I heard the news today oh boy

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, October 4, 2016 10:59 PM

My first year of high school was spent in Columbia, Maryland. We moved there the summer of 1976 when the country was celebrating its bicentennial. It was odd to be so close to the nation's capital at that time – Columbia is only about 45 minutes or so from DC – and odder still that I don't remember going into Washington at all that summer. On television, there were parades and fireworks, live shots of ancient ships in harbors in New England. The country was 200 and shouting about it. I was 14 and miserable.

We lived in a very nondescript white house with black shutters. Directly across from us was a pale yellow house with black shutters. They had four kids, one of whom, Carol, was my age. Up the street was another girl my age, Pam. We became friends fairly quickly. All of us started high school at Wilde Lake, and on weekends and after school we'd hang out. Carol’s family had a camper parked in the driveway. We spent hours in there, just talking. 

My family was only in Columbia through 1977, moving away shortly after Elvis Presley died. This time we settled in New Hampshire. My dad’s job was in Boston, his office actually in one of the surrounding towns, and many people who worked in Massachusetts lived in New Hampshire because of the taxes. I didn’t know that at the time, and honestly don’t know if that’s one of the reasons my parents chose New Hampshire. I suspect my mother just liked it better; she still does. All I know is that I was miserable again. I hated having to move at 15. I had just started making good friends and now I was again in the situation of having to make friends again. I wonder now if it’s one of the reasons why I keep people at a distance. It takes me a long time to make friends. Subconsciously I suspect all of the moves, especially as a teenager, made me cautious. 

Gradually, I lost touch with everyone I knew in Columbia only to reconnect years later. I had made my life in the west, where I’ve been since 1984 having moved of my own volition this time. Then along came Facebook and I was able to re-establish friendships, albeit mostly of the virtual kind. I found Carol and through Carol, Pam and we all became “friends” once again. Then we decided to move and Carol told me that Pam lived in Tucson now. I still have the Facebook Private Message she sent me on February 23, 2010, after she had tracked me down through another Facebook friend’s page. When we moved here, I contacted Pam and over the last couple of years, we’ve met for happy hour four or five times. 

Two weeks ago, I had to cancel our planned cocktail because a huge project had landed on my desk. We rescheduled and were supposed to meet tonight, at 5:30. Kevin and I got up and walked the dog. It was cool, 51º, and for the first time this season, I wore a pair of sweat pants rather than sweat shorts. It made me almost giddy. We talked about what we had going on for the day, as we often do, a way of mentally preparing ourselves for the onslaught of emails, phone calls and projects. I mentioned that one of my emails was down and that I had to call GoDaddy when I got back to my office. Oh, I said, I’m also meeting Pam tonight at the Yard House. 

But when I got back to my office and fired up my computer, I found a Private Message on Facebook, once again from Carol: I don't know if you heard, but I thought you should know. Sadly our friend Pam passed away suddenly last Thursday from a heart attack. 

I sat back in my chair, astounded. Shocked. Not knowing how to feel or even how to react. I immediately sent a note to Carol. Can you call me? After 30 some years, I heard the voice of a friend I made back in 1976. We talked about Pam, about the shock. I just kept shaking my head; I could see Carol, by the tone of her voice, doing much the same. At the end of the conversation, we talked for just a few minutes about our lives, our kids, ourselves. And then we said goodbye, hoped to speak again soon. 

I’m left with a sadness. Pam and I weren’t close, but we were friends. And the shock of someone my age passing away so suddenly struck very close. It reminded me of the fragility of life, of the randomness, of the fleeting nature of our time. I often joke that no one gets out of this alive, but it’s said flippantly, tossed off, a flat stone across an invisible pond. Something I don’t think about.  

But I’m thinking about it today. And I’m sad. I’m grateful for having reconnected with Pam again, for having been able to share a glass of wine a couple of times. If I’ve learned anything today, in this life, it’s that every day is precious. It’s an opportunity, a possibility, and a responsibility to grab it, shake it, embrace it. And live it out loud.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

A theory on being social

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 13, 2016 7:37 PM

“Look at you being social!” That was the text I got from my sister a couple of weeks ago. She had asked me what we were doing for the weekend and we had plans to meet another couple for dinner on that Saturday night. A week later, we did it again, meeting some other friends. Then last weekend. And now this weekend. To which my sister can only text: “Again? Wow!” 

I am not a social creature by nature. I like my people-time limited, or at least I used to. I was perfectly content in California to have Roy and Bobbi come on Friday nights for Fritini. Sometimes Diane would join us; occasionally, when he was in town, Gene would, too. On rare occasions, we had another join us as well. We would sit on the patio, drink martinis and eventually uncork a bottle of wine and then another as we had dinner. Knowing that we had Fritini and knowing that Roy and Bobbi would be there nearly every Friday was all the social I needed. It became the punctuation at the end of the week. No matter what had transpired, good, bad or otherwise, Friday we could relax and talk and share and bitch and moan. We could all be together. 

Then we moved. And my people-time became nearly non-existent. I didn’t realize how much those Fridays truly meant until we didn’t have them anymore. I knew I would miss them; I just didn’t know how much. Suddenly, here we were, in a town that we love but where we didn’t know anyone. It became very important for me to find a way to meet people; to make friends. 

Diane always says you can’t make old friends and she’s absolutely right. It’s impossible to have new people in your life who know all of the history that the ones who have been around longest know. And still want to be in your life.

I do believe, though, that you can make new friends and begin a new journey. You still have the friends you’ve had forever; you still talk to them; still consider them family; the best friends. New friends are the new friends that might someday also become old friends.  

I realized after we’d been here a year or so that much like dating, making new friends has to be an organic experience. It just has to happen. It can’t be planned. It can only be a lovely surprise. Once I came to that realization, we started making more friends. We have new friends who are moving here from Chicago. I have several girlfriends that I meet for lunch or a glass of wine every once in a while, one I knew back in high school, another that I met when I took a pottery class, another who is in the dog rescue group that brought us Riley. We have become friends with the woman who was our real estate agent a long time ago. She and her husband are wonderful and we have so much fun with them. And we’ve become social with several of the couples who live here in our neighborhood. One of them is coming for dinner tonight.

So here’s my theory. When you have friends that you see regularly, you take that for granted. Because it’s easy and always fun. Because they’re there. And when they’re not, you realize how much having people to share an evening with, to share a meal with, a bottle or two of wine with, means. I think that’s why we’ve suddenly become social. Because people are better than no people. 

I’m enjoying our newfound social status, tremendously. I’m enjoying our new friends, and look forward to them becoming old friends. Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene remain our dearest friends, always, but I now know that, like jello, there is always room for more.

“Look at you being social again!” my sister tested yesterday. I am and we are. And we’re loving every minute of it.

Learning to exhale

by Lorin Michel Monday, August 8, 2016 10:01 PM

In the 1980s, Los Angeles was alive, vibrant. The music scene was the best it had been since the Whiskey a Go Go and Jim Morrison’s Doors took the city and the world by storm in the late 1960s. Some of the most famous restaurants in the world were serving customers at all hours, including Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s famous haunt up and behind Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard. The Marlboro Man billboard still stood stories high, also on Sunset; smoking was still allowed in restaurants and bars. 

Always a car culture, the freeways bulged and the beach overflowed. Surfers surfed, artists made art, the city was teeming with youth and energy. There was also a lot of crime, crack and dirty grit. Downtown was mostly a disaster, but the West Side, Beverly Hills, and the Strip were happening. The weather was great, the atmosphere welcoming. It was the coolest place in the country to live. This is the LA that I moved to in 1986. I always felt so cool telling people back east, people I went to school with, people I’d just run into in the grocery store when I visited, that I lived in LA. It was glamorous, even if I wasn’t. All the beautiful people people lived in LA. It made me beautiful by proximity. 

I lived in Los Angeles for 27 years, the longest I ever lived anywhere in my life. It was very good to me. I started my career there, I made my closest friends there, I met my husband there. There was where my own family was created. 

Somewhere along the way, the city lost some of its shine. I think it happened when I started to get older. Like I said, LA is a young-town, obsessed with youth. If you’re not young, you don’t have a lot to offer. If you don’t have a lot of money and you’re not young, you definitely don’t have a lot to offer. I wasn’t and I didn’t. It started to become harder. The traffic was so bad that we never went anywhere. It became almost suffocating. We had the ability and the means, and so we left. We’ve been less stressed ever since. We’ve been able to exhale. 

I spoke with my friend Diane today, about this concept of exhaling. She and Gene had a similar reaction to Los Angeles, also having been there in its glory days. The city sparkled and glistened. Gene was a musician; Diane worked in a recording studio. They were the definition of LA. But they, too, grew older, and the city stubbornly refused to grow with them. With us. They, too, left, moving to Oregon. 

The weight of the city has been lifted from us. Suddenly, we don’t have to compete to be the youngest and the hippest. Now, we’re free to simply be the ones with the best lives. We have homes with yards or in our case, land. We’re making friends. We’re working but we’re less stressed about it all; about life.

We’ve learned to breathe, to enjoy, to live it out loud. 

We’ve learned to exhale.

Scattering

by Lorin Michel Thursday, June 9, 2016 10:40 PM

Our lives here on the hill are somewhat reclusive which is not to say lonely. We work and have near constant interaction with others even if it’s only on the phone or via email. We do have constant interaction with each other and we’re just fine with that. We’re very simpatico, the husband-unit and I. Which is not to say that we don’t sometimes argue. We do. But that’s not the point. The point is that we live up here, far removed from those we love most, even from some of our new friends here in Tucson, and yet I rarely feel alone or even far away. 

Once upon a time when someone moved away, it was forever. Then, as the 20th century became more transportation oriented, moving away no longer meant people wouldn’t see each other again. It simply meant that they wouldn’t see each other as often. Kids began to go to college in other states; families moved because of jobs in other cities. We became separated, transient, and connected via telephone and letters. 

These days, in this time, we still stay connected via phone though not always as often. Mostly it’s via email and text. With the advent of video phones and now Apple’s Facetime, we can talk to each other, even see each other, share a glass of wine across the miles. It’s almost like being together.

When we decided to move, we never really thought that we’d be alone. We knew we’d miss our West coast family, our Roy and Bobbi, our Diane and Gene, our Maryann, and so many others but we weren’t chastened by it. When we actually did move, three years ago, we were more chastened especially as we had our farewell Fritini and then when Roy and Bobbi came the night we were packing, to help us, it became harder. The knowledge of what we were about to do became heavy, scary. We did it anyway. We scattered. 

Since our move, some of our other people have scattered, too. Maryann moved to Florida, to The Villages and she’s happy as she can be. Diane and Gene moved to Medford, Oregon and they are absolutely thrilled. We have other friends who either have moved or are thinking about moving. Roy and Bobbi would like to move out of LA; our friend Dave and his girlfriend are also going to move out of LA. They’re scattering, too. 

Even when you scatter, moving from place to place, state to state, away from friends and family, everyone remains near. They’re in our hearts and our minds, they’re within reach via phone or Facetime, email or text; even old-fashioned letters. It’s impossible to feel too far away even when you are. Even when I am.

I moved away from the East coast in 1984 when I was 22. I got into my 1979 Toyota Celica a week to the day after I graduated from college. I was ready. My mom went with me, softening the blow of leaving everything I had ever known behind. But I left my dad, my brother, my sister. Even my dog. I’ve written before about how, when my mother got on a plane, some three weeks to a month later, heading back to New England, I had never felt so alone in my life. I had scattered all by myself and I was alone in the wind. 

But I made friends, I grew as a person, I made new roots. I found Kevin and Justin and Maguire and Roy and Bobbi and Diane and Gene and everyone else who became so integral to our lives; to my life. So permanent. So real. 

Scattered doesn’t mean away, not anymore. Scattered is the new hi, how are you, what’s happening, let’s have a glass of wine. Facetime on Sunday? Perfect. Scattered is the new way to celebrate and I’m embracing it, always and every day, from up here on the hill.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

Musings on friendship

by Lorin Michel Saturday, December 5, 2015 8:36 PM

I don't make friends easily. I have always been a bit reserved, more so as I get older. I hold myself back probably because I'm more introverted than extroverted. Also because I'm a Capricorn. We goats are never overly demonstrative. The friends I have are friends I've had for decades.

This is not to say I'm not friendly. I am. I just don't allow too many people inside. Maybe I'm fearful that once they know the real me, they'll run, screaming.

Friendship is important, as important as family. In the right situations, friends ARE family, like when your family is too far away (as mine is) or when you simply don’t care for your family. As Carlos, played by Raul Julia, said so perfectly in Tequila Sunrise: “Friends are the only choice we make for ourselves.” 

For someone like me, it takes a long time to cultivate a friendship. I might be friendly with someone, may go out for coffee or meet for a drink, but to truly connect with someone and trust them enough for them to see the whole me, takes a long time. Sometimes years. I think it takes even longer as we get older because we build higher and thicker walls. I know I do. I think most do.

Making the decision to move was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done because it meant leaving behind our family of friends. They were our anchors in California. They made it all real. They were our go-to people, our Fritini buddies, our holiday cohorts. And yet leave them we did, journeying to a place where we knew virtually no one.

Those friends are still our anchors. I “talk” to Bobbi nearly every day; I actually talk to Diane once a week or so. Other friends and I connect when we can. In some ways, it seems as if we’re all still together until I look out the window – something that’s physically impossible NOT to do since the entire south side of the house is glass – and realize that we are quite alone. Building this house on the hill is a bit of a metaphor for that. The house is isolated, as are we.

Most days were OK with that. Kevin and I are, ultimately, each other’s best friend. We laugh and talk all the time and never get bored. We like being together and doing things together. Still, sometimes, it’s nice to have friends to get together with. Just every now and again. 

We’ve been working on making friends here. Our real estate agent Stephanie and her husband have become friends, though we haven’t seen them recently because of their son’s horrific accident. Perhaps after the first of the year.

I’m building a friendship with the woman who works with the golden retriever rescue, where we got Riley. She brought him to us and we just connected. I’m seeing her next Friday. We’re going to wrap packages for people at Barnes & Noble as part of the of dog rescue group.

We’re becoming friends with some neighbors, and we’re having them come up next week for wine and cheese and some holiday cheer; some laughter. 

And there’s Catherine. When we first moved here, I decided to take a pottery class. I’d been thinking about it for a long time and I thought it might be a fun way to meet people while having messy fun. Catherine was teaching the class. She wasn’t supposed to be; she was filling in for someone else. It was serendipitous. We hit it off right away and have been friends now for about a year and a half. She’s a production potter, and every year she has a Christmas open house where she invites her friends and colleagues to come, see what she has created over the year, and even to purchase if you’re so inclined. To laugh and nosh and enjoy. Last year was the first time I’d been. Kevin went with me today and it was a lot of fun.

Old friendships must be cherished and cultivated. New friendships can take some time to build but they are worth it. Spending time with people who bring me joy is what this life is all about, and it’s what I’m celebrating today.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

The conversation flows as easily as the wine

by Lorin Michel Thursday, October 1, 2015 8:58 PM

Roy and Bobbi are here visiting. They came in late yesterday afternoon, rolling up the hill just before 5 and in time for sunset. They haven’t been here since the end of April, just after we got Riley. We miss them so much, and even though Bobbi and I “chat” every day, including the weekends, we haven’t had the time to simply be. To talk, to share. Most importantly, to laugh.

I don’t know when we all got to be so close and ultimately it doesn’t matter. It’s been a long time, and it’s one of the great joys of my life. They are two of the best people I know, and always remind me of the importance of good friends. The importance of life.

Even though it had been months, we immediately settled into ourselves and our friendship. There is never a lack of things to talk about, or more importantly to laugh about. Kevin opened some wine as Roy and Bobbi sat on the steps, waiting for Riley to get used to them. We had warned them to ignore him, talk to him in just a regular tone of voice, don’t show any excitement and let him to come you. He’s an odd duck, our Riley Boo. I think his reticence when it comes to new people stems from his old people.

Soon enough, he was playing with his new toy and we were all just enjoying Wednesday.

We talked about everything. Roy’s art, the house, Bobbi’s teaching, Bobbi’s business, LA, Tucson, Kevin’s work, my books, Bobbi’s family, my family, Diane and Gene and their impending move.  The conversation moved effortlessly from one topic to another.

We went outside for sunset though didn’t stay long because we’re just finishing up monsoon 2015 – ending officially last night – and because we’ve had more rain than usual, we also have more irritating bugs than usual. Little gnat type bugs that don’t necessarily bite. They simply annoy. They swarm. And they take all of the enjoyment out of being outside. For that reason, and others, we’re ready for the heat and the summer to go away. It’s time.

Soon we were opening another bottle of wine and munching on some extra sharp cheddar. I made scalloped potatoes while Kevin and Roy went outside to put the ribs on the grill. Bobbi and I talked about art. After the potatoes were done and ready for the oven, we moved to the great room and eventually into the master bedroom where we only have one piece of art hanging, over the bed. It’s a whimsical piece, oil on canvas. There’s no frame. It’s one of my favorites, purchased at a swap meet in Ventura years ago.

We started talking about Kevin and I leaving LA and how it affected all of us, perhaps them most of all because they were the ones left. How it disrupted our lives, how it made them feel. How it made us feel.

Once upon a time and nearly every week, we celebrated Fritini. It was the punctuation at the end of the week, a way to sit and talk and drink and laugh. To share the week and to get over it. We don’t have that anymore, none of us, and while we have this gorgeous new home, we don’t have them. Not close by. We all feel the distance, the emptiness. Even though we easily became the four of us again. The band, back together.

We opened another bottle of wine. We had dinner. The conversation flowed as easily as the L’Aventure Optimus. It was as it always was and as it will always be. With good friends, good wine, good talk. A good night indeed.

Friendly persuasion

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, July 1, 2015 9:20 PM

Last week I met a fellow writer for a glass of wine. We had both recently penned articles for the same issue of Edible Baja Arizona, and since she was going to be in the area, she contacted me (via LinkedIn) to see if we could get together. She doesn’t really know anyone and thought it might be a good opportunity to network. Meet someone new. Maybe make a new friend. I agreed, with everything.

It’s very difficult to make new friends. Maybe not for everyone. I’ve never been particularly adroit at making friends, and I think it gets harder as you get older. It’s also harder when you aren’t around very many people very often. If I worked in an office environment, it might be easier. Then again, the people I met there might just be work friends. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Just sometimes it’s nice to have deeper friendships based more on shared interests and a true connection rather than just the fact that you both hate your boss.

Not long ago, my Aunt Barbara and her husband Corky moved from their longtime home in one part of Pennsylvania to another part of Pennsylvania: Gettysburg. They’re thinking of moving back because it’s been so difficult to make friends.

I wonder if it’s not so much that it’s difficult but that true friendship takes years to become true.

We’ve been in Tucson now for nearly two years and I’ve started making some friends. The woman who was our real estate agent has become a friend. She’s truly delightful and we share a similar outlook in life. Plus, wine. The woman who delivered Riley to us is someone else I’ve become friendly with. She and I clicked and went out for coffee a couple of weeks ago, after the disastrous PetSmart Meet ‘n Greet. She’s a professor at the University, has a PhD in research relating to speech. She’s fascinating and lovely.

I took a pottery class not long after we moved. It was something I’d always wanted to do. For the first five weeks, it was taught by a sub because the regular instructor had eye surgery. That “sub” and I ended up getting along famously and she, too, has become a friend. We get together every once in a while.

I enjoy all of these wonderful women. I hope I have the chance to get to know them better. I think we could be great friends.

But making new friends, as wonderful and adventurous as it is, also makes me appreciate my closest friends. Those I’ve had for years; those who I’d be lost without. Those who know me and love me anyway. Bobbi, Diane, Pam, Connie, my sister.

After meeting Suzanne the writer last week, I remarked to Bobbi how much it made me miss my real and true friends. It also made me ever more thankful for smartphones and email and ichat. Knowing that everyone is literally just a few clicks away is oddly comforting in this lack-of-personal-connection age.

Pam and I texted tonight. It’s been much too long since we spoke. We made a promise to have a phone date the week of July 13. As I wrote this blog, I got a text from my friend Catherine, my pottery teacher, and I’m going to see her next week.

I spoke tonight to the dog trainer who will be helping us with Riley. She was supposed to be here for a session but she got caught in traffic so we’ve rescheduled. We ended up having a great conversation on the phone, about wine, and California, and California wine. She was delightful. Who knows? Maybe she and I will end up being friends as well.

You never know where your friends will come from. You just know them when you meet them. It’s a rare and precious gift, one I thank dog for; one I’m celebrating this day and all days.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

With a little help from my friends

by Lorin Michel Monday, December 22, 2014 7:08 PM

Because I live so far away from my family, my friends have become my family as well. I am blessed to have a mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law, a niece and a nephew that I don’t just love, I actually like. There are a lot of people who can’t say that about their family. I am also blessed to have the friends that I have. I don’t have a lot, even my Facebook list is only 109. That’s partly because I haven’t taken the time to seek people out. It’s also partly the way I like it. I have the friends I want and need, and I’m good with that.

My friends have been there to celebrate and to cry with. We enjoy each other’s company regardless of what we’re doing, regardless of whether sometimes it’s just on the phone. We are there. We can call after not speaking to each other for months, sometimes longer, and no one is upset. Life is busy, we all get it. It’s not for lack of wanting; it’s for lack of time. Mmm, we get by.

In 1967, the Beatles released an album entitled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On it was a song written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, for and to be sung by Ringo Starr. The song is a conversation – “would you believe in a love at first sight?” “Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time.” – and was initially recorded with the title “Bad Finger Boogie” because John Lennon had to play the piano having hurt his index finger. The title was changed to “With a little help from my friends” and it was all about celebrating people, about having them with you, people who have your best interests at heart.

What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key

In 1969, singer Joe Cocker performed a more radical, slower version of the song that included an instrumental introduction. The venue was Woodstock and the performance is electrifying. Sexy and raw. I’ve seen it in the documentary on that infamous concert; I saw it again this morning when the BBC announced the death of the British rocker at 70, apparently from lung cancer.

I’ve long felt as if I knew Joe Cocker, though I never met him. Our good friend Gene was his lead guitarist for a long time. I believe he started in 1997. Each year for months at a time, the band would go to Europe with Joe, playing sold out venues everywhere from Australia to Russia. Diane, Gene’s significant other, would always travel to meet the band, in Amsterdam, in Paris. When Kevin and I heard the news this morning our thoughts immediately went to Gene, our friend.

Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

Joe Cocker had a very interesting way of performing, certainly when he was younger. The first time I saw him on television might have been when he performed “You are so beautiful” on Saturday Night Live in 1976. I was an unsophisticated teenager, all of 14 at the time. I thought there was something wrong with him, but at least I was smart enough to know great music when I heard it. His twitchy way of performing was as legendary as he was. It defined him almost as much as that deliciously scratchy voice.

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Yes I get high with a little help from my friends

I am sorry for the loss of such a legendary performer, even more sorry for those who knew and loved him for years. He got by with a little help from his friends. I’m lucky to do the same. We should all be so lucky.

Celebrating my friends tonight and always, and Joe Cocker.

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A simpler life

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, December 10, 2014 8:55 PM

It occurs to me that my life is a swirling mass of crazy. Work continues to build to levels where I wonder how I'll ever get it done. I only wonder briefly because I learned a long time ago that it always does. The house now requires near constant attention, a child that is just beginning to walk and thus might fall if left to its own devices. I am not complaining; it's just that this finishing process is all consuming, another full time job in an already packed day and week. Into the mix, here comes Christmas with gift buying and giving, boxes to be packed and shipped, company to ready for.

It occurs to me that most of the people I associate with have similar lives. Too much to do. My husband calls it ten pounds of kitty litter in a five pound bag.

I wonder how to get to a simpler life, one where it is not a swirling mass of crazy every day, every week, every month. I wonder if I would be happy. I thought about this last night after I had spoken to my mother. She was telling me how she hasn't yet put up her tree because she is constantly on the road, driving between three houses. Gregg's in Greenfield where their office is, his new house in South Berwick, Maine, and her own. She does not have a simple life but why do I think that it is more simple than my own? 

I talk to my brother. He lives alone in a house he rents. He's been there for two years and has not yet had cable or satellite installed. He works hard, well into the evening. Why do I assume that his life is simpler when it's not?

My sister has two children who are a full-time job. She spends most of her days taking first one then the other to school, to their particular extracurricular activity, then picking them up and returning home where two dogs await as well as a husband. There is dinner to fix, the house to keep in order. Do I really believe that she has a simpler life?

It occurs to me that I'm not sure what a simpler life is. I've always assumed that it meant less to do and that's part of it. But I also think it has to do with reaching a level of contentment. I am not content. Oh, I'm content in my marriage, and my work. But content can imply settling and I don't feel that I've settled in any aspect of my life. I have chosen instead. 

Content seems complacent. And yet there is something soothing and familiar about being content. Like coming home, like crawling into your own bed. I am forever wanting more. I dream of things I still want to do, journeys I still wish to take, milestones I want to achieve. When I do, will I be content? Will I find my simpler life?

It occurs to me that maybe there is no such thing. There is simply life, the one we lead, the one we once led, the one that is yet to be discovered. Perhaps the simpler life is simply living as I choose, doing what makes me happy, being around those who fill me with joy. 

I suspect my mother feels the same, that my brother for all of his malcontent likes his life, that my sister wouldn't change anything, not really. My friends would continue in their hectic lives because they lead those lives largely by choice. I do, too. We all do.

A simpler life is all around us. It's what we choose to do with it, how we interact with one another, how much we laugh.

I'm writing this post in an airplane as I travel to Los Angeles for a meeting. It was not simple getting to the airport, nor being shoehorned into the ever shrinking seats, crammed in with total strangers. But as I look out the window, glancing out at the incredible terrain that is my country, I am filled with a sense of peace. Perhaps it's the white noise of the engines. I think instead it's an appreciation, for my health, my family and friends, my husband; my life. This is a simpler life because it is mine, and I am overcome with the realization of it. It is something I must remember to embrace and celebrate always.

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friendly celebrations | live out loud | relative celebrations

In which Kevin and Lorin and Cooper embark on a road trip

by Lorin Michel Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:39 PM

It is Thanksgiving morning, early. The sky is still mostly dark as I begin this post; the air still cold. The car is loaded. We are ready. We are pointed west.

On a holiday morning, it is always amazing how quiet it is. There is no traffic, no people scurrying to wherever they need to be because right now at this moment, they don't need to be anywhere. There is only the occasional car. We can't see the people inside, just the sleepy headlights.

On the freeway, trucks roar past. Just as there are few cars when it's early, there is always an abundance of trucks. There are always trucks of course. It's still one of the main ways we move everything in this country from food to automobiles. But on this early Thanksgiving morning, they are thick and all traveling with us.

Cooper is situated on the back seat. We have covered the seat with blankets and his rug. He has armless chip with him for the ride. Kevin crafted an extension to the center console so that it fills the gap between his seat and the front of the car. It's his bridge to us and while he doesn't ever cross it, it seems to give him comfort. Even though he's behind us, he is with us. Not separated.

Cooper is very good in the car. He curls up on the seat. Sometimes he sleeps; sometimes his head is up. He positions himself so he can look through the windshield. Once in a while he'll sit up, stretch his back as he reaches for the roof. Then he repositions and lies back down.

Kevin is driving. I am riding shotgun. Whenever we take a road trip it is like this. He drives going; I drive returning. He's in khaki shorts and a long sleeve green tee; sneakers. I'm in faded jeans, soft after years of wear, a white short sleeve tee and a long sleeve denim shirt over. I too am wearing sneakers. Cooper is in his traditional reddish blonde fur and Aztec collar.

The sun has come out and the air is warming. There are no clouds. The temperature is heading into the high 70s. I've pulled my Maui Jims out of their case. Kevin's are still sitting in the center console. He's resisting the temptation because his sunglasses aren't prescription. He doesn't see as well. But the freeway stretching ahead is going west and forever until it hits the Pacific. Once we get there, we'll turn and head north to Paso Robles where our friends will be waiting, where we'll prepare our potluck Thanksgiving dinner, warming the turkey and the stuffing, the twice-baked potatoes. We'll make rolls and prepare the fruit, ready the veggie. We'll open the wine - Oh, who am I kidding? That's the first thing we'll do. Then we'll cook. We'll eat. We'll raise a glass to give thanks and celebrate another year older, another year still healthy. We'll live it out loud in the most festive way possible, together.   

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friendly celebrations | live out loud

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