Online Jigsaws: A poem about my latest addiction

Jigsaw online GoogleOver the past couple of months, I’ve developed a fiendish new addiction: online jigsaw puzzles. I’ve got a lot to say about it, but for now, I’m publishing this poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It went over well with my women writers’ group and at Poets Speak Loud at McGeary’s in Albany. I hope you enjoy it too. Please leave comments so I know you’re out there! And please subscribe so you don’t miss my next post.

Online Jigsaws


Instant jigsaw puzzles in the thousands

Only a mouse click away,

My latest online addiction.

I stumbled onto Jigsaw Planet unawares

At the tail end of a soap opera website

Detailing the latest travails

On General Hospital.

There it was, a photo of my favorite actor,

Michael Easton as Finn shooting up 4-8-16

Michael Easton as Hannibal Finn

The erstwhile vampire Michael Easton,

With his newest leading lady.

One click, and those gorgeous faces

Shattered into loopy fragments.

A few more mouse clicks,

And the lovers were reunited, whole again.

Little did I dream that single puzzle

Would tumble me into an abyss of endless jigsaws,

A time-warped universe destined to suck me in

And drain me of the precious hours

I’d promised to woo my elusive muse.

On Jigsaw Planet, I set up my own account,

Christened myself Jazzy Julie,

Created puzzles cribbed from photos of my life.

Posted them to the site. No one came at first,

But now I’ve got followers.

I follow others in return, anonymous online friends

Who while away the hours shattering wholeness into shards,

Then painfully piecing pictures back together.

Speed is of the essence. Once the timer starts,

The seconds and minutes flash onscreen

Below the puzzle, but peeking wastes precious time.

Instead I focus on the pieces,

Drag them into place.

If it’s a fit, they snap together with a delightful click.

The sound’s a giveaway,

So I keep it low and stealthy,

In hopes my spouse won’t hear.

When the final piece finds its perfect union,

There’s a climactic chime.

Only then do I check my time,

See how high I’ve scored.

With every game, every day I play,

I’m getting steadily better.

Despite the tremors in my aging fingers,

Even when thousands have played the game,

I’m in the top five percent, sometimes even first.

My adrenaline crests, creating a heady cocktail,

Merging with dopamine and serotonin

Flooding my body with bliss.

Awash in satisfaction, I contemplate my achievement

But the pleasure ebbs away too soon.

Just one more puzzle, I tell myself. My muse can wait.

Mired in shame and guilt, I peruse my choices. What will it be?

The Grand Canal in Venice? An array of wines and cheeses?

A litter of golden retriever puppies?

Thousands of options, with new ones every day,

Free of charge, but stealing minutes and hours

From my few remaining years.


I’ve always been good at jigsaws, but they bored me

Till Springbok Puzzles came upon the scene in 1963.

Their artsy designs and odd-ball contours captured my fancy.

First came a Jackson Pollock painting.

Untangling its spider webs of hurled and dribbled paint,

I wowed my fiancé and his mother at weekly Sunday dinners

On the upper East Side, refusing to cheat by peeking

At the cover photo. That marriage didn’t survive the Sixties,

And that husband’s now deceased.

A few years later, alone in my Broome Street loft,

I worked my Springbok puzzles

To wind down after days of painting, on nights

When there were no parties to crash. Too hip for TV,

I listened to FM rock. In 1968, I was tripping out

On a psychedelic puzzle designed by Peter Max

When the announcer cut in to announce

That Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated.

Fast forward eighteen years, to 1986.

Married once more, a mother,

I’d traded the SoHo loft for a house on sixteen acres,

With a creek that flooded every spring.

Home alone in January, wasted by the flu,

Using a sick day I’d earned at the psychiatric center,

I was working a Springbok at the dining table,

One of the circular puzzles, though I don’t recall which one.

Perhaps the kittens, the pizza with all the toppings,

The antique map of the constellations—

I solved my favorites many times.

The TV was tuned to a shuttle launch.

In my shocking pink chenille bathrobe,

A gift from a discarded lover of years before,

I watched the Challenger explode on live TV,

The forking trajectory of the white smoke plumes

Arcing across the cobalt sky.

I abandoned jigsaws after that,

Sold my Springboks at a yard sale when we downsized.

Today I Googled the company.

Their jazzy website says they’re going strong,

Proudly made in America from 100% recycled materials.

But Hallmark bought them out years ago,

And now they’re heavy on nostalgia—

No more Peter Max or Jackson Pollock.

I could order them online, but I’m not tempted.

Why bother, when I can surf the web

And capture an infinity of puzzling images for free?

Besides, my cat can’t bat the pieces off the screen.lunesta-on-printer-7-27-14

Fear and habit: my biggest writing bugaboos

Monday, March 21

Block Busting: Blasting through the Barriers to Creativity.

That’s the catchy title I came up with for a workshop I’ll be delivering at least twice in the coming months: once for the Hudson Valley Writers Guild in June, and once for the Capital Region chapter of the Romance Writers of America in November. By the time the June workshop rolls around, I hope to have figured out a bunch of ways to walk the talk, because I’ve got plenty of blocks of my own to overcome.

Crocuses Ruby Giant purple

Today feels like an auspicious day to begin: it’s the first full day of spring, and at long last Michael Easton is back on General Hospital. My crocuses are in full bloom, and bit by bit, the minutes of daylight are triumphing over those of darkness. From this day forward, I plan to track the patterns of my creativity—the actions that work and the road blocks that hold me back—and to share them with my readers. I hope you’ll share yours with me as well.

What is it that keeps me from writing? In two words, fear and habit. Fear that I’m not good enough, that I’ll run out of ideas, that people won’t read my work. Once I begin writing, those fears almost always dissipate, and I actually start enjoying myself, but it’s that nasty devil of procrastination that too often derails me before I begin. I’ve got lots of avoidance mechanisms, and here’s where habit comes in. Once I sit down at the computer, my first impulse is to play a game of FreeCell, and I too often succumb to temptation. Next I check my email, then go to Facebook. I catch up on my online friends and colleagues, then check a couple of news sites to see what new disasters have befallen the planet. Before I know it, I’ve frittered away a couple of hours, and lo and behold, it’s time for lunch.

Lunesta computer April 2014

That’s assuming I even get to my computer before lunch—and that’s a big if. I often watch TV and read until one or two in the morning, then sleep till nine or ten. I walk my dog Sirius; then it’s back to bed for breakfast and the morning newspaper. Then my Nia class at the Y three mornings a week, a philosophy group at church on another morning, my daily dose of General Hospital from two to three. Then it’s upstairs to my office and the computer, whereupon I engage in those dilly dallying habits I detailed above.

With luck, I may start writing at four, and all too soon it’s time for dinner, complete with a glass or two of wine. Evenings bring a variety of diversions—choir practice at FUUSA, assorted meetings and open mics, ushering at The Egg or the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. When I stay in, television usually proves my undoing. I’m partial to The Voice, among other shows, and if all else fails, there’s always Netflix.

The-Voice-Season-8 promo

If you’ve waded through the above paragraphs, I congratulate you. They’re so pedestrian, so humdrum, that I’m almost too embarrassed to post them, but if I plan to help other writers overcome their blocks, the first step is being honest about my own. In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll see if going public helps me overcome them. I’ll post a weekly progress report incorporating some of the helpful hints I come up with.

And now it’s 6:00pm, time to pour myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and slap together a speedy dinner of smoked salmon and cream cheese on gluten free bread, then catch the evening news with David Muir, who’s quite the hottie. Tonight I believe he’s hanging out with President Obama in Cuba. Then my husband and I are off to a lecture about overcoming bad habits. Catch you later . . .

Obama & David Muir Cuba 3-21-16

David Muir interviews Barack Obama in Cuba, March 21, 2016

March 22, 1:00pm.

Last’s night’s lecture was fascinating. Charles Duhigg, author of the best-selling The Power of Habit,has lots of thought-provoking ideas I’ll blog about soon. Back home, true to form, I indulged in most of the habits I described above, with minor variations. After staying up till almost 2:00am reading Duhigg’s book, I was too sleepy to get up in time to make it with my husband to the philosophy group. But on my walk with Sirius, I saw the swan that’s been hanging out on Snyder’s Lake, and we spied a couple of loons in the distance. Since my long-distance vision isn’t so great, that necessitated hanging out for a few minutes to watch them dive, then resurface many yards away, to make sure they really were loons and not our resident ducks.

Then it was back to bed with breakfast and the Times Union. I logged onto my computer at noon. I managed to resist FreeCell and Facebook, but I checked the news and came upon the horrific news of today’s terrorist bombings in Brussels.  I then happened upon a link to an article about David Bowie’s former mansion on Mustique, which you can now rent for a paltry $40,000 a week. At 1:00, I got back to this blog post, which I may be able to publish before General Hospital comes on at two. Word has it that Michael Easton will have more screen time today.

David Bowie Mustique retreat

David Bowie’s mansion on Mustique Island

And so it goes. I may be frittering away my life, but sitting here with the sun streaming through my office window, with my dog and cat nearby soaking up the rays, I feel inordinately happy. And is that such a bad thing? Should I be wallowing in guilt? That’s a topic for another time, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments. Is sloth truly a sin?

Lunesta & Sirius office window 3-26-15

Lunesta and Sirius in late March a year ago, when there was snow on the ground!

Feeling unprofessional and playing Spider

Thanks to all of you who responded to my professional vs. amateur question. I think Alan Chin sums it up best:

“Profession and amateur are both labels. When we push the egos out of the way, we are simply all writers. Some get paid more than other, but pay is not the only conpensation. Bliss is a good reward for doing what you love at your own damned pace.”

Alan, hope it’s OK to quote you and to give the link to your blog. I’d add that treating writing as a profession involves discipline and perseverance – something I don’t have much of at the moment. I got seduced into playing Spider solitaire – anyone else have that problem with computer games? They’re a horrible waste of time, yet somehow I’m unable to stop, even though for me they’re a guaranteed depressant. I wrote a poem about it called “Skinner’s Last Laugh,” which I’ll post one of these days on a poetry page.

I hope all the mothers out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day.