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(Published: 2010-06-17)

My mother is 83 years old, and sharp as a tack. That said, she does occasionally forget something, or make a mistake. (Sorry, Mom.) Here’s a great story about creatively making the most of our mistakes—and in the process, making something out of nothing.

Early last February she was at dinner with friends. They were discussing holidays, and in a rare slip of the tongue she said to her friends something about “Dandelion Day.” No sooner were the words were out of her mouth, that she realized she had meant to say “Valentine’s Day.”

The look on her friends’ faces told her they had also caught the slip. But before anyone could correct her mistake, her agile mind created “something from nothing.” Just for fun, she asked the ladies how they were planning to observe National Dandelion Day, June 15th.

You can imagine the looks on their faces, and the smirk on my mom’s. I think at one point she actually had them convinced that there is, in fact, such a designated holiday. Actually, there wasn’t then, but there is now. (Hallmark—are you listening?)

In honor of the newly minted holiday, my husband designed a special greeting card for “National Dandelion Day.” Mom wrote a poem entitled “Ode to the Dandelion,” praising the much-maligned weed. The professional looking cards were printed and sent out in bright yellow envelopes to friends, relatives, and even her doctors. In the mean time, the story of the creation of National Dandelion Day was shared (and laughed over) for weeks on end.

In honor of her story, her quilting circle decided to create a special dandelion quilt. The recipients may never know the significance of that green and yellow crazy quilt, but believe me, there was much laughter, fun, and enjoyment shared in the creation of that masterpiece.

You may have heard the term “crazy quilt.” The name itself suggests creative abandon. The history of crazy quilts goes back to Colonial times. The concept originated as a way for thrifty housewives to save money by using up old, leftover scraps of fabric and stitching them in a random fashion into usable, functional bed covers.

That reminds me of a story that Tom Coleman, retired head of the design department at Indiana University, once told me about the “humility square.” Amish quilters often stitch an intentional flaw into an otherwise perfect quilt. The concept has a spiritual significance. That square is meant to be a reminder to the creators that God alone is perfect and that we are all flawed. At the very least, it represents a wise tolerance for small errors. That idea is celebrated in this short poem about Amish women chatting with each other as they stitch. The poem is called “By Design.”

In concert Amish women quilt
a pattern, perfectly aware
that mid the Tumbling Blocks they’ll sew
a humble square.

Because the Lord alone is perfect
they will perfectly pleat
a modest flaw and, by design,
deny conceit.
Copyright 2002 Tim Smith

My mother’s slip of the tongue wasn’t intentional, but her recovery was. She cleverly devised a way to poke fun at herself and turn a crazy slip of the tongue into a lot of laughs.

So, to all of you, Happy Dandelion Day! I think the creation of this new national holiday is a great way to celebrate our capacity to tolerate small mistakes, and in the process, creatively reframe our errors into new opportunities. It’s the ultimate happy paradox!

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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