I was handed five items. I didn’t recognize one of them, and I wasn’t positive about another couple of them. They were:

  • A cordless screwdriver (I thought it was a drill).
  • A drill chuck (I had given this to Dear Husband, as requested, for a gift, but didn’t remember what it was).
  • A case of drill bits (I at least had a good idea of their potential).
  • A plastic wall anchor (verified by Dear Husband).
  • A regular screw (of a size chosen specially for me to use this time).

The goal was to hang a glass turquoise vase from the bathroom wall by screwing its wrought iron hanger into the wall. This vase was a lovely gift from my mother-in-law, that she had found at a thrift shop.

Dear Husband had chosen the smaller, less powerful tool, for this project because he has seen me try to control a large drill before. He is willing to teach me about using “real” power tools out in the shop, on scrap wood, where the roof over our heads is not threatened. Where nice, new walls are involved, he was hoping for less drama. He explained how the drill chuck was an adapter. His drill bits would not safely attach to the cordless screwdriver without it, as it had a hexagonally shaped slot and they were round on the end. The drill chuck had an end to fit in the cordless screwdriver and a slot on the other end that could be adjusted to fit a range of drill bit sizes.

It was pretty easy to pop the drill chuck into the cordless screwdriver, once I got the feel for holding it against my belly and pushing a donut shaped knob forward and back on the end of cordless screwdriver while avoiding hitting the trigger with another finger. Moving this knob opened and closed the receiving slot for the screwdriver pieces or drill chuck.

Attaching a drill bit to the other end of the drill chuck was a little more difficult. The part of the drill chuck closest to the cordless screwdriver had to be held stationary, while the other end was turned the correct direction to appropriately open the drill bit slot. The size of the slot did not change quickly. It was hard for me to see if I was turning things in the correct direction, so Dear Husband’s coaching was quite useful. Once the drill bit was inserted, it had to be tightened into place with an elusive final “click.” It felt like I was pushing against an immoveable force, but Dear Husband clenched his teeth and squinted his eyes in moral support until I did it. It felt like I was learning to unlock a safe.

The wall anchor was being used because the location I had chosen for the hanging vase was sheet rock only. That is, there was very likely no wood framing behind it, Dear Husband surmised based on the average spacing of framing studs in walls. Thus, he gave me somewhat conflicting guidelines for drilling:

  1. Push hard enough.
  2. Don’t push so hard that I drill through the wall behind this wall.

We marked the impending screw hole with a pen. I asked a couple of ignorant questions about using the drill, like should I hold it perpendicular to the wall (yes),  and I pulled the trigger.


This first test hole went in as smooth as butter, and when I hit the air pocket between walls, I was able to carefully pull the drill bit back out without causing any damage. Dear Husband purposely had me use a small drill bit this time, just in case we did hit wood. If we had, we wouldn’t have needed to drill as big of a hole or to use the wall anchor.

Next, we went through a succession of drill bits, in an attempt to avoid drilling too big of a hole for the wall anchor. It was no longer part of a package that might inform us which size drill bit would work best. If the hole was too large, the wall anchor would not hold. It the hold was too small, the wall anchor wouldn’t screw in. The hole we were trying to drill needed to be just large enough for the wall anchor to screw into with  some pressure. Dear Husband took care of trying the last few drill bits himself, as I was still kind of slow at assembling it all and he had a business phone conference in 30 minutes. I don’t think it had anything to do with the accidental extra hole in the wall. At least, when that mishap occurred, he quietly stated that “these things happen some times.”


When he had made the correct sized hole, he handed me the wall anchor and instructed me to use the regular, non-electric, flat ended screwdriver. This was not just damage control because of me. We had tried using the cordless screwdriver to screw in the wall anchor, but it was chewing up the plastic wall anchor where it was attached. I was able to screw the wall anchor flush into the wall and gazed at it with satisfaction.


At this point, I was so inspired, I would have just put the screw right into the wall anchor. I think I had entered the mode of “putting in wall anchors around the house,” and had forgotten about the vase. It was a good thing I was supervised. It may also explain why Dear Husband keeps many of his tools and supplies in hard to access places. As it was, he caught me in time, although it would not have been an irreversible mistake. He handed me the wrought iron vase hanger, I slipped the screw into its hanging hole, and had it in place in a few seconds. I was beaming!


Dear Husband didn’t exactly say so, but I’m not sure he is ready to let me loose with the cordless screwdriver by myself. I will have to check, because it seems like a good time to build on my lesson while the experience is fresh. I recently bought some decorative cupboard knobs and wall hooks that I’d like to put up. Maybe he will at least give me another couple of lessons, if I offer to teach him how to do the laundry?



  1. Cory Swanson says:

    Wow, D&B… I get the notion of humor in a blog post but this is neither humorous or beneficial in any way. As an organization that supports FFA and 4-H, I would think that you would think twice about allowing a degrading blog post like this on your company website. As I kept reading, I was waiting for something to come back around and talk about how the notion of the ‘helpless female’ was wrong but that moment never happened. Any semblance of humor here only serves to perpetuate ridiculous stereotypes and gender roles on both sides of the playing field and there is no humor in that, whatsoever.

    • lauraimprovises says:

      Hi, Cory. Sorry you don’t like my story or the title. I have received a lot of good input from many women who relate, see the humor, and are inspired by my “helpless female” stories that just because something doesn’t come naturally to them they can learn. We all have areas like that in our lives and sometimes it helps to laugh at our helplessness and awkwardness in learning about about them. I don’t think stereotypes have nearly as much impact as people’s individual choices and motivation, and I know they haven’t done any damage in my life because I don’t let them. I do think it is healthy to be open about the differences between people, whether they be gender related or not. I will also add that I don’t think the article implies I am “helpless” in everything. In fact, I have been “accused” of intimidating people with my confidence in many areas. I simply disagree that there is anything inherently degrading or rudely ridiculous in my story, and I am female. Hope this helps bring some understanding.

      • Elizabeth says:

        There’s a difference between being able to laugh at oneself and deliberately pretending to be helpless because a very simple task involves a small power tool. Yes, Laura, I also find this quite ridiculous. I hope other young women will simply think you’re silly rather than decide a drill is so terribly intimidating as to require all this fuss.

      • lauraimprovises says:

        Hello, Elizabeth. What is simple for one person is not always simple for another, for any number of reasons. It was a learning experience for me and mechanical things of this sort are not something everyone is at ease with. I understand that not every story will resonate with everyone who reads it, but that does not invalidate it or make it silly. Most people keep learning many things in life, and sometimes those things may seem simple to others who already know them or have a greater degree of comfort in trying them. The whole process of becoming more familiar with how to do that was fun for me and my husband.

    • Rich Breton says:

      I would encourage you to read a few of the author’s other posts to get a real sampling for the sake of perspective before trashing the message of one single post. That would save you from looking like an inconsiderate buffoon to those of us that have been following the series.

      If you had read some of her other posts you would see that the Helpless Female title is tongue in cheek, that the author is not suggesting that women are stereotypically helpless.

      Sorry you were not able to pick up on the subtle humor used here. I personally prefer to read an author who can make their point without resorting to the ham-fisted sledge-hammery you find in so many posts on the internet. *yawn*

  2. jennifer uribe says:

    Hi Laura! Good for you! I have the drill down pat, but yesterday i got the table saw out again… It had been last summer since I used it, It was like i had never touched it! I found myself closing my eyes as i lowered the blade. :/ eyes should stay open. I didn’t tell -M (my husband) So I will keep practicing but maybe under his experienced supervision. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>