In the love

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 31, 2012 8:30 PM

I’m not going to get all gooey and slobbery here, but somehow the topic of what love is came up today and it got me to thinking. Maybe it’s because it’s New Year’s Eve; maybe it’s because I’m feeling emotional, as I often do when the old year rolls so easily into the new. I’m always amazed that there isn’t more angst, more raging about how not enough has been accomplished and how it can’t be time to start another year. Not yet, not now. It’s not ready!

Oh, wait. Maybe that’s me who’s not quite ready to roll so easily into the new, especially because I have so many things unfinished from this current year. I could dig in my heels but I doubt it would do much good. Time will pull me, even if I’m kicking and screaming the whole time. There is no stopping it. Just like there is no stopping love.

See what I did there? I made a nice rounded-curve transition back to my topic at hand.

Love happens, often when we least expect it, almost always when we’re not looking for it. That’s what happened when I met the man who would become my first husband. I picked him up hitchhiking (which wasn’t that dangerous back then, and we were in a small town and the person I was with recognized him). I was 18 and he was tan. Funny how what you think love is when you’re 18 isn’t what love is at all.

It happened again when I met Kevin for a drink that one fateful March 22. I already knew him so love was the farthest thing from my mind. I remember well getting the phone call from Bobbi asking me what I thought of Kevin Michel. I believe my answer was “not much.” Ha. Little did I know that love would follow within a few short weeks. I rolled easily from being single into being “in a relationship,” and never looked back.

Love is realizing you’ve met the one person who truly gets you, who has a similar sense of humor and sarcasm. Love is what happens when you’re mature enough to realize what love is. 

Love is a beautiful puppy who gave himself the name Maguire when he put his tiny black nose into the center console of our car on the drive home from the shelter, and pulled out a dollar bill. I had never raised a dog before and this one changed my life. Love is discovering you’re a dog person.

Maguire broke our hearts when he died in March after he suffered massive and irreparable seizures. Love is having the strength to say good-bye.

Love is a red-headed step-son who has always been more of the latter and none of the former. It’s meeting a four-year old and helping raise him, going through the tough times of high school, and seeing him become a wonderful young man. Love is not labeling him anything but what he is: my kid.

Love is re-discovered friends who have grown along with you even if you haven’t seen them for decades. Love is knowing they were there, and finding out they still are.

Love is friendship that is easy and joyous, through laughter and tears and w(h)ine. It’s knowing that certain people are always always always your friend.

Love is my sister and her remarkable attitude, her graciousness, her kindness; her sense of humor. My niece, my nephew, my brother-in-law; my brother; my mother; my Aunt Barbara and Corky; my great Aunt Beryl who’s in the hospital but hopefully not for long. It’s watching everyone grow older and not caring a whit that we all have lines; that we’re all a little heavier (except for Diane. My friend: how the hell do you do that?)

My new love is Cooper. I wondered if I could fall for another dog, after Maguire. I liked Cooper but for a couple of weeks I actually wondered if maybe I’d made a mistake, if maybe it was too soon. I didn’t and it wasn’t. The last two weeks, something happened. I don’t know what it is, but Cooper seemed to finally settle into his new name and his new life, and we seemed to finally and completely embrace a new four-legged friend. Maguire was our vintage puppy; Cooper is our pre-owned boy.

Love is my dog’s wet nose as he herd’s me through the house.

Cleaning up the kitchen when the other has cooked, or cleaning up the kitchen even if you’re the one who cooked. That’s love. 

Being content to watch an NCIS marathon on a Sunday afternoon, and enjoy it. That’s love.

Love is a glass of soul deep syrah from Zaca Mesa, or inky dark Petite Verdot from Trahan.

Love is spending the rest of your life with someone you want to kill and not doing it because you’d miss them. (That’s from Bobbi; love is … that)

Love is whatever you want it to be. It can even be the new year and all of the mystery that it holds. Let it drag you kicking and screaming, or smiling and laughing. Let it unravel to be whatever it will be. Let it be a night filled with love and 365 days filled with whatever your version of love is. Because that’s what’s important. That’s life. Celebrate it at midnight and always.

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live out loud

Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, November 27, 2012 8:16 PM

For a good part of my adult life, I have lived with only males. When Justin lived here and Maguire was still alive, I was surrounded completely by testosterone. I was also surrounded a bit by snoring. Justin snored very softly, it was more like heavy breathing. Kevin snored and still does but mostly when he’s just exhausted; otherwise he sleeps quietly. Maguire sighed heavily every once in a while.

Enter Cooper. He snores. A lot. He also talks in his sleep. He growls and semi-barks. When he lays down, he expels air loudly with a harrumph.

Last night when I wasn’t sleeping – an occasional malady that is quite frustrating especially when I’m so tired because of the holidays and the shopping and the dog and the work and the and the and the – I was listening to the sounds of my two men, the husband next to me and the dog in the kennel in the corner of the room. Kevin’s sounds were small and crisp; Cooper’s were low and guttural. Since it’s the holidays, naturally I couldn’t help but think of the Christmas song Let it Snow.

Oh the music inside at nightfall
Is noisy and not right for all
So since I’m waiting for sleep ‘n more
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

It doesn’t show signs of rebounding
And I’ve brought some sheep for counting
The lights are off which I adore
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore

When we finally said goodnight
How I loved snuggling down to sleep
But if shuteye refuses, alright
Cause tonight I’ve got my sheep

The night is finally slowing
And my boys have sounds they’re sewing
But as long as I can I’ll implore
Let it snore, let it snore, let it snore 

I’ve been told that I, myself, don’t snore. I puff. According to my husband. But I come from a long line of snorers on my father’s side. My grandmother used to fall asleep on her couch at night while watching the news. She’d be bundled up in her bathrobe, her face all slathered with Ponds cold cream, bobbi pins holding her sideburn curls in place, and her head will gradually drift back, her mouth would fall open and she would exhale the loudest snort. She rarely woke herself up. My father was much the same, though his snorts were enough to crack the drywall and peel the paint. My mother used to sleep on the couch in the living room when it got too bad. When my dad came to visit me right after the dissolution of my first marriage, I had a small townhouse with two bedrooms upstairs. I gave him my room and I took the smaller guest room. I, too, ended up downstairs on the couch. I could hear him through the two closed doors and down the hall. 

He used to tell my mother that it never kept him awake. He’d say it in jest as she would snarl at him. Interestingly, when I puff, it wakes me up almost every time. Kevin sometimes snorts and it wakes him up; mostly I just give a gentle nudge, he says “what?” and I say “you’re snoring, roll over.” I haven’t yet figured out how to get Cooper to shhuuush. He doesn’t tend to snore for long, which is good. I suspect I’ll just have to whisper his name. Dogs are notoriously light sleepers.

Until then I’ll just let him snore, let him snore, let him snore. And when I’m good and tired, and the sheep are all counted, I’ll finally drift off with a puff.

Life is good living it out loud with my guys, even when it’s supposed to be quiet. 

Oh what a knight: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 10, 2012 8:30 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The Squire here and can I just say that I’m pretty worn out? Trying to get this new knight-wanna-be in any kind of shape to even begin his extensive training is tiring. I can’t even get the guy to look at me. He’s so obsessed with what’s down that he has yet to look up. It’s frustrating. I don’t remember this with the actual knight, the real knight, the big dog.

Let me tell you what’s happening. It shouldn’t take long, because it’s essentially nothing. Oh, he’s cute and all. I actually kind of like his red fur cause it’s a little like mine and I’ve always been proud of the reddishness of my fur coat. My mother, Madam Squirrel, use to tell me that she thought we must be descended from the great Irish squirrels of the 16th century. Back then, when the Celts ruled on the isle so green, squirrels were their constant companions. Sometimes they were also dinner. I never liked that part. But that’s why we squires immigrated to this country. According to legend, or at least my mom, it happened quite by accident when Old Squire Squirrel the first and his soon-to-be missus Old Squire Squirrel were squirreling around near the water. Some horses rode up and Old Squire decided they needed to take cover “lest they get et.”

That’s old-time Squire speak for somebody was going to be on the menu.

So Old Squire and his soon-to-be missus jumped onto some big wooden thing to hide. It was a boat. Next thing they knew they were someplace else where they decided to stay. Eventually there was Old Squire the 82nd and he and his Mrs. Old Squire caught a ride to the Americas, their kids traveled west in somebody’s wagon and that’s how we got here.

The Squire ancestors were all assigned to a knight. It’s in our blood. That’s how I got to be the knight’s squire. He was a good knight, too. Very stoic, very powerful. Toward the end, all he had to do was use his eyes and whoever he was looking at started to quiver. Of course, that’s really all he could use, his eyes. He was kind of old but still strong and he was still a great knight. I did good by him, I think. I was always there to tell him when some other element was flying in, like birds or that big red hawk that sometimes drops by. When he comes, I high-tail it for my den in a big time hurry. I don’t have any desire to be his dinner – to be ‘et’ – any more than the original Old Squire wanted to be. I always told the Knight “in coming!” before I scurried though.

Some knights might have said I was cowardly, but the knight, my knight, he understood. I mean, I’m not that big and I’d fit pretty easily into that hawk’s beak.

Now there is the knight-to-be. He is still a little wet behind the ears. A nutbag, whatever that is. I hear Hey Lorin calling him that all the time, like “Hey, nutbag, what are you doing out there?” She says it really nice and sweet, too, like she thinks he’s cute. I think he’s a little bit crazy, running around outside. He even chases that never-will-be-a-knight-no-way-no-how Kobe along the side of the house. They can’t even see each other but they run back and forth and bark up a storm, raising such a ruckus, it’s like to bring Old Squire back from squirrel heaven.

Me, this morning. See my red fur?

Hey Kevin was out on the patio this morning, huddled up in his bathrobe while the red knight-to-be ran around the yard looking for a tree. Never looked up once. Hey Kevin did though.

“Hey Squire,” he said. I could see his breath. It was really cold this morning. I like it when it’s cold. I like how my fur gets thicker. It makes me look bigger and tougher.

“Hey Kevin. How’s he doing?”

“He’s good. But he’s definitely a nutbag.”

I asked what a nutbag was since I’d heard them say that and it didn’t sound like they were actually talking about nuts in a bag. Personally, I like nuts. So I was thinking that I might like a nutbag.

After Kevin described what he meant – that he was just fun and crazy and had a lot of energy – I nodded.  Those are all good traits in a knight-to-be. Then they went inside and I watched the red knight swoosh his tail and trot in to see Hey Lorin. I nodded again. I do that a lot when I’m thinking. I think I’m going to like this nutbag.

OK. Gotta squirrel. The missus is calling. I think she’s making something with nuts for breakfast. Like I said, I like nuts. I like nutbags.

Boo humbug

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, October 31, 2012 9:44 PM

One of my favorite characters in English literature is Ebenezer Scrooge. I can almost recite A Christmas Carol word for word, and especially Scrooge’s dialogue. He’s a crusty old screw, dastardly, miserable, alone and believes in absolutely nothing. His most famous line is, of course, “Bah! Humbug!” He uses it to dismiss anything and everything that doesn’t fit into his world-view (sounds like a certain political party). In Charles Dickens’ famous parable about finding redemption at a very special time of year, humbug is used to declare Christmas a fraud. To which I say, humbug!

But what about Halloween? This night that is haunted by people dressed as others seems to fit the definition ascribed to the word humbug: a person or thing that tricks or deceives or talks or behaves in a deceptive, dishonest, false or insincere way, even if it’s a joke. The continuous call of ‘trick or treat’ from kids dressed as pirates, princesses, convicts, Star Wars characters or comic book icons, even political personas (which also qualifies as comic most times) seems to fit that definition. They’re pretending to be something they’re not, which happens to be the definition of fraud. Though it is Halloween, and they are kids. So I will cut them a little slack.

I actually like Halloween. When I was a kid, I loved to dress up, usually in a homemade costume, something pieced together from whatever was in the house and complemented by something purchased for next to no money at the local department store. My brother and sister, both younger than I, would accompany me along with a parental figure, and we’d scurry through the neighborhood, knocking on doors, ringing doorbells, holding out our bags and saying those famous Halloween words. My favorite costume, and I have no idea why, is one where I was a socialite. I had a long, light blue, satin dress, studded with sequins. Long white gloves that reached up beyond my elbows. I wore costume jewelry on top of the gloves. I had an off-white shawl made of dog-knows what kind of faux-fur material, a yellow gauzy type wig, and a carnival masque. I think I wore jeans underneath, and a long sleeve t-shirt. It was New York, after all. At the end of October. It was cold.

There are three other costumes I remember. In college, friends and I dressed up as homeless college students and went to a few houses. The people laughed; we got candy. Years and years later, when I was between husbands, my friend Connie and I went to a Halloween party. I was a pirate, complete with a parrot tattoo on my shoulder and an eye patch. And years after that, Kevin and I went to a Halloween party as Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter. I had a very bad pageboy type wig, a blue windbreaker that sported big white FBI letters, and a fake ID. I even had a small and very fake .38 pistol strapped to a belt holster. Kevin was in an orange jumpsuit, and a white straight-jacket. We got him a mask and we rented a dolly. I wheeled him into the party (with the help of Dracula; he was too heavy for me to do alone) just like Dr. Lecter was wheeled into an airplane hangar in The Silence of the Lambs, and we were a huge hit. Even won a trophy for most creative costumes.

Tonight, we’re not really celebrating Halloween. We stopped last year because of Maguire. He was too old and as much as he loved all the kids coming to the door, getting up off the floor was too much for him. This year, because of our new Cooper, we also opted out because we don’t know him well enough to know how he’d react to constant knocks and doorbell rings.

But I’m still celebrating the hoax of it. The trick of it. The humbug of it.

According to the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose, from the late 18th century, to hum meant to deceive. It was combined with the early medieval Scandinavian and the Middle English word bugge, meaning bogey which, in turn, is a derivative of the German word bögge from which böggle-mann (goblin) is derived. Then along came the Welsh Bwg or ghost. Bug can actually mean ghost or goblin and A Christmas Carol is about ghosts. So humbug is about the deceit of ghosts, goblins and ghouls. It’s about Halloween.

On this night, one filled with all manner of spooky, one that we’re not celebrating, I am instead celebrating the parody of it all. And living it out loud amongst the pretend fright of the small children I can hear racing from house to house, giggling and talking, while parents try desperately to keep up. As Ebenezer Scrooge would no doubt say if any dared to come to his door: “Boo! Humbug!”   

And dog bless us, every one.

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live out loud

The many months of October

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 30, 2012 8:48 PM

I’m a big fan of the tenth month of the year. I honestly don’t know why but I suspect it has something to do with the advent of cooler weather and more colorful trees, with mornings dawning earlier and colder and nights painting the sky dark earlier as well. I love the smell of wood burning in a fireplace; I love wearing jeans and sweaters and big, thick socks on my feet and still needing a throw over me when I sit on the couch. This always begins in the month of October.

I love that October is the first full month of fall and that the holidays are officially here. It’s my favorite time of year and I can already start to hear the jazz of holiday music ringing in my head and oozing through the house. I’m not technically allowed to play holiday music until Thanksgiving. My husband and son have held me to a promise I made, stupidly, many years ago. I have to admit though, that I sometimes sneak a bit of festivity onto my playlist sooner rather than later.

I love that this is the month I finally start to shop for the perfect gifts for my family and friends.

October is also about several beverages including beer. Oktoberfest rings throughout the world, never anywhere so fabulously than in Germany where it’s called die Wiesn. Locals call is “Wies’n.” It’s a 16-day festival attended by millions of people where large quantities of beer are consumed. Nearly 7 million liters poured each year where each pint must be approximately 6 percent alcohol and brewed within the city limits of Munich. This tradition started on October 12, 1810 when the Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

October is when grapes finally ripen on the vines of North America and Europe. Thick clusters of red and white varietals hang heavily on roped wood and are either hand picked or machine picked depending on the winery. Our syrah grapes came in this month; our cab grapes will be picked this month, though we don’t get to pick them up until November 4. By next October, those grapes should be wine.

October is the month when pink reigns and we turn our focus to awareness for breast cancer. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and a pharmaceutical company that’s now part of AstraZeneca, which makes several anti-breast cancer drugs. It has always been about promoting mammography as one of the most if not the most effective way to fight breast cancer. It was Evelyn Lauder of the Estee Lauder brand of skin care and cosmetics who established the pink ribbon as its October symbol.

It’s also the month of the holy rosary. Praise dog.

And National Bullying Prevention Month, where a company called PACER urges communities nationwide to join forces and raise awareness of the bullying of kids in school. In fact, schools, businesses, organizations and communities come together to help people realize what bullying can do, short term and long term. Their color is orange. 

Coincidentally October is also the Month of the Young Adolescent. Established by the Association for Middle Level Education, this effort is international in scope, collaborating with parents, schools and youth-oriented organizations to focus on the needs of kids 10 to 15. It focuses on parents being knowledgeable, understanding that healthy bodies plus healthy minds equals healthy adolescents, and pushing education and opportunity.

Then comes All Hallow’s Eve and Halloween when kids dress up like ghouls and goblins and Disney characters and trek from one house to another in search of the most candy. It is followed by Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that celebrates those who have died. Its origins are 2500 to 3000 years ago.

Celebrating the dead is a way of celebrating the living and the future even as we embrace the past. Perhaps that’s why one of my favorite things about October is that it is also National Adopt a Shelter Dog month. While our new Cooper didn’t come from a shelter, he did come from a rescue. He is our way of celebrating our beloved Maguire.

This October, I can’t think of a better way to live it out loud than to bark it out loud with love of our beautiful rescue.

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live out loud

So I’m new here but I think I’m going to like it

by Lorin Michel Saturday, October 27, 2012 8:13 PM

I’m Cooper. Yesterday I was Andy and a long time before that I was Lucky, but I guess I was un-Lucky so I got a new name and then I was lucky enough to get another new name. I just got here yesterday. These people say they’re my new mom and dad, and they brought me home in this really big red car that I almost couldn’t get into but I did, with a little help from my new dad. I was a little afraid – I mean, who are these people? But they seemed nice and they gave me a new collar and it already had two pieces of really blingy bling on it. And I have my new name to go with my new collar and since everybody keeps calling me Cooper I guess I’m Cooper.

I don’t really understand this computer thing. I don’t really understand a lot right now, but I think I might like it here. It sure would be nice to have a forever home. I’ve been in a lot of places, especially lately, and I’m only like five years old.


Cooper Michel

Here’s my story: I lived with a family for a while and I thought they really liked me. I liked them. I thought I was lucky because that was my name. But then they had a baby and they didn’t want me anymore, so they gave me to this lady named Laura who takes dogs that nobody wants. I was really sad. I didn’t know if maybe I did something wrong but I don’t think I did. After that I was in at least three other houses with three other families but I was really just visiting, not really living with them. I was waiting until somebody found me and I could go home.

I got my picture taken and I was on a website! I think it was called Petfinders. But still, nobody wanted me. I thought it was a pretty good picture. I looked cute that day in my golden reddish fur. I think I’m a golden retriever and border collie, whatever that means. I’m just a boy. And then, finally, somebody did want me. I met these two people, the ones called mom and dad, a couple of days ago, and then last night they came with their big red car and my fancy new collar and my new name and I went home.

It’s a pretty nice home, too. I have my own water and food bowl, and a special place to sleep in the same room as my new mom and dad. I have cookies, too. Lots and lots of cookies. I get one when I sit, especially if I sit when they use my name. I sit a lot. I think I like being Cooper. Cooper equals cookies. That’s good.

Today I got up early and after my new dad took me outside, I came racing in the house and immediately went to my new mom’s side of the bed. I put my head on the bed next to her and wagged my tail really hard. I want her to like me. She petted me and rubbed me and scratched behind my ears and said “good morning, Cooper.” There wasn’t a cookie though. Probably because I didn’t sit.


Outside after a bath

I also have to remember that cookies are only in the kitchen.

Then we went for a really long walk and even stopped at a place called Starbucks so my new mom and my new dad could get something called coffee. I had some water. It was good. I met some new people and then we walked some more. When we got back home – HOME! – I had some more water and then I took a nap on the kitchen floor. I like the kitchen. It always smells good there and also, too, cookies.

I’m still a little weirded out. When I said sleep, I really was just laying quietly. I’m kind of afraid to close my eyes. What if when I open them, my new mom and dad aren’t here? What if I have to move again? I don’t want to move again. I think I like it here. I even have a new hedgehog toy.

I like my new mom and dad, too. They’re nice and they’re trying really hard to make me feel good about being here. I wish they wouldn’t try so hard. I feel pretty good already even if I’m a little afraid. But if they want me to sit when they say my name, I will. Cause then I get a cookie.

And don’t tell them that I already know, ‘k? I’m Cooper and I think I’m going to like it. 

A dog is a seal is a mermaid

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 2, 2012 9:38 PM

I spend a lot of time online as most people do. In the morning, I fire up the Mac, wait the 20 to 30 seconds for it to load all of its goodies, and then open a browser. I open my primary email program, check my other email programs before closing them down, peruse the news and Facebook and then settle in for the day. I open a new browser, I’m guessing, a hundred times a day, give or take a dozen. In my research and with my surfing prowess, I often come across things interesting and funny, heartbreaking and sad, even infuriating.

The internet is a strange and wonderful – a strangely wonderful – place to travel. The world and all of its treasures, weirdness, and creepiness are literally at the stroke of a few keys on the QWERTY. I have journeyed to Germany and France, to Africa in search of color and India in search of ayurvedic oils. I have purchased items from Hong Kong and New Jersey, Alabama and Mexico. I have studied the cultures of Europe and Asia. I monitor-shop (as opposed to window shop) and know I can literally find anything I’m looking for and if I can’t, it quite possibly may not exist.

Today I came upon this meme: Seals are just dog mermaids.

And it got me to thinking. Are seals really just dog mermaids? So armed with a newly opened browser, an open Word document to take notes, my fast-typing fingers and my little brain, I went surfing for the information that might prove or disprove the theory, which incidentally I thought had some possibility. Seals are cute, dogs are cute. Seals have whiskers, dogs have whiskers. Seals have fur, so do dogs. Ergo seals are dogs except that dogs are on land and seals are (mostly) at sea, though seals are sometimes on land and dogs like to swim.

Seals are actually called pinnipeds, from the Latin pinna meaning wing and ped meaning foot; winged foot. They have expressive eyes, a furry appearance and a natural curiosity. If they were in your back yard, they would explore all of the trees and especially the pool, or the puddles. The seals seen in harbors and hanging around coastal towns are earless and called Phocidae. Seals with ears are sometimes called sea lions as well as Otariidae. There are actually 32 different kinds of seals with the biggest being an elephant seal that’s 13 feet long and weighs about two tons. The smallest is the Galapagos fur seal that’s just 4 feet long and weighs only about 65 pounds.

They used to be land animals, probably related to bears or otters, they can be under water for up to two hours because of the hemoglobin in their blood and they are hunted by sharks, whales, polar bears and, unfortunately, people.

Seals are also evidently involved in the Navy and they were part of a 1970s’ singing group with someone named Crofts. Seal without the plural is also quite the singer.

As for dogs, they’re actually canis lupus familiaris, and have been hanging with us for at least 15,000 years though the remains of domesticated dogs have been found in Siberia and Belgium dating to some 33,000 years ago. They can be as smart as a two-year-old child with Border Collies being the smartest followed by poodles, German shepherds, golden retrievers and Dobermans. Some dogs can understand up to 200 words; no word if they can speak that many but no matter. Docile dogs live longer than more aggressive dogs.

Most dogs have fur, either double layered with a coarse coat underneath or single with a topcoat only. Many domestic dogs actually sport natural camouflage or countershading with dark fur on top and lighter fur underneath. Many have a star of white fur on their chest (like my Maguire did). Most have tails.

The biggest dog is usually an English Mastiff, weighing between 300 and 350 pounds. A Great Dane is the tallest, standing as tall as 42 inches at the shoulder. The smallest is usually the Yorkshire Terrier and can weigh as little as four ounces. 

The word dog comes from the Middle English dogge and from the Old English docga. They are often possessed of soulful eyes and a wiggly butt especially because they are usually damned glad to see you. Dog is my co-pilot, dogs rule. Etc.

As for mermaids, well, the US National Ocean Service stated unequivocally in 2012 that no evidence of one has ever been found. The Little Mermaid and Splash notwithstanding.

Evidently they simply weren’t looking in the right place.

Walk and talk: observations from outside

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 22, 2012 10:07 PM

Guest post by Squire Squirrel

The squire here, watching the world go by from the usual spot. Actually, I’m watching the people of the neighborhood go by. People around here sure do walk a lot, and when they do, they talk. I like to listen though a lot of times all I really can hear are certain words. “What?” “Today.” “Coffee.” “Did you watch…” “Sky.” “Where…” “Tomorrow.” “Joe.” “Tennis.” “Pavilions.” “Bank.” I think they’re saying something about today and tomorrow and playing tennis and going to the bank where there is coffee and sky.

But I can’t be sure.

Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin call this the walk and talk. It’s something that started a long time ago with some writer guy who did a TV show called The West Wing. I wasn’t around then but I know they were big fans of whatever it was and really got to like when people walk and talk at the same time. Maybe because people who walk and talk don’t waste time, and sometimes they say interesting things. Or at least they do on TV. I don’t do much of the walk and talk mostly because I don’t walk. I scurry. Scurrying is much more efficient especially in trees and along walls. And most especially when crossing the street. That can be really scary. I sometimes start across the street and then think I hear something and stop dead in my tracks. Mrs. Squirrel doesn’t like when I stop dead. She doesn’t like that word because that means splat, and splat is bad for a squirrel. It’s also bad for a person.

Hey Kevin and Hey Lorin walk all the time. They're usually talking before they even leave the house. I can hear them and then they're still talking when they get back and go back in the house. I wonder sometimes how they can have so much to talk about but I think it's pretty cool.

Me, watching the walk and talk

Walk and talk was on a pretty funny video this week. I didn't see it but I heard Hey Lorin say it was The West Wing. I thought we were sort of the west wing because we're in California but I don't think that's what she was talking about.

Here come the people that live in the house behind ours. They’re really old, like at least 85, at least that’s what Hey Lorin thinks. They don’t speak much English but they shuffle through the neighborhood talking in a language I don’t understand. They hold hands and they’re really cute. I hope me and Mrs. Squirrel get to be old and still hold paws when we’re scurrying along the back wall. 

The older couple walks around the corner just as two ladies walk by. They walk by a lot, almost always in the morning. Hey Kevin calls one Jane. I don't think that's her name but Hey Kevin has names for a lot of people. Jane talks really quiet and sort of mumbles. Jane and this other lady are talking – I can see their mouths moving – but their voices are really sort of like a hum.

I like when people walk by together and talk. I also like when people walk by alone and stop to talk. They don’t stop to talk to me, probably because they don’t see me because I try to blend in. They always stopped to talk to the Knight. He liked to be in the front yard, especially if Hey Kevin or Hey Lorin, or even if Hey Justin was out there. He liked to watch the world walk by and he really liked when people would stop and talk to him. He would wag his tail. Sometimes he wouldn’t even get up, especially if he was really tired. But the tail would slap against the ground and people would rough up his ears and talk to him.

Sometimes people stop by now just to say hi and ask Hey Kevin what he’s working on in the garage because Hey Kevin is always working on something. Some people don't say anything to anybody. I always wonder if they're shy or just not very nice.

Nobody who stops by has asked about the knight. I think that's weird and I know it bothers Hey Lorin. She thinks it's rude.

I think it's just people not really knowing what to say. People like to talk about nothing with people they don't really know. Otherwise the conversation gets too heavy and makes people uncomfortable. People like to be comfortable. That’s why they also wear special shoes. I guess if something is uncomfortable, walking while talking is good because then you don’t have to look at the other person. 

It's also good for just going forward.

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live out loud

A sleep worth discussing

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, September 18, 2012 9:41 PM

For some reason, Kevin and I were talking about sleep today. Evidently when he woke up at some point this morning, before falling back to sleep because it wasn’t yet time to get up, he got to thinking about the very idea of falling asleep and how interesting it was. I listened intently and curiously.

Kevin: “it’s just so wild, when you think about it, that one minute you’re talking or watching the news, and the next it’s morning because you feel asleep and you don’t even know it. It’s fascinating.”

First, if you’re talking to someone and you fall asleep, chances are the conversation wasn’t very lively. If you’re watching the news and you fall asleep, well, that’s fairly normal especially if it’s the local 11 o’clock news because most of the time, those newscasts are terribly banal. They pander, they sensationalize, they bore. Hence the snort-snort-snore that drifts from Kevin’s side of the bed as he gives up and gives in to the night.

Of course, this snort-snort-snore has also been known to happen in the afternoon when he’s laying on the couch or laying on the bed, but almost always there’s a television on.

I’m sensing a pattern.

Still, I was interested. “What do you mean?” I asked.

He tried to explain the feeling that overtakes him when he falls asleep and I nodded. I know what he’s talking about and it’s difficult to describe. It’s like a blanket is being pulled up over your brain. It gets comfy and warm, cozy. It relaxes. It drifts. Thoughts wander, then ooze out the door. It’s impossible to focus and you don’t want to. You’re tired. You want to sleep. Soon you do.

There’s no universally agreed-upon definition of falling asleep because it’s not a split-second happening. There isn’t a switch that gets turns off but rather a gradual progression of stages in which the body and the brain both change.

First, you doze off and your brain and muscles slow down. It’s a light sleep, the kind where sometimes you jerk yourself awake. You’re not quite into zzzzzzzzz land. Many times if someone in this stage is asked if they were asleep, they will respond no. Even if they were starting to snore. Like my husband.

Next comes the calm brain and no eye movements. Breathing slows and body temperature drops slightly which is why you get cold, or at least I do. If you’re in this state, you’ve lost touch with where you are but you can still be easily awakened. You usually want some covers, even if it’s hot.

In the next phases, breathing slows into a more even and often audible rhythm. Blood pressure drops and body temp drops even more. Your muscles relax. Sleep researchers call this “slow wave sleep” because the brain waves are at their most dormant. This is the sleep we need, the restorative rest that helps the body to regenerate. When you sleep like this, protein is generated for strength, hormones like cortisol, which helps make us bright eyed in the morning, are released, and the body is mostly at peace. About 90 minutes in, the infamous Rapid Eye Movement (REM) pattern begins. Interestingly, this is very close to actually being awake. This is also when dreams can occur. After REM, you get NREM or Non-Rapid Eye Movement, something that actually happens in 90 to 110 minute cycles, four to six times every night.

Then morning comes. Light begins to dawn and the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a very small area of the brain, registers this light and soon sleep is over. I always find this incredibly sad. I love to sleep. I’m good at it. My husband is better at falling asleep but not so good at staying asleep. He teases me that if we awake at any time during the night for whatever reason and converse, even for just a minute or two, that I can fall back to sleep quicker than anyone he’s ever known. I take great pride in that.

Sleep is a wondrous thing. Lack of sleep is abominable. As I say often, there’s a reason sleep deprivation is a torture technique.

We are made to sleep. From the moment we’re born, we spend most of our time trying to get to sleep. Babies do it, usually at times when new parents don’t want them to and rarely during the night. Puppies do it at any given time. I always loved when Maguire was a puppy and he’d play and play and rough house and growl and then, boom. He’d fall over asleep. I admired it. Kittens do it too. I imagine all animals do, though I only have experience with puppies/dogs and kittens/cats.

Obligatory kitten/puppy shot

We take naps as kids, and fight it. We take naps as adults, and relish it. Either way, as Kevin said today, if you do it right, you wake up.

That’s always worth celebrating, as long as it’s not too early. 

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live out loud

In the stillness

by Lorin Michel Sunday, September 9, 2012 8:42 PM

The air is not moving today. I don’t expect it to last but right now as I sit here in front of the open window, waiting for some sort of a breeze, I am struck by the nothingness. The trees, usually the best gauge for seeing if there’s any sort of wind approaching, are still. The plants sit quietly. No dried leaves are blowing. Instead, they simply lie on the grass under the equally dormant trees from which they came.

There doesn’t appear to be any life in any of the surrounding houses. No cars meander by, either on their way to church or the store, or back from a soccer game or tennis. No dogs are barking, no children squealing. I haven’t even seen the Squire.

The only movement comes from the fan blowing the air around here in the kitchen. The edges of the newspaper rise and fall as if breathing. If Maguire was here, he’d be lying on the title on the floor, right in front of the fan, panting, and it would be rippling through his fur. Memories fill. The plants are dancing ever so slightly. Funny to have air movement inside but not out.

The television is on. My Patriots have been moving down the field. As I write this it’s half time and the score is 21 to 3. As you read it, I’m hoping they will have won decisively.

The clouds that are blocking the sun are hovering. The world is still.

Perhaps it’s an opportunity for introspection. It’s time to be quiet and enjoy that quiet, to live in the moment and not worry about the next one, to sip a cup of coffee and savor it, to allow for a wandering mind and not care where it goes; to follow it regardless. It’s a time to relax and not need to do anything but nothing; a time to smell the flowers, the jasmine in the air, the fragrant eucalyptus trees; to accept the humidity and not complain, to welcome the heat and understand that it will pass when the time is right. It always does.

As I sit here, sipping my coffee, watching the breathing newspaper, missing my puppy, and enjoying the stillness, I can’t help but wonder: Is this what it’s like when the world ends? According to some, we’ll find out on December 21. This is sometimes the kind of weather that precedes an earthquake, of which there is nothing still. Still. If there is stillness that precedes the end, why does everyone automatically think that it will be accompanied by rage? It could just as easily be gentle and soothing.

We’re so used to everything moving, moving, moving always flying around our ears at mach II that when a morning like this one arrives, it is palpable, the stillness. It is welcome. It is a little weird actually. But I’m loving it because of the weirdness, because of what it symbolizes. It’s perfect for a Sunday.

And that’s why I’m celebrating the stillness of this morning. Because it’s Sunday and Sunday should be a little slower, a little quieter, a time when the world isn’t angry or busy, but rather, simply, is still. Even the air concurs.

As I finish this post, the leaves outside have begun to stir. I feel the beginnings of the breeze’s hot breath as it sneaks through the window. A car goes by and another. I hear a motorcycle in the distance; a dog is barking. On the television, the Patriots have scored again, and inside, we’re having breakfast.

The stillness may have begun to move but we’re still loving our Sunday morning of peace. Living it out loud very quietly.

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