Prison Bathroom Upgrade

When you move from most anywhere in the world to the vicinity of New York City, the price tag on just about everything doubles and you learn to make do with less space and, simply, with less, in general. Unless you’re related to the Rockefellas or the Goodfellas!

I still remember driving around North Shore Long Island eight years ago as Hubs and I decided to search for our first house. We had rented for more than three years when we got the memo that the monthly rent would double when he no longer served as a resident [Attendings didn’t get the same breaks.] We knew it was time to become a home owner. Not sure which, if any, home we could afford, but we had to try.

So we drove around different neighborhoods within a ten-mile radius of Hubby’s job. Because we hoped we could find something that would at least cut out the commute time out of his day. Hearing him tell me he dozed off at the wheel after working all night during residency one too many times had me convinced that we had to be a hop, skip and a jump from the hospital. Little else mattered.

But as in most things in NY, every option we came across was out of our price range, especially since I wanted to spend a few more years home with our infant and toddler princesses and now that residency was over, the friendly peeps who happily handed him loans to make it through med school, they came a’ knocking. It was time to pay them back.

I had pretty much given up hope when we drove up a hill on Katherine Street and Hubs slams on the brakes in front of a little yellow house. So small, you would probably call it a cottage before you called it a house. The sign on the lawn read, “By Owner,” and Hubs pulled out a pen and paper to write down the number. “This is it! This is gonna be our house.”

How he knew at that very moment astounds me. I mean, he’s no prophet, but he’s pretty smart. He figured between the size and the sign, we had a lot  working in our favor, and turns out, he was right. So about ten months later, we turned the key and stepped into our first owned home, ten years into our marriage. Funny thing is, we’re pulling into the driveway in those early days, and I see our bedroom window, and then there are two other windows at the same level.

Me: “Babe, which room is that? Where did those windows come from?”

Hubs: “Good question. If the other window is our bedroom, that would make that … Holy cow! That’s the living room!”

So when we entered the house, we looked at our wall of mirrored squared and Hubs’ eyes lit up. He hated the mirrors from the get go. Now there was no reason left to leave them up. I didn’t love the mirrors, but it was fun to watch the girls dance in front of it and make funny faces, etc. But I knew he was right. I mean, who wouldn’t choose sunlight over mirrors?

Thus, began the first of many DIY [Do It Yourself] projects. Because after you spend your life savings and throw in a kidney to cover the closing costs, you sure as heck do not have anything left to spend on hired help. So you do the next best thing, you buy yourself a Home Depot book and delve into the wealth of information found on YouTube!

And in the last decade, with the help of neighbors, family and lots of super generous friends, Hubs has sanded and refinished our wood floors, put in a new door, painted the house, put up a ceiling fan in the kitchen and plenty of other home projects like replacing door knobs, framing windows, building shelves, etc.

The project that did require a bit of outside help came when we knew we needed a second bathroom. There was no way the six of us were going to survive on one toilet, so pretty soon after we moved in, hubs hired someone to break ground and do the major plumbing for a toilet and sink. And for the last seven years, whenever we had company and the main bathroom was occupied, one of us would chuckle and say: “You could always go downstairs. And use the prison bathroom.”

Because the bathroom for years has been just that. A toilet next to a utility sink. Next the washing machine and dryer. No walls. No privacy. Even the lock on the door is on the wrong side.

The walls have been coming up slowly. The framework of the walls is actually almost done now, thanks to my dad, brother-in-law, neighbors and friends, who’ve had spurts of progress when they visit. Funny how a lot of progress happened recently when Hurricane Sandy came, and the power was out. The guys used the generator from the RV to power their tools and lights and finished a bunch of piping. My dad and hubs even picked up shower doors and a vanity.

But the vanity sat in our bedroom for the last six months, and yesterday, it moved downstairs! Into the bathroom… into place. And before the clock struck twelve and the carriage turned back into pumpkin soup, Hubs had some fun with a blow torch, copper pipes, and pvc pipe too, and now we have functioning vanity with running water, both hot and cold!

So proud of my Handy Hubs. Sarah, our five year old, got up today so excited to use the new sink, she took her toothbrush downstairs just to brush her teeth. And I love that Hubs is willing to do projects around the house. Because as much of a spaz as I am about so many things, I don’t get stressed about the house. I know he works hard and he’ll get to it when he gets to it. Plus, after a season when our house was in near shambles and our friends kept coming over anyway, and we’d sit here and there, and eat outside on the patio or standing up, I pretty much lost any fear of making a bad impression. I realized right then that our friends were coming over to spend time with us, not because I had it together as a house wife or because we had an immaculate house.

So come on over and check it out! The prison bathroom is now one step closer to parole, bay-bee. Next week, a shower?? Probably not. That soon. But who cares. Just excited to make a little progress. And love to see Hubs’ ear to ear smile when nothing leaked!

And as my fingers tried to work out the kinks in his shoulders and neck last night, his exact words were, “And now I know why Plumbers get paid so much!”

So how ’bout you? Ever figured out how to fix something from the help of a book and a YouTube video? Taking bets on when the shower will go up!


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4 thoughts on “Prison Bathroom Upgrade

  1. Yes, I HAVE figured out how to fix something from a YouTube video!! Totally…but not because I ever actually had to fix something. Solely because I wrote a book about a homebuilding TV show host. I have the This Old House website bookmarked. :) Now if I actually had to go through with a project rather than just writing about it, chances are I wouldn’t make it far…

    • Yeah for friends named Melissa! :)

      ‘Made to Last’ coming at readers this September! Will pay attention to details … Bet it was fun to learn all the cool tool names and how they work! -Raj

    • Hey Melissa! :)
      This is the first time Hubs used the blow torch… and he actually started the entire day by fixing two leaks. Each time he tested them, we all held our breath! I’m sort of convinced that deep down, he wanted to be a surgeon, and this is his way of “Fixing” things that don’t breathe, in the traditional sense!
      Can you believe that after watching him cut and glue PVC pipes, I actually said to him, “Not that I plan to, but if I had to, I feel like, maybe, just maybe, I could build a bathroom if I needed to!” Ha. And on a side note, I love the smell of the “glue.” -Raj