Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a control freak. I read the end of books first. I cannot relax in a car driven by anyone else. I suffer through plane rides because the pilot won't let me do the flying. If I don't know the answer to a question, I will search and search until I find it. Perhaps this trait is part of my Taurus astrological sign. Perhaps it's because I was raised by an Italian Catholic mother.

My husband deserves a medal for lasting in our marriage for almost 30 years. He is so familiar with my quirks that he just smiles when he sees a problem coming. Recently, he brought home a cardboard box from his pickle ball games. He said, "Rick sent this puzzle for you to do." Then he put the box on the dining room table and smiled.

Now, our friend Rick is an evil puzzle master. He is a great woodworker and has made a ton of puzzles that confound his relatives and friends. He has given me quite a few and I have managed to solve all of them. When I opened the box, I knew that I was in for a bad time.

The box contained more than a thousand small plastic pieces and a note. The note said, "This is the earth. It is three-dimensional. Put it together, smarty." Well, the challenge had been made, the gauntlet had been dropped, and my brain started working immediately.

The first thing I did was organize the pieces into groups. It was obvious that some of the pieces were parts of continents and countries. I worked on those first, and within three days I had all of the continents together. Then I hit a brick wall.

All of the earth's water was the same color - black. Inside some of the pieces were words - names of islands or oceans. Others were plain black. Some were curved and some were straight. Some were small and some were large. At this point, my control freakiness took over and I set about to tame the mess.

I got my magnifying glass out of my sewing bag and began to read the words. I didn't recognize many of them and decided to get our Atlas and see where these places could be found. Arrgh! Our Atlas was still in South Carolina. So, I took the Almanac and tried to use it. No luck. Apparently, these islands were so insignificant that they didn't make the Almanac glossary.

I thought of accessing the islands online, but that would take forever. So, I went to the local book store and bought a new Atlas. Now the story begins to resemble a loony bin. Each of the little plastic pieces had to be researched and placed in the right area of the globe. The entire dining room table was covered with plastic. The sleeve of my sweater would catch on them and knock some to the floor. I changed my shirt to a short-sleeved variety.

My husband would pass by on his way to the garage and smirk at me. He said, "We'll need to use that table for Thanksgiving dinner. Will you be done by then?" I growled at him. I went out to the garage and brought in a folding table, put it in the den, and transferred all of the pieces onto it. The lighting in the den wasn't as good as in the dining room, so I had to get a flashlight to help me see the LITTLE TINY words.

As I write this column, Thanksgiving is only 4 days away and I am not even close to having a completed globe. Jim told me to take it apart, put it back in the box, and return the thing to Rick, admitting defeat. I find that suggestion untenable. If I cannot get the whole puzzle together, I will send it back to the evil puzzle master partially completed. I will enclose a note that says, "Every genius has her limits."

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.