Many men who choose the simple life are handy with tools and know how to build and fix things around the house. Scott Nearing, the man whose book “Living the Good Life” gave this blog half of its name, even built his own stone house.
But that’s not me. I grew up in a city and had a father who didn’t know how to fix things because his father…you get the idea. I can hold my own in the kitchen and the garden, and enjoy vacuuming and feeding the woodstove. But I’m just not in my element among hammers, nails, drills, power saws, electrical circuits and two-by-fours.
Of course, I did the only smart thing an un-handy man who likes saving money while living in an old house can do. I married a handy woman. Isn’t it wonderful how we are less restricted by gender stereotypes than we were 40 years ago?
Betsy was the daughter of a handy man and took wood shop in junior high school. As an adult she enjoyed working with her father around our house on projects like installing insulation, putting up fences and building a shed. Fifteen years ago, Betsy designed and helped build an addition to our house under the tutelage of some carpenter friends of ours.
She knows how to construct shelves, repair a leaky roof, paint walls, patch holes and find the electrical panel and flip the circuit breaker if needed. She looks things up in home repair books and on the Internet and is not intimidated by minor house repair needs.
While we’ve been working on this blog post, Betsy noticed a trail of water coming from our refrigerator. She checked in the basement to make sure nothing electrical was amiss, then diagnosed the problem within minutes. It was a glass jar at the back of the fridge that was too close to a cooling panel and froze and shattered, spilling its contents. It would have taken me days to figure that out.
Betsy knows that because I didn’t grow up handy, I am not skilled or confident in this area. She wonders if my brain has simply not developed the pathways for mechanical problem solving and spatial awareness. She believes a lot of her ability is learned and that I have more potential than I realize. She points to an incident 20 years ago when I fixed the door to a clothes dryer that wouldn’t close. (I think I kicked it.)
Occasionally, I will help Betsy with household projects that require four hands. But in these instances I defer to her judgment and consider myself just a helper. Maybe having different areas of ability helps us avoid marital conflict.