On Making Mistakes

mistakes: open fortune cookie with strip of white paper - YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE MISTAKES

On Making Mistakes

Last week I made a mistake, a big one. Big in terms of money, bigger in terms of its impact on me.

It was certainly not my first mistake; I make lots of them. But this one was different. My normal blunders, those I have come to know and understand and even appreciate, normally come from my “broad-brush” approach, focusing the big picture and ignoring those pesky, oft-times important, details. These are the mistakes that are part of who I am, and I have learned, sadder and wiser, to watch for them, to rein in my rush for closure, my need to decide and move on to the next project. Those, while they also have proved costly, are ones I know.

This one, however, was a bone-headed bungle, one that came from a total misunderstanding of the subject, one that I deemed so insignificant that I didn’t bother to ask questions about it. I assumed that I knew all there was to know. And was I ever wrong. I was crushed when I realized what I had done. It wasn’t the error itself; that can be remedied, with only time and money the cost.

But this one wounded me, and I knew that my response was significantly out of proportion. Ah, I realized, there’s a lesson in this. This misstep rocked my view of myself, that of a competent and capable person, for this was a most incompetent error, the kind that would elicit eye-rolling from all but the most evolved of my friends.

Those few trusted souls whom I told responded with kindness and understanding, as I would have had they been the ones in trouble. I was less kind to myself. This mistake hit me where I live. So, I thought, maybe I’m not so smart, maybe I’m not so competent.

A week later, I have a bit more perspective. The error is on its way to be corrected. The world still spins on its axis. And I am humbled. Perhaps it is prophetic that for my morning readings, I chose to read Sister Joan Chidester’s examination of the Rule of Benedict, Wisdom Distilled from the Daily. I opened to the chapter on humility. How apt, as I am brought close to my own limitations.

So, I am human, and I am working to forgive myself for that. BUT, I will ask for details, for clarification, even though it may make me look not-quite-so-smart as I would like to appear. And sometimes, the one it’s hardest to forgive is one’s self.

I have learned. Thanks.

I’m Sunny-Point-Up in Asheville

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I’m Sunny-Point-Up in Asheville

This isn’t a restaurant review, it‘s a love song. Every time that we are in Asheville, for business, for pleasure, or just passing through, we make a point of visiting the Sunny Point Café in West Asheville. We discovered it several years ago when, after overdosing on elegance and snobbery at the Grove Park Inn (expenses paid), I approached a woman who looked like someone I would like to know, and asked her to recommend a place for breakfast.

We made a special stop there this week on our way back from the mountains. West Asheville is funky and thriving, just as artsy, a tad more authentically unconventional than the upscale, upmarket, high rent downtown district. Younger, more tattoos, and more genuine, at least to this aging (some might say aged) hippie wannabe.

I’ve included a snapshot of the staff – our waitperson, Nina, is the girl in the hat. The guy on the far left belongs to me. I hope that the photo conveys the character of the restaurant – a bit ramshackle, a bit loose, and a camaraderie that is palpable.

The food, always wonderful. I had an incredible, home-made, hand-made bean burger; Dick tried the grilled pimento cheese, along with the special apple cake dessert. I’ve never had a bad choice there.

But Sunny Point provides more than food. A bit like Cheers, it may not be a place where everybody knows your name, but you sure get the sense that they would like to. Warm, inviting, a great eclectic mix of tattoos, piercings, bohemian tights and dreads – all sitting comfortably with matrons who, for today, left their pearls at home. Everyone seems equally welcomed. A place you could go, sit, read a book with your meal, and feel appreciated.

There’s even a veggie garden in the back. I think that it adds to the sense of concern, of caring – about the food that’s prepared, and the people who prepare it, and the people who consume and pay for it.

Maybe it’s the food, maybe it’s the ambiance, maybe it’s just what we bring to it, but I have a soft spot for Sunny Point. Some Seder feasts conclude with Next Year in Jerusalem, but at our house, we say, Next Year at Sunny Point!

On Excellent Women

On Excellent Women

Last week I spent time with some excellent women. They had gathered to celebrate the 39th anniversary of their first meeting, a follow up to a religious retreat. They meet weekly to check in, to keep each other on track, and to support one another in their religious journeys.

Over the years, this group’s focus has evolved (my term) from a pious one to a broader effort – that of supporting each other through the voyage of their lives. Their ranks have been reduced by death, and now, only five and in their 80s and 90s, those remaining have stood together in sorrow. They have sat with one another in grief. They have shared their joys.

What a privilege it was to observe them, to contemplate their aging, to ponder my own. Most have difficulty walking. I’m sure that all have aches and pains, though this was never mentioned. Some are more physically infirm than others, but all soldier on. All but one have razor-sharp minds. One, always the one you’d least expect, suffers from memory issues. She, who was beautiful and fey and who knows that she can’t remember, covers her lapses with laughter and giggles that are all the more tragic. The group is kind, and I wonder if each of them, for now untouched, is not somehow relieved that it is she, not they, who has drawn this dreaded wild card.

They welcomed me into their fold, and talked about their lives. Ever confident of their beliefs, they seemed to understand my journey of doubt, of questioning, of wishing for, and not finding, answers.

A different generation, housewives all, sure of their roles to support, not compete with, their spouses, certain that they would be taken care of. All but one is alone now. There was refreshingly little talk of children. This day was theirs.

I focused on them, each remarkable in her particular way. And I wondered if this pre-feminist cohort, this generation who accepted roles without question, or at least without too much questioning, is not more content. Maybe it was the time, maybe it has been their firm religious beliefs, and, just maybe, it has been the support of the group that has given them the strength, the courage and the force to be content.

Or perhaps, in the night, they too wonder.

On Remembering Leaf Houses

st. mark's old school



I spent the fifth and sixth grades at St. Mark’s Old School, on Winters Lane in Catonsville. It was the original school, built in the 1880s, and had been recently replaced by a fancy, modern, up-to-date once, complete with green blackboards and yellow chalk.

Between planning and opening, it proved to be not quite large enough to accommodate those baby boomers who were surging into classrooms, and the decision was made to keep those two grades in the original building, the one that actually smelled like a school, old books, paste, construction paper that was reverting back to its original state. It had a trash room, where we deposited the remains of our brown-bag lunches. I remember this, because, after the second time that I accidentally threw my retainer away with my banana peel, my father took me there to search for it. I found it, and, needless to say, never lost it again.

But the fondest memory I have of that time is leaf houses. Every autumn, as the trees surrounding the girls’ playground (for boys and girls had separate play areas then), shed their leaves, we girls would divide ourselves into groups and devise the diagrams for our houses; the leaves marking off the dimensions of the rooms. I always made one to match the house I lived in. I never deviated, and, somehow, those others in my cheerful assembly always went along with me. We raked and swept and organized: kitchen, dining room, living room, sunporch, even a library. If we had time, we even added a front porch, that outlined by a narrower band of leaves.

We felt singularly grown up, and would invite other groups in to visit. I don’t remember a cross word; I don’t competition, though each of our groups was quite house-proud.

Of course, there was always one boy (Walter J. O’Neill III comes to mind) who would strike out from his side of the school, leading a band of ruffians to swoop in and destroy our diligent efforts. And, of course, we ran to the nuns, who, always a bit late, came to our rescue and swatted the hooligans on the top of their heads, boxed their ears, and confined them to the classroom for the next day. We then picked up our brooms, our rakes, and started again.

Gender roles, so easily assumed, never questioned.  Such quarantining of the sexes would never fly today. Yet, I miss those leaf house, and, just perhaps, some of us went on to be architects.


Why Facebook Has Helped Me Love My Birthday


Why Facebook Has Helped Me Love My Birthday

Despite the fact that my lovely daughter posted a picture of me at my most hip phase (taken slightly more than one year ago), and despite the fact that I have criticized Facebook posts and posters for being opinionated, intolerant, crass and narrow-minded (all of my blog followers excepted), I hereby proclaim that I love Facebook.

I celebrated a birthday this week, and hearing from so many people I care about, who are important to me, those I don’t have a chance to see or even interact with except on Facebook, brought front and center the breathtaking ease of electronic linkages. And connections, with those who have touched our lives, who touch our souls….isn’t that the core of life?

So here is a special thanks, to each of you I’ve been lucky enough to know, to each of you who has enriched my life, even if you’re not on Facebook. You made my birthday more than happy; you gave me a day filled with delight.