Stock photo: Fotolia

Have you ever watched Fixer Upper? It’s probably one of the best home improvement shows going. I love Chip’s ridiculous sense of humor (which can be best summed up as make-an-ass-of-himself). I love Joanna’s sense of style. I love the way she and Chip laugh at each other, have fun, and genuinely seem like they enjoy each other. I love that they’re real people juggling family and careers (and a freaking farm) and somehow making it all work. And also, I love Joanna’s hair (but not in a creepy way — like, I don’t want to have a box of her hair or anything — it’s just so shiny and pretty).

Anyway, in a lot of ways, Chip and Joanna remind me of me and my husband. Except for the part where she can decorate the inside of a tenement house to look good and I struggle with just making a nice centerpiece. And also how they have four kids and are still sane (because I would definitely need some institutionalizing). And then there’s that successful family business — including a TV show, home goods line, retail store and B&B ownership. Otherwise, they’re just like me and my husband.

Though there’s a real potential for murder-suicide when we take on projects together, we always seem to come out of it not only alive but still married. And even happy. Each successful project reinforces the idea that we didn’t make a mistake all those years ago. Every positive venture proves to us that we are a true team and that together, we are better — that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts. And when we complete a new challenge without drawing blood, we are triumphant.

Perhaps the secret to our success is that I set the bar pretty low. You may have noticed that I’m generally thrilled to just survive (the drawing blood thing happens whether we like it or not, but it’s usually because I’m a little too free-wielding with the staple gun, not because of any attempted homicide). The only other goal for our time working side-by-side is that our collaboration doesn’t lead to divorce. That’s it.

I expect name-calling. I embrace behind-the-back eye rolling. I encourage a healthy debate about process and procedure and am not averse to settling a dispute with fisticuffs. Because nothing ends a tense situation quicker than one of us dancing from foot to foot and saying things like, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! And not those big carpenter bees. Did you know the males don’t even sting? They protect themselves and their homes by hovering in the vicinity of the nest, darting after any other flying insect that ventures into their territory, hoping their size will be enough to scare away any potential predator.” See? That’ll take the wind out of anyone’s sails.

Right between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we decided to take on a few home improvement projects. Because when else would you add to your workload except during the absolute craziest time of the year? Did I mention it’s been one of the coldest winters I’ve experienced in my adult life? Because it has been. And filling a dumpster when it’s 11 degrees outside doesn’t seem too bad at first. All the physical exertion keeps one’s core nice and warm. I even sweat (although that’s no great feat — I sweat if the shower is too hot). But after a few hours, that temperature will freeze the jaw. So when your neighbor pops by to say hello, your response may cause alarm, as your speech may resemble that of a stroke victim. The plus-side is when you smack yourself in the mouth with a two by four, à-la-Bugs Bunny, you’re already living inside an ice pack. It didn’t even bruise.

Through it all, I’ve learned a plethora of new skills, both as a DIYer and as a marriage counselor. I’ve gained a new and extraordinary respect for laborers. I’ve figured out that white is more of a suggestion than an actual paint color. But most of all, I have determined that Chip and Joanna are nothing like me and my husband and, in reality, must drink heavily to remain as chill as they do. Hey, I’m not judging. I mean, whatever it takes to get that shiplap the perfect shade of kestrel white. Or honeymilk. Or white wisp. Jesus, why are there so many??

If you smack yourself in the face with a board and don’t happen to be outside in below freezing temperatures, you should really get an ice pack. I like the gel ones because they mold to your body parts, but when they break and leak, I am deeply disturbed by the oozing goo that seeps out. I suggest making your own ice packs. Spine-health.com  offers two super easy recipes:

What you need:

2 quart or 2 gallon sized plastic freezer bags (depending on how large you want the cold pack)
2 cups water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
Instructions:

Fill the plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water.
Try to get as much air out of the freezer bag before sealing it shut.
Place the bag and its contents inside a second freezer bag to contain any leakage.
Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour.
When it’s ready, place a towel between the gel pack and bare skin to avoid burning the skin.

An alternative filler is simply to use dish soap, which has a gel-like consistency and will also freeze/retain the cold.

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Laurie Nigro
Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016 and 2017. Email Laurie