Life is Like Plumbing

For the past two weeks, my life has been an adventure in plumbing. Over the years, the plumbing in my old house had filled with the debris of years and years of water flowing through old black pipe. The flow of hot water to my kitchen sink had decreased to a trickle. And when my family asked if I would host Thanksgiving dinner again this year, I put my foot down. “Not without hot water in the kitchen,” I said. Unexpectedly, I realized that anything you do, that life is like plumbing.

The Assessment

My son looked at the problem, opened and shut valves, and studied the pipes in my house. Then he gave me the news. To fix the hot water in the kitchen he had to fix the flow into the hot water heater. To fix the flow into the hot water heater he needed to fix the cold water shut off—for the entire house. And the bill for all the bits and pieces cranked higher and higher. Yikes. 

“I can’t afford a plumber to do all that,” I said. 

His answer: “I can do it.”

I imagined the mess and the long hours of no running water. “I’m a caregiver,” I said. “We can’t go without water for more than an hour or two.” 

“No problem,” he said.

The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.

Tony Robbins

The Vision

My son came to me a few days later with a plan. He’d re-do the whole house’s plumbing! He wanted to install a plumbing manifold. The water in our county is full of minerals and leaves deposits on the plumbing. He envisioned a filtered, all plastic system where we could shut off water to only one specific water use in the house at a time. 

Two weeks ago, we went shopping for parts and pipes and fittings and valves. Ouch. Life is like plumbing. The bill was larger than what I wanted but; I reminded myself, not as large as it could be. 

Image of the plumbing aisle at my local large box hardware store

After we’d done the shopping, I thought to ask my son if he’d ever installed a plumbing manifold before. No, he hadn’t. But he was confident he could. “I’ve never failed at anything I’ve tried.”

I’m always doing things I can’t do. That’s how I get to do them. Pablo Picasso

The Work

The first weekend, my son spent a good twelve hours a day for two days, cutting and replacing pipe. I was his gofer and second pair of hands part of the time. Life is like plumbing–hard work.

Part of the time I babysat while my daughter-in-law filled that role and helped my son do some heavy lifting. 

Image of my smiling  3 month old grandson. He has a bit of growing to do before he realizes that life is like plumbing.
My 3 month old grandson

Together we got all the inside plumbing done in one weekend. And true to his word, the water was off for less than two hours.

The New Plumbing

Image of the plumbing manifold. Life is like pllumbing--a lot of work, a lot more complicated than you'd like, but it can be beautiful
Isn’t it beautiful?

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

And the next day I had so much hot water in my kitchen sink that I washed every dish and pan and the dogs’ dishes and the…you get the idea. 

Then I did the laundry. 

image of water on the floor beside my washer
Water on the floor beside my washer. Note the old pipe.

It turned out that he’d improved the water flow to the washer and dryer so much that when the washer spun the water out it overwhelmed the old drainage system. Yup, he said he could fix that too.

The second weekend he spent eight hours a day for two days. My new improved drainage system for the washer had to include a bathroom sink on the other side of the wall. While he was at it, he added a drain for a utility sink in my laundry. 

He has another day’s work to do but part of that is moving the outlets for the washer and dryer to avoid stretching their cords to their max. 

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Nelson Mandela

Lessons Learned

This whole experience made me realize a few things.

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

Norman Vincent Peale

I changed my thoughts about how tolerable the water flow was in my kitchen and that began to change that part of my world.

It was hard, back-breaking work. But my son’s willingness to try new things, to research the options and solutions to various tricky issues, and to do the work got it done.

Difficult and meaningful will always bring more satisfaction than easy and meaningless.

Maxime Lagacé

My son’s attitude and work ethic (though sometimes I worried he did too much) were inspiring and gratifying. I was proud that he got what I tried to teach him—to try, to do. 

Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Babe Ruth

Life is a series of parts, of connections and disconnections, of ninety degree turns and sometimes everything gets flushed down the drain. But you can change the way you think, change what you do, and try again.

The purpose of life is to believe, to hope, and to strive.

Indira Gandhi

Life is like plumbing… don’t let the parts, the clogs, the flushing, get you down. Keep believing. Keep striving. Your life will be better for it.


  1. Wow, great job by your son learning how to do all of that! And nice new PEX plumbing for you (yep, that’s what’s in my new house too). PEX is so much easier to do than the old copper supply lines and better in every way: it’s cheaper, not attractive to thieves, and less prone to bursting with a freeze. Congrats!

    1. Thanks, Jennette. I agree with you on all the positives of PEX. I’m loving the water flow, too. And yes, my son did a great job–he’s my hero.

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