It would be a mistake to hire a 4-year-old to be your carpenter.  Cute, maybe, but still a mistake.  (Pictures by Marylin Warner)

It would be a mistake to hire a 4-year-old to be your carpenter. Cute, maybe, but still a mistake. (Pictures by Marylin Warner)



Using the wrong fork is  embarrassing, but it's a minor mistake.

Using the wrong fork is embarrassing, but it’s a minor mistake.


Texting and speeding and driving the wrong way is a serious mistake.

Texting or speeding and driving the wrong way can be a very serious mistake.

Years ago, before my dad’s Alzheimer’s and my mother’s dementia, they were included in a tour of one of the 3M facilities. When I asked how they’d liked it, my dad told me details from a businessman’s perspective. My mom’s perspective was different.

She remembered ACM—the initials of Acrylate Copolymer Microspheres—from the tour. She nicknamed them “A Creative Mistake,” and they became an inspiration.

In 1968 3M intended to create a super strong adhesive for the aerospace industry. But there was a mistake in the plan, and the end result was an incredibly weak product.  Years later, the reworked mistake became Press’n Peel, a low-tack, reusable pressure-sensitive adhesive.  The final name was of the product was Post-It notes, which became very successful.

Writer Oscar Wilde said, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”  Or as my mother and I would have paraphrased it: Post-It is the name of mistakes that became successes because somebody didn’t give up.”   We agreed Post-Its should be a standard tool for writers, to stick on pages needing better ideas and corrections…and also serve as a reminder not to give up.

Some mistakes have tragic consequences, and I certainly am not making light of  life-changing, heart-breaking mistakes. For this post, however, I salute the discouraging but not serious mistakes we all make that can be redeemed or redefined if we don’t give up.

Mary Pickford, an early motion picture actress and one of the pioneers of Hollywood, became a co-founder of United Artists film studios. Along the way, she faced many problems, and this was her advice. “If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. 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.”

I can’t resist concluding with a “mistake” made by a man who decided to shoot an armadillo. (Can’t you see “mistake” written all over this already?)   He didn’t realize how tough the hide was, and the bullet bounced off the armadillo and hit his mother-in-law. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but this reminds me of something my mother often said: “Some mistakes require a whole lot more than just saying ‘Ooops’ to fix them.”



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, special quotations

63 responses to “Ooops!

  1. And for one of those really big ‘mistakes’, there is a National Sorry Day on 26 May. On the lighter side, and sticking to sticky things, my sister was trying to super glue-fix a china teaspoon. The glue went through her protective gloves and stuck the glove onto her skin. To add insult to injury the glue wouldn’t stick the spoon back together. When we researched how to get the glove off her thumb, we saw awful tales of people getting super glue on their eyeballs. Horrors. Oops, that wasn’t very light-hearted either. 😉

    • I didn’t realize May 26 is National Sorry Day, Gallivanta, so I’m glad you told me. It fits right in.
      I read that during a half-marathon, a runner had such a bad blister on the side of his foot that he didn’t think he could finish. Supposedly a bystander was equipped to help her running friend if that happened, and she gave the runner a mini-tube of Super Glue. He pulled off his shoe, glued the open wound closed and blew on it to help it dry, then put his shoe back on and finished the race.
      How did you get the rubber glove unstuck to your sister’s hand?

      • Now that’s an interesting use for super-glue. My sister eventually, after much rubbing, got most of the glove and glue off using nail polish remover. It was a low acetone nail polish remover which is probably why it took a long time to work. One is supposed to use a proper acetone nail polish remover.

      • I’ll remember that in case I get my fingers stuck together, Gallivanta. A nurse once told me that a form of super glue is actually used to close some surgical wounds and cuts that can’t be sutured, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t the craft-type super glue.

  2. I wonder whether the man was perhaps a better shot than he was given credit for. Maybe he was just preparing his defence for the jury “I didn’t know how tough the hide was.”
    Along with your Mom’s advice always seemed to come a big dollop of humor. It makes things much more palatable.
    xxx Massive Hugs Marylin xxx

    • Thanks, David. My mom’s advice has almost always been delivered with a smile.
      As for the “better shot” possibility, you are not the first to mention this possibility. I haven’t heard what happened or if the mother-in-law pressed charges, though with a shooting I don’t think she’d have to in order to bring in the law. I keep watching the news for more details.
      Massive Hugs back to you!

  3. Thanks. Wise words. Love the Mary Pickford quote! Regards Thom.

  4. juliabarrett

    I was going to say the same thing David did. 😉 I agree with your mother and Mary Pickford wholeheartedly. Yes, the failure would be in staying down. The mistake is in the getting up.

    • If the shooter is charged and it goes to trial, Julia, you and David and I will be the skeptics on the jury!
      Knocked down but not out is another of my favorite lessons about getting back up and trying again.

  5. How would we live without post it notes? Thank you for the history lesson Marylin. I didn’t know they were a creative mistake!
    And that tidbit about the armadillo is just too funny. Have a happy Memorial Day weekend.
    xo Joanne

    • If you ever saw the comedy chick-flick ROMMEY AND MICHELLE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION (or a title close to that) the two girls who feel like failures at their h.s. reunion tell their peers that they invented Post-It notes. I love how there’s been so many references connected to Post-Its, and the truth behind it is my favorite reminder that even Big Mistakes aren’t necessarily final.
      Happy Memorial Day weekend to you, too, Joanne.

  6. Claudia

    Nice post giving us the other side of mistakes to think about. I have so many oops in my life. Some I did not even recognize at the time! I love Maya Angelou’s “We do better when we know better.”

  7. Again, I find here much wisdom and humor too.

    An anecdote to add to the armadillo story: An armadillo rooting around at night drove us crazy because it was destroying the lawn. Cliff got out his 22 and tried to shoot it to no avail. Eventually, we had to call in a game expert. I took a photo of Cliff holding the critter, a photo which he photo-shopped to excess making it almost as long as a full-grown alligator, which he sent to relatives who took the “trick” at face value. In short, we did get some mileage out of the failure to get rid of this creature on our own.

    • Oh, that’s so funny, Marian. Photo-shop is a great tool, but it sounds like your husband outdid himself y making the armadillo the size of an alligator. At least his attempts to shoot it on his own didn’t end up wounding you! 😉

  8. Diana Stevan

    What a delightful post! I always enjoy reading your perspective Marylin. So true about mistakes. When I was a therapist, I often pointed out that was why pencils had erasers. We all make mistakes.

    And your mother’s clever re-assignment of those three letters ACM. It must be so hard to witness how her illness has affected her reasoning. If she was aware, I’m sure she’d be so proud of you and how you are sharing her life with others.

    • Oh, thank you Diana. I try to share her life, and write it down so her great-grandchildre will know what an exceptional woman she was before the dementia, and how she’s continued to be calm and kind and gracious even with the dementia.

  9. I agree with Mary Pickford and your mother about making creative mistakes. We all make mistakes and hope that we can fix them or make something special out of them like Post-It Notes.
    Have a great memorial day .

  10. I love that Mary Pickford quote and had it hanging on the wall of my Job Search classroom in Canada. The participants in my program loved it. If we learn from our mistakes, we are already successful. Great post.

    • Thank you, Darlene. I’ve only seen one old movie with Mary Pickford in it, so I was very happy to know that the same woman was also a driving force in creating United Artists and trying again and again to make a difference and correct mistakes.

  11. One of the most interesting of creative mistakes, what 3M is now known for – great story.

  12. I can’t remember who said it, but it was domethong like “if you haven’t made mistakes you haven’t done anything”.

    I love that old story of how roast pork was discovered. unfortunately it took several barns burning down before someone realized they could use a small purpose built fire.

    Mistakes or unforeseen results often result in new discovery if we just keep open minds.

    Great post. I only noticed one mistake 🙂 I wonder how many I will find in this response as soon as I press send?

    • My husband Jim noticed the mistake immediately after I posted it. I was going to go back and correct it, then decided to wait and see who saw in first. You’re the winner, Rod! I think of it as the American Indian weaver in another post, who always made one mistake intentionally.
      And now I know how roast port was discovered! 😉

  13. This made me smile – wisdom with wit is always enjoyable. If I had a mother-in-law I think I’d go out and buy an armadillo. Ooops!

    • Better to buy an armadillo than a gun if you have a mother-in-law around, I suppose, Andrew!
      If we knew what happened to the son-in-law, it would probably make a very interesting story.

  14. Using post it notes will have a whole new meaning for me, now., Marylin. I chuckled at the armadillo story. 😊

    • Lynne, I still use Post-it notes to stick on my writing pages and indicate places to correct or ideas to add. I remember how the notes began as a mistake and yet turned out so well, and it gives me writing energy! 😉

  15. Your mother’s perspective always gives me something to think about, Marylin. I’m thankful for people’s creative mistakes. I couldn’t live without post-its…especially the florescent ones.

  16. I’m glad that “post-it” mistake happened!

  17. So am I, Elaine. I’m always inspired by mistakes-turned-into-successes, and this one resonates strongly with me. I’ve used Post-It notes for all my writing corrections and notes and ideas ever since I learned how the notes were so much more successful after they failed their first creation.

  18. Great reminder – I think “mistakes” are God’s intentional contribution to our learning process! Loving that quote from Mary Pickford – I think I’ll set it to a picture for FBF’s facebook page! Hope you’re enjoying the holiday weekend, Marylin!

    • We are, Shel, though doing so many activities with friends and family for a long weekend can require a day or two of R&R afterwards!
      My mom was never upset by our mistakes ~ as long as we learned from them, corrected them as much as possible, and especially as long as our mistakes didn’t hurt someone else. Beyond that, she thought mistakes were a normal part of living and learning. 🙂

  19. Fear of failure can be so debilitating! This post could be very helpful to people who struggle with that. Mistakes are inevitable — and an important part of teaching wisdom. Having a sense of humor about it helps, as does looking at other “mistakes” which turn into successes, like the Post-it Note.

    I think doing something creative helps me learn not to fear mistakes. Today I made a terrarium because I wanted to create a little memory-thingy of the knick-knacks I inherited from my grandmother, which she had for as long as I can remember. (4 ceramic figurines–2 different mice, a pixie, and a tiny Bambi). Nothing worked out as I imagined it would, but I used my mistakes creatively, and everyone agrees that the outcome was adorable. I’ll post a picture of it on your Facebook wall so you can see it.

    Now I have to make one for my mother. I’m happy to do so; it only took me an hour.

    And I have so much material left over, I’ll probably need to go into the terrarium business. 🙂

    • Tracy, you are a great example of always making the most of every situation and possibility! It won’t surprise me at all if you do go into the terrarium business, at the same time you write a novel and a cookbook and do so many other things, too.

    • Andrew, thank you so much for sending me this site! There is so much information–and such possibilities–and 2017 isn’t that far away for the trials. It really does carry the seed of hope for Alzheimer’s.

  20. You can only imagine how much I howled with laughter at your final paragraph about the armadillo. Oh Marylin, that’s brilliant!
    Mistakes are what make us. I’m full of them but I think it helps me to learn how, what or where to do things better the next time around.

    • That’s how I reacted, too, Jenny…poor armadillo, poor mother-in-law, but oh-so-funny mistake. In this case, his mistake certainly will be “what makes him,” especially if his mother-in-law presses charges. 😉

  21. Jane Thorne

    Everyday ‘oopps’ are cracks that let the light in….I loved this post. Shooting an armadillo really?? Hugs and much love to you. xXx

  22. Jim

    Armadillos are incredible–nature’s little tanks. Are they one of evolution’s “oops” critters? Sometimes we just need to sit back and marvel at the diversity of life-forms on our planet.

  23. I can only imagine what my mom would say about this, honey. Although I don’t think she was especially a fan or armadillos, she was never a hunter, and her own mother, who shot a rabbit when she was learning to shoot a gun, broke down and cried. I can only imagine what my mom and my grandmother would say to the man who tried to shoot an armadillo and ended up shooting his mother-in-law. 🙂

  24. I loved your mom’s creativity in nicknaming ACM “A Creative Mistake. And your grandson’s power tool photo is priceless, Marylin. And it so important not to give up when we make mistakes–big or small. 🙂

    • I agree, Tracy. For me, though, it’s always been easier to quickly jump in and try again after a failure than to stop, figure it out and really learn from it before I try again. Ah, the lessons keep coming! 😉

  25. Love this post…or should I say ‘Post-It’, ha 😉 What a great invention they are, I had no idea of their beginnings.
    Love Mary Pickford’s quote too, but best of all I love that of yours and your mom’s.
    As for the idiot who tried to shoot an armadillo, well, I am speechless…plenty of mother in law jokes about that, I’m sure 😉
    Your delightful post reminds me of the best boss I ever had, of the best job I ever had, which happens to have been working as PA/Trainee Paralegal at a law firm in Los Angeles, way back in 1980. I was as a ‘green’ as they come, but he told me this: ‘I know you will make mistakes, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that you don’t make the same mistake twice.” I’ve never forgotten that, and his wisdom has whispered to me throughout my life.
    I hope you and your family had a super Memorial Day weekend dear Marylin 🙂

  26. What an excellent boss, Sherri! That’s a good way to forge ahead, assured that it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake…just don’t make the same mistake twice. I wish there were more bosses like that.
    We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, even with all the rain. I hope you and your family had sun and fun.

  27. Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    A creative mistake
    Today I am sharing a lovely post published by Marilyn Warner on her blog Things I Want To Tell My Mother. Her post Ooops! is just a short one but it includes some mighty fine reminders:
    • that mistakes can become successes if one doesn’t give up
    • that mistakes are only failures if one chooses them to be
    The ability to accept mistakes as inevitable, and to embrace the messages in them as stepping stones to success are important attitudes for learning at any stage. (And as Marilyn says, we are not talking here about life-changing, heart-breaking mistakes with tragic consequences, just the little ones that can be redefined if we don’t give up.)

  28. Pingback: A creative mistake | Norah Colvin

  29. ACM, you’ve given me a new acronym, Marylin. I’ve had quite a few of these in my life. Sometimes they turned into Post-It Notes. Sometimes they just stayed stuck.

    But then I just have to apply the mantra I used with my students: “If you can’t make it right, make it interesting.”

    • I’m glad my post gave you the new acronym, ACM, Shirley, and I thank you for my new mantra: If I can’t make it right, I’ll at least make it interesting. 🙂 I’m still smiling at this.

  30. Very funny post Marylin, but with wisdom as always – I like Mary Pickford’s view on what failure really is. Without mistakes we can’t move on and grow so they should be welcomed – though maybe not so much at the time 🙂

  31. I like how you wrote this post out with serious and not so serious mistakes people could make or have made, Marylin. I love the child in his carpenter wardrobe. I also think it is true, some mistakes create brilliant inventions. I think staying down when life knocks you down, is a mistake. There are always more chances, paraphrasing the great example of Mary Pickford’s words. She was a fine actress who knew how to ‘turn a phrase.’ Smiles.

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