To My Mom…

Mystery Puzzle and Mom
My adorable, wonderful, loving Mom with our favorite puzzle ever.

One year ago today I lost my best friend in the world. It seems trite and ridiculous to say that your mom is your best friend, but I say it because it is true. We were the best of friends; we spoke or texted every day, we talked about EVERYTHING, we had our own shorthand, our own jokes, we shared a dark sense of humor, we loved puzzles and spending time together, and we loved each other unconditionally. She called me her best friend, and she was mine.

It seems like forever ago that she left us – it also seems like yesterday. I’m not sure how that works, but that’s how it feels to me. I miss her terribly, so much that it hurts my heart. It seems ridiculous that I will never speak to her again, that she isn’t here, that I can never hug her again. I am a grown woman in my 50’s, and I feel like a toddler who let go of their mom’s hand and is lost and scared without her.


Mom, we are so sad without you. Some days it’s almost too much to bear. All those beautiful handmade beaded ornaments that you made were the only ones I put on the tree last Christmas. When the holidays were over I couldn’t take the ornaments off, I couldn’t take the tree down. It’s July and my Christmas tree is still up. I look at it every day and say “I love you mom” or “I miss you mom”. Maybe it isn’t healthy, I don’t really care – it makes me feel better.

Remember that year that we had a small artificial Christmas tree and after the holidays we took off the branches on one side and hung half a tree on the wall? Dad thought we were all crazy, but all of us girls thought it was the best, funniest thing ever! We made construction paper ornaments for every single holiday and decorated the tree all year long. Hearts for Valentine’s Day, Shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, etc. We even decorated for little, lesser known holidays and my sisters and I loved it – and loved you for letting us do it and helping us with it.

We grew so much closer in the last 6 or 7 years you were here, and I treasure every moment we were able to spend with each other. We laughed, we cried, we cussed, we loved each other so much. I will never have a better friend who loves me as much as you did; I couldn’t love another friend as much as I love you.

The Mystery Puzzle Box I gave you for Christmas the year before you died, you told me was “the best present you’d ever gotten” and you were even more excited about it than I was – and I was pretty darned excited! We had a blast sorting it, looking at all the wonderfully made shapes, and marveling over how well the pieces fit together and what a great find it was. We laughed about the “old” smell, and our inside joke about the age of the puzzle and what it meant. We were both so excited to hear from the experts about the origin of the puzzle and how old it is – you were like a little kid at Christmas! Because of that gift we spent even more time together in your last few months than we normally did. What a beautiful gift that I ended up giving to myself. I will cherish every moment we spent together working on it, we had the best time and it was most definitely our favorite puzzle ever.

We talked about getting matching tattoos, something with a puzzle piece. We kept looking for the right image, showing each other what we liked and trying to decide on the exact thing we both agreed on. Even though you were in your 70’s and I’m in my 50’s you were still excited about us both getting our first tattoos together. We never did decide on the right image before you got sick. After you were gone my daughter and I looked through the pieces of the last puzzle that you and I assembled together and finally found the right piece. The tattoo I got early this year was for the both of us; it’s a piece of your favorite section of the last puzzle we did together. It’s beautiful to me and reminds me of you every day.

Tattoo    Tattoo 1

I love it. It’s so meaningful to me. And it’s in remembrance of you and our love for each other, and our shared love of all puzzles and the time we spent together shopping for, looking at, talking about, and assembling jigsaw puzzles. 💗

We still miss you, and we’re still heartbroken that you’re gone. You were an awesome mom. You were an awesome Meema to your grandkids. You were never perfect, none of us are. But you loved us always, even when we made stupid mistakes; we knew you were in our corner, backing us up with your unconditional love. That’s all a mom and grandma can do sometimes, let her kids and grandkids know how much they’re loved, and that they’ll always be loved no matter what. You did that, and you did it so very well.

100 Birds Pay Homage to the Phoenix

100 Birds
100 Birds Pay Homage to the Phoenix – Hartmaze – 253 pieces

This post has been guest written by my oldest son. He asked if he could write up a guest post about this puzzle that he and I (mostly him) assembled on mom’s birthday last month. I couldn’t say no; he took the day off work for her birthday to spend the day doing things she loved, to honor her. He’s a very special man, and I’m unbelievably proud to be his mom. 💗

He’s a movie buff/nerd/geek, and knows more about movies than most people will ever know, including his ol’ mom. This post has much more movie talk than my readers are used to, but it’s how his brain works, so I’m leaving his words exactly as written. They’re for his Meema, and movies are something they shared together and part of who he is.

Enjoy the musings of my baby boy…


Howdy, name’s Dj. I’m the eldest son of the lady what runs this blog. I have my own blog as well, though it’s about my collection of Blu-rays and DVDs (which needs to be updated, I have a lot of new stuff to add and it’s been sitting there for a while not getting added…), and you may know about it from a memorial I made for my late grandmother, who not only loved jigsaw puzzles, but played a major role in my appreciation of film and, as a person and film fan, a major part of who I am.

Her birthday was not too long ago, and I had requested the day off work so I could do things to honor my grandmother. I had three things in particular I wanted to do, in no particular order: watch “The Last of the Mohicans”, do a jigsaw puzzle, and go to a restaurant she liked to go to. The last one had to be scuttled on account of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but I can do the other two at home, so there is that.

I originally wanted to do a New Super Mario Bros. puzzle, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house, and I believe it may have fallen somewhere into the Twilight Zone, probably where that kid from that one episode sends people who tick him off. So instead, I did this puzzle, which I got for my grandmother as a Christmas gift in 2018. She and my mother and I actually worked together on it on Christmas Day and finished it; and it was a pain when three people were doing it together. Now I was doing it mostly alone.

I had all day to do this puzzle. It took nearly all day to do this puzzle. I got a tray out, puzzle out, and put “The Last of the Mohicans” in a Blu-ray player and had it on in the background while I worked on the puzzle; and when that movie finished, “Dances with Wolves”. There’s a reason for those two movies, as you will see. Sometimes I’d take a break to think about how the puzzle pieces I had would fit while watching the movie, or to just watch the movie itself.

The puzzle itself was just as much of a pain as I remember it being two years ago. My strategy was to start with the phoenix tails and work from there, since those are easily identifiable pieces due to their color and their patterns; and then building up the rest of its body while occasionally looking out for other pieces and patterns that matched up. That last one is not as fun because there are a LOT of birds in this puzzle and it can be tricky to figure out what goes where. Finding edge pieces isn’t easy on this one because it’s not a proper circular shape; it has little ridges and bumps all along the edges so that without careful study, you won’t know if it’s an edge or not, so you may look at a piece and think it’s not an edge, but nope, it is.

Most of my time on the puzzle was staring at pieces and going “…Alright, where the hell do YOU go?”, because even with a piece of paper showing the whole image of the puzzle (and on the back, where all the puzzle pieces fit together – but considering how the pieces are, it’s as useful as putting a screen door on a submarine), it’s still a pain to figure out what goes where. There’s so, SO much red, but also a lot of colors that are arranged in such a way that it can all blur together unless you really focus on distinct shapes and such. It’s still a fun challenge, although it’s probably better to do it with someone else rather than do it solo, unless you’re a god-tier jigsaw puzzle person, which I am not.

I guess I should talk about the movies then, because while the puzzle is and was fun (mostly), the movies were a part of this. As I mentioned before, I had “The Last of the Mohicans” on, then the extended special edition of “Dances with Wolves”. (Yes, there is a longer cut of the movie) I picked those two movies because, as I wrote in the memorial on my blog, I always associated two kinds of movies with my grandmother, and one of them was the big historical epics we got in the 1990s. “Dances with Wolves”, “The Last of the Mohicans”, “Braveheart”, that sort of thing.

(I listened to Braveheart’s soundtrack while writing that memorial, and I’m listening to it now as I write this. She loved that soundtrack and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of the finest movie soundtracks out there in my opinion, and probably the magnum opus of the late James Horner.)

I like “The Last of the Mohicans”, even if it’s a contrast to the rest of the director’s work. Michael Mann usually does urban crime dramas like “Thief”, “Manhunter”, “Heat”, Collateral”, that Miami Vice film we don’t talk about, etc., so seeing him doing a historical epic set before the Revolutionary War is weird. It’s like if Martin Scorsese did a Victorian-era romance. (And yes, I know that film does exist. “The Age of Innocence”, for the curious.) Mom doesn’t care much for the movie, but I like it. It has a good atmosphere to it, which is helped by the director’s attention to detail. There’s some beautiful cinematography and landscapes in the film, including a shot with a bridge over a river and its reflection is perfectly mirrored, probably one of the most beautiful and picturesque shots I’ve seen in anything. And the music’s your standard historical epic fare, little repetitive in the motifs but still quite good, though a little forgettable compared to “Dances with Wolves” and “Braveheart” and (although it’s not from the 1990s) “Gladiator”. It’s a solid film, maybe not the most memorable of the 90’s historical epics, but still enjoyable.

As for “Dances with Wolves” … well, it’s the movie that created the modern historical epic as we know it, and all the big epics that came out during the rest of the 1990s owe their existence to it in some fashion. I think even today, if you watch a historical epic, you can still see a little bit of this movie’s DNA in it. The film is a classic, with a lot of good that’s going for it. It has that classic epic feel to it, helped by the landscapes that really evoke the American frontier. It’s got an awesome soundtrack by John Barry (most famous for doing most of the James Bond scores from 1963 to 1985), as well as a much better depiction of Native Americans than what you saw in a lot of media at the time … even if everyone’s speaking female-gendered Lakota, according to the late Russell Means. And for the the most part, it holds up well and has earned its place in film history for reviving big epic films and the Western genre. Although it’s not without its hiccups. Kevin Costner’s narration in this film is weird to me and honestly, it’s less tolerable to me than Harrison Ford’s narration in the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, and someone’s gonna call me a heretic for that, I swear. It also bugs me how the soldiers near the end of the film are really just caricatures who seem more appropriate for a cartoon than a serious drama like this.

100 Birds 1

Oh, right, puzzle. This is a puzzle blog, right, I should talk puzzle. I did a good chunk of the puzzle on my own, but mom helped with some it, especially for the last hour or so. We actually finished the puzzle, with me putting the last piece in, right as the credits for “Dances with Wolves” ended. Overall, I enjoyed this puzzle, even if it was a pain to do on my own for most of the time. It was nice to take time out and do this as a way of honoring the memory of someone who meant more to me and my family than could ever be expressed in words.

We still love you, Meema. And we still miss you.