Life and the puzzle or The puzzle and life

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I’ve always loved to work puzzles and generally have one spread out on the breakfast table at any time.  If company is coming and I need to use this table I just spread a table cloth over it and tell the company not to spill anything.  Family knows what’s underneath and will usually pull back the cloth and start working on it!

Each time I work on a puzzle I am reminded that working a puzzle is very similar to life and many life situations. Each puzzle is different, just like every human life, and there are different situations with each one.  So today I’m sharing a few observations about the similarities I’ve found.

Every puzzle worker has a little different process, but I always start with the outline as the straight edge pieces are easy to spot (assuming you are working a straight edge puzzle); the subject and color determine how to proceed. The outline reminds me of our early, formative years when we are babies and toddlers.  As we grow and mature the inside pieces are gradually filled in, usually in sections, until the life is complete and we pass on to the next life.

Many times I end up with a missing piece.  With this puzzle I knew fairly early that the piece just wasn’t in the box.  In life there is often a piece missing, too.  It may be a physical or psychological problem that presents itself at birth or later in life.  It may be something like a desired career or happy marriage that just never is “in the box”. However, I’ve found that sometimes the missing piece does appear later or, as in this case, I accepted the fact that it wasn’t there and proceeded anyway. So too in life with the missing piece.

Most puzzles are challenging and can often lead to giving up and crumbling the pieces in the box or at least being tempted to do so.  The challenge can also become a driving force of determination to finish. If a certain section just isn’t coming together then it is time to move to another section; often when you return to the difficult section it will come together much easier.  I’ve also had the experience of casually walking by the table and oh my, there’s the piece I need and then I can proceed! So too in life with the challenges we encounter.

While working on this puzzle I had another piece that I thought was also missing.  I had tried all the pieces that I thought were the right color and shape and nothing worked. But as I kept working I realized that surrounding pieces weren’t coming together either.  The culprit turned out to be a nearby sneaky piece that was a close match, but not the right one.  After I pulled out the offender the section went smoothly.  So too in life when we let an oversight hinder everything.

 

 

The handwriting issue

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Rotunda dome, Texas State Capitol, Austin Texas

The handwriting debate (cursive vs printing and legible vs illegible) is nothing new.  It’s been going on since the caveman started drawing on walls.  Mothers have moaned over children’s handwriting and complained about the new methods for a long time!

So, on a recent visit to the Texas State Capitol I had to laugh as I was reading a display about the Secretary of State’s office in the Capitol and the duties of the Secretary of State which include overseeing state elections. A timeline entry for 1946-47 states:

The Secretary of  State’s annual report noted that elections are “recorded in longhand, which is a tedious job, and few are qualified to write so that it can be read”.

Wintertime

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Don’t these two over sized, brightly colored chairs give a cheery touch to the landscape? I love the contrast, especially with the faded bench next to them!

I’ve never really liked winter, mainly because I don’t like to be cold.  Give me a hot day anytime, but I can’t stand to be cold!  I love soup, stew, chili, and fireplaces and sweaters and fuzzy socks.  But no snow for this one, please.

I used to chafe at the winter landscape.  So dreary and empty, I thought.  No leaves, dead grass, and a cold, gray sky just made me irritable.  But now I’m older and wiser and see a new beauty in the empty trees and cold air.  I delight in the pattern of those bare branches – you don’t see that when the trees are loaded with leaves.  I see contrast, too, in the shades of gray and white, light and dark on their bark.  The brown grass and lack of plants reminds me that the earth is sleeping and preparing for spring. Shhh!

And, in the cold still air there is a silence like no other.  Even in the heart of the city on a cold day there is a stillness that seems to catch you in it, connecting you with the earth and the cycles of nature.  I find myself loving winter walks, seeing the world a little differently through the winter landscape, and embracing the cold stillness around me.  And, knowing that there is a pot of soup and the comfort of home to warm me after the walk keeps me from shivering and cursing the cold!

 

Try this instead

I should have come home and walked the two boy dogs before it got dark.  I should have trimmed doggie paws and combed little ears.  I should have swept, raked, and dumped leaves and acorns into the organics container.  But instead I took a small glass of wine, some cheese and my writing notebook out to the deck.  I had thirty minutes before it got dark to just enjoy myself.  Not a bad choice, I may have to try it again. Sometimes you just have to try something a little different, treat yourself to something small, and get out of the rut.

What happens every 4 years on January 20th…

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I finally gave up on solving the WordPress Woes and switched to another browser.  Amazingly, all is well. So I’m back in the blogging saddle and very happy!  This post is a little late, but I feel it is something I need to share and, just to note, it is NOT a political post.

Last Friday (January 20 2017) we inaugurated a new President, number 45.  I don’t think in all my years of living that I have ever witnessed a live inauguration.  That seems so odd to me, but I’ve just always watched it in a recap on a news broadcast.  I had caught a few glimpses of the pre-inauguration activities and when the time came for the swearing-in I moved to the television in one of the offices at work to watch.

It wasn’t about who was being sworn into the office of President, what moved me was what was taking place. In just a minute and with a few words the lives of the man and woman holding the Bible changed forever.  I wondered what was in their minds as well as others on the podium.  As he repeated the words spoken by 44 men before him I realized that no matter how bad our government is and no matter what people think about any President that in the large scheme we are America and we live by democratic ideals.  We have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and a checks and balances system. We elect all our officials except for the Supreme Court justices.  The whole American government idea came together on January 20th.

I grabbed a box of tissues to pass around the room as we were all a little misty eyed.  The image of the flag draped Capitol, the crowd, and the words of the swearing-in will be forever ingrained in my mind. I am an American.

 

General Failure

When I clicked on the scan button immediately a message appeared on the monitor screen:

Could not perform the requested operation. GENERAL FAILURE. 

My first reaction was what does that mean, but almost instantly I also had to laugh. What a great way to say that something went wrong, but offer no explanation. It really does say it all in just 2 words and, yet it is a complex expression – General Failure.

We’ve all experienced a situation where everything just goes wrong for no reason at all, i.e. general failure.   One example that comes to my mind is a batch of chocolate crinkle cookies that my oldest grandson and I included in our Christmas cookie bake. We’ve made these before and they are not complicated, but we both misread the recipe multiple times. He was measuring dry ingredients and added the confectioner’s sugar to the flour and I dumped eggs, oil and everything together instead of adding one ingredient at a time. The dough went out the door in a trash bag! We experienced general failure due to our inattention to details.

Sometimes general failure is simple, like the ruined batch of cookies, and can be easily overcome. It can also be complicated when it affects someone’s life in a negative way. General failure may be a catch-all expression for things that don’t go as planned, but it really should be a way of looking at a situation, accepting that it did not work well, and then moving on without lingering over something that failed.

And if you’re wondering about why the scanner program wasn’t responding…I had failed to turn the scanner on.

The sun’s gift

(this is a lousy photo, but use your imagination please)

Bentley and I drove home from Jackson heading into the hot afternoon sun.  As the afternoon progressed the sun moved to glaring in my eyes.  Bentley was catching the brunt of it in the passenger seat, so I let him crawl across the console and lay somewhat  uncomfortably across my lap. I was relieved when we turned south and the sun shifted to the side.

Then the Master Painter delighted us with a soft, gentle sunset.  Light colors that zigzagged across the sky reminding me of icing drizzled across a cookie. The colors and patterns slowly changed as we drove, a soothing change from the afternoon.  I stopped at the rest stop in Hill County as the sun was setting.  Just below the darkness there was a final glow of layers of brilliant colors.  As I watched them fade I thought that it was almost like the sun said, “ok, you’ve put up with me enough today so I’m giving you one last gorgeous burst of color to enjoy before I let the darkness take over”.

I drove the next 4 hours surrounded with a peaceful feeling, not minding the dark at all, just feeling in touch with the night and the day past.  .

 

Heaviness of Heart

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Thursday evening as I brought the dogs back through the hotel lobby after their last potty walk I saw what was happening in Dallas on the lobby television.  I was shocked, especially since I was just a few miles away.  At that time the story was just developing; we all know the outcome and the loss of life in that city.  Several friends encountered the police escort of one of the fallen officers being returned to Corsicana on Saturday. So senseless, so sad. 

Immediately people were asking what they could do to help and there were many reports of people reaching out to support the police in the work they do.  Even so, protests continue throughout our nation.  Honestly, I can’t sort through all of this and I certainly don’t understand any of it.  

Maybe being so close to where this tragedy took place has drawn me into it in a closer way. All I can offer is that we need to love one another.   We need to remember the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: Where there is hatred, let me sow love.  We need to sing along with Diana Ross: What the world needs now is love, sweet love. Above all, we need to share God’s love with those around us. 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35 NKJV

 

Determination

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I wasn’t too surprised when I saw this little viola growing through the crack in the cement. Violas are very hardy and are prolific re-seeders. I’ve often had them “come up volunteer”, as my grandmother would say, in a spot close to where they were planted the year before. They don’t require a lot of water or any special care; they just grow and flower until the season is over. Even though the plant itself is strong it still had to grow and establish itself in virtually no soil while relying on rainfall to nourish it. It wasn’t stepped on and crushed or plucked hastily out of the tiny crack. In spite of its circumstances it survived and thrived!

Even so, when I saw it the word “determination” immediately came to mind. After some consideration I decided the correct description should be “perseverance”. The viola determined that it would grow there and so it did, it persevered. Job went through some real trials and lost everything except his life; yet, God showed him mercy and favor after his time of perseverance.   The New Testament relates of Paul’s struggles and the hardships he endured for the sake of the Gospel; yet, he also persevered and gave thanks in all circumstances.

In the last week I’ve thought about this little plant whenever I felt weakness or inability to complete a task. It has survived and thrived in spite of all obstacles and it never complained once. It just kept growing and blooming. Good advice from a little viola!