When my husband and I first started dating, I fixed his plumbing… A pipe under his kitchen sink broke while I was visiting him during a school break. When he went to work, I went to the local hardware store and got a few replacement parts. I had assumed that my Marine boyfriend would have the basic tools that I needed to do the job, so when I got back to the apartment I looked around. Not finding what I needed, I called him at the office to ask where they might be. He and I and the battery staff got a pretty good chuckle when his Gunnery Sergeant on the other end shouted out “Hey Sir, it’s your girlfriend. She needs a hacksaw and wrench!”
It could probably be argued that that was the moment my (future) husband realized I would be OK with military life. It was also the moment when I realized never to take my tool box for granted. Having the right tools and knowing how to use them is empowering. The knowledge that I can fix stuff gives me the courage to look at a problem straight on and develop a plan for overcoming it. And let’s face it, Semper Gumby requires the ability to come up with a terrific Plan A (B and C too) and then execute Plan F. To help with this, I have 3 tool boxes.
My first tool box is filled with tools I typically need around the house: screw drivers for opening battery compartments on toys and assembling new storage solutions every time we move; a tape measure for figuring out if the furniture can be rearranged to where I think it might look/work better; a plumbers wrench (enough said); a hammer and level for hanging picture frames (once I have rearranged the furniture and the wall art is no longer appropriately placed); pliers for removing small toys from the air registers in the floor, and a utility knife for opening the boxes the afore mentioned storage solutions came in. The second is filled with specialized tools I used in my previous career as a rowing coach and the power tools (I begrudgingly share with my husband) for bigger projects around the house. And my third tool box, arguably the largest of the three, is the one that I reach into when I need help with a particular “life” challenge be it marriage, parenting, or the military.
My “life” tool box is filled with both physical and metaphoric tools. It contains books (no surprise there) about child development and parenting, marriage, deployments, and military life in general. It has resource guides and website bookmarks to get me pointed in the right direction when I have a question about something new (or need to be reminded about what I forgot.) This tool box has all of the important papers and emergency documents I hope to never need. And it also has products I use to keep my kids connected with Daddy, as well as the friends, family, and other people I rely on for help.
Obviously my “life” tool box is not a real box, but knowing what is available to me and understanding when or how to use the resources is just as important as remembering “right tighty, lefty loosy” when I am putting together a kids bed, and “don’t use the hammer” when I have to fix the toilet – again. And just like my mechanical tools, it’s important for me to make sure that I periodically sort through, organize, and even upgrade them.
Not too long back my husband was extended an extra year in his current billet forcing us to continue our lives together-but-apart through geographic bachelor life. I have to admit, while I am used to executing Plan F, I really never saw Plan N coming and it was a bit of a shock. I will also admit that I fumbled for a little while. But then I picked up my tools again and began doing all the small repairs and tweaks that life requires. And now, when he calls to tell me that he can’t come home because of XXX planning crisis, it’s ok because my tools are sharp and organized.
So here is my challenge to you – look through your tool boxes and take stock of what you have. You might find that you’ve misplaced a hammer or wrench or document along the way. Or perhaps it’s been a while since you checked out new Marine and Family Program offerings, and are you registered on E-Marine? It’s easy to assume that just because you have been able to hold down the fort for so long everything is in place, but it’s nice to be reassured that your wrenches are really where you think they are just in case the pipe bursts…
Readiness and Deployment Support Checklist for the Married Marine and Military Spouse