MIDDLE-AGED PLAGUE - Home repair genius not going down the toilet

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Every time I flush the downstairs toilet, I think affectionately of my Norwegian Artist.

It's not that he's getting into installation art or anything, it's that he knows the basics of fixing a toilet, which, while it may not rank with six-pack abs or rippling biceps on the sexiness thermometer, is way up there on the real-life, I-like-living-with-this-guy scale.

The initial fix, after the handle broke off, involved fluorescent orange cord wrapped around one of the Toddler's plastic blocks, creating a one-of-a-kind pull toy until we got it through to the Toddler that this was not a porcelain product for her playtime use.

Then something happened with the inner sanctum of plastic and metal parts, resulting in a stream of living water that flowed into the holding tank ... and out of the holding tank. But never into the bowl itself.

A temporary fix was attained by removing the tank top so we could manually adjust the parts.

But I assure you that, while the Norwegian hoped this would be a long-term temporary solution, I emphasized the temporary aspect of it over the long-term part.

While the obvious next step - replacing the entire toilet with a shiny new model - seems the simplest, complications arose because the Norwegian eventually wants to move the toilet to the opposite corner, where the claw foot bathtub now is, which will then move to where the not-quite-finished six-foot wide and all-the-way-to-the-ceiling towel and toiletries unit now stands.

But that's OK because the Norwegian will tear that out and build a new, smaller one where the corner shower is, because the corner shower will take the sink's place, and the sink will rest in the toilet's old spot.

So, replacing the toilet isn't that simple.

You know, there's no use having color-coded towels and pretty soap in a bathroom in which the toilet screams at every visitor, "Look inside!"

While my love for the Norwegian Artist did not alter, the sigh I discharged upon entering the bathroom must have increased in forcefulness, because eventually he disappeared to the workshop, found an extra toilet and gutted its inner parts, then performed reconstructive surgery on the lavatory chinaware.

(By the way, parents, this is a great reason to encourage your children to play with blocks. It may look like they're not doing much of anything now, but the skills they pick up will be invaluable to a future spouse.)

While I recognize that most people don't have spare toilets in the workshop - we have spare everything in the workshop - they do have more ingenuity than they think. And if the spare weren't an option, they, like the Norwegian, would raid more of the Toddler's toys or the kitchen drawers to find what they needed to do to effect the repair.

"It's a different world nowadays," my mother likes to say. But in many ways, despite the smart phones and the Notepads and the Bluetooths that she doesn't even bother to understand, we are finding ourselves back in a time that was familiar to her:

The 1930s, with its Great Depression.

The 1940s, with its wartime scarcity of resources.

The 1950s, with its confidence to do the things that needed to be done.

Whether our Great Recession is officially over - this depends upon what the pundits and the media want us to feel and believe - a lot of people are living on less these days, whether it's because they've lost their job or whether it's because what money they do have sure doesn't buy as much as it used to.

And we learn to make do.

It's hard at first, because for so long the easiest solution involved sliding the debit card. But little by little, we are rediscovering the resourcefulness that we let slide. And along with saving money, we earn confidence in ourselves, our skills, our abilities, and our tenacity.

Dayton columnist Carolyn Henderson, who manages Steve Henderson Fine Art, can be reached at 382-9775 or via email at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com. More of her writing is at middleagedplague.areavoices.com.

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