Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!


Like me, you have probably devoted most of your adult life to pursuits for which you have a talent or aptitude. Life in general, and childhood schooling in particular, have a way of pointing us in that general direction.

Over the years, I am sure you have discovered a long list of things you are good at doing; whether it may be adding up columns of numbers, working with mechanical things or even a way with words.

Most of us also have an alternate list of shortcomings. These are the kind of things that you might want to skip mentioning in a job interview: "Yeah, I am not much of a morning person." or " I crack under pressure."

I became well aware of my limitations early on. The childhood rhyme used to teach young children to tie shoelaces which begins "Left over right and under..." was lost on me.

I was the last person in my primary school class to learn to tie their shoelaces.

I am dyslectic- left and right, b and d- are things easily confused in my feeble brain. In those early school days, I also lagged behind my classmates when it came to reading, verbal and language skills. (Ironically, I have always loved reading. A trip to the bookstore or library is right up there with a trip to the local nursery on my list of favourite things to do on a Sunday afternoon.)

Early on, I learned to compensate for being a slow reader by teaching myself to skim texts in search of the answers. Much of schoolwork is memorization, and I excelled at that. A series of drawings to illustrate my school reports was always good for a few extra marks. Despite my handicaps, I always managed to be an average to above average student.

In my working, life I have focused my energies on the things in which I excel: creative and artistic pursuits. 

But then... every once in a while, I crash head-first into something that reminds me of my limitations.

This fall, I decided to take a college accounting class. 

It's not that I have late-in-life ambition to be an accountant; I merely want to be able to be able to manage to books of a small business. (Most small business accounting software packages do not require accounting skills, but I thought an accounting class might give me an extra degree of confidence going forward.)

I knew going in that this was not going to be an easy class to take, but I had no idea just how truly hard it was going to be.

I suck at accounting! Big time!

Last Saturday, we had a mid-term exam and I worked really, really hard to get ready to for the two-and-a-half-hour-marathon-of-a-test. 

Depressingly enough, I am sure I either failed or came darn close to it.

Failing as an adult is just as hard as failing as a kid. I have been beating myself up for days over my dismal performance on that darn test.  

"Joe Smith works as a security guard in a hospital and earns a wage of $8.80 per hour. Smith's payroll deductions include withheld income tax of 10% of total earnings, pension of $180, unemployment insurance amounting to $300, and a monthly deduction of $45 for a charitable contribtution. Calculate Joe Smith's gross pay and net pay assuming he worked 172 hours during the month."


I get lost right after "Joe Smith works as a security guard in a hospital..."

I bet Joe is one happy man knowing I don't work in his hospital's payroll offices, because I have no idea how much to pay him, gross or net.

At this point, it is pretty safe to say that my ship is sinking. 

It is too late in the term to drop the Accounting class. Even if I could drop out, I am not sure I would.

I am determined to persevere, even if I do end up with a big fat "F". I am just going to have to work hard, keep bailing water and hope for a miracle: a shining beacon of light at the end of a very dark accounting tunnel.

At the very least, I hope to salvage the basic understanding of accounting principals that I set out to learn in the first place. 

What about you? 

Have you ever had to struggle to learn or do something that you are just plain not good at?

Are you wondering why I have shown these particular plants in this post? 

The first plant is a Mallow or Malvia sylvestris that I photographed in mid-October. These Mallows continued to bloom right up to the end of October. It seems that this old fashioned cottage flower has amazing staying power, even when the temperatures start to dip in late fall. 

A short-lived biennial, and a cousin to hollyhocks, this pretty self-seeder has crossed the street to our yard from my neighbour's garden. 

The plucky pink chrysanthemums are growing all along a chain link fence in another neighbour's yard. 

We have even had two hard frosts. Here it is the 21st of November and they are still blooming their little hearts out.

Now that's persistence!

P. S. The post title "Never give up! Never surrender!" comes from the 1999 movie "Galaxy Quest" starting Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman. In the movie, the washed-up cast of an old Star Trek-like television show have a real life encounter with aliens from another planet. I am no Trekkie, but I have been married to one long enough to think that this movie is hilarious.


  1. Lol, I was half-tempted to work it out, then remembered I dropped maths because I didn't like it.
    I was looking in our garden earlier, the dianthus are still flowering, one of the lilies has a few blooms that survived the frost, and a little patio rose is still looking pretty. It is such a pleasure spotting these last blooms.
    Thank you for stopping by my blog.

  2. Maths.....that horrible stuff with tables, logarithms and angles...."shudder!". I was pretty bad at it. But the above problem is more like common sense to out how much he earns by multiplying hours by hourly rate and then deduct the other bits from it. Love the flowers..especially the mallow. Good luck with the course

  3. I couldn't resist and had to figure it out (using a calculator of course). I hated math in school. "why do I need to learn this stuff, I'm never going to use it". Famous last words. But it's never been my strongpoint. I took an accounting class a number of years ago so that I could do the books myself for my small business. Failed the class, could never get the whole debit/credit thing right - I mean really - a credit is a credit!

    Good luck finishing the class. And pat yourself on the back for taking the class in the first place.

  4. Math and computer programming were my two nightmare inducing subjects. To this day I pass off anything computerish to my IT husband. I think part of growing up is accepting what you're not good at and finding someone else to fill in the gap!

  5. Maths the bane of my life, I was always a f student... Seemed to be able to get away throughout school knowing very little about the subject. Think I messed around in class to hide my fear of being found out. Although I enjoyed other subjects I wish i'd had a good grounding in maths. Congratulations that you have the guts to take on something that is challenging. Haha there is a song which says we should do one thing every day that scares us... thumbs up

  6. I admire your determination in tackling something that you know you will struggle with. My problem was French when taking our O level exams at 16. Knowing that I had the oral exam the next day, on my birthday, I made up a story about party, presents etc, and gave the examiner no chance to ask me any of her questions, I just chatted on and on in French, having learnt it all by heart the night before, yes I passed, hope you do too!

  7. I bet you will get a much better grade on your final exam than you are expecting. Love the photos of the plants. Plants that keep blooming make us smile, while the ones that wither at the first frost disappoint us, so, yes, there is a lot to be said for persistence! There are many things I do well, and many things I don't do well. I love math and have always excelled at it, but I absolutely hate accounting, and for some reason it just doesn't compute in my brain the same way.

  8. I wish you the best of luck with your course. I actually work in a profession where most people are extroverts, that involves a lot of assertiveness and public speaking - but I am really an introvert. Yet somehow I've been able to carry on for many years, and have achieved a modest degree of success.

  9. I think everyone has areas that they have difficulties with. I think you deserve an A just for attemting to take an accounting class,(-: I don't have a facility for foreign languages but I continue to study french even though I will never by fluent and speaking in public turns me absolutely terrified. Your photos are glorious! Happy Thanksgiving.

  10. You're not trying to become an accountant so I'm not sure the grade is really relevant. I would just take the course, get what I can get out of it, and not worry about it. My mallow always blooms now too.

  11. I loved this post! It reminds me of having to revise for a SCUBA diving exam where a basic knowledge of physics was required. Everyone else in the class was nodding sagely and asking appropriate questions and I hadn't even heard of Boyle's Law. I still think it's good to try new things, get out of your comfort zone and give it a go... it's only at this point you can truly say you hate something! LOL!!!

  12. Hi, if you like to be an accountant then you can take another test and you'll pass it, tenacity and desire!
    I like the flowers on the last photo.

  13. I have always been pretty hopeless in math. I don't like it at all. I can't do any handicrafts either. Languages have always been quite easy, especially grammar.

  14. Great post and I'll join you on hating accounting. Life's too short to spend time on things that don't fill us with some type of joy. There's a certain amount of blah in every job we choose, but notice how much tolerance we have for the hard or boring stuff when we're doing something we love? Kudos for facing the challenge!

  15. I enjoyed your post, anyway you are very good in writing! Maths and physics are not my cup of tea, all what looks technic I think terrible. I also hate to read directions of use of mobil phones, television and all other electrical apparatus. But I can use a computer and I found out all by myself. Sometimes things go wrong but mostly with trial and error it turns out all right. But I'm good in calculating I think. Furthermore, love reading, visiting bookshops and garden nurseries like you.

  16. I recognized the title immediately and had to check out this post. I love love love that movie even though I've never been a real fan of star trek. You were talking about what things we aren't good at and I was thinking math math math, OH GOD IT'S A WORD PROBLEM!!! I tried and tried during school to get a grasp of math but it just never took. Word problems in particular have a way of striking fear into my heart. How really courageous of you to try and take on and master something you weren't comfortable with. Whatever mark you get in this class it will be worth it just knowing what a big hurdle it was for you to sign up.

  17. Oh my, you had my heart racing and hands sweating with the addition of the word problem to your post! I HATE math and especially word problems ... took me back to school and all that horrible anxiety. I say let the accounting software handle it! Good for you and your persistence. I admire you for taking the class. I'm with you ... time is much better spent in a garden or book store :)

  18. Maths and me just don't get on, never have, never will. English is my thing, always has been, always will be. I admire your tenacity with the accounts thing, but it is all double-dutch to me.

  19. What a wonderful post this is!
    You hang in there, Jennifer.
    For me, all throughout school (K-12), it was math that I just did not "get."
    Somehow, somewhere I did get it, and loved it. Now I teach it.
    Strange how life just twists and turns, but also lots of fun too.

  20. You may suck at accounting, but you grow beautiful mallows. My M. sylvestris lasts about a week, and is pretty but brief. How do you get yours to go on until October??

    I admire your pluck and determination. My worst skill mismatch was public speaking, and I ended up in a job where I had to give speeches to large assemblies of union workers. They were not very particular about pretty speeches, but were more than a little hostile. I sucked at it.

    I like math word problems, you can put more in your blog posts and I will be happy.

  21. I am a rotten photographer, math confuses me, and it wasn't until I became a teacher that I learned how to do a word problem. I'm excellent at getting lost and am the U Turn Queen of our family. I can't process most verbal directions and need to read/see them for them to make sense. Hang in there. I wish I was there to help you with your class. :o) In turn you could teach me how to take better pictures.

  22. Even if you suck at accounting you write very well and take beautiful photographs, as well as having a real eye for design :) Love that pink mum. Fellow Trekkie here.

    Anyway, I hope the test turned out better than you thought!

  23. Hi Jennifer, greetings from Northern Ontario. I'm just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris

  24. So true! Never give up = true definition of determination. I loved the pictures of flowers to prove the point!

  25. Jennifer,i'm just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks, now I'll be visiting your blog.

  26. Jennifer, you are not alone. I am not good at learning the way we are forced to learn in school. I need to try, do, figure it out. Not read and apply what I learn. I think you will get the hang of accounting by using the accounting software and actually doing the work, for real. Art and gardening are about getting your hands dirty and doing.

  27. Jennifer I got so engrossed in your story I had to do a double take on your plants.and very pretty they are. Joe Smith gave me a sore head. Afraid I have spent too much concentration on the negatives in my life to think how good I may be at anything.

  28. Like many others I suck at math too. However I am quite capable of doing my husband's books with Quickbooks. Mind you his accounts are pretty standard and not that complicated. I am certain you can manage the books of a small business!

  29. Poor Joe. I was thinking he has too many deductions for his paltry pay, but I would not want to be the one to do the calculations!

  30. Good for you for sticking with the accounting class, Jennifer, no matter how frustrating it may be! I was always a good student in school, and I'd probably be able to figure out Joe's pay after a lot of time and scribbling. But there are so many other things I can't do--I can't draw or paint, for example, and wish I had your artistic eye. I've also been taking guitar lessons this fall--a lifelong dream--which have been much harder than I thought. I'm still struggling to play something that resembles a song...any song:)

  31. Jennifer girl !
    This was a wonderful post (we get to understand a little more about YOU!)
    First .. your new header picture is beautiful ! .. the pictures through out the post are awesome and I am such a fan of that mallow : ) it is so striking even if some people think it is "common" ? LOL
    You struggles sound very much like my own .. way back when they made us take "intelligent tests aka IQ tests" .. I swear I shrank inside myself tighter than possible .. each question I looked at seemed to me to have so many possible answers .. it was a nightmare for me .. when we moved from a tiny place in NS to Ottawa and they made me skip grade 8 to enter high school so I could be with my sister (I was so terribly shy) .. it took two years for me to drag my marks up to A & B levels .. and to enter university at 17 was far too young.
    I understand how you feel at war with this course .. ironically my daughter-in-law is working on her degree in accounting while she works in the accounting department at the university she is at .. I don't know how she does it .. 4 teenagers and so much on her plate.
    Having said that it doesn't mean you have it easy at all Jennifer .. it shakes us up when we think we are not doing well at all ... and how on earth can we get through this .. I think you are going to be fine .. just take deep breaths shake yourself a bit and plod on girl ! You CAN finish this!!
    This coming from some one that dropped their economics course in uni because it was at 8 AM Monday morning ?? LOL
    Joy ;-)

  32. PS .. The Provence lavender amazes me Jennifer .. I started to grow them a few years ago and thought they would be annuals .. but they kept coming back which was wonderful .. how ever , having said that .. these winters have been so hard on our gardens with no snow for protection .. I can't count on the lavender for sure .. but I will keep replacing it because I love it so !
    Yes .. Sun and dry conditions are the best thing for them .. plus soil that isn't too rich !

  33. Jennifer, just like you I would class myself as creative and artistic and likewise my mathematical brain has failed to develop. Maybe our brains have under compensated on that side to allow for all the creativity? You show such determination to put yourself through that course, I think it is fantastic that you have tried no matter what the outcome. Good luck.

    PS Your mallow is gorgeous

  34. You must have a very good photographic/visual memory. I am like you too I struggle with which is left and right in childhood.

  35. Wow! Good for you for even attempting such a course. It's tough to step outside of our comfort zone.I think you can pat yourself on the back for completing it no matter what your marks.

  36. Jennifer - good for you to take a challenging course like accounting. In school, I too excelled at the artistic but was very poor at anything to do with numbers. I still have nightmares where I can't find my classroom, but when I do - it's always math class and there's always a test :( :( :(
    Glad you still had this lovely mallow blooming! Enjoy it while it's still silly enough not to succumb to the cold and frost.

  37. Wow...I have worked with kids for many years and your story touched my heart! Your experience in the classroom and how you over came your difficulties in reading just go to show that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to! So maybe accounting isn't your thing (heck I couldn't solve that Joe problem either!) look at everything else you have accomplished!

  38. I spent 13 years in the ad agency world as an account supervisor before I got paralyzed. You had to manage clients under budget constraints, hand hold creative types who resist client changes, be a good editor and manage their budget. It was many times overwhelming and set me up for many bouts of depression. One cannot be good in all these areas.

    I learned on the job, I suck at details. I'm now my own boss as a writer so the pressure cooker job is over. Thank God. But I'm still bad at details but manage my weaknesses. Google Calendar is my salvation. Also I sucked at accounting. LIFO vs FIFO and the like. But creativity is my strength and a blessing.

  39. Last few days I was looking for exact this information from here to there & finally its on your blog site. I'm really happy with your blog & will share it with my friend.

  40. Well... I am trying to teach myself how to take better photos - something you do with ease!

  41. En tomar fotografías eres muy buena!!Tienes un gran talento para ello.Me encantan todas tus fotos. Un abrazo y feliz fin de semana!

  42. dear Jennifer, thank you for this post. I hung onto every word. I believe going out of your comfort zone like that is like a workout for the brain. I have taught adult students, and I always think they are very brave. For me, learning how to blog was a challenge and initially stressful. Now, like 3acrefarm, I'm struggling to learn how to take better photos. It's enjoyable, but very frustrating at times.

  43. Jennifer, thanks for your great post

  44. Jennifer, first the plants--- I used to have the Malva sylvestris -- got the seeds from Monticello, a plant that Jefferson had. :-) I miss it, will have to get some more seeds.
    I had a bookkeeping class in high school, did relatively well. Fast forward to college, bookkeeping = accounting? NOT! I dropped it after failing the midterm...yikes.
    I know there are things I am poor at, but I choose not to recognize those therefore, I am good at all I attempt (cuz the other stuff is forgotten!) Love your photos.

  45. A beautiful blog as always Jennifer. My compliments you did not drop your study. I was always strugeling with performance anxiety. Starting a new job at 54 a month ago but still have the same problems as I had when I was young.
    You are a fantastic photographer and writer. Even blogging is difficult for me. Always thinking my photograps are bad, and I am scared to write what I am thinking. About the Malva it's a wonderful plant. Mine is under the snow now but still I can see flowers under the snow.
    Have a wonderful weekend Jennifer

  46. Just stumbled over your blog on What an amazing garden you have. Just my style. Here we lots of snow, and also hard frost expecially at night.


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