Friday, January 24, 2014

Bathrooms and Bike Rides

Me and Dubs
Last night my husband and I rode our bikes to the University of Washington basketball arena.  We cheered as the Husky men’s basketball team played their rival, the University of Oregon Ducks.  I got my picture taken with Dubs, the Husky dog.

It was a clear night and we were invigorated by the short bike ride.  The Huskies beat the Ducks but it was touch and go to the end.  An exciting game for sure.  I am not usually such a big sports fan but this week I am infected with Super Bowl fever.  Super Bowl fever is running rampant in Seattle.  Wherever you go, folks are talking about the Seahawks and telling everyone that they love Richard Sherman.  I am doing that too.

It isn’t only football and basketball that are occupying my time.  My husband and I are remodeling two bathrooms in our house.  We have lived in this house for almost 35 years.  The bathrooms are old and small.  They were built 30 and more than 50 years ago!  We built the 30-year-old one in a closet when our son was born!  The other bathroom was there when we bought the house in 1979.  It is also tiny.  When you sit on the toilet, your knees almost touch the door.  The tiles are falling off the walls.  It needs a lot of help.  Now that I am retired, I have time to re-do these bathrooms.  I just didn’t have time to deal with them in the past few years.

When I go online and read about designs for small bathrooms, the footprints I have are described as being perfect for a powder room.  But in our house we don’t need a powder room.  The bathrooms I am remodeling are the only bathrooms.  They may be small but they need to be full service.  These bathrooms are workhorses – one is the bathroom that my husband and I use every day.  It has to accommodate a shower – we’ve given up on the bathtub concept.  There simply isn’t room.  The other bathroom, located in a daylight basement, is equally important.  We have both a large family and many out of town friends who stay with us on a regular basis.  The basement bathroom is the only bathroom available to these folks – some of whom stay with us for weeks at a time.  This bathroom is also too small for a tub but it needs a shower.

I am not complaining here.  I am just figuring out how to maximize function in small spaces.  This challenge suits me just fine.  I believe that we should all try to live in smaller spaces.  There are a lot of us in the world and if we all live in great big houses– there won’t be enough room.  In fact what happens is that some folks end up having great big spaces and others have no space at all.  If those of us who have a choice used less space that might be a good idea.  Of course deciding how to remodel a bathroom is what one of my friends calls a first world problem – there are many people in the world who don’t have any bathroom or even access to potable water.  But while I can’t solve this problem (I can help a little bit through supporting organizations like Dining for Women), I still think it is a good idea to live in small spaces.

Using less space to live in has other benefits too.  It helps preserve open space.  Open space is very important for growing food and trees and as a home for wild animals and plants.  It is also important so that we can all get out of built up areas and enjoy nature.   Whatever you do, just being in open space and breathing fresh air is good for you.  It relaxes you and calms your mind.  It re-connects you to the earth.  Cities are exciting and stimulating but people need nature.  It is also important to preserve natural systems to ensure that there is plenty of land to store and purify water, to keep the atmosphere clean and to preserve species diversity.  You may think it is crazy to equate small bathrooms to preserving the world but I don’t.  These things end up being connected – just like the old song – the hipbone’s connected to the leg bone…. 

One thing about living in the same house for more than 30 years – you have another opportunity to replace something you replaced before.  I guess houses are like that.  They need maintenance.  Sometimes maintenance isn’t enough and the parts have to be replaced.  That is where I am.  Bodies need maintenance too.  You can’t just replace failing body parts like you can replace a broken toilet!  The only solution for bodies is to keep maintaining them.  With the exception of a few parts like hips and knees, replacement isn’t a viable option. 

Realistically this is a good thing.  In addition to researching products and designing my new bathrooms, I have been maintaining my aging body.  That also takes a lot of time but it can be a lot of fun.  This weekend my husband Jeff and I had two wonderful bike rides.  The air was clear and cold and the scenery was spectacular.  We hadn’t ridden outside for a long distance in a long time.  We were out enjoying nature! 

We were on Lopez Island with our favorite road bikes.  We dressed warmly and cruised through winter fields and along coastal roads.  We rode by hedgerows, rocky beaches and through deep woods.  We passed fields with horses and cattle grazing in their thick winter coats.  We saw eagles and great blue herons.  We saw flocks of ducks – beautiful hooded mergansers – drifting on icy looking water.  We saw the sunset light the sky and the water in a glow of pink and orange and red. 

I wrote a haiku to remember our winter ride:

Biking on Lopez
Hedgerows and red rose hips glow
In white winter light. 

We felt lucky to be able to ride our bikes in such a wonderful place.  Our legs are strong from all the workouts and weight training we did in Brazil.  Road biking is a wonderful middle age sport.  It isn’t stressful on your joints.  It is great exercise.  You feel like a kid again, racing down hills with the wind in your face.  You come home tired and happy and in January, in the Pacific Northwest chilled.  We lit the wood stove and ate hot chili to warm up our bones.

We are looking forward to the Super Bowl!

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