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#450:  50 States Puzzle

#450: 50 States Puzzle

For my 500 Things Project, I am getting rid of one thing every day for 500 days until my son leaves for college in August. Today #450: A Wooden Puzzle of the United States…

The Big 5-0.

That’s where we are to-day. In 50 days, the Self-Contained Unit’s big adventure begins. And an era ends.


There was a collective toasting of our 50 States last week. Paul and I joined a fabulous group of, as it happens, 50 volunteers from Families Helping Families serving beer, wine and-— because this is the Mid-West—- pop! at Naperville’s annual Fourth of July extravaganza, Ribfest. Vegetarians, beware.

Vegetarian or not, I love pouring drinks at this corn-fed event with such a boisterous group. People watching from behind the tips-jar is completely worth a sweaty décolletage and beer-soaked tootsies.

It took us a while to figure out why the mood seemed a little subdued as compared to previous years. We reckoned it was because the Fourth fell on a Monday. While most everyone was tickled to have a Monday off, there was the awareness that tomorrow was a work day.

It would have been nice to linger a little longer, but tomorrow…

And today, as the drumbeat of my 500 Things Project gets ever more insistent, I am downsizing a beloved wooden puzzle of our 50 States.

In my family, there is a long and improbable history of interest in domestic geography. As a young girl, my sister taught me the states and capitals while we washed and dried dinner dishes at our grandmother’s house. Fifty states and capitals, in alphabetical order.

And it’s a darn good thing she did, too.

Years later, it was this very knowledge that confirmed my suitability as a partner to my darling Eagle Scout, who had also acquired this information while performing mindless tasks. His was baling hay on a ranch in South Dakota (capital, Pierre). We figured this out over drinks at the party where we met in Virginia (capital, Richmond).

See kids: Study up! Your sixth-grade social studies teacher told you there would be a test.

Naturally, the geography geeks indoctrinated their progeny. The Self-Contained Unit had 50 States puzzles, 50 States coloring books, 50 States playing cards, 50 States plush toys—

Kids! Kids! Cuddle up with RHODE ISLAND!

Well, it worked. Now he’s excited to teach one of his young charges about the States.

Fifty of them.
And it’s Providence, by the way.

For other useful trivia and for more about Naperville blogger Suzanne Thibeault's downsizing effort, please visit

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