American Military University

All I wanted for Christmas was my husband back, but instead I got a tool belt from my parents. In their defense, I come from a family of contractors. Not the government kind of contractor, but the build-your-addition and remodel-your-kitchen kind of contractors.

Being raised in the family that I was and being on my own fixing leaky toilets and triaging broken garage doors much of the time while my husband is on deployments, I rival Nicole Curtis for the title of handiest woman alive.

I posted the picture of me sporting my fabulous new tool belt on Facebook and was astounded by the comments. Most were attagirls, some were invitations to fix things in their homes, but some were terribly off base.   My tool belt is not pink, although I wouldn’t mind if it was, and it is not designed to hold sandwich tools. It can be used for art supplies, but not as a fashion accessory.  It is all in good fun, but what I am getting at is that several of my Facebook friends cannot wrap their brains around what we deal with as military spouses.

If you were not raised by construction workers, you may not see the practical application for a tool belt, but hear me out. We military spouses need hard skills.  We manage a lot on a daily basis, and things go wrong–things that require skills. We need to know the difference between a flat and a Phillips head screwdriver, even if it’s to replace the batteries in that annoying remote control car.

Where can we learn these skills? The school of hard knocks works, but there are better options.

My local hardware store offers classes in everything from gardening to installing ceiling fans. Most major chains, like Lowe’s and Home Depot offer regular classes in their stores. You can probably even invite representatives to your FRG meetings or schedule a private lesson in-store if you have a specific topic you want to learn about.  There are classes for kids, too.

Another great place to learn skills to help you maintain your home is your local community or technical college. We have been lucky enough to be stationed near technical colleges twice and they offer great weekend training programs. Watch your local paper for specials and keep your eye out for their fliers in the mail.

If you are somewhat skilled, there are many websites to guide do-it-yourselfers like myself. DIY network hosts several how-to videos, as do Lowe’s and Home Depot’s websites. My brothers tell me that you can find anything on YouTube, but caution to make sure the instructions are being offered by someone who appears to know what they are doing.

DIY is not for everyone, but it does help to have some basic fix-it skills in your (real or proverbial) tool belt.

I hope that the year is maintenance free for you. But, since that doesn’t seem likely, I hope this inspires you to take time to use the resources in your community to prepare yourself for some of the inevitable.

Looking for DIY ideas and projects? The resources and information available on can help you kick up your home improvement projects a notch.

Do you have a Christmas wish or DIY project story you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below, or tell us your story.

About Kristen Obst

Kristen is the Program Director for the Public Administration and Security Management Programs and Associate Professor of Public Administration at American Public University System. She is the proud mother of two little boys and her husband is active duty Army. She is unabashedly a DIYer and is proudly sporting her tool belt to remove her Christmas lights.

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