In over my head

Today I read a post from Novice Journal where the question asked was:

Have you ever had to face doing something you were a complete novice at?

I couldn’t resist answering this question.

First off, when aren’t we doing something we are a complete novice at?  Unless I do nothing new, I’m doing something I’ve never done before and usually feel in over my head with what I attempt to do.  Here are a few examples (note most came from not wanting or not being able to afford to pay someone else to do these for me):

  • Knowing my car wouldn’t pass inspection due to major rust holes I headed to the auto store, found the primer, bondo etc and headed home to figure out how to do my own body work.  Wasn’t a bad job in the end and I saved plenty of money including the fact the car passed inspection.
  • Figuring out how to write a blog
  • Being thrifty I taught myself how to restore and refinish furniture
  • Replace electrical fixtures
  • Running my own business at age 19
  • Learning how to program a CNC lathe
First time on a mower, no keys yet.

A couple of years ago, I  had to face the deterioration of my disability, at the same time a family member mentioned that I should have never been allowed to live when I was born because I never amounted to any thing and so I, in a bout of depression, got out a notepad and wrote down all the things I accomplished in my life.

I still have that notepad, I keep it to remind myself that I have accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish.   But there was one challenge I faced head on that at the time I didn’t think I knew how or could possibly figure out how to do.

It was 1987, I had been diagnosed with cancer, found out I was pregnant and found myself alone, without a husband/partner.  I was sitting in a hospital bed staring at my newborn son, thinking about the older son who would turn 3 in a month and not knowing if I would survive to see them grow up.  I was literally frozen in fear.

I knew I didn’t have much money, doctor bills would be piling up, and I needed to find a way for my boys to have a “normal” life with a mother who had a disability and serious illness, and no one around that I could count on to help.

I got through that by taking one day at a time and not focusing on the “what if’s”.  It wasn’t the easiest time of my life, but I got through it and have two wonderful adult children, three grand children and am still here.

First pair of sneakers

Not only have I accomplished what I set out to accomplish in my life so far, I know I need to have goals of things I still want to do, maybe some would see  this as my bucket list, but I don’t see it that way.  It’s not about doing these things before I die, but about staying engaged in living each day to the fullest.

Your turn how would  you answer this question?



  1. You should have never been allowed to live?!? Someone in your family actually told you that? Holy Moly! And I thought my parents telling me that I was the ugliest baby/child they had ever seen was bad! That one takes the cake! I, for one, am totally amazed at all the things you have accomplished, and I haven’t even met you face to face! I mean the rice cooker alone counts as one heckuva creative achievement in my book, and that’s not even scratching the surface!

    You know, when I used to run the music school, one of the areas we specialized in was teaching adult beginners. There’s a sort of mythology out there that says that if you didn’t learn music as a child, you can’t learn it as an adult. But after many years of studying this question I came to the conclusion that this is total horse pucky!

    What is true is that adults, in general, are MUCH more uncomfortable with being beginners than kids are. Give a kid a violin and they’ll march around the room with it, drag the bow across the strings making horrible noises for hours on end, and love every minute of it. But what they are actually doing is learning. Adults, on the other hand can’t tolerate not being able to do things well. So they pick up an instrument, and when they can’t master it in a few lessons they tend to give up.

    It’s sad really, because it tends to lock people into choices that they made when they were six years old. And so many people spend the majority of their lives looking back on their youth as the best time of their lives, because it was the ONLY time that they actually allowed themselves to explore life.

    And I can’t even begin to answer the question…it’s sort of an every day experience for me. At the moment I’ve decided to buy a road bike – I’ve never actually ridden a road bike (by bike is a hybrid mountain bike,) let alone those crazy shoes that attach your feet directly to the pedals. And just educating myself enough to be able to make the purchase is requiring a whole new vocabulary and a crazy understanding of both human anatomy and geometry. I can’t imagine living a life where I didn’t get to learn new things all the time.


    • As for the family, I have walked away and formed my own group of people I think of as family. Who says you can’t pick your family. It’s sad really that people look at a physical limitation and determine that means the person is some how not able to enjoy life to the fullest. I never knew any different, so I only in a vague way know what it would be like to do things as others do.

      I so agree with you that we tend to believe we have to learn something by a certain age to be able to master it. So many people give up before even trying. At one point my landlord mentioned if he lost his wife he wouldn’t be able to raise his children on his own like I was. I was amazed, I simply told him he would find the way to do whatever life tossed at him and knowing he loved his children he would find the strength to do what was needed. As for me I still toy with the idea of learning to play an instrument, something I was forbidden to do when younger…because I was a girl.

      Both of my children asked to play guitar. I first hired a teacher for my youngest (who asked first), he hated it and gave up, my oldest asked if he could have the guitar, he was about 12, and went off and taught himself, never giving up. He’s pretty good too.

      I’d love to hear your experiences with the road bike when you get it. Riding a bike is something I haven’t been able to master along with a few other things (whistling and jumping) turns out those three things were what finally led the doctors to determine which type of dystrophy I have as people with this type CAN’T do these things no matter how determined. I sure wish I had known that as a child it would have saved a lot of frustration and more hours than I can count to try and master whistling alone! As for the bike after a few broken bones and numerous sprains I finally moved on to something else.


  2. I can’t imagine how you felt, hearing a family member say that to you. I think you have accomplished amazing things, surviving cancer, being a single parent, learning to be self sufficient and adjusting to a disability. You are amazing!

    As for how I’d answer it, I guess in a lot of the same ways. In order to make our lives saner and less expensive, we figure out how to do repairs and maintenance ourselves, and we always seem to be learning new things on the fly.


    • I wasn’t surprised when my brother said that to me, I had learned how selfish and self-important he was before that. What hurt why why he told me that. He and his wife had just had twins, during the labor process the one child stopped breathing and was almost lost. Doctors didn’t know what the lasting effects would be. So he called me and asked me to meet him and it was telling me how he viewed my life that he made the decision to “not let his child live”. He actually believed his son wouldn’t have a full life if he couldn’t ride bikes or play football.

      I don’t look at myself as anything other than determined to live and enjoy life, but thanks.


  3. This was such an amazing and inspiring post. I can’t believe a family member said that to you. I’ve been told some pretty mean things, but that was just brutal. Thanks so much for responding to my question via post. I wasn’t sure if anyone would take the time to do so! Again, this is an awesome post, worthy of freshly pressed! (But who am I to say, really?) Have a great day, and I hope you stop by for my new post later on today!


    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Freshly Pressed? I hadn’t thought of that, I don’t think anything I write is worthy of being picked.

      I really liked your idea of posting the question, it made me think and that’s why I decided to respond. Sometimes we really don’t stop to think about the accomplishments we have made in life and instead allow ourselves to be bogged down by the day-to-day mundane challenges we face in this crazy world.

      I’ll stop by, may be quite late, but I’ll be there some time 🙂


  4. I teared up reading what your family member said to you! How hurtful! I’ve always admired you, and now I know why . . . you’ve done and continue to do amazing things with your life. Thank you for a poignant post, and know that you have MUCH to look forward to! Blessings, Katherine


    • Oh, thank you. I never meant it to tear up anyone. I do know I have much to look forward to yet in life. It’s funny, but in a way it feels like it happened to someone else. I’ve dealt with it and made a conscious choice to move forward without the baggage they tried to put on me. I have too much to be thankful and happy for to let a few people make me feel bad about myself. My boys, wonderful human being that they are, decided to cut themselves off from the same individuals because they didn’t want any more contact with someone who could feel that way about their mother. See, I’m blessed with so much.


  5. Hi Lois,
    you know that old saying “sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. The truth is words do hurt. A carelessly said phrase stays with a person and erodes their sense of self-worth. I had a difficult relationship with my father, and his words have always remained in my spirit, causing self-doubt at every turn.

    Making a list of your achievements is a fantastic idea. I did a modified version of that on a daily basis, when my husband would walk in the door, and ask “so what did you do all day, today?” Well, I was busy with 3 small children, homeschooling the oldest and trying to make ends meet on our small income. So I started keeping a log of every important thing I did each day, and when he’d ask that insulting question, I’d rattle it all off. And it just made me feel good about myself when I could look at that list, and say to myself, “yeah, I was busy today wasn’t I?”

    But I think I’ll make a life’s list like yours someday. Back to your question, what have I done where I’ve been a complete novice? Figuring out this whole computer thing has been a big challenge for me. Setting up a blog, figuring out how to use iphoto and dealing with hassles related maintaining the site, and using a borrowed and ancient computer and making it all work out for my needs, so I can keep a blog.


    • You are so right. I have broken bones, but they heal and I forget about them. The words people I respected and loved have stayed with me, but instead of letting it get me down I’ve tried to turn it around to be a better person and when I became a mother myself I made sure I handled things very differently with my children. I think it made me a better parent as a result.

      One of the things I did as a mother is to remember my children were gifts to me to guide and show them how to make it as adults, but not my personal possessions. I never talked down about their fathers, and in the case of my youngest it surely paid off as when he was 16 his father came back into his life and they are on good terms. I tried to remind myself not to harbor any ill will towards him and today we are good friends for our son. In raising my children, I tried to think of them as people first, not children and to show them the same respect I would show an adult. I think it worked as I have a fantastic relationship with both of them and their families.

      I am sorry you had to find a way to justify to your husband that you worked hard too during the day, but glad you found a way to impress upon him your contributions to the family are no less important than his. Good for you. I have a cousin who when he and his wife started their family, made the choice to have one parent stay home with the children. Since his wife made far more money than he did he quit his job. He says it was the most rewarding job he’s ever had and enjoyed also having the home clean, and dinner on the table for his wife each night. Too bad we can’t all have our husbands change roles with us, if even for a few days so they could experience what we do and have more appreciation for us.


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