Waiting for the rain

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 9, 2012 9:01 PM

I consider myself to be somewhat of a philosophical person. I like to think and to reason, to see if I can find the logic behind an event or a conversation, even an argument. Many see philosophy as the study of problems, but I actually view it as the focus on solutions. I like to think that I have an open mind, at least about most things. You’d be hard pressed to change my political persuasion or my non-religious persona, though I might be open to hearing an opposing view that’s interesting and makes me think. I can’t imagine changing my allegiance to my beloved Patriots, even when they play badly. But I’m the first one to say that they have played badly and I’m willing to talk about it. I’m not blind, just loyal. Naturally I feel a certain way about my husband, son, family and friends, and it would be difficult to change my mind about any of them. You’ll never convince me that Maguire isn’t the greatest thing to ever happen to four feet. Still, having discussions, welcoming conversations, exploring communication and embracing the wisdom of others is, I think, a good thing, a worthy thing.

I also think that thinking differently can be very open-minded and responsible. Looking at a situation and seeing it in full-dimension, in all of its glory, rather than just the flat, one dimension we often resort to is the smart way to approach most of life. One dimension is easy; lazy.

I was thinking about this last night while not sleeping, a relatively common occurrence. I was cold then I was hot, then the wind blew and the chimes sang and I couldn’t get comfortable. It went on like this for some time. The winds usually mean there is no rain in our foreseeable future. Evidently they blow it all away, out to sea or inland towards the mid-west. All I know is that the winds mean sun, and sun means warm, and warm and sunny means no rain. I love the rain. I obsessively watch the weather on the evening newscast, a cast I otherwise cannot stand for its relentless ridiculosity and drama. Everything is reported in the anchors’ best doomsday voice, even a closure on Pacific Coast Highway because of a traffic accident is nearly apocalyptic. But I love me some Dallas (Raines, one of our local weather dudes) and we watch him, well, religiously. Waiting for the weather; waiting for the rain.

I wonder sometimes why I’m waiting. Is it because I crave a change, from the dull sunshine? It could be because I simply love it, even when it’s pre-rain, when it’s cloudy? I especially love it when the rain is nearly torrential. I love standing in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee and watching the sheets of rain rain down on the street out front. The drops bounce up from the impact to meet the drops falling down with equal velocity providing endless fascination for me.

There are people, I’m sure, who view the coming rain as something to dread. When the sun ducks behind the gray clouds, the mood also changes. It becomes gloomy, cause for sadness and impending doom. I felt like this sometimes when I lived on the east coast simply because it rained a lot. I think my mother still feels a touch of the gloom when it rains for extended periods of time. And I can see her point. The brightness of sunshine brings more than vitamin D. It also brings a brightness to the mood. As the sun shines, the doom and gloom retreat until the rain rains down again.

Conversely, rain can be about cleansing and rebirth. A washing away of the doom and gloom that’s settled around us. The rain appears, first in the form of clouds, a promise of what’s to come, namely clarity and renewal. This is how I see rain, though philosophically I can see how it can also be construed as dark and stormy. I’ve spent many an hour jammed with thousands of my fellow drivers on rain-drenched freeways that aren’t moving; I know doom and gloom. I’ve seen it’s mean-spirited face.

But when rain arrives and I’m home, even in the darkness of it, I allow my spirit to soar. And so I wait. It’s coming. I can feel it.

Maybe it’s just arthritis.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

live out loud

The Saturday Experience

by Lorin Michel Saturday, January 7, 2012 11:30 PM

Saturdays are my day to sleep in. After a week of early mornings and late nights, largely due to work, Friday night rolls around and as I snuggle inside the soft sheets and the fleece blankets, my brain sighs with relief. Saturday is a day of rest, at least in the morning. The dog stirs at his usual time, around 7 and chomps at the air and slurps at nothing for about thirty minutes before he rises, shakes and announces that he’s ready to go out. I sigh and say: “You taking him?” and my husband says “yeah” as he throws back the covers, slips into his slippers and pads out through the living room with Maguire in hot pursuit. As he leaves I mutter to “come back,” because I know he, too, needs a little extra sleep. Most Saturdays he does. Today, he came back and slept until nearly 9:30, then got up to make coffee. I finally opened an eyeball to look at the clock at 9:57. I blinked and fixed two eyes on the clock. Really? Even on Saturdays I don’t sleep that late.

I got up.

We had coffee and then decided we’d take out the motorcycle. First time in months. Which meant one thing: we needed to check the tire pressure. On our last set of tires, we had neglected to check the tire pressure on a regular basis and it made the tires wear badly and weirdly. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that unhappy because I’d wanted to put whitewalls on the bike for years. This was my chance; I made my case. We got whitewalls. But my husband was adamant about being better about the tire pressure. So we moved the cars out of the garage and backed the monster out of its spot where it sits quietly, in front of the Porsche. Kevin pulled out his air compressor and got to work. And by work, I mean a lot of work. Much more work than we thought. Because of the massive brake apparatus on each tire, the stem for each tire has to be in a perfect position in order to get the compressor pump in place and deliver air. Which means moving the bike, moving the bike, moving the bike, a little bit more, forward just a bit. There.

This took nearly 30 minutes. We had designs on jumping on the bike by 11. Then, given some unforeseen stalling, we figured 11:30 at the latest. We left just after noon.

But we knew exactly where we were going: Magnavino Cellars to pick up our wine club shipment that’s been waiting since November. You’d think we’d be more attentive since there was wine involved. Regardless, dressed in our chaps, heavy coats, full-face helmets and sunglasses, off we went into the cool Saturday air. Wound our way through Hidden Valley and up through Dos Vientos before descending into the still-misty sunshine of Camarillo. The fields were lush with cabbage and onions, green peppers and lettuce; tomato plants were already starting to fill out on their stakes. Solar farms have also sprung up of late. There were dozens and dozens of panels, tilted toward the sun, along the roadway. Ironically, there were a number of cars parked under the panels, as it trying to escape the sun.

We finally found our way to Magnavino and walked in. I can’t remember the last time we were there – it’s been at least six months – but Rob and Barb, the proprietors, were both there and recognized us immediately. There was another couple with a dog in a USC t-shirt; her name was Peanut. Coco, the official winery dog, was there too, also sporting a lovely sweater. She came over, sniffed, wagged and then retreated to behind the pouring bar to curl up in her bed for a nap. We chatted for a while, tasted some wine, talked with some of the other patrons and had our picture taken.

Then it was back on the bike, with our wine-pickup safely tucked into the saddle bags. We stopped for lunch, we came home, we showered, we watched football, we cooked dinner, and sat next to the fire for the evening watching reruns on TV. That was our Saturday, nearly perfect.

My word for the day: Exceptional.

Tags: , , , ,

live out loud

The three stages of birthday

by Lorin Michel Friday, December 30, 2011 4:56 PM

Today’s my birthday. All together now: Happy Birthday! Thank you. 

I bring this up only because it seems like somewhat of a relevant topic. After all, I’m healthy, happy, relatively successful, have a wonderful husband and son, a bitchin’ dog, great family and friends, all the wine I need. It’s a good life. It seems a shame to only celebrate it one day a year which of course, I don’t. I try to celebrate my good fortune every day. Today, though, I’m celebrating the three stages of birthday.

Me, not yet one. Please note the hair.

To borrow liberally from one of my favorite writers, to begin my life at the beginning of my life, I recall that I was born. Well, not really. I recall that I was told by fairly reliable sources that I was born at approximately 11:15 am on December 30th some number of years ago. I don’t remember much about the first birthdays though I suspect they were filled with love from my two parents as well as from my various aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Then I got old enough to be in school. I do remember other kids having birthday parties, their mothers coming into the classroom with cupcakes and paper hats for everyone. I didn’t have birthday parties in school because my birthday was always during Christmas break. I suspect my mother brought cupcakes to school early one year, before the break, but I don’t remember. She was good like that. I also remember that many of my friends would often be away visiting family when the occasion of my birthday came around. So I had pity parties instead. Poor poor ‘lil ole me. It got to be fun and tradition to complain about when my birthday fell, something that would inevitably bring a chuckle from my dad, especially as I got older, as he would remind me that I was a tax deduction.


That was stage one. Needing a party to make the birthday celebration real.

Me with my dad. I was two and a half, and sporting a band-aid on my forehead. Stylish.

As I grew older having a birthday between Christmas and New Year’s wasn’t that big of a deal anymore. It became just a day. Sure there would be small celebrations with friends, not usually with family because I moved away from family after college. Birthdays in my 20s and even 30s became days that happened to be my birthday. Stage two then was not really needing a party.

The final stage of birthdays began several years ago. I call this the not-needing-a-party-OR-to-celebrate stage. This is the goal. It doesn’t always happen this way. Sometimes, whether I want them celebrated or not, they get celebrated. I suspect tonight will be such a celebration because my husband has told me to be ready to leave the house at 6:30. I don’t know where we’re going or with whom. Whatever he has planned I have no doubt it will be lovely and loving. He’s good like that.

As I’ve gone through the stages, I’ve also realized that I’ve become fine with the que sera, sera thing; whatever will be, will be. It’s acceptance. The true final stage. It’s another day, one that falls between Christmas and just before New Year’s. As a friend of mine astutely pointed out not too long ago, a birthday is celebrating the year past, so in actuality, we’re a year older than our birthday says we are. Once you start thinking like that, the day’s celebration is really icing on the cake. I love spending this day with my husband and friends and wish family was closer. It is a birthday and by virtue of what it is, regardless of which birthday it is or when it falls, it becomes a celebration.

Me. Maybe 3, could be 4.

My friend John posted this on my Facebook page this morning: In may portions of the world an individual's birthday is celebrated by a party where a specially made cake, usually decorated with lettering and the person's age, is presented. The cake is traditionally studded with the same number of lit candles as the age of the individual. The celebrated individual makes a silent wish and attempts to blow out the candles in one breath; if successful, it means the wish will be granted. In many cultures, the wish must be kept secret or it won't "come true". Presents are bestowed on the individual by the guests appropriate to his/her age. Other birthday activities include entertainment usually by a hired professional, i.e. a clown, magician or musician, and a special toast or speech by the birthday celebrant. The last stanza of Patty Hill's and Mildred Hill's famous song, "Good Morning to You" (unofficially titled "Happy Birthday to You") is typically sung by the guests at some point in the proceedings. In some countries a piñata takes the place of a cake. An occasional activity is spanking the birthday individual, with one usually gentle "swat" for each year since their birth...or just HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!

I just have one thing to say. If there is spanking, I’m out of there. That’s a stage I’d rather not move to.

Tags: , , , , ,

live out loud

The art of sign language

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 28, 2011 11:12 PM

Maguire is mostly deaf. Occasionally he hears something very loud or very high pitched. Whistles and a sharp clap of the hands will get his attention, as will the opening of the cheese drawer which makes very little noise. He does have a finely attuned sense of smell; maybe that’s the deal. Since he’s been on prescription food, started when he was so sick a few weeks ago, he has also been able to hear the can opener, though only sometimes. It does have a slightly high-pitched whine/squeal. When he doesn’t hear it, within moments he saunters into the kitchen anyway. I think he smells it.

When he was young, he had quite the vocabulary. We lost track of the number of words he knew and understood. I know there are many people who believe that dogs only really understand tone of voice. Evidently I could say “good boy” in a gentle, loving voice and say the same thing in a nasty, yelling voice and he would get two different messages. Not that I would ever do that. And of course he would get two different messages! If I say ‘I love you’ to Kevin in a sweet voice, or I scream it at him, he gets two different messages, too. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand.

Now, when I say “good boy” to Maguire he just doesn’t hear it. We’ve tried getting him to read lips but he seems largely uninterested. He’ll open one eye to see what we’re doing if he senses us near and then close it nearly as quickly. He sees our lips moving but no words are coming out.

He must think we’re nuts.

So lately we’ve been teaching him sign language. If we’re outside, and he’s wandered into the neighbor’s yard, we clap once, sharp and loud. When that doesn’t work, we try again. Often by the fifth or sixth time, he’ll raise his head from whatever he’s sniffing, and look in our direction. That’s when we flip our fingers back onto our palms. That’s when he returns to his sniff. We clap again. This time, when we get his attention, we wave our entire arm to motion him back toward the house. He’ll look at us and sometimes begin to move, slowly, molasses that got stuck in the jar in the middle of January in British Columbia. Until he finds something else to sniff. Then the process begins again. Finally, we get fed up, often because we’re cold. OK. Maybe “we’re” not cold. I’M cold. I walk with great determination toward where my dog is standing. He senses movement. He casts an eyeball in my direction. I get closer, he casts both eyeballs. I get right up behind him and touch his back. He scoots. And stops. I touch again. I’m about to use my GOOD BOY nasty voice. Finally, he looks back at me. I point toward the front door and he begins to walk to it reluctantly.

Sign language for the hearing impaired is a phenomenal way to communicate. It’s like a ballet for the fingers. Its earliest origins can be traced to the 5th century BC when Socrates said: “If we hadn’t a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn’t we try to make signs by moving our hands, head and the rest of our body…?” In the 2nd century, Judea said that a “deaf-mute can hold a conversation by means of gestures.” By 1620, a manual for teaching deaf people to speak with manual signs was published by Juan Pablo Bonet. From this manual, Charles-Michel de l’Épée created an equally manual alphabet. It’s a rich and complex language and one that can convey meaning by using space, two hands and the face and body. In many ways, it’s a better way of communicating than verbal speaking.

Sign language for dogs has become a better way of communicating of late, though in truth Maguire has long responded to hand signals. It’s just that before he lost his hearing we were able to communicate both verbally and with a well-placed get-over-here hand wave. Now, we rely solely on the get-over-here hand gesture followed by the “right now, dammit or else” frantic pulling of the air as if pulling the air toward us will somehow pull him as well.

Regardless, I’m glad there is communication, that the art of sign language, while not as exquisite as the real thing, exists between parents and their deaf vintage puppy. Talking is always worth celebrating.

Tags: , , ,

live out loud

Happy Birthday to me

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 25, 2011 11:40 PM

Guest post by Maguire

I'm 15 today. Next year I get to drive. At least that's what happened when Justin turned 15. I don't know if I want to drive, though. I'm not big on the car thing anymore. I used to really like the Rover; I liked to go. I liked to put my head out the window and feel the wind in my ears. But I kind of like to stay home now.

Today we had presents and stuff. Mom and dad got up early and dad took me outside. It was really warm. I like it when it's warm. It was kind of windy, too. It feels good in my fur. Dad says wind like that can blow the stink off. I don't think he means that I smell bad. I did have a bath a couple of weeks ago.

Me, on my 15th birthday, Christmas morning

Then we came back and mom gave me a kiss on the nose and wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday. That's how I knew it was my birthday. The Christmas thing I knew. There's a tree in the house and whenever there's a tree in the house, that means presents and presents mean Christmas, ever since I was a puppy. Probably even before though I don’t remember before I was a puppy. Mom also puts these little people out in different places. They look like they're singing. Their mouths are in 'O' shapes but they don't make any noise. They're kind of weird. They scare me a little. People shouldn't be smaller than me. But mom likes them. She calls them her "carolers." They only come out at Christmas, too.

Dad put the TV on because one of the local stations was playing the Yule log. I don't know what a Yule log is but mom and dad thought that playing the Yule log was funny. The whole TV screen was filled with logs burning in a fireplace. It even made crackling sounds. It sounded like a real fire but it was on the TV. I couldn’t stop watching it. I was laying on the floor in front of the tree and looking at the TV the whole time even though I thought it was kind of dumb. But since it was Christmas I decided not to say anything. I would rather have watched cartoons, something like Rocky and Bullwinkle. I like squirrels.

One of mom's carolers, a new one from my grandma

Mom is interrupting my post.

Maguire’s mom here: The Yule log is a big, hard log burned as part of the traditional Christmas celebrations in Europe. Yule is an ancient word, probably meaning jolly, and also Christmas. The Yule Log program, the broadcasting of a burning fire and nothing else but its crackle, was actually started in 1966 by Fred Thrower, the President and CEO of WPIX in New York. He wanted to give homes without fireplaces a chance to experience the ambiance. The original was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official home of the mayor of New York. The Yule Log program was and remains 2 to 4 hours, complete with Christmas music. I now return you to my guest blogger. Magu – the blog is yours.

Thanks, mom. 

The Yule log was only on until 10 o’clock. That made mom and dad laugh, too. After it turned off, we got to open presents. I like presents. I got a new hedge and a new moo and a new rudy and a new moose. Moo came from my grandma. My Aunt Khristan and Uncle John gave me new moose. It's really just a big head but he squeaks really, really good. I love new toys. Last week, Roy and Bobbi gave me a new ring toy, too. I always get toys on my birthday and Christmas and since my birthday IS Christmas I get the most special toys ever. I like Christmas. I like my birthday.

Me with some new toys

I miss Justin. He wasn't here today. I heard his voice on the phone and I think mom and dad were going to do something called skype later. I don't know what skype is. It sounds like it might hurt but maybe not.

I don't get to see Roy today. Mom and dad went to see him and Bobbi and Diane and Gene. I thought about going but I was really kind of tired from all the celebrating. Besides, I didn’t want to leave all my new toys. And besides again, there are cats there. I don't like cats. Even though one of their cats - his name is Pixel - is really, really big. Big like a dog. But not big like me. So mom and dad went away for a couple of hours and I stayed here to watch the house and my toys. I also got to take a really good nap. Then they came back and I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me and mom said “Merry Christmas, baby!” and dad said “Happy Birthday, big boy,” and I wagged my tail and got to go outside again. When I came back, my toys were all waiting for me on the floor, right where I left them. It was like Christmas all over again.

It was a good day.


Can dogs tell time?

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:06 PM

This is how it happens. The clock chimes 7:15, or at least it would if we had a clocked that chimed, and Maguire rises from the floor. It doesn’t matter where he is (on the rug) or what he’s doing (sleeping), an internal alarm goes off and he begins to stalk his parents. We can’t hear this alarm but we can hear him. It starts with a huff, a horse-like exhale that pushes all of the air he’s accumulated for the day out through his nostrils. Very indignant. Then he chomps a bit on his teeth, snaps his jaws. More indignant. Then the pacing begins. Back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom, a spin through, a look in, and back out to do the same route all over again. Then he barks, usually just once, to get our attention. If I’m in my office which I usually am, I smile and walk to the top of the stairs. He’s at the bottom of said stairs by then, staring up at me, ears forward, ready to pounce.

“What?” I ask.

“Woof, ruff!”

“Is it that time already?”


“Are you sure?”

“Woof!!!! Woof!!! Woof!!!”

Then the prancing begins as I descend. It is time for his nightly stroll and nothing will deter him. Not rain or wind; not heat or cold. It. Is. Time. His cleverly hidden watch has told him so. And he will not be ignored. Like the crazed Alex Forrest (chillingly played by Glenn Close) who calmly announced to Dan Gallagher (aka Michael Douglas) in the frightening morality film Fatal Attraction: “I will not be ignored, Dan!” our vintage puppy has an agenda. It does not, to my knowledge include any type of rabbit soup, though he has, on occasion, attempted to chase a rabbit when one has dared to cross his path on his beloved and sacred walk. He wants to go and he wants to go RIGHT NOW and he will hound us (pun intended) until I open the hall closet and pull out my vibrant blue Harry Carrey jacket. That’s it. Game on. Mom has her coat. I’m out of here.

He turns, races to the front hall way and spins in circles as he waits for Kevin, who has also received the message and is zipping up his hoodie, to come through the house and grab the leash from the laundry room. When Maguire was younger and stronger, we used to put a harness on him, with the leash hooking to the top of that. It was much easier to control an 85-pound dog when the leash was at his center of gravity. If he lunged, we had the upper hand. He doesn’t lunge anymore. Even if he wanted to, he’s become too dignified for such behavior. So now we simply hook his Big Dog® leash through the hook on his collar that holds his tags. Maguire then moves to the front door and stares at the handle, willing it to open, while I grab a bag for clean up and a tiny flashlight (once the time changes, it’s dark by 7:15) and off we go. He bounds down the driveway and across the street, leaps up onto the sidewalk on the other side, and then… he’s done. His prowess in tact, and once again proven, he slows to a nice crawl. He pees in the grass, he stops at a rose bush, he sniffs at a hedge, and stops to look first up the street then down, making sure that no other dogs approach. He is the big dog after all, the mayor of Oak Park. He is still the alpha dog. He has a reputation to uphold. He is Maguire Michel.

Then he poops, I clean up and we turn back toward the house. We’ve been gone 10 minutes.

By the time we get back to the driveway, he’s moving so slow he’s practically in reverse, but he gets to the front door to once again stare, willing it to open. Miraculously it does, and he enters his domain, Chez Maguire, for a cookie and a snooze before bed.

I’ve come to believe that dogs really do have some sense of time. How else to explain that he starts to bug us every night at the same hour? It doesn’t matter the time of year, whether it’s still sunny and warm, or dark and stormy, he knows. The watch on his front paw ticks to 7:15 and he flips his paw to look at it. Yep. Time to go.

According to animal cognition researcher William Roberts, I’m wrong. Animals are stuck in time, and lack the ability to travel backward and forward in their memories so they don’t really know ‘time’ per se. They can be trained but they supposedly don’t have the power of episodic memory. They do, however, have internal biorhythms, or an internal clock, that allows them to sense when certain things are supposed to happen. They may also use circadian oscillators or fluctuations in hormones, body temperatures and neural activity to know when it’s time for dinner to be served or to go for a walk. There have been a number of studies done regarding short-term or working memories and reference or long-term memories. Roberts thinks that most animals, dogs included, learn by going from the weakest memory to strongest memory rather than learning to actually tell time.

In other words, it’s just learned behavior.

I still believe Maguire knows what time it is. He knows his walk, he knows when it’s time to get up in the morning, he knows when it’s Fritini and Roy is coming. Granted, that usually happens after we clean and after Kevin pulls out the martini glasses and shaker. Maguire notices, he understands. He remembers and thus he knows. Isn’t that what time is ultimately all about?

Tags: , , , , ,

live out loud

Greetings ... from a card

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 19, 2011 11:14 PM

The idea of greeting someone is as old as humanity and maybe as old as the animal kingdom that was here before us. Nothing says hi, hello, bienvenidos, welkom, willkommen and more than a well-positioned growl, bark or butt-sniff. It’s all about making one’s presence known. A good human greeting can also show what type of relationship or social status exists between people. It can include a simple kiss on the cheek or the hand, a hand shake, hug, bow, or a nose rub, even the aforementioned butt thing, though that’s traditionally only shared between canines and other cultures perhaps undiscovered.

Kissing is the most common greeting, sometimes once, often twice, and in Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Netherlands and Egypt, three kisses are exchanged, always on alternative cheeks. Parts of France, like in Provence, do the same. In Nantes, four kisses are traded. In the Galapagos, women kiss on the right cheek only. In Oman, men first shake hands and then kiss each other on the nose to say ‘hello, I’m here! Let’s get started!’ Started on what remains to be determined.

In-person greetings work best when you actually have an opportunity to see the person you’re greeting. If not, obviously a hello over the phone lines can work. I just shared one of those greetings with my mother this evening. When I see her, I usually just give her a big hug and a little squeeze, not too hard. I don’t want to hurt her; she just had back surgery after all. And she’s a little more fragile than she used to be.

The first Christmas card

When I can’t see her or any of my family, which is more the rule than the exception, there is the other approved greeting: the greeting card. It’s a custom that started in China when the ancients exchanged messages to celebrate the New Year and in early Egypt, where rulers wrote their greetings on a papyrus scroll. Flash-forward to early 15th century Europe when handmade paper greeting cards were first exchanged. It was the Germans who may have started the practice as early as 1400. Paper Valentine cards were exchanged for the first time in the middle of the 15th century.

By the 1850s, greeting cards had gotten cheaper because of newer ways of printing as well as sending. It ushered in a new kind of greeting card, the Christmas card, first published in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole, a British civil servant, hired an artist named John Calcott Horsley, known for his historical scenes, to design the world’s first known holiday card. It was mailed to friends and acquaintances. By the 1860s, companies like Marcus Ward were mass-producing greeting cards. Soon there were greeting cards for everything from birthdays to new baby announcements to new jobs to sympathy, thank yous to get well soons to ‘you’re better off without him/her’s and more. The latter is an example of a funny kind of card – the humorous card – and was first introduced in the 1940s.

Hallmark, founded in 1910, remains the largest manufacturer of printed greeting cards selling $4.4 billion worth of cards each year. The oldest manufacturer however is American Greetings Corporation, which began printing cards in 1906. They’ve branched out into electronic cards now as well, a burgeoning business since people are online all the time. I’m guilty of this myself, though I still like to send and received real cards. There’s something more organic about it. It makes me smile to walk to and open the mailbox and see an envelope, hand-addressed with my name.

The busiest day of the year for sending cards is today. I heard that on NPR this morning. The USPS is expected to deliver some 16.5 billion letters, cards and packages by New Year’s Eve. (UPS will also deliver 26 million packages on December 22; about 300 per second.)

There are regular greeting cards, photo cards, personalized, musical, pop-up (a favorite) and electronic.

Greeting cards may not be as personal as a kiss on the cheek or the nose, or even a good old-fashioned butt-sniff (Maguire’s greeting of choice), but they are a lovely way to say “hello, bienvenidos, welkom, willkommen. I was thinking about you. I miss you. I love you. I hope you’re having a great day. You mean a lot to me. I celebrate you being in my life.”

Tonight I’m celebrating greetings of all kinds but especially those from a card because I still love the idea and the sentiments expressed. You can say things on a card you can’t always say in person; you can celebrate someone special.

Tonight I’m celebrating all the someone-specials in my life. My husband, my son, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my clients. And I’m sending these greetings… from my blog.

Cuteness Alert. And it's free.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 11, 2011 9:15 PM

I’m all for capitalism. I partake in it regularly, and for the most part enjoy it. I like the choice it represents even if the sales tax can get a little steep depending on where one lives. We’re fairly fortunate in that our part of California charges 7.25%. It’s a bargain really. Santa Monica is 9.25%. Even Beverly Hills is less at 8.75%. But as a state, we also have the pleasure of sporting the highest rates in the country, though the highest taxed city remains Chicago at 9.75%.

I bring this up because at this time of year when shopping is in full manic mode, when many of us have to pay sales tax, we often look for something free along with it, like shipping. I do a lot of shopping online and whenever possible I go with free shipping. I’m very good at getting that on Amazon. Sometimes it might take an extra day or so to get here, but ultimately it’s cheaper. If I buy something online that can’t be purchased here, I can sometimes not pay sales tax at all, though the State Board of Equalization or Maximization or something is trying to do away with that because it’s costing the state money and everyone is hurting these days.

Free is enticing, and some of it is literally free. Free advice. Free speech. Free listings. Free education. Free will. There are least 23 albums titled Free and 26 songs. Free to be.

But free shipping remains one of my favorite frees. I expect it on books and clothing and various other items. But I didn’t not expect this:

Imagine my surprise. First, FREE Shipping on any size order. So I’m assuming I could buy as many puppies in as many sizes as I’d like, get them shipped to me at any time from now into perpetuity, and not pay for the transportation. I can only hope there are air holes.

And these puppies are guaranteed to last! I haven’t yet found the fine print that details whether they’re guaranteed to stay puppies or just guaranteed to stay alive forever and ever. This is important as someone who parents a vintage puppy and who worries constantly about his encroaching age. He didn’t come with a guarantee. Not that it would have mattered. We would have taken him regardless; he was just too good to pass up. He remains ever so.

I wonder how L.L. Bean has done it. I wonder how many other people looked at these two simply gorgeous golden retriever puppies and thought – ha! Free puppies that will always be with me!

There are other advertisements that are misleading and unintentionally hilarious. Having worked in advertising for some time, I realize that you can look at something over and over and over again, and not see it anymore. Yes, everything is spelled correctly but the meaning can get skewed and in this case it did.

Or did it? Maybe this is what L.L. Bean meant all along. Maybe they really have found a way to guarantee that puppies can last, that they have no expiration date, and they’re giving them away for free.

I’ll take a dozen, provided they all look and act like Maguire. 

December 8

by Lorin Michel Thursday, December 8, 2011 11:50 PM

Today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a very big deal if one subscribes to the Catholic religion. I was raised Catholic, though not with very much passion. Kevin was too, with much more vigor. He went all the way through high school graduating from Bishop McNamara. We’ve both been recovering for some time; it’s a twelve-century program. We’ll never be free.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception goes back to the seventh century when churches first celebrated the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary, so this day actually celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary.

From fisheaters.com: Today is a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States, a day on which we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (the Immaculate Conception has been, since 1846, the Patroness of the United States). Note that it is she, Mary herself, who is the Immaculate Conception; the day does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus by the Holy Ghost, but to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, by Mary's father, St. Joachim. What makes her conception immaculate is not that she was conceived by the Holy Ghost of a virgin, as was Christ Our Lord, but that from the very moment of her conception, she was filled with grace by God, Who knew, in His omniscience, that she would say "yes" to the Angel Gabriel and become the Mother of the Savior.


You’re wondering why, if I am in fact a recovering Catholic and not religious at all, I’m spending time on this.

I will tell you. It’s because on this blessed day, some years ago, and I won’t tell you how many, another blessed event took place: The birth of Kevin Joseph Michel, Justin and Maguire’s dad, my husband. On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, an irony not wasted on us, we celebrate the day he came into this world, not immaculately by any stretch. We celebrate his childhood in Kankakee, Illinois with his older sister, Susan, older brother Jeff and parents Tom and Virginia, otherwise known as Virg. Julie would come along some six years after he had already been on the planet.

We celebrate his early years working at Dairy Queen and nearly taking over the place. We celebrate his university years, in Illinois, where he was a Resident Assistant in a dorm and worked in food service way too early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

We celebrate his first house that he nearly gutted on his own, pulling out carpet and pulling down wallpaper to create a livable space, one that he would leave once he had the opportunity to move to Southern California. After years of not being able to get his car started in the winter because it was simply too damned cold, the warmth of the desert was just what he needed.

We celebrate his marriage to her only because it gave us him, Justin Thomas, the love our lives. He’s smart, funny, real, motivated, ambitious, loving. I like to think that his father had something to do with that.

We celebrate the demise of that marriage because that put him back on the market so I could sweep in and grab him up.

We’ve celebrated birthdays together now for some 16 years. In that time, we’ve seen Justin grow from a little dude of 4 to a junior in college who will be 21 in three weeks. We’ve lived together in my townhouse, sold that townhouse and bought a house here in Oak Park and property in Tucson. We’ve opened our own businesses and been fairly successful. We’ve embraced friends and family, traveled, fought, made up, made plans and lived. We’ve celebrated life.

Tonight we celebrate the feast of the immaculate birthday conception. We celebrate the husband unit.

Happy Birthday, Kevy. Live it out loud, baby!

Tags: , , ,

live out loud

Can I get a cookie now? A vintage puppy update

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 4, 2011 10:57 PM

Last Saturday night, our boy got very, very sick. We have no idea why but starting around 1 am, he exploded. Then he exploded again around 3:30, and so it went all day Sunday, Sunday night, Monday and Monday night. He was unsettled, obviously uncomfortable and generally miserable; sick as a dog, as the saying goes. We wanted so badly to help him but we didn’t know what he needed. If ever the art of mindreading was needed, it was then.

The vet came Tuesday and he’s been on five different types of medication ever since. We joked that he’s officially turned into old person, complete with prescription medications lined up on the kitchen counter in the order they need to be administered. The difference, of course, is that most old people take their pills by themselves. Our vintage puppy fights us every single time. We pry open his mouth and do our best to place the pill as far back in his throat as possible before closing his jaws, holding them together, gently stroking his throat, blowing on his nose and generally try to coerce him into swallowing. We promise cookies, chicken, undying devotion. Most of the time he pretends that he’s swallowed, punctuated with an actual swallow. He pushes the tip of his tongue out between his front teeth and blinks his eyes. He’s done fighting us; we relinquish our grip and stand up.

At which point he looks at us and spits the pill out onto the floor. The routine begins again until we win.

Maguire, snoozing on the floor in the sun; today

It is now a week later and he seems to be on the mend. He’s eating his prescription dog food – moist food, which we’ve only given him previously when he’s sick, which luckily hasn’t been often – inhaling it actually. He stands near me as I prepare his food, staring up, ears forward, waiting, waiting. His tongue snakes out occasionally as if to imply that he’s ready to eat. As if I didn’t know that. Any time now. Please. Can you put that on the floor, mom? I’m so hungry. Did I tell you I was sick?

Yes, baby. I was there.

After he cleans the bowl, and I mean cleans the bowl to the point where it looks like it’s just been washed, he saunters toward the bedroom to simultaneously ram and flip his bed while also wiping his whiskers. This has been a good development.

A better development happened on Friday night. Kevin and I were on opposite couches, enjoying the fire. The TV might have been on. If it was, whatever was playing was completely forgettable. I glanced over to see where the dog was. He was at the foot of the stairs. He had a toy. Ordinarily this would not be cause for celebration, but we knew that we would truly be on the road to recovery when he started bringing out toys.

We felt like we’d won the vintage puppy lottery.

The phrase “sick as a dog" dates back to at least the 17th century, and perhaps as early as the 1500s. It doesn’t appear to be negative so much as descriptive. Anyone who knows dogs knows that while they can and often will eat absolutely anything, occasionally their diet disagrees with them and the results can be quite dramatic.

To truly appreciate the original sense of "sick as a dog," imagine being seated in the parlor having tea with the Vicar on a lovely Sunday afternoon, when the dog staggers in from a meal of sun-dried woodchuck and expresses his unease … all over the heirloom oriental carpet.

That was Maguire, sans the woodchuck.

On a related note, sick as a dog should not be confused with sick puppy, used to describe someone that behaves oddly. That phrase seems to have been used first by a reporter in The Indianapolis Star on May 7, 1911 when he wrote: "When a noted actress is in town," said one detective yesterday, "lots of times some poor fool, wearing a carnation in his coat lapel, will whine around after her like a sick puppy."

Can I get a cookie, mom?

Regardless, our vintage puppy was sick as a dog. But he’s better now. His fur looks brighter, he’s not as haggard, he’s even gained back a little weight.  As I write this, he’s standing here gazing up at me. He’s shifting his feet, he’s putting on the cute.

If I could read his mind I’d swear he was saying: Can I get a cookie now? Pleeeeeezzzzzeeeee?

Welcome back, little man!

Tags: , , , , ,

live out loud

christian louboutin online discount christian louboutin wholesale jerseys from china replica oakleys wholesale jerseys cheap michael kors cheap replica oakleys oakley sunglasses sales cheap jerseys free shopping michael kors handbags nike nhl jerseys cheap nhl jerseys cheap replica oakleys oakleys sale cheap jerseys from china christian louboutin outlet 2016 cheap fake oakleys WHOLESALE AUTHENTIC JERSEYS fake ray bans fake cheap oakleys cheap christian louboutin cheap christian louboutin online cheap jerseys cheap oakleys cheap jerseys from china cheap michael kors wholesale mlb jerseys replica oakleys store cheap jerseys china fake oakleys authentic nhl jerseys cheap wholesale nfl jerseys discount oakleys cheap oakleys fake oakley sunglasses replica christian louboutin cheap oakley sunglasses authentic jerseys cheap cheap oakleys outlet wholesale oakleys christian louboutin online wholesale cheap jerseys wholesale nfl jerseys fake cheap oakleys discount jerseys sale cheap ray bans fake cheap oakleys michael kors outlet cheap wholesale jerseys replica ray bans wholesale jerseys outlet wholesale nba jerseys fake cheap oakleys fake cheap oakleys outlet ray bans sale christian louboutin outlet oakleys sunglasses wholesale authentic jerseys discount ray bans fake cheap oakleys cheap christian louboutin online nhl jerseys cheap nfl jerseys discount ray bans wholesale jerseys cheap ray bans michael kors handbags outlet replica michael kors wholesale oakley sunglasses ray bans outlet cheap jerseys china cheap nba jerseys fake cheap oakleys cheap oakleys cheap ray bans cheap christian louboutin discount oakleys wholesale nfl jerseys cheap michael kors handbags fake cheap oakleys discount christian louboutin wholesale nhl jerseys michael kors on sale discount ray bans cheap jerseys wholesale cheap michael kors cheap replica oakleys cheap michael kors bags replica ray bans cheap sunglasses ray bans authentic jerseys authentic jerseys from china cheap oakleys outlet replica oakley sale red bottoms shoes on sale wholesale oakleys cheap nfl jerseys cheap replica oakleys wholesale oakleys cheap christian louboutin outlet cheap oakleys store cheap michael kors cheap ray bans cheap authentic nfl jerseys paypal cheap fake oakleys cheap oakleys cheap michael kors outlet fake ray bans fake ray bans cheap authentic nike jerseys cheap authentic jerseys fake cheap oakleys fake oakleys store replica oakleys cheap christian louboutin fake oakley cheap cheap jerseys wholesale cheap replica oakleys cheap michael kors outlet wholesale jerseys china cheap oakleys online replica michael kors cheap ray bans jerseys wholesale cheap fake oakleys discount ray bans cheap michael kors store cheap ray bans ray bans sunglasses jerseys wholesale wholesale china jerseys cheap mlb jerseys oakley sunglasses wholesale nba jerseys christian louboutin outlet wholesale oakleys wholesale authentic jerseys wholesale mlb jerseys cheap michael kors outlet cheap jerseys online shopping cheap ncaa jerseys michael kors bags cheap fake oakleys cheap jerseys wholesale cheap fake oakleys cheap replica oakleys cheap michael kors cheap discount ray bans ray bans sunglasses cheap jerseys free shopping cheap nba wholesale jerseys fake oakleys replica oakleys cheap nhl jerseys cheap christian louboutin cheap oakleys official jerseys replica ray bans cheap michael kors outlet wholesale jerseys cheap cheap authentic ncaa jerseys michael kors on sale cheap fake oakleys cheap elite jerseys discount oakleys cheap replica oakleys cheap michael kors online wholesale and retail oakleys fake ray bans cheap wholesale jerseys
Filter by APML