Where I Got It

Back when the temperature was above freezing and we weren’t buried under a foot of snow, MysteryMan had a bunch of friends over to Memorial for a bonfire. When I copped to building those handy picnic table benches the guys were sitting on, one of them said to me, “I love a girl who knows how to read a tape. Where’d you learn to do all this?”

And in my head I’m all, Dude…tape measures have numbers on them. What is this? Rocket science?

But what came out of my mouth was, “I mean, where did you learn how to use a drill?”

And he blinked at me eleven times like that was a stupid question. Except hey, no answer. Because one day you just pick up a drill and use it. And then you you realize that what used to take 7 minutes of hand-turning a screw driver just took you 3 seconds and now you have plenty of time to go paint your toenails. And next thing you know you’re framing in a new bathroom.

Is being able to read a tape, or use a drill, or build a picnic table, or build a donkey barn in four days really that awesome? A lot of men (and women for that matter) do this stuff all of the time. I didn’t create this website to hear everyone tell me “You’re AWESOME!” Though I admit, sometimes it is a nice contrast to the other phrase I hear all the time. “You’re CRAZY!”

Boys aren’t born knowing how to use tools, build birdhouses, or climb trees any better than girls are. I suspect it is more rare for boys to ever think that they couldn’t put in a fence, or tear down a wall, or change the oil in their car, because they grew up with a dad, or an uncle, or a guy on TV doing those things.

Neither my father or mother were really “Let’s jump in and get our hands dirty” kind of role models when I was growing up. But you know who was?

Both of my tough-as-nails, get-it-done, beautiful, talented grandmothers.

Ooie DSC00855

Not that I don’t have a plethora of things to thank my parents for. (Financial responsibility and business sense? Thanks Dad. College degrees? Thanks mom.)

But this thing I do? The jumping in with both feet, nothing is going to stop me attitude? I have to believe some of that comes from the fact that these awesome women were showing me how to lay a brick edge around a vegetable garden when I was three, instead of telling me to go play with my dolls.


As much as they deny responsibility for some of my better personality traits, is it really hard to believe that little girl in that picture was doing this until midnight tonight?


Anything I am capable of that is out of the ordinary came from people in my life, like my grandmothers, who taught me to believe that if I really put my mind to something, I could not fail.

It’s not awesome that I do it, it’s awesome that I am surrounded by women who believe in me.

(Some of the men still haven’t jumped on that train yet, but I love you guys anyway.)

To my grandmothers: I love you. Thank you for all the gifts you’ve given me – especially the intangible ones. And boy am I hoping I’m half as gorgeous as both of you when I have a crazy, house-building, dangerously-close-to-thirty granddaughter.

To everyone who is taking on the impossible: I don’t know what kind of big, crazy, everyone-is-telling-you-you-can’t-do-it things you have going on in your lives, but let me tell you something I learned from some very smart women… Yes, you can.

So tell me, what kinds of things are you undertaking that sometimes make you think you’re crazy, and what inspires you to believe you can get them done?

16 Responses

  1. While I do credit my mom and grandmother for instilling me with independence, I must say that it wasn’t until I discovered the Internet and blogs like yours that I realized my true potential as a badass wrench-wielding woman. Whatever made me think that I could embark on renovating a house while trying to upgrade and sell two apartments- it has been through your blog that I’ve kept my sanity. Just knowing I’m not alone in thinking the mini- donkeys need a home, duh that’s top priority… Even if say there’s no functioning bathroom on the premises for humans, Of Course those donkeys deserve nothing but the best;)

  2. My mom is so kickass, she has helped me with countless things in my life. My dad also has his moments, but when I want to landscape, build things, refinish floors, etc, I looked to her. The only thing I actually helped *her* with was tiling. Oh, and anything having to do with computer troubleshooting. I can totally appreciate you tiling until midnight….it’s not like you can just STOP in the middle of it, right? I also feel that as long as I have friends to give me advice, I can do almost anything.

    ps – your grandmas are uber stylish!

  3. Yay for the fabulous women who inspire us!!! It is true, why is it so amazing that girls can do “those things” too? I always find it insulting when people come over to our house and are surprised that I actually work on our house too. Assholes. I also had a dad who encouraged me beyond belief too. He was a pretty handy guy and I worked on projects with him when I was little. To this day, if he needs help on a construction project he asks me instead of my older brother (and I love it everytime, ahahahha, suck it Adam! 🙂 )

    Great post!!!!

  4. Thanks for the shout out!

    I really identify with your post. I grew up as free labor (in the nicest way). At 10 I could identify the different screw drivers, help put down a roof and figure out the weeds from the flowers. My dad expected that from us. So, when moving in with my dude, I found his family in awe that I could cut wood, drill, and mow the lawn. It’s so weird the reaction you get from others for the sole reason that you are a woman that can do stuff.

    Keep on building! I’m looking forward to seeing that donkey barn.

  5. Thanks for the shout-out! That’s really sweet of you. You totally kick-ass and I’m thrilled to have found another women who owns all the power tools.

    I have to give credit to my parents for my “I can do anything” mentality. My dad can build or fix anything. Growing up, he was the one building an addition on to our house or teaching me to sweat copper pipe (though I was 3, and don’t really remember the details). He never subscribed to the typical gender roles and included my brother & I equally.

    My mom is master of all things domestic. She taught me how to sew, cook, and entertain. Crafts & making stuff were common activities growing up. She is the visionary and my father makes it happen. I like to think I’m a combination of their talents, though not as skilled as either one. I can’t drop a zipper in like Mom can, nor am I as knowledgeable about construction as Dad but I hope these skills come with time.

    I guess I figure people a lot dumber than me do this stuff all the time; I should be able to figure it out. Course having such awesome mentors and resources (like blogs & google) helps immensely.

  6. My favorite part about this post is the comments so far!

    G- Love that you’re living up to your “badass potential”

    Sara – Isn’t it awesome when the tables are turned, and now you are helping your parents out with their remodeling? And no, of course you can’t just stop in the middle.

    Meryl – So cool that you are the go-to project person for your dad. Mine asked for my opinion on putting in cabinets the other day and I almost fell out of my chair.

    Lisa – I think we should get pictures of all the people who first see us use our tools. We could be capturing the image right before peoples eyeballs fall out of their head in shock.

    Carrie – I know what you’re saying. I’m probably not as good at domestic as one of my grandmothers, or quite so badass as the other one… but there’s something to be said for having the mix. And also, I think we will get better at all of those skills over time.

    All of your comments are inspiring me ever more today. Love it!

    1. I'm going to art school so I was thinking about upgrading my camera (Nikon D40) too. The Nikon D5000 seems like an amazing camera to work with. Thanks for telling us about it, I'll have to read more about it before I upgrade for a new camera. I love those shoes by the way 😀

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  7. (Awww! Look how cute you were as a kid?!)

    I can relate to this post a bit… I’ve been told that I can’t do most of the things that I’ve done in the past. When I was younger (early twenties), I was so motivated shut down those assumptions. Looking back, I probably felt like I had something to prove. Lately (I turned 30 this year), though, that fire has died down a lot.

    We recently moved, and it’s funny to see a lot of the judgement calls that our new neighbors are making about us. For example, all of them have assumed that all of our properties are Andrew’s or SOMETHING. There’s always this air that I’m some sort of uneducated trophy wife who twiddles around picking out curtains. (Not that there’s anything wrong with you Trophy Wives. You’re lovely people, too.)

    Anyway, it doesn’t bother me like it would have a decade ago.

    You asked about inspiration?

    Back then it was all about proving myself, I think — though I hate to admit it. Today, it’s about happiness and a personal sense of accomplishment.

    Did that sound really hokey? Yeah, I know it did, but it’s true.


  8. Where I got it..?
    I built a 17’x10′ woodshop in my backyard simply because my nice contractor neighbor (a man) heard me say I was soliciting bids but having a hard time getting anyone to agree to exactly my specs, when he said offhandedly, “You seem pretty handy. Why don’t you just build it yourself?” The fact that he was so casual about the suggestion, didn’t want the job (no hidden agenda), and didn’t care that I was a girl was all the inspiration I needed. Thanks, Tom. Am I still allowed to call myself a girl a 45? No? I think I will anyway.
    My town’s building inspector likewise didn’t blink when I handed him my napkin-Cad building plans. He gave me all sorts of tidbits, like square foot restrictions, handouts showing code nail spacing, and sheets with terms like ‘Boca Wind Standards for Asphalt Shingles in Residential Construction.” Really, he was friendly and helpful and knew useful details like in exactly which aisle in Home Depot I’d find the metal hurricane ties. Also, he told me what those were. Thanks, Jeb.
    No one in my family is very good with tools, which is why I have relieved my father of almost all of his power items. I like him with 10 fingers. But thanks for the tools, Papa.
    My curiosity comes from a high school shop class where I was the only girl (Thanks, Mr. Mandretti). My basic skills came from college, where I was not the only girl in the technical theatre class, but the only one not terrified of the table saw, which led me to take charge of the projects (Thanks, dingbat actresses). My ability to take risks comes from the conditioning of my relentless, honest-to-God-this-is-an-insane-way-to-make-a-living 25-year career in touring rock&roll lighting (Thanks, every Road Brother who has gone before me).

    But…the thing deep inside that makes me want to build stuff? That urge that, when unsatisfied because I can’t create beauty with a million-dollar lighting rig, drives me to the shop to commit crimes against trees, in an attempt to bring forth a thing of beauty that didn’t exist before? The thing that makes my fingers itch when I am not CREATING something ?
    …like you, that come in a straight line from my Grandmothers. Thanks, Matty, and Willa, And above all, Gramma Lacey. Where ever you are, I hope you like what you see, because I’m blaming you for it anyway.

  9. I just came across your blog when googling “how to frame a door” and “how to build a door jamb” because I’m renovating my basement. You know, doing normal stuff like putting in new doorways, closing up old ones, tearing down walls, etc. I just wanted to say that it is so refrehsing to find other women who love renovating and using power tools as much as I do!!! My friends think I’m weird because I do renovating for fun.

    People also often ask me “where did you learn how to do this stuff?” and I say “I don’t know, I just do it – read books, google stuff to get some background info and advice, and then dive in and do it.” Sure, I make mistakes and it doesn’t always turn out perfect, but at least I can say I tried and did it myself. My father taught me how to use tools and build stuff when I was young and I took a shop class in high school; that’s where I got my foundation from, and things just took off from there.

    My husband hates renovating, so we often have traditional-role-reversal going on in our house. He’s vacuuming, doing laundry or cleaning the kitchen while doing something like gutting the bathroom and rebuilding it (complete with heated floors and heated towel rack) – which I think is totally awesome!!!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your stories and inspiring other women to unleash their inner spirit that says “I wanna build stuff!”

    1. Deb, it sounds to me like you have the perfect relationship. My heart goes pitty-pat over a guy who would do my laundry! And I love hearing stories from other women who aren’t afraid to get down and DIY. So glad you found the site!

  10. Don’t know if you keep up with new comments on old posts, but two things come to mind from this one:

    A. You’ve got good genes.

    B. You might, mind you, might, be awesomely crazy. Jury’s still out, but I’m enjoying the heck out of these posts!

  11. The kinds of things which I know I can do, which I know I should do, but which everyone tells me I’m crazy or foolish for trying to accomplish: Lay a tile floor, fix the garage door, re-pipe the house, get my teaching credential while being a stay-at-home dad to a twelve year old boy, 2 year old girl, and nine month old boy.

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