Learning as You Go

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This is the 41st story of Our Life Logs.

Life is about gathering research. We do not know our solutions or our destinations until we evaluate the problem at hand. When I was younger, I had a smaller timeline of life, and dwelled on many things that were not so important. As many of my family members passed away, I began to examine my perceptions of life, and evaluate what I most valued.

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I grew up as a kind of nomad. Born in Bay City, Michigan, I lived on Lake Huron until I was about six years old with my two sisters. My mother did odd jobs, working as a stewardess, a travel agent, and a furniture system salesman, among other titles. But because of my father’s job as a corporate sales trainer, we constantly moved to various cities in Michigan, Colorado, and California.

I was always interested in solving problems and tinkering with things around the house. I found creative satisfaction in taking objects apart, just so I could put them back together. During high school, I developed an interest in engineering, and decided I wanted to pursue a career that would let me invent and build.

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After high school, I took several courses at Lansing Community college in Michigan. Here I took a course in solar homes and visited a building that was totally self-sufficient. Gaining interest in this field, I decided that I would move out to Colorado to pursue a program in environmental design, a leading program that constructed solar-based wind and water architecture.

After I was accepted into the University of Colorado’s environmental design program and moving across the country, the Reagan Administration killed the solar tax credits and the market died. During this time, my folks had gotten divorced, which messed with my financial aid. I was forced to drop out of college.

This was the lowest point in my life. After working for a short while as a cabinet maker, I was fired with no notice. At the age of 22, I lived in Colorado by myself, had no income, and no place to live. I immediately decided I would have to go on public assistance, and though I could only afford an apartment with a couple of guys who were into drugs and wild parties, I was able to pay rent with the food stamps I received. No one in my family had any money to spare. Though I felt alone and broken, I knew that there was a solution to the problem I was facing. I just had to keep looking.

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Life turned around when I landed a job as a plumber’s apprentice. During that fierce Colorado winter my car died, forcing me to wake up at 4 am to trek miles to work in a snow suit, carrying my tools in large gym bags to the job site, and then back home. For six months, I worked harder, had never been more exhausted, and learned more than I ever had.

After six months, I had enough money to move back to Michigan and finish a degree in packaging engineering at Michigan State University. Though I first had to take a few more courses at Lansing Community College, I was able to get into their packaging engineering program. My interest developed for this field, as I was a creative and inventive person early on in my life. At Michigan State I was set up with one of my sister’s friends. This was the woman I would later marry in 1991, around the time of my graduation.

During my studies I learned about technical packaging, concerning materials and design, as well as the business needs of this field such as marketing, financing, and how packaging collates in the legal sphere. This satisfied my creative need to invent, develop, and meld my knowledge of material handling and science to create a practical, highly demanded product.

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Having bills to pay, I went right into the work force after graduation. I went into plastics–specifically making bottles, for about five years. I was then transferred to another different bottle-making company that catered to the automotive industry, as well as other niche trades.

Through this job, I began making plastics for a credit card company, learning the unique demands of the trade. One of the quality-assurance tests we had to do was for ink adhesion. It was a manual process, a task very similar to carefully lining up a piece of Scotch tape on a credit card, but with a huge margin of error. After goofing around with different materials, I created a machine, later patented as a “Reliapull,” that eliminated the human variation of this process. It was a hit with my customers and was sold internationally. The invention is still used in many businesses today.

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Reliapull, 2008, http://reliapull.com/. Accessed 23 March 2018.

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A succession of deaths happened during this time in my life. All my grandparents, most of my aunts and uncles, several of my close friends, and both of my parents passed within years of each other. The two deaths that impacted me the most were those of my mother and father. My mother died after a long battle with cancer, and about a year later, my father had a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis that attacked his lungs and resulted in his passing.

The consecutive deaths of my parents were the tipping point that caused me to evaluate my motivations in life. I began asking myself questions like, “am I getting the most out of my life on a large scale and on a day-to-day basis?” Though I got started in this field with interest, I slowly learned that this wasn’t the right fit for me. I stayed in the industry for 20 years, knowing the easiest way to continue to be promoted was to grow roots, even if I knew I wasn’t completely happy.

And so, in my mid-40s, I went back to school to earn a Master of Science in Renewable and Clean Energy at the University of Dayton, rekindling my old interest for solar wind and water technology.

Amid this period of change and growth, I also dealt with a lot of marital issues. My wife and I had been married for 20 years and had two beautiful daughters together. But through the trials and errors of working on our relationship, we knew it was time to let go. And so, we mutually decided that we would no longer stay married.

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We all pick up nuggets of wisdom as we go through our lives. We all have the information in us, it’s just how we use it. At times we get stressed, fall short of our expectations, and become overwhelmed. We can see these happenings as failure, or we can laugh and persevere.


—This is the story of Dolph Himmelbauer—

Dolph, 53, currently lives in Mason, Ohio, and works for a midsize technology company. The losses in Dolph’s life affected his desire to live simply and enjoy the smaller moments in life. He enjoys traveling, spending time with his two wonderful daughters whom he is very close with, and taking his Harley out for a scenic drive. His favorite quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson stating, “Within every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.”

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This story first touched our hearts on March 13, 2018.

| Writer: Colleen Walker | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Manqing Jin|

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