DIY 3D Printed robotic lawnmower

Ever since I watched “Honey, I shrunk the kids,” I’ve always wanted a remote control lawnmower. They are on the market now, starting at about a grand USD for 0.25 acres. We can do better than that.

This is a 3D printed example of an Ardumower. An Ardumower is an open source project, powered by Arduino, too, you guess it, build a DIY robotic lawnmower.

Robotic lawnmowers are much like a Roomba. They are designed to run every other day to maintain the grass height, as they are not powerful enough to cut tall grass.

That’s boring, IMO. I want to be able to take a beer outside and watch the passerby’s disbelief as a monstrosity slaves away at my bidding. Meet Ardugasser.

This is an open source design to convert your garden variety pushmower into an R/C lawnmower, just like in the movies. I’m a lazy American though, how dare these crazy Germans to expect me to take control of my lawncare?!

With some DIY, nothing is holding me back from applying the electronics from the Ardumower project to a gasser setup. Challenges would include:

  • Some method to convert rotational energy from the engine into electricity to keep the battery charged
  • Designing/printing a bumper switch for the front end (you know, so it doesn’t run over small animals and children)
  • Would be nice to use the alternator as a starter, for true remote operation
  • Finding a good lab coat to wear while I record the adventures and share on YouTube

The advantages of a dinky, 3D printed unit would be relative safety. If it wanders into traffic, into the park – it can be run from, ran over. I may even build one to see how useful it would be and as a learning platform.

But a gasser, with heavy spinning metal blades and the terror it would strike into a burglar’s heart when remotely activated. That’s priceless.

Settling in, but not settling down

It’s exciting, yet strange to be living in a home again, with a partner. Someone to come home to, someone to cuddle with before going to sleep. Someone to cook with, laugh with, share TV shows together.

In some ways, it can be a test of two people’s bonds. You become a witness to each other’s habits and daily routines on an intimate level. It’s why society pleads for couples not to rush moving in together.

Humanity’s greatest evolutionary mechanism is the mistake. With the power of the mistake, we are free to be unburdened by expectations. Holding oneself accountable equals learning from one’s error, instead of paralyzing fear.

I have often pushed myself to fail and fail hard, especially when dealing with anxiety and agoraphobia. Usually, it came down to not giving myself a way out and experiencing how it all plays out, all the while keeping in mind that I have the power to choose how I perceive. I can be content, possibly even happy, or I can want to be miserable.

As for the impact you shall have on other people, aim to be gentle, intend to be kind. You’re going to fuck up; others will too; because of the only constant in life, is change.

For everything else, there’s Gigabit fiber here. In the country. Astounding.

Home is wherever I’m with you

July always seems to breeze on by for me. As soon as you hear fireworks, you’ll see Halloween decorations being sold with the thought, “Too soon! Too soon!”. So, how have I been spending my summer?

Bike riding has been a cornerstone activity for me. I find the physical activity to be grounding. I’m seeing myself biking for an hour a day, sometimes more. Eventually, your ass stops hurting, and you start building endurance.

Lola has taken quite the liking to bike with me. Amanda joins us every so often, although she wiped out the last time we were out (along with Lola running her over).

Swimming has been a frequent activity. The feeling of floating, bobbing in the water, wrapped around Amanda like a Koala Bear, and her I, is one of my favorites. Lola loves the water.

Anxiety & Agoraphobia has been mute. I haven’t been on medication for a few months now. I find myself biking tens of miles a day, dragging my RV around the Midwest, doing just about anything. I finally feel free, like I can live now. It’s fantastic.

Summer break with Lola is always a welcome challenge. This year has been a bit more challenging due to living in a 200sq ft space on the road. While an RV can undoubtedly be comfortable for two adults, throwing a child into the mix leads to the feeling of being on top of each other.

Never the less, we spent much time outside. Lola enjoys photography; it was something that she picked up on her own.

My favorite shot of Lola’s

Moving in together with my partner has been the highlight of the summer. Our love languages continue to complement each other, leading to a mutual feeling of care, appreciation. I can’t explain it, but everything is simple and works. We maintain our agency, independence and treat our relationship as a mutual meeting place.

It’s the willful embrace that we aren’t perfect, that relationships take work. That people change, goals and priorities change. That you have to always put yourself first in everything that you do. We continue to heal ourselves and each other. I’m excited to what the future brings, but find myself perfectly content with existing in the here and now.

Zipline

My first time on a Zipline. Sweaty palms, increased heart rate. You aren’t quite sure what to expect. You double check your safety harness, you clip on and think to yourself, “What the hell am I doing?”.

The first few seconds are euphoric, everything slows down. You then begin to build speed,  faster and faster; you hit critical mass, you spin and terror begins to take foot. Out of control.

You hit the buffer to stop, a sudden jerk. You swing like a pendulum and quickly gain your footing. The first breath feels like the first in eternity, yet the ride is finished as quickly as it began.

Love sometimes feels like standing on a cliff. You and your partner are on opposite sides of a canyon, with the water below of untold depths. If you jump in alone, you drown. If your partner jumps in alone, they drown.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Yet, here I am again on the cliffside.

Or maybe it’s about finding someone that you don’t have to jump off cliffs for.

A nightmare and a metaphor for life

I find myself at 5:23 AM forced awake from the perils of a nightmare. In this dream, the human race is abducted by aliens and made immortal. We are shaped into whatever form, into an environment of their choosing.

At first, and this will sound bizarre, we were emojis. Once the initial freakout of our new forms was over, the aliens became bored. They started arranging us into groups.

When boredom again set in, we were transformed into our human shapes. It was a dark, wet night. I pumped my legs under the dimly amber lit roads, looking for a house to knock upon to call the police, an ambulance, anyone.

At a white house with peeling latex paint, an African American woman with a broad smile opened the door and allowed me to use the phone. I swiftly called emergency services and informed the operator to send anyone who would come.

Some time passed, and the uneasiness began to set in. More family members let themselves be known. Children were sitting in the loft, blocking the staircase going downstairs. I started feeling trapped.

Panic set in, I could feel my skin crawl. I tried running out the back door but was tackled and knocked out. When I came to, I was tied down to a creaky kitchen chair. The aliens in human form wore white plastic aprons, tall syringes in hand.

They began laughing and stabbing my thighs, chest with the syringes, injecting the fluid, then breaking off the needles in my body. Everything went black.

I awakened from this dream and sat up. The moment I felt my body, I knew I was back in the real. My bedroom was dark with the soft green glow of surge protectors. The hum of the fans, the gentle red glow of the television standby light, a point of reference of the size of the room I was in.

Life is a series of trainwrecks, a steady march into entropy. Much like this nightmare, one always knows, on some level, how much shit they are in, simply due to the virtue of life; the march of time.

Of the most importance is to find gratitude in the mundane. Boredom is a blessing, that life can be so ordinary, stable. Such is a miracle, considering the entropy of the universe.

When Manda met Lola

As a parent, there’s a special feeling you get when you introduce your child to your partner. It’s not something to be taken lightly, it’s the grand assumption that this person will be in your life for the foreseeable future.

The event shouldn’t be something that is overly stressful that one partner pushes for, while the other is hesitant about the situation. First meetings are awkward enough.

There’s a difference between attachment and love. Co-dependency and healthy independence. There’s love languages to be aware of, infatuation to wane. You have to really ask yourself if you are with this person for wholesome reasons, to love them as a separate entity, the other, instead of the desire to be taken care of as a child. You have to ask yourself if you are with this person simply because you don’t want to be alone.

When I met Amanda, actually our first communication was a question, “What are your greatest challenges and how do you work towards growing?”, “What are your short and long-term goals?”, “How do you approach problem-solving.”

Question after question. It was strange to lead with such things. Most people introduce themselves to each other with a funny pickup line, or a rather lame, “hey.” I went through quite a many interested people and told many people no.

Amanda and I approached things differently. We began with the real questions, followed up with a love languages quiz, finished things off with a Briggs-Meyers personality test. INFJs with much of the same love languages, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Physical Touch. Although, I always tend to be more extroverted than your garden variety INFJs.

We both had our doses of poor relationships. Heck, she too knows what it feels like to go through a divorce. We both wanted something real and knew all too well what fire feels like.

We talk about our previous relationship experiences, to learn where things went sour, to grow, in all brutally honest detail. Our infidelities, our darkest moments.

Things just feel different. You think you know what love is, but then you meet someone and find that it shouldn’t be a compromise. You find that love is hard work and sweat. Love is what you can do for your partner, but they have to be willing to do the same. It’s trust, it’s friendship. It’s being able to have the hard discussions, yet laughing until you can’t breathe.

Love is vulnerability. Mutual vulnerability. The ultimate vulnerability.

Yet, most people aren’t willing to be vulnerable enough to experience something real.

“Someone can be madly in love with you and still not be ready. They can love you in a way you have never been loved and still not join you on the bridge. And whatever their reasons you must leave. Because you never ever have to inspire anyone to meet you on the bridge. You never ever have to convince someone to do the work to be ready. There is more extraordinary love, more love that you have never seen, out here in this wide and wild universe. And there is the love that will be ready.”

Nayyirah Waheed

First weekend trip with Manda and RVLyfe update

We started out the weekend by replicating much of our first date in the RV. We baked Vegan Sweet Potatoes.

We loaded up and headed to Lafayette, IN to work on the old place. My friend Travis whom I met on Facebook Marketplace, of all places, offered for us to park the rig in his backyard. He owns a gorgeous property!

Campsite setup!
Luke going for a morning walk

I found that the replacement for the bus, a Ford F250 with a 6.2L V8 to be more than adequate for pulling the ~8,000Lbs trailer. We averaged 8MPG with mostly highway driving. Compared to the overtaxed 5.4L Triton on the aerodynamic brick of the E350 bus, it was a confidence inspiring experience.

Saturday night we headed to Logansport, IN to see family in celebration of my mother’s and brother’s birthday. A cookout and bonfire out in the country. We finished out the night stargazing.

Kevin swinging. Happy Birthday!
Hanging out in the “introvert trailer.” Family time is excellent, with some quiet time
Manda and I on the swingset.
There was no setup. We merely connected power and slid out the slides
Taking a ride with Silverbell to pick up birthday presents

RVLyfe, minimalism, anxiety, and agoraphobia

I find that while the novelty has worn off, I remain excited to experience independence and exploration. There is and always will be more minimalism and organization to achieve. After all, everything I own resides in this rig.

Something my daughter said still reverberates in my head, that I’m “running away from my problems.” She is nine years old. Let’s explore that a bit as it’s been bothering me. Maybe she will read this one day.

I could see that within a society which idealizes home ownership, consumerism, “settling down” and judging personal happiness on the quest of acquiring material goods – that my chosen path may seem unusual.

There could be other reasons, such as living in Lafayette for the better half of five years, most of that time spent while I was with Elaine. Lafayette may represent “home” for her.

Regardless of the reason, I have to say that, instead, I’m running head-on into my problems. Do you have any idea how terrifying this life I have chosen can be to someone who has agoraphobia and anxiety?

A few years ago I couldn’t drive a block away to the store by myself.  If I got stopped at a red light, I started panicking, turned around and drove home as quickly as I could. I felt trapped and in extreme danger.

A few years before that, I stopped eating solid food for fear of choking. I was so hyped up that I’d gag and end up choking. This went on for a few months until I became so miserable that I wanted to choke on food and die. DIY exposure therapy, I began eating again once the pain of remaining the same became more than the pain of change.

I remember going to the Chinese Buffet, preparing an enormous plate of food that I can muster, and screamed to myself, “You are going to choke and die on this.” It became more comfortable, and more natural until I had sufficient exposure to normalize eating again.

Last December, when my life fell apart, I was at a rather dark place. Up until that point in my life, I spent my life in the pursuit of being a people pleaser. I was co-dependent and changed myself to appease others. I stayed in relationships far past their sell-by date in fear of not being able to exist alone. I was a fraud.

I have no greater fear than vomiting and this catalyst for change is much like vomiting for me. One time I consumed a large bag of spoiled pistachios. I became ill, yet through some extreme meditation, I managed to hold it in for a few days. I was more than miserable, the contents of my stomach were poison.

But I’ll never forget the moment that I chose that enough was enough. I went to the bathroom in terror, yet with the sheer determination that if vomiting would kill me, I invited it. I then proceeded to projectile vomit everywhere, all over everything. The feeling of relief was so thick that it was spiritual. I felt like I was born again.

Through sheer determination, I began driving alone. I started traveling. I severed connections to the possessions that I found the illusion of comfort in, distractions. Escapes from my problems. I cut everything and everyone out of my life that tried forcing an identity upon me. I let go.

At that critical juncture of my life, where I could choose to keep holding it in like I did for so many years, meditations to distract me from my problems. Relationships, possessions, hobbies, time wasters. I chose instead to engage in the terrifying thing that I could imagine: An independent lifestyle of travel, as a minimalist.

#RVLyfe for me isn’t a hashtag Instagram curated life. It’s the willful exposure to discomfort, challenge for continued growth and achievement. I often go to bed emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted, but with a humbling feeling of accomplishment and growth.

As for Manda? I’ve accepted that for myself; life is more fulfilling spent with a partner. We have more than adequate communication, problem-solving skills. We share more intimacy and vulnerability than I’ve ever experienced before in a relationship. There will undoubtedly come times in which we will need to support each other when we are weak.

But I think that we both have had our fill of emotionally unavailable, co-dependent relationships to not slip into toxicity. It’s easy, yet challenging enough to continue inspiring growth for the both of us, just as it should be.

Goodbye, Bus

Dear Bus,

You provided me with a critical distraction during a hard part of my life. You enabled me to begin dreaming and setting my own goals. You introduced me to a life of travel and minimalism.

Bus, you helped me find myself and begin living for my own goals and dreams. You pulled my RV when I needed you to, even if you struggled with it. When I first met you, you were unhealthy and burning oil. I poured my love into you, you sprang back to life, excited for the adventure.

I sometimes think of the history your steel chassis holds. The untold stories of your life as a bus, hauling around the disabled. How you shook at highway speeds until I put new tires on you.

Bus, I love you. Thank you for being there, the laughs and the heartache.

But now it’s time for a new adventure. May your chassis hold the dreams and aspirations of changing someone else’s life, to enable them to realize their dreams. Or at least, help someone discover just a little bit more of themselves.

Goodbye, Bus.

Heartburn is a bitch

The #1 thing I’ve disliked the most about life, even over death: waking up at 2am with heartburn.

You get all snuggled in bed, you stretch and yawn, fall swiftly asleep.
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.

You have a flight the next day that you need sleep for so you can manage your anxiety.
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.

Something really exciting and positive is finally happening in your life that you’ve been waiting for!
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.

You’ve had a shitty day and have to up your self-care game to focus on getting to sleep.
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.

You ate way too many vegan tacos, god they were good!
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.

You wake up with heartburn and blog about 2am heartburn, to distract yourself from 2am heartburn.
Fuck you. Up at 2am heartburn.