A Wiry Bit of Home Improvement

by Jason Tudor
At some point in the spring of 2007, I decided I wanted to wire my house to have the same sorts of computing capability that you might find in the movie “Tron.” That meant stringing network cable from one side of the house to the other. When I’d finished, in my mind, I’d either end up with next AOL data center or, at the very least, one hell of a game of cat’s cradle.
In order to do this, most of the cable would need to be strung across the attic, dropped down into the walls and then connected inside the walls via a jack. That meant traipsing up to the attic like a free climber on El Cap and figuring my way around. Most assuredly, I’d be muttering phrases like, “Now, is the bedroom over there or is that the bathroom?” My sense of direction and Lindsey Lohan’s common sense are about on par.
There were other challenges. Some of my attic had plywood flooring, but the rest was a blend of fluffy insulation framed two-by-fours and a half-inch of sheetrock ceiling. Most of the work rested over those parts. All of a sudden, I wished I were Spider-Man.
I figured I’d wire my Mancave first. To do that, I’d need to run cable to the farthest point from the entrance of the attic. I mentioned those two-by-fours? They are spaced 16 inches apart and they are the only solid things I could walk on to reach my destination. In addition, the insulation hid the two-by-fours like guerrillas in brush. So, not only did I need Spider-Man’s agility, I needed Superman’s X-ray vision.
I poked a foot under the insulation to find the first beam. Success! Then the next. Eventually, I made my way to the Mancave wall. I dropped the cable down and cheered my own success. I started back toward the attic entrance and in those first few steps, I kept my ego in check, concentrating on 16-inch beams. It wasn’t until the last few steps I started patting myself on the back.
That’s when I smashed through the ceiling.
My left leg slid through up to my crotch, which then rammed into the drywall. I managed to catch myself before my full 200-pounds of stupidity crashed through the roof. Following the crotch ramming, I let out an audible yelp. My wife heard it in the garage.
“What was that?” She said.
“DON’T COME IN THE HOUSE YET,” I said in a firm, but even tone. I wanted the opportunity to pull myself out of the hole, examine the damage myself and then call her in for the bad news.
“Why?” she innocently asked.
“Just don’t …”
I managed to yank myself out, get down from the attic and look it over. It looked like someone fired a bazooka through my ceiling into the attic. Drywall was scattered all over the living room. I told my wife to come in. Yes, she gasped, but she understood. Eventually, we fixed the ceiling (and there’s another “Why did it takes eight months to do THAT?” story there).
Wireless connectivity improved, so I never finished the project. The good news? I made up for it by laying Spanish tiles for our kitchen counters and creating backsplash with the same materials.
Neither of which featured prominently, if at all, in Tron.

Jason Tudor dabbles in black magic, black tar heroin and Black Sabbath. He consulted Rebecca Black on her hit single “Friday,” manages a rest home for wayward Iron Chefs and challenged the Prince of Monaco to a game of Rounders. The Prince lost. Jason writes, too. He can prove it if you visit http://www.jasontudor.com


The Tell Tale Twitch

by Jennifer Caddell

Get down. Get funky.
It all began the moment we walked through the house for the first time. As the realtor led us from room to room, our minds wandered around fantasies of what the house COULD look like. The bones of the house were perfect. But our wallets were hollering at all the 1970s touches: Dark faux wood paneling, mirrored walls, green shag carpet…

“We’ll take it.” My husband said. We were both in such a hurry to get out of our temporary apartment; we completely ignored all of those rose-colored warning signs. (And that slight hint of cat urine.)

During those first few months, we hired painting contractors, carpet installers, counter top installers and the fire department to put out the flames on our smoking wallets. Three years later we had our mustard-colored broom closet (aka master bathroom) demolished and rebuilt while we slept in the same room with the children for over a month. A year after that, my husband’s foot fell through the floor of our balcony. Twenty thousand dollars later, it was rebuilt with a patio cover to protect it from our cold and wet winters. Fortunately the bank promised to return our arms and legs once the loan was paid off.

Each project was a test in our own relationship, from fights over linoleum floors to the threat of a legal battle with a pilfering contractor. But with each completed room, we were able to look at our house with some amount of pride.

That was, until we looked at our kitchen. Dark blue walls and darker wood paneling made the room look like a cave. So, last month, we rolled up our sleeves, grabbed the paint rollers and made the decision to paint every square inch. The walls were given four coats paint and the dark brown cabinets received six coats to make them white. It was major ‘sweat equity’.

It was nearly my last straw.

On the day we evacuated our cabinets and piled up the food and cookware in the middle of the kitchen, my eye began to twitch. It was a small twitch and one I didn’t notice until I looked in the mirror. But it was there, *twitch*, dancing right under my eye. *twitch*

The week continued with more painting and more cooking from storage boxes. The twitch didn’t go away. Another week came and went, and the twitch was still there. I was almost ready to call the doctor and get a Botox injection to relax that muscle when suddenly it stopped. I realized that it was no coincidence it stopped twitching on the day we put our kitchen supplies back into the cabinets.

I think it was a sign. That twitch was a little ticking time bomb ready to explode the next time we start remodeling a room. I haven’t discussed this with my husband yet, but I think it would be best if I go on vacation before he picks up a paintbrush.

Jennifer L. Caddell is a published science fiction short story writer. She is currently writing her first book in a space trilogy. Jennifer lives in the wet and wonderful Pacific Northwest with her superhero husband and stellar children. You can read about her writing adventures at www.jcaddell.wordpress.com.

Image credit: thekitchendesigner.org


Is There a 12-Step Program for This?

You wanted a skylight... where?
by Patti Wigington

I’m in my forties, and I have an addiction. It’s not even really my fault. I know, I know, you’re saying that I’m failing to take responsibility for my own shortcomings. I get that. But much like any other hopelessly enabled junkie, I place the blame strictly with someone else.

Ty Pennington.

Yep, the guy from “Extreme Home Makeover”. He’s responsible for my addiction to home improvement projects.

It all started years ago, when I bought a 1930’s two-story frame house in one of our city’s oldest neighborhoods. It was the first home I’d ever owned, and so I promptly began looking at the possibilities.

Ugly carpet begging to be replaced?


Plain white walls and a hideous yellow kitchen countertop with green linoleum?

Check, check, check.

So I spent the first year or so looking at all the things that were wrong with the house, and making notes, and pondering.

And then I discovered “Trading Spaces.” You remember that show, right? Back in the 1990s, host Paige Davis perkily encouraged neighbors to swap rooms for a weekend, and couples who started out as friends began remodeling and renovating rooms on each other’s behalf.

Some of the results were hideous – plastic sheeting stapled to a ceiling, for example. Others were scary, such as the genius idea of cementing shards of broken glass into a fireplace in a home with toddlers.

But through it all, Ty Pennington was there, toolbelt slung low, cracking jokes, and showing suburban housewives that they too could wield a circular saw. He showed us that we could use nail guns, and take apart a cabinet and refinish it ourselves. Who doesn’t love a guy that’s cute, funny, and can build stuff? When I met him in person at a home improvement expo, it was like meeting the President – you know, if the President was young, hot, and smelled really good.

I remodeled my house with reckless abandon. Texturing walls, wiring lights, demolition – oh, god, how I love swinging a sledgehammer – laying tile… you name it, I did it. Build a deck? Done it. Split two tons of rocks – by hand -- into edging for a garden? Child’s play, baby.

And then, when I ran out of things to remodel, I did what any other addict would do. I bought another house. It was built in 1972, and last decorated around 1973.

Now the cycle has continued – I’ve painted everything there is to paint. I’ve tiled every room I could put tile in. I’ve replaced every light fixture, sanded every cabinet, and renovated every bathroom. I built a sunroom and a patio, a fence, a kitchen counter and more. And after nearly eight years in my second house, I see the end of the process. The high has worn off.

There’s nothing left to improve.

I know the smart thing to do would be to quit. After all, I’ve acknowledged my addiction, and that’s the first step, right?

But I can’t. I have to take something that’s hideous and awful and turn into something beautiful, something that tells people that this is my space. Something that marks it as my own.

There’s only one solution, and I know Ty would understand.

Anyone want to buy a nice house in the suburbs, completely updated?

Image credit: crestwoodla.com


Hole in the Wall

by Sara Spock

My kitchen is a dump. A stained-linoleum, holes in the walls, unpatched drywall, no cabinets, exposed electrical, dangling insulation, 1980’s particle board nightmare variety dump. And oh yeah, we made it that way. We are in the middle of a massive renovation that includes tearing down walls, rerouting pipes, electrical, and sewer lines, and gutting the entire outdated kitchen in favor of a culinary foodie’s delight.

I daydream about nestling my stainless steel KitchenAid Pro into its position of honor on the buttery granite countertop with rich mocha accents that is currently being cut and ground to perfection. My little brown teapot will look like a luxury through the shining glass doors of the chocolate cherry cabinets that are en route from the manufacturer. My slate tiles lay in waiting under a tarp while we prepare for sub flooring. I have swatches of colors to coat the walls that were once wrapped in Formica panels and are now covered in yellowed remnants of liquid nails and collateral damage in the form of ragged holes. 

And who’s our contractor of choice? Who will lead us on this monumental adventure? I scoff in your general direction if you’re implying we need help! Hardcore Do-It-Yourselfers, we are! Never mind the fact that I’m 7 months pregnant, a full-time student, and part-time lab rat; that my husband has a more than full-time job; that the nursery is still an office, or that we have a four year old. We have 12 whole weeks to finish this fiasco. Twelve weeks to tile 400 square feet, hang more than 20 cabinets, install granite, under-cabinet lighting, a sink, disposal, stove, hood, and dishwasher, paint the walls, and reroute lighting.  

That whimpering you hear? It’s just the dog. Move along, now.  On your way out, would you mind hitting the lights? I can’t stand to look at this mess.

Sara Spock is a mom, wife, anthropology student, lab assistant, English tutor, and freelance writer.  Sara can be found hiding from her remodeling projects at the Sex Lab.  No, that’s not what we’re calling it these days.


Looking For Shiny New Members

by Janna Qualman

Hi! My name is Janna, and I’m founder and sole member of the Hate 2 Paint Club.

Are you repulsed by the idea of putting on unattractive work clothes? Does the smell of interior paint (or exterior paint, for that matter) make you uncomfortable? Is a roller sponge the last thing you want to hold in your weak and prone-to-cramp hand? Do you loathe physical exertion, particularly when said exertion includes climbing up and down and balancing on a ladder, bending and squatting to dip your brush or refill your tray? Are you tired of repairing, filling, taping, sanding, priming, edging, trimming, and walls that take more than two coats?

(Me, too. All of that.)

Well then, this club is for you, and oh boy, are you ever in luck! For one day and one day only, you can become a member of my exclusive (and pseudo-popular) society of unenthusiast(s). Call me now at 1 (555) NO-PAINT, and, assuming I’m not making a meal for my family, or reading to my kids, or indulging in chocolate, or watching a replay of last week’s The Bachelor finale (can you believe what Brad did?), I’ll answer the phone right away, because I’m waiting to talk to you! Phone line is open. (If my second grader isn’t gabbing with her BFF about Webkinz again.)

What you cannot afford to miss is my low, low introductory one-year membership fee of $3.48. (Payment through PayPal is fine. In fact, it’s preferred, because it is so darn secure.) That’s right, less than four Washingtons gets you an official certificate (printed on my neighbor’s own HP), a cozy throw made of sheer plastic drop cloths, an unsharpened pencil (since no one will expect you to paint with that), and a really cool pair of Hannah Montana sunglasses (one size fits all)*.

Act now!

Call within the next twenty two and a half minutes to receive a fantastic bonus gift! Get my first edition audio cassette. It took two dozen tries, but I really think I got the rhythm of my speaking down, and trust me, you’ll rave over the full symposium on the benefits of hired labor, a detailed breakdown of the price per ounce of Kilz, and a touching member testimonial.

You’ll hear the heart-wrenching story about how my husband and I bought a house that needed a ground-breaking, inside and out, top to bottom redo, and how in the process of our five year remodel I’ve painted more walls and ceilings and corners than I dare remember. You’ll hear how this club (after its full formation) helped me define my fear, find the strength to run from it, and learn how to say, “No, I will not help you paint your 2000 square foot living room.”

I’m telling you, we can ignore those family members who say painting is the easiest way to freshen up a space. Forget that it’s economical, and can often be done in one day. Who needs it? No one in the Hate 2 Paint Club, that’s for sure.

Tell your like-minded friends! The more the merrier.

Please? I’d really enjoy having more club members.

Call me.

*colors may vary

Janna Qualman’s passion is women’s fiction, which, thank goodness, has nothing to do with painting, but she likes the switch things up with an occasional humor piece. Do visit her and learn more at Something She Wrote

Image credit: Foxnews.com


It's Not Easy Being Green

by Melanie Hooyenga

I’m sure Mr. Saint Patrick had good intentions when he led the band of snakes out of Ireland and into the sea. Anyone who rids an entire country of creepy crawlies gets my approval, but I don't think he could have imagined the havoc his accomplishment has wreaked on my life.

You see, I'm a St. Patrick's Day baby.

Your first thought was probably, "Oh fun!" and believe me, throughout my twenties I agreed with you. Having the entire world celebrate your birthday—no matter the day of week—made for some… ahem… fun stories, but as I got older it became difficult to have a quiet night out. "Oh Danny Boy" blasting from the speakers as I convince the waitress that no, I don't want my glass of wine dyed green and yes, I'm sure I don't want the corned beef special, is no longer my cup o' tea.

Then there's the clothes. You know the tradition to wear green on St. Patrick's Day? Imagine having to wear green on EVERY SINGLE BIRTHDAY. Oh sure, I could get away with green underwear (THAT was a fun year) but the pinches and punches—on top of the ones you already get for your birthday (plus the "one to grow an inch!" – it doesn't work people!)—leave me bloodied and bruised. I've resorted to wearing a green Shamrock t-shirt underneath something else, with just enough collar peeking out to prevent a bludgeoning. (It’s also easier than having to flash my britches.)

But it's not all bad. I admit to having my share of green beer over the years, my pre-school served green eggs and ham for breakfast when I turned four (it was years before I discovered breakfast was in honor of some Irish guy), and the best was when a kilted man marched circles around me while playing Happy Birthday—on the bagpipes.

Melanie Hooyenga is a salsa-dancing graphic designer writing her way to publication, who’s learned to accept how she looks in green. She blogs three times per week at Hoosblog. If you follow her, she takes zero responsibility for any weird injuries you may sustain. It’s really not her fault.


Fool on the Hill

by Stacey Graham

I started it.

I take total blame for planting the seed that blossomed into a five-year house-building spree that started with a bulge. A leak in our rented townhouse's bathtub wall took my husband to Lowe's, telling me before he departed, "I have turned on all the faucets to drain water from the pipes so I can fix the leak. Do. Not. Touch. Them." Ten minutes later, I touched them.

Why are all the faucets on? 

What is wrong with that man?  

Completing the task of being very careful to twist every faucet into the "off" position, I resumed my perch at the computer and went back to work on a story, its deadline looming. Thirty minutes later, around 11p, my toddler came downstairs for a drink, switched on the light in the kitchen and there it was. The kitchen ceiling, bloated and discolored, hovered over her head. I believe I may have squeed a little. A quick trip next door for a neighbor's help and a sharp pointed stick relieved the ceiling of its burden but left a bigger problem. A giant, gaping hole -- but after I shut my mouth I assessed the situation dispassionately. Then ran in small circles trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to my husband.

Drywall led to a love affair with Home Depot, its orange-aproned handymen the siren call to a man trapped in a cubicle daily.

"Stace, I'm going to build us a house."

"Don't get excited, Tiger. You've only replaced a ceiling panel, you may want to pace yourself." Handing over the bucket of drywall mud I could see the light in his eyes. I knew I was doomed. "How long is this going to take?" Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I waited for his usual answer to the honey-do list.

"Months, tops."

Five years, multiple thousands of dollars, 43 windows, 5.5 acres, five kids and two dogs later we moved in. We have two doors for two out of four bathrooms. My kitchen counters are painted black wood of questionable heritage and the geothermal unit that was going to save our power bill shuts off in the middle of the coldest nights, leaving us to huddle under blankets until I stumble downstairs and beat it with a stick. 

But he's happy.

Home sweet home.

Stacey runs the joint, enjoys Ermas danceoffs, and has been known to bite the heads of rabbits. Okay, they were chocolate but they totally had it coming. Please visit her blog, check out zombie dating tips, and see what mischief she gets into on Tuesdays at The Austen Project on Twitter (hashtag #A4T) - a running novel conceived and written on Twitter by a merry band of Janeites. Follow her on Twitter: @staceyigraham


Maggie Moments

by Jeanette Levellie

My husband Kevin meets me at the door, his eyebrows in upside-down V formation. “Is everything okay, hon? You just went to mail one dinky package, and that was two hours ago.”

I throw my purse and myself onto the couch. “I had a Maggie moment,” I huff.  He shakes his head and grins.  A look of relaxed understanding replaces the V-formation.

 Maggie, bless her darling heart and ditzy head, is a crisis magnet. She’s the one member of our family we can count on to add glitter to the mundane. Every task turns into a screenplay for a feature film.

Take repairing a door that won’t lock.

“I think this door is cut wrong,” declares Maggie. “They just don’t make things right anymore. I’ll have to see who I can get to take it off the hinges and re-cut it. Lord knows I can’t afford a new door.”

Kevin and I look at the door, then the lock. We are allergic to tools, but we each have a smattering of left-brain cells. And if we collaborate, we sometimes manage to replace a worn-out part or fix a broken one.

Kevin tries the lock, then turns to Maggie. “All you need here is some WD-40. I have a can in the trunk. Be right back.”

He sprays hither and yon, wipes the door, then tries the lock again. Magic. “There you go, Maggie! Good as new. I’ll leave the can with you, so if this happens again, you can spray it yourself. Okay?”

But Maggie is unsatisfied. A solution that takes only two minutes can’t be right. She tries the key herself, jerking and tugging ‘til her forehead glistens. “I don’t know what you did to mess this up, Kevin. It’s worse than before. I can’t do a thing with it. I’ll just have to call that guy down the road who does carpentry work. I wish things were simple, like they used to be.”

We wonder if anything in Maggie’s life was ever simple. But next time we visit, her grin is wider than a melon slice as she shows us her new lock.

“After he cut the door, he realized he’d chopped too much off, so he had to put this weather-stripping on the bottom to keep the wind out. He attached the lock down here, where it bolts directly into the floor. I practically have to stand on my head to lock it, but at least it’s secure now. And he only charged me $150!”

We shrug, congratulate Maggie, and Kevin pockets his WD-40. At least Maggie is happy with her new lock. It will give her something to talk about until the next crisis arrives.

We’ve tried to analyze why Maggie thrives on trouble above her fellows. We can change a toilet valve, replace a garbage disposal, or patch a garden hose, and run into glitches that annoy us to Mars and back. Yet, we only manage to get a tenth of the emotional surge from our episodes that Maggie receives.  We still haven’t figured out why her predicaments are superior to ours.

But, hey, maybe you can you help us. I see by your knowing smile that you have a Maggie in your family, too.


A spunky, sometimes reluctant pastor’s wife of more than thirty years, Jeanette Levellie has published stories in Guideposts anthologies, articles in Christian and secular magazines, greeting card verses, and calendar poems.  Her bi-weekly humor/inspirational column, God is Bigger, has been a popular feature in her local newspaper since 2001. She writes twice a week for her devotional/humor blog at http://jeanettelevellie.blogspot.com. Jeanette also enjoys speaking to church and civic groups, offering mirth and worth in every message. She and her husband Kevin live in Paris, IL. She is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and servant to several cats.


Vacation of a Lifetime

by Carole Lee

My house has a beauty
That can’t be compared
To snobby, new houses
That don’t need repair.

I’ve the crookedest round window
You ever did meet.
Maneuvering the attic ladder
Is a death-defying feat.

The plumbing backs up
On an annual basis;
As I’m sure you can tell,
It’s a regular oasis.

Most bedrooms invite
Rest and sweet relaxation;
My bedroom snarls
Through exposed insulation.

The floors are uneven,
The ceilings are too.
After much contemplation
I know just what to do.

I’m opening my doors
Come one and come all
To have an adventure
(And repair some walls).

This exotic location
Is not to be missed.
If you don’t bring your friends,
They’re sure to be pissed.

You’ll clean rusty gutters
And replace missing shingles.
You’ll learn some new words
As you party and mingle.

For the deluxe package
Please give us a call.
It includes photo ops
With the dog that eats drywall.

This is once in a lifetime,
So your friends, please do tell them,
Anyone with a tool belt
Is sure to be welcomed.



My friends know I’m the Doctor Kevorkian of the plant world. But I’ve been keeping a darker secret: I have the same effect on cars.  

It’s not intentional—I’ve even done limited mechanical work, like replacing a clutch cable on a 67 VW Beetle. But looking back on the trail of bizarrely broken autos, I’m beginning to think I have…wait for it…bad karma.

From my first driving lesson in Mom’s Rollerskate, er, Ford Escort, which within a day of me driving it developed the sudden urge to only move in reverse, to my current car, now in the care of a mechanic because it developed an allergy to asphalt, any vehicles I drive break down with conditions that even Click and Clack would need to call in Carl Jung to solve. New or used, it doesn’t matter. They all wait until I’m behind the wheel to have a total nervous collapse.

I do try to maintain them, but how do you handle an entire dashboard falling off or a wheel heading for greener pastures by itself while you’re speeding down a hill? That’s something Turtle Wax just can’t fix.  

My official first car that I paid money for was an Audi Somethingorother. It looked like a bowler hat caught in a cracker box, but I loved it. The car also had fantastic gas mileage and didn’t cost a thing to run—because it never started. Not once. It went straight to the shop and settled in. For a full year. Finally, I sold it to the guys who ran the shop because A) I was very young and B) I was an idiot (see fig. A).

But in between that first drive of each vehicle and the lights of the wrecker have been some amazing times. I loved the jacked-up Ford truck tricked out with glass packs that I inherited from my brother.  I got nods of approval from both lesbians and rednecks while driving it, although that could have been from the va-va-voom girl silhouette my brother had plastered on the back window. And I spent many joyous hours speeding along in my Hyundai singing Disney soundtracks at the top of my lungs, although now I realize that could have contributed to the engine committing hara-kiri. 

Until my current ride is cured of sputtering like a sneezing toddler whenever it touches a highway, I’ll be walking. Because you can always trust your own two feet, right? 

Oof! Thud.

Did I mention my third secret is that I’m clumsy?


Of Elbows and Sawdust

by Adam Slade

There used to be a very simple technique for fixing broken things in our house. On discovering the defective electrical item/piece of furniture/banana, one would turn to face the stairs and shout, "Dad!"

The man in question would then appear and grumble about said defective item, then mutter something about getting it fixed at some point, and how he'd 'told your mother it was cheap crap when she bought it'. Easy. There is nothing the man cannot fix. Cars, wiring, plumbing... I'm pretty sure he could perform open heart surgery with a length of used duct tape and a garden gnome.

For reasons irrelevant to my attempt at wittiness, the main repairman became persona non gratis at the Slade household, leaving all the repairs to my brother and I.


I know what you're thinking. "You, an author, gamer, and 180 pound weakling, no good with your hands?" Shocking but true. And I'm 186 pounds, thank you very much. Writing repair? Piece of cake. The kind of repair that involves grunting, swearing, and massive blood loss? The clue's in the usage of the term "massive blood loss."

The first major repair that required my manly (stop laughing) assistance was a door that needed hanging. My brother and I eyed the job, shrugged simultaneously, and told mum, "Yeah we'll give it a go."

The first problem came taking the old door off. You see, my brother and I have traits that don't really suit the removal of screws. Rick is as strong as an ox, but has the sweatiest palms known to man, meaning he can't grip screwdrivers. I have a grip like a steel trap, but absolutely no muscle anywhere on my body to back it up. The act of removing the old door and putting up the new one to 'see how it looks' took twenty minutes of Rick holding the weight while I forced my arm to develop something other than hair. Minutes after, we found a fully charged cordless screwdriver. Live and learn.

On standing back to admire our work, we noticed two problems. Firstly, the hole in the frame where the sticky-out bit of the handle goes (stop me if I get too technical) was in the wrong place, and secondly, the door didn't actually fit in the frame.

At this point my brother and I fell back on tried and true methods of problem solving. We flipped the kettle on and bemoaned our luck, then went in search of a hammer. Mid-swing at the door, Rick suggested that maybe we should try chiselling out the hole in the frame instead.

Part one dealt with, we stopped for yet another cuppa. We are English, after all. It's how labourers work over here.

While the hinges on the door were seated right, it stuck out a bit at the top. And by 'a bit', I mean half an inch. Rick retrieved the sandpaper and was gracious enough to let me do the work, since we only had the one face mask, and he had television to watch.

After five minutes, my hair and beard were the same colour as the door. As were the floor, wall, and dog. After fifteen minutes, I could taste wood.

Two hours of coughing and swearing later my elbow was a disaster area, but I was finished! The door swung open and closed like t'was guided by angels! Angels made of grease!

Mum appeared back from work a few hours later while I was nursing my defective limb. Her first words?

"Did you find the electric plane I bought?"


Shut up.

Adam is one of those weird people who write books. Doesn't he know there are thousands in the book shop? No assembly required or anything.

You can find him at http://about.me/adamslade, which contains links to all his other sites. You can also drop him an email at asladeauthor(AT)gmail(DOT)com.


Man Versus Machine

by Susan Corpany

I love the business card I got from the handyman. It states: “I can do anything your husband can do, but I will do it now.”

Most women dream of having a cleaning woman. I would love to be lulled to sleep for my afternoon nap to the sound of someone else vacuuming my floors. I’ve never yet met a woman who looks at these domestic tasks as a measure of her femininity. Yet for men, it would seem that being able to do household repairs is a measure of their manhood. If someone can out-clean me, do the laundry better or the cooking, I say “Have at it!”

For men, it is all an extension of a theme:

“Man versus machine.”

“Man versus dryer vent.”

“Man versus clogged pipes.”

“Man versus leaky roof.”

Make no mistake. The failure to immediately call in an expert to do the job right is not an economic decision in an effort to save money. My husband will even admit that he knows we are going to have to call a professional to come do the job right after he has made an attempt at it, likely costing us more money than it would have cost to call the plumber, roofer/mechanic first. But husbands are driven by testosterone poisoning to take a stab at it first.

Perhaps that is why there is so much procrastination when a home repair item shows up on the “to-do” list. It is a personal challenge to their manhood, and they simply have to try, all the while perhaps haunted by a foreknowledge of their impending failure, and the fact that they will be seen as less than manly. So instead they sit down in front of the television and grab the remote, drowning out the sound of the nagging.

The best way around this is to find a defendable reason to call the professional first. “I called the plumber, honey, because I read a report online that said that 37% of home fires are caused by clogged dryer vents and I didn’t want to take a chance.”

Another way around it is to lavish heaps of praise on them for ordinary problem solving and minor fixes to dilute their need to prove themselves with the big projects. I show my husband enormous amounts of awe and admiration just for being able to tell the mechanic what part of the car is making the funny noise.

“Control-Alt-Delete? Wow! Move over Bill Gates!”

“Three weeks, and look, that picture is still on the wall!”

“WD40? That’s all it took?”

Build his ego so that he doesn’t need to prove his manhood via the home repair route.

And keep the handyman’s number on speed dial.

Susan lives and writes on the Big Island of Hawaii. She is the author of five novels, Brotherly Love, Unfinished Business, Push On, Are We There Yet? and Lucky Change.



by Terri Coop

Like many small town dwellers, I am surrounded by history on every side. Everywhere I look is old buildings, old streets, old trees, old roofs and even older plumbing.

The thirty foot wide pit in my town’s main street took five months to fill because every time they took out a layer of old piping, they found another layer underneath it. Sort of a plumbing archeological dig. If you ever wondered why building codes exist, look beneath the streets and houses of an old town.

So it was no surprise a few weeks ago when I woke up to a blistering five degree morning and found the water pipes frozen solid. Since this sort of thing usually works itself out, I went about my day without a second thought. When I got back that evening, I had running water. Unfortunately, it was running under the floorboards of the laundry room. Apparently the circa-1970 copper piping joined up to the circa-1940 unidentifiable metal piping and all cobbled up with the circa-2005 plastic piping had failed epically in high pressure spewing glory – on a Saturday. (I discovered how good the water pressure was a couple of weeks later when I got the $250 water bill!)

With the flood curbed on Monday, the handyman and I decided to move the laundry room down to my business building. The service porch plumbing was beyond repair and I had plenty of room downtown. My pride and joy is three stories tall and over 10,000 square feet of solid brick Americana. A little piping here, a little wiring there, and I was back in business.

Pffft . . . I’m a Kansan, I laugh at winter!

Then the two-foot thick snowpack began to melt. All week the sun shone warm and benevolent. The next Monday morning, I opened my shop door to the sound of running water. My Civil War-era roof, thick with Reagan-era tar, last repaired when Clinton was in the White House had decided to give it up. I had a 20-foot long reflecting pool in the main aisle and a waterfall over my work table. The steady dull thud of drops on soggy cardboard echoed through the main floor. 

The fact that I had spent the previous weekend trying to get water into one building only to have another building filling with water of its own accord was just a bit more irony than I needed for a Monday.  

Sighing, I did what any Midwestern small town denizen does in a situation like this; I went shopping for buckets and hoped for a drought this spring. 

Terri Coop battles life on the prairie with three intrepid Chihuahua companions and keeps the world’s handiest handyman on speed dial. When not mopping up after Mother Nature she is either lawyering, packing orders for her mail-order business or writing. In her non-existent free time she collects salt-and-pepper shakers and blogs about stuff like creepy clowns and abandoned furniture.