My Little Helper: A Cautionary Christmas Tale

Only rookies make rookie mistakes.

Or so they say.

Believe me, I am no rookie. I am a well seasoned spouse with decades of experience, yet I did what I did anyway.

We had just finished with Christmas decorations.

The ornaments hung safely from the tree. Mary and Joseph waited patiently by the manger and tinsel dappled the walls with reflected glow.

All was well.


I blame the hot chocolate.

Okay, I blame the peppermint schnapps I used to spike the hot chocolate. Surely, it was that. But whatever the excuse, I should have known better.

I asked, “Is there anything else you want done?”

She placed an index finger on her chin and pondered. “Let me think…is there anything else that needs to be done?”

As the milliseconds ticked slowly by and my stomach dropped into free-fall, I realized I had violated everything I learned in all my years of marriage. I asked an open-ended question.

“Why yes, there is,” she said, “You can finish painting the living room.”

Oh please, not that!

Our half painted living room has stood as a bulwark against the onslaught of other projects ever since we moved into our house four years ago.

I began painting it the first week we moved in.  At the time, I was eager to have the job done until she said…

“I am not sure about the shade.”

There was no difference between the new and the old paint other than the name. Something like Sun-bleached Straw versus Light Wheat. So I abandoned the project until she could make up her mind.

Still it remained undone.

But here is the thing, whenever she asked me to do anything else, like to install the knob on the bathroom door or to fix the crack in the kitchen ceiling, I could always fall back on, “I’ll get to that after the living room but first you will have to settle on the color.”

This time she stunned me. “Use what you have,” she said.

I began to sputter, but then she really stunned me.

“I’ll help,” she said.


There are some things a couple should never do together and painting tops that list.

The only thing close is hanging wallpaper.

I knew I had been beat. I made a mistake and had to pay the price, so the next day I rummaged under the stairs for a dust covered can of Sun-bleached Straw and got to work.

“Oh, you painted the living room,” she exclaimed upon coming home from work.

“I did.”

“But I wanted to help,” she said in a voice that might contain disappointment had not her motives been known.

“You can help with something else,” I told her.

“Great!” she said, “I’ll help you fix the bathroom door and repair the crack in the kitchen wall and….”

Drat!  I did it again.

Author: Almost Iowa

52 thoughts on “My Little Helper: A Cautionary Christmas Tale”

  1. Clearly, you had a bit too much hot chocolate! But no worries, once the holiday season is over, you will be back to your old self. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see just how many household projects you get done this year!

  2. You blew it, Craig. What else can I say. For years I got away with doing one manly chore per month, but anything to do with the toilet earned two manly chores. And yes, as much as we love each other, it is best that we focus on our own chores! –Curt

  3. I hear wallpaper is coming back into vogue. If there is a suggestion of it at my house, I know the marriage is over and she just wants me out.

  4. No more peppermint schnapps for you! When Patrick & I were first married we painted our bathroom together – a very small bathroom. He was wedged in the corner with a roller pan and I was using a paint can that I sat on the floor. I pointed out a place he missed and he tipped the roller pain pouring paint down his pants, and then stepped into the paint can. I was hysterical, but surprisingly, he didn’t see the humor in it. We’ve (I’ve) continued to laugh about this 26 years later. This could be a rite of passage for all married couples.

  5. Mine, from my point of view as a wife: get rid of the mouse, fix the damp in the basement (I disagree, it’s definitely there), grout the bathroom, yes again……hmmmmm I can think of more, just give me a minute.

    1. I am slowly figuring her out. Now I am smart enough to bring my reading glasses and a thick novel with anytime she says, “we won’t be long.”

  6. As can be seen from the comments, everyone can relate to this story. I think besides the schnapps there’s also an ‘age’ thing. When we were younger, a DIY project got done in a weekend. Now we spend more time talking ourselves out of a DIY project than we did then completing one. 🙂

    1. The infamous “Professor” Peter Schickele extensively researched the life of PDQ Bach, the “only forgotten son” of the Bach family. In the course of his work, he uncovered PDQ’s treatise on project management, revealing that all endeavors can be divided into three distinct phases:

      ILLUMINATION Otherwise known as coming up with bright ideas. Often associated with the symbol of a light bulb.

      ACTUALIZATION This is the phase when we actually have to do something. It is where the root actual in the name comes from.

      CONTRITION The final phase speaks for itself.

    1. Years ago when Stan and I rented an apartment, the conversation went like this:

      Me: The bedroom window fell apart again.
      Landlord: Sleep in the other room until I can get over there.
      Me: When?
      Landlord: What month is this?

  7. You’ve started my morning off with a laugh. I appreciate your humor as I’m looking at the cardboard wall in my dining room which covers a hole from a chimney removal project of nearly 10 years ago. Thankfully no one has crashed into the wall and broken through the thin metal covering the hole in the floor. But then there’s no peppermint schnapps in this house.

      1. Part of the problem (well, not really a problem) is that we would rather play now than work on house projects. I wish we would have held that perspective years ago when we were always working on something in the house. But then our house would still be wall-to-wall paneling and carpet, sort of like living in a cave minus the dirt floor.

  8. I now fall back on the tried and true, “arthritis is bad today,” reason why I’m not completing a project. Then do a Quasimoto walk to the medicine cabinet. I once asked, “What needs doing?” and found the house for sale and a move underway before I could take it back.

  9. Hahahah!! Your wife is one clever lady and her dad is no slouch either. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. LISTEN before you speak!

    On the plus side, the living room is painted. But now you’ve opened up a black hole to all the other pesky projects that need attention.

    Good luck! —-Ginger—-

  10. That is a total rookie move. We’re in reverse in this household. And I never ask, because I know he’ll answer. We do jockey for position of “who’s holding up the project?” It’s usually 50/50. It only took us ten years to finish the kitchen remodel.

    1. In law they say, never ask a question if you don’t know the answer. But the problem is, when you live with the answer for decades, you forget the multiple ways that it can manifest itself.

  11. The good news is that Santa’s watching, and he realizes that you’ve been a very good boy. He’s also reminded himself never to let Mrs. Claus get him in the same corner.

    1. I really don’t believe that Santa is watching. Believe me, the amount of paperwork he would have to go through to get that level of surveillance is insurmountable.

    1. While at breakfast at her parent’s house, after being humiliated by my wife’s quick wit, I gazed toward the heavens and lamented, “and I married her.”

      My mother-in-law then corrected me, “you married her twice.” (once in a civil ceremony and then in the church).

      My father-in-law then observed, “He’s a slow learner.”

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