Sunlight Shining Through Cloud

And In With The New

Posted on: December 31, 2012

No year exists by itself. My 2012 began sixty years ago and built up to now. About the same for you? Sure.

North Carolina was a perfectly lovely place. But with apologies to my friends there, it just wasn’t home. When it became possible for me to exit, I did. And by the time I did, my network of personal and business relationships had been considerably weakened back in Minneapolis. So I wound up in North Dakota: a strange place to me, populated with people whose dominant culture was different than I had yet to face. This would take some getting used to.

When I was younger, a situation like this would have been an adventure and my approach would have been with energy and excitement. Not so this time. I was broke, broken and depressed. I wanted to find work, and spend the rest of my day alone. I did nothing to integrate myself with the people here.

I had last seen Bruce when he was just four. Now he’s six-foot-three, married to Liza and has a bunch of great children. They took me into their home without condition, fed me and made me part of their family. I had the shirt on my back, a paid-for car and, within a couple of weeks, a job. Things were trending positive. Still, I resisted.

There was a decision to make: would I spend my life wallowing in self-pity, wanting what I couldn’t have, or would I find myself and find a way to thrive and grow in this new place? Things got worse in my head before they got better.

I didn’t make the big decision; I made a little one. I decided to buy new carpet, and after several weekends of looking, I found it and brought it home. Before laying it down, I thought, “Well, it would be best if I painted the walls first. So I prepared the walls, thought about colors, and painted the room: sunshine yellow for the part of the day I’d be active; sky blue for the part of the day I’d be asleep. Face one way and it’s daytime. Face the other way and it’s night – all in one 8 x 12 room. “Genius,” I thought. And then I put down the underlayment and carpeting.

Thusly proud, I thought about maximizing the space. The twin bed I’d purchased took up so much floor space and made the room so small. I decided to elevate the bed, and not to common bunkbed height, but high enough that I could stand and walk comfortably beneath it. The ceiling is 12 feet high, so the mattress surface would be at 8 feet. I designed and built the structure beneath the mattress with one 4″x4″ post occupying floor space and the rest of the structure secured to the wall studs. I stained the wood my favorite shade of oak. No standard bunk ladder reaches that high, so I built my own. It’s perfect, and the elevated bed is perfect. It doesn’t squeak or creak and I feel perfectly comfortable and safe sleeping up there. “Genius,” I thought.

I spent a few weekends looking for just the right kind of lighting for both the ceiling and under the bed, and I am using daylight CFL bulbs to reduce eye strain. I found an oak wardrobe kit with hanging and shelf space. Costco had a pair of 2’x4′ maps: one of the world and one of the U.S.  They are mounted side-by-side on one of the yellow walls both as a reference and as a reminder that I live in a larger world than my little room represents. There’s a corkboard on which I tack the artwork the kids draw for me. “Genius,” I thought.

My computer, monitor and printer all sat atop their respective boxes along one of the day walls. That would no longer do. I designed and built a 6 foot long, two-tier shelf on which these components are now arranged. And there’s plenty of space left to use for other things. My next projects are a shallow 4-foot-wide dresser (oak, of course), and a reclining swivel glider-rocker with an ottoman, all made of oak and with supportive and comfy cushions. And I will build these things, too. Then this room will be complete.

So, what, exactly, is the genius of what’s been done here? Well, I stretched myself. Building stuff like this is not something I’ve ever done before; it’s not in my skillset. I had to research the proper angle of the ladder, for example; and the distance the steps should be apart, and how to notch the steps into the sides for added weight-bearing. I had to calculate the exact dimensions of the two-tiered shelf to fit into the space available. In other words, I had to challenge myself to do something new. I had to stretch beyond my usual mindset and abilities.

There’s another aspect to my genius, though. Without thinking about it, I was investing myself into my living space – thereby creating a place that I wanted to be; creating a home of my own.

If there are any IQ digits for me to think with, I take no credit. I didn’t give them to me. I’ll take credit only for using what I have as, I believe, the Giver would have it.

I have long thought that I’d regret turning 60. What actually happened was a surprise: I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. For all of my life, I’ve been striving: trying to achieve this; trying to earn that; working for tomorrow. On my birthday, it occurred to me that I no longer cared as much about tomorrow. Today provides sufficient challenges. I’m not living today as if it’ll be my last; I’m just living it to the best of my ability. And I’m not reaching beyond what’s available to me today. Understanding this, I felt relief.

I’ve also made an effort to become more of a joiner. I accept invitations now, and I make some, too. I go places and do things that don’t fit my usual patterns. And whereas I used to do these things with low-level dread, it usually turns out just fine. Enjoyable, even. I’m allowing roots to go down; friendships to form.

Okay. That’s the ethereal stuff. Here’s the other stuff.

I wrote about the much-anticipated thrill of Mike Oldfield’s live contribution to the London Olympics Opening Ceremony. I could not have anticipated that an equal thrill awaited within the closing ceremony of the London Paralympics.

Coldplay, my second-favorite musicians (after Oldfield) were invited to play a set at the big stadium. I thought, “Well that’s terrific; all the pomp and circumstance will get done and then Coldplay will entertain everyone with a big concert.” Wrong. What actually happened is that Coldplay came on and did a few of their big hits. These served as background for physically-challenged performers to do amazing things. It was all quite wonderful to watch.

In an ordinary concert, Coldplay does a song called, “God Put A Smile Upon Your Face.” While the title seems benign, the song rocks! It may be among the hardest songs for a drummer to play. When “God Put A Smile…” came up during the Paralympics set, there were two drummers on stage: Will Champion, Coldplay’s drummer, and Mat Fraser, born a thalidomide baby without arms. Well, Mat grew up to become a man, a writer, an actor and a drummer who performed in the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. Coldplay frontman Chris Martin was amazed by Mat’s work. So he invited him to play the toughest song in their repertoire: “God Put A Smile …”. Stunning! Fraser played the song beat-for-beat as aggressively as Champion, and he smiled throughout. It wasn’t a smile that said, “Hey, look at me; I’m playing with Coldplay.” It was a smile that said, “I’m good enough to play with Coldplay.” He was. And the 7.7 million people watching him will never forget it.

That was a Sunday. The next day, it was back to work. Everything I do depends on my car. It’s just a Dodge Neon that wasn’t built for punishment. Yet, I commute to work and back 100 miles each day. And I run that number of miles daily, on average, out in the boonies with dirt-, gravel- and scoria-covered roads. I arrived here in February with 70,000 miles on the odometer. We’re now just shy of 120,000. The car gets serviced regularly, and new tires were put on in October. My confidence in the car has been growing of late; it just keeps doing a good job for me.

We face a greater hazard here than most other places. With all the construction and trucks moving dirt and rock, some of it lands on the roads. Or, worse, gets kicked up into your windshield. You can’t call yourself a Montanan or North Dakotan if your windshield hasn’t been assaulted by rocks. I’ve been fortunate so far; only six dings in the glass. I get them fixed immediately and they haven’t spidered into long cracks. It’s only a matter of time, though, and I’ll have to replace the whole thing. It’s the cost of doing business.

This next story says my bad. It’s your good if you learn from my experience. With my kind of work, it’s best to have all of my computer files with me on a flash drive – available whenever and wherever I might be. I think of this small device also as a backup. My flash drive has reliably done the job since February. Then, one day, it didn’t. I stuck it in the office PC, and the PC didn’t “recognize” it. I called our IT guy who tried a few things to no avail. We stuck it into a few other computers. No recognition. My skin was becoming clammy.

The IT guy found a company near Denver that does crash recovery, talked with them by phone, and then recommended it to me. I hotfooted it to FedEx for next day air ($36). It was received and preliminarily tested on Tuesday. Failure. ($220). They offered to run my flash drive through their whiz-bang high-end machine for another $500. It was a no-brainer … I needed those files. It was Wednesday. The next day, I got an e-mail that said the process had been successful. And on Friday, they sent me a link from which I could download my files (which took all morning to do).

Meanwhile, I tried to find a way to back up my backup in the cloud. And I researched and bought a 64G USB 3.0 tank of a flash drive; dust, shock and waterproof to 20 meters. It’s a Corsair Survivor. I’m still trying to find a way to sync it to the cloud. If you have any suggestions …

The total price for my (duh!) lesson was $820, plus lost time working without my files. It’ll drive a man to drink.

I’ve written before of my fondness for things flavored with lime. I have discovered BudLight Lime-a-Rita’s. It doesn’t taste like BudLight with a squirt of lime. It does taste exactly like a top-shelf Margarita and it packs an 8% wallop to boot. They come in a 12-pack of little 8 ounce cans and man, these things are good!

The new year brings a few changes, all of which will be broadcast to my mailing list. I have a new cell phone number, a website (www.fredmarx.com) to host this blog, and a new e-mail address.

One more story from 2012 before heading toward the New Year’s Eve confetti. On Saturday, November 13, we had our first snowstorm. It rained the night before, then froze, then snowed. I spent the better part of Sunday shoveling the driveway; something I actually enjoy doing.

I figured the plows would have had plenty of time to do their thing on the major roadways by Monday morning, but I was wrong. They’d taken only one pass and the major road heading north from Sidney was mostly snow-packed.

I headed out at 6am, as usual. It was dark and the road was snarky, so the 65mph speed limit was ignored in favor of a safer 40mph. There was, thankfully, very little traffic. About 5 miles north of town, there was just one oncoming car a quarter mile away, and another a mile behind that.

Then, one of my drive wheels must have found a patch of dry roadway – and I started spinning. Fast. It had to be at least three clockwise rotations; I couldn’t count. There wasn’t time for my heart to jump to my throat. There was only time to reflexively turn into the spin. The first car miraculously passed me without contact.

I came to a stop facing north in the southbound lane. The second car couldn’t have stopped if it tried. My car was stalled. I tried three times to restart it. It cranked but didn’t catch. I turned off the headlights and radio and tried again. It caught, I turned on the headlights, put the car into gear and slowly crawled back into the northbound lane – getting there just as the second car went past.

I continued on to the office kind of surprised by how calm I was.

Later in the day, I sat down and purposefully thought about it. I started spinning. I turned into the spin fully expecting a collision but not having one, and I didn’t land in a ditch. I then realized that I had said two words right about then: “Holy GOD!”

For all the spinning I’ve lived through this year, at least my head is still screwed on tight.

2 Responses to "And In With The New"

Happy New Year. You have had a very interesting year. Since you asked, you may want to try Carbonite as a back up tool. http://www.carbonite.com/en/v2/online-backup, the company even has a free trial.

Of all the big names, Carbonite is the biggest and probably the best. But they can’t back up to/from a flash drive. I think I’m going have to come up with a scenario where I’m syncing with a folder on my office and home PC’s, and let Carbonite sync with the folders. Wow … headache inducing, ain’t it?

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