Life Face First: Negotiating One Calamity at a Time


The Family that Does Home Improvement Together…

 “This is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done,” I said to my husband Brian.

He grinned. “This? This is the stupidest thing we’ve ever done? I mean, we’ve done some remarkably stupid things.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “We have, but I’ve never washed pipes before.”

We were on the patio of our new apartment. I was on seated on the ground with a bucket, a rag and a stack of pipes in various lengths. He was seated on one of our patio chairs using a pocketknife to chip bits of tape off another pipe.

We were building new office desks. An evening looking at homemade desks online, fueled by a cold adult beverage or two convinced us that with a little ingenuity we could easily build our own.

In reality, it was a project that required an adult beverage or four, a whole boatload of ingenuity and there wasn’t much easy about it. The only thing that we’d had in abundance was laughter and sawdust.


“Look at us,” I continued. “We bought reclaimed doors for the tops; then, spent a week sanding through a veneer so hideous it made my soul sad, all to get to the core of the doors.”

“Which you have to admit look amazing,” he interrupted.

“They do,” I agreed.

I continued, “Then, we cut the doors to the right size. We balanced them not on sawhorses like normal people, but on cat litter buckets that wobbled. I had to sit on them while you cut them with a circular saw! It was inches from my rear end!”

“Consider it a marital trust exercise,” he suggested.

“Oh, I did,” I said emphatically. “After that, I almost trust you enough to let you wash the delicate loads of laundry.”

“Wow!” he acknowledged the growth in our marriage.

“Now, we’re washing the grease off the pipes that will be the bases of the desks. I gestured with a pipe and sloshed greasy water onto the patio.

“Oh great,” I thought sarcastically. “Now, I have to wash the patio, too!”

Brian looked at the stain and then at my face. “You’re thinking you have to wash the patio now aren’t you?”

I sighed. Does he get me or what?

“We’ve been to the home improvement store at least 15 times, the stain we used on the doors – err desks — didn’t want to dry properly and we had to buy two different power tools to complete the project.” I went on.

“Power tools,” he echoed lovingly.

“Now, we’re washing pipes,” I concluded.

He smiled. “Yes, but tomorrow, when the last coat of polyurethane dries and we assemble the desks, I bet you feel differently.”

He was right. After all the misplaced belief in our desk building abilities, the missteps, the extra trips to the store and the minor bronchial infection from inhaling too much sawdust, I realized that our project was decidedly not stupid.

We had built something incredible.

Together, we’d overcome arguments about how large the desks should be, how much space we should each be allotted, what the color of the stains should be and we’d even settled on matching office chairs.

We’d built another layer of goodness onto an already strong marriage. And the desks weren’t bad either.


Nora Blithe

Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at