“The Myth of Perfection,” Aug. 30, 2022

Sometimes I just sit and think. And other times, I just sit. I tell myself I need to move. Then I sit and think about how to do it.

All my life, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be better at most everything I do.

Take cooking, for example. This morning, for probably the twelve-millionth time, I made pancakes. I don’t make them for my husband and me, because we don’t need to eat them. But I often made them when my kids were growing up, and will, if one of the grandkids sleeps over.

Wiley is 9. He loves pancakes. He and my husband were good sports this morning. They’ve learned not to complain. (Once, when I gave Wiley a cookie, he said, “Nana, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but this doesn’t really look like a cookie.”)

These pancakes looked like pancakes. But they were thick. And dry. And burnt. When Wiley tried to cut them, he looked like Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber. Not even butter and syrup could help.

How hard can it be to make pancakes? I’ve tried countless recipes and mixes. Same stove. Same kitchen. Same cook. But no two batches are the same.

That’s true of most everything I do. When it works, it’s good and everybody’s happy. When it doesn’t, we scrape the plates and dish up some ice-cream.

I wish I could say cooking is my only weakness. But it’s just one of many improvements I’d like to make. There’s this voice in my head (it sounds like my mother, but I picture it as God) that keeps reminding me of all my sins and shortcomings.

I wish you could hear it. Just the voice, not the sins.

When my children were small, that voice would tell me in no uncertain terms that I needed to clean my house, flea-dip the dog and be a better mother. I agreed absolutely. But try as I might, I never quite measured up.

That didn’t stop me, of course, either then or now, from taking great pride in the people my children grew up to be and the kind of parents they’ve become.

Raising a child is a moment by moment juggling act of faith and fear, failure and forgiveness, grace and hope and joy. No one does it perfectly. We can only do our best and pray for a miracle to turn our mistakes into blessings for our child.

One of the people I’ve admired most in life is my husband’s late father. In his 80’s, when he was hospitalized for a diabetic infection in his foot, I listened as a doctor suggested changes in his diet to improve his health.

Bob listened politely, nodded and said, “You’re an excellent doctor. I appreciate your advice. I’ve had a great life. I don’t plan to change it. Whatever time I have left, I just want to enjoy it with my family and friends.”

The doctor smiled. “Sounds like a good plan,” he said.

When the voice in my head starts cracking its whip, telling me I need to shape up, I think about my father-in-law’s plan for the last years of his life.

I, too, have had a great life, more happiness and blessings than I ever dreamed possible. I wake up each day just to see what will happen next.

But even on the best of days, there are always things I’d like to change, or at least, try to do a little better. Here are a few:

I want to sit less and move more, so I can keep moving.

I want to think less and trust more, to feel more at peace.

I want to ask more questions and do less talking, because asking is how we learn and learning keeps us alive.

I want to be a better person as a wife, mother, grandmother, friend and even a better cook, because the world needs our best in everything we do.

I want to enjoy life with the people I love and know that they love me, too, just as I am.

We aren’t meant to be perfect. We are meant to be ourselves, just trying to do the best we can.

I wish someone would explain that to the voice in my head.


  1. Marsha Hill says

    Hello Sharon,
    My heart goes out to you with your pancake problem. I laughed though because you are so honest!
    I gave up years ago when I discovered buttermilk pancakes in the freezer section of the grocery store.
    You can get a bag of them and they come in small packets of 3 each which you stack on a microwavable plate
    and microwave for 1 and 1/2 minutes. I make them every Sunday, add the Original Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup,
    and enjoy! Your columns have been some of my favorites for many years. Food for thought is what you serve!
    I love digesting them!

  2. Sally Brown says

    Pancakes…I can’t make ‘em either..but Eggo isn’t bad! Now my oldest granddaughter makes them for me! You are an amazing woman…I fall more in love with you every week. One day, I hope to meet you and give you a hug!

  3. Jean Dewitz says

    I know the feeling. I have so many areas of improvement and it often is overwhelming and I read instead of doing any of those things.
    Thank you for writing this – so many of us feel this way!

  4. Well, you may not make a great pancake, Ms. Randall :-), but you write a great column each week. Now if you want to take a 2 hr. or so drive up to the Bay Area, my GREAT, “Michelin Cook, ” Wife can show you how she makes her fantaastically good (FROM SCRATCH) Buttermilk pancakes, LOL.

    Have a great safe Labor Day weekend 🙂

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    We have a great saying in AlAnon…. Our mind is a very dangerous neighborhood… shouldn’t ever go there alone 😉. Friends, sponsors, spiritual directors and sometimes even strangers are good partners to bring to that neighborhood… they keep us safe 😊🙏🏻. Pancakes? The Princess taught me to use Krusteaz with about 2/3 water and 1/3 heavy cream whipped in til it feels right… the consistency of paint or about that 😉. Ignore completely the liquid amount listed on the box…should work. 😊

  6. I wish you luck with that❤️ I’ve found that you just have to live hopefully you will be happy with the results😄

  7. Gosh, you are the best writer! Your family is gonna love you regardless of your limitations. This frees them up to be themselves and not perfectly boring. You are loved…that’s enough! God bless you and your family!

  8. I’m sure you are more perfect than you imagine! We always seem to be hardest on ourselves.

    As for pancakes…I have found a boxed mix takes the cake! Who needs a recipe? Just some mix, water (I add milk), &
    an electric skillet! Or Cracker Barrel isn’t far away!

    As I have gotten older I find myself feeling guilty if I am not up buzzing around. I think we deserve to put our feet up some
    each day! Enjoy your family!

  9. Diane Ziegler Fox says

    Sometimes when I am trying to be perfect, I miss family and friend’s moments. I need to relax, not worry about the crumbs on the tablecloth and enjoy the moment as we are not promised more memories. Thank you for a reminder

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