The hour is late and my eyes are burning with lack of sleep.
Christmas is here.
Mr. Gray-glo is not ready emotionally for its arrival.
The house is cleaned and decorated. A beautiful tree stands tall in the living room decorated with over 30 years of memories. Gifts are now arranged beneath and about it wrapped in multiple patterned papers.
The nativity now has baby Jesus placed in his manger.
And I realize that within my own manger I have not set a place for him.
Each year we do similar things getting ready for today, for Christmas Day.
I have come to accept that when it comes to the deeper spiritual relationship, deeper meaning of Christmas Day, deeper connection to it as the celebration of the birth of The Christ…I am outside looking in and on without the awe and more importantly the faith.
There is a tension here this year that I feel. Some I have created and some I have responded to, and the rest just seems to find me and us.
And yet, no matter what lack of spirit and lack of faith I have, Christmas Day is here.
Some years you must just go through the motions and maybe be rewarded by a blessing of some spirit, some faith, some measure of meaning.
This is one such year.
So, to each of you, my hope for you is that you need not be outside looking into a manger but are indeed present with the manger inside you.
But for you who are like me this year and from year to year: fear not missing out, go out and at least window shop the nativity like many citizens did when first hearing of the birth but not knowing why or believing why this birth was anything different.
We need not be visited by Dicksonian spirits to keep Christmas in our hearts. But maybe a little whisper in the ear of encouragement will suffice.
That’s my own name for what happened and is still happening with Mr. Gray-glo and his blog or more accurately lack of blog.
My one reader has noticed and mentioned a lack of posting in his Christmas email greeting.
And as I sat here facing this screen and hands at the ready poised over the keys…nothing happened. Nothing physically did. No typing.
My mind was flooded with thoughts and ideas and the emotions that follow. Inside was turmoil that maybe a more seasoned and talented writer could have handled and rode instead of letting the emotions ride him.
So the fingers didn’t tap and the screen stayed blank. Mr. Gray-glo logged off the site and logged off…
I did respond to email debates on politics. But it was specific to the question or challenge posed and these mini-email debates may have been fodder for a post if they too did not get tangled inside with all the others screaming for attention and posts.
My mom’s health and triple by-pass was powerful but was trumped by the health of our republic and body politic.
Both important and both lost out as I fought how to not ignore one at the expense of the other.
And the inter-personal and relationship with those you love and those who love you and the problems that come when they are under stresses. Those weigh heavy on both mind and heart.
Mr. Gray-glo can mess up his own life on his own just as well as he can create his own good fortune. The intricate connections with friends and family and love and something akin to love’s absence makes messing and good fortune both in the mix inside my brain; confusion and clarity merge…
And the screen stays blank as the keyboard fall quiet from lack of finger taps.
Like those people who fall behind with their bill payments and then become frozen in inaction as they fall further and further behind, I felt the pressure of falling behind in my writing and posting.
I would look back and see the last post from August 11 grow more distant in my mind’s rear-view mirror.
The moment of clarity came when the bill for renewing my site came.
Why am I paying for this site where no one writes and not many even read?
But I did renew.
So, now the empty screen awaits another year.
Stage Fright lurks ever so close and whispers all my failings to me.
The problems still exist: politics, elections, mom’s health, my relationship with friends and love.
The problem of not sorting it out and making myself type is still there, too.
Stage Fright you are a formidable foe.
But I have beat you before and will again.
This post is testament to it.
Wow. This blogger is surprised.
I thought Rob Portman, U.S. Senator from OH-IO was the frontrunner in the so-called veep sweepstakes. Of course some homerism was in play along with Senator Portman’s solid credentials. But we would have lost him in the senate even though Governor Kasich would have picked a solid replacement.
On the competency scale, Rep. Paul Ryan is another solid addition to Mitt Romney’s sheer business acumen and over-all competence.
Just on competence alone does Romney-Ryan beat Obama-Biden. Can you seriously look at that other side and think “they really know what they are doing”?
When it comes to competency, Romney-Ryan is the USA Basketball team and Obama-Biden are the Nigerian basketball team at the London Olympics.
Of course, the actual election will be a lot closer than that final score.
How about a little taste of what Ryan brings to Team Romney:
Watch Obama’s face as he knows he is being taken to task by Ryan and is losing on the merits.
If this is what Ryan will bring to this campaign the polls will tighten.
Our wilderness voyage down the lower Yough was successful–The Gray-glos survived.
Its been since the late seventies that I shot the rapids in a raft and had my doubts that this 51 year old could repeat the adventures he had as an 17 or 18 year old.
Mrs. Gray-glo mentioned in passing some six years ago that she wanted to raft through white water rapids. This guy thought it was just a passing thought that would go away. Boy was I wrong.
When are you right? –The Voice
We booked our trip for Saturday morning at nine and spent the weekend in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Because it was Mrs. G’s first time (and my first time in three decades) we decided to pay extra for an in raft guide. It was money well spent.
Tara was our on board river guide. She’s an athletic early 20s college student working her summers on the river. Her majors? Political Science and Journalism. Mr. Gray-glo was beside himself. We would have over three hours in a raft and think of the conversations we could have about politics. Not debate ideas, but discussing the art, craft, and science of it.
One shot of Mrs. G’s eyes nixed that thought. And I could tell Tara was all guide business. There would be no political soundtrack on this trip.
You were spared showcasing your ignorance–The Voice
The Lower Yough has class 3 and a couple of class 4 rapids.
Because of this year’s drought, the river is lower and not as rough as I remembered. But it is challenging enough for first-timers and those like this keyboard rafter who haven’t shot them in decades.
Wilderness Voyageurs were who we booked our trip through. They were a professional bunch and I would use them again.
At the launch area after we were fitted with our yellow helmets and red life-jackets, George filled us in about the protocols and hand signals the guides will use on the river to direct us around the more challenging rapids.
We heard every bad joke delivered rather well by him and the other guides.
Then we carried our raft down the launch path to the river. Most rafts had four, five, or six people and carrying was easier for them. Our raft had only us. These are heavy duty rafts and you feel their heavy-duty-ness when carried.
Soon, we were on our way. Tara being the guide was also our raft’s captain and steerer. She gave us directions like paddle forward, rest, and paddle backwards. The backwards paddle was a mystery never solved by the lovely missus. The other command was to paddle hard. This is very important when crashing through hydraulic rapids.
Hydraulics are standing tsunami-like waves of three to four feet height. They are like waves you see breaking onto the shore except they stay in one place like a wall of water topped by white caps. And you must plow through them hard or else they plow you back and out of the raft. Class 4s have hydraulics as standard equipment.
I am happy to report that we never were dumped or fell out of our raft into the river.
We did witness others flung overboard into the water as they crashed into boulders and waves. A few rafts capsized dumping all passengers. And, yes, we laughed at them.
Somehow during our trip we picked up few oars without paddlers attached. Tara assured us that all rafters were accounted for and they usually take extras because sometimes folks let go of them and need a replacement.
The rapids have names, cute names like Dimple and Charlie’s Washer. If it has a name it is more difficult.
Dimple rapids has a huge boulder that the river crashes into carving what is known as an undercut into it below the water-line. This makes it very dangerous because you can get caught in the undercut unable to free yourself from the pressure of the current.
Dimple has a portage for those who would rather walk around instead of rafting around it.
This was one of rapids that the guides actually set up with a guide holding a rescue rope to save those who were dumped.
None on this tour needed the help.
Tara captained the Gray-glos through it expertly. We crashed through the hydraulics and veered away from Dimple without Dimple doing its worse to us.
Crashing through a wall of water is great fun. You scream and laugh as the wave lifts and eats the front of the raft cascading white foamed water into your face and torso as you plunge the oar into it. Mrs. G was tossed back onto the floor by the wave-wall but bounced up and returned to her perch.
There are calm areas of the river where if one wants to they can swim. I took advantage and plunged into it only to find it more colder than at first imagined. It was refreshing because of how hot and sunny the day was. There is no shade on the river. But after a few minutes in the water, I wanted out and back into the raft.
Not an easy thing to do. You are wet and heavy and raft is wet and slippery and you have no leverage to haul your ass back. Tara grabbed the shoulders of the vest and heaved me up and in.
Soon, the sun warmed me and within a few minutes it was as if I never was in the cold river at all.
My clothes didn’t dry but my arms and legs were no longer wet.
And I wasn’t cold.
They served us lunch on the bank where the river is calm and eddies keep the rafts from drifting.
After one difficult rapid where many others were dumped over into the water, Tara left us to rescue the other accidental swimmers.
We were left on our own to navigate some tricky white water. That was when I learned that Mrs. G didn’t understand the concepts of forward versus backward paddling. And it took this guy a few attempts as being the rudder oarsman to steer us correctly. We spun in circles a few times and went sideways and backwards through a few waves. But we emerged in our raft and not in the river.
Another thing we didn’t do was get caught or stuck on the rocks.
Other rafts would slide onto a rock and stop there stuck. The poor souls there had to all move to the farthest part of the raft away from the stuck end and bounce up and down hoping to raise the other end up off the rock and to freedom while not bouncing themselves off into the drink. Some were successful and some were overboard. All were great entertainment to us in our raft.
After some three and a half hours our river trip ended.
We were tired.
But there was on last piece of business to do–carry the raft up a steep incline to the waiting transports.
Again, we were wet and tired and our shoes slippery. And it was just us three, Tara, Mrs. G, and me to carry this raft up.
This was the only time on this trip that I thought Mr. Gray-Glo would not survive. By the time we made it up the incline to the area where the rafts are stacked to be loaded onto–get this–old school buses turned into flatbeds; Mr. G was out of breath and his heart pounding a WTF bongo beat.
Then came the scariest 20 minutes of this trip. A bus ride in an old school bus not worthy for safely transporting children anymore but able to transport us on mountain roads back to Ohiopyle. The clutch burned foul as the bus went down steep grades and squealed as it rounded curves.
Give me hydraulic wave walls and Dimpled undercut boulders anytime on the river.
Now, Mrs. G has the white water bug and thinks this was tamer than she expected. She wants to shoot the Upper Yough next because it is class 4 and 5 rapids without as much calm between.
Can’t be any worse than the bus ride back.
Tonight we find ourselves in the home of the West Virginia Mountaineers, Morgantown.
What has us here is a tale six years old.
During our 25th anniversary we were visiting relatives in Uniontown, Pennsylvania when I decided to take Mrs. Gray-glo up the mountain to Ohiopyle. Many years ago (ok decades) my friends and I would camp there and then raft the rapids. Well, the missus said she’d love to do that. Yeah, right!
I really thought that was some kind of joke or just a passing fancy that would eventually move on. After all, I am in my peak cardiac arrest years.
A few weeks ago we were back in Uniontown visiting relatives when I ran into some guy wearing a “Browns” t-shirt. With this being Stiller Country, Mr. Gray-glo just had to bark “Go Browns” to him.
He was from Norwalk and said they were here shooting the rapids in Ohiopyle.
Mrs. G happened to overhear us barking fools and mentioned that we still haven’t gone rafting the rapids as I promised her years ago.
As a husband, Mr. Gray-glo isn’t best at being a promise keeper.
Since I had some vacation time coming–okay a lot of vacation time–I created a long four day weekend and told Mrs. G that if she was serious about
killing me white water rafting this was the weekend to do it. She called my bluff and booked us with Wilderness Voyagers to raft the Youghiogheny river.
If memory of the fun had by me and my buds is correct–she has no idea of what she is in for.
She said it is one of her ‘bucket list’ items and that she loves exciting rides like roller-coasters.
This is nothing like a coaster.
And it may prove to be Mr. Gray-glo’s kick the bucket moment (which may be one other item on her list).
The day before Independence day we were hit with a thunderstorm that canceled fireworks. The deluge also killed power to our detached garage.
Now, the fuse to the garage was blowing last year during heavy downpours and quick snow melts. This reluctant handy-man (handy with a remote–The Voice) thought he fixed it last November.
In 2000 the old garage was demolished and replaced with a new one that had a larger footprint. This caused the contractors (two real handymen) to change the underground conduit run by cutting it short and installing an underground junction box. Inside the box they wire nutted the original wires to the new ones going into the garage.
All was fine until the day one of us working in the garden cracked it with a spade. So, when it rained the box got wet inside and shorted the wires. Blown fuse.
It was after digging up the box that I found the cover cracked and water in it.
Replaced box with new one and this time not only did I tape the wire nutted wires but I also coated them liberally with silicon. Then after closing the box up, I wrapped electrical tape around it and sealed it with more silicon. You’re probably seeing a pattern, an OCD pattern, with Mr. Gray-Glo.
And my repair worked…until the holiday deluge.
What was strange this time was that the fuse held after being replaced but nothing in the garage had power: no lights, no genie garage door opener, no fountain in the garden…nothing.
Because the fountain was the last thing using electricity added I thought maybe it was the problem and went to unplug. When I reached through the flowers to the weather-proof outlet (another thing replaced last year as I tried to find the cause of the fuses blowing) my hand received a sharp jolt. No it wasn’t a electric shock but a yellow jacket sting.
The SOB got Gray-Glo on his left hand ring finger. As any man will tell you that is one finger that always feels pain the most.
Hidden by the thick cone flower stalks, the bastards made a nest next to the weather-proof outlet.
Gray-Glo went all old school action flick on them with wasp spray and a shovel.
The fountain wasn’t the culprit.
And the garage was still without working lights.
And my finger swelled.
And because I was outside and the neighbor’s grand-kids were out, I couldn’t curse the way I knew would alleviate the pain.
So with sore swollen and itching finger and in all the high heat I began to test the circuits. My tester showed the Hot and Ground reversed. Voltage Hot to Return was only about 70 volts ac but Hot to Ground was the normal 120 vac. Yes, Mr. Gray-Glo is that kind of geek.
This guy then called an expert at one of the local big box depot stores to confirm the problem was what I thought it was. It was.
You really feel good when you know you can call someone to tell you what you think is what you think. Doesn’t happen much in this life, does it?
Eventually, it meant that someplace underground the Hot was still shorting to Ground and causing not enough current to power the garage.
Which meant the wiring underground inside the PVC conduit needed replaced.
What I thought happened was the box replaced last year was damaged again probably from gardening.
This time this stung man decided the best thing to do would be to replace the wire from the house to the garage with one complete run instead of the wire nutted mess under the garden inside a waterlogged junction box. By then this heat wave got the best of me and I called it quits for the day.
Monday was a better heat day as we cooled down to only the mid-80s.
One trip to the local big box home store and home again with 50 feet of romex.
Dug up the where the junction box is. Although it wasn’t damaged and still sealed by tape and silicon, it was wet inside. Somehow, someplace water made its way into it.
Opened all the pull boxes to make pulling the romex through easier (ha!) and began feeding the fish line through it and…it stopped as it hit something it would not and could not push through after about 30 or 40 feet was shoved into the conduit.
So, I went to the other end and tried to feed the fish line back the other direction and…it stopped again but this time after only four feet or so. And I began digging from the junction box following the conduit and found it turned to the right away from where I thought it should have gone to the house. It went toward the driveway and that was when I realized exactly what the garage builders did. The new garage is maybe four or five feet wider than the original one and they ran new conduit around the extra width to the original conduit my dad and I laid years earlier for the smaller garage.
But, and this is key and led to more muffled curses (remember the neighbor’s grand-kids), they did not connect the two divergent pipes with a box; one pipe ended in dirt with wires protruding into the other pipe that ended in the dirt. That was why the fish line stopped. And it was also why the fuse blew and the hot is grounded–the wires are deteriorated and breaking.
Trip number two to the big box store’s electrical aisle to find a box that will allow me to connect the two cut off PVC pipes.
You may have wondered why estimates from professional electricians or plumbers or any other such trades/crafts men go off the budget and take longer that planned. I don’t after all this.
More digging and cutting of PVC and digging and cutting of PVC and digging and kneeling on rocks and digging and digging until the box would finally fit and the two ends almost fit into it. Some muffled curses and jerry-rigging pieces of PVC the box was in but the pipe going around the turn to the garage broke because the builders didn’t us a curved section of PVC; they merely bent a straight piece of pipe.
Trip number three back to the big box electrical aisle.
As an aside, each trip meant a change of clothes because with all the digging and sweating (even during the relative coolness of mid-80s weather) I was filthy and just could not venture out in public looking as bedraggled as I did.
A 90 degree section of curved PVC and some connecting pieces and back to digging and jerry-rigging I went.
Eventually, I had the conduit ready for wire pulling.
Now Gray-Glo had a new fear. What if this extra section of unknown and unplanned for conduit run caused my estimated 50 feet of romex to not be enough?
Yellow jacket stings, digging up the garden, jerry-rigging conduit and connector boxes could all be for naught if my wire was now too short. Would the handy-man gods be this cruel?
Nothing for it but to press forward.
I fed the fish line from the pull box on the house, down the conduit into the ground and kept feeding it until I was it emerge out the opening in the new box newly installed near the garage. Attached the fish line’s hook to the ground wire of the romex and wrapped them in electrical tape. A few test tugs to make sure they remained attached and I was ready to begin pulling.
Now, Mr. Gray-Glo is a wireless switch technician in real life which means I do a lot of my work in front of computers sitting on my ass and have developed ass muscles.
And from watching baseball and football–The Voice
These ass muscles are fairly useless for real work like what I was about to attempt.
I tugged and pulled and heaved and breathed and panted and the romex moved maybe three or four inches into the pipe.
This proved to be a two man job and I was just one sole Gray-Glo.
Romex kept bunching and sticking at the opening into the PVC and had to be pulled out a bit and smoothed and then placed into the opening. Then after doing that, I would walk to the other end of the pipe and begin the pulling and grunting…back to the front end to smooth the romex and re-insert…back to other end to pull…lather, rinse, and repeat as needed.
There was almost four feet left to pull through and the romex would have been all the way out and inside the longest section of conduit. And that was when it stopped moving. Stuck in the pipe underground. I tugged…TUGGED…PULLED…and nothing moved. I could see the conduit move under the ground near where I was pulling on the fish line.
Like the big bad wolf…I huffed and puffed and made one hard strong pull using vise grip pliers for extra gripping on the metal fish line.
And with that one big pull…the fish line broke free from the romex and flew out of the pipe sans wire and all hope.
The romex could not make the 90 degree turn from underground to up the pipe where it ran along the wall of the crawl-space beneath the kitchen.
I had the fish line in my sore hands while the romex lay underground inside the pipe out of reach.
Attempting ventriloquism when you don’t know how hurts your jaws, teeth, and head as I let my words just explode only within me mouth.
Pulled the romex out and decided the next course of action (all action, no results–typical–The Voice) was to pull the romex through from the other direction. And here we go, again: feed fish line from garage end through underground PVC to the house end and attach romex there to then pull it back through from the house end toward the garage end. It was easier to type that then to actually do it.
Repeated actions written about eight paragraphs ago.
But this time with success. The romex was now pulled completely through the pipe. I pulled an extra four feet or so out to get enough to make the turn in the garden an reach the inside of the garage through the side wall utility box.
Then I repeated the fish line feed and romex connection and tugging and pulling the wire through for this short section. Which proved even more difficult because the PVC was not buried and the dirt would not weigh it down to keep it from moving with each grunted tug and pull of the fish line.
But eventually, I got it pulled into the garage and closed up all the pull boxes and buried the pipe. The garden was not a total wreck. A few plants were collateral damage from this doofus’ feet. A green tomato gave its life for the cause when the fish line sliced it off the plant.
Now a slow fret began to build in Gray-Glo as his sore tired ass and arms hoped he had enough wire to get under the kitchen crawl space into the basement where the utility box is. I measured but did not account for the extra mystery pipe that went around the garden.
And this was where the latest problem lay. The PVC under the crawl space was only 1/2 inch as opposed the the 3/4 inch used underground. There was just enough opening to fit the romex. This meant that the twisting of the wire around the fish line had no extra space to spare and the taping had to be minimal at best. Good news was this was a straight run.
Once the fish line with romex was fed into the small opening without room to spare, I could see it would move as freely as it could.
With minimal tape and wire twisting, I could not pull as hard as before and cause it to pull apart. By this time I could not pull anything hard anymore anyway.
It pulled through completely with about a foot left over. The handy-man gods at least smirked on me this time.
Wire nutted it both in the garage and in the house and screwed in the fuse and…I had power to the garage. The tester showed normal when plugged into the outlet.
The lights work.
The fountain works.
The garage door. Oh. That. There is something amiss with the sensors and it won’t allow the door to close. It lowers to about two feet left and then reverses back up.
That battle is for another day.
You’re so self-centered!
That bit of personal criticism hit home hard because my friend was right. Usually, I am well aware of my flaws and sometimes don’t really care about them because they are mine and I have lived with them a long time.
And blogging does not help with the self-centeredness issue since even when Gray-Glo is not posting about himself, he is posting his opinions about some such thing or other.
So, I walked and talked with myself about it. I know, the irony is thick when you examine your self to check your self centeredness.
And what did Gray-Glo find? Well, yes, I am the center of my universe just as much as I hope you all are the center of your own universes.
But what about the flaw? –The Voice
The flaw is not realizing and concerning myself with all the others whose universes are actually revolving around each others including this self centered boob’s universe.
And that is what I think my pal was getting at. I don’t know for sure because I was afraid to ask so as to appear not as hung up on this as I was. It seemed to be something someone self-centered would ask. Sorta like, enough about me lets talk about me.
One vicious circle one makes when you revolve around your own universe.
What I forgot was so basic and simple that it is easy to forget.
One simple phrase or rule to keep in mind as you revolve around yourself and have others also revolving around themselves as you and they orbit each other:
If you want a friend, be a friend.
Mr. Gray-Glo knew this before, he just misplaced it.
And now that I have reminded myself (with a big ol’ slap upside me head courtesy of me friend) I find improvement in my relationships.
And it may not be too late to get one back into orbit again.
Thank you, friend.
The Ghetto Libertarian emailed me yesterday asking where Gray-Glo went; he couldn’t visit the site.
I tried and could not open my site, too.
Microsoft IE8, Mozilla Firefox, nor Google’s Chrome could not open it. Neither could I open it with my Galaxy Tab tablet or Galaxy S phone. Mr. Gray-Glo was missing in action.
The loss of Gray-Glo (a blessing to others–The Voice) coincided with President Obama’s Misery Re-election Bus Tour through North East Ohio. Mere coincidence?
I opened a case with my web hosting provider Name.com on their support site and waited…
Today, I called their support line and Ryan found the issue and quickly resolved it and Gray-Glo is back from the nothingness side of the web. Ryan also upgraded my WordPress to its latest version.
Take that, Obama!
Work interfered with our plans to go to the Home Days Fireworks Sunday. The super derecho storm that slammed the Midwest and Atlantic states caused severe damage in Columbus; I ended up working there that night assisting my company’s efforts to recover their wireless service.
We decided to go to Independence’s fireworks show last night.
All was fine as the Gray-Glos settled on a nice slope of grass waiting for the darkening sky that provides the best backdrop to those booming colorful explosions announcing to the world that we are here, loud and proud with our liberty.
But the darkening sky was not dusk or nightfall itself but another thunderstorm. Nature provided fireworks and the sky opened wide with a downpour. And we citizens scrambled back to the shelter of our cars and trucks.
Show canceled and Indians’ game in rain delay.
And we sat inside my truck waiting, stuck in the lot, waiting for the line of other vehicles to exit.
It soon got stuffy in there because the pouring rain would not let us open the windows enough. So, this guy decided to run the air to defog the windows and suck in fresh air, too. But he (did I ever mention how technically inclined Mr. G is?) didn’t start the engine as to not waste gas or pollute. And this is where Mr. Gray-Glo rises to the fore as one of those dopey sitcom dad/husbands like Ray Barone.
The truck’s battery was drained and rather quickly and the truck would not start.
We were doomed was the consensus of the others trapped inside the truck with me.
This was where traffic and the jam up in the parking lot changed to a blessing from a curse.
The rain slowed from pouring to mere rain and I got my jumper cables from the back trunk of my truck and spotted a minivan at the end of the line stuck in traffic. He wasn’t going anywhere anyways, so I thought I’d ask him the favor of a jump start.
The gentleman obliged.
Citizens helping other citizens in need.
And we joined our other stuck brethren citizens in the parade of motionless vehicles.
Indians’ game in rain delay (they eventually resumed and won).
Fireworks drenched and postponed until Thursday.
The irony of all this is we were in the midst of a mini-drought causing many communities to cancel their fireworks shows from fear of starting a brush fire.