So what's with the radio silence, Tina? Well...let me tell you. Today was my last day working in an office for what I hope ends up being a couple of years. Shortly after my last post, I decided to leave my job as a paralegal and go back to graduate school. I'll be continuing work on my Master of Social Work degree with a focus on direct practice (counseling).

Although I'm completely excited about returning to graduate school, I've never had an easy time adjusting to big life changes. For the most part, I tend to become very introverted, albeit temporarily, until my anxiety and discomfort wane. An bona fide ENFP, introverted is usually about the third-to-last word people would use to describe me. (The last word is "male" and the second-to-last word is "asleep.")

Now I have about two weeks until classes start. I hope to spend the time refocusing, getting the house into better order, and tying up loose ends with financial aid, household business, and so on.

In the words of a philosophical master, "Do or do not. There is no try."

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: VICTORY in Strongsville!!!

Holy frijoles...NOW we're talkin!!!

I've been to 14 Scrabble tournaments in the last twelve months...and I've finally placed "in-the-money"! This weekend, at the Cleveland Classic in Strongsville, Ohio, I won 11 out of 15 games and finished second in my division!!

If you've followed along with my blog at all, you might know that I've been engaged in many of these tournaments during my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour. I've studied and studied and played and played...trying to prove to myself that I chose to take on a tough game, against tough opponents, and that I could succeed. This weekend's tournament gives me a feeling of progress...a small piece, a beginning to that success.

And it has been a fun year for Scrabble. I've flown and driven all around:

Elyria, Ohio (March);

Charleston, West Virginia (April);

Richfield, Ohio (April);

Pittsburgh, PA (June);

Rocky River, OH (July);

Pontiac, MI (August);

Hudson, OH (September);

Huntington, WV (Club Tourney, October);

South Lyon, MI (October);

Elyria, OH (October);

Durham, NC (October);

Lexington, KY (November);

Mississauga, Ontario (November); and, of course,

Strongsville this last weekend.

The $125 I won for my second place finish in the Cleveland Classic was nice...but not as nice as the other things I gained this weekend. I got 134 ratings points, a poster signed by all the players in my division, a cool dinosaur made out of Scrabble tiles, tons of compliments about the boards I'd made, and, best of all, I got to spend time with friends.

In 2009, I'm not going to play in as many tournaments but I'll still do about one a month. But what a great note to end the year on!! Thank you to Dallas and George (the Strongsville directors) for making this last tournament of the year (well, my year) so fun and comfortable. A very special thank you to all my friends who support this Scrabble effort of mine, who contributed to my fun and adventure, who logged hundreds and hundreds of miles on the road with me, who laughed with me, who helped me study, and who sometimes just listened when I'd lose my mind.

See you all in 2009!!!

Creating: Custom Scrabble Boards

In tournament Scrabble, and serious play in general, most people play on custom or semi-custom round boards. These and many square boards spin on a base so that each player can easily see his or her tiles...but round boards eliminate the problem of inadvertently knocking tile racks off the table with the corners of boards.

So, earlier this year I made a custom Scrabble board for Brad, our club's director, as a gift commemmorating the club's third annual tournament. Although I have some pretty decent experience with woodworking and crafting in general, this was the first time I'd tried to make a Scrabble board. And I learned a lot! Mainly, I learned all the things that needed to be improved and all the things that needed to be totally changed. Still, it gave me the chance to create something artistic.

Then, back in the early fall, Joe Larson asked me if I wanted to make him a board and trade it for a piece of his Scrabble tile art (specifically, a cool T-Rex I adored). I jumped at this chance because: (a) Scrabble dino is awesome; and (b) I could also put together the board I'd been planning for Martha.

As the promised date of delivery approached, I gathered and prepared all the right materials for the new boards. I'd been thinking about and researching the right materials and methods for months (and even ordered the perfect wood from another state). Wandering through Michael's one day, I came across some scrapbook paper that inspired me with the idea for my own, personal Scrabble board.

A few weeks later, and I've completed the three boards. I'm very happy with the result and I think Joe and Martha are, too. There are a few small tweaks I'll incorporate into the next project but nothing major will change.

This is the board for Joe Larson:

And this is Martha's board:

And this is my very own board:

So now ideas for other board designs are swimming all around in my head. Of course, I'm open to creating boards with specific designs for players (and would love to make enough money to finance the occasional Scrabble tournament). Still, I see myself making at least a few boards without a specific owner in mind. You never know when the same thing that inspired me will inspire someone else!

Observations of the Transient Canine Population on Capitol Street, Charleston, West Virginia

Friday evening on Capitol Street (especially during a holiday weekend) is not an easy time to find a parking spot. So, even though I needed only pop into my office for a second to grab a book I'd left behind -- yeah, that's right. I've got books. Hardcover. Lots of words. So even though I only needed one of those parking spots for about a minute, the ideal combination of right-place-right-time just weren't working out for me.

On my second go around the block, I saw a red Jeep Cherokee in front of me with this huge dog inside. Just to get its head outside the window, the dog was hunched over like really, really tall guy going down a low staircase. It had a really big, round head that reminded me of the Akita I used to have -- but it was brownish-gray and fluffy with what appeared to be a thick, winter coat of fur. Despite the dog's substantial size (and likely ability to do just about whatever it wanted), the truck window was down all the way and the dog looked friendly, at ease, least at that moment...well-behaved.

So I was thinking, "That looks so familiar. What kind of dog is it?" And then I thought, "Holy crap, that's a wolf!" And then I was certain. I'm not saying I'm right, but I was certain, if that makes any sense. (I used to have a boss about whom we'd say, "Often wrong, never in doubt.") And, you know what? There was a family in Boone County who used to keep Timber Wolves in their fenced yard -- something I actually saw with me own eyes. It was a little scary but interesting how different these dogs looked than a typical, domesticated dog. They had incredibly long, knobby legs even compared to their large bodies, from the neck down giving them a little bit of a horse-like shape. They ambled, graceful and aloof, along the perimeter of the fence and, for obvious reasons, never appeared concerned about potential intruders.

Back to 2008...the red Cherokee was circling the block, too, obviously looking for a spot. I stayed behind him for about two more rotations before he gave up and went another direction. Had he stopped, I was going to stop and ask him if the dog was a wolf. I usually try and avoid questions like, "Bolton! Are you related to Michael Bolton?" but this time I didn't care! Alas, I missed my chance.

I did notice that the vehicle had West Virginia plates, though. Since the dog didn't look like the Timber Wolves I'd seen in Boone County, I did a little bit of research when I got home. Although I didn't find any blog entitled "Red-Cherokee-Fred-And-His-Pet-Wolf-from-WV" or anything, I did find at least one person in West Virginia selling wolf-dog hybrids. The ginormous dog I saw on Capitol Street looked like a combination of "Mac" and "Timber" here on this page.

Maybe I was right, then. (I guess if it was a hybrid it would make me more like 90-98% right.) I'd still like to know for sure.

Home Confinement on Thanksgiving

To my left is a sleeping four-year-old. To her left, a sleeping six-year-old. The four-year-old is tired...just getting over being sick for about five days. The six-year-old is tired...just starting to be sick today. The six-year-old will occasionally get up and run to the bathroom. She's very private about things like throwing up -- or really just being in the bathroom. Plus, being nauseated, she doesn't want to be touched. Since she has no fever, we're really just letting her sleep and keeping an eye on her for dehydration.

And...we were supposed to do Thanksgiving tonight at my in-laws because they're flying away for vacation early Friday morning. It looks like we'll be self-quarantined here, though, until at least Friday. Even if both kids were to feel great tomorrow, it's too risky to expose my in-laws to the potential germs since they're headed out for vacation.

Isn't it interesting how parents seem to develop a super-duper germ resistance? Of course, aside from medical professionals, we're probably exposed to germs only less than people who work in schools.

So, for us, this Thanksgiving will be spent at home. For no particular reason, I'm thinking that might be okay. No businesses will be open so this day at home might actually be home!

When Life Gives You A Lake-Effect Snowstorm, Make Snowballs

(Cheesy? Yes. The only semi-clever title could think of? Yes.)

After our scary Scrabble-travel-adventure last week, I forgot to post the follow-up with this fun picture. This was taken the morning after we had gotten some sleep and we had not died on a snow-packed highway.

And I have to my nose that crooked or are my glasses that crooked...or both? If it were both, then would my glasses sit straight?

Can A Woman For Equality Participate in Women-Only Events?

I've been known to play some poker here and there. Since they opened the poker room at the Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center, it's been a good place to occasionally sit for a while and forget about any stressors aside from a bad beat. Often when I get back up from that table, I've got a little more money than I started with, and sometimes walk away with a lot more (but, of course, sometimes I walk away with nothing).

And I'm sure you'd guess that, as far as attendance, this poker room of the casino is a male-dominated place. Women probably comprise just about 2-5% of the players, on average there (but more like 60% out where the slots are). So when the casino started having a Friday night women-only tournament, the dealers and some of the players asked me if I was going to play. At first I just said, "Naahh...I don't think I will." The question keeps coming, though, and I have to ask myself why I won't play in it. Yesterday I realized that I would freak out if women were excluded from a particular why should I be okay with men being excluded?

Maybe it's overboard but...I don't know. Despite any little jabs I might take at men-folk as a group, I believe that men and women are equal (which does not mean I think we're that much alike). So, if I insist on complete equality, should I ever accept a simple card game that leaves the men out? What about GLBT folks? What about that guy who dresses like a woman, carries a purse, and wears makeup but claims to be sexually-attracted to women?

Last night someone sort of laughed when I told them I didn't think I'd ever play in a tournament that excluded a certain group. He's lucky I love the First Amendment but chose just to let him use it and keep my thoughts to myself. But, seriously...I think the idea of the tournament is that women can't compete as well as men at poker. If we want complete equality, that kind of thinking needs thrown in the muck.

I'm Not Sure Why We Bought Them Beds

Because obviously they prefer to sleep on the hardwood floor:

There's a child under that shiny, pink blanket. It's my youngest...who started out the night on her bed. By morning, she'll be at least halfway out into the hall. Her sister is about five feet to the left, also on the floor. She also started out on the bed. I've tried to put them back on their beds, but they don't stay. I've asked them why they sleep on the floor...but they just use the standard kid answer. ("I dunnooh.")

I don't remember ever preferring a cold, hard floor over a soft, warm bed. Eric says that, as a child, he liked to sleep on the floor a lot of the time. With these two, I'll find the older one sleeping there maybe 40% of the time and the younger one almost 100% of the time.

So is this something most kids like or is it just some King Family trait?

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Safe and Comfortable in Erie, PA

Boy, today has been rough. It was the second day of the MOO Scrabble tournament in Mississauga, Ontario and all of my group were anticipating some decent results, based on Day 1. Although three of the four of us who attended the tournament maybe didn't plow over the opponents as we'd hoped, we each gained a nice number of ratings points. The fourth Scrabble friend came down with the flu last night and couldn't play today. (What a nightmare. Away from home, unable to finish a tournament, feeling like crap, and having to travel with a bunch of people.)

The games aren't a huge focus for me right now, though. I'm coming down off a serious stress-attack. After our fourth game today, I went to pick up my friends Sara and Jennifer who came along to do the tourist thing. And guess what? I got lost....for two hours. There are lots of things that could have improved the situation, but by the time I realized that I could not get myself going in the right direction, I felt like I was so far off the mark that even stopping for directions wouldn't have helped (because there would be too many details). Plus, at that point I was in tears and very, very upset.

Anyway, I made it back to the tournament after missing the entire first game following lunch. I was so shell-shocked that I racked up three huge losses in the last three games. Thank you to everyone who was concerned while I was MIA and who offered me comfort when I returned. (By the way, the tournament people did try to call me when I didn't come back from lunch but my phone didn't ring, most likely because I was in Canada.)

After a long, long day, the crew piled back into the van, each of us ready to get to our respective homes. We knew there were some winter weather warnings to the south...but there was really no other direction to go. Since we weren't quite ready (or invited) to relocate to Canada permanently, we headed out. Following some fast food dinner, a gas tank fill-up, and maybe 120 miles on the road, we found that winter weather.

With Dallas navigating, and offering a great deal in the way of calm, solid driving advice, and consultation on our travel decisions, I drove on for an hour or so. The stormy weather faded in and out, allowing us to build up to a slow-but-reasonable speed and then forcing us back down to 15 miles an hour. When the high parts of the snow tracks started scraping the bottom of the van, I started to lose my energy for it again. While I know there was little chance of a problem, I was fretting primarily over the safety of my five passengers. Secondarily, I was concerned about our comfort (as in how uncomfortable it would be to be stuck in a snow bank with a non-operational vehicle). In a tie for third place, I worried about the happiness of my co-travelers and about maintaining my van in its non-wrecked state.

After a while, I pulled over to let Dallas drive. The decision had been to push on a little way and see if the weather got any better (and if the trip got any better with a fresh driver). We took a break at a gas station, allowing people to make some phone calls and get snacks.

As soon as Dallas' shift started, the roads began to clear. We built up a little speed...up to about 45 miles an hour. As if we had driven through some tiny little sheltered stretch of road, we emerged into a road in bad condition just like it had been. I'm not sure if I should say Dallas is a more confident driver or just a less nervous driver (and I'm not sure if there's any difference) but he seemed to be doing just fine. For no obvious reason (other than your average packing of snow and ice), we started into one of those sideways, spinning slides. Dallas brought the vehicle back into control right away and, right away, it was decided that we would pull off at the next exit and get hotel rooms.

Now we're safe and sound (and starting to relax) outside of Erie, PA. The rooms weren't too expensive and it wasn't absolutely critical that any of us be at work tomorrow. In the frustration of the moment, I wasn't sure if it was better to stop for a hotel or if I was overreacting. Now that we're here, I'm glad.

There's a slight tapping sound on the window where snow and ice are hitting it. By tomorrow morning, though, the roads will be treated and it will be daylight (as implied by the term "morning"). With at least a fairly decent night's rest, we'll press on toward home and hopefully feel better about the process.

Where's Tina?

We've finally moved back into a home of our own! That's a change back in the right direction -- and nice in so many ways but I'll write more about that later. In the meantime, my access to the Internet is iffy. What's more, I'm working about 11 hours a day right now so I don't have much time at the office to write.

Soon (but not soon enough) our Internet access at home will be activated and I'll be back in the loop! By then, I should have some news about the second-to-last stop in my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour...the MOO!

What's Obama Wearing on November 5, 2008?


change his clothes

Scrabble Tour: Lexington, Kentucky

Obviously the key for my good Scrabble play is comfort level. I've always played my very best games against friends and people I really like, in general. Get me in a tournament game, though, and my brain locks up like an engine with no oil. But, you know, there are many ways to achieve a good result based on this theory.

Of course, I could play only my friends and people I know I really like. I could also waste my Scrabble word list memorizing time with goofy things like "meditation" or "yoga" or "healthy exercise." Seriously...quit talking such craziness. Just stop it.

Although it sounds like the words of a situational alcoholic in the making, during this weekend's tournament in Lexington, Kentucky my relaxation came in the form of cranberry and vodka. I'm not talking about doing shots after every bingo or anything...just one drink over the course of the afternoon purchased at the golf course snack bar. And I tell you what, it was just the thing! I didn't freak out, I didn't get upset, I stayed calm in the face of an opponent's opening bingo...and I won some games.

Actually, this weekend was my personal best, performance-wise. Starting off with my more typical 25-50% wins, once things became more chill, I was able to rehabilitate my record and end at 9-and-6 (and a kick-ass spread of +468)! Not only did I not finish last, only 121 spread points kept me from my first "in-the-money" tournament.

I have no idea what will happen to my rating, though. I guess it will go up a little but there are at least three potential factors:

First, we were seeded based on ratings which did not yet include results for those of us who played in Durham last week (a tournament in which I took a ratings hit). Second, we had four unrated players in the bottom division. Two of them did very well, finishing first and third, which kind of skews the numeric results (as far as ratings go). Third, there are the results of the "Late Bird" tournament (which was early in the morning) to squeeze in. In that tournament, I was slated to win about two games (which I did).

Some highlights (for me):

Best win
- 458 for me to my opponent's 224 (a 234-point spread).

Best bingo
- STAMPING for 108 points.

Best ice cream
- Graeter's with friends.

Best overheard comment in a hushed narrator's voice
- "Today...we've secretly replaced Ken's prozac with highly-potent equine steroids. Let's see what happens."

Best setting for a game
- the patio outside the clubhouse during a beautiful, 70-degree afternoon.

Best special day - Jeff Clark's birthday on Sunday, November 2nd. (Happy birthday, Jeff! I totally forgot to tell you that on Sunday.)

Best moments overall - Traveling with my NSA Club #620 crew and figuring out how to get the Sirius radio activated without wrecking the Super-Duper Minivan in the process.

Best thing to look forward to next in the 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour - The MOO!

So, you know...even though I don't yet know the technical result as far as my rating and all, I know that I consider this tournament a personal V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!!

As for the alcohol, I suspect the effect will be about the same as that time when I was in middle school softball and ran into a long string of strike-outs because I was afraid to swing at pitches which could, in any small way, be out of the strike zone. The coach made me practice swinging at each and every pitch, no matter how far out of the zone it was. I learned that I could decently hit almost all of them, even if I had to sort of jump over the plate to reach it. It was fun and it served to release the hold the anxiety of the situation had on me. I think this will be about the same. I'm really figuring out just how much not worrying about it helps me play.

And, hey...if I get freaked out again, I'll enjoy my game with a little cranberry-flavored assistance. Who cares? I got ID!

Atlas Loves Scrabble

Tonight finds me in Lexington, Kentucky for the Ironman Tournament (which I like to call the Ironwoman Tournament). I guess if I really go all in, I'd say it's the Ironperson Tournament. Nonetheless, this stop on my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour is going pretty well so far. It's likely that I won't walk away too disappointed like some other times. We'll talk about more of that later.

But this downtime gives me a chance to show you the newest piece of original art in my vast collection. His name: Atlas.

Atlas is made of Scrabble tiles...and Atlas was made by Joe Larson. Check out Joe's site on MySpace, which includes not only pictures of his Scrabble tile art, but his paintings. (The paintings aren't Scrabble-related, though. Joe was an artist first, then a Scrabble player.)

So now Atlas is living on the desk in my office, in a far corner where he's safe from notebooks and giant folders. It makes me happy to be working on something boring or generally uninspiring and then look up...and remember that I have a life outside of those walls.

Again, check out Joe's stuff. You might find something you really like, or find an inspiration for a custom piece.

If you want to contact Joe, you can do so via his MySpace
site, which includes his e-mail address.

Thyroid Treatment: Before and After

About three-and-a-half years ago, I noticed I was putting on some weight at kind of a fast pace...but I couldn't figure out why. Since I didn't think my diet was crazy-high in calories, I was especially annoyed by this...oh...baggage (heh). Plus, at only 5-foot-2, I don't have a lot of vertical space on which to spread out those additional pounds. At the peak of the weight gain, here's how I looked:

I chose my driver's license picture because, first of all, it's a pretty decent representation of how I looked...not too flattering, not dramatically unflattering, etc. Yeah, and blame that particular skin tone on moisturizer with a "light" self-tanner. Liars. Secondly, this picture is dated at just the right time. Anyway...during these many months, I was cutting back on my caloric intake and getting more physical activity to try and combat the problem. After having no luck with that approach (and, in fact, still gaining weight), I talked to my doctor about it.

I was disappointed when my initial blood tests came back showing no evidence of what the problem might be. Fast forward to nearly two years later, and I was still gaining weight and nothing seemed to help. I had talked to my doctor two or three more times about it, and I had made it clear to her that: (a) I was not a closet eater; (b) I was doing things to combat the weight gain; (c) I actually know a good deal about nutrition and physical fitness; AND (d) almost no woman on my mother's side of the family has a functioning thyroid gland. Imagine how disappointed I was then when my doctor offered to give me dietary information and tried to talk to me about being "over 30" now.

Ummm...didn't I just tell her that I knew a lot about nutrition? And, further, did she think I'd just clicked onto some magic age (like 33 years, 4 months, and 2 days or something) and then suddenly...BOOM...there goes my metabolism??? Even coming from a woman, I think this is at least partially a sexist thing. I could go into great detail about it, but really the best thing to do is ask you a question. What do you think would happen if a man went to his doctor and said he'd gained 30% of his prior weight in just about 18 months and had, in fact, been doing all the right things to reverse the weight gain...and that he had a family history of thyroid disorder?

So there I go. Off to a new doctor! On the very first visit, my new doctor found the problem. Here's the thing: for some people, thyroid problems don't always show up in blood tests. But with the right kind of physical examination of my neck, New Dr. could feel that my thyroid was enlarged and, after that, she sent me for radiologic tests to determine the exact nature of the malfunction.

Within three weeks, I was on the proper medication and looking forward to a resolution of all this frustration...and a reversal of the great packing on. From what I'd read, people suffering from hypothyroidism who get proper treatment can expect to lose about ten percent of their body weight fairly quickly. I think I passed that point at about the one-year mark. Coincidentally, this picture of me with my dad was taken almost exactly a year after I started my treatment.

I've lost about five percent more of my starting body weight since then. The rest of the excess weight should come off after that but more slowly. Without any other intervention, eventually I will return to a more natural, typical weight based on my normal metabolism. The great thing is, if I ever find time to exercise (instead of studying Scrabble word lists or writing blogs...or working...or raising kids...or laughing with my friends)...if I ever find time to exercise, I will actually see progress this time.

So, good, gentle readers...don't be afraid to stand up for yourselves when it comes to your health care. Even if you don't have "MD" or "PhD" or "Esq." after your name, it doesn't mean you don't know nothin. (Triple negative! Three points! Three tiny finger gun shots into the air...pwew!pwew!pwew!)

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Durham

Martha, Martha, Martha. Mi amiga, my confidante...the quiet girl who would have ripped the arms off that crack ho neighbor of Sara's if she'd thrown that beer bottle at my head. Oh, yeah...and she's the one who turned me on to Scrabble. In fact, she tried to convince me for quite a while that I'd enjoy the game. Sometimes now I wonder if she ever regrets that move. I mean, Martha loves Scrabble. And she's better at it than I am. But she's not as "et up with it" as me.

So I'm glad that this weekend had only the average amount of drama for a Scrabble tournament (heh...funny, yes). To clarify, by "drama" I mean me freaking out or tearfully examining my need to be playing this game (or my motivations for playing) after a string of losses (or just a couple of really bad ones).

As for the specifics in Durham, I won zero games of my first five but then six out of the last ten (counting a bye) with a spread of "minus a bunch." I was pretty okay with that result. Despite being somewhat of a natural counselor, I'm about the last one who can recognize that if I'd just stop freaking out about the game, I'd do a lot better. For me, doing a lot better in this tournament came after I had resolved that I didn't care how the tournament went because I was out-of-town with my husband, my kids, and my beloved club members. (Eric and the kids came to Durham to have some fun and visit with Eric's friend and his children. They loved Monkey Joe's.)

Okay...back to the Scrabble blog portion of blog. Our fearless Scrabble club leader, Brad Mills, took third place in his division. (Go, Brad!) Martha came out with a win-loss of 5-and-10 but: (a) her dad is in the hospital recovering from surgery; (b) her kid was back home in Charleston throwing up; and (c) she had a headache all day on Sunday. This is the part where you all send positive energy to Martha.

There was really nothing more notable for me as it applies directly to the game. I played one opponent who really, really frustrated me by knowing (or following) almost none of the rules despite having played in almost as many tournaments as me. (As an aside, the few times I've had to be firm with an adult as I would with one of my children, it's really bothered me. I don't like to adopt that role with "grown-ups.") In contrast, we had an ultra-pleasant 11-year-old player whom I got to play twice. He was cute, hyper, friendly and polite...and on his way to a really good amateur-part-time-career in Scrabble.

Next weekend, I'm heading off to Lexington, Kentucky for the Iron(wo)man 3. The bus (a/k/a Tina's Super-Duper Mini-Van) will head out with Martha, Brad, Lisa, and Chris on Friday night and we'll be staying in some ultra-sweet digs courtesy of Lisa's hotel bargain-finding skills. Eric will see me off with his traditional "Hope you grab a good sack!" (which is his funny but perhaps a little weird way of saying he hopes I "draw the bag"). I hope I draw the bag, too, but also that, as I move through more and more tournaments, my relaxation will increase and thus my wins will increase.

So we'll see in Lexington. And, after that, the MOOoooooo. (Details to follow.) Later!

What's Obama Wearing on October 23, 2008?

Obama lives at my desk and, for a guy, he's actually got a decent number of outfits to wear...and some nice accessories.

So today, as you can see, Obama wore his grayish-blue jeans and a neatly-pressed Oxford shirt. Note that Obama has taken a well-calculated fashion risk by pairing his hipster shoes with a cowboy hat. Of course, Obama has brought me flowers...and wants to take me for a beer.

Now that's a change of clothing we can believe in.

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Burning River Blowout

Even though the event itself was planned and executed so, so well, last weekend's tournament in Elyria, Ohio was "off" for me in a lot of ways.

It was the first time I'd taken the kids with me but not Eric. My sister, Anna, and her friend, Cher'Ron came along to watch the kids and spend some time with them. Though Anna is 19, she's put off getting her driver's license for so long it's become sort of a phobia for her. Cher'Ron, our designated driver for the four non-Scrabblers, developed a bit of a fear, herself, of driving the kids very far from the tournament site. SO, keeping the kids occupied and happy for the weekend was somewhat distracting. They did have a good time, but it took a lot of adjustment and coordinating.

As for my Scrabble games, the first day ended "okay" with a record of 3-and-5. On Sunday, I started by drawing the bag against Cecelia Huber. (If you don't know, "drawing the bag" means that I got pretty much all the premium tiles during my turns.) You know, everyone draws the bag sometimes, and can beat a much better player. I figure I'll get the bag drawn on me, it'll even out.

Well, instead...I was absolutely demolished in three out of the next four games. I mean, I didn't just get beat. I got beat like I stole something. In those three games, the nearest I came to a win was a 144-point loss. Funny thing is, the fourth game was against the number one seed and I came within 9 points of him (a guy who admits not being very good with adding the score). Given the stakes, the need for a mental boost, and the closeness of the score, I would have normally requested a recount. Problem was, I had to run out and get the kids from the hotel before check-out time. recount for me. Instead, another loss.

Are you ready for the best part? During my third-to-last game of the entire tournament, I was so frustrated that I accidentally messed up the drawing of the last several tiles (incorrectly thinking the bag was empty). As a result of this, the director had to come over and spend several minutes reconstructing the last few plays and making step-by-step rulings based on each play. (The director and my opponent, coincidentally, are two of the nicest people you could ever meet. Neither of them did anything to make me feel bad.) So my frustration with myself, combined with the building disappointment about my low success, finally peaked.

Sitting there as poor Dallas had to make determination after determination about my play, my eyes welled up so fast there was nothing I could do to stop it. There was no whining, no sobbing...nothing like that. Just me, sitting across from my fun, gracious, and sweet opponent, silently soaking up a fountain of tears with the sleeve of my sweater. And it was no tiny, single teardrop. These were the steaming-hot, spigot-turned-all-the-way-on type of tears.

When Dallas finally walked away, I looked at Pat and said, "I'm sorry" for having caused such a problem. Pat cheerfully reassured me that it was just not a big deal. Terri walked over and offered comfort by rubbing my shoulders. Linda sat down, let me cry on her shirt, and made me laugh. She told me no less than two stories of crying over Scrabble games, both as a relatively new player (like me) and as an advanced player.

In the end, my record was 5-and-10 and my rating went down just a little bit. Let's hope this upcoming weekend's Triangle Tarheel Trifecta will be the upturn. But, you know, even if it's not that, it will be a weekend spent with my dear friend, Martha, and her husband Brad. They don't get to attend as many tournaments as I've been doing (maybe because they're somewhat more sane), so this weekend is special.

In conclusion...

(1) There may be no crying in baseball, but there obviously is crying in Scrabble.
(2) Dallas Johnson is a wonderful tournament director and the extra effort he puts in really make the events smooth and fun.
(3) I'm really happy to have gotten to know so many nice, fun, and smart people in this regional Scrabble tournament circuit.
And, (4) You have three days. Start sending positive anagramming vibes now (and you can go ahead and throw in some good drawing-the-bag vibes if you want).

Tooth Fairy Finally Caught On Film

A certain Ms. Isabella King spent the better part of the last two weeks wiggling her front tooth around, purposefully chewing on things with her front teeth, and pushing the tooth around with her tongue. This sweet six-year-old was being as patient as possible waiting for that first loose tooth to come out. It had seemingly given up on any chance to hang on and could be pushed so far that I thought it would certainly fall out right away.

Then, late last week, she returned from school carrying a white envelope (which, at first glance, looked empty) and sporting a big gap in her smile. Of course, it turned out that the envelope held that little Chiclet-looking tooth and that Bella had lost during the day.

So now the preparations for the Tooth Fairy's arrival begin. It's pretty simple, really. When Bella went to bed, she tucked the envelope under her pillow..with the corner sticking out so the Tooth Fairy would be sure to see it. She asked Grandpap to take a picture of TTF if he happened to see it.

Grandpap, being dedicated to the cause (and a good photographer) stayed up long enough to, indeed, catch the elusive Tooth Fairy on film. The girls will sometimes sleep with their light on which really helped when, in the middle of the night, Grandpap noticed the faint twinkle of light zipping around the room. Although it had to be a long exposure, he was able to get this picture of the Tooth Fairy as she hovered in the center of the room just before taking off again. You might have to click on the picture to get a bigger version, but if you look closely, you can see TTF on the right side of the shiny, green trail.

Bella was quite excited to get the traditional cash gift from the Tooth Fairy and also very excited that Grandpap managed to capture her image on film. Pretty neat, huh?

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: South Lyon, Michigan

I'd have to say this weekend's tournament in South Lyon, Michigan was, overall, one of the most satisfying this year. Actually, the whole weekend was really satisfying.

After a quick flight to Detroit, I picked up my rental car (rock bottom price and all, courtesy of and headed to IKEA in Canton, Michigan. As I waited for my dear friend, Spinster Girl to arrive, I wandered up the escalator, through the restaurant, and down the "down" escalator. I found myself immediately in the dinnerware area and, looking around, saw no way out (except maybe running back up the down escalator). I hunkered down, not sure I'd ever escape...then...finally, I saw a customer come in through what looked like an exterior door. Turns out, it was the door back to the lobby. So...I made it. (Ehh-SCA-peehh.)

Once SG arrived, we made a quick circle around one part of IKEA, headed back out the door, and looked for a place to have dinner. We got lucky and found a really great wing place where we sat and ate and talked for a long time...and spent very little money doing so.

Of course, once we got to SG's house, the effects of airport maneuvering, a full belly, and a little liquor set in...and it was time to go to to bed.

The next morning's drive to South Lyon was quick and scenic. The only problems were the numerous near-death experiences during about the last 15 minutes because I couldn't help but look around at the beautiful farm-house-y places lining this suburban/county road. Arriving at the tournament site, I was, as always, very happy to see several people I've gotten to know and enjoy from Michigan, Ohio, and thereabouts.

(Non-Scrabble friends...being that this here is, at least in part, a Scrabble blog, I must get all technical now. Please feel free to zone out until a little later. AND...3...2...1...sleeeep.)

The Magitastic Intrawebs Site predicted I'd win 1.4 games. That means I needed a win, a tie, then maybe some sort of penalty for looking directly at an expert player. I consider all this as I walk into the tournament site. And then...

Greetings all around...sit down...blah, blah, blah...promptly get my ass kicked by Jim Widell. Out of respect for, won't publish the score here. Let's just say, my only shining moment was successfully challenging his first play (a would-be bingo...VEGGITE*).

After that, I DID have a shining moment, wrangling a victory against Joyce Stock, whom I had beaten only once out of the seven other times we'd played. This was a good game for 464 to Joyce's 358...and a new bingo for me with BEC(K)ING (for 90 points). I also got 78 points with ANTIQU(E) but I let Joyce get me with POUTANES*. An interesting aside, I had to lay down HITTER for the triple after trying like hell to bingo with SHITTER*. (Heh, that would have been a win-win for me.) Of course, now I know SHITTER* isn't good. I can't believe it, though! I mean...c'mon! MOTHERFUCKER is a good word but SHITTER* isn't? The world's gone mad.

THEN...another trouncing (upon me). This time, it was at the hands of the lovely and sweet Barbara Dixon. I did, however, manage a respectable 374 to Barbara's 411. Next, David Brown and I had a decent game, but really nothing very notable for either of us. I will say that: (a) David has been studying the heavy-on-the-vowel words; and (b) David is a super-nice young man who always remains friendly and polite. (He's older now than in his profile picture...maybe somewhere in his early teens.) sound defeat at the hands of Sonia Lyda. Ahh-gain, out of respect for myself, and pure shame, I won't publish the score here. THEN...sound defeat at the hands of Kevin Lucas...yada, yada, yada. (Look at him...he's even smirking at me in his picture!!)

Fortunately (for me), I had a lot of luck when I played Sophia Murzin. A solid player who's over 90 years old, it's unfortunate that Sophia obviously is sometimes forgetting all those words she's known. I'm never disrespectful of the fact that she should be able to beat the snot out of me at Scrabble. However, during our game over the weekend, I won 501 to 320. Of course, I had four bingos with ENQUIRES (104), REVOTING (78), RUDDIEST (60), and LINGERER (83). Later in the day, a player was being quite short with Sophia and, after a few minutes of this, Sophia firmly told her opponent, "Be patient, please. If you're lucky, one day you'll get here, too." It made everyone on our side of the room chuckle...and one person clap.

When Kim Harris and I played, we did so badly that we promised not to divulge our scores if at all possible. So...unless you can demonstrate to me why you really need to know, then you're not going to meet the "need-to-know-basis" requirement. I can say that I one point. My win came after I bingoed out with MANNERS for 73 points (and 17 seconds left on my clock).

Okay, so...trounced by Kathleen Washburn, trounced by Cheryl Melvin (who is so funny and whom I adore), and beaten soundly by Mikki Sutherland (although I did enjoy a moment when I played CLOVERED for 92 points, which Mikki unsuccessfully challenged).

After that, I played the 12th game, my last game of the tournament, against my previous opponent, Joyce Stock. Truly my luckiest game, I won with 524 points to Joyce's 303. My bingos were QUIETERS (104) and UNSTALL* (91).

In the end, I came away with twenty bucks for the high word score in my division (QUIETERS) and twenty bucks for the highest-scoring word using the most letters in the words "South Lyon". That was with UNSTALL* because, yeah, this time it could be a phony. As for my rating in the National Scrabble Association, it should increase a very decent 50+ points!! (I'm quite happy with that one.) OH YEAH, I also took home sixty bucks profit for winning Saturday night's poker tournament at Jeff Fiszbein's house. Woot!! My new nickname, by the way, is "Tina Totten King Poker Queen." It makes me laugh but now I'll never win again since I've written it here.

(Non-Scrabble friends, WAKE UP NOW!)

As I drove my car back to the airport, I had time to reflect on my weekend and my Scrabble Tour. I was happy I had some extra hours to share with Spinster Girl and that we found a great little diner to have a great big breakfast. (I'll let her tell you about that one. I think it's going to be her new "place".). I thought about the time I got to spend laughing with Linda, Steve, Barbara, George, and Cheryl...and laughed some more. (Hey, Jeff...I'd be writing about you too if you didn't have your priorities all messed up with "family" and crap like that. Next time, have your relatives schedule their weddings on non-tournament weekends.) And Saturday night, I slept the best I had in literally months. We're talking seven or eight solid hours with no tossing and turning. Niiice.

So next weekend, it's me, Anna, Bella, and Edie heading up to Burning River. It should be fun. Anna and the girls will swim in the hotel pool and maybe go to the mall. I'll get to play lots of Scrabble and see some of the Scrabble people I like but haven't gotten to see in a while. And the beat goes on...the beat goes on. La de da de de, la de da de da.

The Bird

Historically, I'd rate my interest in birds as pretty low. During my teen-aged years in San Antonio, the nocturnal Whip-poor-will always drew my attention because it was singing when other birds were not. Against the backdrop of the otherwise quiet night, the Whip-poor-will's clear song felt very special. (You can hear the Whip-poor-will's call on that same link, about halfway down the page.)

Aside from something as unique as that, I just hadn't been too intrigued. But about eight weeks ago, for the first time ever, I noticed a bird in the back yard that I had never seen before. Most of its plumage was a brownish-gray color but the head and upper chest of the small bird was exactly what I'd consider the color "strawberry." The contrast between the darker feathers and the head and the unusual, bright strawberry color made the bird look kind of technicolor.

So I did some searching and found out that this little bird is a House Finch. More specifically, it's a male house finch. Of course, unlike many humans, in bird society, the males are the ones who have to get all gussied up to attract the attention of the opposite sex. The female House Finch looks just like the male, though, just with those brownish-gray feathers instead of strawberry.

I also learned, from my research, that House Finches were first contained mostly within California. In the early 1900's, they were illegally shipped to New York as vogue sort of accessory pets. When the feds began to crack down on this illegal activity, the dealers opened the cage doors and set the birds into the wild. From then, the birds spread west-to-east and vice-versa and it looks they they reached West Virginia somewhere around the early 1980's.

Still, I hadn't seen them before two months ago. A few days after I saw that one single bird, and as I was getting into my van in the parking garage, I saw another one. This House Finch was sitting on the outer wall of the garage, right in front of my van. Shocked to see another one, I sat for about 15 minutes, listening to its song. And Mr. Finch sat and kept his one-sided conversation up until he finally hopped away to another part of the building.

So this was some sort of special connection I'd already developed with this gorgeous little species. After all, one shows up...then this other one sits and chats me up for such a long time. Right? Exactly. The next day, I realized that Mr. Finch was probably bitching me out for being so close to his little house tucked up in the beam of the garage near my van. This time, when he saw me coming, he darted right for the nest. I hadn't seen it before. That's okay. Maybe he's just not that into me.

Nonetheless, here's the most accurate-sounding recording of the House Finch song I've found. Once I heard the House Finch song, I recognize it every morning outside the window. The habitat expansion must be going well!

He Sings Way Too Much To Be A Stoner

If you live around Charleston, you probably already know that our parish priest, Father Jim O'Connor, has been arrested and charged with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. (Father Jim was found with 72 grams of marijuana in his vehicle and, in West Virginia, anything over 15 grams requires this felony charge.)

So I guess it goes something like this...Father Jim and Joe Deegan (a long-time parishoner, former drug counselor...heh...yeah, I know) were driving along and the cop behind them could smell the odor of marijuana. He pulled Father Jim (hereinafter known as "Father J."...because I'm funny), and J. Deegan (because I'm still funny) over and found that they had both been smoking pot, got permission to search the vehicle, found the pot in a bag, and so on.

Let me say...there is no way I'm saying this is not a serious matter. It is a serious matter. One has to wonder what kind of recklessness would cause a priest to risk his entire career, and possibly his freedom, for such a thing. Right now, though, nobody knows the whole story. Neither Father J. nor J. Deegan have had the chance, in a neutral forum, to tell their story.

If you've met him, Father J. just doesn't seem like a stoner...and a drug dealer is about the last thing in the entire world he resembles. He loves to sing and has been known to sing an entire mass. He's a friendly, outgoing man and, despite having come in after the truly beloved Father Leon who served decades at our church, he managed to make his own way and to be liked. And I think if he was selling pot, we'd have had lots...LOTS more teenagers in the parish. (Justkiddingdontsendmehatemail.)

So...what is really the right thing to do here? Father J. has been suspended pending an internal investigation. The outlook is not good. If you believe, though, that there must be some serious issue for Father J. to have taken such a risk, then one has to think that maybe there is some type of addiction present. Luckily, as far as we know, he has hurt no one but himself with his behavior. And, you know, my son was at Camp Leon earlier this year under the leadership of Father J. After this week's news, my feelings about the camp haven't changed at all.

Now...what if a priest were an alcoholic? If the person who is supposed to be the spiritual leader of your congregation has a very human, self-destructive problem, why does he have to become an example of what happens when people discover your problem...and react by casting you out? I know it's the strict rule of the Diocese that he be removed from his position, but why permanently? If he has hurt no one, why does he not deserve treatment and/or counseling then the opportunity for another chance? Could the whole community not learn something valuable by allowing Father J. to recover from this downfall and stand on his feet again? Why do we teach forgiveness, the hope for recovery from any number of problems, and the potential to return to a state of grace and then turn around and cast these first stones at another human being from the word go?

From the members of the parish, compassion he will receive. Forgiveness is certain. Employment and the ability to hold his head up in the community...not looking too good. I just don't think it's fair.

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Ludacris Speed

As we approach October, much of my free time is spent preparing for and contemplating the rest of the year's Scrabble tournaments. It's going to be hectic...but crazy fun no matter what the outcome.

So far in 2008, I've completed seven Scrabble tournaments:

Elyria, Ohio in March;
Charleston, WV in April;
Richfield, Ohio in April;
Pittsburgh, PA in June;
Rocky River, Ohio in July;
Pontiac, Michigan in August; and
Hudson, Ohio in September.

THEN...when I had to cancel my mid-September trip to Fenton, Michigan, it made me a little crazy so, in response, I added not one, but two more tournaments to the list. I had originally thought about letting Elyria, OH go and traveling to Durham instead (the following weekend) because friends were going to Durham and we could carpool. opportunity arose to take the kids to Elyria (and Anna, the kids' aunt/sometimes-babysitter and Anna's friend). They can find fun things to do, go to the mall (which the kids love), swim in the hotel pool and so on. AND...Eric and I decided that we would take the kids to Durham so they could all spend some time with one of Eric's best friends who lives there (who has kids of a similar age to ours).

So with everything turning out as it did, the rest of the years looks like this:

Charleston, WV (club tournament) on Oct. 4;
South Lyon, MI on Oct. 11 & 12;
The Burning River Blowout in Elyria, OH on Oct. 18 & 19;
The Bluegrass Ironman (Iron-WO-man) in Lexington, KY on Nov. 1 & 2;
The MOO (Mississauga Ontario Open) on Nov. 15 & 16; and
The Cleveland Classic in Strongsville, OH on Dec. 6 & 7.

You're right...that is Ludacris Speed. But it's going to be great fun. The kids and Eric will get a road trip or two. I'll get to stay with one of my best friends, Spinster Girl, when I'm playing in South Lyon. I'll get to carpool to Mississauga with several players from the Akron/Cleveland area. And in every tournament, I get to try and increase that rating, gain some skill, and, of course, win the after-hours poker games.

Household Politics

This afternoon the family was taking a walk around the neighborhood and the four-year-old announced, "I'm voting for John McCain!" She was actually doing that kid kind of marching thing and said, "Ahm voting for John Mah...CAIN!"

Anyway, this announcement doesn't surprise me. My husband will do about anything he can to bug me. (He's got serious middle child syndrome and is, how you attention whore.) So, yeah...he taught her to say that.

So I told her that John McCain wants to take away all of her toys and that, more than anything, John McCain hates ice cream. Eric countered that Barack Obama wants to take all of her toys and redistribute them so that all children have the same number of toys.

Edie put her hands on her cute little cheeks, smooshed her face around a bit, then pushed her hair over her face.

It's going to be quite an election season here in the house.

And Speaking of Confusing Things...

It appears that the WV Secretary of State's website has been hijacked. (Of course, if you're reading this later, it may be back to normal.) The picture on the right is a tiny version of what it looks like right now.

I went to the site today to check on the status of the service of a civil action (a work thing)..which I've had bookmarked for years and my bookmark shouldn't have even taken me to the main page. Right away, the page looked like one of the goofy ones you see when a domain registration has expired and it magically turns into some giant advertisement that, in the tiniest way, tries to pass for the original page.

Well, I guess there's a chance that it wasn't even hijacked but is somehow in the middle of revamping but...also covered with fishy links to advertising. I don't know much about such things. I would guess if the site were legitimately in some state of reworking, it would say so.

In fact, the official State of West Virginia website looks funny. On this one, though, if you click on the links, they appear to go to the correct site. Maybe they overhauled it since I last had a reason to look there.

So...I called someone who knows the Secretary of State. If the site has been fraudulently taken over, I don't want innocent citizens to fall victim to spyware or phishing if they click too far into the links. We'll see odd.

Update (shortly after my post): It's back to normal! Good work, someone!!! Of course, it's always possible that it was just a blip of some sort (even though I checked it several times) and I caught it just at the right time. Anyone more in the know...know?

So Apparently Someone Has A New Phone Number...

...but they aren't quite sure what it is. About ten days ago, there was a missed call on my cell phone from a number I didn't recognize. From the prefix, I could tell it was a St. Albans (West Virginia) number...but I don't know anyone who lives in St. Albans.

Over the next several days, I received more of these mystery calls and they all had two things in common. First, I could hardly tell what any of the people were saying. They were all men, they were obviously different people, but none of them enunciated worth a damn. Second, each and every one of them began by asking for someone (whose name I couldn't make out) then, when I told them they had the wrong number, they'd say, "Who's this?!"

My response to that question, when posed by a wrong-number-caller is always the same: " called me...who are you?" Of course, the caller always responds by mumbling some more, or asking again who I am, so on and so forth, blah, blah, blah, all the while I'm reiterating that, since they called me, perhaps they should confess their identity first.

In the end, when they finally understand that they have called the wrong number, each of these people respond exactly the same way. They hang up on me. Without apology. Without a "thank you." Sometimes they call back. (Heh.) Super geniuses of the universe, these guys.

Two or three nights ago, the St. Albans guy called 3:00 a.m. I had the typical conversation with him, but the shortened middle-of-the-night version that I think ended with me hanging up on him. This special genius called right back so I had Eric answer it. Waking Eric up in the middle of the night with a jerk-ass phone disposition is not a good idea. Eric had some firm words with the guy and then hung up.

So the calls continue. Hopefully, someday the leader of this particular Mensa chapter will realize that s/he's giving out the wrong phone number. Until then, I'm not sure there's much I can do about it.

Another Look at One of My All-Time Favorites

Can you believe The Color Purple is not listed in either AFI's 100 Greatest Movies of All Time or Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Movies? (It looks like I left a word or two out in that last one but that's what it's called.) Anyway, I can't believe it. I mean, I don't know many women who can't recount several favorite, moving scenes from The Color Purple.

Maybe it is a woman thing and, therefore, about half of the population wouldn't be as enamored with it. But even though it was released in 1983, this movie is as visually-stunning, in my opinion, as anything released more recently. As for the story behind the pictures, much of the daring and original plot is unforgiving and sometimes painful to absorb...but the viewer who makes the investment in this journey will be rewarded by sharing in the protagonists' uplifting victories and affirmation.

Phew. Sometimes I go off the melodrama deep end.

So tonight I watched a bit of The Color Purple on television. I didn't really watch the whole thing because it wasn't in letterbox format. (Yes, I'm a movie purist and it drives me nuts to not be able to see a third of the original picture.) I did see two of the most powerful scenes, though. The first one I really get into is where Mister is throwing Nettie out of the house as Celie cries and struggles against him to keep Nettie there. Raw emotion (and a completely committed delivery) is what makes this scene so deeply moving. In a documentary about the movie, Steven Spielberg talked about how hard it was for him to get Danny Glover to really let himself go all the way into character for the scene. The emotional cruelty (and physical domination) Mister displayed toward Celie and Nettie in the scene was just difficult for Glover, even as an actor.

I have no problem at all believing that. Just watching the scene makes me cry every single time. Not only does Danny Glover manage to pull off one of Mister's most heartless moments (despite Glover's real-life status as a nice guy), Desreta Jackson and Akorua Busia held nothing back and you would think their hearts truly broke every time they went through the scene.

My other favorite scene is the final one. Cinematically, just the pictures themselves are perfect metaphors that underline the literal Celie moving through her friends and family to see who has arrived at the house...and each of the other characters standing completely still, transfixed and wondering as Celie realizes who is there on the road. When the bright, colorful wraps of the travelers float up behind them in the wind and dust, Celie knows it is her sister whom she'd been forcibly separated from most of her married life (and living in Africa).

Hold on...let me get a tissue.


This movie is an absolute journey. If you haven't watched it, you really should (maybe more so if you're a woman). If you can handle the heartache, the end will be worth it. Even if you chose to read this, knowing that the ending would be told to you, seeing for yourself will really be so, so much more. Besides, there is so much to this story that I left out. And there is really no way I can do The Color Purple justice with just words.

Scrabble Tour: Hudson, Ohio

Saturday morning, I packed Bella, Edie, Eric, and Lisa into the van. (The kids were fine but Eric and Lisa resisted getting into the trunk.) So our destination was Stop 3 on my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Hudson, Ohio (between Akron and Cleveland).

Lisa is a fellow Scrabbler from our club here in Charleston, WV and a co-contributor to our club's Scrabble blog. Our original plan was to travel together and room together at this, her second official Scrabble tournament. Eric and the girls decided to come along, hang out at the hotel pool, go to the Cleveland Zoo, and so on. That was good for me because, even though I was out-of-town in a tournament, I got to have dinner with them and spend a little time with them.

As for the tournament itself, it was an "open-rated" one, meaning that, regardless of your rating, you could potentially be in a match against any other player. The upside to this type of tournament is that if you have a good game, your NSA Scrabble rating will go up quite a bit. The downside, if you're in the lower rankings like me, is that it's hard to get one of those wins.

There were some highlights...I managed a solid win against an opponent who has thrashed me each of the three times we've played each other in the past. Lisa pulled out a win against one of the top-rated players there.

In the end, Lisa and I did pretty well. I came out with a win-loss record of 4-and-7 (even though Cross-Tables only predicted 1.4 winning games for me. Lisa did even better with a win-loss of 5-and-6 when Cross-Tables had predicted she would win 1.1 games. We'll both get a boost in our ratings and I'll agree that, even though my goal was to come out with maybe 5 victories, a rating increase is so much better than a rating loss. (Duh.)

I remain undeterred. Okay...well, I was deterred for about 18 hours after the tournament, during which time I had resolved to never, ever play Scrabble again. Now...I'm undeterred again. I've got at least four more tournaments before the end of the year. Actually, since Eric's work scheduled has been changed around and he and the kids can travel a little more, I may add one or two other tournaments.

Stay tuned for more details!
And donate generously to help me keep this tour going!
All the cool kids are doin it!!

Coincidence? I Think...Maybe

So am I the only one who sometimes suspects they possess phenomenal cosmic powers...and by "phenomenal cosmic powers" I mean tiny premonitions?

Aside from some serious, hardcore déjà vu (or being certain I had, days before, dreamed whatever inconsequential event I'm witnessing), it sometimes seems like I can, out of nowhere, have a random thought about someone I hadn't seen or thought about in years...and then within a few days they show up.

Sometimes this involves people who were important in my life (or at least semi-important). Other times it's someone I barely hold any memories one time it involved some manager I worked for for only a few months more than a dozen years ago. I hadn't seen her since then, I don't remember her name, etc. I only remember that I didn't like her. She was just mean. She made another employee pick up her candy wrapper off the floor as she walked away. (How power-trippy is that? I hate power-trippiness. Maybe it's because I don't have a lot of power.) So, anyway, based on my experience, I had a thought about this woman then I thought, "Shit, now I'm going to see her. I hope she doesn't speak to me." Sure enough, I saw her for the first time in a dozen years within a couple of days. Luckily, she was only sitting at a table in the food court at the mall. She didn't even look in my direction. (Phew!)

It's a nice, warm feeling when these strong thoughts or recurring thoughts of someone you'd really like to see or talk to come about. If there's a decent chance they'll turn up again soon, there's something to look forward to. Thankfully, that's happened a lot more than the negative people popping up.

Since my take on phenomena (or maybe non-phenomena) is so open-minded, I don't spend a lot of time ruminating about proving or disproving the potential abilities of any person. Because of my education in psychology (and my great brain), I do consider the possible proof against it. In this instance, I figure if everyone who popped into my head and then into my life were local, it'd be much more likely that I had seen them without realizing it and then just was more (unconsciously) on watch for them the next time. But they're not all local. Some are thousands of miles away.

So, has this happened to you (beyond what feels like coincidence)? If so, do you think you're drawing people to you or just sort of "seeing" them coming? If you believe in any such things, I think the latter is more likely. I don't think we know much about space and time and the way human energy travels around, so it doesn't surprise me that no one can say for sure how a premonition would be possible. But...I think that the possibilities are pretty cool.

Scrabble Tour Star Cancels Show: Cites "Exhaustion"

That's right. I've exhausted all my efforts to find a babysitter for this weekend so I could make the trip to Fenton, Michigan (and the next scheduled stop on my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour). Actually, I had a sitter but that plan fell through. And the role of weekend babysitter has to be filled with someone close, usually a family member or a babysitter you've used for a long time. The kids would be thrown off balance quite a bit by having someone less-than-close be their caregiver for that long. Or maybe they wouldn't. I don't know. Either way, I'm not willing to risk it. Eric has Army drills this weekend so it would have had to be someone I trusted to stay with the kids and keep them safe all night on Saturday, too.

I suppose I can just use this time to study more and then take my opponents by storm in Hudson, Ohio next weekend. Still...I hate cancelling a show.

And That's When It Went All Pear-Shaped

I was sitting in the Super-Duper Mini-Van this morning at an intersection downtown. A scene unfolded as I sat at the red light and it went like this:

Directly across the intersection, a nicely-dressed man, maybe in his 40's, approached the crosswalk with his seeing eye dog. (I've seen this man before and if he has any vision at all, it appears to be close to zero.) The man pressed the crosswalk button then waited at the intersection. Even though the light was red, the crosswalk signal had obviously not turned to "walk" because the dog was watching it and had not moved.

A young woman sat at the red light in her oldish car and obviously observed the man waiting. No doubt trying to be helpful, the woman gave a short "beep" on the car's horn so the man would know it was okay to walk. No doubt the man heard her and probably understood the meaning, but he did not move. (I'm sure a visually-impaired person must be absolute in their reliance upon their guide dog. It would have to be that way to ensure proper training of the dog...and to prevent misunderstandings by relying on other input which might be misinterpreted.)

So, Man #2 approaches the intersection (where the light is still red but the crosswalk light still says "don't walk") and, seeing that it is safe for him to go, crosses the intersection in the direction of Man #1. As Man #2 passes Man #1, Man #2 slows his gait enough to tell Man #1 that the woman in the car wishes to let him cross. Man #1 moves his head in the direction of Man #2, says something, and waves Man #2 away as if he were swatting at a bee. Man #2 walks on.

The light turns green, I pass through the intersection, and the woman passes through the intersection in her car. Man #1 waits for the crosswalk light to change.

What a mess that was. A man uses what is probably the best practice when one is traveling with the help of an assistance animal and wishes to retain his independence. A woman obviously didn't understand these issues and attempted to be kind and give way to someone who she felt might need it. Another man tries to bridge the communication gap between the other two and is rewarded with a less-than-friendly wave off.

I guess all three of them might have learned something (even if it was small) from that 15 seconds of the morning. As for me, I escaped with only some reflected discomfort. The dog ...well, he or she didn't really seem that interested in the whole thing.

2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour: Pontiac, Michigan

Sitting here in Concourse C of Detroit's Metro Airport, I've got some time to reflect on this weekend's Scrabble tournament in Pontiac, Michigan. Two words come to mind:

Study more.

Really, though. I'm happy with this weekend. The very, very, very best part was getting to spend some time with people I'd gotten to know a little bit before, getting to know them better, and meeting lots of new people. The second best part was getting somewhere around 60 points added to my rating. The award for "most instantly gratifying" goes to the poker tournament on Saturday night (in which yours truly won back her $10 entry fee plus $60 more).

At 20 games, this tournament was far too long to detail here. In the end, I came out with 7 wins and 13 losses. And my point spread was so far down it had to reach up to tie its shoes. (Point spreads don't really have shoes so don't hurt your brain trying to picture that.) Okay, so...this result was more than the Magitastic Intrawebs Site predicted for me.

Now we have a little more experience under our belts. Now we get ready for the Fenton, MI tournament coming up in two weeks. (Actually, it's two one-day tournaments, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.) How do we get ready? Study...more.

Peace out.

P.S. Thanks again to my two sponsors for this weekend's trip.
Their contributions bought either my dinner on
Friday night or all three of my lunches at the Mexican place.


Something just made a low, heavy "BOOM!!" in Charleston and shook the house a little. I thought my father-in-law might have passed out in the shower (because their bathroom shares a common wall with this room). He came out though, because he had heard it, and we went outside. All the neighbors were out...trying to find out what it was, assuming it was nearby...but we could see nor hear anything.

So strange...but also very worrisome.

Update 11:05 p.m.: Oh, no. A chemical plant in Institute (11 miles from here) had a huge explosion. People felt it in Lincoln County. People who lived near there have called the news to say they were knocked out of their beds. There is no "shelter in place" right now but the Interstate has been shut down. Initial reports, though, indicate that there may have been only one injury or no injuries at all.

Update 11:43 p.m.: It still looks like the injuries were few (but more than "none") and a shelter-in-place has been issued for the area from the South Charleston and westward past Institute. I know you probably know this (if you live there), but I just don't want you wandering outside taking deep breaths because Tina told you you could.



My InBox this morning had a nice surprise in it! Someone...a Scrabble player...a Scrabble blog reader...a very nice person...was the very first to click on the donate button. My Scrabble Tour now has at least one benefactor!

So this is a whole new thing. I mean, should I get t-shirts made? Should I write this (and any subsequent) sponsor's name on the bottom of each of my score sheets? Should I give a "shout out" if there are any photo ops or radio interviews? (she says, slowly and thoughtfully shaking her head back and forth). We don't embarrass the benefactors. We accept their kindness with quiet grace and don't force unwanted publicity upon them.

So, thank you, brother or sister whose name shall not be spoken here. Your small act and your few (but precious) bucks have earned you a place in (my) Scrabble history.

If you don't want me to put your name on a t-shirt either, you can also donate. Gracias!!

Fast Weeks

I try not to focus too much on upcoming trips or other fun events very far in advance. It's just that I get so worked up and excited about things. If I start my mental countdowns too early, I just wear myself out...and time seems to drag on and on and on.

But now...I can say that in about three days and 20 hours from this posting, I'll be sitting somewhere around Luna Pier, Michigan, having dinner and drinks with my dear friend, Spinster Girl (a recent transplant to MI). I would be e-mailing her personally about starting my countdown, but I don't want to distract her from her Official Duties, i.e., buying vodka and various things to put with vodka, finding us a great place to eat, etc.

THEN, in four-and-a-half days, I'll be sitting in Pontiac, Michigan, trying my very best to kick off my 2008 Whirlwind Scrabble Tour with a few wins!! V-I-C-T-O...oh, nevermind. I think you get it.

SO...tonight I worked pretty late so I can cut out early on Friday, tomorrow I'll be heading out for dinner and drinks with a couple of friends, Wednesday and Thursday I'll be getting ready for the trip and spending time with those...ohhhh...what are they called?!?! Oh, yeah...Kids!!

The week will likely fly by! Between work, gathering my bathroom items in bottles no larger than three ounces, and those kids I mentioned, I won't have time for time to come to a standstill because I'm so excited! And YET...I'm so excited!! It all makes perfect sense if you stand back about 6 feet and unfocus your eyes.

And, you know, I think both events might produce some pictures and entries for this here Scrabble blog/human interest blog. I can't guarantee anything particularly artful and/or incriminating, but one can always hope.