COMMENTARY: Confessions of a repentant home repair junkie

c. 1999 Religion News Service

(Dale Hanson Bourke is publisher of RNS.)

UNDATED _ I have promised my husband it is over.

For the sake of my marriage, for the love of my children, it will never happen again.

After last weekend I have learned my lesson. I am a changed woman, a repentant sinner. Never again will I launch into a home improvement project. I've put away the power drill and retired my spackle. I'm hanging on to my Phillips head screwdriver, but just for emergencies.

It's hard to say how it all began. Until last year my husband wore the tool belt in our family. I never ventured into the paint closet or went near the power tools."Home Improvement"was the story of our lives.

Then one day I was turning the channels and landed on a decorating show for cheapskates. The promise to transform a room for under $500 was right up my alley. I hadn't even said the word"decorate"since a friend offered her interior design skills at a discount and presented me with a conservative plan for my living room in the mid-five figures.

So the idea of a do-it-yourself makeover had distinct appeal. Besides, the fix-it list for my husband was spilling onto the third page and I was beginning to develop that traditional wifely whine:"When are you getting around to ... ?" After the first decorating show I watched a segment promising to teach me all about home repairs. By the time my husband came home from work I had already fixed the washing machine hose and spackled a small hole.

I was empowered. I was a handy woman. My husband tried to look impressed but I could tell he thought I was just being"cute."I'd show him.

The next morning I arrived early at my hardware store. I was comparing paint rollers when one of the clerks walked over with a grin."Been watching HGTV?" I could feel the early warning signs. The sense of guilt gripped me."How did you know?"I asked too quickly."I've seen it before,"he said, eyeing my manicure."Nice woman like you suddenly knows too much about paint finishes. Next you move to the plumbing aisle. And then ..."He shook his head and walked away.

But I was already too far gone to listen.

I walked out of the store with a brown bag full of tools I hadn't even known existed the week before. I nearly ran a red light as I fantasized about building a deck.

At dinner I had a million questions for my husband:"How do I get the drill to reverse? How do I locate a wall stud? Where do you keep the turpentine?" I could tell he was getting nervous."Why do you want to know?"he asked suspiciously."I'm doing a little project,"I said."And I don't need help,"I added emphatically.

By bedtime my little office had become a demolition scene. I was sanding the walls when my husband announced he was going to bed. Hours would pass before I even considered rest.

After a few hours sleep I was up early and back at the work site. I'd ripped out the old intercom and patched the hole with wire mesh. My spackle was nearly dry. Time to get paint samples.

This time the man at the hardware store didn't say anything. My hair was unkept, my nails chipped and peeling."Interior latex,"was all I said as I pointed to number 309. He could tell I meant business.

That's the day the trouble began. My primer coat revealed all the imperfections of our 80-year-old house. Time for a different treatment.

I looked at wall paper samples and paneling. I considered faux finishes and glazes. Meanwhile my desk and files clogged the hallway.

HGTV ran in the background as I waited for a show on wall papering for beginners. All I got was decorative pillows and roofing tips.

The kids were getting tired of macaroni and cheese at every meal. No one could get around the mess in the hall. My husband actually asked,"When are you going to get around to finishing your project?" I grew defensive."I'm waiting for my wall paper samples to arrive. If that doesn't work, I'm thinking of a decorative plaster coat. Meanwhile I've developed a shrinkage crack in my repair work and noticed I need to touch up the trim." I saw my kids looking at my husband in alarm.

By the weekend I had hardly slept. Even I couldn't take it anymore. I slapped on some paint and moved my desk back into the office. I hung a picture over my imperfect wall repair and moved a file cabinet against the wall where my trim was splattered with wall color.

I stood in the doorway, inhaling the paint fumes and sizing up my work. My husband stood beside me trying not to say anything about the crooked shelf and the way the yellow from the walls dotted the ceiling."It was my first project,"I said.

In unison my husband and children cried out,"And your last."DEA END BOURKE