The Saga Continues . . .

I consider myself to be an optimistic person. I tend to see the glass as half-full, look on the bright side, think positive, and believe that the sun will come out tomorrow. When I took my computer’s dead hard drive to the disk recovery people, it never really occured to me that they wouldn’t be able to rescue some, if not all, of the data. So when I got the call and they said that they were unable to retrieve any information at all, I totally freaked-out.

There was one thing I wanted more than anything else on my computer, and that was the set of pictures I had taken of my mom’s “nature” art work that she created around her home as her Alzheimer’s worsened. Every time I went to visit, I had secretly taken pictures of the beautiful designs she made on table tops, chairs, pathways, dirt patches — all over the yard.

When I got off the phone and realized that all these images were gone, I lay my head on the table and sobbed. I felt like my mom had been taken from me again. I felt like this was the last little gift of artistic beauty that she was able to share with us, and I was devastated that it was gone.

My husband and son tried to console me, but it was no use. I felt stupid, careless, thoughtless. How could I not have backed-up my pictures and documents? I went into the shower and cried some more as the water washed over me. I felt heartbroken. Yet, these were just inanimate objects. Just memories. Everyone was healthy. No one had gotten hurt. The house hadn’t burned down. As I drove to the computer place, I cried some more. All my public domain scans, photos of all my old art work, the email addresses of all my students’ parents, all those bookmarks and blog spots I’d collected over the years. But it wasn’t that I’d lost email addresses or music, all of which could be replaced over time; I had allowed my computer to become the repository of my artistic endeavors for the past five years, and now there was nothing left.

I composed myself in the car before walking into the computer shop. I approached the receptionist, and she said she was sorry that they hadn’t been able to recover the data.

“Do you have a grief counselor?” I asked facetiously.

“Why, as a matter of fact we do,” she replied. Apparently all those feelings I was experiencing are very common, and they actually have a counselor (formerly a suicide-hotline volunteer) to listen to anguished customers vent their frustrations about the loss of their computer hard drives and data.

The receptionist asked me to have a seat in their waiting room — the “Museum of Bizarre Disk-asters.” All over the place were examples of miraculous data recovery missions. Here was a CPU that had been charred and melted during a house fire. “Data Recovered!” said the sign next to it. There was a lap top that had been run over by a semi-truck. “Data Recovered!” Here was a story of a woman who had been working as a juggler on a cruise ship — which sank. She rented scuba diving equipment, dived into the murky waters, and retrieved her laptop. “Data Recovered!” Autographed pictures of Sting, Barbara Mandrell, Isaac Hayes, the writers of the Simpson’s and other famous people lined the walls. They had all had their “Data Recovered!” But not little old me.

I read an article about the counselor. In an interview she said that her clients usually felt angry with themselves for not having backed-up their computers [check], confused over their feelings of sorrow about the loss of an inanimate object [check], and depressed because of the loss of information which had been the result of years of creative expression [check]. She said that losing the information often fit the definition of a traumatic event because the total loss of control involved. I could totally relate.

“May I have a tissue?” I had to ask the lady at the front desk as my weeping resumed.

Driving back home, I wondered what life lessons I could learn from this dismal experience, beyond the most obvious one about backing-up the hard drive. Maybe I trust technology too much. Maybe I rely on it more than I should. But things happen, and we make the best of it and go on. After all, tomorrow is another day.

My hard drive was replaced by Apple (thank goodness for extended warranties!!), and today I started reinstalling software, setting up my email accounts, and adding in some of my more important bookmarks. As I was going through my CD’s, I found one in a case that said – Back-Up Disk, 8/23/05. My heart started pumping as I place it in the drive. I saw the iPhotos folder. I tried not to get my hopes up as I previewed a jpeg, but there they were — all of the pictures I had taken of my mother’s nature designs! I had backed them up after all. What a miracle! What a treasure recovered! Oh what a lucky girl I am!

Sticks and Stones

11 thoughts on “The Saga Continues . . .

  1. Not luck. Not a miracle.
    Your hard work. Your advanced planning.
    You learned this from your mom. She knew how to put everything in just the right place, didn’t she?

  2. Wow, thank goodness for that. I’m so glad you got the photos back.
    I am a little bemused about the conselor though… I don’t think they have anything like that in the U.K and certainly not here in Greece!

  3. I have just spent my entire evening reading many, many pages of your web site and am in awe and very inspired to try some of the techniques your so generously describe. I clicked on the blog to see what was new in your work and to leave you a note. This entry is a powerful nightcap to my evening of adventures with you.

    Many thanks for sharing so much of yourself thru the “interwebs!”
    my blog (tho not an art blog per se) is:
    from western Massachusetts but a lover of Berkeley!)

  4. I am sooooo pleased and RELIEVED that you found your precious photo’s of your mums artwork. I completely empathised with you when you first thought you had lost them for good. Last year I went on holiday with my best friend and her husband. I had grown up with her and gone had many shared experiences with her both good and bad. Whilst we were on holiday together we had news that their house had burnt out completely and she had lost all her photo’s. Although she didn’t focus on her photo’s as it wasn’t her priority it made me realise that my family photo’s were mine. They are like a visual diary of mine and my familys life together and I too no longer have my mum with me. I am also an artist and use photographs in my work as referencing points so I have slowly been trying to back them up onto a ‘my space website’ which is personal to me and only retrievable by me and close one’s just in case of fire…. I couldn’t bare to lose them…. I am so pleased you found yours ! Val xx Manchester, England, UK

  5. Oh Karen! I was sobbing with you as I read this story. Having just recently gone through a few major crashes of my own, I can completely understand those feelings of loss and grief. My husband could not understand it at first, but finally got it.

    What a gift to yourself for you to have backed up those images from your mother’s art. I’m so relieved for you!
    All the best, Fran, Phoenix, AZ

  6. You had me in tears when you found the back-up disk containing moms nature designs. I recently lost my mom after a very difficult year dealing with Alzheimers. How wonderful that you have this record of her art. There’s something very zen and peaceful about them. I get a lump in my throat looking at the photograph above as I can imagine my mom pottering in the garden arranging little bits of this and that over and over again. Thanks for sharing.
    Robyn, South Africa

  7. My first visit to your blog and I see something that strikes such a familiar chord that my heart was literally pounding as I read this entry! I spent 15 years as a caregiver for my folks (extreme age, dementia, heart problems… the whole ball of wax) and during that time, one of my favorite ways to escape was to do photo trips. When I got this computer, I was putting all my files onto the hard drive and discovered that hunks of them were missing. Some of my favorite outings — the Chihuly exhibit at the local conservatory, dinner dates with friends at wonderful restaurants, treks through some of my favorite parks and cemeteries — and it felt as if my heart was breaking.

    Then about six months ago, I found most of them on some mis-labeled disks. I went right out and bought a couple of back-up drives, one for all my image files and one just to back up everything else. I’m also in the process up uploading all my photos to Flickr which will serve as an off-site back-up.

    There are some things which can’t be replaced either in fact or in your heart. My losses were nothing like what you thought you’d lost. If I’d had something of my parents’ (now both deceased) go missing like that, I don’t know what I would have done. I’m so glad you found those photos. And now I’m going to do a special back-up just to make sure everything is covered. Thanks for the reminder.


  8. SOOOO relieved and delighted that you did have the pics of your mum’s creations, for your sake and also to share with us. Thankyou for sharing your hard learned lesson about backing up info, but also for sharing all that emotional stuff as well. I’ve had a few big crashes lately, often sparked by stuff such as you describe, which is clearly hadr to bear but which I have felt i SHOULD (bad word !!) be able to bear and it really helps to read your experiences and not feel like such a nutcase ! Deena, Wiltshire UK

  9. Karen,

    I stumbled upon your website while looking for butterfly pictures in order to study the body structure. Your website inspired and encouraged me. I, too, am a teacher/writer/artist who seeks creative expression both inside and outside the classroom. I am currently constructing my website. Literacy, technology, and the arts are my passions. Thank you for posting your work! JoDee Luna

  10. Karen,
    I was distressed to read of your struggles. Would say that easily millions in this country -USA- can empathize with you. Life is hard, but we are endowed with the grace to live it! And resiliency. You demonstrate that, you are not a victim, but a victor. The greatest of life’s victories are internal, not external. Your sufferings with loved ones and life’s frustrations impart a wisdom and depth that will come through in your art. Looking forward to seeing it!
    Happy New Year-somthing for your muse to use… on the Hebrew calendar, this year is 5768-named “samekh chet”- symbols for those words are a circle- things come full circle this year, and an open gate- this is the year of open gates and doors. Just thought that might stir and encourage you. Art friend- amanda

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