If You Give Us the Tools, We Can Do It

43947533 - red tool drawerKitchens are for girls, garages are for boys. Girls sew, boys saw. That’s the way it was when I grew up. While I was in the home economics class learning how to poach eggs and set a proper table, the boys were in the classroom next door learning how to take apart an engine and make small wooden shelves. While Mom helped me with my knitting, Dad showed my brother how to change the oil on the Buick.

That’s the way it was back in the ’50s and ’60s when I was growing up. Girls needn’t worry their pretty little heads about so-called men’s work. The man of the house would do it.

Bull pucky. What if there is no man? Or what if a woman wants to do it herself? All she needs is the skills. God, I wish there was a shop class I could take now.

Last week, I installed a new toilet seat. I took apart my sink to unclog it. My pellet stove requires constant attention. With my husband gone, no kids, and no money to pay someone, who else is going to do these things?

It has been a week for mechanical difficulties. On Wednesday, seven days after I came home from my trip to San Jose, I realized my “landline” phone had not rung in ages. I don’t get a lot of calls, but this seemed strange. I tried calling myself with the cell phone. My phone started to ring then cut off. Being me, I did this about seven times before I decided I had to call the phone company.

Yesterday, a nice man spent two hours here checking all my phones and wires. He had to get at all five phone jacks, which meant moving my dresser, crawling under my desk, and getting right in the middle of my mess, while I watched, helpless and embarrassed. I could have done most of what he did.

In the end, he fixed a short in the wires and determined that two of my five phones were dead. I sang “Taps” and put them out for the garbage, then pulled ancient “princess” phones out of a drawer and watched him plug them in. I put “buy phones” on my to-do list. Why does one person have five phones? Part of it is that with my fading hearing I can’t hear the phone ring if I’m not nearby. Part of it is just that once upon a time there were more people here.

The phone guy was observant. He asked about my guitars. He commented on the giant Styrofoam image of Fred from his retirement party. He talked about his own retirement plans. I kept talking about “we.” “We” had two businesses, “we” moved the phone jacks. I never mentioned that “we” is just me now. He might have figured it out from the shrine in the bedroom.

After he left, I set out to work on the lawnmower. Last Friday it worked fine while I mowed the front lawn. Since then, it huffs and it puffs, but it won’t start. I tried adding gas, checked the oil, turned it upside down and shook it, unscrewed the top and stared inside, and watched a video on YouTube. Okay,  the problem could be fuel, compression or spark plug. I decided the spark plug was the culprit. Apparently you’re supposed to change them once in a while. Timidly, I pulled off the rubber do-hickey and exposed the white end of the spark plug. Now, how does a body get that thing out of there? And what is this business about “gapping?”

Too much. I walked across the street to ask my neighbor. He wasn’t home, but the dog was overjoyed to see me. Unfortunately, the dog does not have hands.

Hey, YouTube.

A YouTube guy with a long beard and southern accent described the process. You get your 3/8 ratchet and your 13/16 socket and pull out the plug and . . .

Wait. What?

Somewhere in the garage were sockets and ratchets. I opened drawers till I found them lined up in their little boxes like my crochet hooks in different sizes. But which one is for spark plugs?

Later. It was almost time to start making dinner. It was going to rain soon. I still had a section of jungle I needed to weed-whack. I pulled out the weed trimmer. It hummed, but it didn’t cut. I checked the string. How different is it from thread in a bobbin? Not very. I straightened that sucker out, pushed the switch, and shouted in jubilation as the weed parts flew. No wonder guys like power tools. I cut and cut, even when the rain started pelting my hair and darkening Fred’s old green shirt. I finished the job and went in to make dinner.

I pulled a package of rolls out of the freezer. The bag broke. Bread and sesame seeds littered the floor. Seriously? My language scared the dog.

Yesterday, I conquered the weed-whacker. Today I will conquer the spark plug. If I can change a guitar string, I can do this.

Men, share your tools with your wives and daughters. We’ll show you how to bake a cake and run the vacuum cleaner. Women, go out to the garage and refuse to leave until the guys show you how to do what they do. Don’t just bring them a beer and go back to the kitchen. You need to know this stuff.

I welcome your comments.

Photo copyright: peeranat / 123RF Stock Photo

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My new novel Up Beaver Creek is coming soon. The interior pages are complete, and the cover is in progress. It will be available next month. Meanwhile, check out my Amazon page for other books you might want to read. I’ll be outside working on the lawnmower.

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Lawnmower one, widow lady zero

I keep looking in the mirror, expecting to see the skin around my right eye turning colors and my right cheek puffing up. That’s where the defeating blow landed. That’s how my glasses got bent so they hung half off and half on my face. That’s what led me to sit on the grass and cry, hugging my dog like a giant teddy bear. You’d think I was 4 instead of almost 64.

What am I talking about? One of the joys of being widowed is inheriting all the home and yard care, unless you have the money to hire someone. I’m thinking that guy in Lady Chatterley’s Lover would be great. For those who haven’t read the D.H. Lawrence book, Lady Chatterley’s husband was paralyzed from the waist down and could not make love. They were rich and had a large estate, cared for by the “Gamekeeper,” Oliver Mellors. Although a man of few words, Mellors was very expressive in other ways, including keeping Lady C very happy. It was quite a racy book for 1928. Now, I don’t have any game to keep, just lots of trees, unmowed grass and a house that’s too big for me, but I wouldn’t mind having a Mellors to take care of the property–and me, too. Or a woman who knew her way around a tool belt.

Anyway, back to the lawn. The rain had finally stopped for a couple of days. All the neighbors were off to work. It was just me and the pooch. After several winter months in the shed, the lawnmower was not working properly. It coughed, smoked, cut a stripe or two in the grass and quit. Over and over. God, how I wished some burly man would come striding up to the fence and say, “Hey, little lady, what seems to be the trouble?” And then he’d come in and fix the damn thing and mow the whole lawn while he was at it. But no.

My mechanical knowledge is limited. I know how to cook, write, play music, and sew. That’s pretty much it. If the tire light comes on in my car, I take it to Les Schwab. If the toilet leaks, I call a plumber. When the cord on the old lawnmower broke a year or two ago, I bought a new lawnmower. Know what I mean? Now I’m not saying this is true of all women. I know lots of women who could wrestle that lawnmower into submission. But not me.

I tried what I knew with the lawnmower. Oil? Check. Gas? Check. Spark plug? Still there. I flipped the lawnmower over, looking for obstructions underneath. I poked around with a screwdriver. Nothing. I pulled the cord. Nothing. I did that about 10 times with the same results. It sputtered and worked for a minute, gushing out smoke and coughing until it died.

I tried pushing the lawnmower up vertically to look underneath, and that’s when it happened. Bam! I lost my grip and the handle crashed down on my face.

Four days later, I don’t even have the satisfaction of a good black eye, although my cheek still hurts and I do have a giant bruise on my upper arm where the handle hit on the way down. Some part of me wants to have a visible injury so people ask about it and admire this poor brave little widow. Yeah, right.

But that’s not the end of the story. On Friday, I was about to load the lawnmower into the car to take it to Sears for repairs. I decided to yank the cord one more time. And guess what? The lawnmower roared into action. As I shouted hallelujahs, I decided I’d better mow the front lawn before the mower changed its mind. Forget Sears. Yes, I was overdressed for lawn-mowing, and I couldn’t see because I wasn’t wearing my mangled glasses, but I mowed it.

The drama wasn’t over yet. On the far side of the driveway, water had been standing dog-knee deep for several days. I thought we had just had more rain than the ground could absorb. But post lawn-mow, my neighbor wandered over and we both ended up staring at that water. It was flowing. This was not rainwater. We had a leak. Pat called the water company while I dashed into town to get my glasses fixed. The optometrist told me I needed to think about buying new ones. They were getting old and brittle and could not take much more bending before they broke. You see, this was about my fifth time having it done. Great. New glasses. No vision insurance.

Back home, I found the street blocked with Seal Rock Water Company trucks and machinery and a half dozen water company guys, including one chest deep in a hole in my front yard, a hole that didn’t used to be there. The only good news was the problem was the connection to my neighbor’s water, not mine. Since I couldn’t get to my house anyway, I went off to my weekly jam in Waldport for a couple hours of music. When I came home, the hole was filled with rocks, and the men were gone.

End of story? Not quite. Last night, I discovered the toilet was leaking. Stop!

Also, my glasses hurt my sore face.

I’m still waiting for Lady Chatterley’s Lover. He was handy.

 

W stands for . . . Weed Whacker

As I hefted the big box onto the counter at Fred Meyer, the toddler in the shopping cart ahead of me stared at it. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’s to trim my grass,” I said, feeling all proud and strong because I was taking charge of my own yard instead of depending on a husband or gardener.

The child pondered this for a while, then pronounced, “It’s a weed whacker!” How does this kid no more than three years old know this? I nodded. “Yes, it is.”

I paid my hundred bucks for this girl-sized appliance, electric instead of the monster gas one rusting in the shed. I could barely lift that thing. I took my new toy home and spent the next hour putting it together, with the dog supervising. It took 10 hours to charge the lithium battery, so I couldn’t use it that day. But the next morning, I couldn’t wait to attack the overgrown grass I’d missed on my first adventure with the lawnmower.

Battery charged and attached. Height adjusted. Handle placed where I wanted it. Goggles on. Ignition. Bzzzzz. It worked! I was only going to try it out, but I whacked every place that still had a blade of grass or a weed sticking up. Oh the power! I ignored the fact that my tendonitis-plagued arms soon started hurting (and now my right arm is almost unusuble) and that my back was already bothering me. Look at that grass fly. It was wet from last night’s drizzle. I could have/should have waited, but they were predicting rain, and I wasn’t going to wait several more days. When you get a dry day on the Oregon Coast, you’ve got to get outside and do the yard work. The wet grass did a number on my good shoes, and my socks are wet, but I don’t care. Look at my lawn.

I have begun to understand how people, mostly men, become obsessed with grooming their lawns. It’s instant gratification, as opposed to this writing business where you can write for years with minimal results beyond the satisfaction of having written.

If you’ve been mowing lawns for years and think I sound ridiculous, well, at 62 I’m still figuring things out. 

W stands for Weed Whacker, a power-driven device that trims grass with a rapidly rotating nylon cutting cord. It sure beats the little clippers I used cutting the grass along the fence as a kid. 

I’m participating in this month’s A to Z blogging challenge, and W stands for weed whacker. My alphabetical posts are distributed among my various blogs. Here is the schedule:
 
W Unleashed in Oregon
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Childless by Marriage

More than 2000 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. For more information, visit a-to-zchallenge.com You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will. Come back Monday to find out what X stands for.