Netflix for Jigsaw Puzzles? Stress Relief 2021

I love jigsaw puzzles. They're my zen jam because I'm present and focused when looking for pieces. Puzzles also serve my need for immediate positive reinforcement. Each piece found and placed is a mini-win. And because I've bought a few puzzles online, I get a lot of ads in my Facebook feed for jigsaw puzzles. This morning, I got an ad for a puzzle club that called itself the Netflix for puzzles.

Pick a puzzle, get it in the mail, complete it, send it back, and get another puzzle. 

The idea is intriguing to me because I often grumble over what to do with completed puzzles. I usually donate them but worry they'll end up in the landfill. So a subscription service would solve this problem. I found this helpful article that compared the various jigsaw puzzle subscription programs. I had no idea there were so many!

And they vary quite a bit, with most not being very Netflix-like at all. Some ship monthly puzzles that you've bought and don't send back. And options are sometimes limited. That doesn't work for me.

Completing the Puzzle offers unlimited puzzles that you complete and send back, but you don't get to pick the specific puzzle you're getting (you tell them the type you like/don't like). So it's like Netflix but they decide what they'll send you. The control freak in me is a bit freaked out by this idea, but I like that the puzzles are borrowed, not bought. It's $25/month for a six-month subscription. Not cheap. Nicer puzzles are not cheap, either, and they say they select only high quality puzzles (with precision cut pieces that don't fray).

Why, Lisa, why is this worthy of a blog post? We all need to find stress management methods and habits that work best for us. Puzzles help get me into an almost meditative state in that my mind is focused and calm when I work on a jigsaw puzzle. 

I have one wee challenge with what is otherwise sounding like a terrific idea. My dog, Hazel, has on two occasions eaten puzzle pieces. Not just those I've dropped - that would be my fault. She's sought them out from on top of the table. If I got a subscription, I'd have to create a better system for keeping puzzle pieces from her. They let you off with a warning the first time you lose a piece but then charge you $5 for pieces lost. Yes, they count the pieces when puzzles are returned... and then quarantine and sanitize them.

I like that Completing the Puzzle is a small business. 

Hmmm...I thought this blog post was going to be informational, not a persuasive argument, but it ended up that way. Persuasive for me, that is, because I've talked myself into signing up.

It's called stress management and it's very important...Here's the last puzzle I bought and completed. I left it in the cabin in the woods we rented for a week. I hope others enjoy it. 

Puzzle


Elements of My 2021 Plan with Pics

I've been working on my plan for the year. Here are the elements.

  • Identify major thrusts/fuels that will be at my core.
  • Reflect on and define ONE area that I want to AMP UP and TWO practices/habits I'd like to reduce. 
  • I reminded myself of my decision filter (I wrote about that here).
  • Write a plan story (narrative that expresses what success will look and feel like). Adapted Scenario Based Planning method.
  • Created a digital vision board that corresponds to the story.

Here's my working draft. I've formatted the two rectangles so they fit perfectly when taped inside my Panda Planner, which I will use on a daily basis come January 1.

2021 Plan

And here's the corresponding digital vision board.

Edgy!

And here's my Panda Planner. I like this planner because it's flexible and helps keep me aligned and focused. I spend five minutes each morning and five minutes each evening working in the planner. These pics are from the Panda Planner website here.

PandaPlanner_Purole_1_1024x1024

Classic_daily_1024x1024And here's how my 2021 plan will fit in the planner so I can regularly review it. I've just got paperclips on it right now because I'm still tweaking my plan. I'll tape it in so it's smooth.

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And that's what I've got done so far. I have my decision filter graphic as my phone wallpaper, and I'll put my vision board on my computer wallpaper. 

I hope you've been thinking about how to best roll into 2021. Happy New Year! 


Invitation: Let's Get Planning for a Satisfying 2021

I'll be taking the next two-three weeks to create my 2021 plan. I look forward to generating Big Hairy Audacious Agile Goals BHAAGS (extra "A" intentional) and a scenario plan story that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand and tingle. There's no downside to thinking big, as long as I have a process that allows me to track my progress and make adjustments. I'll use my Panda Planner to take stock of my daily achievements and plan for an adventurous and misadventurous day, week, month, and year. I'll be blogging about this. But for now, here's my first order of business.

Note: If you'd like to work on your 2021 plan, I've created a private and temporary Facebook Group. You can join me here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/736192860340186

  1. December 15-31st. Generate a vision story for 2021. Create a picture for what an adventurous and audacious year looks like. For me, for where I'm at in my life/health, for this time. By the 28th, I hope to have distilled and crafted a story that expresses my intention for 2021. Here's a copy of my 2019 Goal Statement that I'll be using as my template. Notice that the top portion expressed my key themes and thrusts and the bottom was my scenario plan (expressed in past tense). The way you format or color your story plan is up to you. I did mine this way because it's a perfect fit to adhere to the back page of my planner and I love ORANGE.

Lisas 2019 goal statement


More Neutral Zone Considerations - The Power of Temporary Clarity

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Yesterday I blogged about how, during a transition/change, we can be more creative while in the messy, ambiguous, neutral zone. But I also mentioned how the neutral zone can be draining and frustrating, because things are fuzzy and in flux. One of the ways to lessen the negative impacts of the neutral zone is to define temporary systems. Make decisions for the next day/week/month. 

Here's how this holiday season will look.

Here's how I will complete this project.

Here's my role because the nonprofit has paused operations.

Here's how I'll get my walking miles in while I'm struggling with some tricky side-effects.

Here's my new budget for the next two months.

Here's what things will look like this week.

Here's how I'll define a great week given all that has happened.

Here's what staying in touch can look like.

Here are the things I can stop doing for the next _____ days/weeks/months.

We need to switch up our lives due to the pandemic, but these neutral zone coping techniques will help with other goals or changes as well. We should consider defining temporary systems, roles, or actions that will help us move toward the new beginning anytime we're hanging out in the neutral zone.


Life in the Neutral Zone - An Opportunity to Create

Haneberg_StiffLizard_Ebook smallI've not blogged much the last two weeks because I'm channeling my writing energy into FINALLY finishing my 4th mystery, STIFF LIZARD. It was supposed to come out earlier this year. Here's the cover.

 - I delayed the book because I was going to have to have surgery.

 - Then my surgery was delayed by the covid pandemic.

 - And then I fell into a covid-fear-haze and didn't feel like writing.

 - And then I had surgery.

 - And now I'm back to finishing the book (while straddling the continued covid-fear-haze).

It's a quirky mystery set on Galveston Island, TX. The pub date 2021 Stiff Lizard will be a different book than the pub date 2020 one would've been. I've added a few things, subtracted a few things, and amped up the plot and quirk. I'm a different person, and my story will reflect this.

The 2021 version will have the benefit of my neutral zone creativity. The neutral zone (from Bridge's Transition Model) is that fuzzy in-between time when the new reality is emerging but not yet understood. Ambiguity shows up in many ways. Along with being draining and frustrating, the neutral zone is a great place from which to create.

Why? Think about what KEEPS us from creating. Our automatic and rutted routines act like a magnetic tractor pull that can prevent us from coloring outside the lines or conceiving of something new. But when we're living in the neutral zone, we're delightfully lacking in routine and comfortableness. 

So while I am fatigued and frustrated and afraid of every living person I encounter (Are you going to kill me with your breath?), I'm also feeling a bit more adventurous and open.

Being in transition is enabling me to write a better story because I'm less sure and secure. Funny how that works. I've promised my editor the book by Dec. 14th, so I'll not be blogging as much until I've turned in the manuscript.

And then, LOOK OUT. Hehehe.


A fruitful mindset for #NaNoWriMo

November 1st is almost here, and I've thought about the mindset that will serve writers well as they launch into #NaNoWriMo. The mindset has a few elements that are reinforced by recent blog posts (linked):

#1: Time is precious; choose wisely. I blogged about my Decision Filter here. I'm still reviewing this filter daily and it's helping me make better decisions about how I spend time. 

#2: Be a winner and you'll win. Put the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy to work for you. Think and act like a highly productive writer and you'll be one. 

#3: Believe that you're in the middle of doing something great. It's easy to give up or give in when we're in the messy middle of things and to doubt that we're on the right track. But here's the thing. Being in the middle of an epoch success can feel the same way. So don't give up. Believe you're in the process of an achievement.

4: Make unreasonable requests that aren't. We might be THIS close to our daily or weekly goals but have a substantial barrier. And while we probably can't manifest a million dollars into our bank accounts so we can rent a villa for the month, we can engage the people who love and admire us in an assist. Making unreasonable requests is a regular part of my regimen and has helped me generate breakthroughs.

I hope you have the BEST NaNoWriMo ever!


Talkin' to Disease

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Bob was a bit anxious about going to a shrink but promised Sandy he'd try a session in hopes it would help him cope with his diagnosis. His mind swirled and stomach churned as he waited for Dr. Bono.

A nurse opened the door to the lobby. “Mr. Devine?"

“Yes, I’m Bob.”

"Dr. Bono asked that I take you to the exam room."

Exam? I thought this was going to be a conversation. "Great, thanks."

"Can I get you something to drink while you wait?"

"How about a scotch?"

The nurse smiled and left the room. Bob sat and looked around trying to decipher how Dr. Bono might operate his practice. Lots of art. Lots of books. A telescope but no windows. A tambourine hung on the wall.

A tall man in a white coat entered the room. "Mr. Devine? I hope you weren't waiting long."

"No," Bob replied.

"I'm Dr. Bono." The men shook hands and then sat in comfortable armchairs across from each other. "What brings you to see me?"

"My wife suggested it. I was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I'm struggling with it. I don't know how to think about the future. I worry if there is a future. I don't know how much to share with people and I don't want people's pity. It's overwhelming."

"I'm sorry you have to deal with this," the doctor said. "May I ask what your oncologist has told you is your prognosis?"

"They're not sure. I've more tests and maybe surgery. So far, the indications aren't good."

"Okay." The doctor paused and was quiet. "Hmmm...I feel the vibe of the cancer in the room. Did you know that disease has a vibe?"

"No." Bob looked around as if vibes were visible.

"They do. Cancer, heart problems, diabetes. Each disease emits an aura and a smell." The doctor stood and pulled from the air and smelled his invisible catch. "I'm getting a good sense of it. Are you in pain?"

Bob felt strange about the doctor smelling his cancer.  "A little. I've been told the pain will increase as things progress."

The doctor stood still for several moments with his eyes closed. He took big loud breaths in and out. "I can smell your cancer and feel its presence. You want to know how to cope with this, right?"

Bob eked out a slight nod. "The next several months are going to be tough."

"Based on the smell, I'd say the cancer is laughing at you."

"Laughing?"

"Disease has a personality. Would you like me to talk to your cancer and ask it to behave?'

Bob leaned to the side and put his elbow on the armrest. He cocked his head to the left. "Talk to it?"

"In the right language, of course." Dr. Bono turned his hands in a circular motion and looked at the ceiling.

"Language?" Bob placed the side of his head in his hand.

The doctor walked around the room in a circle, flapping his arms. "Yaaa, yaaa, baa, na, ony, nana."

"Doctor...uh...I think there might be a mistake."

"Mani, na, ba, yaaa. Havi ah wani ka"

Bob stood up. "Doctor...I don't think this is what I need."

The doctor stopped, walked toward Bob and glared. "Mistake? Need? Are you questioning my expertise? You came to me remember? You asked for my help, remember? This is a very complicated situation that requires a high level of focus and concentration. If you don't respect it or me, I won't be able to convince your cancer to behave. So what will it be?"

Bob's mouth hung open. "I don't know what to say."

"That's why I am talking to the cancer, not you. So sit down, be quiet, and let me do my job."

Bob sat and waited while the doctor flapped and chanted for over thirty minutes. He wondered how he'd describe his therapy session to Sandy and caught himself smiling; something he'd not done in weeks.

Lisa's note: This little ditty came to me after I contemplated whether to seek therapy to make sense of my cancer diagnosis. I'm not making fun of therapists or the diagnosed but am highlighting the importance of smiles, from wherever you can get them.


Invite a Narrative Dare #amwriting

I was watching a video where the owner of Murder By the Book in Houston interviewed authors Jasper Fforde and Matt Haig about their new books. Watch the video here. Something that Jasper said struck a chord with me and I've thought about it several times since seeing the video. He said he "sets a narrative dare" when drafting book plots. In other words, he challenges himself with a specific but not narrow concept. "Rabbits live amongst us. How?" was the example he shared that helped him get going on his newest book, "The Constant Rabbit."

The idea, Jasper said, is to set the narrative dare and then write our way out of it. 

I love the idea of challenging ourselves such that we live a more creative life. And if you're a writer, the narrative dare might be something worth trying. Dares that offer some specificity but allow wide-ranging creative freedom work best. 

The narrative dare for my current project could go something like this: Iguanas invade Galveston Island. How? The narrative dare for my first novel could've been: an octopus is charged with murder. How? And while I'd not heard of the narrative dare when I wrote "Toxic Octopus," that central idea fueled my interest in and commitment to fleshing out the story.

Here are a few narrative dares I just brainstormed:

  • The end of lying. What happened?
  • The planet is going to explode in one year. Explain.
  • A pill melts fat away in one week. How?
  • Placebos become the real thing. Why?
  • Cell and Internet service is shut down by aliens. 
  • Existentialism sweeps the nation. How?
  • Poisonous plants from all over the world meet and organize. Explain.

Might a narrative dare, or some other type of dare, help you create?


The Human Body is a System

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I had few health challenges until I was 35. Then the chaos-theory-reverberation-making-proverbial-shit-hit-the-fan. But this is not a woe is me post. It's a reflection on the circuitous path we have to walk/run/dance/jump when trying to investigate what ails us.

Wait, Lisa. Isn't that what doctors are for?

If I could hire a private investigator with a medical degree, sure. But our healthcare delivery system is fragmented and focused. And my primary care physician - theoretically the overseer of my care - is so overburdened that she is forced to farm out anything requiring more than ten minutes to resolve to specialists. 

I have a lot of "ologists" on my medical team. They're super smart about a few things. They've studied a small number of health problems in depth so they can get really good at treating them.

The problem with this is everything is connected. Human bodies are chaotic systems. Interesting fact: It was in the context of the body that Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, the Father of Systems Thinking, fathered systems thinking

"As long as we single out individual phenomena, we do not discover any fundamental difference between the living and the non-living." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Problems of Life: An evolution of modern biological thought

"In order to understand an organized whole, we must know both the parts and the relations between them." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, The History and Status of General Systems Theory

Having specialists looking at their assigned piece of me is helpful but insufficient. My oncologist doesn't know about diet or metabolism. My endocrinologist doesn't know about cancer or the heart. My cardiologist doesn't know about the digestive tract. My neurologist doesn't know about arthritis or strength. My personal trainer (not an ologist, but on the team) doesn't know about medications and blood test results. But my cancer affects my digestion. And the oral chemo I take affects my heart. And my metabolism affects my thinking and movement. And my diet affects everything. 

My job is to discover how things are connected, make meaning, and fill in gaps. To do this, I listen to my ologists and do a lot of research using reliable sources. Maybe I go back to my ologists with my findings. Sometimes I'm on my own.

It's a lot of work and my most important job. And when I figure something out, it's sweet like cherry pie.


Silly in Serious Times

2020 has ushered in some heavy shit. We had a lot going on before - global warming, healthcare, inequities, high chocolate prices - and now we've lomped on a global pandemic, high unemployment, and a divisive election. And murder hornets. And a record number of wildfires, floods, and hurricanes. None of these problems have been resolved. They keep going on and on and on. 

It's a dilemma for me, because I prefer to be silly and write about silly things. Baby goats jumping around in pajamas, home haircuts gone way wrong, and humorous books, movies, and anything.

Seems a tad insensitive to focus on cat hair sculptures when the world is falling apart.

Cat hair

Image Source: Ryo Yamazaki

Or this...(wow).

But then again, I'm not an epidemiologist or climate scientist or on the select team of biologists searching for murder hornets in Washington State. My super power is being silly. And while my unique capability doesn't come with a cape, and can't prevent someone from getting covid-19, it's all mine. 

Perhaps I'm not giving my small but mighty legion of readers enough credit. Surely they know that while I write goofy stuff, I'm also aching inside for those affected by whatever crap 2020 is handing them. And maybe, a moment of levity is just what some people need to help make Mondays less mondayish. Although a good scream can often help as well.