Cutting Tool Engineering
March 2014 / Volume 66 / Issue 3

Open letter from machinist's wife

By Kathy Deren

It’s 6 a.m. and the wind chill is -45° F. As I watch you get ready for work, your gait is a little slower these days, and I have to talk a little louder because your hearing is not as good after being around loud machinery for more than 30 years. After you go, I settle down with my tea and peruse your latest CTE column. I always try to read them, because you discuss your career, the places you’ve gone and the marvels you’ve seen. I come across the line, “I can’t wait to get to work each day.”

Having been a part of your career, I would like to share some of my insights and experiences. Being the wife of an engineer is different. For one, engineers are a quirky bunch. Not bad quirky, but sometimes it takes patience and fortitude to be married to one. Life is never dull.

You display your technical side when explaining things to laypeople like me. For example, if I ask how a remote setup works, you speak in a language I call “techno-eeze,” which consists of high-tech terms that leave me glassy-eyed and mind-boggled. The question “Why don’t you get it?” can send some marriages to divorce court.

Being married to an engineer means never buying inferior products. For example, assembling a kitchen island from a lesser-quality manufacturer will always produce one screw that wasn’t machined right, which you will then modify to your satisfaction. In addition, home remodeling is not for the faint of heart, as it requires CAD drawings, product procurement, QC and, most of all, project management so it comes in under budget and before the deadline.

I’m like the Marines: I must adapt, overcome and innovate. While you traveled the world, I have held down and sometimes packed up the fort. I used to think I could avoid moving by not hanging the last picture on the wall. It didn’t work. I have juggled my own career, moved with our two children, then teenagers, to three states and handled all the moving arrangements myself.

In one particular instance, while you were traveling for work, I took the kids to a shopping mall in our new city. As I dealt with the moving blues and an argument between hyperactive teenagers, I became distracted and locked the car with the keys still in the ignition—and the motor running. Unfortunately, the spare key was tucked safely in your pocket, at 30,000 ' in the friendly skies.

Another time, I listened to the world news every night while you were in South Africa in 1990 because the U.S. government issued a warning not to go there to avoid possible attacks. I knew you’d go because of your dedication to your job. No matter where your job took you or how tired you were when you arrived safely home, you always had smiles, hugs and kisses for us.

Your travels have enabled me to travel as well, because of all the frequent flier miles. Among other memories, I have crossed the English Channel, seen castles in Scotland, had tea with a scientist in Manchester, England, and sunned by the pool in California while Raul served me breakfast.

Without quirky engineers, America wouldn’t be what it is today. Every day you go to work, helping keep manufacturing in the U.S. and helping our neighbors and friends keep their jobs. We have three grandsons and I notice at least two of them are interested in how things work and are made. Future engineers? I would be proud of them, just as I am proud of you and your accomplishments in the world of manufacturing.

Although it’s freezing outside and I don’t want you out there, I know you can’t wait to get to work today and I am fine with that. CTE


About the Author: Kathy Deren is the wife of Mike Deren, a manufacturing engineer/project manager and a regular CTE contributor. He can be e-mailed at

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