In Others’ Words: Knowing


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“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” ~Lucille Ball (1911-1989), comedian

When I was younger, I thought I had to do it all. I wasted a lot of time trying to be someone I wasn’t. Case in point: From my teens to twenties, I took three sewing classes before I realized that I cannot sew. For me, sewing is one huge math problem, only with material and a machine thrown in for added fun.

When I was 30, I gave away my sewing machine to a friend who needed one. I haven’t missed the wretched thing.

There was a certain freedom in watching my friend walk away with my sewing machine. Finally! No more feeling guilty that I wasn’t sewing like everyone else. Reality is: Not everyone else sews — I just convinced myself that every other woman in the world sewed.

As I embraced all the things I can’t do — crafts, couponing, cook gourmet meals — I discovered what I could do. In the process, I discovered the real me — not the me I thought I had to be.

In Your Words: What have you discovered your cannot do?

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  1. September 7, 2012, 12:42 am   /  Reply

    Like you, Beth, I can’t sew, or at least I don’t care to. Sewing frustrates me on my good days and makes me want to throw the machine through the window on the bad.

    I’m not much of a cook, I don’t sing nearly as well in reality as I do in my dreams, and I won’t be learning to play the piano. I also don’t see myself earning an Master’s or Ph.D.

    However, I’m content with my life. I can’t do it all, and that’s OK. What I do, I enjoy. =)

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 2:54 am   /  Reply

      Keli — I know what you can do: write delightful historical fiction. And you also are a most-encouraging friend.
      Why waste your time sewing or sitting in front of a piano?

  2. September 7, 2012, 4:14 am   /  Reply

    I cannot flamenco, there is no bra ON THE PLANET that would allows this activity to be legal. Anywhere.
    I cannot skate. I am Canadian. This IS a problem.
    I cannot ski. See above.
    I cannot do a somersault. I’m 49, like it matters anymore?
    I cannot do math. I was banned by my husband from helping the kids with math homework. HE was banned from helping with anything to do with any language issues.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 5:48 am   /  Reply

      But you can do humor, Jennifer — in nice, witty sound bites.
      And that whole “don’t help the kids with math homework” thing? A couple of years ago my youngest was sitting at the kitchen counter and said, “Hey, Mom?”
      And then she stopped …
      So I said, “What do you need?”
      Her reply: “Nothing. I almost asked you to help me with my math homework.”


      • Bernadette DesChamps
        September 7, 2012, 7:55 am   /  Reply

        Hahaha! You both made me laugh. My FAVORITE thing to do!

        • Beth Vogt
          September 7, 2012, 8:16 am   /  Reply

          What? What’s your favorite thing to do? Sew?

  3. September 7, 2012, 5:37 am   /  Reply

    Haha, I can’t sew either. Ask the Brazilian foreign exchange student, wherever he is, that had to help me with my final project for the silly “Survival Skills” class we had to take in high school. Pretty sure I decided then and there sewing was not a skill I needed for survival. 🙂

    I also can’t do “numbers” all that well. I still remember sitting in pre-calc in high school and having this realization…wow, I’m bad at this. I’d never struggled in school before…and it still bugs me when it gets to monthly report time at my job and I have to labor over numbers and spreadsheets. Not. my. thing.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 5:49 am   /  Reply

      I think we may have the beginnings of the “Can’t Sew & We’re Good with That” Club.”


  4. September 7, 2012, 6:30 am   /  Reply

    I’m not graceful or very physically coordinated, but I have stamina–good with that. I can manage somersaults, but not often these days. Glad to major on the things I can do well. Gave away my sewing machine and do miss it now for repairs–may have to buy a standby…

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 6:33 am   /  Reply

      You have more get-up-and-let’s-get-going than most of my friends, Dee!

  5. September 7, 2012, 6:58 am   /  Reply

    I cannot sew either. Not even a button. My husband had the needle and thread kit, but ssshhh…he probably wouldn’t want anyone to know that. 😉

    I can’t run and love it. In fact, I can’t really run at all. I slow jog. A very slow slow jog.

    I can’t sing like an angel. I can sing like a gnarled old witch. Comes in handy in October. But only for that one month.

    I can’t be an animal lover. I’ve tried. I now have a dog that won’t run away or die. Sounds harsh. Refer to the “I can’t” part of this sentence.

    Loved this post, Beth! 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:13 am   /  Reply

      I will add to my “can’t” list too:
      I can’t do the splits.
      But, then again, do I really want to?
      I can’t get myself to say, “Sure, I’ll jump out of that perfectly good airplane.”
      And I can’t get over my fear of spiders. Hates ’em. Hates ’em.

  6. September 7, 2012, 7:01 am   /  Reply

    What fun! I love the idea of embracing who we are–and aren’t. I’m good with cooking–in fact I enjoy it–cleaning, laundry, and gardening when I have time. But ironing is not one of my best skills. That’s why God made dry cleaners. 😉

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:13 am   /  Reply

      I will do your ironing if you will come put in a garden for me, Kathy.

  7. September 7, 2012, 7:14 am   /  Reply

    Ironing! Yup, even blogged on it last week. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:13 am   /  Reply

      Wow … I need to read that blog post, Sandra!

      • September 7, 2012, 3:57 pm   /  Reply

        Gladly, Beth 🙂 As bad as I am at gardening, I’m much worse at ironing.

  8. September 7, 2012, 7:26 am   /  Reply

    Add me to the “Can’t Sew & We’re Good With That” club! With a daughter I had dreams of sewing cute little outfits. But no! I never could “get it.” I also can’t coupon, be responsible for food for any event (weekday dinners at home stress me enough!), or scrapbook along with other things I have finally given myself permission to release!

    Great post and a reminder that we should get freedom from those things we think we SHOULD be able to do and concentrate on the things we can do and appreciate who we really are!

    Such a fun post Beth 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:15 am   /  Reply

      Oh, yes — let’s hear it for all the craft-challenged gals!
      I have scrapbooking stuff in my closet for my “I ought to” years. I mean, they were “want to” years too … but … um … yeah. Fail.

  9. September 7, 2012, 7:32 am   /  Reply

    I cannot be perfect all the time. There is no shame in asking for help. There was such freedom in putting away my Wonder Woman mentality and determining to let God be God…because I can’t really do His job either.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:15 am   /  Reply


  10. Jeanne
    September 7, 2012, 7:46 am   /  Reply

    Beth, fun post. I like discovering who I am by what I can’t do. 🙂 Let’s see, I can’t sew (yes, I’m a charter member of that club). I can’t run, or jog. I can’t iron, unless you count ironing wrinkles into clothing. My husband does his own ironing. I can’t draw a circle. I can’t go on anything that goes round and round, especially if it’s also moving in another direction.

    I love reading all the comments here today. 🙂

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 8:16 am   /  Reply

      Oh! I can’t even draw a recognizable stick figure, Jeanne!!

  11. September 7, 2012, 8:48 am   /  Reply

    Can’t? What does that word mean?

    Does. Not. Compute.

    Oh wait, just kidding. Sorta.

    I love this, because I DO tend to get frustrated at myself for what I can’t do…or don’t like to do. Like, so many of my friends have impeccably clean houses. Mine is okay, but I’d rather be doing other things than clean.

    And I wish that I could dance better. I do alright, but I’ll never be the triple threat (sing, act, dance) I always wanted to be because of my dancing. Sigh.

    I also can’t be petite, no matter how much I envy a few of my best friends.

    But that’s okay. I like your idea about not feeling guilty for the stuff we aren’t good at or can’t do. I like it very much.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 10:26 am   /  Reply

      That whole “petite” thing?
      Yeah, I overshot my dream of being five-foot-nothing by almost eight inches.

  12. September 7, 2012, 10:07 am   /  Reply

    Permission to not do what I’m not good at. I love it.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 7, 2012, 10:25 am   /  Reply

      Permission granted.

  13. September 9, 2012, 9:57 am   /  Reply

    That is a brilliant quote!! It caught my attention right away in my Google Reader.

    I have learned I cannot be type of Mom who keeps a baby book. I cannot do interior decorating (I’ve lived in my home for five years now and we still have empty walls). I cannot scrapbook. I cannot cook gourmet meals or feed my child all-natural food. We’re all about preservatives in this household. 😉

    • Beth Vogt
      September 9, 2012, 8:41 pm   /  Reply

      Take heart, Katie –there is so much you are good at. I am one of your biggest fans!

  14. September 9, 2012, 10:00 am   /  Reply

    OH! And I agree with Kathy and Sandra. I cannot iron (well, I probably can….but sheesh, who has the time? Just toss that puppy back in a dryer for ten minutes) and I cannot garden, as much as I love the idea of it.

    Jennifer Major CRACKS ME UP! Especially the bra comment.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 9, 2012, 8:41 pm   /  Reply

      I love Jennifer’s razor-sharp, honest sense of humor!

  15. September 9, 2012, 1:34 pm   /  Reply

    Oh, how I love this! (and I love Lucille Ball, too!) As I inch closer to being 40, this incredible knowledge is becoming more of a reality in my life. It’s OK if I don’t coupon or sew or do all things crafty. God made me who I am and I need to find out who “me” is…not someone else. Awesome post, Beth!

    • Beth Vogt
      September 9, 2012, 8:42 pm   /  Reply

      Christi —
      Agreed. Agreed.

  16. September 9, 2012, 10:18 pm   /  Reply

    Crochet in a straight line. I end up with funny, curved scarves. Still it helped me through a difficult time to keep my hands busy.

    • Beth Vogt
      September 9, 2012, 10:28 pm   /  Reply

      Oh, I understand. I tossed the needles — crochet, knitting, whatever — long before I gave away my sewing machine.

  17. September 19, 2012, 4:41 pm   /  Reply

    I hate to be the odd one in the group, but I LOVE sewing and needlework and crocheting! And I’m darn good at math – I’m an engineer, after all!
    What I can’t do is cook – hot dogs are a mainstay at my house. My kids will never miss home cooking.
    I can’t keep anything green alive – unless it’s mold.
    I’ve never been called Grace; I can’t walk down the hall without tripping on a chunk of air.
    Ten years ago I said “I can’t write.” I still can’t – But God can!

  18. October 7, 2012, 11:07 pm   /  Reply

    […] Vogt wrote a post a few weeks ago that featured a quote from Lucille Ball. “I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” And the […]

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