February 6, 2013

Crossword puzzles likened to life challenges


---- — At the risk of sounding weird, I’m going to make a statement: I have come to the conclusion that life is like a crossword puzzle.

I attempt the crossword puzzle in this newspaper every day, without fail. When I start out, I’m sure I have all the answers. That’s about the way it was when I was 14; I thought I had all the answers.

Then came my teenage years. Can anybody relate? So I “penciled” in what I thought were the answers, only to get stumped when the intersecting answer didn’t match. Hmm — sound like life.

So I erased that answer and came up with another one. Only problem is, even though you erase the first answer, it still leaves an impression on paper, just like life choices leave an impression on our hearts.

OK, instead of doing all the “across” answers, let’s do the “down” answers, which I liken to adult years. Sometimes we have “hints” to what the answer is because there is a correct word intersecting the word we need. Are you still with me?

I seem to have a lot more success with the “down” answers because, in some place, I have achieved the correct “across” answers, either on my own, after a lot of trial and error, or because I ask my husband. Toby is older and many times wiser than me, so he comes up with answers that never entered my mind. How many of us have gotten back on the right track in life after consulting with somebody else? But when someone gives us the answers without asking, we get upset just like teenagers do when we offer our experienced advice.

Now we come to the final results. Sometimes I have empty squares that would have been filled had I tried a little bit harder. Other times, I give up and say, “Guess I’m a little bit stupid today” when I have a headache from thinking so hard. I never look up a word in the dictionary. Not sure if that is good or bad.

So I toss the newspaper aside and wait until tomorrow for the answers. Then I feel like a dunce when some of the answers are familiar; if I had just tried a little harder ...

My disclaimer is that I do not have a “Ph.D.” after my name. However, at some time in my life, I have been a teenager, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law, a grandmother and a soon-to-be-great-grandmother. Let’s just say experience counts, both in crosswords and in life.

Does any of this make sense? Like I said in the beginning, “… at the risk of sounding weird.” What have I taken from this exercise in life? That even if I don’t have all the answers today, I will still try again tomorrow. I will still look forward to my cup of coffee; I will sharpen the pencil and give it my best try to come up with the right answers.

In this same frame of thought, I’d like to close this column by wishing my mother, Jean McGibbon Goddard, a happy 85th birthday. We surprised her with a birthday lunch on Sunday, but I want to publicly thank her for the years of wisdom and kindness she has shown to her family, friends and neighbors. Having grown up before and during World War II in England, she has an amazing ability to make the best of every day and make you see the brighter side of a situation. Her “can do” spirit has pushed me on in life and in solving crossword puzzles. Thank you, Mum.

The kettle is boiling, and the newspaper is here. Another day to solve another puzzle.

One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.

Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at