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My Great Grandpa, Dad and Grandpa

My Great Uncle, Dad, and Grandpa

I always had the feeling that my father would have liked his first born to be a boy. But he got me instead. Not that he was disappointed at all. I just think he wanted to share “manly” tasks and hobbies with a son. Eight years later when my brother came into the world, my Dad finally had a boy he could do things with. In the meantime, I got to be his “big helper” and help him work on our car and things around the house. When I was little, my help was wobblily holding a flashlight on the spot he was working on or handing him the right tool when he asked for it. Naturally curious, I learned the names of tools, and what they’re used for early on.

I come from a family of wood workers. My paternal grandfather taught wood-working at John Marshall Junior High in Wichita. When I was just a wee baby, my Grandpa enlisted my Dad and Uncle Joe to build a cabin in Hideway Park, Colorado, where my Grandparents escaped the summer heat during the break of the school year.

When I was a child, I was impressed with my Grandpa’s unusually big, flat thumbs. I asked him if the reason his thumbs were shaped that way was because he’d hit them with a hammer too many times. After all, I’d seen that happen to cartoon characters. He laughed and told me no. As an adult, I noticed my brother has inherited the same thumbs, and I know for sure using tools is not how that happened. The smell of fresh cut lumber and the sight of wood shaved into curls on the floor, still makes me think of him.

When I grew up, girls didn’t get the choice between Home Economics or Shop classes. We took cooking and sewing, while the boys got to play with tools. I already knew how to cook. What I really wanted to do was make things. After all, my Dad taught me to believe girls can do these things too. To this day, I am grateful that I spent this time with my Dad, learning the basics of car maintenance and repair and how to work with tools. It’s given me confidence and skills to be able to do a lot of things on my own.

We still tinker on my car sometimes, when I go to visit him. Recently we replaced the mechanism that opens the driver side door from the inside. We watched a video on YouTube that showed us how to do it and went to work. It was easier than I thought, but was glad to have Dad around to help. He patiently stood back, only giving help or advice when I asked for it. Handing me the right tool when I needed it and letting me do it myself. I will always hold this memory dear.

He taught me some good habits and what to do in emergencies. No matter how new my car is, I always check my oil when I fill up with gas. You never know what can happen, and it’s an easy way to reduce my chances of getting stranded by the side of the road. Occasionally, men will stop and talk to me about this, amazed that a woman checks her oil. I’ve driven some real beater cars in my life, and I’ve had to learn to be resourceful. I had a standard transmission Chevette that snapped clutch cables all the time, rendering the transmission useless. I learned how to change it out and got to the point I could swiftly change them in a parking lot and get back on the road. I doubt I could do that with the more complex machines we drive today.

Knowing how to take care of my car is empowering. I feel the same way about being able to fix things around the house. It makes me feel invincible, like I can do anything. There’s nothing more affirming than to look at a project completed to realize, “I did that!” I know not everyone is as lucky as I am, to have someone to teach them these things. Fortunately, there are other ways to figure these things out, like books, YouTube, friends – and classes at the Finishing School for Modern Women. In our Ms Fix It class, we play with power tools and learn simple things, like how to patch holes in walls, change light switches, and what to do when your toilet is running. (You better go catch it! Remember that old joke?) I love watching our students discover that home repair isn’t rocket science and power tool mastery is fun.

I’m excited about our upcoming special event - Maintain Your Ride Field Trip on October 7! That Sunday afternoon, we’ll meet at South Seneca Car Care to talk about cars and get our hands greasy. Just a little. Coleen, the woman owner of this establishment, is going to show us some general maintenance tips to keep our cars rolling down the road. We’ll get to explore under the hood of our own cars, getting the lay of the land and experience doing simple tricks ourselves. We’ve limited this class to 10 people, and tickets are going fast. We’re lucky Coleen is taking the time out her busy schedule to do this for us, and it may only be offered one time. So, if this is something you’ve always wanted to know more about, make it a priority and register pronto!

I truly believe we can achieve nearly anything we set our minds to and have a plan to make it happen. Even trying small projects, like making repairs or doing maintenance, builds confidence to try new things. Taking risks pays off, when we see what we can really do, and eases the cycle of letting fear hold us back. I heard my friend Christina Long speak at an event recently and she told us, “The Comfort Zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” It’s time to bloom.

What will you do to move through your Comfort Zone?

Headmistress Jill

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