Practical Skills

Last night, as I was driving home from Ed’s family’s house, I realized that my brakes just didn’t feel right.  I had to push the brake pedal all the way to the floor in order to stop, which was a scary feeling.  My dad has always told me that if something’s wrong with my car but it will still drive, drive it home.  However, in this case I wasn’t worried about driving, I was worried about stopping.  I contemplated trying to make it home with my car and after another pedal-to-the-floor stop, I decided to call Ed.  We had both left at the same time, so he pulled over and switched with me.  I drove his truck, and he slowly drove my car.  He guessed that a brake line had blown, but decided to try to make it to the farm where there’s a vehicle lift so he could work on it.  By the time we got to the farm, the brakes were gone.  Ed drove very slowly and made it safely, thank goodness.  In retrospect, we probably should have called a tow truck, but that’s not the point of the story.

My mom let me borrow her car today, and I’ll be going back to school for conferences tonight.  While I’m at work, Ed and my brothers plan to work on my car.  While I was driving home from school this afternoon, I thought about how lucky I am to have a husband and family with practical skills.  I’ve taken it for granted, but it’s been this way my whole life.  I remember when I was first driving joking with friends that I didn’t need “Triple A” because I had “Triple Al” (my dad) to come rescue me if anything went wrong.  And it was true; whenever something was broken, my dad could always fix it.  And around a farm, things break all the time! A typical project involves at least one thing breaking, and I remember my dad was (and is) always working on something.  He calls the ability to figure out and fix problems “Yankee ingenuity.” 

They say that girls marry someone like their dad, and in this case it’s true.  Ed fixes my car when it’s broken.  He builds furniture for our house.  He can weld, do minor electrical work, hunt and fish, clean and butcher animals, fix motors of all kinds, and use Yankee ingenuity to solve just about any problem that comes along.  I’m very lucky to have him around when things go wrong.

I lack these practical skills.  My multiple college degrees don’t fix my car when it breaks and don’t build shelter for me.  I started feeling kind of down on myself, since I lack these basic survival skills.  Sure, I can do some pretty important stuff like grow and preserve food, sew, knit and crochet, and cook from scratch.  But these are traditional women’s skills and I feel like they’re no big deal.

Really, though, we don’t need to have all of the skills to survive.  Humans didn’t evolve to live in isolation.  Part of why we’ve survived for so long is our ability to work together.  There’s nothing wrong with depending on your loved ones, because working together is what it’s all about.  I guess “group-sufficiency” is a better goal than self-sufficiency.

I wrote this whole post and then remembered that a microscope fell apart in school today.  A student announced “It’s broken.”  I looked at it, saw that a screw had fallen out, grabbed my screw driver and put it back together.  I guess I’ve got some of that Yankee ingenuity, too.

Does your family share practical skills?



Filed under Living from Scratch, Sustainable Living

10 responses to “Practical Skills

  1. I’m lucky like you and am surrounded by people with many skills. Sometimes I feel like I married Superman and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Maybe the skills you and I possess are “traditional woman skills” but you should give us more credit. I bet if you polled a random sampling of woman in our age group not many would be able to do half of the things people like us can do. I sometimes forget how uncommon those skills are because so many people in this blogging community practice them. In the real word I think it is quite rare to be able to knit a gift, can your food, or grow your food for that matter. We rock. 🙂

  2. I share your skills, for the most part. I can do traditional ‘woman’s work’, and I can also do the sorts of things I learned to do in engineering school, like solder or tap a screw. And both my husband and I are very technically savvy. However, neither my husband nor I can build, and neither of us are what I would consider mechanical. If the brakes went on my car, it would be Triple A for sure.

    Honestly, I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t live in a setting where I have access to other people to do certain things for me. I guess I would figure it out as best I could, but I’m really glad I don’t have to.

  3. We are lucky to have such handly guys around, that’s for sure! I knew it when your brother at about age 10 put together an entire gas grill that had no fewer than 200 pieces! Probably came from building those 1,000+ piece Lego sets! I could never do that and never had the patience for that!

    I think families—and especially couples—complement each other, and if we’re lucky, we compliment each other, too, on the know-how that one has that the other lacks!

    I’ve always said that opposites attract and I know that is true with your Dad and me! I may have “book-smarts” and multiple degrees (as you said), but I could never begin to do the stuff that your Dad, hubby, and brothers do–and I’m not afraid to admit that! I appreciate everything they do!

    How sweet that you’re seeing similarities in your husband and father.

    Hope your conferences went well . . . and oh, yeah, when am I getting my vehicle back? Just kidding!

  4. As a couple, my husband and I are probably the LEAST handy people I know. I think a lot of skills obtained growing up are based on “need to know” and we didn’t need to know. He and I both had the “book-smarts” which enabled us to make enough money to hire the handy folks. His brother is handy and we joke sometimes that he got all the handy genes in his family. I don’t think my family had many handy genes. My dad and brothers weren’t handy. My mom was very creative; she liked to make woodfiber flowers, crochet, etc. I guess that’s called crafty today. I have little interest in crafts.

  5. yep- my dad is practical- he built our house and cottage with friends, built our bedframe and side table.
    Andrew on the other hand- he never had that opportunity growing up- his dad is quite white collar and not really mr practical. That means that although once we have a home with a garage and he is gifted with some tools he’ll most likely become all practical, right now I do the caulking around the tub, touch up the paint etc.

    well now- perhaps it’s more of a two-way street now that I think about it- we’re more partners on this practical part… I guess I wish we had a garage with tools… lol. 🙂

  6. angiecox

    I definitely went looking for someone who could fix stuff without having to call in and pay the pros when I was man hunting. I don’t recall us ever calling a plumber when I was growing up, and there has been very little that my sweet and talented man hasn’t been able to handle. We’ve built houses together (well finished them out–we let the pros do the basic framing), installed appliances, tiled floors, extended the life of lawnmowers, you name it. I joke that I sleep with the housekeeper, yardman, poolguy, plumber, etc. Well….I do and he’s wonderful.

  7. I can relate to this. My dad is very handy I rarely can remember repair people ever being at our house.

    My husband is the same way. He can fix most anything. Now my FIL on the other hand is anything but handy, not sure where my husband got it because his family hires people do to everything.

    I’ve thought many times how bad it would have been if I had not married someone handy. For one they would likely not be happy that I could fix a lot of stuff (I helped my dad often and own my own Snap-On screw driver haha) and I would be annoyed at having to hire people to do what I couldn’t do (which is normally and I’m small and not that strong issue lol).

  8. Rob

    That’s why marriage is called a partnership. You and Ed compliment each other> The skill s you don’t have , he does and Vice Versa. Besides- you shape kids minds and prepare then for adulthood. And I don’t hace a snap-on screw driver- I am jealous of your screwdriver

  9. Rob

    Or rather Lisa’d snap on! Time dor bed, I am mixing comments with your post LOL

  10. Samantha Richardson

    my dad is very handy- he can fix anything (he’s a retired mechanic and he designed and built the house he and my mother live in in CT). luckily, my boyfriend is the same way. he has multiple college degrees that he doesn’t use but he can fix anything and everything he touches and it’s really cool. sometimes i do get down on myself for not having the physical strength to do half of what he does. and living on a sailboat, i NEED his help a lot, esp. lifting heavy things, etc. but like everyone before me has said, we complement each other… he fixes things and i feed him. 🙂 and while sometimes i dislike the idea of “a woman’s work” and “a man’s work”, there is logic behind it.

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