“I feel like I need to wear flip flops to take a shower,” I said to Daniel as I prepared for my first shower in our “new” bathroom. “It’s not a community shower,” Daniel reminded me even though I definitely have that “bath-house-camping-feel” as I stand in the shower, shivering from the chilly early fall air that creeps in through our garage door. My feet scrape the blue duct tape which seals the cracks in the floor of the shower while I listen to the birds sing and squirrels chatter – knowing the only thing between them and me is the bathroom door when the garage door is open, which tends to be a lot recently.
If you would have told me last September that we would be gutting/renovating our main bathroom in a year, I would have been very surprised. In fact, I’m still not 100% certain how it all happened except that one Saturday morning this spring Daniel and I had a discussion on the merits of moving versus renovating our house. We decided that in order to sell the house we would definitely have to re-do the bathroom at some future point in time, and we both currently claim that’s where the discussion ended. Somehow, a few months later, we found ourselves discussing floor layouts and vanity options with our general contractor.
So here we are. Seven days in and there’s NO turning back. But I have to back up because many of you were unaware (on purpose) that we have a small bathroom in our garage complete with a shower which has now become our main bathroom. In short order, we disposed of the 5 gallon-flush-gross-scary-toilet that was once housed in said bathroom and replaced it with the toilet from upstairs. It’s somewhat amazing what even this small change, along with a complete scrub down, did to the joint. The kids are – thankfully – now willing to use the toilet, unlike before, although they do remain hesitant about visiting this room in the garage which is devoid of windows and has become home to many bugs since the garage door hangs open constantly as two workmen run power tools right outside the door.
Daniel and I have fallen in love with our old-new bathroom because of it’s kid-offensive attributes. We are now calling it our retreat center. Need a few minutes away from the kids? If you can stand the noise of the sawzall from overhead and the chop saw in the driveway, you can peacefully chill in the new-old bathroom as the kids will NOT come near it without a parental escort to the door. But as I said earlier, with parental escort, we’re in business – so no problems, right?
Errnnntt! – one problem. My kids don’t take showers…. period. The last shower I tried with Ian was a complete disaster with him standing there hysterically screaming the entire time. Alice was absolutely unable to be convinced to consent to a shower after that show of apparent torture.
So when I announced to them that showers were imminent the first night of downstairs-bathroom-showering, they were none too thrilled. I looked at Daniel, begging him for a flash of innovation. “Sorry,” he said, “I’ve been wondering how you were going to get them to take showers.” In the end, I gave the ultimatum – “Either you shower or you get into bed right now without bedtime snack or books.” And for some dumb reason I added, “You may bring a watering can in the shower with you.” Luck was on my side. This struck Ian’s fancy, and he ran to the porch to get my one gallon watering can. When I told him I meant the kid-sized watering cans, he was – thankfully – still cooperative.
So we’re downstairs preparing to shower, and I’m still trying to figure out how to magically make streams of water shooting out at a small child be as trauma-less as possible when it hits me – I can use the watering can as the shower. Since we have 2 kid-sized cans, I gave one to Ian, and I used the other. First I sprinkled his toes, feet, legs, etc. until he was entirely wet, and then I was able to scrub and wash hair. A couple more sprinkles to rinse him off and we were golden.
The next idea for improving the showering experience involved my green bucket. My green bucket and I have some serious history together. We met in 1995 when I went on a short term missions trip to Kenya where the bucket was used to wash my clothes, pour water to mix concrete, and of course – bucket bathe. Fast forward to 2012, I filled my bucket to the brim with warm water so I could dip my watering can into it instead of filling the can at the sink while the wet child shivers frantically between fill ups. It worked beautifully.
Here I was… 17 years after my third world country experience, bathing my child from the same bucket I had used for bathing when a shower wasn’t even an imaginable concept (think about it), knowing this was temporary state for my child. For many children it is not temporary. In early November our brand-new, beautiful bathroom will be ready for regular use, and the bucket will no longer be needed for bathing purposes. Daniel and I have experienced mixed feelings during this project, often noting that the “problems” we’ve faced while planning are “first world problems.” Eight hundred different faucets to choose from – first world problem. This doesn’t quite match that – first world problem. How much is too much? – First. World. Problem.
The collision between the third world country connection and our project keeps me thinking. We tell ourselves our house needs updated – especially if we’re going to eventually sell it (when we’re 80). We tell ourselves we’re doing a fair amount of the work ourselves – keeping the cost lower. And by remodeling now, we’re “ensuring” that an even bigger project down the road is less likely. It’s good “stewardship” – there’s a buzz word for you. But when the sawdust settles and the power tools are silent, I’m left wondering… to what degree am I responsible for those without? How do I live without guilt in light of the things I do have? But yet I’m pretty confident that choosing the path of guilt is not a healthy plan either.
This is the quandary many have pondered for ages – the haves and the have nots. I bring no new revelations or insights, just hoping that I remember how much I really do have and can be thankful for the luxuries I take for granted – like hot showers and flush toilets, and that my spirit of generosity can be grown bigger and fuller as I strive to help those without.