My love of puzzles began as a child and hasn’t diminished as I’ve grown older. The joy I find in working puzzles has been a blessing with this pandemic isolation.
There’s always been a puzzle on a table around my house. I graduated from working puzzles on the dining room table or a card table set up in the bedroom I shared with my sister to a real puzzle table made especially for puzzles.
I loved that puzzle table. Plenty of room for all the pieces.
Plus, the proximity to the roaring fire was wonderful during those long, cold Colorado winters.
Covid-19 has fueled a pandemic puzzle pandemonium as an antidote to the boredom it’s brought. Lots of people are working on them, and many are posting their finished products on Instagram with different hashtags like #puzzleaddict.
Solving a puzzle can offer a diversion and take the mind off everything else that’s going on. Creating order out of a pile of chaos gives the solver a sense of triumph over anxiety.
Psychologists say figuring out where each puzzle piece goes, categorizing, sorting, and searching for pieces all serve as “play therapy,” which can mitigate anxiety and other stressors. Puzzling also offers tactile lessons in patience…most of the time.
I looked for a new holiday puzzle last year. Demand for puzzles made the search nearly impossible. Last March, one game maker reported U.S. puzzle sales up 370%.
I was so excited when I finally found one I liked on Amazon, but I goofed when ordering, I didn’t read the fine print.
The puzzle arrived, and I discovered the pieces were not standard cut, but random, weird sizes cut on angles and curves. My pandemic panacea flipped into a tactile lesson in frustration.
Fitting the pieces together is taking forever. Using sorting boxes for pieces hasn’t even helped. I’m starting to wonder if Santa and the deer will be complete by Easter.
A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara
We hosted Christmas Eve on Miller Farm this year. My nephew was quite enthralled. When he asked how the dogs and chickens got along, I explained all was well if everybody stayed on their side of the fence.
When he looked out the window a little later and saw a chicken walking along the fence, he was most concerned and went out to convince the chicken to return to the safe side of the fence. He could move in and stay quite busy keeping the chickens safe on Miller Farm, but I think he has higher aspirations that involve the University of Houston.
Life is really interesting when the chickens decide to venture onto the side of the fence that is not in our yard at all.
Most often they visit the neighbor with Connor – the old Great Dane. I’m not sure Conor would hurt the chickens, but the owners always work to make sure the chickens make it back to safety. Sometimes I get a text saying, “there is a chicken in our yard,” and I help bring it home.
Recently I got a text from the neighbor on the other side saying, “Rosie (their dog) found a chicken in our yard. It’s been saved and it’s now hiding behind the rain barrels.” This was puzzling as there is not only our chain link fence but a privacy fence between our houses as well. That chicken was glad to be back in its own yard and has not gone back to play with Rosie.
I discovered there are some boards missing in the privacy fence leaving just enough room for a curious chicken to explore the neighbor’s yard. The grass may be greener on that side of the fence but it is guarded by a chicken-loving dog so it is not worth it for the chickens to go there.
Max was fascinated. The chicken was quite brave with a fence between her and the dog.
I was fretting over the chickens being between the fences but not enough to climb over and get them. I have torn too many pair of pants doing that in the past.
The chickens eventually make it back. I think they go there to get away from over amorous roosters.
I figure they’ll work out a pecking order. They are chickens after all.
Today is a day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his accomplishments. It is also a federal holiday dedicated to a day of service.
Dr. King’s attitude on service was clear.
“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”
King’s words offer introspect and inspiration to find a project that forwards his vision and participate. While today’s coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns disrupt plans for many in-person celebrations and volunteering efforts, there are plenty of safe virtual activities available.
This NYT article has suggestions from several different areas of the country. A Google search using your locale will bring up local opportunities.
If you’re into parades, Houston offers their annual parade virtually on January 18, from 10 a.m. to noon on HTV and via Facebook on the Original MLK Day Parade page.
Dr. King’s nonviolent activism during the civil rights movement changed things. He passionately believed
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
MLK, Jr. Day offers an opportunity to reflect on the past, think about the present, plan for the future, and remember what is truly important–We are all in the same boat now.
Let’s make this boat we’re in a better place.
A Blog by Chicken Wrangler Sara
I was kind of hoping the New Year would bring a little normalcy. On Sunday, January 3 Beekeeper Brian and I both tested positive for COVID. We only had mild symptoms but were still put in quarantine for 10 days.
My hope of being back in a routine became a struggle to teach music classes from home.
Then on Sunday, January 10 it snowed.
That may not sound like a big deal but in our part of Texas, it hadn’t happened since 2017. This snowstorm produced the 5th largest amount of snow on record.
This may not sound like a lot unless you are a dachshund whose legs are only 4 inches long.
Got some interesting pictures I never could have imagined – chicken prints in the snow.
I can’t wait to see what this Sunday brings…
Resolutions to do this or that, don’t do well for me. BUT I do like goals. Goals solidify intangibles into tangible. To-do lists have always governed my personal life.
When I taught, goals, called lesson objectives, were an integral part of my days. Once I quit teaching, transitioning lesson goals to my writing career was a logical, easy progression.
A pandemic and civil unrest in our 2020 world caused my goals to fluctuate, some to fail. There were days I struggled to simply focus. I think we all did.
We’re a week into 2021 and it’s been a doozy of a week. While I didn’t expect what used to be normal would magically materialize on January 1, I did hope for a better year. Unfortunately, this first week was a reminder that we –you, me, this country– still have a bumpy road ahead.
As a writer, I view 2021 as a book with blank pages to fill any way we want. No goal plan required, but it could help. Whether you choose to write resolutions or specific, measurable goals or fly uncharted ahead with nothing at all planned, that’s up to you.
Hope fuels creativity.
Hope motives through the dismal days.
Hope is a choice that requires courage and action. With hope, we find a well from which to draw grace and kindness for daily living.
Juliet Marillier’s 2013 New Year’s blog post, directed toward writers, is filled with ideas for finding focus. What she labels focus, I’m calling hope. I especially like her #9:
Step away from your screen regularly. Go outside, look at something beautiful and breathe slowly for a few minutes. You live in the real world; it is the source of your inspiration. Honour and respect it with all its flaws.”
Finding Hope on Psychology Today’s blog suggests:
“Turn to your faith.
Your faith can be a strong ally in holding on to hope. Sometimes your faith offers the support of not being alone and trusting that a higher power is with you. If you are questioning your beliefs, then talk with someone in your faith whom you respect. Others have encountered difficult times, and they will understand. Voicing your questions is a step toward resolving your confusion and also a step toward hope.”
I believe grace and kindness are what we’re gonna need to weather this new year 2021 . It’s starting out to be another 2020-version 01. Find your well of hope.
If I had decorated for Christmas this year–which I didn’t–I would now be taking decorations down and storing for next Christmas.
We had a painter working to rejuvenate the outside of our almost forty-year-old home. He did a fabulous job painting and power washing. The house looks clean and fresh. Unfortunately weather delays meant he didn’t finish until December 23. We decided it was too late to put up decorations only to take them down three days later.
Not decorating gave me extra time to read subscription blogs, which had piled up like old newspapers used to do.
Imagine my surprise when one of my favorite blogs, Her View From Home popped up with a picture of my nativity angel and a heart-warming blog.
Turns out Her View from Home blogger, Megan Hanlon had the exact same manger I have when she was growing up. Only the angel she’d named Gloria and loved playing with as a child had gone missing by the time she inherited the set.
I’d received my nativity set as a thank-you for an estate sale I’d done many years ago. I always said someday I’d research its origin, or provenance. Never did.
Ms. Hanlon wanted a replacement Gloria to share her memories with her children. She searched the web. Finally, on eBay, she located “a white box with an outdated Sears & Roebuck Trim Shop logo and a picture of four figurines: a guitar-playing lad, a bearded man carrying a basket of bread, an angry camel, and a ginger-haired angel in a blue dress draped with a banner that proclaimed “Gloria.” All the pieces were there according to the listing.
She’d found her Angel Gloria replacement and, thanks to her blog, I now know where my set came from and its age.
Figures were missing from mine too—the four additional characters. I only had Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus and a homemade manager structure. No sheep or shepherds, no camel, no “guitar-playing lad” or “man with a basket of bread,” and no Magi.
Missing Magi didn’t matter to me. Those kings didn’t show up at the manger anyway, but arrived later where Jesus lived as a small child. The sheep and shepherds I substituted from other sets. I’d bought a shepherd playing bagpipes in Ireland that I use. Still no man with a bread basket, but I may search eBay to complete my set with those original pieces.
For sure, next year when I set up my nativity for Christmas, I’ll be smiling and thinking of Ms. Hanlon’s children playing with her Gloria angel.
You can read her touching blog about “Finding Gloria” here.