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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Off the Grid: Managing Husband Resources

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

The primary difference between me and my husband is that he usually knows what he is doing while I mostly just pretend.

Also, he is occasionally known to admit defeat or error, whereas I will go to my grave firm in the belief that Ikea printed the instructions wrong.

When one has a husband, he is a resource to be carefully managed. For example, mine went to a school that teaches people how to do building things and he has a beard, so I allocate him to everything that is carpentry-related or involves a chainsaw. Also, anything I don’t like to do, such as putting fuel in my car, removing stink bugs, or paying off my credit card.

While it may seem I am doing no favors for the women’s liberation movement, I would like to note that I have long been liberated and this is why I know that I don’t like running the chainsaw. Also, I still do carpentry work, just not when he is looking – because he would ruin our marriage by suggesting I actually measure and mark the wood before I cut it.

When my husband starts tinkering on a project, I employ a series of avoidance tactics so as not to become an apprentice. We have long established that I make a poor apprentice, as I am far better at giving instruction than receiving it. Also, I’d much rather be knitting or running or making a mess of his tools while he is preoccupied.

So this weekend, when he pointed out that our stovepipe had a hole rusted in it, I responded by arguing about the hole, then suggesting the children make fantastic helpers. I have changed the stovepipe before. It starts with one section and finishes with four trips to Home Depot, me cursing on every level of my house, and the inevitable distribution of ash and creosote throughout my living room.

“It’s just the elbow piece,” he said with the cute naivety of someone from a state known for barbecue and beer.

For the next several hours, I refused to make eye contact or engage directly with the husband. If he attempted to lure me into the conversation, I blurted out that I forgot something in the oven or that the pastor called or my mother died and rushed out of earshot as quickly as possible. All questions were answered with unrelated vocabulary.

“Do you know where the drill bit is?” he might ask.

“The oil in my car is getting low,” I’d respond.

I thought it was working pretty well until I came downstairs to discover that we had no stovepipe at all. Apparently, we’d just have to open the kitchen door when we had the fire going or maybe set the kids up with some palm leaves for fanning.

He returned sometime later with several lengths of new pipe. As far as I could tell, he had bought out every hardware store in the county and had enough piping to start his own side business. Of course, none of it fit together.

“Does the pipe look like it is leaning?” he asked.

“Did you eat all the cookie dough?” I answered.

As the day wore on, there was a fair bit of banging, and crimping, and screwing together of things. My husband doesn’t swear often, but I knew it was getting bad when I heard him say, “Jiminy Christmas!” right in front of the children.

With minutes to spare before he left for work that afternoon, he finally had the entire pipe connected again. It looked kind of like a hamster tube maze running right through the living room. I congratulated him on his engineering, gave him a kiss, and sent him on his merry way and feeling rather chuffed at how successful the day had been for both of us.

Until I made a fire.

“Uh, Mom,” asked my daughter as she emerged from her room of sacred teenager space, “what’s all this smoke from?”

It seems my smell hasn’t quite returned from my bout with COVID, although I was beginning to wonder why my eyes were watering. As the house filled with billowing smoke, we rushed about (probably like hamsters) trying to find the leak, but it appeared “everything” was leaking. The last time I found a leak in the pipe, I tried to fix it with duct tape and aluminum foil, so this time we just put the fire out.

While my husband and I don’t agree on everything, we do agree on this: If we ever win the lottery, we are spending our money on hiring qualified professionals. Apparently, all our pretending isn’t getting us anywhere.

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