Category Archives: mistakes

Where are your knitting needles?

I’ve heard of people with memory disorders putting their things in strange places, and then not being able to find them. As my friends and I age, we often talk about such things, and pray that they pass by our lives.

However, this afternoon I lost my newly purchased knitting needles. They appeared to have taken off, to places unknown, all by themselves.

The mystery began after an afternoon of errand running. I had frozen items on my car’s front seat from my unplanned visit to Aldi’s — hence, nothing was bagged. And I had a bag of items from Target, a bag from Lowe’s, and a small flat paper bag from the yarn store containing two sets of double-pointed needles.

Once home, I unloaded all the items from the car onto my kitchen counter. The frozen items went immediately into the freezer. Then I started hunting for the bag of knitting needles. I moved everything on the counter. Not there. I went to the garage to search my car. Nothing there. I returned to the kitchen and looked under all the items on the bar. Still not there. Back to the car. I searched under the seats, on the floorboard, and the narrow space between the seats and the center console. Not there. Back to the kitchen. They’re still not on the counter.

“I know the bag was in my car,” I said to myself. “I remember seeing it on the console. How could it have disappeared in the twenty feet between the car and the kitchen counter?” I was mystified. Frustration was building.

Back to the garage. This time I walked all around the car, remembering that I had unloaded some items from the passenger’s side. Still nothing.

Finally I checked the freezer, although I couldn’t imagine how they would have gotten there. Nothing there on first glance. Only when I moved the recently purchased box of frozen salmon patties, did I see the thin brown bag stuck to the bottom of it.

See, they did get there by themselves. Blame it on the box of salmon patties. Blame it on my inattention as I put things in the freezer. Blame it on the conspiration of the universe, plotting against my sanity and possible onset of dimentia.

Chilled knitting needles might be nice when knitting a winter sweater on a warm summer day. Perhaps I’ll do it on purpose next time.

My knitting needles are in my freezer.

Where are yours?

Until next Tuesday . . .

The Third Annual Piano Recital

It seems just a few months ago I wrote about my first piano recital: how I’d never done it before, how I’d overcome a life of nervousness, and how it felt like jumping off a cliff. And I wrote that I survived the event.

Actually that first recital was April 2015. I only invited a few people, close friends who already loved me, and would continue to love me no matter how I played.

The next year the event was enough bigger to do a small rehearsal for a select group before the main event.

This year there were two main events: the first for 15-20 neighbors, the second for 15-20 friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned with these annual recitals:

  • Friends enjoy hearing my music. They often say they had a fun afternoon at my house.
  • I’ve learned to focus on the first few measures of each piece before I begin to play. That makes for a better start — and a single start.
  • Listeners like to learn about the composer and the composition before they hear the music. Informed listening is engaged listening.

Each performance is unique and music is always a work in progress. A piece is never totally finished, even though Dr. B has blessed it.  Music I played last year is way better now because it’s had time to settle, mature, and become more expressive. There’s always more practice to be done and more nuances to be incorporated. Always.

If I wait until my playing is perfect, no one will ever hear my music. My passion for Beethoven and Schumann and Debussy will never come to the light of day. Talking about my music is not the same as actually playing it for others.

Life, like musical performance, is the same way. If we hide ourselves until we’re perfect, no one gets to experience who we are, in all of our wonderfulness and quirkiness and fabulousness and uniqueness. If we’re always apologizing for our errors and mistakes and shortcomings our successes and accomplishments and milestones remain hidden with us.

My playing wasn’t perfect. In fact, I made mistakes in unexpected places.  There was no silent self-beating for my imperfect performance. No one cares about my mistakes; in fact, they rarely notice. I didn’t apologize — because I played my best. “Beethoven may have just rolled over,” I shared after the sonata. “I know he’s never heard it played like that! In fact, I was a little surprised myself.” We laughed together.

I ventured out of my comfort zone — again — and actually looked forward to the afternoon performances. My friends enjoyed my music and visiting with each other over cookies and lemonade. “Thank you so much for inviting me!” was an oft heard comment.

What more could anyone want?

So, get out of your box. Rid yourself of the excuses you’ve hidden behind. Challenge yourself. Take a new step.

Stepping out is not easy. Growth is not easy, either, but it’s worth your effort.

Until next Tuesday . . .

A Failure to Communicate

We landed in Ft. Lauderdale, a day prior to our cruise. The plane was on time and retrieving our luggage was quick.

With reservation in hand I called the hotel for their shuttle. “The driver is Eric,” the clerk said.  “He will be driving a white van with our phone number and logo on the side.” She verified the location where we were to wait.

We proceeded to the blue and white sign with the number 2 on it. Thirty minutes went by. Forty minutes.

I called the hotel. “The driver is stuck in traffic,” she said. “He will be there shortly.”

Another fifteen minutes went by — standing in the Florida heat with no convenient place to sit. We read the side of every shuttle that passed. Not one said Comfort Inn.

I called again. “He’s right there now picking you up,” she said.

“He’s not here unless he’s driving a Holiday Inn shuttle,” I replied, not so patiently.

“That’s him,” she said. I glanced at the side of his van and there was the phone number I had called. No Comfort Inn logo was visible.

“Are you Eric?” I said to the driver.

“Where have you been? I’ve been past here many times and could not find you.”

“We’ve been right here, waiting. Our reservation says Comfort Inn so we were looking for a van with that logo.”

“We are not the Comfort Inn,” he said, as he checked my reservation. “We are the Ft. Lauderdale Airport/Cruiseport and our name is about to change again.”

Assured this was the right van and the right driver, we got in, still wondering how it had all gone so wrong.

We arrived at the hotel, amidst cranes and scaffolding and construction trash. It reminded me of India, so many years ago: grey concrete, wood planks, the area in seemingly total disarray. Our travel agent had assured us that, though expensive, this was a good hotel. He had stayed there himself.

The lobby was barely large enough for the six of us who had arrived from the airport. I explained the confusion to the clerk about the hotel name. He had no explanation for error, then upgraded us to a suite. It was clearly a case of “failure to communicate.”

Perhaps the hotel name had changed after we made our reservation and before we arrived.

Perhaps someone forgot to change the name on one of the internet sites.

Perhaps it was the universe trying to dampen our enthusiasm for our cruise.

In retrospect, one thing could have prevented the problem. On the initial shuttle phone call, the clerk said their logo would be on the van. Had I verified the hotel name at that point, the problem would have been discovered and resolved. Never having had such a problem, it didn’t cross my mind to verify the name of the hotel. From hereon, I will double check.

We were grateful we arrived the day before our cruise, so the shuttle debacle had no impact on our trip, except for making dinner late.

By the next morning, the experience was behind us and remained untouched for the next eleven days.

Even the best organizational skills are no guarantee against failure to communicate.

Until next Tuesday . . .



Stocking Up

Planning is a good thing — especially during the holidays. Our normally busy lives get crammed with even more activities, leaving us less time to shop, less time to think ahead, less time to be at our best.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m an inveterate list-maker, planner, and ponderer — often bordering on obsessive and incurable.

Perhaps you can imagine my dismay at the state of my pantry as I began my holiday baking. I always have at least ten pounds of all-purpose flour on hand — always. On baking day, I discovered a mere two cups of flour in the canister. The flour shelf was full — 2 bags of rye flour, 2 bags of bread flour, 1/2 box of cake flour, nearly a bag of whole wheat flour — but my usual stash of all-purpose flour had been used and not replaced. Granulated sugar was in a similar state: 4 cups in the canister, but no extra bags on the shelf, though both powdered and brown sugar were in abundance.

In other corners of the kitchen, the ground ginger was nearly empty, as was the onion powder, and the coarse ground black pepper. Only one stick of margarine remained from the usual two pounds I always keep on hand.

In the freezer, I still had three bags of frozen cranberries from last year’s holidays. I always buy ahead lest I run out during the year. I hadn’t used a single bag since last Christmas.

Something is alarmingly amiss with my planning: the pantry is bare in places, yet freezer treasures haven’t been touched.

I’ve been pondering the situation, beyond the mere inconvenience of not having what I need on hand. Two principles are at work here:

  1. Expectations: because pantry staples abound, I expect them to always be there — even without my periodic checking. I kept using the supplies without noticing their depletion, didn’t replace them, which required an unnecessary grocery trip in the midst of cooking.
  2. Fears: last year’s cranberries are still in the freezer because I was afraid of running out before cranberries returned to the supermarket this November. I was saving them for a special occasion — which apparently never arrived. I missed fresh baked cranberry orange muffins in June because I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough for later. And this November I bought more cranberries to last through 2017 — now there are seven bags to get me through next year.

This post is really about being attentive to “what we do” and “why we do.”

  • When I operate on auto-pilot, oblivious to the present moment, I assume my planning and organizational habits also continue on auto-pilot. Well, they don’t. Maintaining the supply cannot happen without my attention to such details.
  • When I save things only for special occasions, sometimes the food item goes bad before I ever use it. So why have it in the first place? And I, and my friends and family, have missed the specialness altogether, because of my fear of running out. When I see cranberries in my freezer I should think, “What can I make that will make this week, or this day, special because I have cranberries in the off-season?” I could create an occasion to share coffee and a fresh baked muffin with my neighbor.

Beware of complacency with the usual and fear of the special.

Until next Tuesday . . .



Stumbling Backwards

A few weeks ago I returned to the church of my young adulthood, the church where my children grew up.

I’ve been gone for more than twenty-five years, though I’ve had occasional visits. On this particular Sunday I saw some familiar faces, though everyone had aged more than I expected (way more than I have!).  A few people called me by name, though I didn’t recognize them. Strangers (to me) outnumbered the people I remembered.

The building had changed a bit, though not in exterior ways. The atmosphere of worship felt different: louder voices, exuberant children, new hymnbooks. The Presbyterian “decently and in order” mantra had taken on a life I didn’t quite recognize.

The experience reminded me of returning to my university some forty-five years after I graduated. Most streets were closed off making access limited. I searched and searched for anything familiar. My dorm, one of the best at the time, was fenced off and boarded up, awaiting renovation. The trees now obscured the view across campus.  Even the road to my hometown looked unfamiliar on this particular day. My disappointment was deep enough for tears.How could a place I loved and knew so well, change so much?

I spent the next few days in my hometown, but decided not to drive by houses where I’d lived, schools I’d attended, or wander through downtown.  I’d had enough unsettlement for one trip. I felt like a lady who couldn’t fight my way out of a paperbag when I tried to find a highway I remembered well, the one that took me to my grandparents house, several hundred miles away.

Of course, it’s normal for towns and universities and churches and people to change over time. It’s inevitable. Some say it’s progress. Some say it’s necessary. Some say, “That’s the way life is.”

When we go back to those once familiar places, we mistakenly expect things to be like they were. We’re hoping to somehow go back in time, to relive those moments, to be young again, to re-experience the energy and vitality and excitement of other years. In my mind, I don’t think I’ve changed that much, since college or my young adult years. However, my mirror doesn’t lie.

Time has marched on, with more changes than we ever imagined, and left us in the dust — at least it feels like that sometimes.

I’ve come to realize that often memories are best left undisturbed. We look at photos of our life as it was then; we reread letters and remember times that have long since passed. We remember, thanks to the things we’ve saved.

Don’t rush to go back. Keep your memories — as sacred as they are — but don’t try to make them happen again.

Create new memories — of this day, this place, this moment.

Until next Tuesday . . .