20 Things that Garage Widows Understand

car problems If your husband is a Mr. Fix-It like mine, you have learned – or will learn – a few things along the way. We have been married for twelve years and have had at least as many vehicles over the years. We don’t do car payments. Not one of our one-dozen-plus fleet of vehicles has ever been to a mechanic or a shop.

The only thing we have taken to a professional was our vacuum. Mr. Okayest repaired it himself the first time it broke, but thought he needed a pro the second time it broke. However, the actual vacuum-repairman said he was stumped. My husband brought that thing home, ordered a part on amazon, and brought it back to life himself once again. He has repaired our used dryer more times than I can count. He can fix anything, even when a professional can’t.

Am I grateful? Heck yes. Am I lonely? Heck yes.

Here are a few things that wives of these kind of manly-men have learned – or will quickly learn:

  1. There are two kinds of repairs: “It should be an easy job,” and “It will be a pretty big job.” The former means you will see him at some point that day. The latter means you will hear him refer to the vehicle as a “dirty dirty whore” and you won’t be able to drive anywhere for the entire weekend.
  2. Your kids will be able to identify an air compressor and mimic an angle grinder at the age of one.
  3. You will have to pay a car payment to yourself every month to cover the cost of the repairs he does. Yes, it is wonderful to have no car payments and the flexibility to buy very old vehicles. But it does come at a (literal) cost.
  4. You can probably get antique plates for at least one of your vehicles, saving you the hassle of yearly inspections, which it never passed anyway.
  5. You will double or triple the amount of time he estimates that the repair will take. He’s not slow; repairing things simply breaks other things along the way. On a related note, you will have to budget two or three trips to Advance Auto Parts into each day.
  6. You will pray that it will not rain during the car repairs. If it does, you will be trapped with three toddlers in the house from Friday night until Monday morning, with no vehicle and no ability to play outside.
  7. You will learn to love the smell of grease and carb cleaner, because any smell on the one you are madly in love with becomes familiar and sweet.
  8. You will also wonder if that chemical smell is the reason you never got pregnant.
  9. There will be times that you will wish you could send the car off to a shop and have your husband back, no matter how much money it would cost.
  10. Your UPS man will know you by name. (One of them said to us, “So that was the car I brought in piece by piece, huh?”)
  11. He will curse UPS and FedEx and DSL until he is blue in the face.
  12. At least once a week, you will check on him in the garage and be mortified by the chemical smell and demand that he open the garage door RIGHT NOW. You start to think of yourself as a Geiger counter.
  13. You will have greater tolerance for his hobbies, because of the amazing amount of money he saves your family.
  14. You won’t do normal Saturday family activities, because he will always have a new repair or preventive maintenance to accomplish.
  15. You will have incredible peace of mind knowing that any engine noise you describe to your husband can easily be explained away. You will also take comfort in the fact that he always knows what each vehicle will need, in order, for the next three years.
  16. You will have incredible non-peace of mind, because “the cobbler’s child has no shoes.” You will hear, “Well, it should be okay,” and he will weld things and duct tape things and rig things. He will be MacGyver. You will be amazed and terrified by his creativity (i.e., taking liberties) with the half-ton of metal under his dependents.
  17. You, the kids, and the house will have to get in line.
  18. You will never own a new, or even new-ish, vehicle, since he can keep anything running forever.
  19. Your triple stroller could cost more than your truck. And it doesn’t even have an engine!
  20. The phrase, “As long as I’ve got the thing apart…” will send chills down your spine.


Sons, your mother is seriously looking forward to the time when all three of you are in the garage with your father, helping your father, rather than doing whatever the heck it is that you were doing to me during this long, chaotic, rainy weekend. Hurry up! I really want to finish reading a book again someday. Oh, well, at least our minivan has new shocks and brakes and a whole bunch of other stuff that helps it feel less like a boat.


Furlough and Food Storage

I swear my walker isn't part of my long-term food storage.

I swear my walker isn’t part of my long-term food storage.

With two mortgages, three kids in diapers, two kids in formula, and six mouths to feed (if you count the 100 pound dog), we now have zero income. No matter what political views you hold, we can all agree that this is a scary time. My husband is a pawn in this political chess game, and that means I am too. And so are my children. While I just felt angry and scared at first, my husband made me fall in love with him all over again when he came home that first unpaid day. He said something so kind and sweet about the situation, but  I can’t type it here because it’s too polarizing. (This blog is my story, so I’m not about to throw Mr. Okayest under the political-view-bus.) Just pretend to swoon and feel better like I did.

Having him home is wonderful. We can stay up late. He can actually finish his homework for once. I have two extra hands’ worth of help in a very hectic day. My day-to-day life is actually much better. There have been times when I have thought that having him home would be invaluable to me… and now is the time to put my money where my mouth is. Except I don’t have any money. How much is his help worth? How long will it be worth that much? The truth is, I just love to have his beautiful face around during the day.

But how do you pay the bills during this time? How do you buy food? I heard that some establishments offered free food to furloughed federal workers (alliteration much?). Jackpot! However, when I looked it up, I realized a few ironic things:

1) Most of the free “food” is alcoholic drinks. Dang.

2) Most of the “free” food is just 10% off with a government ID. How exactly do they expect people to pay for the other 90% with absolutely zero income? Seriously, people!

3) Here is the best one yet:  “Thirty percent off spa packages to furloughed employees.” Umm, if you are going to a spa while unemployed, you have some major problems.

I did find a few that said, “Free food to federal workers. Congressmen will not be served.”

So, really, how will this work? What will become of this one-income family if Mr. Okayest is out of work for weeks? I have no idea. The kids keep us too busy and too tired to have “scheduled” a good sit-down. But immediately I knew two things:

1)      I am so thankful for my food storage.

2)      I can’t believe I just sold my cloth diapers LAST WEEK. Idiot!

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

I swear I tidied this short-term pantry for the photo.

Anyway, as for the food storage, our LDS church has always encouraged every member to be self-sufficient. We are taught to keep as much food storage as is reasonable for our home and family. Ideally, we are to have three months’ worth of regular food in the house, which I call “pantry food” – just  large quantities of what we usually buy and eat. It’s part of the rotation. We’re talking about pasta, tuna, canned veggies. (Ok, ok, and also boxes of Kraft and cans of potted meat… I’m southern, remember?)

In addition to a three months’ supply of short-term food storage, we are also taught to aim for up to a year of what we call “long-term food storage”. This includes survival basics. I call it “under-siege food”. We are talking rice, wheat, beans, oatmeal, dry milk. Stuff that your kids would probably cry about if they had to eat.

Our church does not promote doomsday scenarios or wild schemes you see on NatGeo about building a fortress with spikes and “keeping a box with crushed glass by the door for security” (that’s a Doomsday Prepper quote, folks!).  Instead, we are simply taught to keep food storage for personal emergencies. If the husband were to lose his job or become ill, then at least that family wouldn’t have to buy groceries. What savings they do have could go toward the mortgage. We need to be self-sufficient in an emergency. How would you ever help “thy neighbor” if you can’t even help yourself?

Our church also promotes having three months of your salary in savings, as well as two weeks’ worth of water storage. We follow these guidelines. We always have. I built our food storage over years, proudly canning much of it myself into large #10 cans with oxygen absorbers inside. I have a 72- hour kit packed and ready for each member of my family (including that dang dog), if we were to have to leave the home during any of the natural disasters that have occurred here, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or trees falling. Political chess games require more of a shelter-in-place plan.

I hope someday I can help our family be even more self-sufficient. I hope to grow food. I hope to have chickens and goats. (Hey, a girl can dream, ok? I owned a dog-walking business  in a rural area, which meant that I mostly fed chickens, goats, and horses. I was good at it. I liked it.) It’s hard to do these things with three babies, but someday I will have three sons who can help. The trick will be to start when they are young enough to want to help, but old enough to walk and not put everything in their mouths. I want to tap into that “industry” phase of childhood before it’s too late.

We will be fine. I know how to make emergency flat-bread out of a paste of flour and water and salt. (Although that does sound eerily similar to the recipe for homemade play-doh, now that I think about it.)  I know how to cook without power. I know how to make my family poop in a bucket. I know how to … wait, those last two had nothing to do with furlough, did they?

We will be fine. We don’t have any car payments because my husband is freakin’ MacGyver and can make anything work right. We don’t have any debt other than mortgages and student loans. We have savings. If things get bad, we know how to sell things. And how to market my MacGruber’s skills.

We will be fine. We will not be buying the salmon, avocado, and blueberries on which my sons gorge. We will not be spending any gas money to visit the grandparents on the weekends. We will not be buying balloons or presents for the babies’ first birthday this week. However, we will be relying on our precious food storage and being thankful that we followed the advice of our church.

Now if only I hadn’t sold those cloth diapers. Argh.


Notes: I’ve had some inquiries about where to find more information on building your own 72-hour kits. Information on the web is plentiful, but start here: http://www.ready.gov/document/family-supply-list

Here’s a handout I made for a lesson I taught at church: How to make a 72-hr kit

Here is the LDS church’s preparedness page: http://providentliving.org/self-reliance?lang=eng

By the way, I’m not claiming to be any kind of expert on 72-hour kits or anything else. I just really like to try.