Kicking the Habit at The Boston Tea Party

I’ve joined a 12 step program. They’re helping me to “just say no” to my substance abuse.

My name is Jolie. And I’m a tea drinker.

When I peel the plastic wrapper off the new box of tea, I have the uncanny realization that it’s also how cigarettes are packaged. Both products are made of dried leaves and both need to remain fresh until consumed.

It dawns on me as I make my third giant mug of tea.

I keep spare boxes of tea so I don’t run out. If I do, I will dash out in the middle of the night and buy some. From the only store in town that carries my brand. I can’t tell yet if it makes my life “unmanageable”. I rather think it makes my life “manageable”. But still…

“Do I have a problem?”

I’m the first tea snob on the family tree. My ancestors grew tobacco in Virginia.

Maybe I’ve just traded one crop for another.

My ancestors weren’t at the Boston Tea Party. They had the sense to be taxed without representation in order to enjoy a decent cup of tea.

But somebody’s were there…on the wrong side of the ship.

It was exactly 241 years ago today.

And I’m taking it very personally.

Can you believe they had the nerve to dump freshly arrived tea from England? What in the world?

This was not an affront to the British sovereign.

This was a declaration of war on the home front.

Wife: “Well I certainly didn’t wait the last eight months for a fresh cup of bona fide tea for you crazy men to just haul off in the middle of the night and DUMP IT INTO THE OCEAN!!”

Hubby: “My dear, it’s time to show England we mean business. Get your priorities straight!”

Wife: “You were dressed as a Mohawk. Why couldn’t you just bring the tea here? Who would know?”

Wife (feeling weak. she sits down): “45 tons of tea. TONS. of. tea.”

Hubby: “But darling, this was a political statement. We’re the Sons of Liberty!”

Wife: “Oh yeah? Well here’s MY statement: why don’t you just jump in there and fish some tea out of that harbor because it is stinking COLD where we live and if I don’t get a proper cup of tea soon, you’ll be dumped overboard yourself!!”

The hubby walks off to get his priorities straight, and the desperate housewife thinks to herself, “What can I turn into tea around here?”

And the hookah is born.

Let’s see….Step 1….

Boo!

The beautiful but foolish girl held a flashlight in sweaty shaking hands. She stood at the edge of the lawn, staring through the door that led under the house and into the basement.

Pointing the feeble light into the inky dark underground, she called out, “Darryl, are you there? Say something!”

She took a step down, the creaky staircase giving out a low moan.

“Darryl, this isn’t funny,” she insisted in a high voice, “you need to come out. I have a bad feeling about this!”

The electricity had gone out, it was midnight, and a rain had begun. She wore only the cute little high school outfit from earlier and the cold wet drops falling on her blonde head encouraged her to descend half of the staircase to stay dry.

The air smelled of rotting decay. It was thick and close, even with the door open to the outside. Darryl ran down here not ten minutes ago, and she was tired of waiting for him to bring up the box. They weren’t going to finish the Homecoming project tonight if he didn’t hurry.

What was taking so long?

One step at a time she inched along until her feet hit the concrete floor.

That’s when she noticed the soundtrack.

When the movie background music gets deep and ominous, all the main characters should jump immediately into the nearest horrific blood curdling situation, preferably involving aliens.

All of the expendable characters should just hold out various body parts and wait for the massacre.

Everyone in the audience must begin screaming, “Stop! Don’t do it! Don’t go down the basement stairs! Can’t you see the glowing eyes behind you?! Run fool RUN!!!”

They never do.

Why do we watch this?

Deliberately?

Maybe it’s the adrenaline rush. Maybe it’s just a good excuse to do some screaming.

Maybe we miss the days of being a toddler and thrown around a room playing “airplane”. Toddlers just assume that there are a pair of arms somewhere that will be catching them on the way back down.

This is why roller coasters hold such appeal.

This is why perfectly intelligent people pay good money to go to the movies and get scared to death.

For fun.

Frankly, my life holds enough “fun”, thank you.

I have plenty of opportunities to do some screaming, so I’m good.

For my part, the only reason I would enjoy the foolish characters making these choices is to be able to say, “Well, maybe I can’t pull together a decent outfit but I know I wouldn’t have gone down those basement steps!”

I feel so much better about myself.

I say they got what they had coming.

Quite possibly I would enjoy their consequences.

If they had any.

Because we all know the cute blonde girl ends up living at the end of the movie.(Unless it’s a French book. French authors love to kill the characters you are most in love with. They lean on the side of angst.)

But in the movies the most foolish of main characters end up living. Maybe they are covered in blood or their besties are now zombies.

But they live to see another day.

Logically, Luke Skywalker should never have lived through the first movie.

But we all understand that without a hero, the sequels won’t exist.

Rocky Balboa. Godzilla. Lieut. Ellen Ripley.

Do you hear what I’m saying?

Apparently, main characters can just buy their way out of consequences.

I much prefer romantic comedies. If we’re going to suspend reality, let’s have impossible happy endings. I’d just as soon have a good laugh.

You want a truly scary movie?

The end of any given day around here could work: me, the main character, dragging miserably down a dark hallway at midnight, random dirty clothing akimbo, hair turned gray and sticking straight up from a teen’s antics, eyes bloodshot from a toddler not sleeping for a week, limping from a gym cardio class gone horribly awry, hunchbacked from carrying a crying infant.

Hubby looks around the corner, sees me, shrieks loudly, waking up infant and thereby enraging our main character, who comes suddenly screaming at him, eyes glowing, looking for weapons of mass destruction.

Yeah, I thought that would scare you.

I sure hope I have a sequel coming.

It’s About Time

My son and I are sitting in the waiting area of the local medical lab. We are sitting as close to each other as possible and not touching the armrests. We should be wearing cough masks over our faces.

Not because we might cough.

Because the other patients in this crowded room might.

Most of these folks are here to get blood drawn. There is always a line for that.

We are here for the radiology department, a place where appointments are made in order to have patients seen in a timely fashion.

Ha.

We were told “15 minutes”.

These are medical minutes, which vary significantly from all other minutes.

Let me explain.

Vacation minutes have approximately 30 seconds in them.

Work minutes have 90.

Texan minutes run around 2 to 1 with football minutes at least 3 to 1. If a football game has 10 minutes left in the game, you can estimate sitting there with a leg cramp for about another 45.

This is to accommodate all the TV commercials and to encourage live fans to buy another beer.

Apparently, New York minutes are the fastest known, possibly holding a mere 10 seconds. You don’t want to blink in New York.

Dental minutes vary depending on your services. An hour cleaning will last about an hour, but a root canal has the potential to carry you into next week.

Medical minutes vary even more, but always in an expanding direction.

Sitting in a waiting room is about 2 to 1. “The doctor will be in in just a moment” means “He’s taking a call from his wife, he’ll get here when she stops talking”.

“The nurse will be right in with your shots” translates, “When she finds the right hypodermic, the bandages, the smiley face stickers, and waits an additional 10 minutes for you to work up a powerful fear sweat or a sufficiently crying child”.

Having you actual blood drawn can last for days. Never watch. Breathe deep.

Think vacation minute thoughts.

Our particular medical minutes this day lasted only “15 minutes” at a time but went on for an hour.

When directly confronted with this wrinkle in time, the receptionist stated that “once a patient has been checked in, he may not leave the building” but instead of just saying so up front, they wanted each and every patient to feel that their medical care was just around the corner.

It was.

We just couldn’t get there from here.

The Secret Keeper

Listen…Do you want to hear a secret?…Do you promise not to tell?

Closer…Let me whisper in your ear…tell you words you want to hear…

I’ve known a secret for a day or two, and that’s approximately as long as I will remember it.

When I die, my kids are going to rip the office apart looking for my secret diary and be sadly disappointed.

I destroyed my old journals and diaries.

I simply didn’t have any secrets worth saving. No treasure maps. No secret sauce recipes from my great-great-great grandmother. No answer for world hunger.

Distilling my thoughts and releasing emotions are now done in a gym workout.

I just don’t see the point in remembering angst and troubles. Live them and learn from them and move on. You can’t move forward while looking backward, and there are so many places I still want to go.

So go ahead…tell me your secret. And make it a good one.

What do you know that you don’t want anyone else to know?

Perhaps you’re Batman?

Do you have a locket? A safe? An underground rebellion? A secret Facebook identity?

It’s eating you up, isn’t it?

Your secret could be a new tattoo or an inside tip on the stock market.

Maybe you know someone else’s secret, but are sworn not to tell.

Once people find out though, it’s not a secret anymore, and the fun’s gone.

Sometimes you’re even in jail.

Or a millionaire. Lucky you, Bruce Wayne.

This is why secrets go into diaries. In code. We have to tell someone!

Everyone has skeletons in the closet, so to speak, and my thought is that if they’ve been in there long enough to set up house and have pets, perhaps you could take them out and play with them once in a while.

And if they’re not entertaining, evict them.

In our family, we have what we call “Happy Memories”. If you secretly pulled a prank or broke the rules (and maybe the furniture) in your childhood, and you are now an adult, you get to entertain the family with the story.

If your mother’s brow begins to furrow when you get to the middle of it (or maybe your children are creeping ever closer, looking aghast), you may want to rethink your plan and wait another ten years or so.

Apparently, it’s not quite a “Happy Memory” just yet.

I can always take a little stroll under my family tree. There are plenty of diary leaves that rustle in the breeze of inquiry, but they belong to others.

Big life-changing pages. Little innocent ones.

You don’t have to worry about them leaking out.

If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.

Including the dirt I have on you.

Oh, a good scandal now and then may be worth putting into a novel some day. If you recognize yourself in one, be thankful I gave you an alias and enjoy the secret fame.

But in the meantime, there is no diary for your mother to find.

Your secret is safe with me.

I’m Afraid Not

A gentle reader inquired recently about me facing my fears.

Yes indeed.

Where to even begin?

I have a list of course, but I once went mano-y-mano with one of my biggies.

I surprised Hubby with a hot air balloon ride for his birthday.

You don’t know vertigo until you are 7,500 feet in the air packed into a wicker basket with eight other people standing around a propane fireball. The only thing between you and certain death is a scrap of fabric held in place with some ropes. There are no parachutes. No seatbelts. No fire extinguisher.

And the pilot is crazy. He has to be. Who does this??

Other couples were taking advantage of the thin air to propose marriage right there in the basket. I waited with intense suspense for her answer, wondering what would happen if she said “no”.

There was really nowhere to storm off in anguish to.

Hubby was enjoying the views immensely and I brought along the video camera to prove we had done it.

The viewfinder never left my face.

So long as I was watching through the lens, my mind considered the whole event a TV infomercial for San Diego real estate.

“There’s a mansion, and there’s the beach, and there’s the freeway, and there’s the shopping mall, and there’s the dunes…no wait…that’s my white knuckles clenching the basket.”

Although a sky looks perfectly clear, you should know that it has parallel layers of wind currents running amok up there, and a hot air balloon can only go up or down. The wind currents are manipulated to move forward towards a landing spot.

In our case, there was a wicked fast layer that we had shot straight up through to enjoy the view for a while. Now we had to come down through it just as fast, or land somewhere in Kansas. We were asked to put away all electronics. Then we were asked to squat down in the basket and brace.

The pilot knew something we didn’t and apparently was not interested in getting it on film.

He released the hot air and down we dropped.

Right into the wind current.

I peeked over the railing to see the ground coming up at us fast. There were houses and cars and people down there and I wasn’t ready to land on any of them.

The pilot called out that he was riding the current to the next landing over. We had already shot past his first target, our balloon galloping like a runaway horse.

The propane suddenly roared back into life.

I watched in horror as our balloon quickly rose up, doing hurdles over a giant set of power lines.

Beyond that was nothing but miles of San Diego outback.

“Hang on!” cried our pilot, “I’m setting us down!”

We crashed through several yards of brush before the balloon gave up and lurched to a stop.

Our basket was on its side.

We crawled out and dropped through the scratchy branches and kissed the dusty earth.

The balloon melted down, stretching out over the tops of scrubby trees, exhausted and exhilarated by its glorious bid for freedom.

Obviously it was going to try again tomorrow.

We all stood around, laughing the way people do after a near-death experience.

We were all fine, although the sun was setting and the chase crew with the van would not be able to locate us for another hour. We had gone off their radar, into a place with no lights for miles around, and only one dirt road that could access the area.

Oh, and we also had a flat tire on the way back. It was a long day.

We were so thankful to walk out alive that not one of us complained.

“This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve done, right?” asked an innocent and new fiancé.

The pilot smiled and said, “Well, no. There was the time we were coming down and the wind shifted to a Santa Ana. Blew us right into the surf before I could touch down. Lucky we didn’t land in Hawaii. The Coast Guard had to bring out a boat and haul everyone in. Barely saved my balloon.”

He was wistful.

“Made it on the six o’clock news though.”

The Barbary Coast

I’d love to tell you today’s post is about a lovely travel destination. I really would. Oh, I travelled all right, but it’s nothing you’ll find a book on in the travel section of B&N.

This morning I got up early and went for a run.

That’s code for: the bird outside my window would not shut up at 6am and I was so mad I couldn’t fall back asleep and, yes, I had planned on a work-out but I am SO not motivated and I can think of a dozen really well thought out reasons why I should just skip straight to the shower instead but darn it…there’s no time to drive to the gym or even put on my yoga DVD because I just laid here thinking them all up so now I’m out of options and out of time and I just won’t respect myself tomorrow morning if I don’t GET UP RIGHT THIS MINUTE and put on shoes and RUN OUT THE DOOR and whatever you do DON’T LOOK BACK.

Running is barbaric. Don’t ever let someone tell you otherwise. I run as a last resort, when I need a super-sweat really fast. I feel a little like I cheated on my time but made up for it in pain.

I have a girlfriend who ran the Boston marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday. And then she never ran again. I have a girlfriend who rides centuries on her bike. She started running to see if she feels like doing a Triathlon. Can you guess which activity she prefers? She may not ever make it to the swim part of her experiment.

Hubby does his early morning run three times a week because he ran in high school. Yeah. All I hear about is the latest body part about to fall off from his last “run”. He won’t stop running though…because his head tells him he’s still 18. His knees, not so much.

My long legged sons run like the wind. They fly effortlessly around the track or past Hubby or to the dinner table. They are fairly certain if a cheetah chased them, they’d win. In their opinion, the sweat, the heaving lungs, the shaky legs, and the nausea are all part of the fun. If they run with me, they run backwards, cheering me on. Top marks for sportsmanship.

When I run, I can’t wear ear buds because they sweat right out of my ears. So I hum the soundtrack to “Chariots of Fire” and take off. In 30 seconds I am breathing like a bellows, so I mentally chant, “In with the good air! Out with the bad!” In five minutes the sweat begins to permeate my sun visor and I’m thankful it’s not streaming into my eyes. I look directly at the space in front of me. If I look up and see how far there is yet to go, my pace falters and I might start thinking again.

So I trot stubbornly on.

I have one pace and one pace only, and I finally decided to name it the ‘Barbary Coast’. I will never be a hare. I am obviously a tortoise.  This means if pirates are chasing me, I’m a goner.

It takes almost the whole run to warm up and then I’m in a zone where I will just keep trotting into forever unless the path runs me into a wall. I tell my body to just keep moving and then my brain and I go to Morocco.

I am imagining riding a camel along the beaches of Casablanca when…

What in the name of sweet mercy is THAT?! I completely forgot about trash day. I just ran past someone’s wretchedly ripe cans. Oh man, my mouth was wide open and I was breathing in so deep, I reckon there’s a few fruit flies at the bottom of my lungs now.

*ack ack gasp*

This is the part where I spit like a girl.

Don’t watch.

When I finally staggered home I had the rush that comes from accomplishment and endorphins.

But the word “rush” was out of the question for the rest of the day.

A Rose by Any Other Name

I remember growing up jealous of people who went by nicknames. It seemed like it was a way you could still keep your parents happy (they got to name you after all) and yet carve out a little personal identity for yourself. My girlfriend was named Melissa but you called her Missy; Pamela was Pam, Katherine was Kathy, and the boy next door named Juan Ismael Rolando was called Pepino. Go figure.

My sisters and I had short names that did not lend to shortening further with a nickname. Although we fantasized about having other names altogether. We practiced with our Barbie dolls. Mine was always named Joanna. Sometimes when mom got really mad we were called by our first, middle and last names at once; that’s when you knew you were in for it. Occasionally I’d experiment with calling myself by my middle name and see if it would catch on. No dice.

I envied the guys with names so long, they had serious options. Leonardo. Leonard. Leo. Lenny. Len. What about all of my Hispanic friends? They had so many names to choose from! Sometimes even Maria Yolanda Leticia Mendez Rodriguez couldn’t tell me which ones were middles and which ones were last names.

My girlfriends came to the rescue. I made the mistake of whining out loud about it once and was instantly granted two nicknames for whenever I was feeling un-special.

Jolie Frijole. And also, Jolie Guacamole. Oh yeah. That’s special, all right.

Fast forward to naming my own children and I realize I deliberately chose names that would not be nicknamed! I distinctly recall feeling horrified that if I named my son James, he would instantly be called Jim by the world and there was no way to stop them. I love the name James. I can’t stand the name Jim. No offense to all you Jims out there, but if I name a kid James, then James it has to be. The one son I went out on a limb with lets himself be called by both his birth name and a nickname interchangeably and doesn’t seem to have a preference.

Deciding on which name to use on forms is always a question. Too many name options can get confusing fast and the last thing you want to do to your teacher, the IRS or immigration (but perhaps not the police?) is confuse them. Is your nickname an alias? Maybe a nom de plume? Do you have different groups of friends that call you different names, depending on who you’re with?

This was a fun idea as a kid. Sounds exhausting from an adult point of view.

I was Jolie before Angelina Jolie was. I have to give credit where credit is due. Once she became a household name, the barista at Starbucks began spelling my name correctly. Even more times than she could spell Joanna.

Why not just tell them your name is Nachooooooooooo…. and be done with it?

Today’s Episode is Brought to you by…

Everything used to be so simple. Sesame Street is where we should all be living. Twenty years ago. It’s a little dicey on that street these days, and I have my suspicions about Mr. Roger’s neighborhood as well.

And once upon a time, I had a perfectly normal cell phone. It made phone calls, took phone calls, left messages for me to get back to. Sat there in my purse and behaved itself.

When the dreaded “year of the upgrade” rolled around, I deliberately delayed it while four more years crept by.

The debate was: to replace my phone with another “dumb” phone or to jump into the worldwide web of “smarter than a fifth grader” smart phones. Crap. I haven’t been able to help my fifth graders with math for years. Phones are all about numbers. This was not going to be pretty.

I held my breath and leaped into the 22nd century, hoping it wouldn’t be obsolete before I could transfer my contact list. There were a few months of uphill negotiations with my new smarty pants phone but the more I played with it the more I enjoyed it.

Finally there came the day of impasse, and I needed a fifth grader stat….or the nearest equivalent.

I’m sitting next to my tween-ager and casually start a conversation. “So, (fill in any name, there’s plenty to choose from), I don’t suppose you have a minute to show me something on my phone?”

There’s a ten minute silence while the kid finishes annihilating a village “like a boss” on Clash of the Clans. In kid time, that’s a 20 second pause.

“Yeah mom, what?”

“Well, I’ve been using my phone as a camera and I have about nine months of photos and a couple videos I found out that it does, but the problem is, I have no idea how to get it off my phone and into my laptop.”

“Why do you need it out of your phone?” This accompanied with an eye roll, which is impressive since his eyes have not left his iPad screen.

“So I can fix them up and email them. Maybe I can put them on my Facebook if I get around to it.”

“Just Snapchat it Mom. Or use Instagram. Or email it from your phone.”

“Look kid, I just want to have them where I can manipulate them. I need to feel in control here. Those photos are just sitting in there taunting me and there’s nothing I can do except delete them. I did find that little trashcan icon…tell me, where do these things go when you trashcan them? Is there a big dump in cyberspace where all deleted files go to be buried?”

This is not even dignified with a response, as said kid has moved on to Angry Birds. I wait respectfully while he decides whether or not to use a black bird as a bomb for more leverage.

“Moooooom,” he sighs deeply, taking out a laughing pig, “all you have to do is plug your phone into your laptop and push whatever button pops up.”

“But sweetie,” I’m really trying for patience here, “my phone didn’t come with a cord that connects those two things!”

At this point, the child has had enough. He turns fully into my face, trying to refocus his digitalized retinas. “Take the electric plug part off the end of your charger cord. Stick it in the hole.”

This is the child that I made flash cards of the alphabet for when he was four. This is the one I raised singing all the songs from Schoolhouse Rock. This, my progeny, was elected Mayor of BizTown in fifth grade. This kid is a varmint.

“My hero!” I say with a smile. Gently I pry his frozen fingers from his beloved iPad. “Now you can take a break and load the dishes into the dishwasher for me.”

Judging from the loud grumbling in the kitchen, there is no app for that.

And The Winner Is…Part 2

So I’ll wait with my poker face on while she deliberates whether it’s safe to stretch her word far enough into the double word zone but with a letter I may not be able to stretch into a triple later.  To play the S or not to play the S, that is a question.  Also, how many Ds are there in the game?  You could count them up and roll the dice accordingly.  Well, we don’t use dice but it’s an idea.  Perhaps a Magic 8 Ball would come in handy once in a while.  So she’ll put the word out there and maybe it’s only because it was “a really cool word” and it had to be played, points or no points.  Yep, it’s a really cool word all right.  Too bad I’m going to roll right over the top of it and play my X word into the red territory and pull into the lead by 30 points.  Ha.

“Cheater.”  Spoken softly through clenched teeth and with eyes slitted sideways at me.

“I know.”  Carefree.  Confident.  True.  I had looked up every X word variable and stumbled onto this one.  Research pays off.

“What does it mean?”

“An African unit of money.”

“I don’t know how you sleep at night.”

“Me neither.”

And so the tension mounts, as much from our surroundings as from the slowly filling board.  We have to keep vigilant peripheral vision to stop a crawling or stumbling child from landing on the board (we usually play on the floor with cushions) and if someone needs the facilities or to grab a coffee refill, the other is bound to keep her hands off the tiles.  And no peeking on the other gal’s tray either.  Years ago we decided that really cheating for goodness sake was no fun at all.  When the game ends and you realize there are eight blanks played, you know you’ve been duped and neither your victory nor your defeat is worth much.

“Argh!! There is nothing on my tray but junk!”

“I’ll sell you a vowel.  I’ve got four Es.”

“Too bad you have the Q.  And the J, I’m sure.”

“That just means I’m getting all the points.  Too bad you’re gonna lose again.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, I’ll give you a hundred bucks for a T if you got one.”

Our games last about an hour give or take.  We rarely have to prod each other on to make a move.  The closer to the end of the game you get, the trickier the moves have to be, especially if the score is even.  We’ve each made up a 50 point deficit and both know the joy of going from underdog to top dog in the end.  Anything is possible, and somehow attitude is a major component of if and when fickle lady luck decides to join your side.

Don’t give us a chess board or Stratego or invite us over for a game of poker.  We can’t count, we don’t need to think more than one step ahead, and if we are interrupted twenty times in the hour, you wouldn’t expect us to be able to play anything in a straight line.  We tried the online scrabble game, the ones in phones and one on Facebook.  Once in a while we gather a crowd and really cut loose with a game of Take Two.  But it’s just not the same.  No one else can quite grasp the sentiment.

“That is SO not a word.”

“A rubber-soled cloth shoe.  From Norway.”

“Oh whatever.  Can you add an -ER to it?”

“Because then the shoe is shoeier?”

The notebook has a few blank pages left in it.  Maybe if we could get together more than a couple times a year it would go faster, but we’re patient people.  And I need to add more words to the Dictionary.

 

And The Winner Is…Part 1

In my game closet there is a small spiral notebook with years of score keeping running through it.  Red ink, black ink, doodles and stars adorn the margins and some pages have been torn out and tossed ceremonially into a trashcan.  The columns are kept clearly separated and labeled for the most part “Me” and “You”.  Occasionally there was a third player but those pages don’t count.

The players of course, are my sister and I.  Our game of games: Scrabble.

Clear back to the opening pages, I was home with tiny children and my younger sister was doodling variations of “Mrs. B…..” with little hearts on the backside of the scoreboard while waiting for her turn and her future.  Later pages have her lists of possible baby names between tile counts.  This in itself will tell you who normally keeps our running tally.  Big sister trumps little sister, so big sister claims to hate math and can spend the entire game accusing little sister of cheating.  But I’m just too lazy to check her work.  The truth is, she could rob me blind in the score keeping and I wouldn’t have a clue.  There are a couple of pages that end somewhere in the middle of a game that had to be forfeited due to interrupted baby naptimes or a dinner that could no longer be delayed.  But for the most part, my kid sister keeps a beautiful book of numbers.

A circled final winning score shows the end of each match.  Each match brings the updated tally of wins per sister an inch closer to fame and fortune.  If someone played a seven letter coup, it is duly recorded in the margin. If a truly amazing triple was played, there may be stars and notations included.  Early on we played a game where my sis must have been highly caffeinated.  Apparently, she broke 500 points by playing “cartels” and “leakings” along triples.  Even my spell check says that last one is NOT a word.  Most of the time we break 300 each by the game’s end.

You won’t hear me say it out loud.  (Cheater.)

OK, so what is not written down, but guaranteed to have been a large part of the game, is the running dialogue between us, each of whom is equally skilled and both of whom have predetermined herself as the winner of a game not yet played.  We sit down for our games with an aura of victory and the sure knowledge that our worthy competitor is already shaking her head in pity for our loss.

“According to the scorebook, it’s my turn to win today.  You won last time.”

“Yes, but we’re playing at my house.  My house, my rules.  My rule: I’m winning today.”

“Did I or did I not just bring you a coffee?  You have to let me win.”

“Look, I’ll prove it.  I’ll draw my letter.  There.  See?  I pulled out an H.  Clearly the fates have chosen me to go first, and win the game.”

“Pfffft.  There.  Looking like my B is going to trump your H and me and your fates are gonna have a good laugh today.”

“We’ll just see about that.  Pass me the book.”

And now a note about The Book.  We have a couple of our own rules.  What would be the fun of any game if you were stuck with somebody else’s rules?  The game board score boxes of course make sense as do the face values of the tiles and so forth.  But honestly, if I have to actually think while playing a game surrounded by children you are kidding me.  I have a well used and much loved Scrabble Player’s Dictionary and it travels with the game.  There’s no wasting time thinking up a word that may or may not in fact be a word, playing it, and then having to waste more time in challenging it.  If you have to look it up anyway, why on earth not just do it to begin with?  Sheesh.

We have discovered more new words than you can possibly imagine.  We have actually discovered the reverse as well and had to pencil in words that ARE words.  Why was “understand” omitted?  Seriously, it’s not there, and neither is “underwear”.  And there are words in there that I know for a fact can NOT be words, and yet there they are.  You can take a tray of ridiculous letters that in no way shape or form are ever gonna be a word, but if on the off chance you could play a Q in the four spaces of a triple box, by golly you start thumbing through the Q section.  What do you know?  My, my, you learn something new every day.  It never ceases to amaze me what qualifies as a word.  And apparently the makers of the book left no stone unturned.  We have an unspoken agreement that we won’t play a word that is in unsavory taste.  Unless it gives us a bazillion points, in which case we don’t let the kids watch.

All’s fair in love and Scrabble.