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!