It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention”. For me, I would expand that to say “necessity–without means–is the mother of invention”. If you were to walk around our house, explore my workshop or even inspect our cars, you would see this in living color.

Show me the money!

I have had what many would call good jobs–even if the pay wasn’t. All of my jobs have allowed me to build my skill set, meet wonderful people in the field and most importantly have allowed me to support my family. Unfortunately, in today’s world, those aren’t always the most important traits we look for in a job. To quote Jerry McGuire: “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” That’s what people seem to find most important today–I don’t. While it’s true that I often wonder how things might be different if there was just a little more money”. It doesn’t always help. We’ve had periods where we did have a “little more money”. Wanna know what happened? We spent that “little more”. All too often, with more money, comes more want.

We of little means

If I had a “little more money”, I would just buy the things I need. When something breaks, I’d just toss it in the trash and buy a new one. I cannot even fathom it. For me, that would just take away the incentive to step out of the box and learn something new. It would take away the satisfaction of accomplishing something for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, it gets to be very frustrating when you just don’t have the resources to fix, replace, or update when it’s needed. I’ve had my share of frustration even in the last month.
Looking back though, the knowledge I have gained by doing things myself has paid huge dividends even today. Some things I will still pay for, just because it’ll take me too long to do it myself and will cost me more in lost work than to just pay for it. However, I still try to do as much myself as possible to save the family money. I also enjoy passing that knowledge down to the kids as much as possible. We live in the Information Age, not the Knowledge Age. We now rely on our “smart” devices to tell us what we need to know rather than trying to learn it ourselves. Why learn when a phone or tablet or computer can tell us?

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned a lot over the years…some fun, some not so fun:

  1. Computer Repair – In all my years (and 5 colleges), I only had 3 computer classes. I’ve picked everything up on my own. From hardware, to software and networking, and everything in between. This is where I have made my living.
  2. Computer Programming – See above. I have taught myself: HTML, CSS, Javascript, Perl, C, SQL, PostgreSQL, WebFOCUS, PHP and RepGen/Poweron (proprietary).
  3. Plumbing – I honestly don’t like plumbing, but I pride myself in knowing that I can do it–both copper and PEX. (I definitely recommend PEX for ease of use)
  4. Electrical – Another one I really don’t like. Not because I don’t understand it but because the arthritis in my fingers makes it difficult to work with 10 and 12 gauge wire.
  5. Minor Car Repairs – shocks, disc brakes, and other minor repairs. (This is where I will still pay to have it done. What takes my mechanic an hour would take me 3)
  6. Small Engine and mower repair – I’ve learned to hate this one. As I’ve gotten older, I just want my tools to work–I don’t want to have work on my tools. A year ago, when the engine quit on my rider, I was able to swap engines, trade out parts, and tune the new engine on my own. This year, I learned how to remove a tire from the rim and install an inner tube.
  7. Woodworking – I’ve been learning as I go with the help of YouTube.
  8. Tiling – Yuck, bad knees–but I can do it!
  9. Drywall – Cough. Will wear a mask next time. (Mudding–I’ve gotten pretty good at this)
  10. Building – Have built a few nice decks and could build a nice outbuilding–and will this year.


I’ve also learned the art of repurposing. How often do we have an appliance or power tool stop and just toss it in the garbage? I’ve always had a passion for recycling, reusing, reducing and repurposing. Humans have learned to make many spectacular things, but many just don’t break down well, or lend themselves to biodegrading. So, where’s the harm in trying to reuse whatever we can? My shop is based on and utilizes reuse in it’s design. I have begun disassembling old appliances and selling off good parts–the whole unit may not work but certain parts are reusable. Even those parts that don’t seem reusable have been put to good use around the house.
Someday I hope and pray that I don’t have to put so much effort into fixing everything myself. For now though, I’ll take pride in the fact that I still have the skills and determination to get things done even when resources are tight.

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