Pieces of My Heart

Challenge number two is in the box.  Actually it’s out of the box and still sitting on my table but you get the point.  I put together a 500-piece-puzzle with a little help from Andrew. Actually a lot of help.  Basically he did the puzzle and allowed me to assist but it’s done.  It was pretty much framed out by the time I realized he’d started.  I’ll admit it took me a bit to get going. First of all, it was kind of overwhelming so many pieces, so many shapes and colors.  And, since the edges were already done, where do you start?  Plus, I needed my reading glasses which was a bit humbling.  But just like riding a bike, once I got on again it all came back to me.  Pretty soon we were working side by side, piecing together smaller sections, searching for their place in the larger picture.

In prepping for this challenge I got some valuable insights from experienced puzzle-doers. One mentioned that puzzles are basically a problem-solving activity, which is so obvious to me now.  I’d never really thought about it before.  Andrew has always loved a similar activity: legos.  He even mentioned, while we worked, that when he doesn’t have a lego set to build that he likes to do puzzles.  Didn’t know that.

Another puzzle advisor told me that part of the joy of doing a puzzle is working on it with other people.  For me, truer words have never been spoken.  I did enjoy the search for the right piece and the pleasant feeling of it all coming together.  But my favorite part was standing shoulder to shoulder with my seventeen-year-old son, no phones, just a shared task with a singular purpose.  I think he enjoyed it, too.  I can write that because there is no way he’s reading this blog.


One of the unexpected benefits to working my way through these challenges (two so far!)  is that in order to best recall how you think and feel about something you have to be present in the moment.  It’s forced me to examine my emotions in a place and time.  We live such busy lives that stopping occasionally to see “hey, how does that make me feel, and why do I feel that way?” kind of slows life down.  Doing the puzzle together also slowed time down.  Just for moment.

So, did you try your hand at a 500-piece-puzzle?  Were you inspired to dust off the old puzzle boxes and put puzzles back into your life again?  I won’t be designating a portion of our kitchen table as a permanent puzzle station but I will do one again.  If fact, Andrew and I have plans to start on a 1,000 piece dandy in the near future.

Before you go…if you, like me, are prone to snacking while you are watching tv or reading or doing basically any other hands-free activity, puzzles are a great way to keep your hands busy!  It’s hard to eat and do a puzzle at the same time…unless you can get someone else to keep working while you are eating.  Ice cream may have been eaten during the completion of this challenge.


I’m Puzzled by Puzzles

Hey, I feel like I’ve accomplished something!  Maybe you do, too!  That’s about as many exclamation points as you are ever going to get from me.  So, trust that I’m feeling pretty good.  The first challenge was definitely challenging but also kind of inspiring.  Bear with me.  We have 99 challenges to go and they aren’t all going to make you feel as good about yourself.  Ready for the next challenge? COMPLETE A PUZZLE…WITH 500 PIECES OR MORE.  Full disclosure:  I’m not a puzzle person. I don’t dislike them, I’ve just never really been particularly drawn to do them.  Games? yes.  Puzzles? not so much.  But this isn’t like eating a burger with mustard on it…this I can do.

In case you aren’t aware, January is National Puzzle Month.  Don’t feel bad, I didn’t know that either until the sign at Barnes & Noble told me.  All three of my kids like to do puzzles and I’m pretty sure my sister, Laurie, likes to do puzzles (or at least she used to).  But, I think part of my problem with puzzles is that they feel a little pointless to me.  What do you do with them when you are done?  I certainly don’t want to break up a 500-piece puzzle immediately after completing it.  And, I also don’t have the wall space to glue then frame it or the desire, quite frankly, to do that either.  I’m also afraid that I might not have the patience.  That being said, there are a lot of very appealing looking puzzles out there. It took me a bit of time to choose, eventually deciding on a 500-piece beauty depicting classic travel posters.


I realized after I started to write this that the puzzle could actually have been more than 500 pieces but I will acknowledge here that I’m not much of an overachiever.   Five hundred pieces satisfies the challenge so that’s good enough for me.  If you are joining in, feel free to go for it.  Seven-hundred and fifty!  One-thousand! I won’t judge, I just won’t be helping.  Or take advantage of the buy one, get one half price deal that Barnes & Noble is running this month and do them both!

I feel, at this point, that I should offer an apology, only four blog posts in and I’ve already name-dropped Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, Target, Panera and now Barnes & Noble.  If only they were my sponsors and I was getting paid for all this product placement.  As you can tell by now, I am actually sponsoring them.

Do you like to do puzzles? If so, may I ask, why?  Heck, maybe by the time I check in later this week I’ll have discovered I like them, too!  Got any insider tips or hints for me?  Just not the old starting-with-the-edges tip…I have done a puzzle or two, you know.  So, clear your card table, choose your puzzle, and dig in.  Or, at least cheer me on!

Before you go… if you read closely you will have realized that I used more than two exclamation points.  I’m a bit embarrassed by that for some reason.  I’ll save you the trouble of counting them.  I used eight…counting this one!


It is Harder to Give Than to Receive

If you are not aware of Panera Bread’s Rapid Pick-up service, you are missing out.  This handy little courtesy allows you to order and pay from an app on your phone and then when you arrive at the restaurant your meal is magically waiting for you on a special shelf.  No waiting in line, no talking to anyone…practically perfect in my opinion.  Thank goodness that Panera offers reasonably healthy options (stop thinking about the side baguette) because I’m embarrassed to admit how frequently I use this service.  Anyway, on Monday as I swooped in to pick up my awaiting meal, I noticed that my bag was not alone so I quickly slipped the gift card into the other person’s bag.  I felt pretty good until about the time I reached my car.  What a short walk from confidence to doubt. Would it be gross to discover a stranger had put something in your bag of food?  Even if it was a good something?  Probably broke some kind of sanitation code…sorry Panera.  I hope I’m not the reason they stop offering this service.  I’ll admit it.  This challenge was harder than I thought it would be.

Gift card number two was actually even harder.  Maybe because by the time I gave it away I was so desperate to find a person to give it to that I was acting more like someone casing the joint to steal something than a good samaritan.  I tossed ideas around with the good people with whom I share an office. They were very patient.  It seemed like every option had a negative.  I’d almost decided I was going to toss it out the window on my way home just to be rid of it like the ancient tiki idol that Peter and Bobby found in the Brady Bunch Hawaii episode.  According to what I affectionately refer  to as “THE 100”, “being nice can actually make you feel better physically…it not only makes you more calm and relaxed, it can also ease pain, increase your energy, and help ease stomachaches!”  Obviously, I was doing this all wrong.


I finally decided within about five minutes of executing my plan what I was going to do.  Driving from one library branch to another I realized I would pass a new local coffee shop.  Hmmm, small place, only a couple of tables, no imminent sanitation violation, plus good coffee (bonus).  As the barista made my latte I surreptitiously put the gift card on a table by the window.  Someone would happen upon it and feel special…even if only briefly.  I left in a couple of minutes with coffee in hand and a spring in my step.  Lessons learned: 1. seize the moment 2. don’t overthink 3. it’s not about you.

Did you find a way to do something nice for someone without letting them know you did it?  Let me know!  If you are still reading these blog posts and haven’t told me then consider that a challenge accomplished.  Thanks for reading!

Before you go…if you are not old enough to have seen the special Hawaiian three-parter on the Brady Bunch you now have an additional challenge.  Watch that soon,  it’ll make my ancient tiki idol reference make much more sense plus it might help you avoid unnecessary bad luck in the future.

Starting at Page One

Let’s start at the very beginning.  A very good place to start.  Actually, I’m starting with page six but it is the first challenge.  DO SOMETHING NICE FOR SOMEONE BUT DON’T TELL THEM YOU DID IT.  Hmm, okay.  Seems simple at first, and if you don’t want to get too cutesy about it, it really is simple.  The point, as I explained yesterday to my kids, Andrew and Rachel, is that you don’t want someone to know “who” did something nice.  So, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru is out.  Although, that is a nice thing to do.  Go ahead and do that if you want.  I’ve been the recipient of that a couple of times…mostly at Dunkin Donuts.  Not sure why that is, maybe because odds are it won’t be a large tab?  Or are people who drink Dunkin just a generous lot?  You’ll have to take my word that it’s not just because I go through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts all the time…I don’t.  We did have that happen to us once at McDonald’s.  Although we initially ruined the joy for ourselves because after being excited to receive such an unexpected gift, we blamed the folks for us getting the wrong order.  Nope, before the days of all day breakfast at McDonald’s, breakfast magically transitioned to lunch at 10:30am.  That’s how you end up with Crispy Chicken Club instead of a sausage biscuit. Not the fault of the generous person in front of you or the person working the window.  I’ve paid for people behind me before but I usually don’t think about it until someone pays for me and then I just pass it on.  That still counts but the credit really goes to the person who started the chain.

Back to the challenge.  As we discussed this, we identified a couple of things you could do.  Since I work at a library, I could pay someone’s late fines.  That’s a nice thing to do but you don’t really want library staff digging around looking into people’s accounts to see who owes what, so that’s out.  You could drag someone else’s trash can back from the curb but that seems a little too easy.  I think for that to count you’d need to do that multiple times and then you’d feel bad if you stopped.  It would almost be like adding another chore to your own list.  Plus, that might confuse people and make them think you were shaming them, as if they are somehow not putting their cans up in a timely manner.  Who knew the mental minefields of secretly being nice to people?  We finally settled on a sort of a secret Santa plan, without the Santa part.

I had several $5 Target gift cards that I purchased earlier this year and didn’t use.  I guess that could be another blog post in itself, but I won’t bore you.  This week, each of us will find a way to give these gift cards to someone without their knowledge.  We determined the only rules are that you can’t use it for yourself and you must try to get it to someone without them knowing it came from you.  target-cards

What about you?  Are you up for this feel-good challenge?  You certainly don’t have to spend any money to do something nice for someone.  If you decide to participate please let me know.  I’d love to hear what anonymously nice thing you did for someone.  I’ll be back at the end of the week to report how we deployed our gift cards and hopefully we’ll be able to check this off as a challenge completed.  Don’t keep this challenge to yourself. Challenge your friends to participate, too.  We can start of movement of thinking about others instead of ourselves…okay, probably not, but we will make someone’s day and we’ll feel better in the process.  Thanks for reading!  You in?

Before you go…the first two lines of the blog are from the Do-Re-Mi song in the Sound of Music.  Just didn’t want you to have to Google it…and now you’ll be singing it all day!

Looking for the Adult in the Room

A couple of years ago my sister, Emilie, sent me a box of books at the library where I worked.  This in itself was not unusual.  She often donated boxes of books for us to use in our collection, give away as Summer Reading prizes or generally use as we best saw fit.  In this particular box was a book published by National Geographic Kids called 100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GROW UP by Lisa Gerry. It’s a fun book filled with colorful pictures and interesting graphics designed to encourage the reader to do just what the title suggests: enjoy life before you grow up.  I put the book aside with the idea that it might be fun to utilize it somehow as a social media challenge for our young library patrons on the library’s Facebook or Instagram pages.  It sat on the shelf behind my desk for a long time.  Occasionally I would pick it up and look at it but back on the shelf it would go until I had “more” time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it.

One day I woke up and realized, with a little more clarity than usual, that I was quickly approaching my 48th birthday which meant that with a little luck I would soon be also approaching my 49th and then in a blink of an eye I would be 50.  Fifty years old…would I feel like a grown up then?  How often do we talk and laugh about looking for “the adult in the room”?  I was at a time of transition in my life.  My husband, Lee, would soon be moving to California without me as I would stay in NC to allow our son, Andrew, to graduate high school the following May.  I would then quit my library job and move to the opposite coast into the foreign world of being an empty nester and apparently a soon-to-be grown up.  At that point I had the idea that it might be fun to try and tackle the 100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GROW UP. The intro to the book says “From the moment you are born, there are about 6,570 days before you’re legally considered an adult.”  As I write this on January 1, 2017 I have 434 days until I turn 50 on March 10, 2018.  I better get going.

Join me as I tackle the 100 challenges. I won’t be able to complete this project in 434 days but, in the end, that’s not really the goal.  According to the book the goal “is to inspire you to make the most of every day and seize every opportunity.”   Join in on the challenges if you want, watch from the sidelines, share the memories unearthed from your own life challenges.  I only ask for your encouragement.  I have come to realize that I am a strong starter and not such a strong finisher.  Ready?