I am turning into my mother

by Lorin Michel Friday, January 2, 2015 7:45 PM

My mother is a wonderful woman whom I adore. I don’t see her as often as I’d like and lately I haven’t been able to talk to her as much as usual because my schedule has been bonkers. Still, I hope she knows that I think of her and miss her, and that I am turning into her.

One of the things I have long teased my mother about is the ever-present tissues found in every pocket she possesses. Since I moved west, when I go home to visit, I carry only one suitcase. If it’s cold, I wear a coat. There have been many times when I have had to supplement my wardrobe by borrowing a sweatshirt or a jacket, even a bathrobe to keep warm in the morning. Putting a bathrobe into a travel bag would essentially take up my entire suitcase. Whenever I borrow something, I inevitably put my hands into my pockets. I’m a hand-in-the-pockets kind of gal. I love to shove them in deep, to burrow. I’m also a burrower, as I’ve discussed with how I love sleeping under mounds and mounds of covers.

From my mother’s pockets, I always pull a tissue. Not a used one – that would be gross. Rather, a spare. It has always been thus and a running laugh track in the family. She tells me that this is a trick she long ago learned from her own mother, who evidently taught her to tuck a tissue into a sleeve so as to always be prepared. Somewhere along the way, my mother moved from sleeves to pockets. It makes me smile every time. It’s my mom, and it’s wonderful.

Unlike my mother, I have never been partial to hay fever or allergies or post-nasal drip (a horrible sounding malady for what is, rather, a runny nose). I do occasionally have need for a tissue, as we all do. I occasionally suffer from a cold. But I rarely have a tissue in my bathrobe pockets, or in my jacket pockets.

What I have are dog poop bags.

It seems that lately every time I put a coat or jacket on, no matter if it’s a hoodie sweatshirt, or a nice suede jacket, or my dad-sized Harry Carry jacket from Chicago, there exists in one of the pockets a roll of bags. We buy these rolls in bulk and use them every time we walk Cooper. Sometimes we have need for two bags. Kevin lovingly and proudly refers to that as a two-bagger.

I started to notice the bag-in-the-pocket phenomenon about two weeks ago. The weather had really and finally started to turn cold. The mornings were and are often in the high 20s or low 30s. Coats are needed. I put on my Harry Carry jacket and my hands immediately found their way to the pockets. In those pockets, I found a pair of gloves and a roll of bags. In my favorite Zaca Mesa hoodie, another roll of bags. In each of my fleece jackets, bags. Ditto by fleece vest. I told Kevin that if this keeps up, we might never have to buy bags again. When we think we’re running low, we’ll simply raid my side of the walk-in and rummage through every pocket until we find what we’re looking for.

I am turning into my mother, with dog poop bags replacing tissues. Both serve their own unique purpose and function to keep us in polite society. I’ve learned a lot from my mother, perhaps nothing so useful as keeping what one needs ever at the ready. That’s worth celebrating today and always.  


I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 31, 2014 5:44 PM

It’s the last day of 2014 and you know what that means. Tomorrow is Lorin’s annual and official de-Christmasing. But as I have this last day to muse and mull, I thought I would share a little something that has gradually occurred to me. I am no longer 35. Yesterday was my birthday, and I haven’t been 35 in actually quite some time. But I use 35 as a metaphor. When I was 35, I was at my physical best. I was tall and thin, still running so I was in great shape. I could slip into my old 501 jeans and have them look spectacular.

I haven’t been able to wear those jeans in a while now though they still hang in my closet because I remain hopeful. I have aspirations.

But I will never be 35 again. I am now safely in my 50s and I am actually very OK with that. I am beginning what many have come to term the more ideal second phase of life. This isn’t to say or even imply that the first phase was un-ideal. In fact, quite the opposite. The first phase saw me get an education and embark on a career that I loved and miraculously still do. It allowed me to appreciate my family. It gave me the opportunity to make real, true, and lasting friends. It gave me my first husband to show me exactly what I didn’t want in a marriage, and thus gave me my favorite husband, Kevin who in turn gave me Justin. And Maguire. And now Cooper. The first phase was the time of my life where I began.

The second phase is the time when I enjoy. Justin is out of school and making his own living. We are now at the time in the parents-child relationship when he actually likes talking to us. When there is no agenda, just love, laughter and joy. It was a long time coming. I’m glad it’s here.

It’s a time when we have reinvented ourselves, picked up our lives and moved to a new city with a new culture, where we can spend time rediscovering things that we like. Art galleries. Restaurants. Sitting by outside fireplaces listening to nothing but music. Watching a house get built on a hill. Meeting new people. Engaging with those our own age. Being unapologetic for it and embracing this second phase as opportunity. Opportunity to live differently and possibility to change because we can. And did.

It’s a time to also realize that 50 is the new best age. We don’t look like we did at 35. We have more lines. Things sag that didn’t used to. Things don’t fit the way they once did. Hair is thinner, for both men and women. But it’s all OK. Because it’s real and true and honest and life.

I titled this post “I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look like Gisele Bündchen.” The fact is, I bet Gisele Bündchen, also known as Mrs. Tom Brady and the highest earning super model in the world, probably doesn’t always look like her magazine-self either. She’s pretty; makeup and hair and clothing and Photoshop make her stunningly gorgeous. But she’s 32. I wonder how she’ll look and feel at 53.

I was perusing the internet earlier, just bouncing around as I often do between projects. It’s how I cleanse my creative palette. I came across something entitled “GQs Sexiest Women of 2014.” Naturally I clicked. I’ll tell you about it so you don’t have to look yourself. It was filled with what men seem to think women actually look like. Most of them were women probably in their early 20s who had lithe, ridiculously hairless bodies that they showcased readily, squirming in the sand, writhing on satin sheets, all sex and foreplay. There were only a few whose names I even recognized, like Lizzy Caplan, Rashida Jones, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the latter of whom is also 53. She will never look like Gisele either and I suspect she, too, is just fine with that. It’s called acceptance, and reality. And being OK with who you are, without Photoshop.

As we wrap up 2014, I hope that some of you, too, have decided that this next phase of life will be one of wonder and fun, love and laughter, and yes, beauty. And that when you look in the mirror, you’re OK with the person looking back because that person is truly worth celebrating, this day, this night and always.

I effing love science

by Lorin Michel Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:07 PM

The first time I used a word I wasn't supposed to, otherwise known as a swear word, was when I was in third grade. I was on the playground for recess and having trouble with my friend Patrice. Mutual friends were going back and forth between us telling each of us what the other had said. I was mad and said that she could go to hell. I remember feeling so grown up. A curse word. I was cool. I almost said it in a whisper since that was how my mother always swore so that's how I thought you were supposed to swear. I didn't; but I thought about it.

The second time I remember swearing was when I called my brother an asshole because he was being such a nudge. He was probably 7 or 8 at the time. He promptly ran off to tell my parents. We were in the woods behind our house and I was trying to build a fort. He was not helping. I got in trouble and I told him I'd never talk to him again. There. That would teach him to tattle on me.

I have since learned to use any number of words and combinations thereof. Sometimes I put words together that I've never heard used together before. I feel very creative when I do that. Sometimes I adopt these new phrases; often I grow tired of them and discard them for newer ideas. I have my favorites and especially one phrase that consists of two words and four syllables. Hint: both words end in “er.”

The point is, I swear. It makes me feel better to express my frustration with a few choice words. It allows me to release pent up anxiety without hitting something or becoming violent. I’ve never completely understood why people think swearing is so horrible. My mother has never been big on swearing though she’s better now than she used to be. Sometimes she uses her regular voice, though most of the time she says things like “he’s a real bastard,” and lowers the tenor to a whisper on “bastard.” I respect that she doesn’t like swearing so I try not to use my normally colorful vocabulary when I’m around her. I respect that others don’t have potty mouths, and that others are offended. I don’t feel the need to purposely offend someone. I’m not that insecure, dammit.

A friend of mine’s mother won’t go to R-rated movies and won’t even watch certain shows on television because she’s convinced that people don’t really talk that way. She refuses to be swayed but has never had a good answer for why then the dialogue is laced with the f-word, the s-word, the b-word and worse. My friend and I have had many discussions usually while shaking our heads because everybody we know talks like that.

Maybe it’s a generational thing.

Turns out it’s also a science thing. Psychologists at England’s Keele University have conducted a study and found that “expressing profane feelings is good for you;” that it’s a “harmless emotional release that can make you feel stronger and more resilient.”

Based on that, I should be like the female version of Hercules and Gumby combined.

I’ve also heard that people who use a lot of swear words tend to be more honest and trust worthy. Not sure why. I guess it’s the no bullsh^t factor.

But I have a dilemma. My mother doesn’t approve and I don’t like disappointing my mother. Yet I’m a big believer in science. I believe global warming is real and that the cures for the world’s deadliest diseases have come from scientists in laboratories. I don’t always understand science but I respect it and realize that scientists know more than I do about things related to, well, science. Still, a dilemma.

Given my effing stress level many days, the occasional, well-timed profanity helps me to effing vent. I’m not effing hurting anyone. Cooper doesn’t seem to mind, nor does my husband who is also big into stress relief. And if effing science says this will help me to effing feel better, I guess I’ll continue along my cursory path, at least until mom comes up with a better idea.

Celebrating effing science tonight. You guys made my damn day. 

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live out loud

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 19, 2014 12:36 AM

An 1884 parable tells the story of a young Scottish girl, struggling as she carried a boy toddler, who when asked if she was tired, replied: “No, he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.” In a 1918 publication, Ralph Waldo Trine tells the same story but with a Scottish accent. “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither.” It wasn’t until 1924 that the editor of Kiwanis magazine used the phrase as we’ve come to know it – He ain’t heavy, He’s my brother – as a column headline. And in 1969, Bobby Scott and Bob Russell wrote a song using the same title. The Hollies turned it into a huge hit that same year. A little sidebar: a relatively unknown lad named Elton John played piano on the song.

It’s largely agreed, by just about everyone, that the song essentially means exactly what the parable says. It’s never a burden to help – carry – someone who’s important to you. It’s never a burden to be there for someone.

I bring this up because I have recently been spending a lot of time with my brother and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. My brother lives in New England with the rest of my family – I am the sole member to venture west of the Ohio River – but as with many people who live far away from the ones they love, spending time means being on the phone.

For years, this didn’t happen. I’ve always had a great relationship with my sister, or at least since we both became adults but not so much with my brother. He was in his own world and we didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time, my mother included. I had gotten used to talking to him once or twice a year, almost always on a holiday or if he needed something. I was glad to talk to him even on those rare occasions because he’s my brother.

When our dad died suddenly in 2002, it was my brother who found him. I can’t imagine what that must have been like and Scott won’t talk about it. He simply says, stoically, that he’s glad it wasn’t Khris or me who had to find dad. Then the conversation is over. I understand. He’s protecting us. I think once dad died, he realized he was the man of the family now, even though both my sister and I are married. But Scott is the last of the Shields’ men, a point he jokingly refers to regularly.

After dad died, it took him a long time to recover; a long time to get himself back together. We all worried, none more so than mom. But in the last few years, Scott has created quite a life for himself, and there’s now a lightness in his voice that hasn’t been there for a very long time, if ever.

He laughs, he jokes; he asks me how I’m doing and seems genuinely interested in my answers. I love having conversations with him now because he has become a strong, honest, loving man. He enjoys his life. Not all of it because no one enjoys every aspect of their life, but he has plans now. He has things he wants to do and I think it’s wonderful. He has a job he likes, working for a company that he loves under management that treats their employees well. He’s lucky; most people can’t say that about their employers.

Scott’s not married and never has been. He’s not currently dating and as he says, not really looking right now. He’s content to fix up the house he’s living in, to work, to help mom as he can, to dream. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about my brother is his ability to dream. Dream of things he wants to do, things he wants to change, places he wants to go. I’m a big believer in having dreams and in acting on them. We’ve been talking about dreams a lot lately in our conversations.

I’ve always said Scott is a late bloomer. I’ve always believed it. Not everyone gets married in their 20s or 30s. Some wait until they’re in the 40s or 50s; some never marry, some never have kids. Well into his 40s now, he has finally come into his own. He has a good job, he has a great place to live; he has disposable income. Last night when we were talking and laughing about it all he said “late bloomer alright.” He remembered when I first said that many years ago. I don’t know if he remembered it because he wanted to believe it back when things weren’t going so well for him; or if it rang true. Perhaps both.

He is a late bloomer, but as he has blossomed he has become interesting and funny, a person I like, a brother I love. When my mother had him, I was 4 ½ and not the least bit interested in a baby brother. I’m interested now, in the “baby” who has grown to be 6’4”, 200 pounds, with brown hair that’s receding, brown eyes that sparkle when he laughs, s slight space between his front teeth and a voice that’s as deep as time. I hear that voice and I think he’s mi brither. And it makes me smile.

The mother of us all

by Lorin Michel Monday, October 29, 2012 9:33 PM

I am forever amazed at the power of nature. I am even more amazed at how we mere mortals think we have power over that power. We build skyscrapers near fault lines and pretend that we have the technology to allow a 100-story building to sway in the face of an 8 point earthquake. We build mansions on a coastline that is continuously ravaged by a pounding surf. We put houses in the middle of nowhere and nowhere burns.

I am forever reminded of this, never more so than when we have a major weather event, which we seem to have at least once every couple of months. Sandy has come ashore and it is wreaking havoc up and down the eastern and weather-beaten seaboard. It made landfall in Atlantic City, New Jersey at 6:45 pm with 90 mile per hour winds and torrential rains. 2.2 million people were already without power before the superstorm hit. Thousands of flights were cancelled. A replica of the HMS Bounty sank off of Hatteras, North Carolina, stranding many and killing one. Snow was being forecast for elevations above 3000 feet. Parts of West Virginia were already under a blanket of white.

Mother Nature has such beauty, such majesty. This planet of ours is truly remarkable. Just look at what is in this country alone. The rocky shoreline of the northeast, the towering pine trees and arching mountain ranges. The sandy beaches further south. The warm waters of the gulf. The thick trees that give way to rolling hillsides and ice-cold lakes. Flat plains covered with wild grasses that blow all the time. Cold winds and more mountains across the north, flat desert sands and deep red canyons to the southwest; palm trees and another coast that’s less rocky and thus more accessible. The waters churn with the tides. Birds fly, fish swim, animals prowl and people are invited to be one with it all, to embrace the beauty and the wonder and the idea of something greater than all of us.

Most of us do; some of us are too arrogant. We think that it’s all here for us. It’s not. It’s all here in spite of us, and it is our responsibility to care for it. I’m not going to get into environmental correctness, though I think we should all practice it. I believe, as the saying goes, that we are but stewards of this house. We are so blessed to have this planet, to live with our mother Earth. Our Mother Nature.

She is not simply of our country. She became popular in the Middle Ages but her origin can be traced to Ancient Greece. Her name occurs in Mycenaean Greek as Mother Gaia. In Greek mythology, “Demeter (the goddess of harvest) would take the place of her grandmother, Gaia, and her mother, Rhea, as goddess of the earth in a time when humans and gods thought the activities of the heavens more sacred than those of earth.”

She also appears as Inanna or Ishtar on Mesopotamian tablets in the third millennium B.C. Of course, later medieval Christians in Europe thought of Mother Nature as something created by god. She was a personification, not a goddess.

The Algonquian legend says that “beneath the clouds lives the Earth-Mother from whom is derived the Water of Life, who at her bosom feeds plants, animals and human.” She is strong and rarely silent, forceful but not necessarily vengeful. She will not, however, be taken for granted and she announces her presence with authority, as she did this morning when the news coverage began, and tonight, when she roared ashore.

While I would never celebrate the devastation nor the inconvenience, I am celebrating the power and the majesty, her majesty. As one who has lived through blizzards, firestorms, mudslides and earthquakes, I have come to respect her authority and to worship her beauty any way and all ways.

I wish all those who have been visited by this mother of a storm dog-speed and high ground. 

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