Improving my home improvement attitude…

I married a man who knows where he can get a surplus of washing machine motors in case of a clothes-washing emergency. I fell in love with a guy who has hauled a broken down three-wheeler to all five of the places we’ve moved in the last six years with the intention of making the thing run when he has a spare moment (or twenty-thousand).

I am living with a person who has seventy-five Tupperware containers full of drill bits, little pieces of wire, nails and screws of various sizes, scraps of leather, broken saw blades, old speaker cords, empty shotgun shells, half-used rolls of tape, weird shaped things made of metal, something that looks like an electrical box, loose change from years of emptying pockets and a partridge in a pear tree because he might need it someday.

He’s a handyman, a carpenter, a Jack of all trades.

He’s a man who once spent the summer of his sixteenth birthday helping his father build a garage so that the next summer they could use it as a space to rebuild a tiny wooden boat from when Jesus was born into sleek and shiny yellow watercraft complete with a motor made to propel them around the big lake at speeds safe for a boat of a much bigger size.

He’s ambitious, a visionary, a guy with a tool for everything and a “why pay someone else to do it when you can do it yourself…and do a much better job…” attitude.

I am none of those things.

In fact one could argue that I’m the exact opposite. Where Husband has the impressive ability to breathe life into objects that belong on the bottom of a junk pile, I am the culprit who sent that thing to its grave in the first place.

I break things.

But it’s not my fault. Like Husband inherited his skills and interest in nailing things together, I was born to find a way to break them apart.

See, we’re neck-deep in working on the finishing touches it’s going to take to get us living in our new house. It’s an exciting time for a man who has been planning this home in the blueprints of his mind for years.

It’s a frightening time for a woman who once saw her life flash before her eyes when she got her head stuck in a ladder in her attempt at house painting.

But I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit around and make sandwiches while my husband is measuring and cutting and making sawdust fly.


I’m gonna help.

But before I could strap on my tool belt and suspenders that look like rulers,  I was sent with Pops to go get supplies.

And when I say supplies, I mean, hook up the giant trailer, grab your coffee and be ready to set up camp in the store for a good  five to six hours…because the man’s got a list…

And he wrote on both sides.


Fast forward through the part where Pops and I  got a flat tire and had to pull over on the highway to change it only to discover that the spare was a little skimpy on air as well.

Then skip the next part where I had a mental breakdown in the plumbing section trying to explain Husband’s hand-drawn diagram of a small piece he needed with a male end that connects to another piece with a female end that needs to be threaded and bedazzled with rhinestones and copper and is a 1/2 inch wide (or is that 1/3?) with metal studs while Pops mastered the art of sleeping while standing up.

Then zip on through the fourteen hours it took the two of us to load 750 square feet of hardwood flooring, 300 slate tiles, three bags of mortar, two bags of grout, a nailer, 20 pieces of sheet rock, six oak doors, a bag of painting supplies, electrical boxes, a roll of wire for something,  thirty-seven thousand plumbing parts and a bag of licorice onto the trailer, covering it with a giant tarp while the wind blew the thunderheads in.

I don’t want to talk about the monsoon that tore through that tarp on the way home in the dark or the fact that Pops may or may not have hit a small tree with a trailer full of soggy supplies as he slid sideways in the sticky mud outside the garage and proceeded to get stuck up to the floorboards.

I won’t mention the words he used to explain his emotions or the fact that we had to get the tractor to lift the trailer away from the tree and then hook it up to the front of the pickup to pull it out of the mud.

We don’t want to talk about it.

And I don’t want to talk about the grumbling that occurred the next day when I was sent to town again because there was a missing piece in the bag of 3,000 plumbing supplies we picked up in our life-altering journey.


I won’t go there.

But I do want to tell you that when our supplies were accounted for and we got line out, after I painted the ceiling and the walls, organized our area and brought over some beer and snacks, someone did give me a tool.

A hammer.

And I was elated to be thought capable enough to help lay the wood floor.

So excited that in approximately 3.4 minutes of weilding that hammer, I forgot about moving my thumb out of the way.

And I do want to tell you that even though my thumb print is forever altered, Husband gave me a second chance and trusted me to learn the art of tiling.

And I thought I was doing ok, really. I mean, after two full days of being left alone to mix mud, haul and cut heavy tiles, space them out and skip the parts where I actually had to use math skills to measure, I still had a few places on my body that weren’t completely crusted in mortar.

I was focused, I was sweaty, I was becoming a tiling expert intent on getting the project complete in a timely manner. There was no time for breaks, no rest for wicked and apparently no room for manners, which I quickly learned was something that remains important in my handyman’s world no matter the time constraints and focus placed on the project.

Because when he came to check on my progress at the end of two days of laying tile he took one look at this woman with sweat dripping down her back, wild hair escaping from her two-day pony tail and arms and legs covered in mortar only to be greeted with an order to go get her a rag.

Apparently there was something about my request that didn’t sit well with my husband. Perhaps it was the tone of voice, or the fact that I didn’t look him in the eye or use the words or any form of synonym for “please” or “thank you”. Whatever it was, Husband couldn’t contain his disdain for this version of his wife morphed into some kind of intense and ragged construction obsessed animal.  He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t the calm, cool and collected species he becomes in this sawdust and testosterone infused environment.

He was confused.

He had to express himself.

I glared up at him from my place among the tiles and wet mortar.

“Where’s my rag? I need my rag? I’m almost done!!! Did you hear me?!!!”

He took two steps backwards, looked down and pointed at me, wagging his finger up and down to emphasize his disappointment as he said…

“Look at you. You’re bossy, you’re a mess and I don’t know if I like working with you…”

He took two more steps backward and stood still for a moment waiting for my reaction.

I looked down at my jeans, unrecognizable at this point as anything but pants made out of mortar. I ran my dirty hand through my hair and pulled out a glob of crusted mud.

Sweat trickled down my back and into my butt crack as I took in the words this kind and patient man has never before uttered to me.

I took a deep breath as the stress and worry of the past two weeks came unglued from my insides and out of my lungs in a fit of laughter that I couldn’t contain.

Husband stared at me as I worked to apologize through my giggles and belly laugh.

He shook his head and lifted his cap up to run his fingers through his hair, his lips curled up in a reassuring smile as he turned on his boot heel and left the crumpled, ornery and unnecessarily intense version of his wife to consider improving her home improvement attitude.

And I was left with the conclusion that I’d better shape up, because for the next few weeks while we finish this house I’m living in this man’s world, and if I ever want to cook a meal in this kitchen in our lifetime, I’d better whistle while I try to avoid hammering my arm to the wall and do what I can to keep him around…

Because I break things.

And he fixes them…

9 thoughts on “Improving my home improvement attitude…

  1. Hilarious and profound. Glad you posted pictures, because when you discribed the tubs full of parts, I thought for sure we were sharing a man. As it turns out there’s two of them. Best of luck to you, you’re doing great!

  2. I completely emphathize. I am a huge clutz who once fell into a fishtank when standing up. Thank you for such a good laugh this morning. Enjoy your home improvements and watch that thumb!

  3. I am good with some stuff, but, my husband does all the carpentry and plumbing and electrical. But, when you talk about mechanical clutter, we argue, and he gripes about my fabric stash. That’s life when you’re married and I have been blessed not to have to call a repairman to fix a simple thing and pay a fortune. You be good to him and vice versa.

  4. You just wrote the story of my life. Every project (and there are many of them) go exactly as you have described. This time it’s a solar panel array, last time was kitchen tile, before that was flooring in the exercise room. The list goes on. I’m pretty sure that without my “help”, the projects would go faster. I’m best at going to the hardware store multiple times.

  5. As I am cleaning out my garage I must decide what to do with my grandfather’s plastic cases of screws and his custom wood box to contain the cases…. I know I won’t give up his sweat stanined pruning loper. THAT I still use.

    I was blessed to grow up knowing how to prune a fruit tree, screen rocks out from a vegetsble patch, change a light fixture, repair tile grout, fix toilets, jump a car, and pass tools for a home car oil change… Thank the lord for useful men!

    And, yes, I’ve the hammer mashed fingers to prove it. Each job does get easier.

  6. Pingback: A picture comes to life… « Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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