Day 4: My Friends

I can count my close friends on one hand. Though few, they do so much for me that I often feel I will never be able to repay them. They have given me work, a voice to soundboard off, beer and smokes in good times and bad, and more. Even now, a futon sits in an empty bedroom, just in case. 

One of the hardest things I struggle with in relationships is the supposed two way nature of communication. A phone works both ways, you know. Always been that way since word was carried by ships and backs of livestock. My true friends call on me. They worry about me when they haven’t heard from me and send me a shout. Sometimes I’m buried in my work and it’s nice that I haven’t had to take the initiative to find a time to catch up. Sometimes I’m miserable and it’s hard to ask for even their time to get it out and it’s nice to have a check in. 

These few friends have known me through my peak. When I was married without a child, going to school and working part time, life was different. While holding desperately onto school through the shake up of divorce with a child, life was different. While I was single and school was my life with my son on the weekends, life was different. My close friends have seen me through all of that. 

I don’t know if I will ever truly be able to feel like I have done enough for them, except to keep doing the best I can to live a meaningful life for myself. I’m thankful for having them in my life through everything. 


Day 3: My Partner

Of course, I have to be thankful for my girl. She drives me crazy sometimes, but in three years together we have actually established a family together. 

Starting our relationship in our late 20’s, with the responsibilities of our past hot on our tails, it wasn’t exactly set up to be the kind of thrill that dating is in your early 20’s. It has been a challenge to establish a life together, but it has been worth it. 

Through everything that’s going on, we keep finding solace in the simple fact that we are together. Even if it’s only a walk to the park, we walk together, and that’s worth a lot. 

Day 2: My Son

“Put your own oxygen mask on first” is something I have had to work on lately. For that reason, I had to be grateful yesterday for simply being intact myself. Without a doubt, though, my boy has certainly been the reason to keep pressing on in some of my darkest times. 

I don’t know how to explain the love I have for him. I don’t know if I could ever find a deeper connection to anyone than I have with him. 

I have come to realize that he gives me his best behavior above anyone else. At first, this was a significant struggle as other adults in his life would be losing their minds and wondering how to control him. He has always been quite peaceful and easy for me to handle. He gets full of energy, sure. However, I get him on a level that seems to be beyond anyone else’s. He gets me, too. 

I’m grateful to have my son every weekend and that he reminds me of my purpose in life. 

Day 1: Alcohol Does Not Control My Life

In spite of my usual rants and my situation in general, I’m taking Tikeetha’s lead on the 23 Days of Thankfulness. Surely, I can say something positive about my life, and perhaps so many of those things have simply faded from memory that it’s time to recognize them again. You know, because apparently that’s what the holidays are about and all. 

It’s been less than a week since my car was towed off to its rightful owner. Today, I stepped into a nice, gently used Hyundai Sonata. It’s not mine, per se, but for the sake of transportation I am not without reliable wheels under me. I am also not without income or ability to earn income.

I have been in that state where one drink follows another, day in and day out. I absolutely would not have been getting one car repossessed and so easily hop into another if I let that be the case now. I would not have the power to simply make a respectable wage by virtue of a clean record. 

I am grateful that alcohol does not control my life. 

It’s Always Something #007

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Have you ever had that experience where you see an opportunity to do something for your family (or friends), and you imagine it’s going to be so great only to have it blow up or fall apart on you? 

On Friday, I received an email from the Children’s Museum for a members only trick or treating event last night. I don’t think we’ve been since school started, so I thought it would be a real cool opportunity to enjoy one of the last Halloween nights with our kids before they completely out grow their imaginations. At 7 and almost 7, they are getting wise to the facts of life, so instead of Santa this year, they have realized that they’re depending on mom and dad’s broke asses for gifts. 😟

The first struggle would be to negotiate the change of parenting time. Just about every holiday is met with frustration over this act, so I made sure not to get excited and just expect she would be difficult about it. She did accept the change without difficulty, so it was officially on! 

My kiddo was over the moon to hear he was getting two trick or treating nights this year, so all in all, I guess it still makes for a win in the light of parenting. Fortunately, I know the value of bringing groceries home in paper bags, so we had an easy source of costume material on hand. A few bucks at the dollar store later, we were well on our way to a full Bowser ensemble!

I could tell by his acting and wanting to go run and look in the mirror that this, right here, was the peak of our Halloween excitement. Kim cut out her costume mostly from a cardboard box, and I glued together paper bag strips for the iconic Mario hat. Kiley was immediately dressed in her princess garb, so she spent the time dancing merrily around.

We gather up in the car to go pick up my son. I was told I would be getting him from his babysitter as she is at work. I try to relax, but oh how I’ve been lied to and set up before. I know her father has some pent up shit to dump on me, and I would guess she’s pissed that Kim ran interference for me to get my son on those occasions. As we are driving up, I see his sitter waiting with him. I am grateful for finally having one hassle free holiday. (And rocking it for $3)

“So, where are we going, Dadda?” he asks. 

“To the children’s museum! They’re having a special night to go trick or treating!” I announce! 

“Oh, yeah. And they have a make your own trick or treating bag and candy.” he adds. 

“Wait, what? How do you know?” Kim exclaims. Since I had just about felt like letting my guard down, I knew this familiar blow had struck. 

“Yeah, my mom took me there. And there’s adults dressed up in costumes, that’s where you get the candy from.” he went on. 

Kim turned to me in wide eyed disbelief. “Why would you say anything to her?”

“I didn’t. Why do you think I took so long to send that one little email asking for one little thing?” I feel the wind knocked out of me. 

“Yeah, my mom is a member, too.” he informs us. 

“So, when did she take you?” she asks him, thinking, hoping, he is referring to some irrelevant time earlier in the month. 

“Yesterday, before she went to work. I was supposed to go to soccer practice, but we went to the children’s museum instead.” 

Kim starts to curse and I lose control of my voice. “Well, that’s fine! Your mom didn’t spend a whole day making your costume with you, did she?” I challenge him. 

“We can always go see Uncle Aaron in Hmm hmm hmm where she can’t find us and ruin our time together, and she can go f <muting myself> eat a giant… Sausage!” I bite my bottom lip. 

I was pissed, but I add it to the already thick file in my mind labeled stupid shit baby’s mom does to spite me. I was determined not to let my irritation ruin it, because that just lets her know she succeeded instead of having to convince herself of it. We get there minutes before opening and stand in line. We do so seldom little as a family anymore, I forget what a nightmare this whole wait in line thing is. By time the doors open and we start to move, Kiley has already started to make a show off herself and irritate her mom. My son starts bouncing around like crazy, causing even more. I defend them by stating they have to wiggle to stay warm, as the sun is already behind the hill. 

Inside, the kids cut loose as usual. They embarrass us with their ravenous grabbing at every tray. They get cranky and fussy over our limiting of sugar intake. No water feature this time? Oh, the outrage! Costumes? Ugh! Get them off! The two and a half hours went by so fast, and just about every kid there protested the early closing. I imagine most parents are like us, and this ends up being a whole day event. 

We left dragging our two wound up, demanding, whining kids protesting our candy communism the entire way to the car. Kim admitted later that having to deal with her daughter really ruined the fun for her. 

“I’m cross!” my son cuts the silence. “I’m cross because you said I could have more candy and you didn’t give me any more!”

“I said maybe and only if you could contain yourself. It’s still a school night and I’m not trying to make life hard on your babysitter by returning you all wound up” I assert.

Fine! I’m just going to be angry at you!” he insists. 

“Pfft. Alright. I think Santa’s taking note of that. ” 

He did hug me and say he loved me when we dropped him off. So, I think it’s all okay. I still feel like I went out of my way to arrange it, dropped the ball on counseling in the rush, got undermined once again, and left everyone unsatisfied and wore out. 

Another day, another drama. 

It’s Always Something #006

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Well, I’ve been stressing for months about my car and ignoring twice daily phone calls. This week, I decided it was time to rip the band aid off and answer the phone. 

Tomorrow morning, I will drive my son to school in my lovely Volt and take the long way home… for the last time. It’s been a long time coming, and I have watched the train rolling down the tracks for weeks, feeling helplessly tied down.  

Every bill collector wants to know why we can’t pay. What on earth is so cataclysmic as to prevent us from coming up with at least some money at some point. I don’t have a clear answer. 

Months of struggling to pay even rent on time has forced me to wrap my poor flustered mind around inevitable homelessness. My face feels like it looks the part, too. I’ve never liked too much facial hair. I don’t like shaving daily, but a week is about as long as I can usually stand before I have to scrape it off. I haven’t shaved because I honestly can’t stand to look myself in the mirror. I don’t want the image of myself being a complete piece of shit on top of the feelings. 

Whatever. Here’s to ripping the band aid off and getting through the last of what’s to come. It really, truly can’t get much worse before it gets better now!

Standing on Shoulders

Well, then… given my state of affairs as of late, I’m excited to share something more notable!

So, I designed my own parametric CNC mill. Straight from my imagination. Which is to say I absolutely could not come up with an industrial grade machine on the first round, especially on a shoestring budget. As far as my creations go, it’s about the most involved project I’ve undertaken on my own. It’s been alive for nearly a year, and despite a slow start, I’ve been getting ever more glitch free running hours out of it. 

I conglomerated a short list of project ideas a couple weeks ago, some that are essential and some just for kicks. I finally made it to an essential project: tightening up the play in the axis. I haven’t had a chance to do all the improvements I need to do, but this was a remarkable start! 

I clocked a good number of runtime hours in, feeling pretty stoked on the new mastery of shape that my machine empowered me with. Then, I thought I’d do something neat and cut out a perfect little pocket for a bearing to sit in. I barely set it in place before the obvious issue struck me down: the perfect circles I thought I cut were clearly perfect ovals. Observing the machine more closely, I finally saw all the little wiggles along the drive train.  The Z axis was easily secured with a couple washers, but the other two required more effort. Basically, the linear bearings were just all around sloppy. I shim-shiminy’d all the shims I had, but ultimately the failure was in the design. I skimped on the linear bearing brackets, opting for a mere one bracket per point of contact. It was a hundred dollar decision that cost me dearly in quality. Lesson learned! 

Moving on to the project at hand, I was really really tempted to clamp these pieces of HDPE to the mill for the heavy lifting and let my fingers work the magic on the keyboard. Circles being out of the question, all I really needed was good depth control and one firm axis. As I endeavored to get the two pieces positioned and imagining how the rest of the operation might go down, I got the feeling that maybe this wasn’t the best approach. 

Sitting against the wall, boxes piled on top and underneath, was my beloved Mark V. Most of my audience is wondering who Mark is, but I’m sure someone out there will read this and chuckle. It may seem peculiar that this antiquated old pile of metal has such value in my eyes, but I’m more connected to this thing than I care to discuss at the moment. Not this exact machine, but the Shop Smith in general. Much like the Volkswagen in its conception, this piece of Deutsch engineering was built with serviceability and ubiquity as focal points. Unlike Volkswagen, these folks stuck to their guns, but don’t let me get started on that rant! Since the Mark V’s debut in 1953, they have made very few but very thoughtful changes. My machine is a 70’s model, but absolutely any accessory ever made will fit without adaptation. I can still buy replacement belts, motors, quills, etcetera if it ever breaks. If I decide I have too much money one fairy tale day, I can upgrade the whole headstock. Ooh, digital rpm display! <Homer drool> 

I would say my CNC is standing on the shoulders of a giant. I’m sure the purists will tell me all about the lathe being king and what-not, but I have the capacity for a compact, light machine. I’m doing what I can with what I got! I also have to point out that, despite being an older model with fewer of the stabilizing revisions, I am fairly confident in the accuracy of cuts it can produce. So, with a sacrificial layer expertly mounted to the fence (eh hem) I started making shavings. 

Now, one aspect that dissuaded me from using the mill was thinking about all the passes I would have to make. It’s just plastic, so it should cut like butter, right? Well, sort of. It is high density plastic, so I couldn’t just hog off a quarter inch per pass. However, the Mark V has a 5/8 inch chuck as well as a 1/2 inch collet and I have a wider selection of bits to work with. A half inch end mill made for easy chewing of most of the block. From there, it took a couple of tedious hours to nibble the notches down using a cheap Dremel bit, but I really wanted that nice 1/8 inch bead profile to match the slot in the 80/20 extruded aluminum. 

Excellent! The gap in the notch is about 0.2mm, and will translate into less error than that at the bit. The notch that fastens to the other beam? Well…

…does it look accurate enough to you? 

At the end of it all, I did have to wonder if all the time I just spent on these things was worth it or if I should have just bought another set of brackets (maybe not 80/20 brand!) Considering my going rate and backlog of profitable work waiting to be done, these 4 brackets cost me at least a hund-o. I would have spent the same plus shipping on brackets, so I figure that it’s a wash as long as my parts don’t wear out too fast. 

As I went to mount them, I realized that I probably did better than just saving on shipping. I did spend a fair bit of time installing shims on the rest of the bearing pads. Somehow, I didn’t quite have enough to go around, either. I realized this as I had taken all my measurements off the Y axis rails but wanted to see if the parts would look better on the X axis. With all the shims needed to get the pads nice and tight, my parts wouldn’t fit alongside the brand name brackets at all. However, they did fit the Y axis just beautifully, and I get to save all that time not having to shim and adjust. 

In the words of Ace Ventura, “Like a glove!”