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Plumbing, Electrical, Cars, Oh My

Updated on December 28, 2011

My husband of 20 plus years has spent a majority of the last twelve years working out of town or state. At this time he is home only on weekends. At other times he has been home only two or three days a month, and for some intervals it has even been two or three days every two or three months. For the last twelve years, I have considered myself a single mom due to his lack of presence in the home. For that reason, I have learned how to manage many household tasks without him.

Car Fluids

I think all females should learn how to check their car’s fluids. This is a fairly easy task and helps to prevent many serious problems. All you need is a manual or a person to show you what is what and where the levels should be. Many years ago I was driving my car and the brakes felt squishy. When I got home, I looked in the manual and learned that brake fluid was needed. I must say that after putting in the fluid I felt like patting myself on the back. Fortunately, I decided to drive the car around the block as halfway around I had no brakes. The brake lines were so old that they were cracked. No amount of brake fluid would have stopped my car, but a tree did. I smashed the front end. When my husband came home, he replaced my front end. I can usually tell my husband what is wrong with my car, even when he won’t listen to me. Case in point, recently I told him I think there is a problem with the transmission. He drove my car and said “no, the spark plugs need to be cleaned.” Next week he was in town I told him, “I think there is something wrong with the transmission.” He drove it and rebuffed me, because of course he does not hear what I hear. Next time he is in town, we use my car to go to our daughter’s competition that is forty minutes away. As we pull into the parking lot the transmission dies. It was hard not to rub it in. He does manage to get the car parked and out of the way, more than I would have been able to. The only reason that I am able to determine what may be ill with my car is not because I am now becoming mechanically inclined, oh no, it is because many times I “hang out” with him while he has worked on our cars. I hand him tools, hold this or push that. Don’t ever expect me under the car or hood fixing anything. But, I do keep my eyes and ears open.

Power Saw vs. Handsaw

So while over the years, my husband has been the one to keep my car running, I have tackled many other household tasks that usually would have been delegated to him. In Alaska I had a little closet under the stairs I wanted to convert to a sewing area. I had a desk and some shelves that would fit. But first I wanted to hang some shelving as well. Over several months it was on his honey do list. That was the time when he was only home for two or three days a month. Not much time to get projects done and spend time with the girls. Eventually, I decided I would do it. I knew I needed to cut the wood that I had into three different sizes, due to being under the stairs. I found his circular saw. I picked it up, turned it over, examined it and decided yes I could use it. I then put it down as I had never used a circular saw before and had no intention of losing a finger. I found the handsaw. Surprisingly with very little effort, I was able to cut my wood to the sizes I needed. Hanging the shelves was a cinch. Oh yeah, my skills are growing, but I don’t let it go to my head. That was a fairly easy project.

Electrical Outlets

After selling above house, the inspection failed for one thing. The garage needed a GFCI outlet instead of the regular outlet. Knowing that I was on my own due to my husband being out of town; the inspector tells me that I can replace it. I am sure my eyes bugged out as my jaw dropped. What is a GFCI outlet? With the circular saw I could have lost a finger or two, but now I could be electrocuted or worse burn the house down before getting the money! He was serious. He told me the steps of what to do and told me to call back once it is done. I installed a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet without burning the house or myself and passed the inspection. Since then, I have replaced other outlets with ease and confidence.


Last year my toilet overflowed. It has happened over the years; usually the plunger does the trick. I lift the back of the toilet to stop the water running. Yes, another thing all females of all ages must know: stop the water from running and then turn the water line off. In this process, I find that the float arm was broken. This is the device that allows the water to stop flowing into the tank once full. No need for the plunger. I remove the broken arm and head to the local hardware store. I simply ask for an arm that will replace the broken arm. I was informed that they no longer sell arms; I had to replace the fill valve. My eyes gloss over. In just a few short hours, I have my three school-aged children plus three or four other girls departing the bus and entering my home. I have one bathroom, one toilet for seven or eight girls. Yes, I can and will replace the fill valve. After several failed and flooded attempts, I finally installed the fill valve so that I don’t have water leaking from the tank. All before the bus…success! This boosted my confidence with plumbing.

I had been eyeing my bathroom sink faucet for years. It was broken, scummy and just plain gross. With this new found confidence, I decided to replace the faucet. After all, I now have skills that give me some advantage, right? I bought the faucet, looked at many internet sites that explained the process. I gather up tools and a bucket. I have over the years, cleaned many sink traps, which is the u- shaped pipe under a sink. This trap is where all things gather that have slipped down the drain, and it keeps the sewer gases from coming into our homes. Using a bucket keeps the slimy water from escaping too far. It is a dirty, gross job, and I slowly make progress. After disconnecting the water supply tubes from the water supply, progress stopped. The water supply tubes were connected directly to the old faucet with no way of removing them. It was too late to head to the hardware store. I had to put the sink back together for the night. The next day I bought flexible water supply tubes and finished the job. For many of you reading this you may think that is not a big deal. For me, I was excited and proud. You know it is the little things.

Creepy Crawlies

So where does all this lead? If you have not figured it out, I am usually ready and willing to tackle most things. I have always had the try anything spirit. For the last two days I have been sick with the flu. Today, I am feeling well enough to shower. During my shower, the water is draining slowly. Not that unusual as there are five females plus a handful of Barbies that use the tub. After the shower, I get my designated wire coat hanger and start pulling up hair from the drain. Only hair is not the only thing that comes up. I pull the drain itself off! Well, if I can only lift the plumbing pipes up enough, I can screw the drain back on. No matter which tools I find, I cannot complete this task. Panic starts to set in; it seems that I have two choices: call a plumber or go into the crawl space under my house. Each choice has its own set of problems. Calling a plumber costs money and it is just a few days after Christmas, so money is a bit tight. The other option is to crawl with the creepy crawlies. I am not sure if I can do it. Back before children, my husband and I explored many old gold mines in the mountains of Colorado. Warning: children do not attempt. Leave that to young adults who think they are invincible. In more recent years, I have been in several caves here in Missouri. So you can see, dark, damp, underground spaces are not necessarily a no go. But to go under my house creeps me out. My husband calls this evening, as he does every evening to say good night to the girls. Only this time I answer the phone and begin to growl at him as I explain what I have been trying to accomplish. He asks me if I am blaming him. Well yes, being that I am already mad at him for something totally unrelated, and everything is always his fault. NO! Wait, I am just frustrated, I tell him. I am tired, still not feeling well, and wanted to fix my problem. He tells me that he will be home in just a couple of days and he will go under the house and push up the pipes so I can screw on the drain. He will also take a look around and see if everything else is ok. Problem delegated.


No matter how much or how little we can do for ourselves, we all need some help at times. Whether it is a husband, boyfriend, brother, father, uncle, neighbor or friend, we need to be able to ask for help and then be thankful for it. My husband does not load the dishwasher like I want him to, he does not feed the girls the way I want when he watches them, and don’t get me started on the laundry. Years ago I learned to bite my tongue on those issues because after all, he does the dishes, laundry and watches the girls without pleading, whining or fighting. Relationships are about give and take, independence and dependence and most importantly humble gratitude! So when my husband comes home, I will be thankful and nice to him.


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