Friday, August 25, 2006

Heard It on the Radio

10-minute Energy Saving Secrets

Just finished another radio interview for one of my books, 10-minute Energy Saving Secrets. Once again, I was introduced as a home improvement "expert." As funny as that is to me, it must be true. After all, I heard it on the radio.

Seriously, after lots of years and more than two dozen books, being introduced as a home improvement expert is still a surreal experience.

You see, one day I was a suburban soccer mom, full-time wife, part-time writer, and dedicated avoider of all things involving tools or the word “fix.” The next day I was writing books on home maintenance and decorating.

The transformation didn’t really happen overnight, it only feels that way because painful memories fade. Sort of like childbirth, or the year you were 13.

The process started when my marriage blew up and my place in the world disappeared into the chaos it left behind. I had been married for 16 years and had worked for my husband for seven of those years. The day after the Big Bang, I woke up smack in the middle of the Swamp of Sadness with no husband, no job, and no idea of what to do next.

To further complicate this sorry tale, our son was in the middle of the physical and emotional fight of his life. Following a head injury in a car accident, my healthy, athletic, scrappy 10 year old was befuddled by the dozens of seizures he was having every day. Well, that and the boatload of anti-convulsants he was taking to stop the damn seizures.

My response ranged between rage, terror, and despair. Any time the kids were asleep or at school, my internal channels were tuned to WCRY—all tears, all the time.

I finally came up for air one sunny morning and decided to look for one positive thing. My bedroom needed to be painted but I had never come up with a color my husband would accept. In a flash of rebellion I realized it could now be any color I wanted. I set about painting it (pink!!!!) with my own two little hands.

Surprise of all surprises, I loved it. Loved seeing the progress, loved feeling competent and confident. Also loved waking up without puffy eyes and a pounding head. Plus, painting gave me plenty of time to think.

Other than the kids, the biggest challenge facing me was maintaining the house. I considered selling it, but the kids loved our neighborhood and wanted to stay. And so I decided to take on home repair with a vengeance. To start, I bought several books on home maintenance and refused to hire anyone to do anything I could possibly do myself.

In the early going, I made every possible mistake. Even so, I felt a little stronger, a little more sure that the kids and I were going to be okay with every project. Each time I fixed something around the house it felt as though I was fixing something inside myself, something much bigger than a garbage disposal or a garage-door opener.

This next part is bizarre, but I swear every word is true.

The day finally came when I decided to get a job. As I took out the recycling later that very day, a classified ad caught my eye.

The ad was seeking a home improvement editor and writer. The employer was the company that published the books I was using to teach myself about home maintenance. Their offices were about a mile from my house.

Before I could chicken out, I gathered some writing samples and marched myself off to the publisher’s office. I told my story to the director of the department, divorce drama and all. I even admitted that I had learned everything I knew about home improvement from his company’s books.

Brave soul that he is, Bryan Trandem hired me. While I worked for that publishing company, I wrote and edited dozens of books. Heck, I still write for them from time to time.

Flash forward about 10 years. By now, I’ve written about everything from lighting pilot lights to building decks. And I know this stuff. Cold. I can lay ceramic tile, wire a lamp, and stick my hands inside a toilet tank without fear. (Without rubber gloves, even!)

I’ve learned almost every bit of it the hard way. (There doesn’t seem to be any other way for me.) One of the things I’ve learned is that I truly love showing people they’re capable of far more than they know.

Along the road, I’ve done a little TV, a whole lot of radio, and made personal appearances across the country. I can tell you 5 things you can do today to reduce your energy bills and what tools you need to fix, paint, or decorate just about anything.

None of that stops me from barfing every time I speak in public or looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking about when they introduce the visiting “expert.”

Maybe someday I’ll wear that word comfortably. For now, I’ll “Just keep swimming.” And learning. And writing. And talking on the radio.

BTW—For those of you who wonder, my son is doing very well these days, thank you. His seizures are under control and he has a driver’s license, a job, and his own apartment. And what of my “wasband,” you ask? Well, he married his secretary 11 days after our divorce was signed. If you ask me, they both got exactly what they deserved*.

(*If this last bit sounds the teeniest bit bitter, remember: Bitter Is the New Black. Just ask Jen Lancaster.)

1 comment:

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Wow! I feel so much better knowing that your son is OK now, and why he was behaving the way he was. What a journey you've been on! Can't wait for the memoir!