Society would have us believe that all little girls grow up dreaming of long white wedding dresses and all little boys of hot rods and pro ball teams. The reality is in today's culture it is not unusual to find the blue-jean clad legs of a teenager under the chassis of a car belong to a young woman or the genius behind a gourmet meal a young man.

We live in a grand time that allows both men and women to explore and develop talents that formerly belonged staunchly to one gender or the other. However there are those of us who still shy away from the tool shed for fear we will hammer, saw or drill something we might need. Like an arm or leg…

There are those of us who believe channel locks have something to do with the Erie Canal. Hopefully those of us in that group are able to find spouses that have the repair gift and we will be able to live happily ever after, unless you married a Sailor or Marine. The monkey wrench is thrown into the fairy tale when the bride or groom wears the uniform of the United States military. Obligatory separations due to various calls of duty pull the tool-oriented spouse away leaving the other behind to face the inevitable crash of anything mechanical, electrical or from the world of plumbing.

If you view the underside of the hood of your car as a strange puzzle, or find the inner workings of your toilet beyond your comprehension, read on. You may be surprised at just how simple some of it is.

One of the first things to do is to make sure you have the necessary tools to tackle whatever surprises may be thrown your way. The following items should be in everyone's home toolbox.

Screwdrivers: Phillips and Flat Head


Hack saw

Set of Allen Wrenches

Tape Measure

Pliers: Needle Nose, Channel Locks, Wire Cutters

Socket Wrench with various Sockets

Monkey/Pipe Wrench

Razor Blade knife

Pair of Scissors

Variety of Nuts, Bolts, Screws and Nails


Staple Gun

Duct Tape/Rigors Tape

550 Chord

When all else fails the last four items on the list can hold just about anything together until additional help comes. Yard sales, estate sales and clearance sales can get you well on your way to having an impressive set of tools all your own. If your spouse is territorial over their set of tools, you can paint the handles of yours a bright neon color. This will not only allow you to quickly locate them, but it guarantees exclusive use by you.

Once you acquire your stylish set of tools, you're ready for that deployment or separation. Expect to have at least 3 disasters per fiscal quarter your Sailor or Marine is gone.

In order to avoid burning your vehicle in effigy in the front yard of your government quarters some preventive maintenance is the way to go. When preparing for a separation it might not hurt to add a mini car class to your "to do" list. Have your Sailor, Marine, or other knowledgeable person go over your vehicle and point out where the oil is, what type of cooling system you have (belt driven or electric fan), or how to safely open your radiator in the event you overheat etc.

In addition to acquiring basic knowledge of your car, regular oil changes can be a great benefit. There are many places available that will not only change your oil, but check all your fluid levels, the tread wear on your tires and ensure your signals are all working. Most of the time all this can be done for around $20.00 to $25.00. Plan on working this cost into your quarterly budget. Watch for coupons or specials. Most large bases these days have oil change facilities on board the installation. It could save you bigger dollars down the road.

When your preventive maintenance is unable to prevent necessary car repairs, arm yourself with knowledge before visiting your local garage. The ability to access information now is not only easy, but can help keep you from being bamboozled by a less than honest mechanic. Check out DoItYourself Auto Care and Car Tips or iCARumba. These web sites offer informative information that can help trouble shoot the problem your having with your vehicle. You can get suggestions that you yourself might be able to initially correct that could end up saving you hundreds of dollars. If nothing else, you will go in more prepared and knowledgeable about your vehicle than you were before.

Other than your car falling apart 30 minutes after the ship has sailed or the plane has taxied from the terminal, one of the scariest things to witness is the overflowing of a toilet. You go for the flush and the water rushes into the bowl. The water level continues to rise toward the edge of the toilet. You stand transfixed in horror, a sinking feeling in your stomach as you realize that you will be laundering every towel in your house. Other plumbing issues that are not as horrifying, but just as annoying, are a dripping faucet or leaky pipe. Not only can these problems run your water bill up and waste a natural resource; they can grate on your nerves until you're ready to scream. With a little determination and fortitude you can save yourself costly service calls and put those stylin' tools to work. Two simple rules to remember will keep your plumbing woes to a minimum.

Rule number 1: Know where to turn the water off at all sinks, washing machines and toilets. All faucets that have hot and cold water will have two valves to turn off. Knowing where these are and how to turn them off can keep damages to a minimum when a problem occurs.

Rule number 2: Have an easy to understand do-it-yourself book close by or a "fix it" web site bookmarked so that you can access it quickly. Home Depot is a great site. Under the fix-it section you can find step by step instructions as well as illustrations. Another great web site that can answer plumbing questions is MSN's Home Advisor. Take time to increase your knowledge about the workings of your home. What kind of faucet do you have? Where are all the valves located? You can pick up great tips like:

"To keep your channel-type pliers from scratching the finish when you take a faucet apart for repair, wrap masking tape around the jaws of the pliers."

"To keep drains, including tub drains, running freely, treat them weekly with this nontoxic formula. Combine 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of salt, and ¼ cup of cream of tartar. Pour ¼ cup of this mixture into each drain in the house, followed by 2 cups boiling water."

"Before resorting to a chemical drain cleaner to clear a clogged drain, try this simple remedy: pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 1 pint of vinegar. In fifteen minutes, pour 2 or 3 cups of boiling water in the drain, and the clog should be cleared."

(Tips from The Complete Photo Guide to Home Repair by Black & Decker published by Creative Publishing International of Minnetonka, Minnesota.)

Just think how impressed your spouse will be next time they go to tear apart your sink and you can casually suggest a few "professional" hints.

Regardless of your knowledge or skill level of home and car repairs, know that with today's technology and resources you can improve them. The ability to become more independent and self-sufficient can be personally rewarding. It doesn't hurt to impress that Sailor or Marine you married either. The money you save can go towards your next family vacation or your next home improvement project.

DIY Network can get you started and make it so that even the most tool timid of us can get excited about dry wall repair, or creating a cedar lined closet. Just think what you can do in 6 months before that grand reunion. Now get that hammer and hacksaw and get busy!

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