Invisigirl and the Yard Stick of Tallness!

I feel as small as this lizard in big box stores sometimes.

I feel as small as this lizard in big box stores sometimes.

I’m a single mother and I own my own home, which means that aside from advice, tips and suggestions from friends and the internet, it’s up to me to maintain and fix my house. Homes don’t come with an owner’s manual and my father never sat me down and taught me this stuff so there’s been a lot of learning on the job for me since I bought my own home in August of 2011.

One thing I realized pretty quick is that I have a superpower when I walk into big box home improvement stores: I become invisible. When I used to go to stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s with my now ex-husband, we’d immediately receive attention as the customer service employees asked the man with me if he needed any help. I suppose even then I was invisible, but I didn’t realize it. Now that I’m single, I’m usually ignored for a good portion of my time in home improvement stores. Eventually someone asks me if I need help but by then I’ve usually found what I needed because I’ve learned not to expect someone to be there to answer questions.

I gave myself the name Invisigirl because there have been many times in my life when I’ve seemed so invisible in the midst of other people that I’ve almost had entire trays of food dropped on me while walking through a restaurant because the server didn’t see me. Admittedly, I’m not overly tall, but I don’t think 5′ 5″ is too short to see either. My height is however, too short to reach certain items and I often have to improvise to reach what I want.

Such was the case in Home Depot this past Wednesday when I was in need of the sanding pads for the random orbit sander I already had in my cart. There was an entire wall of sanding pads and the packages contained from 5-20 pads. As I’d never used a sander before and was going to use it to sand my deck prior to priming, I had no idea how many I’d need so I didn’t want to get a huge package. Unfortunately, Home Depot’s clever marketing layout involves placing the packages with 5 pads on the highest rack where I couldn’t reach them even on my tiptoes.

After a few minutes of struggling to reach the top packages or knock one down with another package I was holding, I decided I was going to buy the package of 5 even if I discovered later I’d needed the easier to reach 20 disc package. I’m stubborn and determined and I refuse to let a store bully me into buying the bigger, more expensive package just because I can’t reach the size I need. Yes, I could have asked for help, but as there were two clerks standing nearby chatting and neither of them had offered to help, I was dead set on getting the sanding discs without help.

To that end, I walked around the center island of table saws, drills and other power tools and across the aisle to where the levels and yard sticks were hanging up. I grabbed a metal yard stick, strode back across the aisle, reached the yard stick up and easily moved the sanding disc package forward and off its hanger. I did that for both grit sizes I needed and then set the yard stick down on the shelf just in case any other short girls or guys needed the magical yard stick of tallness to reach that top row.

Quite satisfied with my problem solving skills, I then headed to the deck stain aisle in search of an oil-based stain for my deck that was desperately in need of some TLC. Stains and paints took up an entire aisle and trying to figure out if any of them were oil-based proved frustrating, especially since no one walking by asked if I needed help. Deciding I’d get my stain somewhere where I wasn’t Invisigirl, I went to the checkout, paid for my items and left Home Depot.

I stopped at Sherwin Williams on the way home and as they’re a smaller store that specializes in paint and stain, I was helped as soon as I walked in the door. The friendly clerk showed me where the oil-based, semi-transparent deck stains were, helped me pick a color that closely matched the current color of my deck and then went in the back to mix it up. There are times when I don’t mind being Invisigirl, but getting what I needed to repair my deck, wasn’t one of those times.

I left the store with a gallon of stain to get me started and the reassurances that I’m not actually invisible. I knew I was set to start the deck project the next day, but that’s an adventure I’ll leave for another time…

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Man Not Included (Revisited)

I’ve learned a lot about the challenges involved with home ownership since I bought my own house two years ago. This was a post I wrote last October when I had the idea to hang some shelves. Perhaps I can impart some of my “wisdom” on fellow single chicks who find themselves faced with unexpected repairs or home improvements. You’ve heard of “batteries not included.” Well this is “Man Not Included.”

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Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Me and my drill. Back when I had long hair.

Man Not Included – 10/9/2012

My youngest daughter loves her stuffed animals and toys. She loves them so much that she insists on taking several to bed with her. After several weeks of this, her bed always becomes rather cluttered but as she has the smallest bedroom and storage space is limited in my 900 square foot house, I had to figure out a workable solution. I am rather fond of home design and remodel shows and on such shows they often tout the importance of using vertical space, i.e. installing shelves on walls. This sounded like a good idea indeed and so I set about implementing it.

I grew up with two older brothers and was married forever so if a house project needed doing, there was always a man to do it. Now that I have my own house and am happily divorced (yes, I said happily, not a typo), it’s all up to me to do house projects. While it’s true I could have asked my oldest brother to help me with the task, he had already said he’d help me move my friend’s slightly used but working washer and dryer into my basement. I figured him doing me that favor was enough to satisfy brotherly love and loyalty for a while. I didn’t want to push my luck.

Shelving project in mind, I headed to a big box home improvement store Friday evening after work. The shelves to support a collection of stuffed animals and toys didn’t need to be anything heavy duty so I started perusing the selection of those white painted wire shelves used for closet organization. There was a package of two four-foot shelves and the price was right so I placed them in my cart. I then picked out the brackets I needed and started looking for the shelf supports. None of the supports in the aisle looked right and my confused expression eventually drew the attention of an employee. He helped me find what he thought would work and I added the supports to my cart.

I know from watching and helping with several home improvement projects that shelves need to be securely mounted to the wall to ensure safety and longevity. The brackets for the shelves included anchors and screws and as I know you can never find a wall stud when you need one, I was certain I’d have to use anchors. Installing anchors requires drilling holes. I didn’t own a drill so off to the power tool section I went. Now I am certainly not trying to sound sexist here, but it is very rare thing indeed to see a woman among the power tools unless it’s the holidays and she’s shopping for her man. There were a handful of men in the power tools section thoughtfully pouring over the selection of drills and bits and sanders, etc. and then there was me.

I glanced at the cordless drills and saw a small Black & Decker one that appealed to me but as the boxes for them were in a different aisle, I decided I’d move down and pick out some drill and screwdriver bits first. Thankfully the shelf brackets said exactly what size drill bit was required for the included anchors and I found that in a set of 29 drill bits that was on sale. I could have just purchased the 3/8 inch drill bit that was needed for the job but I’d learned from observation that there always seems to be a need for a decent sized collection of bits. As I’m certain I’ll have more home improvement projects down the road, I made the most economical and sensible choice. I also grabbed a small package of double ended screwdriver bits and then went to the aisle with the cordless drills in boxes. The one I’d see on display wasn’t in stock so I grabbed the next size up for only slightly more money.

I now felt that I was properly “armed” for my shelving project and made my purchases. This may sound funny, but buying tools always gives me this cool sense of power and empowerment. I am a single woman and I own my home so it just makes sense that I should be able to take care of whatever needs to be done. I admit that I have no desire to ever attempt to repair my vehicles and prefer to pay qualified mechanics to do so, but my house is different. It’s a lot of work to maintain a home in the country, especially one on 1.4 acres but I always manage and I’m constantly learning. With each new task I accomplish, I gain more pride in my home and in myself and such qualities are not a bad thing to possess. How did installing the shelving go? Well, that’s a story for another day…