DIY-ing with a Round Tuit-Ist

My husband and I have what you might call “a mixed marriage.” Not because he’s Southern-born, while I’m a Prairie Girl, and not because we’ve been known to vote for different candidates. The division goes deeper than that. The fact is, I like DIY and Home Improvement projects and my husband is a Round Tuit-ist.

I’ll bet you know a Round Tuit-Ist (or, if you’re just reading this in 2059, you may be one). Round Tuit-ists are very nice people. They love to listen to your ideas. And, if you need a hand, they are happy to help. “Absolutely, as soon as I get around to it”, they say. And you will grow old and gray, waiting for them to get that Round Tuit

Which is why, when it came to painting the kitchen, I knew it would be difficult for my Round Tuit-ist. Part of him really wants to help, or at least for me to find something else to talk about besides the kitchen. But he’s never really ready to start a project. He’s not sure we have exactly what we need or if the area is sufficiently prepped. In other words, he hasn’t found his Round Tuit. But I had a secret weapon.

Before the new paint job

You see, my Round Tuit-ist loves gadgets, almost as much as he hates home improvement, and he loves new gadgets most of all. And I know that. So, once the red cabinets were cleaned, sanded and cleared of their hardware, I innocently asked, “would you rather use the rollers or paint with the sprayer?”

“Sprayer? What Sprayer?“. This was my cue to bring out the brand new paint sprayer I’d picked out for the occasion. Tuit-ist’s eyes gleamed like a kid in Disney World. Then he said “Where do you want these doors painted?

I replied,”How about that flat area behind the garage” and started picking up cabinet doors before he could protest. (By the way, 17 doors of varying sizes can be a bit cumbersome). I thought we’re finally grasped the famous Round Tuit. But fate had other ideas. No sooner had I spread out 17 cabinet doors, when the thunder started to rumble. And all 17 doors came back inside.

Next morning was, as Yogi Berra would say, Deja Vu all over again. Haul the doors out , set up the paint station, then haul them in under the threat of rain. By noon 17 doors had each made three round trips to the outdoors and I was beginning to get winded. In desperation, I asked Tuit-ist to move the paint operation to the covered front porch.

Pretty soon he was happily spraying away while I rolled paint over the facings. And the kitchen no longer was red.

What a difference a little paint makes!

Even a rubber wood table my Dad got us met the paint sprayer. What a difference that made!

First Step

The painting took surprisingly little time, although it also proved one of my Round Tuit-ist’s theories. He says any home improvement project simply begets another so, once begun, the work never stops. In our case, once the kitchen is completely done, I will have to repaint the porch.

The after effects

Well, I’m sure I’ll get around to it.

Elegy for an Honest Marriage

It’s October, one of my favorite months for stories, even though most October stories have a tie to the supernatural.   So it only seems right to start off with a story by one of the writers most associated with scary stories: Stephen King.

At its essence, marriage is a closed corporation.  It’s a private entity with its own personality and the principals own all the stock.  Sure, often children are born to a marriage and spouses share parts of their lives with others but these people are beneficiaries, not stockholders; if children leave and friends fall away, the corporation continues unless death or divorce intervene, keeping secrets known only to the principals. At least that’s the premise of Lisey’s Story.  And those untold secrets are what makes a marriage powerful, even when one of the principals dies.
Lisey Landon is still learning about the strength of her marriage years after her husband, Scott, died. Scott was a successful novelist and the public face of their marriage.  His passing left her with a sizable amount of cash, a barn full of books, and some very insensitive academic types that believe their knowledge of Scott Landon’s work gives them superior rights to and understanding of Scott, the man.  Only Lisey knows how wrong they are.
Scott’s commitment to his wife is a suggestion why some marriages go the distance, even when one of the principals is famous.  Landon treats his fans with kindness and respect but recognizes their view of him is grounded in their response to his stories.  In his words, Lisey sees him as himself, a person of both weakness and strength, that is totally separate from his work. Before the world fell in love with Scott’s creations, Lisey fell in love with Scott, not his work, making her one of the few trustworthy souls in his world.  And trust her he does with his deepest secrets, the ones where King’s imagination runs dark.

If parents and siblings knew us when we were children, then spouses see how we live with the effects of that childhood . Lisey’s learns of her husband’s fearful background and the genuine affection that can thread through knots of abuse.  She also discovers the genetic dynamite her husband carries and the extraordinary abilities and terrors he keeps private.  In exchange, Scott gains access to Lisey’s quiet, incredible sense and strength and insight into her long-term dance in a gaggle of sisters. To the public, Scott and Lisey Landon look like an uneven couple but they are a strong, symbiotic team, unaffected by fame or money. The marriage is based on mutual trust they’ve learned to rely on, knowing each will not only keep the other’s secrets but the secrets they hide from themselves.  

King fans will find the humor and gruesome scenes in Lisey’s Story that fill many of their favorite author’s books and literary fans will be enchanted by the pool at Boo’ya Moon, the place Scott says all storytellers drink from to find the words and ideas that keep them writing and us reading.  But make no mistake, Lisey’s Story is primarily a love song, a hymn for a long, loving marriage.  Listen well because songs are all outsiders are allowed to hear.  The best of any good marriage remains a privileged secret.

Love & Death in a New England Summer

There are stories that pass through your brain and leave, unnoticed and unmissed.  Others are  like summer romances that hold you until there’s a change in the weather.  And there are stories you find by chance that stay with you forever.  I’ve been rereading Bag of Bones for fifteen years now and I believe I’ve fallen in love to stay.  That’s good because love is a driving force in this book, along with death and in a New England summer.

Stephen King turned into a writer sometime while my back was turned.  A first, he was a commercial success and a critic’s nightmare come true.  I couldn’t stand his early prose, so I ignored him.  Then one August day I was combing the shelves, craving a good ghost story.  (Ghost stories and haunted houses are DOCs of mine.)  This book was on the shelf and I was desperate enough to try anything, even a book by Stephen King.  It hit like a tidal wave.

Mike and Joanna Noonan have the marriage we lesser mortals crave.  They like and understand each other and she knows when to deflate his ego.  Not that Mike needs much deflating.  He’s one of King’s Everymen, a decent, sensible guy who happens to write for a living.  These two likeable people should have given each other decades of joy and a couple of kids.  Bag of Bones could have been called, “Lives that Should have been.”

Because Joanna Noonan is dead on page one and Mike is left alone.  His ability to write packs up and leaves shortly after her funeral.  Now, Stephen King published thirty-three novels in the quarter century before Bag of Bones but somewhere along the way he learned about writer’s block.  It’s real and it’s hell and he captures that pain on the pages of this book. Without his wife or the ability to work, our hero is a man without focus.

Luckily, he still has a few things left to love, like his summer home “on the TR” and reading.  If anything, Bag of Bones is a book-lovers book.  It cites authors from Melville to McDonald and is tied, through multiple references to Rebecca (one of my all-time, hands-down, favorites)  After four years of grief, Mike returns to the summer home he and his wife loved so well.  That’s when the bad stuff really starts.

One issue pertains to the nice girl down the road and her toddler daughter, Kyra.  Mike gets caught in the cross-fire of a custody battle between the girl and  her terrible father-in-law.  That’s bad but Mike’s bigger problem are the people in his house.  You could say Mike’s not living alone, except he’s the only one in the house that’s alive.  These problems and others keep him on the place and in the bulls-eye of unending curse.  To survive and save someone he loves, Mike must unearth the secrets that holds the TR in its grip and he’ll find out which forces really survive death.

Lyrical in places and perfectly paced, Bag of Bones turned me into a fan.   If you pick it up now, you’ll read it at the height of the summer, the perfect time for this story.  Read it in the woods, or by the lake but don’t read it when you’re alone.  It’s too easy to believe in ghosts when you’re book-deep in a summer’s night.