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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Off the Grid: Marriage advice for the DIY wives

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

I’ve been married for a while now and, in those six long months, I’ve learned that the trick to staying married is to not fix broken things.

This week, I’ve been ensuring a long and happy marriage mostly by breaking things myself and leaving the debris of failed repair attempts around the property.

This makes spring feel like a surprise treasure hunt for tools. With every warm day, I discover a new wrench or hammer, or in this case, extension ladder. I hope we won’t need that before April.

It started with the chimney getting clogged. I usually remedy this by smacking the stove pipe with a metal poker until I’m satisfied, but this time it was just denting the pipe and threatening a chimney fire. Smoke began billowing out of the pipe and into my closet, and for a moment I wasn’t sure if I should try to save my clog collection or fetch an extinguisher.

I called the chimney sweep company, which I ought to have on retainer, and it was otherwise occupied with clients who were less of a liability, no doubt. My husband was at work. Despite the advice of most qualified marriage counselors, I would have to fix it myself.

I used to fix all the things myself so much that I couldn’t keep a husband busy at all. Dejected and without purpose, they disappeared one by one. It’s rather a dangerous bad habit because I do not actually know how to fix anything. I just grab a smattering of tools, bailing wire and duct tape, then bounce around the yard like Betty Boop, bopping my way to impending injury or expensive mechanical damage.

“Beep boop beep,” I chirped as I slammed a ladder against the metal roof and tested it for slipperiness. The inch of fresh snow made it slicker than an Olympic luge. I take the kind of safety precautions that have my inbox full of reader advice (thank you) for weeks.

“Hey B, come hold this ladder steady with all of your 70 teenage pounds. Also, if I fall, get out of the way. I’ll be coming off this roof like a drunk penguin off an iceberg.”

There wasn’t a lot of snow yet, so I found a hammer laying about from my last project and determined it was the perfect chimney repair tool, seeing as it fit mostly in my pocket. I grabbed a metal brush in one hand and made my precarious way upward.

Once perched on the steep apex of my third-floor roof, I banged the chimney cap until it flew off in a cloud of clogged creosote, tumbling to the ground far below. Smoke puffed out the stove pipe with renewed vigor. Success!

I called my husband to let him know I’d “fixed” the chimney and hung up before he could ask me how or if I’d put the tools away. He’d need something to do on the weekend after I’ve taken care of all the other things anyway.

Luckily for my marriage, it wasn’t but a few hours later that I managed to yank the pull cord right off the generator. Probably because helpfully whacking things with a hammer and leaving ladders around the yard has made me so strong.

I called my husband again. Such opportunities are prime relationship cultivators and ours needed some balance. He sprung into action doing what he does best and what I hate doing: the right thing. He looked up what kind of generator we owned and ordered a corresponding part. Apparently, that’s more reliable than my acrylic yarn and silly putty solution.

Days went by as I writhed in misery knowing there was a thing that needed fixing. I could jimmy rig a proud solution with glitter glue and a bra strap, but we had to wait for the “right” part to arrive on the weekend. When it did, I hovered out of sight at a safe distance, peering through windows as my husband set about the repairs.

Sometimes, I couldn’t help myself and I’d hide a screwdriver or butter knife (they’re the same thing, really) in my pocket, then inquire as to whether he needed any pointers.

“Have you …” I started.

“I’ve tried that.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” I murmured, hanging my head and returning to the things that were working just fine. They were decidedly less interesting.

I have to wait until Mondays to do anything fun around here. That ought to promise us a long and happy marriage, even if I have to occasionally explain why there is glitter on the tools.

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