Life is a puzzle.

Iris the Master Puzzler at work

Our daughter Iris has earned the moniker of “Puzzle Master—Master Puzzler,” for a simple and very good reason: that girl can really work a jigsaw puzzle like no one else! She’s been known to stretch across the table to pluck a piece right out of someone else’s hand if necessary. The small cardboard cutouts fly fast and furiously as she pops them in one right after the other. She uses color and shape seamlessly, rarely referring to the box lid for guidance. Upside-down, sideways, sitting or standing makes no difference. Oh, and by the way, she ALWAYS pockets one piece to insure that she gets to make the ceremonial closing play. That’s important to her for some reason, so we all automatically glance her way when searching for the last missing piece. She protests at first, then mock innocently checks her pockets, suddenly feigning surprise. Voila!! She produces the missing piece and righteously pops it into place—definitely one of our best family rituals! 

Each day a new piece

Of course, we see a similarity in our tradition of working family puzzles and working through the “puzzles of Life.” After all, every moment of every day we locate a new piece of the “Life picture”—like an opening into the future, an inviting doorway. We carefully check for fit and color-match, experimenting and perhaps asking, “Does that look right?” Even squinting or shifting perspective can leave us with doubt as we ask the person next to us, “I can’t tell, does that piece fit or am I forcing it?”

Rainy day discovery

While on an early morning walk after an evening rain, Em spied something curious on the brick sidewalk downtown. Oddly enough, it was a single jigsaw puzzle piece. How strange! But in that instant, the lonely lost part flipped a switch in his brain. He had been working through one of Life’s conundrums—searching for a clue, a missing piece or two that would lead to a logical conclusion. Suddenly, everything fell into place. Ahh! That’s the way it magically happens sometimes.

However, we’re not all master-puzzlers and we don’t always magically find the missing piece we’re looking for. Wouldn’t it be nice if Life came packaged in a box with a specific number of pieces and a picture on the front? Would you ever agree to work a puzzle without a picture? We think not. Yet, we patiently fit our lives together, piece-by-piece with very sketchy, if not absent information, all the while knowing that we basically have to work it alone. 

The missing piece of Life’s puzzle

Let’s face it, our little puzzling metaphor has its limits, but there are still some valuable insights: 1) Even though some pieces my be difficult to find, we have to be vigilant and patient to get just the right match; 2) don’t hesitate to reach across the table if necessary when you finally see what you’re looking for; 3) sometimes we need to shift our position to get a fresh perspective; and 4) humor with some good old-fashioned belly laughter is essential. But remember that there may be a trickster among us. Don’t get discouraged—because someone may have just slipped a critical piece of your puzzle into their pocket, momentarily hiding it from view. Rest assured that eventually all of the pieces will fall right into place. 

Following is a song we wrote a few years ago about this very process, called: “Fitting Pieces.” 

 

What does it mean to become a grandparent? Hmm. Could be a question for the Magic 8 Ball.

We Won!

We don’t remember being asked if we wanted to be grandparents, nor did we ever try to influence the process with pressure or even subtle hints. For us, our children have always been gifts of a lifetime. For them to become parents is their choice, not ours. We maintained an attitude that it would either happen, or it wouldn’t happen—surprise us! That’s part of what makes becoming grandparents so special. We were bystanders, observing the realization of someone else’s dream, not ours. Having a baby once removed is something bestowed, rather than requested—offered rather than sought. It’s a lifetime achievement award  granted when you least expect it. We keep our heads down, push forward and focus on our own life. And just when you look away for a second, “Ta-da!” That’s exactly what happened to us, an almost magical “Abbracadabbra! and Poof”! It turns out to be much more than a lifetime achievement award. It’s more like we just won the lottery of life!

We Got it Covered

As the due date crept closer, we asked Em’s sister and her husband what advice they would offer to would-be GPs since they already had nearly a decade of experience on us. She said, “It’s all about time. Make sure you give them quality time and lot’s of it. Presence.” He said, “It’s all about back-up. Make sure you’re always there to help out when they need it.” For us, those were great responses that fit together hand-in-glove. Creating time is a sharing, proactive and generous gift that gets filled to the brim with surprises—whatever they want, and plenty of it. Providing back-up is a responsive and action-oriented stance, encouraging us to remain at-the-ready, poised to supply custom-made solutions where timing is everything. Their responses were so poignant for us, reflecting each of their personalities perfectly, but also representing two sides of the same GP coin—active and passive. That’s why partnerships are so powerful when we complement each other.

The Official Cups

Weeks later, after the little bundle of All Things Good had arrived, it dawned on us that we needed to name these new “active and passive” roles we were now assuming. What would be our new monikers? What grandparent names could be unique for us? They had to be playful and spontaneous, not too serious since we would be learning on the job. Little did we know that those questions had already been considered by our daughter and son-in-law. We received our new names, emblazoned on coffee cups, announcing  that we would henceforth be Moops and Goops. PERFECT!

Rosie June

The way each of us steps into the big grandparent shoes is totally different, with a style uniquely our own expression. Therefore, Moops and Goops—one-of-a-kind names. Perhaps Rosie June will update those descriptors as the years pass to suit her particular age and stage. In the meantime, we are hopefully on our way to becoming the best Moops and Goops possible, head over heels in love with our little sweetie. We offer time and back-up to this growing family—knowing full well that there will come a day when it’s time to back-up, make room, and give way to untold possibilities. And we will cheerfully follow her lead!

There’s nothing like a Tuscan scavenger hunt. Saturday’s goal was to unearth some of the relics of the ancient Florentine past, buried in the middle of the bustling 21st century life. We headed northwest from Florence into the challenging sea of modern development. Calenzano was our destination, and we were in search of her historic heart. We found it! (more…)

Legends are made of high drama. Some have a smattering of gruesome details. We find both in the story of Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy).

As the patron saint of Sicily’s ancient city of Syracuse, Santa Lucia’s image is scattered around the city. We didn’t think much of it until we spotted the strangest delicacy in a window of the local pasticceria, pastry shop: eyeball cookies. (more…)

Oh, the monastic life!

Italy is filled with monasteries. Some are still functioning, some are museums and some are experiencing “adaptive reuse.” But no matter what the religious order, the dedicated souls that makes up each community seem to have a common purpose. Oh, sure. There’s the spiritual purpose, of course. But beyond that, they usually come up with a unique secondary goal: the blending and perfecting of spirits. We mean the drinking kind. (more…)

After all . . . it was just my favorite hat!

Once in a while, I run across something that really suits me. My blue baseball cap is one of those unique treasures—cool green stitching around the bill, a quirky off-centered design that was a bit tricky to figure out, and, of course, it was broken in just right with sure signs of wear—obviously a fave. (more…)

Don Quixote might mistake the windmill called Mulino a Vento as a “giant,” standing on top of the ridge, with arms outstretched over the valley below, ready to do battle with any approaching foe. It surely must be a giant, right, because there aren’t any windmills in Tuscany? Everybody knows that! Right? Well, “everybody” is mistaken. (more…)