “Toasted Sandwich,” published in 1939 in The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, encouraged the ingredients to be broiled or even — gasp! — sauteed in a frying pan coated with butter. 

Initially served as an open face sandwich with grated American cheese, once the Great Depression began, it became a mainstay of the American Diet. People couldn’t afford much but they could afford an inexpensive loaf of bread and cheap cheese. The sandwich also provided enough nutrition to keep stomachs filled and bodies somewhat nutritionized. 

Then came World War II, and the grilled cheese became a favorite of the Allied armed forces. School cafeterias began serving them soon after, and housewives looking to provide quick easy meals put them on plates in front of their families.

In the 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer wrote that bread and cheese should be heated in a commercial waffle iron. She listed it as an easy meal for even “the maidless host” to prepare. Maidless. The horror!

Today, grilled cheese sandwiches remain a necessity for just about everyone, except, naturally, those who are vegan. Upscale restaurants serve upscale versions, using different types of cheese, including blue, and adding vegetables and other condiments. Most kids love grilled cheese; most adults do, too, making it one of those rare cross over meals. Serve one up for lunch with a bowl of tomato soup and it remains a crowd pleaser. Slip a couple of slices of tomato between the cheese before grilling, and it’s even better, maybe because it sounds healthier.

When Justin was little, his diet consisted of cheese pizza, mac n’ cheese, cheeseburgers, and grilled cheese. If you’ve ever had kids, this is a completely normal menu. He also liked chicken fingers and corn dogs and French fries. His menu has evolved a bit now that he’s 26, thankfully. I know he still enjoys a good grilled cheese though, especially the French version, the croque monsieur which come with ham,and I expect I’ll be making them a few times in the next five weeks since he’s coming home from the tour tomorrow night.

Today is National Grilled Cheese Day. April 12. It’s an international meal. In addition to the Croque Monsieur of France, you can also indulge in Bauru in Brazil, or the Bombay Masala Cheese Toast Sandwich in Mumbai, the Arepa de Queso in Venezuela, a Cuban from Cuba, a Mexican Quesedilla, a South African Braaibroodjie, and the ever popular Vegemite Grilled Cheese in Australia. In our house, we like to grill fresh sourdough bread and cheddar cheese, or an open-faced brie. Then again, sometimes, we like American cheese, or maybe Swiss, or both. Marble rye with gouda and blue cheese. Or …

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live out loud

A flare for color

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 11, 2017 10:36 PM

According to a study conducted by a supplier for companies like Fruit of the Loom, Gildan and American Apparel, black is the color that most people choose when wearing to impress or reassure. It’s what people wear to exude confidence, intelligence and sexiness. It’s seen as serious and reliable by 64% of the men surveyed and 50% of the women.

Setting aside the fact that someone thought it was important enough to conduct a study on something like this, there are certain truths about wearing black as a color. It can be layered endlessly. You never have to worry about what you’ll be wearing anywhere. Should anything get accidentally spilled, nothing shows. It makes it very easy to pack. The downside is that it’s impossible to hide the fact that you have a pet. 

I am a big fan of black. I wear it a lot. Like the above paragraph, I find it easy to pack if everything is a variation on black. I can wear that with this and this with that and I’m very happy. Black includes dark gray, too. Sometimes it can include a lighter shade of gray as long as it all matches. When I go out, I wear black. When I go to a wedding, I wear black. I’m wearing black as I write this blog. 

This is not to say that I don’t love color. I’m particularly fond of earthy tones. Rusts, golds, browns. My house is awash in these colors. The floor is a dance of taupe and rust and charcoal. The stone in the pillars and fireplace is a mix of orange and gold and black and gray and brown. The exterior color is an earthy brown; the pavers are desert brown; the garage doors are rusted metal. While nothing in or out of the house could be construed as bright or flashy, it’s still color. 

We look at our neighbors and in their backyards, bougainvillea is bright, prolific. Fluorescent pink and orange bursts out. It’s glorious. Last Friday night, we went to our friends’ house for an impromptu barbecue. They do that a lot. It’s so different than what we’ve been used to in California where everything is planned weeks in advance just so people can figure out which way to go in order to get there. Here, we’re all so close, it doesn’t matter. Their backyard is heavily populated with desert plants and incredible color. It’s stunning. It made us realize we needed a flair of our own.

So on Saturday, we went to our local nursery and bought some orange. This orange comes in the lovely form of solar flares. 

The solar flare shrub sports gorgeous orange flowers all spring and through summer. It grows to be about six feet high, and loves the sun, the wind, the moon and the stars

Naturally we put it on our deck, which we have come to realize, is our backyard. Because of where the house is located, because of the steepness of the hill, we don’t have anything traditional, like a yard. So our deck, which cantilevers out over the desert, is what we have. And that’s where our orange flare of color resides.

Black may be confident and sexy. It may be accepted anywhere, anytime. But a little orange this way comes and it’s a good thing.  

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live out loud

Time enough and then

by Lorin Michel Saturday, April 8, 2017 8:55 PM

Last night I got run over by a truck with the license plate KJM 1954. Allow me to explain. Our neighbors had an impromptu BBQ and invited us down. It was casual. They were just going to throw some chicken and steaks on the grill, maybe boil some corn on the cob. I said I'd bring a salad. We also brought some wine. We arrived at around 6:30, just in time for sunset. We drank, we laughed, we ate, we drank some more.

This week, the roads in our neighborhood received a re-sealing. The board had decided to do something more elaborate than normal sealing because we're trying to make our roads last a bit longer before we have to do a complete redo. The roads went down in approximately 1998. Nearly 20 years later, they're not in horrific shape, but they aren't great. From Wednesday through late yesterday afternoon, Kevin worked with the asphalt company to ensure that the roads were all resealed beautifully.

He loves this stuff, my husband does. I remarked at one point that he should have been a contractor. For three mornings, he woke up early, donned his wide-brimmed hat, climbed into his Classic and zoomed to the front gate to make sure the gates were open. Then he'd spend time with the workers, showing them where they should be, driving the property to see what had been done, what was fine, what needed additional sealing. He was in his element. 

But by last night, he was toasted. Or as I like to say, toast that had been left in the toaster just a little too long. Off we went to the Roeslys for a Friday night soirée, and by about 9:30 I could tell that my little piece of toast was now completely burnt. I kept my hand on his arm, squeezing to make sure he didn't fall asleep since I thought that might be considered rude. When he does it at home, it's no big deal. But out in public, well – it might be frowned upon, even amongst friends.

By 10 o'clock I'd persuaded him to return home. I piled him into the Sport, climbed behind the wheel and off we went, up the driveway, around the cul de sac and then right up our road. It took us probably less than a minute. Once home, I poured him into the house and into bed. I did a bit of surfing and finding nothing worth watching and generally being tired myself, finally turned the TV off around 10:45. 

At 1:35, I woke up. I have no idea why. But Kevin wasn't in bed. I listened, and didn't hear anything. I called out – "honey?" Nothing. I got up and started through the house, calling his name. Still nothing. Then I started to panic. I knew he was in the house, but I figured I'd find him on the floor somewhere. Luckily, where I found him was asleep on the bed in the guest room. Tucked under the throw, one of the decorative pillows pulled close under his head. I gently woke him up, listened as he talked complete nonsense, and convinced him to come to bed. Where he snored and because I didn't want to wake him up, I listened for at least an hour and a half before exhaustion got the best of me and I finally fell asleep, fitfully. 

The poor guy. He was so spent, he had nothing left to give and yet his mind, playing tricks on him, compelled him to keep going, keep moving. 

He's amazing, my husband. He's conscientious, dedicated, focused. Everyone in the neighborhood just loves him and regularly gushes over what has happened since he managed to get the previous troll removed from the board. Now no one person is in charge. The three board members share responsibilities and they're getting things done. The amount that they've accomplished, from getting the lights at the front entrance working, to installing a new package mailbox, to weed control and general landscaping maintenance to now having the road done... everyone has noticed and everyone is thrilled. While they're all equal partners in making decisions, it's my husband who spearheads it all, who meets with contractors, who is completely engaged in the process, sometimes to the detriment of real work. But he loves it; he sees the progress. And it's noticed. It's recognized. It's rewarded.

Today, I've been just this side of zombie. Exhausted, not quite able to focus on anything worthwhile. Instead, we went to Lowes and spent a bunch of money on outdoor lighting and more furniture for the deck. We bought ceiling fans, and then went to the local nursery and bought plants, also for the deck. 

It was time. And it was a day when we were both tired, a little brain dead but still wanting to accomplish something. 

We sat outside tonight, as the sun was sinking and the wind was blowing, on our new chairs, sipping wine and listening to jazz. All I could think was that today, and tonight, at least we had time enough. Time enough to share, to enjoy, to be. And then... 

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live out loud

Have you herd?

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, April 4, 2017 10:41 PM

So much of our joy these days comes from 3.8 acres. When we bought this property in 2010, we knew we’d found something special. We also knew that eventually we’d have to make the big decision and move, something we finally did in 2013. In the three years leading up to that, we visited our dirt, traversing the desolate landscape between California and Arizona. We’d bring a bottle of wine, pick up a pizza and drive out to our property. We’d picnic out of the back of the Range Rover as we watched the lights of the city sparkle and listened to the sounds of a desert in the darkness. 

We moved into our house in 2015. From up here on the hill, we can see most of the world. Our visibility stretches for at least 10 miles, perhaps more. I’m going by the app of my phone that regularly lists the visibility index. Down below, houses dot the landscape, nestled amongst saguaros, ocotillos, mesquite trees and the occasional palm. To the southwest, is the city. Beyond that, the Tucson Mountains carve into the sky. The Santa Ritas, the Rincons and the Catalinas do the same. Tucson is a desert paradise surrounded by four mountain ranges. It’s glorious. 

Up here on the hill, we are removed from everything. Tucked as we are in the far northeast corner of Pima County, we can literally see where the city-limits ends to the east. There is a line of demarcation at the base of the Rincons running directly south, pointed toward Mexico. 

We sit up here all day long, Kevin in his office that faces east and southeast, me in mine that faces west southwest, and we work. Riley spends his mornings and evenings on the deck, watching the desert go by.

We have come to love our patch of land in the Sonoran, with its spikey fauna, and biting creatures. We absorb it; it becomes part of us every day. 

Including on days like this that begin with those biting creatures at 6 am. Let me set the stage. It was 5:55. The sky was just fading from darkness to light, painted gray. I was faintly asleep having spent yet another restless night. This is my life these days. I wake up in the night; I’m awake for at least an hour. Then I toss and turn and try to get comfortable, temperature-wise. 

I had just rolled onto my side and pulled up the covers, finally cool enough to burrow. And it started. The growl followed by the scramble and the bark and the bark and the bark. Riley scrambled out of his bed and raced toward the bathroom, howling, barking, whining. It was early and we weren’t quite ready to be up but up we were. 

I got up first as Kevin cussed softly from his side of the bed. I went to find Riley who was wedged between the bathtub and the windows, positively glued to what was outside and barking his fool head off. 

I asked what the problem was, what the issue was, what the hell was going on? And then I looked outside. One after another after another, javelina, of all sizes and shapes, were climbing up from the desert below, clamoring up the swale, sauntering across the driveway, stopping to strike a pose.

There were at least nine that I saw. A herd. And I’m not sure how Riley actually heard them since the windows were closed. Still, there they were, standing, posing, looking javelina-ish, odd-looking creatures that they are. And all I could think was – dog, I love this place.

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