Helping Your Family Survive a Home Makeover
by Lisa M. Hendey

An Author Interview with Laura Jensen Walker, This Old Dump: Renovate Without Decking Your Mate

The Hendey family has been caught up in the home improvement craze for years, but our children have gotten in on the act too since becoming fans of one of those “home makeover” shows. So when we took our teenager to pick out paint chips for his room last summer, we shouldn’t have been surprised when he chose a “moon rock” green hue, embedded with grains of sand and flecks of glitter. OK...we invited his involvement in the project, so we were going to have to live with the results!

What we didn’t think to do was to begin the room makeover with prayer – as it turns out we could have definitely used the guidance of the Holy Spirit! Had I read the new book by Laura Jensen Walker, I would have approached this project and others around our home with a little more wisdom and a lot more patience. This Old Dump: Renovate Without Decking Your Mate, (Revell, September 2004, paperback, 156 pages) offers fun and humorous suggestions for surviving your home improvement projects without destroying your marriage in the process. Laura blends hilarious home improvement tales with practical tips and solutions.

Laura Jensen Walker had the following comments on her book and surviving renovation projects:

Q: Laura Jensen Walker, author of This Old Dump: Renovate Without Decking Your Mate, it’s so great to have the opportunity to share your new book with our readers! Could you please start off by telling our readers a bit about you and your family?

A: I’m a full-time author and speaker and have been married for over thirteen years to Michael, my wonderful “Renaissance-man” husband (the man can do ANYthing—from sewing beautiful quilts to reupholstering furniture to knocking down walls, putting up fences, gardening, woodworking, cooking, painting, acting, and singing—just to name a few.) In fact, the first time I saw him, he was singing. Can you say smitten? I’m also a 12-year breast cancer survivor (I was diagnosed the day after our first wedding anniversary) who knows firsthand the healing power of humor. Michael and I live in Sacramento, California with our “canine-daughter” Gracie.

Q: People take their home renovations so seriously these days. What was your motivation for writing a humorous book on the topic?

A: To get people to lighten up a little. And to realize they’re not alone in their home improvement horror stories. AND to give them a reality check that it’s not like what they see on TV. Their renovation will not be complete in 60 minutes. (Something about not having Ty Pennington and 250 Home Depot workers to help.) Most of all, to make them laugh rather than tear their family members from limb to limb - or head to divorce court.

Q: What are the most important tips you’d share with families considering taking on home improvement projects?

A: Be aware from the very beginning that every home improvement project will probably cost at least twice as much as you thought and take three times as long (and most likely require an electrician.)

Flexibility is key. So is communication. Don’t be so rigid in having to have your own way/the most beautiful home on the block that you can’t adapt/adjust when things go wrong. (But along those same lines, guys: as much as humanly possible, let her have her way or you will pay.)

And women: Every man needs a room of his own (with apologies to Virginia Woolf) and not just the garage. Let him have a space of his own to decorate however he wants - whether it be hunting/fishing chic, football frenzy, or gadgets galore. Just be sure there’s a door you can close. (You get free rein in the rest of the house, so don’t begrudge him his space. Besides, that way you don’t have to have his sports trophies in the den.)

Q: Do you have any ideas for including kids in renovation projects?

A: Our four-footed canine daughter doesn’t like whenever we renovate/make changes around the house - she always runs and hides under the bed. We tried to get her opinion on paint color, but she wouldn’t tell us. With actual two-footed children who can respond, ask their opinions, and depending on their age, give them something to do (that doesn’t require scary power tools) so they’ll feel part of the process too.

Q: Your book includes wonderful scriptural references at the completion of many of the chapters. What role should faith take in tackling projects around the house?

A: Prayer is essential. Daily. To help you get through the stress and strain of renovation. And it helps to keep in mind the big picture. There’s that old saying “Home is where the heart is.” Your family is your heart and your home, given to you by God. And they’re more important than any house. I especially love the proverb (24:3): “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established.”

Q: What’s your favorite story shared in the book?

A: That’s a tough one. It’s a toss-up between my Wisconsin cousin racing to the bathroom and in her hurry not realizing the carpenter was framing the window until she looked up and saw this big smile on his face. Luckily, she had on an oversized sweatshirt, so she figured she’d just pull her shirt down over her knees and back out the door. Once out of his line of vision, she pulled her pants up and her shirt down. Then she looked up and there in the bedroom window was another carpenter with a grin on his face. He thought she was mooning him! (I told her that gives new meaning to worker’s compensation.)

The other story is of my friends Bill and Andrea. Andrea had a hard time choosing a paint color for their dining room. She thought she wanted green and selected her paint chip, then bought a quart of paint and painted a small section. Of course, the color was never exactly the same as the chip, but she kept trying. Green after green after green. Then after visiting a friend’s house who had a pretty taupe (dark tan for you guys) color, she tried a couple variations of that. When Bill got home that night, he took one look at the tan-and-green camouflage wall and shouted “Get down!” then he made the sound of a machine gun firing.

Q: Laura, thank you again for your time and participation in this interview. Could you say a word or two about your previous and future writing projects? Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

A: I’ve written a total of ten non-fiction books so far, but the one closest to my heart is Thanks for the Mammogram: Fighting Cancer with Faith, Hope, & a Healthy Dose of Laughter. Another one that was fun to write and came out this year is Girl Time: A Celebration of Chick Flicks, Bad Hair Days & Good Friends. What I’m most excited about, however, is that my first NOVEL will be coming out in Spring 2005! It’s called Dreaming in Black & White and is in the funny ‘chick-lit’ genre. (Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, only if Bridget went to church. My website is Thanks so much for the interview! The last bit of advice I want to share is: couples should never EVER wallpaper together! (Talk about a straight shot to divorce court.)

For more information on This Old Dump: Renovate Without Decking Your Mate

Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including and, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at for more information.

About the Author

Lisa M. Hendey is a mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including and, and an avid reader of Catholic literature. Visit her at for more information.

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