Posted by: christinelaennec | January 28, 2012

Puzzling through

One of our family Christmas traditions is to do a jigsaw puzzle or two. This year I treated us to a new one, and it turned out to be fiendishly difficult.  One of the problems with this puzzle is that the beautiful hues and brushstrokes really need to be seen in natural light, of which there is precious little at Christmastime.  One day I was vacuuming, and seriously considering giving up on it (a first!) when I heard a terrible noise in the vacuum cleaner.  I took the bag apart but didn’t find a puzzle piece.  So then my curiosity was piqued:  I wanted to find out whether I’d just vacuumed part of it up!  So I persevered.

School began on the 9th of January and the Dafter started back to school as best she could, even with this terrible fatigue and illness still dogging her.  Day by day I worked on the puzzle when I had a chance and the sun was out, and it became a metaphor for getting through this time.  Some days I only found one piece that fit.  But it was one piece more, just as the Dafter had done one more lesson, or managed to get dressed and out of the house one more time.  I told myself that piece by piece, the puzzle would come together.  This is where I’d reached on January 20th, after four weeks of puzzling:

Thomas Kincade puzzle ("The Spirit of Christmas") underway

And then suddenly one day there seemed to be a breakthrough, and I finished the rest of it in four days.  And guess what?

Puzzle finished - nearly!

Clearly I had vacuumed up a piece of it.  But I felt that the metaphor still holds – we will get there (wherever we’re going:  healing in whatever form it takes) but we’re not creating something perfect, and that’s fine.

The Dafter is still very unwell, but managed four (partial) mornings at school this past week, the third week back.  Her new class has not exactly welcomed her with open arms, probably because she is so much older than they are, and she isn’t there much.  Going to school has been pretty daunting for her, especially as she has to go when she doesn’t feel well.  We now have an appointment to see a pediatrician, on February 22nd.  So on we go.  Thank you to everyone who has left an encouraging remark during the last months.  I have memorised some of them!



  1. I was about to shut the computer off when I saw a post come through from you. Reading your words today, reminded me of a post I did last week.

    I had decided I would photograph a cake I was baking. It didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. But I did the post anyway. I thought there might be a lesson in it. If nothing else, it reminded me of my life and brought a smile to my face.
    My last line was….”Not perfect…..but who needs perfection!

  2. I love jigsaw puzzles. We did one last year also by Thomas Kinkade ‘The Village Lighthouse’ very similar to yours with lights in windows and sunsets and water and greenery – impossible in artificial light I agree!
    Well done to your daughter for her perseverance and determination. It must be a tough time and not easy for any of you. Hope all goes well when you see the paediatrician next month.

  3. My husband didnt speak to me for three days after Christmas as someone had given him a jigsaw. Half of the picture was missing, deliberately, so it was down to fitting in the pieces. I felt like vacuuming the whole thing up! But then he finished it. Thats what life is sometimes like isnt it, just persevering, keeping on going, and usually it all comes right in the end. Ok sometimes there is a piece missing, but we have to take our pleasure from what is actually there.

  4. Thomas Kincade pictures are quite magical! That is a beautiful puzzle.

    I really hope that things go well with your appointment and you will get the breakthrough that you both need.
    Your daughter is very talented and creative and I know that once she gets through this, things will go well for her and her world will begin to open up.
    Being a teen is hard enough as it is without being unwell on top of it all.
    Sending all my best 🙂

  5. What a beautiful puzzle and metaphor! I love that one piece is missing symbolizing the imperfection of life. Very Wabi-Sabi! Your daughter is so brave. I do hope that the Doctor can help. Sometimes it takes finding the right one. I am sure that just knowing you are there for her, so loving and supportive, will get her through this difficult time. xx

  6. I like what everyone has said here and I applaud your bravery in saying what a lot of us feel. Life isn’t always perfect and that’s okay. Kudos to your dear daughter for persevering through this hard time. I hope for some results for you too in February. Hope you’re having a nice weekend. (i also like Thomas Kinkade).

  7. I hope this paediatrician can contribute something useful….or at the very least be someone who relates to both you two and the Dafter at the right level. As others have said, all doctors are certainly not equal. I’m trying a new GP this week – maybe we’ll both hit the jackpot!

  8. I think there’s a Thomas Kincaide shop in Edinburgh, at Ocean Terminal. It may just be actual pictures rather than jigsaw puzzles.
    A good metaphor can be very sustaining.
    The Dafter’s courage is so impressive. Even early teenagers can be very conservative, so it’s not surprising that her new class is a bit distant. One day that will just be a memory, and one of them will say ‘do you remember that time you just came in for a bit of the morning? We were soooooo envious of you!’ One of my son’s now best friends told him when they were further up the school that when he (my son) arrived at the school in S2 the now friend didn’t like him initially. Plus he was a new arrival unsettling the only just arrived-at class dynamic after one year of secondary school. Now – they’ve just celebrated their joint 20th/21st birthdays together with a big party

  9. Hello, I’m new to your blog so forgive me if I’m overstepping the mark but I wondered if you had ever considered home schooling? My sister attended a school for a few years over the internet called ‘Interhigh’ Worked really well for her. It was one lesson in the morning with homework in the afternoon. I just thought I would mention it as it may be an another option whilst your daughter is unwell.
    Best wishes Rachel

  10. You will get there and just like your puzzle…it suddenly will happen. Good luck at the pedeatrician when you go and please know that you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers xx

  11. Thank you all so much. I am completely spoiled by your comments, and have passed on your recognition of the Dafter’s courage to her. Our news is that now I am looking after two invalids, as Michael has done in his back! My long-suffering work colleagues deserve some kind of medal.

    Meggie – I loved your post about the broken Bundt cake! Yes indeed, let’s aim for ‘good enough’. (Still can’t leave a comment on Blogger except for by name&url, so I wasn’t able to say so -)

    ann – thank you for your good wishes, and compliments to the Dafter. I’m doing another jigsaw puzzle now as I found it so therapeutic!

    jill – I haven’t forgotten that you promised (back in September I think?) that it will all eventually be fine. I am counting my blessings every day and following your advicee to enjoy what we have, which is a lot.

    Suzy, thanks for your hopeful comment. My mother’s instinct tells me she will be much stronger once she gets through this.

    Karen – yes our lives have been VERY Wabi-Sabi lately! Thanks for your vote of confidence in the power of unconditional parental love.

    ajb, thanks as always for your kind comments. I so much appreciate your good thoughts.

    oldblack – yes absolutely, it needs to be someone who can relate to us as a family. Fingers crossed for your new GP!

    Linda, I read your comment to the Dafter. Thanks so much for giving us a hopeful example of What Is Possible!

    Rachel, welcome to my blog! Thanks very much for your comment. We’re working with the school at the moment on schoolwork done at home, and we’re hoping to avoid homeschooling – but I will definitely keep your recommendation in mind.

    Heike – I hope things do start to come together at some point, like the puzzle. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers, and your comments.

  12. You are such an inspiring person Christine. The puzzle is a brilliant metaphor- youre keeping focused on the end game, and your breakthrough will come. Hoping this is very soon for you all

  13. Christine…this is just beautiful! I love to do puzzles as well and this will come to my mind whenever I find myself puzzling. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be praying for your daughter!

  14. Christine, just looking at the in-progress photo of your puzzle gave me hives! Tiny Girl and I recklessly attempted a 500-piece jigsaw this past summer, when we were flush with success after completing a 300-piece one. We finally gave up. 🙂

    I, too, loved the metaphor you created. Really, we can’t see the entire picture at any time, can we? We simply do the best we can at the given moment with our given circumstances. We muddle along, pieces missing, hoping (knowing) that one day we’ll see the full masterpiece.

  15. I love this idea. For a long time progress can be so slow. Sometimes you have to look a few months back to even see the incremental changes. And then, all of a sudden, the pieces start to fall into place. It will happen, but right now, you are where you are.

  16. Dear Scruffybadger, Lisa, Ellen and Sigrid,

    Thanks so much for all your encouragement, good wishes and prayers.

    Scruffybadger I had a laugh reading that I am “inspiring”. Not always gracious during a tough challenge is more like the truth!

    Lisa, thank you so much.

    Ellen, as you say, we can never see the full picture (in this life anyway – I have high hopes for enlightenment in the next!).

    And Sigrid you’re so right, I am where I am, but it’s good to look back to see the small changes.

  17. I admire your tenacity with the puzzle and maybe the missing piece is hiding under a piece of furniture somewhere. One could hope. I like the metaphor too.

    I hope this new pediatrician can provide the missing piece – the correct diagnosis – and determine how to best help your daughter. I love her courage. I know it cannot be easy to drag oneself off to school each day not feeling well. I have fibromyalgia and fight that battle daily, but I’m not a young teenager faced with being around energetic young people each day. I’ll keep her in my prayers (all of you) as she battles to regain her complete health.


  18. You know, puzzle is very, very therapeutic. More people should try it, it’s so soothing. I love it, always had. I actually owns a puzzle on 6000 pieces, but I don’t have anyplace to put it! And let’s face it – puzzling that many pieces doesn’t come along with having three small children who need food and clean clothes….Now my daughter on nearly 5 has picked up the bug.

    • 6,000 pieces! When the children are older it will be the perfect thing for an Artic winter.

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