“What Have We Learned?”

The title is a line used by Keith Olbermann every Friday on his political punditry show, “Countdown”. Today, he’s an excellent example of how immersing yourself in American politics can motivate you to eventually ignore politics. Keith Olbermann is current immersed in efforts to rescue dogs.

His Friday night segment focused on high and low points of that week. The phrase has stuck to my brain ever since. It’s usually good mental exercise to re-examine a bad situation to see what you learned from it and apply it in the future.

Joan and I just completed a 1500-piece puzzle. Joan was opposed to increasing from 1000 to 1500 pieces. I learned that I should listen to her more often. Actually, when we were done placing all available pieces, the final piece count was 1498. Two pieces are missing and we’re just tired of looking. The biggest contributor to pieces winding up on the floor, in furniture cushions, and out on the lawn??? 

Sweaty fore-arms! 

I figured out -all on my own- that wearing along- sleeved shirt eliminates the problem — that newsflash hit me after the puzzle was about 75% complete.

We began working this puzzle on June 25th. The puzzle was completed yesterday, August 10th. That’s 46 days with a least 2 hours of puzzling time/day which comes to 92 hours of puzzling “activity”.

(puzzle assembly is not activity. We sit hunched over the dining room table moving only the right hand. Occasionally, standing up to rearrange pieces is required.)

So, after dedicating at least 4 full days of our lives to this puzzle, what did we learn?

Lighting is a critical factor. I learned that using flashlights for examining details is clumsy and expensive. Flashlights require batteries. They ain’t cheap. I also learned that if you leave the flashlight lit when you leave the table, which I believe I did 4 times, the batteries die and must be replaced, which ain’t cheap. I purchased a very nice table lamp at about the half way mark. It works great, but even with this improvement I learned something else — you must step over the electrical cord hanging between the wall and the table. I only tripped over the cord once. No damage! 

A cornerstone of the jigsaw-puzzle-as-a-metaphor for life is that completing the border FIRST! is essential. Take a very deliberate approach to defining what you want, and don’t want, in your life. Imagine calling in the sheetrock guy before the framing is done on a new home. The border on this puzzle was extremely difficult. After 4 weeks the incomplete border had stymied progress on the rest of the puzzle and we were forced to figure it out.

This puzzle was a tough one due to the fact that many pieces appeared to fit when they actually did not. We learned that one mistakenly placed piece creates 2 problems, no place for the right one and a “missing” piece that belongs elsewhere. To avoid being critical of my significant other, I will say that I learned, conclusively, that most of the misplacements weren’t mine.

There are many more lessons I could relate about this puzzle, but I’ll spare you and jump right to the big one, the coup de grace —————-

Since March of this year, my garage has become a gallery of completed puzzles— Joan won’t allow them on the living room wall. This 1498-piece Thomas Kinkade replica was gong to be mounted this morning. It didn’t make it! As I lifted the puzzle which I thought was thoroughly reinforced with adhesive backing, it crumpled back to its original identity —– a pile of pieces.  

Conveniently enough, tomorrow is trash pick-up day.

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