What My Pink Toolbox Taught Me

Written By: Kim - Jun• 19•11

I was a lucky kid. I grew up in a family with loving parents. Sometimes our traditional family meant a single-parent family. Dad was in the US Army and deployed to Vietnam twice, Germany, Korea and Thailand once each. During those long stretches of time, Mom would hold down the fort. She was excellent at doing this despite the challenges. But this is not a post about Mom.

My Dad could fix anything. His childhood fascination with car motors translated in to helicopter maintenance for the Army that lead to his ability to fix many things around the house. He took his interest in cars a step further: Dad restored old trucks and cars during his free time.

Emory C. Wickline & me, 1970

Dad taught me how to drive on a clutch. He would take me to a hill and we stayed there until I could successfully move the car from neutral without stalling it. I can still hear him calmly say: “Ease up on the clutch and press on the gas.” I only hope I can be as calm as he was if my kids ask me to teach them to drive. Too bad he wasn’t as calm when I broke my left wrist riding my skateboard. He was so nervous, Mom had to drive me to the hospital.

My Dad also taught me how to check the oil in my car and the tire pressure; how to change a tire; use a hammer, what the difference was between a Philips screwdriver and a flat tip; what monkey wrenches were for; and where the fuse box is located.  But most all, he taught me to be independent and strong.

My first toolkit, courtesy of my Dad.

I am sure he must have looked kind of silly buying me my first tool kit — in pink. But, over 20 years after I moved out, it’s still in my laundry room with quick tools we might need. I think of him every time I access it and my husband chuckles every time he sees it. Pink indeed.

More than the logistics of basic car knowledge and tool use, my Dad became my benchmark for men. I compared all of them to him. Did they love their Moms? How did they treat their sisters? Were the handy? Smart? Caring? Loving? Dependable? Supportive? Did he have moxie? Was he patriotic? Does he give back to his community? What kind of animal lover was he? Did he cry when his family dog died? Did he want children? How loyal and faithful would he be? My future husband’s shoes were big to fill and I am lucky to have found the man to fill them.

So to all the Dads out there, I say thank you and Happy Father’s Day. Anyone can father a child, but it takes a special man to be a Dad. We love you.


I Would Gladly Serve Again

Written By: Kim - Apr• 16•11

It was your typical day. Rising at o’dark thirty, getting ready for work and driving to the train station for my commute. I chatted with my train buddies on the platform before we boarded into our own world be it napping, reading, knitting or crossword puzzles. I scanned the headlines and tweeted them out via my iPad. I checked email so my box was empty when I arrived at the office. At the final stop, I waited by the door. I had been sitting for an hour and needed to stretch.

In the seat near me was an elderly gentlemen who reminded me of my Dad. A US Army hat on his head that looked like it was his favorite and pins that told me he served in the military — enlisted. I recognized the insignia of the rank because it was what my father wore when he was active duty: E8. I have a soft spot for veterans since I have fond memories of growing up a military brat. I simply could not ignore this man so I struck up a quick conversation. I am so glad I did.

© Lonnie Bradley via stock.xchang

Like my father, this retired vet had served twice in Vietnam. Unlike my father, it was before the situation there became precarious in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Both he and my Dad had something else in common: US Army career men. This man served 35 years; my Dad, 26. He was now living in the Old Soldiers Home, which is where my Dad said he wants to go when he can no longer live alone. He said the waiting list was a year long, but they had plenty of room for another soldier.

This gentleman, on his way to the hospital, remarked how it tore him up to see our young soldiers in the shape there were in when they were in treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center. This is where returning war vets recoup after being wounded on the battlefront. Battlefront, while an ancient term, is still accurate today no matter what medical advances we have made. These young men and women may survive mortar attacks, IEDs and gun shots to the neck or head, but they often come back never to return to the life they had. Their path is long, hard and heartbreaking.

Nothing will make you realize the sacrifice our troops make until you see someone young enough to be your child, confined to a wheelchair pushing himself around by blowing through a straw. If your eyes do not immediately tear up, check your pulse.

For those of you who did not grow up around the military, you can better believe that the people in it are not in it for the money nor benefits — especially the enlisted troops. They enlist and reenlist for various reasons. When we wrapped up our conversation as the train arrived, he said what many of us will not say once we retire: “I would gladly serve again.”

What an inspiration he was as is anyone who has served in the military. If you do not believe you will look back and say “I would gladly serve again” in your career path, why are you still in it?