A year older. A year wiser.

Today is my birthday.  I’m twenty-seven years old today.  I’m one year wiser and one year more in awe of the way my life has changed since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder.  It’s been a year full of ups and downs, a rollercoaster ride of sadness, pain, hope, and joy.  I’ve learned new ways to cope with my illness, made new friends I cherish, started a new career and graduate school program, and built a life with the man who makes my world tick, my husband Peter.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; Life is not perfect.  This birthday, while far from perfect, has been the best I ever had.

Earlier in the week, we decided what we would do for my birthday.  Redecorate our bathroom.  We shopped for new towel, art, and a mirror on Tuesday, in addition to choosing a lovely shade of gray for the wall color.  My husband always surprises me with his design sense.  We were at the store looking for artwork and having no luck.  Gray isn’t the easiest color to match artwork to when you don’t want something bold or vibrant or outrageous that will jump off the wall and scream at you.  Or at least, that kind of artwork wasn’t available in that store.  Peter has Asperger’s disorder, which impairs his functioning and comfort in social situations.  As a result of his anxiety, I try not to take him to too many stores in a day.  One-stop shopping is always our goal.  Anyway, we were just about to give up when some plates caught his eye, stark white with black branches.  Perfect for the empty wall we hadn’t yet filled with towel bars or shelves or other framed pieces.  Like I said, he has an eye for these sorts of things.

Last night, he got really motivated and decided he wanted to put in a new toilet.  We had thought about it when we were at the store on Tuesday and even considered models we might choose to replace our dilapidated old one that barely flushes.  So we went to the store and debated between two choices, a traditional look with a trimmed tank cover and a streamline diminutive model with a closed trap-way.  After much ado, I got my way and we picked up the streamlined one and carted it off to the register with a few other things, including two new hoses for the water supply.  Why did we get two hoses, you ask?  Because we forgot that a toilet only takes cold water.

After lugging the beast upstairs, we slid it into the bedroom and opened the box.  It was really heavy.  Really.  Peter started  disassembling the old one as I was reading the instructions.  Seems easy enough.  But first, the old toilet had to go.  After a couple minutes the supply line was disconnected and the tank was off, leaving just the bowl behind.  He unceremoniously yanked the bowl off the floor to reveal a completely disintegrated wax ring and broken floor flange.  No wonder the old one wobbled so much.  We didn’t know how to fix the flange, so we just cleaned away the old wax and tried to resettle the broken piece in the right place.  It was hardly a good solution, but Peter isn’t easily deterred from home projects, even when we’re in over our heads.  New wax ring on the toilet base, line up the toilet with the new bolts and set it in place… seems simple enough, right?  If you have never installed a toilet before, you are certainly ignorant enough to think so.  After some grunting and groaning, we got the toilet seated properly and turned the nuts that were supposed to hold it in place.  Unfortunately, the damn thing rocked all over the place.  No good.  That broken flange was a real problem after all.  Nothing was holding the toilet firmly on the floor on the right side, so it constantly moved around as we tried to install the tank.  But we pressed on, connecting the tank to the base and starting on the supply line.  Wrong size coupling at the source end of the hose.  Back to the home improvement store for new hoses.  In the meantime while he was gone, I started assembling the seat.  Two plugs that held the seat to the base, which we had looked at before, had grown legs and disappeared.  I searched everywhere, but couldn’t find them.  And then I thought, “They’re probably under the toilet.”  Peter returned shortly with new hoses and I broke the news to him.  We searched again in vain, all the while with me saying that they were stuck under the toilet.  He didn’t think that was funny or possible.

We hit yet another snag around 10 pm.  The new hose was too short to reach the water shutoff.  Strike two.  I told Peter it was time to throw in the towel and call a professional.  I was tired.  He was tired.  We needed to clear our heads and clean up the mess and have someone fix the floor flange before anything could be done with the toilet.  The problem with that is we only have one bathroom.  One toilet.  Our only toilet now lay in pieces in the bathtub.  “I guess we’ll be peeing in cups tonight then,”  I said with a sigh.  He was so apologetic that you couldn’t really be angry with him, though I wasn’t angry in the first place.  I’m used to hitting roadblocks.  I’ve learned to be patient with life.  Peter, on the other hand, hasn’t gained the wisdom of years about patience yet.  He is five years younger than me, after all…

We cleaned up the mess and scheduled an appointment with a plumber in the morning.  At that, he decided he wanted to start painting.  I gave up and went to bed.  It was 2 am.  I fell soundly asleep quite quickly and don’t recall what he did for the rest of the night, but when I woke up two walls were painted and he looked a bit tired.  Then the plumber called.  “Not available to come until between 4 and 6 pm.  Huh.”  We decided to call another person and they agreed to come out in two hours.  Problem solved.  My husband went back to the store to return the first set of hoses and buy new wax rings and flanges and a hose of the appropriate length.  The plumber arrived shortly after he returned, huffing and puffing up the stairs and smelling of beeswax and booze.  I suppose that’s the best you can do with such short notice.  He got right down to it though, bracing the broken floor flange and setting a new wax ring in place.  He and my husband had the bowl down securely after a little fussing to line up the bolts with the holes in the base and tightened down the bolts to hold it in place.  The coveted hose, which was supposed to be the perfect diameter and length, was a bust, however.  “It’s for a faucet,” the plumber said with little enthusiasm.  The color drained completely from Peter’s face and then returned replaced with scarlet red.  Strike three.  With the difficult part having been completed, the plumber took his payment and hit the road after providing a few helpful tips about adjusting the water level before he left.  Peter and I returned to the store again.  Correct hose in hand finally, we returned home and finished the toilet install.  By the way, the plugs were indeed under the toilet, just as I predicted.  Peter decided to finish the painting after cooking lunch for us.  Chicken quesadillas.  So good.  Feeling under the weather with a sore throat and the sniffles, I decided to take a nap on the couch with the cats while he finished up.  When I woke up, the bathroom was a cool shade of gray and the toilet a pristine white.  It looked fantastic.  Final touches were in order.

We rehung the bars and shelves, hung the new mirror, and the plates (after a heated argument over how they should be oriented on the wall), followed by the new towels and shower curtain.  Everything looked absolutely perfect.  I placed the porcelain box with the elephant on the lid atop the toilet lid with a flourish and stepped back to admire the new look.  Here are some pics:

That’s my husband yawning after a long night of remodeling.  He looks like he’s trying to eat the camera, to me.  Notice the lovely shower curtain in the background?  Love it.

Apparently our cat likes the new toilet as well.  What’s not to like about a chair height eco-saver with power flush and modern styling?  I don’t know.

So that was my birthday.  After a nice dinner of steak and broccoli cheese rice  I’m sitting here telling this story to all of you.  I’m twenty-seven today.  And I got a toilet for my birthday.

Thank you for listening and goodnight.

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