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!