The One About Creating and Failing

Today the littles and I went on an adventure.  We went to our local art gallery to visit this lovely in person.  We had never been there before, so we had no idea what to expect.

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson

This lovely painting by one of my favorite artists, Barbara Wilkinson


This beautiful picture is painted by one of my favorite artists.  She speaks to my soul, as she paints my stories before I even tell them.  I saw a photo of this work of art the day I had just finished writing about my Daddy’s rows in his garden and how he laid them straight.  Perfectly in sync.  I love the story in this painting.

At the art gallery we were privileged to see all sorts of different works–some more abstract than others.  We saw animals and scenery and still life.  Several joined my wish list, as their stories became a part of mine.  We enjoyed an impromptu tour with another of our favorite artists, Miss Jackie.  What a gift she gave us today–her presence and her time.  She had me laughing with the stories about a couple of her paintings.  Cooter picked out one that she had yet to finish and said he wanted to hang it in his room.  I was surprised but pleasantly so.  If my children find their own love of art, I will be ecstatic.

I had both Cooter and Princess find one piece to make up a story about.  They entertained me with the stories on the way home.  Both had me laughing.  Such creativity!  These are the kind of days that make homeschooling especially joyful.

When we reflected on our visit, we talked about all the different kinds of painting we saw–all the different media used, the different sized paintings, the different subjects, right down to the way the artists signed their work.  As we talked, they began to understand.

“Is there any right way to create art?” I asked them.

I was thrilled to see the light dawning and a smile slowly growing on their faces.  “No, there’s not.”  I swanee I think I saw a look of relief on Cooter’s face.  He had been talking earlier about how he didn’t know how to paint like the artists whose work we had seen.

Exactly, buddy, do you.  Paint like you.  I can promise you I’ll love it for always.

On our way home, we stopped to pick up some frozen broccoli.  Yes, that was it.  Of course, I knew we would likely pick up a few other things, but I have turned into my Mama when it comes to shopping.  I get certain things from certain stores.  And from this store–frozen broccoli, rice, paper products, shampoo, and printer ink.  Those things especially but I can get others.  They are the only ones who carry the big five-pound bag of broccoli florets.  I was out, we eat a lot of it, it was time to make the stop.  And since it was on the way home and no one was in a wet swimsuit or dance leotard…..the timing was perfect.

Before we went in, I led our merry band of misfits in our shopping mantra, “Hey, we’re going in with nothing, and we’re coming out with…..”

“NOTHING!” they chimed in correctly.  This is my way of preparing them for no toy aisle expectations.  Eh.  Sometimes it actually works.

“Yes, well, except for frozen broccoli.  We don’t even need to walk by the toy aisle, y’all.  Let’s get in and let’s get out.  Okay?”

As they were unbuckling and moving to the door, Cooter said with a sincerity that was a bit troubling, “I will help you find the broccoli, okay Mama?”

Princess whipped her head back around to him.  “Oh, you are just trying to get on her good side so you can walk through the toy aisle, that’s all!”  She was livid.

Cooter had the good grace to look sheepish as a grin covered his face.  He caught me watching in the rearview mirror.  “Really, Mama, I want to help.”

Ha.  Whatever.  Busted, my friend.

As is par for the course, when we got inside the need for shampoo and detangler and lip balm was realized.  We finally made it over to the frozen vegetables.  I was thrilled to see some of my favorite veggies back in stock, frozen by a local company.  I loaded up on them.  We found the bananas we needed and a couple of other things, and we headed for the checkout.

The crew helped me unload the buggy, and we were on our way home.  We’d gotten about a half mile from the store when it hit me.  “Frozen broccoli!”  If I hadn’t been driving, I totally would have slapped my forehead.  I mean are you kidding me?  All that, and I forgot what. I. went. in. for.

Oh me.

I had to laugh.  I could almost hear Mama saying, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.”  I looked back at Cooter and pretended to be mad.

“Dude, you said you’d help me find the broccoli.  And neither one of us remembered…..” I kept on teasing him, and then I dropped the “f” bomb.  Pretending to give him a hard time, I said, “Dude, epic Fail.”

They were both laughing.  Then I heard Princess say, “Yeah, Cooter, you’re a failure.”

Wait.  What?


I seriously almost pulled the car over.

A failure?  No.  I knew then and there I had to straighten that out.

“No!  Cooter is not a failure.  Y’all you can completely fail at something, but that doesn’t make you a failure.  Ever.  That means that you tried and it didn’t work out, so you need to rethink it and try again a different way.  Or let it go for a while.  But trying and failing DOES. NOT.  MAKE.  YOU.  A. FAILURE.  No way, no how.  Y’all got that?”

Yeah, I might have raised my voice.

I feel just that strongly about it.

Because fear of failure means they might not try.  And I want them to try.  Always.  Try their best, and see where it takes them.  Sometimes failures can take you to some pretty neat destinations.  I can attest to that firsthand.  But I never want them to label themselves OR ANYONE ELSE a failure.  That’s not okay.

I think they heard me today.  About being you, doing you, creating your art.  I think they understood a little of what I was trying to say about falling down not making a person a failure.  I do.

But if homeschooling and raising this zany bunch has taught me anything, it’s that usually none of us get it on the first go round.  We have to read it or try it again.  So we will be talking about these things again.  And often.  Because I think they are related–being you, creating your own mark in the world that isn’t a copy of anyone else’s, and not being afraid of doing so because you might fail…..yeah, I think they are.

Failing at something is a bump in the road.  It’s not a place to live.  You hit the bump and keep on going.  Creating.  Loving.  Living.

That’s a good lesson for today.  And everyday.

Love to all.


Scars and Second Chances

I find the most amazing life-changing thoughts and wisdom in some of the craziest places.

Remember when I told you about finding Henry Van Dyke (prolific author, clergyman, and educator) through watching a Christmas episode of Ally McBeal?  I started watching the series all over again on Netflix when Mama was in the hospital in August of 2012.  While she rested, I plugged in my headphones and zoned out, escaping the reality that I didn’t want to accept.  And revisited an old friend, Ally McBeal.

Recently I was strongly encouraged to try watching a new show.  I don’t get a lot of TV time that is unsupervised by the six to nine age group, so Netflix is a nice way, a la headphones, for me to catch a show here and there, sometimes just a few minutes at a times.

The show is “Parks and Recreation.”  I literally laugh out loud at least once during every episode.  Which makes watching it under the covers after everyone is asleep a little counterproductive–trying not to wake anyone else up while you are holding back a full snort laugh–yeah.  Hard to do.

But I digress.

Let’s see.  Parks and Rec.  Life-changing thoughts.

Ah yes.

In season three, the main character Leslie Knope quotes Mary Pickford.  I’ve heard the name, but thank you Leslie for introducing me to her and her wisdom.  Mary Pickford, born in 1892, was a silent film star known as “America’s Sweetheart.”  She felt that adding sound to film “was like putting rouge on the Venus de Milo.”  She helped establish United Artists along with Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith.  Amazing.  She was the first actress to get a percentage of a film’s revenue, AND she was the first to have her name in marquee lights.  This woman paved the way, didn’t she?

And she had some sense.

She once said, “If you have made mistakes, even serious mistakes, there is always
another chance for you. And supposing you have tried and failed again and again, you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

The quote I first heard on "Parks and Recreation."  Wisdom can come from the strangest of places, if only we are ready to hear.

The quote I first heard on “Parks and Recreation.” Wisdom can come from the strangest of places, if only we are ready to hear.

What beautiful truth and grace I hear in these words.

Tonight I’m thankful for the winding down time and the goofy shows that accompany me there.  I am especially grateful that these words caught my ear, so I would look them up and learn about a very strong woman who also believed in second and third and twelfth chances.  I needed her encouraging words tonight.

Reminds me of a song from my past written over a hundred years after Miss Pickford was born.  “Get Back Up” by Toby Mac.  I think she would have recognized the message as something she once said and loved it too.  “Get up, get up, You gonna shine again.”

For those in my life who have been knocked down and are hurting, I share this song tonight.  There’s bound to be scars “when you fall that far,” but I found this quote from a character on Criminal Minds and I like it.  (No, I don’t watch that one, but the internet is a wealth of information, isn’t it?)

“Scars show us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going.”

–David Rossi, played by Joe Mantegna, Criminal Minds


Keep the faith, my friends.  Call me if you need help getting back up.  I’ve got experience.  And the scars to prove it.  Love to all.