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Little Spouse On The Prairie: The Home Project Method

Joel Kuchera, standing beneath the pergola the Little Spouse convinced him to build through "The Home Project Method."

I saw a coffee cup the other day that said, “If a man says he will fix it, he will.  There’s no need to remind him every six months.”  I had to laugh.   Let me interject here that my husband Joel is the hardest working person I’ve ever met.  The man can’t sit still (mainly because if he does, he falls asleep instantly).  But we do have an understanding about the steps in the project process.  For the sake of example, I’m going to use our recent pergola addition to describe this process.

Our project process is a little like the scientific method in that the first step is to define the problem.  The problem in the case of the pergola was that over 20 years ago, long before I was married to Joel, I dreamed of a second story pergola on the back of my Victorian house.  I twisted my first husband’s arm and we added a significant addition, including a second story balcony that we would later fit with rail and pergola.  Well, as listeners know, life has a tendency to meander down many a detour.  Fast forward to 2017, and I still didn’t have a pergola.

I married Joel in 2010, after dating for close to three years.  Although I did bring up the pergola (repeatedly, according to Joel, but I maintain that I only brought it up so often because his hearing problems were getting significantly worse throughout those three years), I didn’t clearly state my hypothesis until we were married. 

I learned quickly that Joel needs what I like to call “priming” before a household project can begin.  This priming involves me showing Joel magazines and pictures of the project in question, and saying in a wistful voice, things like, “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a pergola on the back balcony? I could sit out there with my strong, handsome husband and listen to those fascinating stories about when you played college basketball.”  Part of the priming in this case, was that after 782 such mentions, Joel asked, “What’s a pergola again?” 

Once we get to the stage where Joel asks for the meaning of a term that I have defined, illustrated, made flashcards for, and whispered in his ear during REM sleep for at least a year and a half, we can progress to the actual experiment. 

Organizing supplies is my job.  If I purchase the necessary items and place them where Joel will trip over them as he walks to the garage, the experiment may progress more quickly, especially if, once he has worn a path around the original stack of supplies, I move said stack onto the new path. About two face plants and Joel is ready to roll.

Our household projects are not like those experiments that are chain reactions. The dominoes do not just fall.   But I am nothing if not persistent.  When I found out that Joel had built “shade structures” for two summer construction clients, the entire timeline was placed on the fast track.  Especially when I found out about the other “shade structures” by phone spying.

During the observation and recording stage of the scientific/project process, we do have to continually check and monitor.  Joel is like the student that gets a 99% on every assignment, but has to come up to the teacher’s desk to ask “Is this right? Is this right?” every few minutes.  He claims his lack of confidence is due to my exacting and impossible standards.

And now here I am, listeners, completing the last stage of the scientific method for the pergola, because I am reporting that Joel built me an amazing structure that is 99% perfect.  My hypothesis that a “shade structure” would look great on the back of our house has proven true! Check out the photo on The Little Spouse on the Prairie Facebook page and be sure and post your own home improvement stories on the “In-House with Little Spouse” thread. While you’re there, check out the link to the music of Kelly Wertz, who composed the show’s theme.  This is Valerie Brown-Kuchera, the Little Spouse on the Prairie.  

Host of Little Spouse on the Prairie, a regional comedy feature that airs Sundays at 8:35 a.m. during Weekend Edition.