I may not be able to get my family around the dinner table every night for a hot meal, but when there is a new jigsaw puzzle on my dining room table – the family bonding begins. When I was little, the first snowfall meant 3 things – hot chocolate, days off from school, and jigsaw puzzles. There was always something about putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle that facilitated great conversation, teamwork, lots of laughs and great memories. As an adult, I’m carrying on this tradition with my own kids. I started them out young with Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles and then they graduated to floor puzzles of the United States and modes of transportation. It didn’t take long for them to earn a spot at the dining room table for the main event. While my love of jigsaw puzzles has remained steady, my kids have had varied levels of interest. Andrew took to it quickly. As a lover of the Lego, he is a natural builder with qualities like patience and determination to succeed. Jenna, on the other hand, had a passing interest for many years. She would come and do a few pieces at a time and then become frustrated by the process and leave the table. But I always knew she would be back. 2017 is her year. She is now passionate about finding the right pieces and feels the satisfaction of linking them together in holy matrimony. And then, she keeps going – knowing another perfect match is right around the corner. As you can see, we really get into this. There are happy dances and high fives all around. We play music and a family sing-a-long is not unheard of. And we do have some rules about jigsaw puzzles that I’d like to share with you in case I’ve convinced you to try one with your loved ones.
- Choose your puzzle carefully – When selecting a puzzle at the store, don’t go for the 2,000-piece puzzle at first. You are just setting yourself up for failure. Go with a 500 or 1,000 pieces. Also, pick a puzzle that you would like to see come to life. This year, we have a dog park puzzle. Last year, we must have been hungry when we selected the doughnut themed one and two years ago, we were in a New York state of mind when we did two puzzles in one winter – Central Park and Times Square.
- Anyone can participate – Puzzles are fun for all ages and abilities. You can be a novice or an expert. And we are known for our multi-generation puzzle doers. We have had 3 generations working on a puzzle at once. We also invite neighbors and anyone else who wants to help. All are welcome.
- All methods are welcome – There are many ways to approach a jigsaw puzzle – by color, by section of the puzzle, or by the shape of the piece. Whatever floats your boat and you can change methods. No one will ever judge you.
- No fighting, except… – The only fighting allowed is over the box cover that features the entire puzzle. Also, it is not cheating to refer to the picture for help – just don’t keep it to yourself.
And most of all—have fun!
It is pouring rain and I am standing outside in the cold with an umbrella over the dog (not me) waiting patiently and occasionally coaxing her to get on with her business. “Come on, Chloe. Mommy has to go to work and it’s freezing out here.” Like she cares. What is wrong with this picture? Not a thing. If you told me over a year ago that this is what I would be doing on a rainy Tuesday morning, I would have laughed in your face. I have never considered myself a “dog person.” For one thing, I’m allergic to dogs plus I never had a dog growing up, so I was not comfortable with the whole idea. Frankly, I thought fish were more my speed—that is until Chloe came into our lives. And yet here I am, looking down at those big beautiful brown eyes of my little grey schnoodle (part schnauzer/part toy poodle) complimenting her (out loud) on how nice she looks in her plaid fall coat. Yes, I buy her clothes. Just a few weeks ago, I bought an Eagles jersey in which she proudly struts around the house on game day. I justified the purchase because everyone in our family wears Eagles green on Sundays and she is a part of our family. She also has in her wardrobe a pink dress which serves as both a ballerina Halloween costume and for when she likes to dress up on Purim as Queen Esther. As I’m writing this, I remind myself to buy that Ugly Hanukkah sweater I found online for her. I think I’ll draw the line though at the doggy dreidel hat, which looks like a miniature torture device, but I may throw in the bright blue bow if the price is right. She finally finishes what we came outside to do. We head back to the house and she turns into our driveway. I marvel at how she always knows exactly which one is ours. I’m not sure if our grass has a familiar smell or if she is keenly aware of the massive amounts of concrete divots in our driveway. She just knows. Chloe waits patiently as I bend down to remove her leash and then runs freely towards the shelter of our front porch while I walk over to the trash can on the side of the house to throw her waste bag away. “Who’s a good girl?” I scratch her head and say to her in a voice that only came along when we rescued her. I call it “my Chloe voice.” Once we are back in the house, I feed her breakfast and quickly add “Buy Chloe’s treats” to my shopping list. I seriously consider switching up the flavors from the chicken and apple sausage blend we always get to the Salisbury steak flavor that Tucker from down the street recommended. Okay, so it was my best friend Jill who made the actual recommendation, but her pug, Tucker, has a good palette. I glance at the photo on the refrigerator door taken during our summer vacation to Costa Rica. It was an amazing trip, but I distinctly remember us ready to come home, sleep in our own beds and see Chloe. Since we came home after midnight, we had to wait until the next day to pick her up from her foster family. We walked into an all-too-quiet house feeling a little sad knowing our entire family was not together and wouldn’t be until we brought her home. Breakfast is ready, but Chloe has disappeared. There are certain rooms of the house that are still off limits, and I need to know that she isn’t in the laundry room secretly licking the wet mop. I know I’m already running late, but I won’t have any peace of mind until I find her safe and sound. Typically, she hangs out on the living room couch where she can watch the cars go by, bark at the other dogs and their owners and generally position herself as the official neighborhood watchdog. She isn’t there. I also check the dog beds upstairs and downstairs, but no such luck. I curse under my breath as I walk slowly into my bedroom and get down on my hands and knees to confirm what I knew all along—that she is indeed underneath my bed again. Chloe likes to hide there to chill out and get away from it all. She developed this habit when she first came to us, and we kept her in the kitchen while we were at school and work. She didn’t care for it and we don’t even do that anymore. But, to this day, she still escapes under the bed to avoid daily confinement. Today is no different. I find her curled up next to her favorite companion—her gray flattie shark toy. Like a child and her favorite blanket, Chloe doesn’t go anywhere in the house without it. The stuffing is long gone, and it is chewed up perfectly to her liking. It smells awful and I should really throw it away, but I know that would break her heart. Since my arms aren’t long enough to reach her, I let her hang out. Eventually, she comes out when we are gone. Nowadays, we pretty much give her the main floor of the house to roam around during the day. Before I leave, I make sure the doors to the bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room are all closed. Once, I almost closed the door to my own bedroom which would have left her stuck in there all day long with no food or water. I tend to check that door obsessively to make sure it remains open. Now that I know she is safe, I look at the clock and see that it is time to leave. I put on Chloe’s favorite radio station—Oldies 98.1 WOGL—and adjust the multi-color blanket on the couch so she doesn’t dig into my throw pillows. I inspect the floor to make sure there are no stray items scattered about that she can swallow, remembering that I used to do this when my children were small. “Goodbye, Chloe. Be a good girl,” I shout to her and hear the faint music of Earth, Wind & Fire in the background as I close the front door. Walking to my car, I smile at the “I love my Schnoodle” magnet on the bumper. Because I really do.
During this month long blog challenge, I’m sent an email each day with a writing prompt. I haven’t been following them because I like to do my own thing, but this one caught my eye: For today’s post, share a challenge. Have you faced a challenge recently that you made it through? Share it with your readers and show them how they can survive the same challenge. I’ll be honest with you. Lately, my anxiety level has been flaring up for no particular reason. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause, but thankfully I didn’t have to necessarily attribute it to anything to get help for it. In my case, common symptoms include not sleeping well, feeling overwhelmed by everything and nothing in particular, and not being able to enjoy myself with others. At first, these symptoms creep up on me and I don’t recognize them as anxiety, until all 3 come into play. And then, there was one weekend–fairly recently–when it got to the point that I needed to do something about it. So, this week I took some time off and saw the doctors who help me deal with this. I learned that it isn’t necessarily external factors causing my anxiety, but more likely that my serotonin levels needed adjusting. For some reason, this was a big relief to me. I continue to accept the challenges my anxiety brings me. And thanks to the love and support of my family, I’m feeling a heck of a lot better and ready to take on the world again. To others facing this kind of challenge, please don’t think you have to have a reason to feel the way you do. See your doctor and let them know what is going on so that you can get back to being your old self again.