All Work and No Play Makes Michael a Dull Boy

As I’m now middle-aged, I can admit some characteristics about myself that I would deny as a child, which my daughter denies and shares. I see so much of myself in her. Ironically there are traits that I also notice she doesn’t share with her mother which I recognize, and some that she does, which I believe are more from modeling and conditioning/manipulation than anything innate, which is what I focus on more due to being able to appreciate much more.

One such trait is never wanting to admit being sleepy or tired. Never wanting to go to bed until we drop. Dark circles under our eyes, clumsiness, forgetfulness, silliness, and inexplicable laughter, all signs we’re pooped and won’t admit it. We don’t want the “fun” to end.

Another is the need for activity, which goes with the above. The love of stimulation. It goes with another family trait that runs in both my family and her mother’s which is addiction, which is something I’m keeping a close eye on. Her mother, I predict, will feign ignorance and play stupid to not have to deal with it at our own child’s peril. But I know she knows better and we’ve discussed this very topic at length over the years when we had the opportunity. She doesn’t want to be bothered with it or me anymore. So with like most serious things, I’ll be left to contend with it and help our daughter alone. That’s just how it’s become and what to expect, I’ve learned over 15 years now. I state this now so people will know it’s something that’s been identified and addressed and this is how it’s been deemed to be dealt with as of this date in time. She’s six now, just turned six the week before last. I wasn’t allowed to attend or wish her a happy birthday this year or the last, as per her mother’s desire. Not mine. At least this year I was able to mail her a box of presents, but without a card, because her mother wishes I have no unsupervised contact with her. She doesn’t want to be bothered with supervising it but makes me pay for a stranger to sit and watch us “play” together for 1 hour a week in a hot boring, dirty room. It’s all sitting upon my brain, if you can’t tell.

So during these months, I’ve now been presented with a lot of “free” time. I’ll leave it at that for this essay.

So, my daughter and I share the need for activity and exercise. She will run inexhaustedly around the house, yard, and anywhere there’s room, just as I did as a child. My own mother, for whom she’s named after, would tell me to go outside and run laps around the house to get my energy out. She does the same thing. We’re balls of unspent energy, which I believe is great? I’m always trying to give her productive activities to divert her energy towards and focus it on to grow and build upon and not waste it. She loves to show me how fast and far she can run. It’s simply amazing to me to behold.

In the same manner, I try to harness my energies and build things, read, learn, exercise, and use my energy for production. Her mother and my father are opposites. They can lay about, sleep, watch tv for hours upon end motionless, and be happy. Being inert is how some people are. I’m not judging or saying one way is better, but it’s just something I notice. Especially about people I have spent countless hours around during my life and as someone who is the opposite of how they behave. Lock us up in a room together, and it’s easy to see who gets bored first quickly and cannot stand being cooped up and who is fine with inactivity and lack of stimulation. One is an electron, and one is a neutron. It quickly becomes clear the saying “opposites attract” isn’t always the case. The two tires of one another’s trait quickly and yearn to be freed from the insistence of the other.

I grew up in a place and time that suited my personality great. Lots of woods and land and area to explore on foot and bike. My domain extended for miles as I got older before I ever could drive. I’d bike for miles through the woods, down railroad tracks, dirt roads, sidewalks, and any path I found, into strange foreign lands. By myself until and into the sundown. It was “safe” to do that when I grew up. No longer, unfortunately. I was a scout and know how to handle knives, fire, tie knots and track animals. And first aid, which was obviously useful as well. How to extract venom from a snake bite, set a broken boke with a wooden limb, and tie a tourniquet.

Make no mistake; my father explored as well as a child, but his domain was different. In Southern Georgia in the ’50s, the city and towns weren’t nearly as developed as they are now. Dirt roads were everywhere, and the town was away from the neighborhoods, which were close to the Flint River in Albany, Ga. which had sinkholes and caves galore to explore at your own risk, and plantations along the river you could trespass along and no one cared. You could run around with bb guns, air rifles, fireworks, and .22 rifles and bows and arrows and no one blinked an eye. It was how kids played then. And much as I did growing up. I had the same plus a machete, and a workshop and garage all wide open for my use. I learned many shop skills that have carried over into today and served me well over the years. I know how electricity works, woodworking, how to solder, carpentry, joinery, and on and on. I can build pretty much anything with the right tools and I know which tools are right for which job. I can work on cars and houses. How many kids can do that these days? I have no idea, but I doubt as many. I have a photo of a black bear chasing him and his brother as kids. He and his brother caught baby alligators and stuck them in their pockets to bring home as pets for me and my girl cousin Misty. She also had a pet possum named Eatmore. Times were obviously different not that long ago. But he didn’t have to travel far on expeditions as I did. And certainly not as people do now. You have to drive across the state in some cases, or even drive or fly out of the state.

Now people all live in apartments and creeks are only observed in public parks that are manicured with safety rails and paths you cannot stray from. Sinkholes are all covered as are caves. Rivers are either private property and inaccessible or have restaurants, and “parks” that have more cement and lumber than greenery, or industrial parks along the river with gated decks/docks and tall fencing to prohibit access but have pipes pumping glop into them.

Here are a few things I’ve made while ramping up the learning curve. I’ve now gotten more colors of PLA filament, which matters. I’ve learned how to properly store it, which matters. I’ve gotten the correct tools I need, which definitely matters, and the tools needed aren’t expensive at all if you know where to find them.

TOOLS

I’m big into tools, as are most men. But I put a lot of research into them, making sure I get the best value and longevity out of them. As I’ve gotten older I adhere to the mantra to only make it hurt once, when you buy them. Meaning, buy better-made tools that have a lifetime warranty, which hopefully isn’t ever needed, and take good care of them and maintain them as suggested by the manufacturer. The engineers that built them knew what they were doing, which is why they were more expensive. Usually. Sometimes the marketing and packaging are what made them expensive, so be able to distinguish that fact.

Handtools. Take DeWalt, for example. Most of the time their tools are built better. But not always. Some things just have the Brand name behind them, but others might be just as good or better, like Milwaukee Tools, Craftsman, Tekton, or Klein. Snapon are expensive, but are they “better?” Most of the time I’d put them up side by side to decide and look at the prices. You’ll be surprised at what you find. Sometimes it doesn’t matter. I’ve bought some no-name precision tools from China off a smartphone app for next to nothing that has served me really well for years. And for when you start dealing in commodities like tweezers, magnets, zip-ties, bungees, etc… Harbor Freight Tools is a decent choice for cheap fast and easy things like clamps. Hobby Lobby is a good place for wire, small containers, and tinkering tools. Amazon of course is wide open for everything and anything. Magnifying glasses, lighting, Super Lube, quirky Industrial/Scientific needs, and anything you can dream about.

Streaming. Just as I am writing this, I got a notice that Matt Mullenweg, one of the guys behind WordPress – the most vocal and opinionated, at least, posted what tools he uses to stream himself across the world, because it’s that important. And he has the time, TDL, and money to do so.

So don’t just take it from me, take it from someone who knows and appreciates that the right tools do matter to do the job right.

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