So What If There’s a Toilet in My Breakfast Nook?


Great Tile Work for a Rookie

For over two weeks now, the one-and-a-half-bath Coleman house has been down to one toilet and no shower. Kathy, who wears the family tool belt, decided to remodel the full bathroom. As the project got underway I was on retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, so the hygiene situation at home wasn’t an inconvenience. (Kathy got by showering at Best Fitness, where she works out; Micah’s tidiness-optional these days.)

Since landing back in Erie last Saturday, I’ve showered at a wellness center with a really long name where I work out. Neighbors Joy and Kevin are also great about our invading their shower. The point is, we’re all staying as clean as usual.


In Kathy’s Lounge, a Cabinet with Deodorant, Tools, Hand Cream, Paint, and Brassiere

The house is suffering, though. Parts of the bathroom—impeccably clean toilet, sink, and cabinet—are camped in the breakfast nook during the delay. Various cosmetics and toiletries are cohabitating with tools and paint on a cabinet in the room off the bathroom Kathy has named her lounge. A few days ago Micah needed Neosporin for some chaffing somewhere—I didn’t want to know—and dug through a tote parked beside a table in the dining room; after several minutes he stood up with a sigh, waving the puny tube above his head.

Even the garage hasn’t escaped the mess. The bathroom door, hidden under decades of paint, rests like a pale cadaver across two sawhorses next to Kathy’s puffer, a kind of Yugo among sailboats. Micah’s spent hours sanding and burning away at that door and still has more work ahead.


The Puffer’s Garage Mate

In short, our bathroom—6’ x 8’, tub included—is out of control, like a puppy not yet housebroken, leaving surprises everywhere. Kathy had hoped to have the shower working by the time I returned from Kentucky and arranged a few days off work to give herself a reasonable shot, but remodeling projects are always booby-trapped. Estimate your time and expense, then double both, and that’s where you’ll end up, if you’re lucky.

Once Kathy returned to work, progress slowed considerably. Messing with caulk and tile is tough after you’ve nursed chemotherapy patients for ten hours. As I write this post on Monday, Kathy plans to throw herself at finishing the shower on Wednesday, her day off.


Lace Tablecloth with Neighboring Tote, Neosporin at the Bottom

You’d think having one toilet, no shower, and bathroom artifacts strewn about would be frustrating after going-on three weeks, but I can’t bring myself to care. (You might be thinking, “Well, maybe you could bring yourself to help out,” but that would be a mistake. I’m solid with avocados and cilantro, passable with a paintbrush, but an idgit with power tools. We’re all much better off if I make snacks for the skilled labor.)

Why don’t I care? No kidding, it’s the spirit of siesta, the impulse to stop, settle down, rest, and consider. First, I’ve got an incredible wife who actually enjoys swinging a hammer, cutting grass, and planting basil and tomatoes. On a pragmatic level, I’ve got it made. Kathy’s creative and anything but a slouch. So take six months on the bathroom if you need to, dahling! If necessary I’ll go out back, squirt myself with Palmolive, and turn on the hose.

IMG_0549So what about the mess? I’m not fastidious to start with, but in the unlikely event that having a commode in the breakfast nook bothers me, I know how to make it go away: just close my eyes. And Mennen Speed Stick smells the same whether I put it on in the bathroom or my lovely wife’s lounge.

I don’t say this out of any sense of pride or with any pretense: my life is more joyful than I have any right to expect, joyful largely because I pray (really a lot, I have to admit), nap, and breathe. When I stick to this program, most of the complications that would have upset me years ago fall into the it-just-doesn’t-matter category. (For a great expression of that huge category, check out this You Tube video.)

Yes, prayers, naps, and deep breathing! Having a splendid wife and children helps. Oh, and Zoloft doesn’t hurt either.


The One Plant Whose Name Kathy Doesn’t Know Calmly Abides in the Breakfast Nook by the Toilet