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Jigsaw Puzzles and True Love

13 Jan

A jigsaw puzzle in progress can almost always be found in my family room.  My husband loves to work on them, especially after a long day of work. It is his way of unwinding and relaxing. Many evenings we sit in the family room, him finding the right piece for the right spot, while I am busy crocheting my next creation. It is peaceful and fun as we chat, or even sit comfortably in silence.

We have found that jigsaw puzzles are wonderful for opening a conversation. People who come to our house for the first time, will often sit at the table and start working on the puzzle. Then they start to talk.  It takes the stress out trying to make conversation for some. To be truthful I think jigsaw puzzles should be part of every host/hostess’ repertoire entertainment.

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Our son in law had two of his brothers working on a puzzle.

When our daughter got married, her future husband and two of his brothers stayed at our house for several days before the wedding (They are Canadian.). The jigsaw puzzle was a great success.  In fact, his brother, the best man, said during his toast that he was worried at first about staying in our house. “But once I got there, I saw a jug of real maple syrup in the refrigerator and a jigsaw puzzle on the table.  And I knew it would be just fine.”  And it was.

Almost everyone enjoys them. And even those who do not, will sit around and talk while others complete the puzzle. When we have a house filled with guests, we make sure one is always out. Whenever there is down time, someone can be found working on the puzzle.

My sister and her family are great puzzle workers.  We got our jigsaw puzzle love from my Dad.  We often had a jigsaw puzzle going on the table in the Catskills.  Great rainy day activity!  I also remember the one we could never finish!! It was so difficult!  But I digress.

Recently a friend came over with her 7-year-old granddaughter. She was amazed when she saw my husband working on his 1000-piece puzzle.  “I have never seen a puzzle with so many pieces before,” She stated. “How do you know where to begin.” My husband had a great time talking to her about puzzles! He welcomed her to come back any time to work on one. I do know that she was gifted a 300-piece puzzle for Christmas, which was put together by her family.

As my sign of love, I usually buy my husband jigsaw puzzles for his birthday, Fathers’ Day and as Hanukkah gifts.  I search them out. The best stores I have found for puzzles are Tuesday Morning and JoAnn’s Fabric. But I have found some on line and in specialty stores. I am always searching and keeping a stash hidden and ready for a celebration.

This year I went out of control in my puzzle buying.  My husband had surgery in July, and I thought jigsaw puzzles would be great entertainment during his time away from work. I knew he would be bored so I purchased 15 puzzles!  It did not work out as I thought, as he had a brace on his neck and could not look down.  The jigsaw puzzles stayed in their boxes for months. Finally, we could take them out and work on putting them together. The good thing about puzzles is that they do not go bad!

I do not always buy them.  I have found that jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts will trade puzzles when they are done.  Which we have done. I have met friends in parking lots and at home to exchange a bundle or trash bag filled with boxes of puzzles.  My husband always puts the puzzle pieces into a ziplock bag after completing one and then into the box. And we have found other true puzzle enthusiasts do the same.

I have a friend with a second- hand store.  She is great about giving us puzzles she thinks he will like so that he can put them together and see if any pieces are missing!  Then we return them with the answer to that important questions, “Are all the pieces there?”. I will admit that there was one puzzle my husband loved so much that was missing a piece. He spent days working to make a new piece for it.  I won’t go into detail, but I will say he did a wonderful job.

Friends and family members often purchase puzzles for him. They are the perfect gift. No matter how many we have, we always have room for more. I see the gift of a new puzzle as a sign of love.

We have another couple with whom we get together every so often. They also love to compete jigsaw puzzles. Twice now we have tried to finish a 500-piece puzzle in one evening.  Each of us takes a different part to work on.  It makes for an enjoyable evening for all of us.

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I think I will sit right here!

One major issue in working with the puzzles our tortoiseshell cat.  She seems to think the puzzles are there for her to enjoy.  We often see her trying to get into the box and run off with one of the pieces.   Her favorite place to sit is in the middle of a not yet completed puzzle… as we are working on it.  She believes we should be paying full attention to her and not the puzzle.  It is a dilemma because if we chase her off, she disrupts the puzzle.

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Current puzzle with the plastic cover!

We have been covering up the puzzles with old poster board when we weren’t working on them to protect them from our cat.  But now, we no longer have to do that!  Our son’s girlfriend gave us the best ever gift!  She purchased a sheet of clear plastic and four clear placemats for us to put over the puzzles when they are not being used.  It is great!   We can still see the puzzle, but our cat cannot mess it up when she sits on it.

Since I usually purchase the puzzles, I chose topics that I enjoy as well: Disney, cats, travels.  For my husband, I find space related puzzles, or Star Trek and Star Wars themes.  The one we are working on right now combines our loves; it is a jigsaw puzzle about knitting and crocheting. I realized my husband was at a disadvantage with this one, when I said, “That purple piece goes with the doily on top.”  And he said, “What doily?  Now I know he knows what a doily is, but these were very small and not what he was used to seeing.

We actually know someone who owns a jigsaw puzzle company.  I have been trying to arrange a visit to it for my husband for over a year now.  First, we were gone.  Then my husband needed surgery.  Then they were gone. I know it has to happen.  My husband is intrigued by the thought of seeing how the puzzles are made in person.  We did see an episode of “How It Is Made” that showed the process. But in person would be so much better.

My husband is extremely kind in his jigsaw puzzle work.  He knows that I am competitive and like to be the ‘winner.’   He always saves the last piece of every puzzle for me, and says, “Okay, here is the last piece, so you can complete the puzzle.”  In this way, I can say I finished every puzzle.  That my friends IS true love.

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I Want My Sandy Back: Our Short Duration of Dog Ownership in 1961

6 Mar

When I was about six years old my father got us a dog. Sandy, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, was so wonderful   We were in the Catskills for the summer when Dad brought the dog to the bungalow. My brother and I were ecstatic.

My sister was just a toddler, so I am not sure how she felt, but she seemed to love the dog as well. Her favorite game was to ride Sandy like a horse. Since she was so little, and Sandy so active, they both had a good time.   My sister seems to remember that the horse riding was my idea. That could have been, I loved horses!

We got to name him, because the dog’s given name was Harry, which was my grandfather’s name. So the first thing we did was have a family conference to name the dog. His name matched his color, a beautiful golden brown.

We often let Sandy run free on the fenced in front lawn of the bungalow colony, right outside our front door. My other grandfather would stand and laugh at the dog running crazy circles. He would scratch his head and say in Yiddish, “Look at that meshuggahan hundt (crazy dog)!”

The summer was wonderful. It was easy to take Sandy on walks, and he had space to run around in the bungalow colony. But then Labor Day came and it was time to return to North Bergen.

We lived in the second floor apartment of a three-story home on Third Avenue.   Sandy was not as happy there as he had been in the Catskills, even though my brother, sister and I showered love on our dog. His adventures became mainly indoor adventuress; not great for an outdoor dog.

In fact, my brother remembers that my parents would put Sandy in the bathroom at night, so he would not roam the apartment. One Sunday morning, my brother got up early and went to the bathroom. He found my young sister wrapping the dog in all the toilet paper!

“What a mess to clean up as he ran around the apartment trailing toilet paper!” My brother remembered.

Actually, overall, having a dog in our apartment was not going very well.

My parents and my brother were usually the ones to walk him. It was a hassle to get him down the stairs and out to the street several times a day. My brother and I were in school. And my Mom was home with my sister, who was still sleeping in a crib. I think my Mom was getting very tired of dog ownership.

Then one day I offered to take Sandy for a walk. I bundled up and took him downstairs. As we were walking, he pulled me into the street. Someone helped me get Sandy back on the sidewalk. I was not going to tell my MOM. But one of the neighbors did. (In those days, every neighbor was like another parent!)

That was the final straw for my Mom. Sandy had to go. “It was not safe to have a dog in the city. It was not fair to Sandy to be locked up in an apartment,” was what my parents told us.

My brother tried to talk them out of giving Sandy away. He promised to walk him every day, if they let us keep our dog. But it did not help.

Soon after that, my Dad found someone who had plenty of land to take Sandy. I still remember the day he came to take our pet. I hid Sandy under my sister’s crib and put the sides down. I put pillows all around to hide him. But it did not work. Sandy followed me out and left our lives forever.

I remember crying for days, “I Want MY Sandy back! I want my Sandy BACK!” I am sure my crying and whining drove my parents crazy. But they were patient and explained over and over how this was better for the dog.

Nothing worked. I never saw Sandy again. However, my parents did report back at least once, that he was loving his life on a farm.

To this day, I cannot watch Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” without thinking of my Sandy. This was my daughter’s favorite movie when she was a child. I watched it almost every day. Each time I watched I would think of my cocker spaniel.

I have never owned a dog after Sandy. My husband and I always had cats. I think part of the reason for me, was that I never wanted a dog to pull someone in the street and be sent away. Cats stay indoors and care for themselves in many ways.

It was just about five months that Sandy was in our family. He arrived in the early summer while we were in the Catskills and was gone by Hanukkah in North Bergen.

Many times I wished I lived in the Catskills throughout the year so that we could have kept Sandy.

My Rebounder Caused Concern And Created A New Exercise Routine

12 May

For my 60th birthday, I wanted a rebounder. These little trampolines are supposed to be excellent for exercising. And I wanted something new to add to my ever-expanding exercise routines. If I get bored, I might stop my daily exercises and I need to continue exercising. It is good for my health and for my life!

I found the rebounder at a local Target. It came in pieces that needed to be put together. I will tell you now that putting together a rebounder is exercise in itself, and somewhat dangerous!!! There were all sorts of warnings about getting your fingers caught in the springs. That would really hurt!

My husband works on the rebounder.  My son was there helping as well.

My husband works on the rebounder. My son was there helping as well.

I was lucky, my husband and son agreed to put my rebounder together. But it was not an easy process. There were moments of extreme agitation and aggravation.   I had to help at several points. But for me, the most interesting and amusing part was listening to my son and husband as they put the rebounder together.

“Dad, I do not think it is a good idea for Mom to use this.”

“Yea, I am a bit worried myself.”

“I think she might fall and break something. She might hit her head on the ceiling or the floor.”

“I know, but she wants it, so what can we do?”

“Hey,” I interrupted their conversation flow, “I am standing right here. I hear you!” Not that it mattered to them, as they continued, worrying about how I would actually use the rebounder.

I finally said in frustration, “I am not going to just jump on it! I am going to start slow! I will do it correctly.”

It took a good 45 minutes for them to complete the task of putting it together. Pulling those springs and getting them in place took power and the three of us working as one. We successfully completed this complicated job. After it was finished, they put the rebounder in the basement for me, where I have a treadmill and other exercise equipment.

They did it! My rebounder is together.

They did it! My rebounder is together.

I did not get on it in front of them. They had me so crazed with their worries. I waited for a friend, who has a rebounder, to come over and teach me some of the moves to use on it.

At first it was really difficult. If I finished rebounding for two minutes, I felt successful. The first two weeks I used it, my legs felt like jelly when I got off. Walking up the basement stairs took effort!

Since the start, I have been using it at least twice a day. I use it as part of my kitten feeding routine. It started as kind of a joke. I have to feed our new kitten in the basement so that our older cat does not eat the kitten food.   I thought I would try out the rebounder when I went down to feed the cat. I did this several days in a row.

On Day five, I decided I did not need to use the rebounder, I would just feed the kitten and go upstairs. It did not work out that way. Once I started up the stairs, the kitten bounded up the stairs as well.   She was not going to eat if I was not there.

I went back downstairs and started rebounding, while the kitten went back to her food. The routine was now mandated. Instead of Rome burning while Nero fiddled, my kitten eats while I rebound.

For the past three months, I feed my kitten twice each day and so twice each day I use my rebounder. Now I  rebound about 10 minutes each session. It gives me about 1500 steps for my UP, so I win doubly!

I have started watching rebounding exercises online to learn new routines. I take my time and modify the routines to make them fit my exercise level. The voices of my son and husband are still in the back of my mind, so I make sure I do not do anything that might throw me off balance, or cause me to fall. However, even though my rebounder caused concern for my husband and son, it created a new outlet for exercising for me. One that I really enjoy!

http://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/fat-blasting-rebounding-routine

An Odd Affinity To Jelllyfish Attacks

23 Mar
I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

When the tentacle wrapped around my son’s leg in Long Island Sound (Connecticut side), people started running. I was not sure what was going on at first. My son, then about three years old, was standing in about 6 inches of water. His hand firmly grasped by a 10-year-old with two 8-year-old children next to them. We were all together, and I was watching closely.

But I did not see what was just under the water. My son started screaming. I ran over and grabbed him, as a man came running towards me. It was scary. What did this man want? He was yelling something at me, but it took a minute to understand that a giant, dead jellyfish has drifted over to the beach and one of its tentacles had wrapped around my son’s thigh.

As the man ran over to me, he was yelling, “We need to get your son to first aid NOW!” I looked down, and there just under the edge of my son’s swimsuit was a giant welt that encircled his thigh. Bright red and raised, the welt was growing before my eys.

By this time my son was holding his breathe. I could see his lips turning blue. He was so scared and in pain. I had him enveloped in my arms, as the man rushed me towards the lifeguard station. But we did not move far, the lifeguard was on his way running to me, with a squirt bottle in hand. He had heard all the commotion and knew something had occurred.

He sprayed my son’s leg with vinegar. The smell was sickly sweet. But I could see my son relax a bit, as the cool liquid eased the pain and started working on the jellyfish venom.

Needless to say, it was the end of our relaxing day at the beach. Even 21 years later, I can close my eyes and relive this moment and the entire hour or so that my son sobbed till he fell asleep from exhaustion. And I do not mean whimpers. I mean full-throated screams of agony. My friend, my Mom, the three girls and I all wanted his pain to end.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My son developed a healthy fear of jellyfish. He loved the water and he loved swimming. But no longer ever wanted to go into ocean. When we went to Florida to see his grandparents, we would walk along the beach the night before, checking for jellyfish. When he saw a jellyfish lying on the beach he would run in the other direction or hop over them. Usually the beach would be closed if we saw jellyfish. Which was just fine. Most of the time, he just wanted to swim in the pool. And I agreed. I did not want to go through that fear again.

Our family love to go to aquariums when we travel. He loved going as well, but he would quickly run past the jellyfish tanks. He wanted nothing to do them. He did not even want to see them.

I would like to say that this was his last encounter with a jellyfish.

Move forward 12 years. We are again in Florida visiting grandparents. One evening we had dinner with my nephew, who was studying marine biology. He told us all about the different jellyfish and Portuguese Man o Wars, which were common in Florida. And how jellyfish and Man o Wars were not the same things. A Portuguese Man o War was not a jellyfish! Our nephew made that clear. My son was unhappy with the dinner conversation. I think the conversation was actually a foreshadow of what would come the next day.

We were visiting friends on the coast. My son, my college-aged daughter and her then boyfriend went down t the beach to enjoy the great day. The adults stayed upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed visiting. We were getting cleaned up and ready to leave when the younger adults arrived back upstairs. My daughter announced loudly as they entered the apartment that my son ‘was stung by a jellyfish!” He is in pain.”

“Very funny, “ I responded. Thinking that she was joking because of our dinner conversation last night.

“No,” her boyfriend added. “He really got stung. Just as we were getting out of the water”

I looked at my son. Oh no! They really were not joking. I could see that he was in PAIN.

Mother mode kicked in. He really was stung by a jellyfish AGAIN! Well actually not a jellyfish, it was a Portuguese Man o War, even worse!!!

Someone went on line to see what we should do. Did getting stung a second time add to the impact and chances of a systemic reaction? Should I take him to an emergency room? I called my husband, who had remained home during our trip to see grandparents. Probably did not need to take him to the hospital, but needed to watch him for a bit. (My husband is a pediatric allergist, so it did make sense to call him.)

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

Vinegar would help. But the only vinegar my friends had was wine vinegar. We used it. We doused my son’s foot in wine vinegar. And then the jokes began. He did smell like a salad. And their dog did want to lick his leg. We got him calmed down as the pain ebbed. And we overstayed our visit by an hour or so, as we waited to make sure there was no reaction.

All was well. My son recovered.

But his odd affinity to jellyfish attacks have created an environment for jellyfish jokes which have become a permanent part of my son’s family life. I must admit, I am among the worst.   My husband and I travel often. And I still love aquariums. I have been to the aquariums in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and more. And each time I go, I take photos of the jellyfish tanks then I email these photos my son.

Sometimes I even buy him jellyfish gifts.

He always smiles and says something like, “Really. This is what you got me.”

But finally I bought him a jellyfish gift that he loves.

His cat’s favorite cat toy had disappeared. He was bemoaning this to me one day, and told him I was going to the pet store to get food for my cat. So I would look for something.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

I found the best toy ever. Developed by National Geographic, part of the price of this perfect toy goes to support animals. It is a jellyfish filled with catnip on a stick. I had to buy it.

When my son came over to pick it up, he laughed. “Really a jellyfish toy?”

“Yes,” I said. You can finally get your revenge. Whenever your cat attacks the jellyfish toy, you can envision those jellyfish that attacked you getting attacked by your cat.”

And he smiled his best smile and agreed it was a wonderful idea.

 

Finding Salamanders and Relaxing in the Black Forest

13 Jul

One of my favorite activities during my summers in the Catskills was finding salamanders. I loved those little orange lizards that lived in the moss hidden in the forest of the Catskills. I have not seen any for years, but they were plentiful when I was a child.

My parents encouraged my interest in nature, so much so that my Dad built a terrarium outside of our bungalow. It was about three feet by four feet, built with wood and chicken wire, right underneath our kitchen window. My brother and I spent a lot of time catching toads, frogs and salamanders to put into our terrarium, but the rule was that they had to be return to the woods when the summer came to an end.

My sister, me, and my brother facing our bungalow. Behind us you can see Kauneonga Lake. About 1962.

My sister, me, and my brother facing our bungalow. Behind us you can see Kauneonga Lake. About 1962.

While my brother went for the frogs and toads, my favorite creature to find was the salamander. I would search in the moss along trails in the woods. They were difficult to find because they could change colors like a chameleon and match the plants that surrounded them. But usually they were a dull orange color.

Then I would take the moss and the salamander back to our terrarium to become part of our nature center. At night, when the windows were open, we could hear the sounds of the frogs coming from the terrarium. It drove my Mom crazy, but she did not complain too much. She knew that I loved to spend hours watching the lizards residing there.

When I was not searching for my lizards, my friend, Vicki, and I would often go on walks to what we called, the “Black Forest.” This was an area of the woods behind my Grandparent’s bungalow colony that was all pine trees. Vicki and I loved to go there and play imagination games.

Because of the denseness of the trees, there was not a lot of sunshine filtering through the woods, and the ground was covered with pine needles, so not many plants grew. It was a mystical place. So silent, with the shadows of the trees dancing on the pine needles, it was the perfect place for a picnic and imagining. It was so quiet, we were able to hear people coming down the trail and hide before they arrived. It was our private place and we did not want to share it when we were there.

To get to the forest we had to walk past the blueberry patch, past the last bungalow in the row, to a place far away from the parents and the swings. We entered the forest near a large growth of ferns and moss. It was here that I could often find salamanders. But that I could do on the way home, not when we were going into the woods.

After we entered the treed area, we would walk along a path that had been created by years of children walking to the “black forest.” I do not know who was the first one to go there. But there were many boys who were much older than Vicki and I. So I assume one of them taught us the way. I just know that traveling along that path and walking back to the pine forest was an important part of our summer adventures.

Most of the walk was through regular woods, but then we would come upon it — the area where only pine trees grow. In that one special place we would lie upon the bed of pine needles and dream. The mounds of pine needles were so comfortable. We share our inner thoughts and secrets. When we were there, we were away from all the boys: our brothers and all my boy cousins. It was a wonderful escape.

Sometimes some of the boys would go with us. But the atmosphere changed when the boys came. Honestly, I liked it best when Vicki and I went by ourselves.

When I look at maps now and satellite images, and I see how far we wandered into the woods, I wonder what our parents would have thought if they knew how far we actually went? It was a different time, but we did get in trouble sometimes. And there was no way to reach our parents, we just figured it out ourselves.

One time we walked out of the pine forest area into some fields. A man came running after us and told us to stay off his property. That was scary. Usually we did not see anyone there. The woods were large. But in reality we knew that if we kept walking, on the other side were those fields and other private property and then Horseshoe Lake Road. We could not get lost. I think I actually walked that way once. But after the man scared us away, we almost always went back through the woods to the bungalow colony.

We had wonderful times wandering on our own. Having picnics that we packed ourselves. Filling our minds with memories that can never be erased. I close my eyes and I can smell the pine needles, their sharp fresh scent. I can feel the crush of my body on the mounds of needles as I looked up to the sky shimmering through the branches. I am back in the ‘black forest’ planning my next acquisition of a salamander and just having a wonderful day with my best friend.