Some women dream of the perfect handbag. Others want that perfect shoe or little black dress. Some lust after Prada. I am not one of these women. I really don’t even know what Prada is (I’m thinking it’s some sort of clothing?) and, even if I did know, I could care less.

You want to know what does it for me? Really and truly? That makes my heart pound with excitement? Going to stores like The Home Depot or Hardware Hank’s or Menards. Well, I have the same reaction to book stores but that’s not the point. This is the story about power tools I had promised, including why I’m not allowed to play with them, as decreed by my sister, Kari.

When Kari and I were younger, Dad had the entire garage set up as his workshop. He had exciting toys tools that Kari and I were not allowed to touch unless he was there. I remember that he would use his circle saw and sometimes I was allowed to maneuver it around the blade. He called Kari Sam and I also had a name that was for our “working with power tools” persona but I can’t remember what it is.

I think I was about 10 or 11 and Kari was 8 or 9 when Dad called us out to the garage. He said that he was going to teach us a lesson that was imperative that we learn. This was the lesson that smoking was bad.

Dad: Okay, girls. I want you to try something. Do NOT tell your mother.

He lights a cigar and hands it to Kari. Kari turns green. She hands it to me quickly. I puff at it.

Dad: Okay. That’s pretty gross, isn’t it? You don’t want to smoke cigars. Let’s try this.

He lights up a cigarette (Benson & Hedges Deluxe Ultra Light 100, non-menthol). He hands it to Kari. Kari nearly vomits. She hands it to me. I puff on it casually. Dad then takes the cigarette back.

Dad: I hope you’ve learned your lesson. Smoking is bad. Are you going to smoke, Kari?
Kari: No, Dad. Never. Please don’t make me try anymore of that. Yuck, spit, blech.
Dad: Dana, are you going to smoke?
DM: I didn’t care for the cigarette. But can I try the cigar again? That was pretty good.

Poor Dad. His heart was in the right place but his lesson failed miserably. I could read the expression on his face when I asked about the cigar. And the expression was “Oh, crap. What have I done?” It is also odd to realize that, except for the fact that I smoke menthol, I am smoking the same brand of cigarettes that my father used to smoke.

I cannot watch an episode of “The New Yankee Workshop” without thinking of my father. Or thinking that Norm guy makes it all look really easy.

Anyway, many years later, I am helping Kari clean up the house and yard where we grew up because she is buying it. Now, I love my sister dearly. But this cleaning thing, not so much my favorite thing in the world. And Kari knows it. So she bribes me. If I will help her, she will let me use the chain saw.


Ooh! The chain saw! Yes!

So there’s a tree in the front yard that was planted way too close to the house and has given us problems for years. I remember a time when my brothers were helping us move into the house (?) or move a piano in or something and there’s a picture of one of them sawing on a branch. I think they were all in their 20’s or 30’s at this time so I was probably about anywhere from 8-10 (Bruce is 10 years older than me, Denny is 17 years older. Not sure how much older either Ric or Denny are). Anyway, Kari gives me permission to remove a branch from the tree.

I am required to wear the safety goggles even though I protest that they are for wimps. I start up the chain saw (it’s electric! And why do I get the stupid Electric Boogie song stuck in my head every time I say that?) and begin sawing my way through the branch. About halfway through the damn thing, it gets stuck. Dammit! The chain has come off of the chain saw and it is tangled in the branch. This stops the chain saw engine.

I reach for the blade, planning on twisting it back into place. Kari screams my name at the top of her lungs and slaps my hand away. “What?” I ask her. “What are you thinking?” she yells. “You have to unplug it first!”

Oh. Yeah, I guess that would help, huh?

Kari unplugs the chain saw, fixes the blade and, when I reached for it to start slicing away at the tree (actually, now that I’m writing this, I feel terribly guilty about hurting these poor trees in this way. I may need to go back to Kari’s and hug them), informs me that I, under no circumstances, will be allowed to use the chain saw again. Ever. I try to tell her that she is overreacting but she does not fall for that.


She did allow me to play with the Leaf Hog after that. Probably thinking what damage could I do to myself? None. What damage could I do to the Leaf Hog? Lots. Oh, and just a note, Black & Decker’s website has a little moving thing of different power tools. They are pretty. The Leaf Hog has two functions – it can suck and blow (no, I’m serious, people. That was not meant to sound dirty at all!). It can suck the leaves up into this powerful mulcher thing and destroy the leaves (it is fun to pretend that the leaves have disobeyed you and do not recognize your power and then the Leaf Hog will eat them! Eat them! Mwahahahahahaha!) or you can blow the leaves into a pile to run the lawn mower over them. Which is also fun. Die, leaves, die!

Anyway, you might think that Kari took the Leaf Hog away from me because I was running around the yard, threatening poor helpless leaves. But you would be wrong. No, she got mad at me when, after she warned me about the importance of not sucking up rocks into the mulcher and how I had to go through the leaf piles slowly and remove any rocks or twigs, I sucked up a huge rock and chipped the mulcher blade. No more Leaf Hog for me.


When I was younger, my Grandmother had a riding lawn mower. I was not allowed to use it. I was, however, allowed to sit on it and pretend I was driving it. That was fun. I vaguely remember going to see my Uncle Blackie and Aunt Marge when I was about 6 or 7 and being more interested in their riding lawn mower than, well, anything else.

Riding lawn mowers are cool. There is the whole lawn mowing part (which I love and miss from my childhood) and then there is the whole driving thing (is it wrong that I really want a Hover Round even though I have no need for one?) without needing a license!

Anyway, Kari allowed me to use the riding lawn mower and I was in heaven. She told me quite specifically that I was only able to use the lawn mower in the back yard. I agreed with this. No, Kari, I certainly won’t go into the front yard.

You know what happens next, right? Yeah. I finished the back yard and was bored so I headed up into the front yard. I hear Kari yelling at me over the roar of the mower. “Dana! Dana Marie Vittum! Stop it right now!”

I ignore her. I keep heading around the front yard, pretending I can’t hear her. She knows perfectly well that I can. She finally gets me to stop and begins the lecture.

Kari: Did I not tell you that you couldn’t use the riding mower in the front yard? Didn’t I?
DM: Did you? I don’t remember.
Kari: You do too! Why didn’t you stop when I called your name?
DM: Oh, I didn’t hear you.
Kari: Liar! I saw your face!
DM: What about it?
Kari: You were laughing! Exactly like Eric was when he pulled the same stunt!
DM: Oh.
Kari: That’s it. You’re banned from the riding lawn mower. Neither you or Eric get to use it anymore.

Poor Kari. You just know that Josh is going to do stuff like this. He has both Eric and my genes. Well, maybe he’ll get her practical nature. Maybe.