In which Lorin returns and spikes the napkin

by Lorin Michel Monday, May 7, 2018 10:06 PM

Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s rumored that Mark Twain said that to a London audience in 1897 after one rumor said he was seriously ill and another one soon reported that he was dead. An American newspaper supposedly even printed his obituary. According the journalist Frank Marshall White, who contacted Twain via cable at the time, Twain’s actual quote is this: I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. [A cousin] was ill in London two or three weeks ago, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. The report of my death was an exaggeration. 

The rumors were greatly exaggerated because Twain did not die in London in 1987. He died in Connecticut in 1910. 

Now I have not died or demised. I have simply been playing possum, hiding out, nose to the grindstone and all that jazz. January happened and I managed to pen a whopping one post. In February, it was two. And that was the last anyone had heard from me in quite some time. I even got an email from a faithful reader to make sure that everything was OK. It is. I’ve just lost hope. 

Kidding, of course. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just misplaced it. I still try to err on the side of positive rather than negative. I tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic, or as my mother would call it “realistic.” I like being happy. I like laughing and finding joy in the every day. I love to discover things to celebrate, and find ways to live it out loud. Lately, though, it’s been difficult. And truth be told, writing about eggplant parmesan or lizards; flowers or a new pair of jeans … none of it has seemed logical. The world is going to hell and I’m celebrating a glass of wine? 

For years, I posted every day. I have hundreds if not thousands of posts on this blog going back to 2011 when I started. 

And then it came back to me. Celebrating the simple is cathartic. It always was before, and it can be again, even with the toddling orange blowhard in the White House. 

So I’ve been jotting down ideas for blog posts. I’ve been looking for fun facts online, and eventually I might get to some of them, like one about white sealcoat for asphalt, and another about dogs under the bridge. I have a post about reaching that age where you start to lose people. It’s a rite of passage, I suppose, and reason to celebrate those we’ve lost. In other words, I have ideas. I’m trying to get back in the swing of blogging, even in the face of political catastrophe, especially with the knowledge that I don’t understand my country anymore and have absolutely no faith in government of, by, and for the people because I have no faith in the people. 

Which brings me to the napkin. A couple of nights ago and maybe it was yesterday, Kevin and I had finished dinner. We’re a couple of old people now and we eat on trays in front of the television, though these trays are definitely not TV trays because they don’t have legs. Rather they’re more like modified servers and we put them on our laps when we sit on the couch and watch whatever we happen to be watching. Naturally, dinner on the tray comes complete with flatware and a napkin (unless we’re doing chicken wings and then it comes with several napkins). Kevin took his tray back to the kitchen, placed it on the counter and came back to retrieve my tray. This is part of our deal. I cook and create a nice presentation; he cleans. When he returned again, he still had a napkin in his hand. 

Now my husband is known to squeeze the life out of a napkin. When we go to an action or political thriller film, he sits with his popcorn and a napkin. Long after the popcorn is gone, the napkin has been reduced to a small ball that he holds tightly in his hand. It’s the movie theatre equivalent of a stress ball. Every time the lights come up and the credits roll, he looks at me sheepishly and opens his clenched hand to reveal what’s left of the napkin. He then ceremoniously dumps it into the trash on the way out. 

The other night after the discovery of the napkin, he proceeded to ball it up, and stand there with a big grin on his face as he spiked it onto the floor. It was symbolic of nothing except maybe the idea that spiking a napkin is kooky, and fun. And fun can be severely missing in our lives, with work (and in my case, school) and news and stress. 

So I have returned and I am spiking the napkin. Let’s celebrate something!

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The return of R2D2

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 27, 2018 10:40 AM

Every Sunday, for the past several months, I’ve been making something in the slow cooker. And every Sunday, I consider it to be somewhat of a challenge, finding something new and also finding a way to make it more to our liking, adding more garlic or pepper or something else I think might add to the flavor. When I first started doing this, I planned ahead. Sometimes I still do. But often I go to the grocery store on Saturday with no ideas at all, so Sunday rolls around and I scramble. I look in the pantry, at what’s in the freezer, and then I consult the google to try to come up with something. What I came up with this past Sunday was Manhattan Clam Chowder.

I pulled out a can of Italian stewed tomatoes, two cans of clams. I got an onion, several fingerling potatoes, and two stalks of celery out of the veggie drawer. I pulled out the spicy hot V-8 – oh, and the slow cooker. Sliced, diced, mixed and poured. Put the lid on, and turned the setting to low. 

Then I started to wonder about something to perhaps go along with the soup. The traditional go-along is, of course, salad. But I wasn’t in the mood for salad. Another traditional go-along is bread, which we don’t usually have in the house. Then I remembered that I have a bread machine. I further remembered that I had several boxes of bread machine mix in the pantry. 

Dog love the pantry.

Here was the problem: The bread mix had been in there for a while and by a while I mean since before we moved to AZ. We moved in August of 2013. Dog knows how long it was in the pantry before we moved. In other words, old. 

But I was optimistic. I pulled out the bread machine, opened up the box, followed the directions by pouring in the water, the mix, and the yeast. Closed the top, hit start.

The bread machine hasn’t been used in years. It, too, is very old. In fact, so old I have no idea how old it is. Kevin’s sister had two from when she got married and she gave one to us after we got married. She was divorced by the time I met Kevin and he and I will have been married 20 years in September. Did I mention it’s old? 

But it worked like it was brand new. Started right up, the kneading tool churning away. The cycles passed easily from one to the next, rising, baking, and cooling. 

The kneading works for at least 20 minutes. Then it sits for a while, then it re-kneads again for another 20 minutes or so. It’s noisy. When it started up again, Riley was in the kitchen and nearly jumped out of his fur. He immediately moved toward the counter and assumed the “I’m-concerned-but-I’ve-got-this-under-control stance.” It’s the stance where his back legs are planted far apart, sunk into the tile, front paws equally wide, his body leaning forward and his head up ever so cautiously to investigate.

We laughed as we watched him, our great protector, taking on the big, bad, old bread machine that looks a little like … 

“Kind of looks like R2D2, doesn’t it?” Kevin said.


He’s back!


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The price of stupid

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 3, 2018 3:19 PM

I am, like, a really smart person. I have a very big brain. I’ll stop short of saying that I’m a very stable genius because I’m relatively sure that, even as smart as I am, I don’t qualify as a genius. As for the stable part, it depends on the day. Most days I’d say I’m relatively stable though there are days when I near meltdown. Those pass fairly quickly. 

I am also, like, a really busy person. Like the busiest person ever in the history of persons. I work about 50 hours a week, sometimes more depending on the week. And then I have house things to take care of like cooking, and cleaning, and the dog. Kevin helps with all of that, of course. I’m lucky, but there is still stuff that needs to be done. Today, for instance, I have to go to the grocery store. Already, the dog has been walked and bathed. Breakfast for the husband-unit has been cooked and assembled. Later, I will tackle the master bathroom, a bear of a room that I always put off as long as possible because it takes so damned long. The walk-in shower itself is the size of most walk-in closets. It’s a beast. My To Dos grow by the hour. I lie in bed at night before I finally drift off to sleep and my brain begins to build the list of all that needs to be accomplished the next day. I grab my phone, open the notes app and dutifully type out the items so as not to forget.

Most days, I’m lucky to cross off one or two items while not adding any. Most days, I cross off one or two items and add five more. It leads to me to say out loud, nearly every night that “the sheer amount of things I don’t get done in a day is astonishing.” 


Then there’s school. Because I don’t have enough to do, with work and house and husband and dog, I also decided that now was the right time, the perfect time, couldn’t be a better time, to go back to school. Last spring I applied and was accepted into a two-year MFA writing certificate program at Stanford University. I officially started in the fall, and am now knee deep in my second semester. I love it more than I can explain. Where I didn’t care much about school when I first went to college, right after high school, I care deeply now. It brings me such joy. It feels me with a sense of purpose. It also takes another 10 to 20 hours of time each week. If I could figure out how to make a living while just schooling, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Thus far, such a career alludes me.

Again, sigh. 

The point is not to complain. My life continues to motor along. Things are good. I have a wonderful husband, a nutty dog, a great kid, a beautiful house with a gorgeous view and a well-stocked wine room. My point is to say that because there is so much going on, sometimes things fall through those ever widening cracks in my previously described “very big brain.” Like registering the Range Rover. 

The registration for the Sport is due every January 31. I got a warning email in December and another in January. The car needed to be smogged and Kevin took it in on the 25th, where it passed without issue. The paperwork has been lying here on the counter since, right next to where I often can be found in the evening and where I am standing right now as I type this. It was to serve as a reminder to register the freakin’ truck. Here’s the problem. I didn’t put it on my list; nor was it on my calendar. I simply relied on my very big brain and my very big brain failed me.

This morning, I stood at the counter, saw the paperwork, and realized it’s February 3 and the truck hadn’t been registered yet. Which was stupid because I had the paperwork right here, ready to go. I cringed as I found the last reminder email, smooshed down in my inbox, and clicked the link taking me to the online registration page. I filled it out, and closed my eyes as I clicked “pay” because I figured I was going to get hit with a huge late fee. The price of stupid.

Turns out it was only $8.

Now if only the country can get out of our current stupidity with as small a fee. My very big brain is skeptical. But my stable genius part is sure of it. Bigly. 

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The great slipper rebellion. January 15, 2018

by Lorin Michel Monday, January 15, 2018 7:09 PM

We’ve been having odd weather. It’s been unseasonably warm here, as has most of the west. We’ve had very little winter and a pathetic amount of rainfall. It doesn’t get excruciatingly hot during the day, not like it does in the summertime, and the temps do drop at night. They just don’t drop that much. Last year, when we’d wake up to walk the dog, it was often around 28º. Most mornings this winter have been at least 50º. It makes it difficult to know what to wear.

In the summer, it’s easy. It’s going to be hot – that’s a given. Shorts and tee shirts are the wardrobe of choice. At night, nicer shorts and a v-neck shirt. Plus flip flops. But now, it can feel cool enough for sweatpants, but then it gets too warm and we need to change. Ditto the accompanying sweatshirt that often becomes a tee-shirt. Even at night, once the sun has tucked away and the temps have dropped a bit, we never know quite what to put on in order to remain comfortable. Kevin mostly opts for shorts. If it’s cool enough, he’ll put on a long-sleeve tee. But I’m usually not so sure. And I actually like winter clothes. I like to wear jeans and a sweater. I like to feel like we’re having a season.

Lately, after we shower at the end of the day, we’ve both been opting for shorts and long-sleeves. It’s cool ish. So then we’ll also put on slippers. We both have several pair. Kevin has some low-riders that he slips into and out of fairly easily. He also has a pair with fleece inside that come up over his ankles. I playfully refer to these as either his elf shoes or his Peter Pan shoes. I bought them, so I feel I can have fun. I have three pairs. One is also a low-rider slip-on that I just got for Christmas. I also have an Ugg-kind of slipper that comes up over my ankles and is heavily lined and thus very warm. The other ones also come up high, though they’re not quite as heavy inside. The above the ankle part is made of sweater material, and the bottom shoe part has paw prints. 

Here’s the thing, though. Sometimes those are too hot, too. Or sometimes, especially in my case, I choose the wrong slipper. I get warm; I kick them off. Kevin does the same.

Which leads us to this morning and the scene beneath the breakfast nook table.

Evidently last night – and we both have scant memory of this – as we sat at the table slurping our slow-cooker French onion soup and chomping on our Caesar salads, we both got a bit too warm, and the slippers slipped off. Evidently, also, I had done the same thing earlier in the day when I was sitting at the nook table, watching football while also attempting to do a bit of work.

This morning, there they were. Three pairs, haphazardly dropped, hiding under the stools and table. It looks like a convention, maybe a coffee klatch. A massacre of sorts. Definitely a rebellion. It was as if they were saying “we’re done. We won’t be used as pawns in your ridiculous daily wardrobe dilemma. If you want us, if you can respect us, you’ll find us here. If not, may your feet stay cold.” 


The great slipper rebellion. Dateline January 15, 2018. It was a thing. You can look it up.

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Chapter one. I am born.

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 31, 2017 6:09 PM

Charles Dickens, one of my favorite authors, begins his epic David Copperfield with those three words. The actual sentence that contains “I am born” begins like this: “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born …” It’s the second sentence of the book, and goes on to elaborate: “(as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.” 

To me, if someone is born at twelve o’clock, midnight, it could be attributed to the day before of the day after. 

I, too, record that I was born, but on a Saturday some years ago. I don’t recall any of the details, for obvious reasons, but I have been informed and believe it to be true that I made a fast appearance, that the small town doctor wasn’t quite ready for me, and that my father, all of 23 at the time, thought that both my mother and his new baby had died. I won’t go into the details but focus instead on the fact that I made a fast appearance and there was a small town doctor there to catch me. 

I was a big baby, 8 lbs 14 ounces. Almost unheard of in those way-back dark ages for a first baby but there I was. Fat, round, pink and bald. Funny how I seem to be returning to at least three of those things as I get older. I’ll leave it to the reader to decipher which one I’m not but it rhymes with ink. 

My life since I was born has been mostly good. There have been some bad times, some sad times, some happy times, many times filled with joy. There has been angst and turmoil, sturm und drang. I have struggled and I have persevered. I have loved and lost and loved even more. I have been up and I have been down. I have been successful and I have been a failure. My life has been filled with family who love me and who I love dearly, friends who make my life full. I have had a wonderful cat and three extraordinary dogs. One not so good husband and another who makes up for that first unfortunate choice every day. He’s my favorite husband ever. 

And I have a great kid who is healthy and happy, and working in his chosen field in Atlanta. He came home on Friday, his girlfriend in tow. They’re here through next Friday. Yesterday was my birthday and I often do my best to ignore it. Birthdays don’t seem to mean as much when you’re over 40. They seem to be just a reminder of the other side, the approach of a much different part of life, and then of the inevitable. I don’t think about it much. I still like to believe that I’m invincible.

To begin this next year at the end of this past one, I record that I am hopeful. On this night, the last of 2017, at twelve o’clock, we will celebrate. Then tomorrow, we start anew. You and me. All of us. 

The first line of David Copperfield, the line preceding the record of his birth, says: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

I’m in charge of my destiny. I get ample assists from those that I love and from those that love me. I don’t care if I turn out to be the hero of my own life. I just want to continue living it out loud.

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live out loud

Face time

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 16, 2017 7:05 PM

Every morning, we are greeted by the face. The being who belongs to the face seems to instinctively rise from his bed, coincidentally also in our room, as soon as he hears us stir. Evidently awake people make different noises and breathing sounds than sleeping people. That’s the only explanation we have been able to come up with. As we lie there, regardless of whether we’re on our sides, on our stomachs or our backs, we will hear the telling jangle of the tags, followed by the eerie sound of a hauntingly close yawn, a yawn that seemingly comes from the depths of a now-awake and ready to face the world soul.

But first comes face time. 

It starts with the gentle thud of a snout on Kevin’s side of the bed. Dad? You awake, dad? I know you’re awake, dad, because I heard the awake noises. Kevin dutifully rolls onto his side, toward the edge of his side of the bed, facing the window. There he finds a wet black nose, upturned, the snout extended, the ears back. The being who belongs to the face is too short to reach straight across onto the mattress. As Kevin’s hand snakes out from under the covers in order to rub the face, the tail begins to wag. After a few minutes, Kevin says “go see mom.” 

Then the face visits me, doing the same thing, only sometimes on my side, he also pushes his nose under the covers as if to hide. Mom? You under here? 

This is the ritual and it’s one we have come to cherish. It is our best version of face time, and if Apple or Google could make an app for this, I suspect it would be a huge success. Alas, the FaceTime on my Apple devices is somewhat different, not quite as visceral and sensorial. We use that app fairly regularly, especially when we speak to Justin and to Kevin’s brother Jeff and his wife, Chris. I have to admit that it’s nice to be able to see people as you speak to them. This technology, once the stuff of Star Trek, is most people’s reality, and it’s a good one. 

My sister and I still just talk on the phone though that’s largely because she’s often in the car when she calls me. Hard to FaceTime while driving. My mother would probably never FaceTime though it would be nice if I could get her to do it. It’s just nice to be able to see your loved ones. It makes you feel like you actually get to spend time with them, which is lovely when those loved ones are far away. The downside to FaceTime is that a) you have to be on video which isn’t always flattering especially if you haven’t yet showered; and b) it’s difficult to do anything else while FaceTime-ing. I understand that giving people undivided attention is a good thing. I also understand that being on the phone sometimes gives me time to fold the laundry, or start a new load; to chop veggies for dinner; to dust. I rarely just sit when I’m on the phone, not when there are other things I could be doing at the same time, other things that don’t require concentration.

Our morning face time routine is ideal for several reasons. The being who belongs to the face could care less about bed hair or morning breath or dark circles. The being is just happy to be alive and even happier that we’re awake. Simplicity at its best. There’s something to be said for that – something to celebrate.

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I do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 10, 2017 8:40 PM

No one really knows when marriage first began though like many things ancient, it likely started with the Egyptians. In fact, The Elephantine Papyri, a collection of documents from the 5th century BC found on the island of Elephantine on the River Nile, found three marriage certificates. In one, the groom was named Ananiah ben Azariah and the bride was called, simply, Tamut. In 2300 BC, the Sumerian culture also recorded marriage certificates.

In the beginning of wedded bliss, people joined together for a number of reasons, most of which had little to do with love. Marriages were often arranged, joining two families together rather than two people, usually for practical reasons. One family wanted something another had and vice versa. Marriages were of convenience and for continuing lineage. In some parts of the world, this still happens, though thankfully not as often in this particular part.

The first record of a marriage license being issued in this country occurred in 1639 in Massachusetts. There doesn’t seem to be a record of who actually got married or why, or why, in that particular year, a license was required. Perhaps it was just something the couple wanted, or maybe it was so that there would be a record of the merger when it came time to sell crops or barter for food.

In the Western world, marriage has evolved to include couples of the same sex. Contrary to popular rhetoric, these marriages have not led to a plethora of people marrying children or their pets though I know some pets who would make better companions than some chosen husbands or wives. Most people seem to understand that things change, societies evolve, people become more tolerant and worldly. Most people understand this. Some don’t.

In the United States, most people get married for love. I have said “I do” twice, though it turns out that the first time I actually didn’t. The second time, I definitely did and do. I was too young to get married the first time. I have come to believe that people shouldn’t get married until they’re in their 30s for several reasons the main one being that I don’t think we know who we truly are or what we really want until we’ve experienced more of life than college. We need to work and travel and form opinions that are based on our own beliefs rather than those of our parents. We need to become our own people. This happens, in my opinion, starting in our late 20s and into our early 30s. We bring more to a marriage when we have become more of ourselves.

This weekend, we traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. I’d never been. Curiously Kevin, who grew up in Illinois and whose brother and sister-in-law live in the state, hadn’t been there either unless you count driving through. It’s not a place we had ever thought about going. When we do go to that part of the country, it’s to visit Chicago, something we haven’t done in years and something we always do at this time of the year. We love Chicago in December. It’s bitter cold but walking the streets and especially Michigan Avenue is spectacular under a near-Christmas sky. We had to change planes in Chicago, at O’Hare, and I felt a curious tug to stay, check in at The Fairmont overlooking Lake Shore Drive, and spend the weekend. Alas, we boarded another flight, a small commuter jet that took us to Des Moines International. Once there, Justin, who had driven in from Atlanta to meet us, picked us up and deposited us at the downtown Marriott in time to shower, change, and head off to a rehearsal dinner. We had come to town for a wedding.

Kevin’s brother Jeff has three kids, all of whom are in their 30s. The oldest, Eric, is 36; the youngest, Ryan, is 31. And in the middle is Laura, who is 32. Eric and Ryan are both married, with children. Eric and his wife, Becky, have two kids; Ryan and his wife, Marissa, have a little boy. It was Laura’s turn to get married.

In downtown Des Moines, a surprisingly wonderful city, reminiscent of a small and cleaner Chicago, the streets are lined with trees wrapped in white lights. Black, metal boxes, flared at the tops and supported by black metal stands, are strategically placed along the sidewalks. Each sports a small pine tree adorned with red ribbons. Wreaths hang above building entrances. In the lobbies, Christmas trees tower and twinkle through the day and night. Christmas music plays everywhere.

The temperatures were chilly. On Saturday, it was 25 degrees. An enclosed skywalk connects much of downtown, shielding pedestrians from the harshest temperatures. We used it for a while yesterday morning as we explored a bit, finally finding the Temple for the Performing Arts where the wedding and reception was to be held. This is the cultural hub of the city, where shows are produced, music is heard, and events like weddings are held. It was a Masonic Temple in its previous incarnation. In xxxx it took on its current persona. It’s a remarkable facility, old, with copper-plate ceilings, and stone columns. In the recital hall, where the wedding was held, the windows are stained glass.

Last night, at 5 o’clock, the ceremony began. The groomsmen ushered in bridesmaids, the ring bearers - Hartley (2) and Oliver (1) - made it mostly down the aisle as Eric and Ryan, both groomsmen, coerced and coaxed their boys forward. Rainey, 6, was the flower girl. Then came Laura, on her dad’s arm, walking toward her groom, Nathan. Glowing and gorgeous, and crying, the release of the tension leading up to this moment. The pastor talked of their choice, of the idea of hiring each other, that their courtship had been a long job interview and that they have both landed in a new career. They would be co-CROs. Chief Reminder Officers, whose job would be to remind each other constantly of their commitment and their love.

I had not heard that before. I smiled at its truth. And as I listened to Laura and Nathan exchange vows, I thought of how interesting weddings are, how much better marriage is, can, and should be, and how “I do” is, can, and should be what life and a partnership is ultimately what matters.

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Lost Soles


by Lorin Michel Friday, December 1, 2017 6:14 PM

Most days, I awaken feeling that we’re royally screwed as a country. By the time, I go to bed, nothing has happened to change that feeling other than to sometimes intensify it. It’s an awful way to live but I know there are a lot of us that do. We wake up and immediately check the news feed to see what awful thing has happened while we had the audacity to try to sleep. We rage on Twitter (though not me – I don’t have a twitter account). We rant on Facebook. We exchange furious emails. More than screwed, we are feeling powerless, frightened, and desperate for something, anything that even sounds happy and good. 

Enter the Royals. That’s something I never thought I’d type or even say. I am not a Royals watcher. I don’t care much about the queen. I was not one of those people who got up in the middle of the night to watch when Diana and Charles got married. We did watch Diana’s funeral. That just seemed terribly tragic, given her age and how she died. It affected both Kevin and I much more than either of us expected. Maybe it was because she was my age and her companion was Kevin’s. 

Over the years, I would see the occasional headline about the young princes. I never read the stories. When William got married a few years ago, I saw the photos online. Everybody looked pretty. I was surprised at how much William looked like his mother, except for the hair. 

I have been mildly amused by some of Harry’s antics; some not so much. I liked his red hair. 

It was interesting then, to find myself actually following this week’s announcement of the young prince’s engagement. Yes, we have watched Suits on occasion; yes, we knew who Meghan Markle was, though I wouldn’t call us fans. But I have to admit to finding a perverse kind of pleasure in one of Diana’s sons marrying an American, and a bi-racial one from Los Angeles at that. It seems so modern. And they seem so much more interesting that William and Kate, who are attractive but utterly uninteresting with their 2.5 kids and overwhelming sense of duty. I admire that. I like that they’ve done things differently than the Royals of the past but I’ve never thought about them one way or another. 

But the engagement of Harry and Meghan makes me smile. I’ve found myself looking at photos and watching the video of their engagement. I even read a story or two. It makes me feel hopeful, somehow. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had that soft spot for Harry. He has always seemed less uptight, less formal. I love that he’s marrying a woman who’s older than he is, a divorcee, an actress. I love that they’re going to live in Nottingham Cottage, a two-bedroom house in Kensington Palace, where his mother lived. And I love that the Royals all seem genuinely happy about it all.

I’m under no delusion that if he was first in line for the throne, there would be hell to pay. But he’s not, so he’s free.

It makes me happy. Evidently I’m not the only one. Today, I was reading Andrew Sullivan’s weekly column in New York Magazine. He’s British, also married to an American, and has now become an American citizen, just as Meghan Markle will become a British citizen. After his usual tirade and Trump-disgusted prose, he wrote this about Harry: “…the looming marriage of Prince Harry to a biracial divorced American is actually important… In an unglued world, it is a form of fixative. Its complete reinvention through simple human lives actually deepens national stability and cohesion. In the era of Trump, it appears like a kind of constitutional miracle.”


Painting by DJ Rogers



live out loud

Sunrise in Templeton

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:47 PM

It is early this Sunday morning, three days after Thanksgiving 2017. The sky has brightened, drifting from dark to gray to a pale blue. Wispy clouds streak across in oranges, reds and purples. It’s amazing how much sunrise mirrors sunset. It’s softer though, more muted. Perhaps more promising. Maybe because it fades into sunshine as opposed to darkness. We’re leaving Templeton early. The clock on the dashboard of the Sport reads 6:32. We had set a time of departure for 6:30. We’re doing well.

As we drive across Santa Rita Road, towering oaks form a covered bridge above us. Fallen leaves have collected on either side. A deer walks through and bounds away as we approach. Yesterday Roy said he encountered a gaggle of wild turkeys, 50 or so, celebrating the fact that they made it another year without being someone’s dinner.

The house we always seem to stay in - this is our third time - isn’t far off the freeway but seems completely removed from m the world, nestled as it is among the trees. A creek is just below. A trickle of water exists now as there hasn’t been much rain. Across the creek, a hillside flows up. To the east are more trees and somewhere, the road. To the west, vineyards have been planted. In the gray light of this morning, under the canopy of oaks, the stakes and white conicals covering the new growth are barely visible, tiny ghosts in the sunrise. By summer, they’ll be spilling over with green leaves and green grape clusters. By next Thanksgiving, they’ll be covered in fall oranges, rusts and golds.

When we sit outside in the evenings, gatherings around the fire pit we can hear creatures scurrying. Somewhere there are squirrels and rabbits, raccoons and more deer. It’s far removed from any civilization which is why we love it. We know the vineyards are there, too. We dream of the wine to come.

As we drift across the narrow bridge and ease our way up to Vineyard where we’ll head east toward the freeway, the sky is already losing its color. Soon it will be, simply, blue. There are rolling banks of clouds in the distance. The weather app had said rain but I never saw any time when it was actually supposed to fall.

Another Thanksgiving weekend is ending. The journey toward Christmas begins. But first, we travel 750 miles toward home.

We’re leaving Templeton under a rising sun and a brightening sky. And thinking about how we lived it out loud.

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live out loud

Waiting sleep

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 23, 2017 8:51 AM

Every night, as the sun goes down and the light of the day fades to black, the two solar inverters in our garage begin to pulse red. They do it quietly and steadily. Then, as the last of the light disappears, the red light flashes faster, briefly. On the LCD display it reads “Waiting sun.” Then they power completely down until sunrise. For some reason, this ritual occurred to me as I awaited sleep to revisit me early this morning. 

Lately I have been suffering from a relatively benign case of insomnia. I go to bed and fall asleep, but wake up somewhere between 1 and 2, and then can’t seem to get back to sleep for at least an hour, sometimes more. It happens almost nightly. I’ve tried to stop doing any work or even looking at the computer at least an hour before I go to bed. I’ve tried eating earlier than our usual too-late dinners. It works sometimes, but most nights, I have some variation on sleep-wake-stay awake-eventually sleep again. It leads to serial exhaustion. 

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the same thing I’m thinking. My work load is too much. And I’ve been traveling for meetings. And did you have to go back to school? When I saw my doctor for a checkup recently, my blood pressure was a little higher than normal. She asked, innocently, if I have a lot of stress in my life. I suppressed a laugh, and said, maybe a little more than normal. 

The thing is I’m not quite sure how to alleviate any of it. I need the work to pay the bills. I need school because I love it, and I’m committed now for two years. The work travel will subside a bit but that will be supplanted in the near term with holiday stuff. We’re going to Paso Robles again for Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. We’re going to Des Moines the second weekend in December for a wedding, but we get to see Kevin’s family and Justin is coming. Then it’s full speed toward Christmas. Roy and Bobbi will be coming and we can’t wait. This year, we’re also having a New Year’s Eve party.

Plus there are gifts to buy and wrap, and in some cases, ship. There is decorating to be done. And school. Though school will be out on December 8 for about a month. But I will still have things to do during that month in order to stay caught up with my cohortmates, as the prof calls us. 

And so each night, the red lights blink in my head as I lay awake, alternating between too hot, too cold, and eventually just right. The figurative light flashes and flickers. Eventually, I can feel sleep begin to drape my body. That fuzzy, incoherent feeling that always delivers. The light flashes faster then, and just before I power down, the LCD screen behind my closed eyes displays “waiting sleep.”

Power down complete.

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live out loud

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