Up North: September Challenge

Okay. I’ll admit I’ve been a little quiet about our new life “up north”. I think it’s a mild form of shock, if there is such a thing. I can hardly believe I’m really back living in Hayward, thousands of miles from Florida, on my grandfather’s farmstead, in my Mom’s condo.  I’m trying to find a place for myself (and the husband) up here and it takes a lot of introspection. Introspection wears me out. “Worn out me” tends to revert to endless games of spider solitaire (confession time), jigsaw puzzles (hours spent here), thick paperback novels (three in the last two weeks), and occasionally, just sitting and looking out the window. Anything except writing.  After all,  these are stereotypical retirement activities and am I not retired now?

Haha, no, not really.

There is plenty to do up here – real work, including writing. For my own sake, I need to exercise some discipline and record the journey (that is, life) in this new place. Writing should be a daily activity, a joy, a relief, a healing outlet and a way of sharing. Thirty days hath September, and each one shall be recorded in some fashion. If I can do it in April, (A to Z in April) why not now?

In defense of jigsaw puzzles, I need to explain. Each time we finish, Mom says “Did you take the picture? Of course, I do, although I don’t always post them here or on Facebook. There is almost always a puzzle in progress in this house. We know the kinds we like, the kinds we agonize over and won’t choose to do again. We have different methods of hunting for pieces depending on the puzzle. We have special Styrofoam boards on which to lay out the pieces, and we now bag up the edge pieces separately when we put them away. These are the fine points.

The value in all this puzzling? I can think of three benefits. First, it does make us think about so many things. Color, shape, texture, direction, recognition all have to register and be in operation to get a puzzle from a pile of pieces to a picture. Secondly, no matter what stresses we have been immersed in before or after, the time spent doing the puzzle is a break. We concentrate, get engrossed. It clears our minds and emotions.

Thirdly, probably most important, it is time spent together. We don’t always talk, but often we do. All kinds of things come up as we sit there, knowing that the other person is not in a hurry, not going to rush off somewhere. We probably don’t solve any world problems, but that’s not to say we couldn’t. Who knows?


So here is our last puzzle. We liked it because there were no parts so hard that we got stuck. We were always finding pieces, 1,000 of them to be exact.  We will probably be doing puzzles more as the days get colder and there is less to do outside. We have a whole stack of them waiting, thanks to our friend Sandy who traded with us.

I’m just sayin’ there are a whole lot of worse things we could be doing with our leisure time, here “up north”.

And I may actually write about some of them this month. The plan is to share life, the small and the significant, the joy and the pain, the awe and the awful… here it comes. 

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things J

Jigsaw Puzzles

I would be so wrong of me if I didn’t choose Jigsaw puzzles as my favorite J things. My family would never let it pass.  The obsession is obvious every time we gather in a group, like for Thanksgiving. But even when there are just two or three of us, it seems we have to have a puzzle to draw us together at the table. We work at it while we talk. It’s really quite addictive. Plus, I really think there’s a genetic component to this proclivity toward jigsaw puzzles since it spans three generations of our family. That’s proof, right?

I’m not naming names here, but:

Some of us bring a puzzle even if we have to fly thousands of miles with it in our suitcase.

Some of us shop all year round for the perfect puzzle for the “next one”.

Some of us panic when we run out of puzzles before we run out of holiday time.

Some of us check puzzles out of the library like other people check out books.

Some of us hide the last piece for fear we won’t get to put it in.

Some of us are afraid to go to bed for fear someone else will finish the puzzle before morning.

Some of us stay up all night to finish the puzzle before morning.

Some of us never want to take the puzzles apart and hide them under the bed for years.

We ran out of puzzles at Thanksgiving so I had to buy this antique one at a Thrift Shop in Michigan.

Puzzles are good for the brain.  They teach your brain to think of any way it can to find the next piece, to be flexible. Sometimes the clue is the color, sometimes it’s the shape – the differences can be so subtle. We can actually feel ourselves getting smarter doing a puzzle. And doing puzzles teaches cooperation. You can only bend over another person’s space for so long before they cooperate and move to another side, as they should.

This winter we did “Puzzle Marathon” which I pictured on Facebook and am all too happy to post again here in tribute to the puzzle gene…





And this one we had to do on the trip home through Pennsylvania
This one was one of my favorite ones – pretty!

Seriously, this is only about half of the puzzles that we did, but you get the idea. Doing puzzles is truly one of my favorite things.

Do you do puzzles? Yes or no?



Thanksgiving Chronicle: Ordinary Times and Travel post 5


In these days of cities and all their attractions, a pastime of young and old alike seems to be exploring. That is one of our family traditions. Whenever we gather, we try to look around us and visit some interesting place. On the Friday after Thanksgiving we bundled up (brrr….), piled into two cars and went to Port Huron, MI.

Our first stop was a museum of sorts but more. I can’t remember the name of it but the words “boat nerds” was somewhere on the building. It was on the St. Clair River which connects Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair and the port in Detroit. There is a lot of ship traffic past this place which boasts a coffee shop, an unobstructed view of the river, and knowledgeable people who call themselves, yes, boat nerds. They call out all kinds of interesting information and stories about each ship as it passes. On display are ship artifacts dredged from the river and made into art.  It was a “hangout” with a very relaxed atmosphere and quite a bit of business, considering that it was a holiday weekend. We had a good time with this place. We have a few family coffee snobs. We didn’t even try their coffee.

Next we went a few streets away to a small shopping district and wandered through some small, artisan-like shops. It was some kind of “small business shopping day” and they got real excited when our group of 10 people came in and probably kind of disappointed when we wandered back out. There were a few purchases, though.

By this time we were getting hungry. Our hosts led us to the Raven Café, a Poe themed coffee house and restaurant that was bursting at the seams with customers. All of us liked the food we ordered. I had a creamy latte, followed by Mushroom with Brie Soup and a half Annabel Lee’s Gorgonzola Cherry salad.  It was hard to choose from all the interesting names like “Premature Burial Bacon-Ham Melt” and “Black Cat BLT”. This is definitely a place diners return to. They have a gift shop and live entertainment events regularly, and a nice FaceBook page. Check them out at www.ravencafeph.com .  Go there.

Another one of our family traditions, no secret by now, is doing jigsaw puzzles. Some of us are more avid puzzlers than others but we all kind of like to have one going on. Somehow we had brought only one puzzle with us and we finished it on Thanksgiving Day. Cheap puzzles abound at thrift shops and libraries so we were on the lookout as we traveled back to Gary’s coffee shop. We ended up at a thrift/antique shop and it was a long shot, but they had a puzzle. Just one. It was antique, and although I’ve had some very old puzzles (think pieces missing, chewed on, etc…) I had never had a real antique so I bought it, more for the container than the picture.  Can you imagine it new for $0.49? It was our second of the season (#puzzlemarathon).


There were many other things we enjoyed over our family time together – I couldn’t begin to mention them all. Many laughs, meals, conversations, hugs and then the inevitable goodbyes. But travel on Thanksgiving Saturday is coming up fast. The journey is definitely not over…