The List 

Goes on and on


Just because I can perform a white glove field day (cleaning to near impossible standards) doesn’t mean I appreciate inspections of my living quarters. Still, as a renter, I am subject to at least one per year. Well, the least I can do is make the experience as unpleasant for them as possible for the grief they like to paper us with. 

Luckily for me, they came knocking before I left this morning! I hope I emphasized “screens on the windows before our kids fall out of them” enough times for them to think about putting some in after numerous maintenance requests and emails have failed to prompt them. Our tap water (where it does work) is fucking yellow, okay? Assholes. Hope they enjoyed their earful of my list as much as I enjoy paying too much for this place. 

Oh, the power of a list! Okay, so nobody likes a list of ‘unacceptable shit’ or ‘reasons you suck at <blank>.’ It’s just an ugly bludgeoning device. Lists are usually a force for good, though it still would be good if our shower mist and toilet visits were fanned out of the bathroom. Maybe before the optimal for fungus growing rainy season comes? Oh, it’s already here, never mind. 

Well, I’ve sure been thinking about life pretty deep lately. If I can say anything for certain, it’s that I like to project. Like many poor souls with overactive minds and itchy hands, I have a few waiting to be finished and some waiting to be started. Being extremely challenged for space, I don’t have a ton of half-done projects laying around. When I do have space, well you get the idea!

Now, I have this glorious creation of mine, this milling machine. It’s not name-brand, top of the line, state of the art anything. What it is, is about the most machine I could conjure up for the smallest price I could summon. What to do with it? What can it do? Gosh, just about anything! I have been following Hackaday, and it’s really sparked my interests again. People making giant sized Lego bricks, experiments with UHF waves suspending water droplets, and other makers building ridiculous rendering machines like a tower climbing paint can wielding printing machine. 

Looking around my house, I see possible projects in every disorganized corner. I could dream up projects all day! I do often find, especially when the projects start piling up, that I sometimes have to list them out and prioritize from that. After reading other blogs this week, I’ve been considering what to do with my online self and have been pondering doing videos and maybe even making a live presence on instagram. Maybe regular visibility or even a weekly blog will get things moving for me. I can’t say for certain, but I can say that as long as there’s a breath in me, I will be trying to fenagle (sp?) some kind of contraption together! 

So, without further adieu, here is my current list of project ideas I’d like to tackle.

  1. Upgrade CNC drives. 
  2. Add dust collection to CNC.
  3. Giant connect 4.
  4. Convert old cabinet to aquaponics system. 
  5. Design and play with joinery on CNC.
  6. Model the Ikea designed grow room sphere. 
  7. Make a Roomba device to clean our floors. 
  8. Experiment with alternative clothes dryer. 
  9. Fidget spinners for the kids. 
  10. Wood bearings. 
  11. Shelves and more shelves. 
  12. Planter shelves. 
  13. Bunk bed from pallets.
  14. Queen bed frame with drawers and headboard. 
  15. 180 degree panel saw
  16. Holiday engravings. 
  17. Shop smith powered drum sander.
  18. CNC capability for lathe. 
  19. Full-function wood recovery machine.
  20. 3D printer
  21. Light up LED sign. 
  22. Wooden gears.
  23. Phone mount. 
  24. Phone case. 
  25. Propellers and whirligig wings.
  26. Timing belt transmission. 
  27. Juggling gear caddy.
  28. Hat rack.
  29. Deacons bench (out of pallets?)
  30. Tool boxes, cause you can never have enough! 
  31. Spice rack.
  32. Build it yourself, educational motor kits. 
  33. Table saw motor rebuild. 
  34. Wind turbine from recycle-able materials (I know it’s been beat to death, but it’s so damn enticing)
  35. Monitor mount and accessory holder for CNC
  36. Coffee grinder mod.
  37. Espresso tamper. 
  38. Folding wood boxes.
  39. Clothes hangers

Okay, I’m stretching for those last few, but I can guarantee I dream up another dozen projects before I actually complete a dozen of these. Some of these are projects I’d really like to see done and some are more simply flights of imagination. But hey, at least I still have that about me! 

What do you think? Could I manage a weekly production on the topic of making stuff? Is there anything you would like to see made? Does anyone have any tips on doing a weekly video or live feed? Let me know! 

The Way Things Should Be

Because I think they should be

It has taken time and several concerted efforts, but our family dynamics are improving. There is less chaos, fewer meltdowns, and more talking. Oh, and the kids are back in school! I felt for a while the day would never come. It’s some semblance of routine, anyway. 

On another delightful note, I woke up yesterday morning and upon whipping the blanket off, was greeted with a snappy chill. Oh, man! I can’t wait to not have that fan in the window all night again. The cool weather is right around the corner, and that combined with back to school means one thing: germ season. Kiley stepped outside in her dress and started shivering immediately, and like a bad PTSD trigger, the image of her sneezing all over herself and opening doors flashed through my brain. I returned home from dropping her off and besieged the place with soap and bleach. I had other things to do, but I couldn’t let it go any longer. 

We have managed to get the kids to keep their toys more picked up. The living room got organized and things are much tidier overall. I clean like crazy because it improves the quality of life for everyone. Regardless what living space you occupy, even if it’s a tent or your car, your quality of life will be far better if it’s kept clean. In my mind, that’s the way it should be. 

Unfortunately, I have to exist in reality for a majority of my life. In reality, a house is very difficult to keep up with, especially with kids. Nothing is the way it should be, pretty much any time, ever. It doesn’t matter that I have been groomed to 5S the hell out of things or scrub a room to white glove perfection. I live in the real world with real cohabitants. 

I also have real bills that I have to share in paying. It doesn’t matter if I can balance a budget. I cannot be in two places at once to make two incomes at the same time. Hell, earning the one income is taking its toll on me. I should be able to pay all my bills every month. In my mind, that should be entirely possible. I should be able to afford a vehicle, not necessarily brand new nor high end. Just a vehicle to safely get me and the kids around. 

These things that should be, they bother me because these things are not. It’s not just my expectations of myself, is it? My debtors expect to be paid, the government expects to be paid, baby’s momma expects to be paid. Really, the downward spiral of it all, the eternal source of stress, is that all these people expect results. Hours of my time, abuse to my knees, back, hands and otherwise, nights spent on a ladder instead of bed, hours and fuel spent in traffic, all condensed down to a green sheet of printed fabric. 

I should be free to let my mind explore the world, the most succulent and delectable morsels of knowledge oft overlooked. Instead, I’m bound to expectations. I shouldn’t be bound to a life of poverty after working so hard to escape it. However, to be otherwise should not require I be bound to a life of corporate servitude, resorting to stealing my life back in a lunch break here or concocted excuse there as neither my weekends nor holidays are left sacred. 

These things that should be. I struggle to accept the reality that things are not the way they should be. I can accept the reality of the past, or at least I’m working on it. What bothers me is the reality of my future as there has so far been no indication of it being vastly better than the recent past. 

How do I ‘let it go’? How do I build ‘mental flexibility’? What can I do to make tomorrow at least marginally better than today aside from giving the home a field day cleaning? 

The Glad Game 

It’s sounds so corny, cheesy, and I suppose other foods as well. I know some bloggers make a point of stretching their gratitude muscles on the weekly, but I think I’m going to get frustrated keeping that up. So, here’s a quick few morsels of joy to share at least this once. 

  1. I have my son today. I did have a seed of paranoia growing around summer plans and worrying about him disappearing. He is here, safe, and I treasure every bit of time I get with him. 
  2. Coffee. We have some this morning. That hasn’t been the case some mornings lately. 
  3. The cool fall breeze. Ah, after so many muggy triple digit days, the cool nights have returned. Clothes, blankets, snuggling, not mindfully drinking a gallon of water every day, cooking and baking in the oven again.. 
  4. Sex on the reg. I really don’t understand how I can feel so lackluster or bummed some days when I pretty much know that at the end of the day, I’m getting laid. Not everyone is so lucky, especially the singles. I have even known couples that only get intimate a few lucky times per month. I just wish it wasn’t such a big deal when, on the rare occasion, I don’t feel like it. Sometimes, sleep is all that I’m mentally or physically good for. Not like I won’t make up for it 😉
  5. Summer is all but gone. Good riddance. This summer was lame. Super weak. All I did all summer was two hikes, and I couldn’t much enjoy them with my charming family whining the whole way. Another broke, sweaty, uneventful, bickering and fussing, lame duck season over.

      Good lord, bring on the rain and school already! 

      More Doing

      In trying to shake this funk, I have come to realize that I no longer have a space in the house to claim as my own. There is a desk with a computer, but said computer is about to give up the ghost as well. I don’t really get quiet time to sit and do anything productive, either. 

      Still, I have to make something. It’s just what keeps me able to wake up day to day. I shouldn’t imply that my family doesn’t do that for me, but I really lose the wind in my sail being little more than a babysitter day in and day out. I have to do stuff, keep my hands and my brain busy. 

      I’m wishing I had a shop space again, as power bumps screw with the machine and usually makes it freeze. I also have just barely enough room to walk around the thing. Nonetheless, I finally got what I was after. 

      I’ll take any kind of success I can get right now! 

      Finally, back to making sawdust! 

      That’s really all I have wanted out of life for a while. To stop this thing from being something I’m working on doing, and to finally say it’s what I do

      Joe Gotta Go

      I quit once, so I can do it again. It’s not really an addiction if I don’t let it control me. [Paraphrased from the low budget flick Coffee and Cigarettes ]

      I have quit a lot of times. Haven’t most smokers? I slipped into it again. What is it, really? I admit that it came back to me when I was driving. I would go to the airport queue for my lunch period, see a few folks enjoying their nicotine and before I knew it…

      In retrospect, I can see that I only wanted the company. Every other driver seemed to sit in their car and zone out into their phone the whole time. I just wanted some small talk and maybe to hear someone else bitch about their misery. I picked up a pack and enjoyed my social time. For a few weeks, that was my routine. 

      Then I quit driving to work on shop projects. For the last few months, I have been trying to quit again. I have a week that’s not so stressful and I just don’t give in to cravings. Then I have a week that stresses me out and I say the hell with fighting that battle. Some weeks are okay, but most weeks this summer have just shortened my life span and grayed my hair. 

      The counselor believes that most, if not all, of the intense bickering in our house is the result of my energy. Accordingly, I have been instructed to go for a run when I feel stressed. These moments of stress don’t follow a nice schedule though, and rarely in those moments do I ever have energy to run. I fell back onto construction as I can’t afford shop space right now, and have been on hiatus for anything active since. When the house starts going into nuclear meltdown, I take my loud, abrasive self outside. Since my body hurts, the only thing I care to do is cover the pain with tobacco. The crazy thing is that my body doesn’t even like it at all. One cig and I feel instantly shitty. 

      So, it’s been a lot of just feeling shitty. I shared with my girl how I don’t really enjoy my smoke breaks but rather just feel like I’m being punished for shit I didn’t start. Little Kiley acts out, I go outside, and I reckon that in her mind she won the fight. She may have had a time out, but she made me go away. I was banished at her will, all it took was attitude and screaming. 

      It sure wasn’t easy, but we had to flip the script. Kiley was informed of the new plan to punish her, and as anyone could predict, she just had to give it a try. This time, we decided that 3 strikes earns her a grounding in her room. One whole day, 24 hours, where she has her bed, stuffed animals, toys, but absolutely nobody to interact with. It was as close to a prison sentence as one could inflict on a child. 

      Well, this turned out to be a great solution. Kiley is far more reserved in her outbursts and her tone of voice is less irritable on the whole. The listening skills need work, as do many other skills, but the nuclear meltdowns seem to be contained.

      As such, it is time to take my own mental health seriously.

       I’m giving myself this one last lung dart, then I’m on the pesticide free diet. It’s time I get back to the pursuit of the 6 minute mile. I need to give myself that much with everything that’s going on.

      I hope to get back in the shop and building things, but getting life on track is the primary focus right now. I need to get out from under the steam roller in any way I possibly can. 

      Parenting Choices

      A rant about avoiding responsibility

      My feelings as of late have been accurately caricatured as my flattened body under a steamroller. I am going to be a little more graphic than that, and really this post is to serve one purpose. It may not succeed in that purpose, but I might at least feel better if I get this out of my system. 

      When you have a child, they are absolutely dependent on you, the parent. It can be heavenly, those first couple years that you tune your ears to those little cries and learn to respond with the correct action. A feeding and some burps later, you have these purely happy little eyes locked onto you, nourishing your soul. 

      When you have a kid, they are absolutely dependent on you, the parent. Things are different. The cries, though you know exactly what they mean, are intolerable. Layers of strange, often unidentifiable, feelings grow on them. They act out at strange times in strange ways. You have no idea how to get in to these layers. Daycare, counselors, and several articles on the topic often point to the parents first. Why would they do that? Because the children are absolutely dependent on you, the parent.

      When you have a near-adult dependent, they are absolutely dependent on you, the parent. You say they are independent, and they sure act that way. However, by this point, most of what they know about the world is derived from your instruction and demonstration. They may bathe themselves, but as they do, they are still depending on you to have taught them how. It’s not even close to funny, as I was that kid. It took an embarrassing situation developing before someone finally instructed me on proper cleaning techniques. They interact with superiors and romantic partners the way they were shown. They approach work and recreation the way they saw you approach it. As they go forth in their lives, they are absolutely dependent on you, the parent, having given them what they need to be successful. 

      I’m independent. I have peeled layers of my identity from myself, as painful as I imagine peeling my very skin off would be. Those layers were layers of my parents’ creating. Rotten and moldy, these layers infect even the most robust and healthy bulbs with their negative outlook. Well, we are not onions stuck in the dirt, we are mobile and able to avoid contamination when we see it. As such, I keep my parents far enough away that I only hear once or twice per year from my sister that nothing has changed. 

      My dad is a drunk asshole. I could go into detail, but those two words paint the picture well enough for mention. My mother is who has been nagging my brain lately. Truth be told, I feel like I somehow wound up right back where my life as a teenager was. Broke beyond broke. Collection calls all day, every day of the week. The cabinets and fridge as barren as the bank accounts. Yet, somehow, there is so much crap laying around you can’t get into bed without stepping on things or stubbing your toe. 

      My mother should have divorced my dad long before she did. He was never home, we can all guess where he was sleeping, he broke more things in rage than he ever fixed. She just kept on in misery. She kept her children in misery with her. Misery was life, and I grew a layer to protect myself from the inevitable misery of the world. I was raised to believe the entire world, every last human in it, is miserable with evil. I don’t blame her for getting into that situation, but I absolutely hate her for not seeing the value in getting out of it. I blame her for wallowing in it and dousing herself and her kids in ever more negativity. She acted like a child having a fit in the mud in her Sunday best, everyone demanding she get out, while she defiantly plops a mud patty in her hair. 

      She floated around from job to job for a while before settling in to a job at the grocery store bakery. It was a great job, by almost all standards. My mom always had her qualms with this person or that schedule, but she stuck with it. One amazing perk of her job was automatic semi annual pay raises, usually no less than a quarter each time. After a few years, her paycheck was approaching substantial. The kind you could almost feed a family on. However, her job duties hadn’t changed. She still complained about grave shifts, that stupid manager they brought in from wherever, the gal buying a bag of weed on the clock, how she never gets time off… Finally, after about 5 years, her pay was far more than the company could justify for a production baker. The GM told her that she needed to take up the role of department manager. He explained how she would be on her own schedule, setting all the other baker’s schedules, being involved in the hiring process, have more room to grow her wages, save for retirement, more than the usual 2 weeks paid time off even. It was exactly what she, and her children needed. 

      She quit. I hate her for that. Like a rushing waterfall, my hurt and subsequent anger feels endless and uncontrollable. I have to peel this infected layer off, and it’s horrible. She may not have meant to, but she instilled the feeling in her children that they don’t deserve the best that life can offer. The layers are so deep and complex, that as I try to remove infected material, I inadvertently remove healthy parts on myself with it. 

      I suppose the final stab was the arrival of my son, which she fiercely avoided. I didn’t have a lot, but what I did have was a bunch of built up credit card points. It was enough to buy her a round trip flight. Baby was due around New Year, so I booked the flights as best I could to include Christmas, too. Well, plenty of noteworthy shitty things transpired in those two weeks. However, the punch line was when baby didn’t come before her return flight date. I had planned ahead, knowing that first babies often arrive late. I purchased a flex flight, so I was able to change the return flight date for only a small transfer fee. She wouldn’t do it. She made every excuse in the world not to stay for her grandchild coming into the world. The only thing I remember lighting my mother’s spirit was the prospect of a grandchild. Nobody was with mother and me for my son’s arrival. There was only mother’s best friend and my best friend checking in on us by phone. That fact alone sparked all kinds of negativity from both sides of the family. Everyone felt betrayed. Bonds began dissolving. I was left with little else for mental health than this little bundle of pure happiness. I can’t begin to tell you how shitty it feels to have grown up hearing her chime on about grandchildren only to be completely avoided for bringing such hoped for bundle into the world. I wasn’t worth her presence. This thing that I created, so sure of the amazing magnetism of pure delight and happiness to cure the negative, rotting emotions, was nothing that anyone was happy to see. 

      I still don’t understand it, and it sucks because somehow everything in my environment feels like my childhood right now. Minus the alcoholic rage, that is. It’s one of few things I can assure myself I’ve grown a healthy layer around. My life was stable just a few years back. I didn’t have an intimate partner and was getting drug through the worst of my divorce, but everything outside of that was peachy. My life was stable, my soul was nourished, my relationships were healthy and substantial. What the hell brought me back down to this substandard existence? How have I become the esoteric hermit again? How have all those friends fallen out of touch and the claustrophobic walls of social inaccessibility closed in again? I’m not 30 minutes away from the nearest convenience store in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town. I’m not oblivious to the use of a balance sheet. I just can’t break the toxic dynamics of my household and they are destroying it. 
      Yet again.