Thursday, May 29, 2014


Here’s a question for you:
How many failures = success?

Try these on for size:
  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.  Thomas A. Edison
  • Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is.  Bob Feller
  • Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.  C. S. Lewis
  • Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.  Dale Carnegie
  • Do not brood over your past mistakes and failures as this will only fill your mind with grief, regret and depression. Do not repeat them in the future.  Swami Sivananda
  • You don't learn from successes; you don't learn from awards; you don't learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that's the truth.  Jane Fonda
  • Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.  George Edward Woodberry
And my favorite:
  • If you call failures experiments, you can put them in your resume and claim them as achievements.  Mason Cooley
From these thoughts, garnered from folks in all kinds of endeavors, it’s pretty clear that one way to spell success is failure.

Think of them as both sides of the same coin, a common metaphor used to describe opposites that actually work in tandem. As with a coin, you can’t have one without the other. (Have you ever seen a one-sided coin? Not in this 3-dimensional world.)

In my experience, failures mean that we’ve tried; we’ve been thinking, working, tinkering—with ideas, numbers and equations, pieces of wood or scraps of fabric or foods; we’ve devoted time, energy, and the whole of ourselves to something not necessarily related to keeping ourselves alive.
In other words, we’ve set ourselves up to be willing to fail—in the expectation that we will succeed.

When I taught freshman composition classes for Purdue University, I loved the word essay. It comes from the French verb, essayer, which means to try, to aim, to attempt, to give it a whirl, to have a go.
One of my goals in teaching comp was to instill in the students that what they wrote first were trials, approaches to a final draft.

And, as is the way with life, my attempt to get them to see that possibility did not always succeed. In some cases it was a clear, unmitigated, and downright mind-boggling failure. But I kept on, for reasons beyond the understanding of mankind, showing the reasons for drafts, pre-writing (note-making, brainstorming), and rewriting.
Talk about uphill work! Sisyphus had nothing on me!

What I learned was perseverance, trying to find new ways to teach the same lessons, looking for a student's experiences that might be built on. As I taught, I kept on learning. Most teachers will say the same.

Probably the most difficult person to reach is the one who says, “Failure is not in my vocabulary!”
Oh, really? You were born walking, talking, tying your shoes, eating with a fork, reading, doing math . . . ?

The sub-text here is this: “I don’t dwell on failure; I don’t let it rule my life; I don’t call myself a failure.” I hope that’s what the person means who disclaims failure as a part of life.

This post started out asking us to consider success. Here are three questions we can consider:

1.       Whose definition of success am I using?

2.       Is that definition a valid yardstick—does it fit me?

3.       What is my ultimate goal?
While knowing the goal is important, I’ve found that it’s equally important to allow for discoveries along the way; they’re side roads that may become the main path--or enhance it in ways I hadn't visualized in my original way of thinking. Much more positive than thinking of them as failures.

If you take away nothing else, try this: The final definition of success is up to you. You have to live with it. If you choose to live with someone else’s idea of success, you may regret it, because you may never reach their goal. Your own is more important—to you.


Thursday, May 22, 2014


Do you know what a rag bag is?

I used the term recently to describe my mind, which seems to accumulate ideas, images, and questions as easily as a rag bag accumulates its fabric contents.

My house gets to this point before I clean.
And one of the ideas that came to me was this--how many of the things we did in our younger years have become obsolete? Run an eye over this list and see if you can remember when you last did one or more of these:

My favorite - Man Ironing
  • Ironed a garment or household item
  • Cooked a meal from scratch
  • Washed the car @ home; cleaned it out
  • Shoveled snow; mowed grass
  • Cleaned the house
  • Canned garden produce
I confess that only three of these are normal in my household. I press clothing, cloth napkins, tablecloths, and placemats--cook most meals from scratch, mainly because I like to cook--and I clean my own house (though I'd much rather hire someone else to do it!).

Looks fun, right?

Every fall I help my daughter home can produce from her garden. She grows it, picks it, and has it all ready for us to work on when I arrive at her house. All the work takes place in her kitchen, using her hot water canner or pressure canner. I'm there mainly for company--her husband hates to work in the food preservation department, and I'm an expert on washing jars, sterilizing lids, and tightening the metal rings. At the end of the day I go home, hot, tired, and talked out, but with a few jars of something yummy for my pantry (more will come my way at Christmas time). The joy of it all is,we've done a lot of work, put up all kinds of delicious things for winter consumption, and I didn't have to grow one iota of it! No back-breaking weeding, no swatting mosquitoes while I pick cucumbers in the early morning, no yelling at the dogs to quit eating the tomatoes.

Sometimes, this aging thing works in our favor--we get all the perks and don't have to do so much of the grunt work. I like that equation. A lot.

Back to the rag bag--it was a collection of clothing or household items like towels and old sheets, all of which has become too ragged, stained, or otherwise unsuitable for use as clothing or in the house.

I recall my mother and mother-in-law cut off buttons to be used later in mending and removed zippers that might find their way into some other garment.

The rag bag provided cloths for cleaning floors and furniture; washing the car, or the dog, or windows; wiping up oil spills, wiping hands that had grease on them from outdoor work with engines. In short, anything you needed to wipe up or clean up.

Does anybody have one now? (I do.) I couldn't find an illustration for a rag bag--they're all cutesy fashion totes to carry around--made out of rags, of course! My rag bag is a simple plastic shopping bag, hanging in a utility closet, stuffed with old towels, etc. Mostly etc. But they work as mentioned earlier. That's the main thing.

As for the other activities on my list, I confess: I pay somebody else to shovel snow, mow the grass, fertilize the lawn, and clean the car. I like to think I'm providing jobs for folks. As good an excuse as any, eh?
I NEVER have a smile on my face while cleaning the car.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


[A housekeeping item: A few weeks ago I wrote about a new kind of spa day. The photos I used were taken by Jan Roser, a professional photographer living in Florida. She also took the photo of me that appears with this blog. Thanks, Jan--you make me look almost lifelike!]


So, here are a few thoughts on Life, Etc.

Often--say, every other day--I wonder what it would feel like to have complete control of my life and schedule. Mornings I'd write; afternoons I'd sew. I'd hire people to do all the things I don't want to do (cleaning house, especially dusting). I'd be freed from the minutae of my everyday existence and roam freely in my own little creative world: new plots for stories, new quilt designs, new ideas for blogs, new articles. Utopia!

Right? Well, maybe.

For example: What would I do when I got stuck? When a writing idea doesn't pan out? When a quilt that's nearly finished looks just plain awful.

I don't smoke, don't have a secret bottle in my deep desk drawer, wouldn't know where to get my hands on mind-altering substances.

So what's a gal to do?

I clean. Move stuff (though not furniture), find better places for what I already have. Sort. Discard. Re-box for storage stuff that will later get sorted and discarded. I mull over possible gifts for birthday and Christmas giving. Try new recipes. And my latest fave: surfing the Internet. (I call it research. You never know when something might work its way into a story, quilt, letter, blog, conversation. Or into my storage.)

Last week it occurred to me that, if I clean out the drawers in the washstand, I'll have a great place for thread--of which I have a lot. The smaller drawers will work for seldom-used items like quilt templates and tools. And the area with a door just might be big enough for ring binders of patterns and designs (once I find another storage place for the music).

Little by little I get things done. Baby steps--the Montessori method.

Hard for an impatient person to gear down to a lower pace, let the project dictate its own speed. But it's actually less stressful because all the little interruptions and distractions are what Life is—as they say, Life happens. And so we don't get something done this year. A valuable lesson.

A companion lesson--also hard to learn--is this: Don't beat yourself up when you miss a goal or deadline. (You might want to ignore this advice if you have a paying job with deadlines. Just a thought.)

If it's your own project that doesn’t get finished—one that doesn't make ripples in someone else's life--then forgive yourself for missing the goal, extend the deadline (if it needs one), try again.

Life's short enough, without reducing the number of good days by whining, stressing, worrying, and fit-throwing.

However! If a good fit, pitched at the right moment, eases anxiety, then I say, Go for it!


Thursday, May 8, 2014


There's nothing quite like going to the list of posts for this blog, looking for the draft I saved a couple of weeks ago, and finding it has disappeared. First the "Whaaat?!?!?" Then, "Well......" And now--"Oooookay, write something else."

Today I want to celebrate new beginnings. We all have them--practically every day. (A local counseling center has a billboard that reads, "Every day a new beginning."

In the macro view, we're looking at spring: new plants poking their heads through the ground. (I'm sure I heard them muttering, "Is it warm yet?"); new dandelions blooming as if they had good sense; new road construction, which never seems to end.
Before the beginning....

In the closer-to-home view, I have new electronic toys.

First, the new modem, that allows me to post this week's Thursday's Child meanderings. Then when I took the new modem back to the AT&T store to get a refund, because I had converted my service to their newest, latest, greatest Internet service, I was interested in the new wireless phone system--an accompaniment to the new super-charged Internet service. The wireless phone system is activated this morning.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea--
gorgeous in autumn
Then--this is all the same day, mind you--after updated Internet service and a wireless phone system--I went to another phone store for an up-to-snuff phone. I can now take gorgeous pictures (you'll be inundated with them from now to eternity), or look at the front page of my phone and find out where I am plus the date/time/weather.

Normally I'm not into the Next Great Thing, mainly because by the time I get one, it's the Time-Before-Last Great Thing (or even older). But apparently the time had come for all my toys to break at once, or at least become nearly inoperable. And in this Day and Age, we don't fix it, we discard it and get a new one.

That's a new concept for me--I'm all for hanging onto what works, or almost works; fixing it if I can or paying to have it fixed for me if my skill set is 'way behind what's required; and muddling along with what's familiar--now I'm confronted with Off with the Old, On with the New.

Definitely A New Beginning for this senior citizen.

Avian Cafeteria

Ferns--30+ years old!
Thanks for being patient with my on again-off again blog posting. Thursday's Child is alive and well and living in cyberspace.

Thanks also for visiting when my buddy Liz Flaherty guest blogged last week.

See you next time!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Today we are tickled pink/green/purple to have author Liz Flaherty, long-time friend and fellow writer/quilter, guesting at Thursday's Child. Grab your favorite cuppa and pull up a chair for a visit.

* * * * *

"My quilt-making endeavors are all over this room...."

I’m glad to be here on May Day. Thank you, Judith, for inviting me. If I talk too long, just give me a high sign or, you know, slip into the back and have a nice nap.

Yup, a thread addict.
Outside of family, church, and food, I have two consuming interests: I make quilts and I write books. My quilt-making endeavors are all over this room I work in. I have machines and tables and way too much fabric and books and patterns and thread—good grief, the thread! When I spent the winter in Florida, I took along several spools of neutral colors. When I came home, I had those spools plus five or six more that weren’t in the least neutral but that I liked a lot.

Writing, on the other hand, takes up much less room. In this age of electronic storage, I tend to keep tea bags and old phone books in the file drawer of my desk. The stacks of papers that used to cover its top have been replaced by the Kleenex box and a spider plant and a copy of my latest book (of course that was accidental, Judith—surely you don’t think I placed it there!) [see photo of Liz's latest at the bottom of the page.] The cup I once kept pens and highlighters in now holds a nail file, scissors, a box knife, and the Cross pen my husband gave me for Christmas years ago. The pen needs an ink refill, but I don’t care about using it, only that it’s there as a tangible sign of the support he’s always given.

Even the computer doesn’t take up much room. Best of all, it’s portable. If I don’t want to work at my desk, it goes into the house with me and I sit in the recliner with it and a cup of tea.

And there it is. Finally! I knew if I wrote long enough I’d come up with a reason for having done it.

I love to sew, and it’s something I spend hours of every week doing. I love sewing’s tools and toys, the scent and feel of fabric, the satisfaction of creating something pretty. The only time it’s portable, however, is when I’m hand-binding a quilt. I do that in the same recliner I sit in to write. I curse and feel righteous and stab myself with pins. I stitch until my hands are so cramped I can scarcely straighten them again.

I plan to tell this story to the grandkids I make quilts for, maybe adding a little embroidery to the tale I tell. More blood. More hours. More cramps. I hand-bind them because I love you so much, I will say. Well, I do love them that much, but that’s not why I hand-bind them. It’s because I don’t machine-bind well.

When I bind the quilt, it’s an ordeal. I have to take needles, thread, pin cushion, scissors, and the quilt into the house. I have to arrange myself and the quilt just so in the chair, then get up to go find the reading glasses I’ve left…somewhere. As soon as I get comfortable, the phone will ring. And, no, I am not a person who can let it ring. Ever. Then I have to go find the Band-Aids.

No one to talk to...
Could I bind the quilt in the office-sewing-room? Maybe. But quilt-binding is a social thing, a recliner thing. My chairs in the office are comfortable, but there’s nowhere to put my feet up. No one to talk to.

Writing? I’ve said it before, forgotten it, and am saying it again. It’s more than something I do—it’s a big, messy part of who I am. Not just me, I am convinced, but most writers.

The reason it doesn’t require much space is that the important components are inside oneself. The threads—tough and colorful and complex—are the workings of the writer’s mind. The tools are as simple as a pen and notepad (with lined paper) or—if you’re a young writer—an especially retentive memory.

The toys? They can get as numerous and sprawling as sewing toys, but they’re not necessary. If you want to “hand-bind” a book you’ve written, all you need is your laptop—everything else comes directly from the heart through the fingertips. You don’t have to have your feet up. You don’t want to talk to anyone. You specifically don’t want anyone talking to you. It’s not social at all. Because, in the end, when you are writing a book—or short fiction, or an essay—it is just you and the story. It is who you are much more than it is what you do.

It can sometimes be, if you’re lonely or overwhelmed or can’t think of a thing to say, a curse. More often, it is the greatest of blessings.

Wake up back there, Judith! I’m done. Thank you again for inviting me to Thursday’s Child today. It’s been a splendid visit, but I need to get back to work.

Here it is--The Girls of Tonsil Lake!
* * * * *

I'm awake! I'm awake! Thanks, Liz, for insight into the writing world and a peep into your sewing-writing room.

Liz's books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble--her latest, The Girls of Tonsil Lake, is women's fiction, and it'll have you laughing and crying (well, actually, all her books do that). But if you like friendship books, you'll love the four women who've been friends for nearly 50 years.

In October 2014 Harlequin will release Back to McGuffey's (I think it's book #9, right, Liz?), in their Heartwarming line of sweet, wonderfully romantic novels. I can't wait. Both online booksellers offer it now for presale!