Things I Still Can’t Do

Clouds - Version 2

“I am always doing things I can’t do,
that’s how I get to do them.”
–Pablo Picasso

Summer is a time for daydreaming, introspection, and making lists. One popular list is an inventory of personal abilities and accomplishments – you know, where you summarize all the things you’ve learned or achieved. And I must admit that I love these wonderful lists, but when I sat down to catalog my triumphs, I could only think of all the things I haven’t learned … YET!

I still don’t know how to:

Speak French fluently. Even though I started lessons in high school, took some adult courses, and studied French for Dummies while living in Sudan, I’m still about as fluent as a four-year old. But I can order French pastries with panache.

Thumb::URI: file:///tmp/localcopy_9008c146f10d-1.xcf

Bake biscuits as light, flaky, and delicious as James’ Mom’s tasty morsels. I think the secret was the lard she used!

Quit humming a favorite song repeatedly, even though James has given me the “raised eyebrows stare.” What?

Balance Beam

Balance! As a teenager faced with mandatory gym class gymnastics – and the dreaded balance beam – I became well acquainted with the mats they put under them. So I would practice at home on the farm, walking the skinny metal rails of the cattle guard (much to the amusement of Waldo the Bull), but I still have lousy balance!

Ride a bike with no hands. I just keep envisioning the jack-knife wreck when I hit that stray rock … or T-bone a wayward squirrel.


Beat James at Rock-Paper-Scissors. It’s like he reads my mind.

Make that really loud whistle – you know the one when someone sticks two fingers in their mouth and hails a cab … or a sheepdog. How do they do it? But at least I can wiggle my ears.

Brush and floss my teeth the way the Dental Hygienist wants me to – because she seems to have a different technique every time I go!

Put eyedrops in. Just can’t do it – makes me blink and gag.


Drive a stick shift very well. I can grind my way through a transmission (since I learned on a tractor), but it’s not pretty. James says I’m the master of the second gear takeoff.

Debone a chicken … but Dianne’s going to teach me! Yay!

Fold a fitted sheet properly – you know, the Martha Stewart way. Oh, I stumble my way through it, but it still ends up pretty wonky.

Resist chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I know that less is more, but in this case … that’s just wrong!

And trust me, this list is only the tip of the iceberg of things I can’t do yet … but I do have the rest of the summer. What about you – are there any things you still can’t do?

Just wondering,

Chocolate Cake

Photo Credits:
1. By Irish_Eyes
3.  By Bauken77 via Wikimedia Commons
5. By CherylPeters
6. By MaxStraeten


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

41 thoughts

  1. So, my thing with the sheets is to stuff them in the pillow case and fold that nicely, if it happens to matter on some random day :-). We’ve talked before about how we both like lists, but I haven’t made my can’t do yet list-I’ll do it soon! Hope you’re travels are going well!

    1. Laura, I absolutely LOVE that solution! So clever. 🙂 My list started out as a list of accomplishments for a milestone birthday, but I kept coming up with things I still couldn’t do; and the other half of the list was places I hadn’t visited yet – a much more interesting and meaningful list for me. Now I have new priorities! All the best, Terri

    1. Sudapoedia, like you I probably could have added many more too! But it was just a good reminder to me that life is like a Zen Garden – unfinished! 🙂 Looking forward to your list. ~Terri

  2. somehow, this made me smile and made me think of the things i still can’t do! oh my goodness 🙂 but reading this list inspires me to make my own and then try (again) to make it work.

    1. You betcha Tom! My Dad tried and tried to teach me to no avail … but I can make that great whistle with a maple tree seed 🙂 (we called them helicopters as they spiraled down from the trees). Did the kids do that growing up in Oregon? ~Terri

  3. I totally get the sheet thing, Terri. Peggy is always showing me but it makes no difference. When she is traveling and I am left home alone, I wad them up. But I do like the pillow case solution. I don’t think Peggy will find it acceptable, however. –Curt

  4. Terri, I have a list going too, with French and Italian, many piano pieces, yoga moves and so much more to learn. Travel has a way of teaching me what I don’t know yet. 🙂

    PS – One of my readers recommended French Flashcards as a great way to get a (free) little burst of French practice each morning in my email inbox: They have a program for several languages if you decide to branch out into Spanish, as Shawn is. Bon courage!

    1. Tricia, I love the idea of French Flashcards and thanks to you I’ve already set it up! Merci beaucoup! The other languages I work on regularly are Spanish and Arabic (from our days of living in Khartoum).

      You’re so right about travel teaching me what I don’t know yet. It also helps me prioritize what I want to learn … and what I can let slide. 🙂

      Are you and Shawn traveling around Europe or staying put for a while? All the best, Terri

      1. Terri, perhaps now that you’re signed up to French Flashcards, we can practice writing comments solely in French 🙂

        We’re staying put for a while (in Germany’s Alps at my parents), but then must flit away once we near the Schengen Zone 90 day maximum. Not sure where we’re off to. Are you traveling this summer or relaxing at Gallivance HQ? 🙂

      2. Well, if I compose my comments strictly in French Tricia, it will certainly cut down on their length (among other things)! 🙂

        Ah, that pesky Schengen restriction always rears its troublesome head. We’ve bumped into that so many times. We’re getting ready for an epic US month-long camping trip, then we’re planning to head off to Eastern Europe in September and October. From there, we’ll see what’s next. ~Terri

      3. Terri, a month-long trip — in which part of the US? Sounds fun! We did a fun North American road-trip last summer, and I still have yet to share the posts. (We went from St. Louis to Québec City, and ultimately all the way west through to San Francisco.)

        And Eastern Europe too? Which countries are you visiting?

      4. Tricia, your North American road trip sounds like a blast! I’m looking forward to your posts. Since we’re living in steamy Georgia we’re in search of cooler climes so we’re heading north. Last summer we did Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin (both wonderful!), so this summer we’re either heading to the mountains of West Virginia or up to the Great Lakes around Pennsylvania, New York and Maine – all lovely places.

        And we’re so excited about Eastern Europe and planning it now. Looks like we’re going to the Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Can’t wait!

  5. I love this post, Terri. Even though I took gymnastics as a little girl, I still can’t do a cartwheel. And even though I can sing in French, the only French I can speak (from college) is 1,2,3,4,5. I can whistle really loudly, but I have this cool metal piece that came off of a railroad track that helps me do it. I wish I could wiggle my ears. That’s cool! 🙂

    1. Thanks Anita, if you can believe it – I can do a cartwheel! I’m just lousy at that balance thing. And I love to sing in French (I guess we all learned the “Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir” at some point! ):) Do you have any songs recorded in French? My biggest problem is that I learned French and Spanish at the same time so I mix them up together in a sentence – producing some pretty funny results! You’ve got me curious about the metal piece from the railroad track … and how you figured out how to whistle with it. Cool! ~Terri

      1. When I get my camera situation settled, I’ll take a picture of my handy-dandy whistle helper so that you can see it. I have some college recordings of me singing in French. If I ever get around to moving them from tapes to CD’s, I might post some on You Tube. Since college, I’ve not sung in French very often – except when “Lady Marmalade” comes on the radio, of course. 🙂

  6. Good grief, Terri.
    I never would have thought to make lists like this.

    The secret to putting eye drops in (or swallowing pills) is not to concentrate on the job at hand. Stare at a distant object i.e. concentrate on the object, not keeping the eye open.

    I’m with you on the French thing. I did 3 years at high school and then again when I went to London (thinking about working in France, maybe), but the whole grammar and tense, male & female thing of objects beats me every time.

    I don’t think about the things I can’t do too much, but I wish I had better eyesight now I’ve taken up photography. And my memory is a bit intermittent these days which is a hassle now I’m trying to ‘learn new tricks’.

    1. Vicki, That is the coolest suggestion for doing eye drops! Why didn’t anybody tell me this before? Guess I’ll have to give it another whirl. Thanks! 🙂

      I can certainly appreciate the eyesight issue. For me it’s hearing. And don’t worry about that memory thing – from what I’ve seen you’ll always be learning new tricks! All the best, Terri

  7. I giggled myself silly reading this. I can relate on so many levels. Go with Laura on the sheets. The trick to the biscuits is the lard (not to much) and don’t mix to well. I could go on, but I think I’ll make my own list and post it as well. You are an inspiration. Waving from Winter Park

    1. Hi Terri, I really liked Laura’s sheet solution too. And I can tell you know how to make some good country biscuits. I’m really looking forward to your list. How are things in Winter Park? ~Terri

      1. I’m actually in Winter Springs, I got it wrong. It is hot and beautiful. I had to make those biscuits last night after thinking about it. lol. i hope you are loving St Simon island.

  8. Hi Terri, I’m totally with you on the chocolate cake.. really, ANYTHING chocolate! I’m a total sucker, have been since… oh, probably from the womb 😉 I love your list (and idea)!

    1. Thank you Amit! The list was total serendipity because I was trying to do accomplishments! But I’ve always loved serendipity … so I went with it! 🙂 And you’re so right about the chocolate – “from the womb.” Love it! And my Mom did love chocolate too! ~Terri

    1. Thanks Nicole. I’m so envious of your no-hands bike riding. James is also the master of this technique and just uses it to show off. After my close-encounter-of-the-deer kind bike ride last week, I’m definitely sticking to 2 hands! 🙂 Nothing like being eye-to-eye with a 6-point buck to slow you down! ~Terri

  9. I feel your pain. I still can’t do a lot of these things, either.

    I’ve been watching DVDs of movies and tv shows with French subtitles and have realized that there’s no way I will ever, ever be fluent in French. Strangely, though, I can kind of make out what they are saying with the mute on, but could never formulate those sentences myself. Viva La Google Translate!

    1. I SO love Google Translate. I’ve just been trying to book some travel in Eastern Europe, and thanks to GT I can read Russian, Polish and Ukrainian. Woohoo! And I love your idea about watching with the mute on. I use that technique to practice my English lip-reading skills. It’s wonderful – unless the guy has a big mustache! 🙂 ~Terri

    1. My Mother-in-Law would totally agree, Erin. And she was a life-long vegetarian except for that one ingredient! 🙂 All of my attempts without the lard just don’t taste right. So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  10. I relate to so many of these, Terri — especially struggling with folding fitted sheets. I have taken to balling them up and flattening them. It doesn’t work. Thanks for this! Cheers — Steph

    1. Yep Steph, It seems like folding fitted sheets is everyone’s “Waterloo,” but Laura (1st comment) had a great suggestion that I’m adopting. Or even better, I try to own as few as possible! 🙂 ~Terri

  11. Terri, this is so creative! Markedly more entertaining- and humbling- than the usual collection of accomplishments. My own personal list of “Can’ts” includes: disposing of insects I find in the house (eek!), swallowing vitamins (thank goodness for the gummy kind), and twirling pasta the “right way”- that spoon seems so unnecessary!

  12. I still can’t speak French, either and I’ve been teaching in French immersion schools for 25 years. I teach the English side of the curriculum. I also can’t dive and I love swimming. I can somersault into the water but diving head first terrifies me.

    1. Carol, it’s so good to know that I am not alone, although I suspect you’re waaaay more proficient in French than I am. I’m with you on loving swimming – and I used to dive all the time. But I had ear surgery last year and now my doctor doesn’t allow me to dive or somersault! Rats!! ~Terri

What do you think? We'd love to know!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s