If You Aren’t Making A Mess, You Aren’t Doing It Right

My grandmother passed away last week. She’s been in a nursing home for about 5 years battling Parkinson’s Disease. Her condition was deteriorating rapidly this spring and it’s been a distraction, in part because I live so far away from her. I just returned from Wisconsin where I spent a week for the funeral and some much-needed family time. I shared the following during her funeral service:

I had a week to prepare this and I had a difficult time with it.The writer in me has pages and pages of memories and things to share about Grandma, but as Helen’s granddaughter, I hit a road block. How could I possibly sum up the life of someone as special as Grandma in a couple of paragraphs?

There are decades of holidays spent playing games at my grandparents dining room table. There are plenty of examples of Grandma’s ability to put my pieces back together in a way no one else could when the world got me down. How could I pick one or two things out of thousands to represent what Grandma meant to me?

I finally dug deeper – past the bear hugs and coffee cake that could cure any ill – and I found it.

Grandma and I were baking in her kitchen. I’m young, no older than 10. I don’t remember what we were making…probably cookies…and I don’t remember who walked into the kitchen and declared it a disaster area. I looked down at myself. I was wearing as much flour as I had managed to get into the cookie batter. Then I noticed Grandma’s kitchen floor (which was carpeted) and it looked like a flour bomb had gone off. I felt pretty bad.

But Grandma gave me a hug and shrugged it off, “If you aren’t making a mess, you aren’t doing it right.”

And she was right – Grandma’s cookies were always the best.

With the simplest statement, she made me feel better and taught me a life lesson. Decades later, she didn’t remember having said it, but that was her way. She loved us and supported us with no judgement. There was never an “I told you so.” She never criticized or stepped on our dreams. There was only Grandma, reaching down to pick us back up with hugs and encouragement to keep going forward.

I’m still a messy cook and I’ve made plenty of other messes: job messes, family messes, and friendship messes. But each time, I’ve learned something that helped me make better choices the next time.

Grandma taught me to live my life and not sit on the sidelines, afraid to make a mess of things. After all, you can clean the flour up off the floor and the cookies will still be delicious.


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