for the vertically challenged

Many of you know I am not a tall woman. I stopped gaining height in eighth grade when all the boys started to surpass me, kept getting taller through high school and often on into college. But I never expected to be tall. My mom is a shorty, and my sister and I are just like Mom.

Being short poses its challenges, especially when you factor in my extra ribs and the toll average-sized living takes on a short body. The top shelf in the kitchen might as well be a mile away. Even with a two-step step stool I can barely reach anything stashed up there. When retrieving laundry from the washing machine I have to stand on tip-toe and practically dive in head-first to gather items for the dryer. When driving, the seat has to be raised to its highest so I can see out the windshield, and the seat is all the way forward so I’m up close and personal with the steering wheel. Pity the poor soul who tries to get behind the wheel after I’ve been driving if I forget to move the seat back.

And don’t get me started on clothing. Yes, I’ve heard of petite sizes. But most of them are sized for someone closer to 5’ 4”, the top height for petite clothes. At only 5 feet (and ¼ inch), most petites are still too long in the torso. I’m amazed how many companies offer petite pants, but not petite shirts. It’s not just half of me that’s short.

How about furniture? Ever sit in a chair and barely have your toes brush the floor? Or maybe just dangle like you’re still six years old? That’s pretty much me and all furniture. Talk about uncomfortable.

Here are a few things I’ve found helpful in living in a normal sized world as a shorty.

  1. Invest in a folding foot rest and carry it with you everywhere. Maybe not to the grocery store, but to church, on an airplane, to conferences or classes, perhaps even the doctor’s office waiting room, though I haven’t tried that one yet.
  2. Keep plenty of step stools on hand. I have these all over the house. In the kitchen, the closet, the bathrooms. (Okay, those were for the kids and they’ve just stayed there. But, really, I can reach the sink on my own.) They fold flat so are easy to take along on a road trip. And I have a two-step stool tucked away in the pantry for those harder to reach places.
  3. In order to achieve better ergonomics at the kitchen counter, I have a not very elegant solution, but it works. All I need is a few inches to make all the chopping and slicing easier without me having to lift my shoulders like a marionette master. Go ahead, try squatting until you’re 5 feet and see how your arms and back feel at counter height. Take an old phone book (a large catalog would work, or a couple mediums ones stacked together if they’re the same dimensions) and wrap the whole thing with duct tape so the pages can’t flip open and it’s a taut rectangle. Feel free to choose a color and pattern to coordinate with your decor. One phone book is just big enough for my feet and I use one at all times when prepping at the kitchen counter. I actually have two. They’re not pretty, and Big J sometimes stumbles on them if I forget to slide them out of the way. But they work.
  4. I don’t know if manufacturers still make cars with adjustable pedals, but we have an old van that allows me to move the gas and brake pedal forward so I’m not wedged under the dashboard in order to reach them. It makes me feel like an actual grownup when I drive.

There are many wonderful things about being small. Airplane and theater seats, though not what I’d call comfortable, don’t feel quite as cramped as they do for the average sized person. Things stored in lower cabinets are easy to reach. My feet will never hang over the end of the bed. I can wear 3 or 4 inch heels and not tower over, well, anybody. Except maybe my kiddos.

For the moment, anyway.

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