We have a new mural in the living room that the entire family loves. It was designed and painted by a good friend of ours (thanks, Tramaine!); it contains symbolism that relates to every member of our family (including a pet chicken); and it didn’t cost us a penny. We used barter to get it done, and as a result of the mural, we were able to heal a rift that had been brewing in the house for more than a year. This is some mural! The Back Story My husband got a rather large plasma screen TV last year as part of a new patio space for me. I’m not sure how a television relates to outdoor living, but this was the compromise we (more or less) happily settled on. But when it came to hanging photos or art on the wall near the TV, the trouble began. I didn’t want a black monolithic screen taking up the entire wall of our small living room, and my DH refused to let anything detract from the high-def plasma screen – not beautiful paintings or gorgeous shots of our beloved children. “Nothing can detract from the amazingly crisp screen! Look at it, will you? Isn’t it beautiful?!” Back to trying to find a compromise. He asked, “Could we hang a sheet over it when we weren’t watching it?” I politely told him to stuff the sheet where the sun don’t shine. I suggested we build a wooden cabinet on the wall, and hang the flat screen inside it. Too much trouble and too dominating in the room, the hubby countered. Wallpaper was a fairly good solution for both of us, but then we couldn’t agree on a pattern. I wanted more of a pattern than he could visualize. And the vintage papers we both sort of liked were pretty pricey (and we’d just bought a plasma TV, so there wasn’t really any extra moolah hanging around). After 11 or so months of this, I’d had it, and a solution finally fell into my lap. Last fall, we’d lent a log splitter to a friend so he could get his firewood in order for heating his house during the winter. His partner, Tramaine de Senna, is an artist and painter. She offered to do a mural or some other painting in exchange for the loan of the log splitter, and we agreed that someday that would be cool. Then, in early February we arranged for them to housesit and watch our cats while we were out of town, and everything clicked into place. Tramaine worked with me on a color scheme that we thought Bruce would like, and asked for a list of everyone’s favorite animals (“power animals,” she calls them). So we left out the cat food and some old cans of paint, and hit the road. Coming back home and walking into the living room to see our new wall was way better than any Christmas morning in recent memory. We all oohed and ahhed, and excitedly pointed out fun features to each other. “Look, there’s a panda! Oh, and an alligator!” “Here’s the chicken, and there are skulls hiding in the flowers!” Even Bruce, my hubby, was amazed and really pleased with the result. And as is usually the case, we can’t understand why it took us so long to get it done in the first place. Tramaine’s headed off to an art fellowship in Berlin later this spring, and while we’ll all miss her terribly, we’ll get to think of her and enjoy her artwork everyday for years to come. It’s the best barter ever! What’s the best barter you’ve ever been a part of? Tell us about it in the Comments.