Monday, October 28, 2013

1,000 Piece Puzzle

Bill, my brother-in-law, gave my husband a 1,000 piece puzzle for us to do when we were bored or finding ourselves with a ton of free time on our hands.  Bored?  We personally don't know the meaning of the word.  Free time?  Although we have a fairly accurate understanding of this concept, we actually have little of it in our daily lives.

But, out of curiosity, we decided to take a stab at the 1,000 piece puzzle of doors.  Doors?  If for no other reason perhaps we could get a handle on the true meaning of being "bored" by doing a 1000 piece puzzle of doors!

So we started out by dumping all the pieces on the kitchen table.  Next we began investing some of our precious "free time" in separating the straight-edged pieces from the irregular ones.  We probably spent an hour or so before taking our dog for a walk became the priority.

Upon returning, without consulting each other, we both sat down at the table and continued puzzling.  And, in fact, it was puzzling to both of us for being so drawn to puzzling!  Again we continued at this task for another 2 or 3 hours.

The next day was Saturday. Instead of my husband gluing himself to the college football games, he was stuck in the kitchen trying to find matches for the blues, browns, greens, reds, organges, etc. You get the picture.  Of course I was right beside him in the search competing for bragging rights when one of the matches was found. 

Without any conscious awareness of the amount of time that had passed, we were making great strides in formulating an actual image reproduction.  Taking bathroom breaks for ourselves or the dog or ourselves and the dog eating something out of the fridge were the only two necessities that took us away from the puzzle.  Daylight gave way to darkness. We were surprised at the amount of "free time" we had spent on what we originally deemed to be a "boring" waste of time.

As our success continued, we continued to work obsessively now towards finishing the puzzle in less than the time it took brother Bill and his wife to complete.  It took them a full week, seven whole days.  We were determined to beat their time no matter what. 

On Sunday morning we were faced with a dilemma, go to Mass or stay home and puzzle.  Being the good Christians that we profess to be, we attended Mass, stopped for a quick breakfast, and then raced home to do the real work of the day.  We changed into jeans and a tee and took our respective spots at the table now covered with doors of various design and color. 

At four o'clock our Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Oakland Raiders.  We missed the kick-off; we watched the Raiders score first, and then migrated back to the kitchen never returning to what was the most important thing in our lives for the last 40 years, Pittsburgh Steeler football!

At ten o'clock , feeling extremely proud of how close we were to finishing the 1,000 piece puzzle of doors in only 2 and a half days, we called it a night. But first we checked to see what we had already believed was the case, the Oakland Raiders beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-18. 

Today is Monday and the first thing I did when I awoke was to turn on the coffee pot, grab a yogurt and sit down at the table.  I found 4 matches in less time than it took to drink my coffee and eat my yogurt.  My hubby reluctantly went to the gym, but only stayed an hour.  As we speak, we are both madly searching for the remaining pieces.  We plan to have the puzzle finished by late afternoon which would make our time 3 days from beginning to end.  I'd say we soundly crushed team Bill&Irene!

What perplexes us about this whole puzzle thing is how we found all this "free time" for an activity that we initially thought would be "boring."  What surprised us about this whole puzzle thing is how much fun we had and how the time just simply seemed to fly by!  We plan to puzzle all winter.

Our advice to all of you is to start puzzling.  You won't be bored and you will have all the time in the world to finish what you start.  Only we're sure you won't beat team Barry&Flo.  We won't let you!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Renewing the Face of the Earth One Babe at a Time

My nephew's wife stopped by with their 6wk. old baby girl for a visit this morning.  I call Katalina my "bbf  'birthday buddy forever'" because she was born on my birthday.  How cool is that!

As Monica and I talked about how to get the baby to sleep better especially during the night, I rocked the infant and snuggled her close to my bosom.  Occasionally I'd look down at her cherub face and my heart would be filled with extreme joy. It was during those moments that I realized that I was holding one that had great  potential to renew the face of the earth. And, I thought, much like the Babe born in a manger all those many years ago, this child, too, could be a savior for the terrible troubles the world finds itself in today.

And then, another idea occurred to me.  I don't know how many infants are born each and every day, but if we could harness all the potential they possess, we could conceivably renew the face of earth in less than a century from now.  How cool is that!

The 90 minutes we spent together today lifted my spirits beyond measure. I'm getting older; I want so much more for the generations to come.  I want children to be born into a world of peace and love.  I want families to live together in harmony.  I want neighbors to work and play together for the good of everyone.  I want religion to embrace their believers as well as all others who profess different beliefs. I want education to advocate independent thinking as opposed to conformity for its own sake.
I want government to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. 

And I know all of this and so much more can happen because I looked into the face of an angel today
and realized that she, along with all of the babies being born as we speak, can and will renew the face of the earth.  How cool is that!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Autumn of My Life

At 69, I find myself in the autumn of my life.  Since autumn has always been my favorite time of year, I'm happy to be here.  For me the beauty of this season is without parallel.  The air, the colors, the smells, the holidays are just a few of the many glorious gifts autumn bestows. 

Now retired, I have plenty of time to take long walks with my hubby and dog, Shadow.  The crisp air fills my lungs with pure freshness.  Sometimes, if a neighbor is burning leaves, that smoky fragrance curling into my nose conjures up memories of my youth, raking, romping through, and finally incinerating piles and piles of dry, crackling leaves.

And the colors, oh, the colors!  Living in Pennsylvania in autumn is akin to being in one of Norman Rockwell's picturesque paintings.  Gorgeous reds, yellows, oranges, purples, and greens are splashed across the hillsides resembling a heaping bowl of Trix cereal without the marshmallows, of course.   In my autumn years, I've become more colorful, too.  My thoughts are more vibrant, my words, more intense, and my actions, well I'm doing things I would never have considered in my younger days and don't care a lick about what anybody else thinks!  Including you, my dear bloggers!

Cinnamon and vanilla are the two smells I most associate with autumn.  Apple Crisp, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, and tapioca pudding were constant Saturday fare in my baba's kitchen. I loved to sit in her rocking chair and just smell.  As soon as the rolls were out of the oven, I'd con her into giving me one or two; this way I could let her know if they were up to her usual standards. Now I drink cinnamon lattes and wear vanilla-scented body lotion!  Hey, the yuppie generation has nothing on this ole gal!

And, as a kid, my favorite holiday was Halloween.  We didn't have store-bought costumes.  Instead we spent tons of time thinking of what we wanted to be.  Then we'd dig through the house to find all the stuff needed to become that being. Once I was a hobo, another time, a clown, and still another time, a "Charleston" chick.

Halloween undoubtedly remains the best holiday in my book.  In the third season of my life, I continue to bum around, act the fool, and kick up my heels on the dance floor when I get the opportunity.  The only difference is my kicks are not quite as high!  Who cares, I can cut a rug just as good as anyone I've seen on Dancing with the Stars lately.

Ah-huh, I'm in the autumn of my life and loving it.  I celebrate each day with a smile and a healthy zest for living and learning.  It's beautiful here in autumn; everything is beautiful at this time of year.
And, I'm having the time of my life!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Children Suffer From Depression, Too

This Thursday, October 10, is National Depression Screening Day.  The number of adults suffering from depression in our country is staggering.  Fortunately what was considered to be a taboo topic of discussion years ago has now been declared a national concern.

And now that this crippling disease has finally been outted, how to effectively educate folks on the symptoms and treatment for depression has taken center stage.  Diagnosing adult depression is relatively easy to pinpoint.  Feelings of prolonged sadness, debilitating lethargy, disinterest in social activities, work absences, changes in eating habits, and dramatic increase or decrease in weight are among the most significant earmarks that one is depressed.  Seeking medical attention early on can certainly ease if not totally eradicated most or all of these symptoms.  With proper treatment, the depressed person can return to a feeling of good health and be productive and happy.

However, young children can suffer from depression, too.  But depression in children is sometimes extremely difficult to diagnose, and can go unnoticed for many years.  First, we must all be aware that children as young as two can be clinically depressed. Usually these tots are being raised in a very dysfunctional home, and have been subjected to physical and emotional mistreatment.  If not recognized, their suffering can last a lifetime.

Not all depressed youngsters however come from dysfunctional homes where they experienced daily abuse.  Sometimes it takes just one traumatic event that can cause a child to spiral into the depths of deep depression. And, unfortunately, because they are so young and the adults around them simply believe that they don't understand what has happened, these children begin to act out inappropriately and are many times labeled difficult and unruly.

I was that child.  I believe I became extremely depressed after my dad was killed in a work-related accident in 1948.  I was three years old.  Although I clearly remember his viewing, his funeral, and his interment, I don't remember anyone ever asking me how I felt or even attempted to talk to me about my dad's passing.  My childhood pictures from the time of his death showed me as a serious-faced tot whose eyes never danced with the light of true happiness.  I never talked much and went from a skinny kid to an overweight 6 year old.  I feared authority because of the power they had; after all, look what happened to my dad and he was my strong, invincible hero.  If "they" could end his life, doing me in would be a piece of cake.

I carried my suffering around for many, many years.  At the age of 39 I was afflicted with a neurological condition that few specialists had ever seen in their practices.  For two years I bounced from doctor to doctor without being properly diagnosed.  Finally, in 1983, I found a physician who, although he wasn't able to identify my ailment, sent me to a prominent psychologist.  During my sessions with him, we not only pinpointed what I had, but determined I was depressed and probably had been since the age of three.  With continued counseling and further treatment, the dark fog of this insidious disease gradually lifted. I could look in the mirror and finally see the light shining from my eyes the way it did when my dad and I were together.

To say that I was cured and never would deal with depression again would be false.  But, now I know the symptoms, know where to go and what to do to curtail its duration, and can return to normal in a very short amount of time.  I believe that what happened to me at the age of three is the foundation of my entire life and is what has led me to my passion for the health and welfare of young children.

Children can and do suffer from depression.  Please keep your eyes, minds, and hearts open, talk to your children about serious issues that arise even though they may be very young, let them express their feelings freely, and, above all, take them for proper treatment early if you only suspect that their sadness and change in behavior just might be signs of depression.  Better safe than sorry, I always say!