Dear Froot Loops: I Love You

Published in The Ferndale Record, December 31, 2014

I know. You and I got a late start. I had to dabble in healthier choices before I finally got around to knowing you better.

Most of my adult life I’ve purchased virtuous cereal. I always chose the less offensive (sorry, my love) alternatives in the name of nourishing children and their growing bodies. You know the ones – Corn Flakes, Cheerios (if I was feeling especially rebellious, I bought the Honey Nut variety) and of course, Corn Chex.

I sometimes opted for Raisin Bran or homemade granola with wheat germ because, well, that’s what responsible parents do, and I liked to believe I was one of them.

But every now and then, I’d come home with a box of Lucky Charms and the troops would lose control. I learned the hard way how small cereal boxes really are. At some point I showed up with you, Froot Loops, and that sealed the deal. I knew you were special, and looked for ways to have you in the house without children knowing. I live alone now, and don’t have to hide your bright red box.

I’m pretty sure no one else enjoys you in the same way I do, but you already know that. I don’t bathe you in milk, but enjoy you straight from the box, or if I’m feeling particularly polite, I’ll pour my loops into a bowl. The only milk I drink with you is of the chocolate persuasion, and in a glass. Who else does this?

I’ve read that there’s no discernible flavor difference between your colors. Your purple loops are not grape-flavored, your orange, yellow, red, blue and green loops apparently aren’t assigned any flavor either. But you know what? I don’t care. The inherent loopy goodness is all that matters.

Once I made the mistake of trying Trix because I assumed, except for the shape, you were identical. Can you forgive me? Sure, Trix are round, and so are you, but with none of the explosive, sweet, crackly crunchiness that’s so crisp it sometimes scratches against the top of my mouth in that way I like.

Remember a month ago when I was jonesing for you? I went into Rite Aid where your 8.7-ounce boxes were two for only $5. I bought one, plus a bottle of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup and a half-gallon of milk. You disappeared in around 24 hours. I felt some shame about that, but only a little. The other thing I felt was my body holding up the proverbial ‘hand’ in ugly protest.

Let the others have their Cap’n Crunch (with Crunch Berries), Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp, Reese’s Puffs and Count Chocula. I don’t crave any of them like I do you.

I love that if I shop smart I can find you on sale. I love the little sugary bits in the bottom of the box’s plastic liner. I love that there will never be a New Year’s resolution about less of you in my future. I even love the clever way you spell your name, with two Os in “Froot.”

My unabashed Froot Loop love – now it’s out there.

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road? To Get To The Ritz-Cluckton, Of Course.

Published in The Ferndale Record, April 24, 2013

Threats to American security at home and abroad, and what can be done about any of it makes me want to write about one thing, and one thing only—chicken hotels.

I care about this subject not because I’ve tended chickens or even know much about them. But my sister’s pet name for me involves a chicken and from an early age I had the ability to cluck like a real chicken, and as a result, provided countless hours of dazzling, high- class entertainment for those in my closest circle. I also impersonate a spot-on trumpet, but that’s another column.

When my daughter kept chickens at her farm in the county, she cleverly named them, giving rather simple animals a fun persona. Her coop was home to Cluck Norris, Hen Solo, Feather Locklear, and Chicky Ricardo among others.

So, when I read an article on nbcnews.com about over-night accommodations for one’s poultry, entitled “No plucking joke,” I was drawn to it like a McNugget to barbecue sauce.

Bill Bezuk of Eugene, Oregon is the proprietor of what he believes is the first chicken hotel in the country.

“The basic service – fresh food, water and a safe place to sleep – costs $2 per chicken per night,” the article states. “For a dollar more Bezuk offers ‘deluxe accommodations’ – organic food, fresh vegetable scraps and turndown service. Yes, really. Turndown service.”

Curious to find out how one might place a mint or chocolate chip cookie on a chicken’s pillow, I read on. It’s not exactly what you think. Although I suppose in the world of poultry, this constitutes a treat.

Around the time chickens generally hit the hay, Bezuk or one of his employees tempt the hens into an enclosed space with mealworms. Now that’s luxury!

Since city councils all over the nation are voting in favor of urban livestock, resulting in more chicken farmers next door, Bezuk’s plans are to capitalize on the trend. He currently keeps two suites (housing six to eight chickens each), and will be adding two more split-level suites.

Apparently, the United Kingdom is ahead of the curve and has already cashed in on the chicken craze, boasting a few boarding sites of its own. The Fowlty Towers is in Cowden, southeast England, and The Chicken Hotel in Cornwall offers spa treatments, including pedicures. Pedicures for chickens—you read that correctly.

Just because these animals possess the intellectual capability of driftwood doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate extravagance. Well, maybe it does. But their people do, and that’s where Bezuk and his fellow chickenistas come in.

“The challenge with The Nest [his facility] is the challenge with any hotel,” he says. “Avoiding overbooking and making sure that the chickens check out on time. Cleaning the room between guests is clearly important.”

Well, there you have it. Just when you thought there were no opulent digs for your chicken while you’re on vacation, along comes the likes of Bill Bezuk with his responsible and practical approach.

And mealworms for an extra dollar per night? Sweet.

Make It Retro, Please

Published February 27, 2013 in The Ferndale Record

Disconnecting cable TV was a brave thing for me to do. It was a monthly expense I could ditch and feel pretty good about. But as a child of the TV age, it’s always been within my reach to entertain, soothe and keep me company. It’s not a popular thing to admit, but I love television and yes, my children were raised within TV’s warming glow.

So, I miss it, but not because of Downton Abbey, the series finale of 30 Rock, or Saturday Night Live. I can watch those online if I want. I just miss it being there, ready to distract and delight me on command.

Since my remote using days are over for the time being, I’ve become attached to Internet sites that dish up what I can rarely find, even with a bazillion cable or dish channels. I get the old stuff, whenever I want it. Nice, right? I’m not talking about I Love Lucy, which can be seen somewhere in the world at any time of the day or night—and with good reason: it’s a classic.

Recent exploration has led me back to television in the 80s when my hair was big and highlighted, and my children were babies. It was a time when anything seemed possible and Ronald Reagan was President. I wore Hard Rock Café t-shirts and a Mickey Mouse watch purchased on Main Street in Disneyland. When I dressed up, it was in clothing with shoulder pads large enough for aircraft to safely land upon and chunky, sparkly jewelry like Cybill Shepherd wore in Moonlighting.

Days were for keeping up with the family and evenings for losing myself in whatever tripe I could find on the tube. It was rarely soapy drama. No Dallas or Dynasty for me. I was more about MacGyver and The A-Team for adventure, The Wonder Years (if I needed a poignant pause), and every Friday night it was ABC’s lineup of comedy, mostly importantly, Perfect Strangers.

I don’t own the DVDs (yet), but finding full episodes of this show online reminded me of why I watched TV in the first place. It’s full-blown, utter silliness with physical comedy that rivals that of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz. It’s sweet without too much sap, and the chemistry and timing between the lead actors is crazy good.

There’s no high moral message, no “something to think about,” just complete nuttiness that makes me laugh every time

I appreciate it even more now because it reminds me of those Friday nights when all my kids were under the same roof, no electronics distracting any of us. There we were, just hanging out, watching TGIF together.

Online viewing has other perks besides nostalgia. Before the networks and cable stations turned closing credits into half screens and filled the void with what’s coming up next, you could actually hear the music (sometimes good stuff) and read the credits without a de-squintization device (I know there’s no such thing, but if there was, it would apply here).

Until the day I have TV again, and I will, I’m entertained and informed with a good Internet connection. And not always, but sometimes, I’ll use technology’s built in time machine to revisit the exquisite buried treasure inside my computer.  I’ve got to say, it’s worth the trip.

Bacon Love — Just Accept It

Published in the Ferndale Record, July 18, 2012

Arguably one of the most disturbing TV commercials in recent months is one in which a seemingly ordinary young man, maybe 25-years-old, announces to his mother that he’s going to marry bacon.

His confused mother’s face pales when he says he’s not marrying a girl. But we don’t get to see her expression when he gushes, “It’s bacon!”  Maybe it’s better that we don’t.

What’s timely and interesting about this advertisement is that, well, it’s clearly not too far from the truth. The crazy, obsessive love of this particular food makes people do odd things. The simple thought of including bacon on, around, in, or under other foods has captivated our culture. Is it the nitrates and nitrites? The salt? The fact that there are absolutely no redeeming health properties associated with a strip of sizzling pig?

An article on stltoday.com, out of the St. Louis suburb University City, illustrates this point. A woman returned home to find she’d been burglarized, but the would-be thief was standing at the stove frying bacon. Apparently, his pockets were full of her belongings, and the resident and her friend were able to keep the perpetrator detained until police arrived.

This really says something about bacon love. The burglar, obviously possessing the awareness of a slab of concrete, opted to take extra time to locate the bacon, find a pan, and heat up the stove. To him, it was worth the risk. Even though a clean getaway was assured, he said to himself, “Hey! There’s bacon in the fridge. As long as I’m here, why not fry some up?” That’s dedication.

We’ve seen Baconnaise on store shelves, heard reports of bacon-flavored soda, and maybe even used bacon lip balm. And don’t forget those practical and useful bacon-related products. Some of the best from oddee.com are: Adhesive bandages that look like strips of bacon, bacon-flavored dental floss ($1.95), a bacon wallet that comes with the tag line, “Now you can truly be the man who brings home the bacon,” and from Seattle’s J&D Foods, perhaps the most fitting final tribute to the astute bacon zealot, a bacon-style coffin, “painted to look like rashers of bacon.” But wait, there’s more! The casket comes with a bacon air freshener inside. If you don’t believe this, just ask Google.

In the commercial, there’s a wedding scene. That’s right—the man actually marries bacon. For just a second, the mother, wearing a look of resignation, and a lovely pink suit, can be seen in the background.  She’s there to support her son, even if his true love is bacon and he is an idiot. Maybe she’s contemplating the little Grand Bacon Bits that could result from this union. Yes. I just wrote that.

But it’s hard to blame anyone who adores bacon. I will admit it’s greasy, evil, fattening, greasy, unhealthy, addictive, and greasy. I prefer mine crispy, bordering on burnt, generously crumbled onto a baked potato or a Cobb salad, or my favorite way—in strips, lying across fresh, sliced tomatoes on a sandwich made with hunky bread and mayo.

Or sometimes, I just prefer to watch Kevin Bacon. You knew that was coming, right?

The Only ‘Constant’? You Guessed It.

Published in The Ferndale Record, June 20, 2012

If the only constant in life is change, then my little corner of the world seems to be fixed in the hardest substance known to man. Changes—big ones, currently permeate the lives of virtually everyone I know, including me.

I used to think change was fixable, temporary, or even wrong. But people who are older, or at least wiser than I am, know better. They know, and I’m learning, that rolling with it makes more sense than kicking and screaming, although I still do a little of that, too.

The alternative to accepting any variation of what we consider normal is to be frozen in denial, to stagnate, and eventually die (which, of course, we all do anyway). Despite the sting of significant change, I keep convincing myself it’s better than staying stuck. Why? The philosophical answer involves growth and personal strength. The easy answer is, it keeps boredom at bay, besides, there’s little choice. It happens whether I concur or not.

Change, especially if it’s unexpected, reminds us we’re not in control. Not really, anyway. We can steer our lives like we do a car, but it doesn’t take into account the decisions of others. We can be hit head-on, or sideswiped, and within seconds, we’re thrown into something we didn’t sign up for.

But the truth is, we did. We woke up. We chose life. We loved someone. We took the job. We made the move. We reached out. We made the call. We did whatever it was that got us here, and now, quite by surprise, we’re on to the next thing.

It’s not always bad, this change business. New opportunities, different people, wiping the slate clean—it can be all it’s cracked up to be and more. But loss is difficult, at least initially. We think only about what or whom we’re losing and how it affects us. It literally bites. Hard.

The inevitability of change doesn’t make it any easier. Knowing someone is going to die, or move across the country, or graduate and take a job that’s far away can prolong the hurt, the sense of abandonment.  It’s like drowning in slow motion.

So, what do we do? We probably ache inside, or maybe outside, and then we roll with it, and if we’re lucky, we get to help by dancing with joy or holding hands that grieve. To handle change any other way is exhausting and alienating. I know this because I’ve become an expert at resisting anything new or different—yet, when I fall into the fray and stop fighting, the ride is, well, maybe not easy, but less painful. And if I’m patient, there’s good stuff coming.

I’m a slow learner. But once I know something, I really know it, and here’s what I know: Change of every kind will descend upon me and the people I know and love. I can’t really predict how I’ll feel, but I can honor the process. I can let things be what they are without having to be in charge. I can help where I’m needed and back off where I’m not.

And I can do this every, single time.

Icky Things We Know

Published in The Ferndale Record, January 11, 2012

What is it about the bizarre, creepy, the all-but-unthinkable stories that makes us want to tell everyone we know? Why do we want to say it out loud? Do we want to see someone else squirm? Do we want them to tell us it’s a hoax perpetuated for use around water coolers everywhere? But it was in the news so it must be accurate, right?

One of my favorite co-workers sometimes hangs around my desk, and we talk—a lot. You know what I mean. We chat about family, work, life, love, weird things in the news, and snakes. That’s how we roll.

Not long ago our topic of conversation concerned a story out of India in which two brothers, feeling wronged by the government, delivered and set loose a couple of bags full of deadly snakes, including cobras, into a tax office. If the mere thought of this actually happening isn’t horrifying enough, someone in that room had the presence of mind to take a photograph of the incident and then share it with the rest of the world.

The reactions of people in the picture are what interest me most. Some of them are still seated, watching the snakes slither and wind up and around table legs. These folks look relaxed, almost nonchalant, like, “Hmm. Look at that. Snakes in the office.” Well, it was India. Perhaps snakes in a public place aren’t unusual over there. And it wouldn’t be the first time anyone had seen a viper in a tax office (insert rim shot here).

But others in the photo were clearly getting out of Dodge. My co-worker said if she’d been there, the shock would have been so great, she would have laid down and died—just simply passed away. I believe her.

Another terrible story out of the United Kingdom tells about a woman who literally coughed out one of her lungs through her ribs. Apparently, violent bouts of coughing can really do that. They can also cause eyeballs to pop out of their sockets, and ruptured spleens. The lesson here? Take a brutal cough to the doctor before you unintentionally become a bad party joke, or fodder for office chat.

My friend and I decided there was so much of this ghastly news in the world, in addition to some of our own unsavory personal experiences, that we could create a blog called “Icky Things We Know” and the number of hits we’d receive would be extraordinary because, well, as much as people say they can’t stand this stuff, they still want to read about it. Odd things happen everywhere, all the time, so our story base would be endless.

Uplifting and inspirational? Not so much—but engrossing in a twisted sort of way. Just last week I saw an article about celebrities who were born with extra body parts. Maybe sometimes these nightmarish accounts could even be called educational, right? Yeah, that’s probably a stretch.

And so, even though I still don’t know why telling unsettling stories is so satisfying, I suppose that’s what I just did.

And you know what? It felt great!

Serving Up Gravy Since 2005

Published in The Ferndale Record, October 12, 2011

Sometimes people ask me why this column is called “Gravy Days.” If they’ve never read it, it’s often assumed to be a collection of recipes or tips on how to make, well, gravy.

Recently I explained my rationale for the title to a group of people like this:

I always suspected if I could get past that “meat and potatoes” part of my life, you know what I mean—(the bearing and raising of small children, carving out a career, making a living, trying to be everybody’s everything and rarely succeeding, making sure everyone else’s life was taken care of)—that I might discover some nuggets of goodness as a result. After the hearty meal that was my young life, I might find bits of truth that could be scraped together, and with a dash of experience, and a handful of wisdom it might create rich, creamy gravy.

Someone raised a good point: Many of us are still in the middle of what we thought we’d be through with by now. Still raising children (or grandchildren), still worrying about money, still as engaged (albeit with different activities) as we were when younger.

Here’s where the wisdom part comes in. Very few of us are living the lives we once imagined. Personally, I don’t know anyone over 50 who’s living on a beach and sucking on sweet drinks all day. I know they’re out there—I’m just not acquainted with them.

What we do have is the benefit of years, experience, trial and error, faith and hope. We’ve learned a few things along the way, and it only makes life richer—usually figuratively, not literally.

We’ve discovered that change, even when it feels looming and monstrous, is not really the worst thing that can happen. That worse case scenario list gets shorter all the time. We’ve discovered we can make it through things we never thought, and then some, and thrive on the other side.

We’ve realized that money is important, but it doesn’t determine the worth of our lives. Really. And sometimes it shows up in unexpected ways, and when it doesn’t appear at all, we become more creative—and that’s not a bad thing.

In my gravy days I’ve found it a little harder to be brave, but increasingly necessary to try things that make me squirm, to push my limits. Not anything that requires leaving my conscience behind, but rather to stretch my soul. Being a little scared can raise a staid, dusty life to the surface again.

I’ve learned to rediscover the sense of wonder that’s often buried in jaded adults. Children posses it until cares of the world bear down on them. We can have it, too. We just have to find it, let it flourish, and not be afraid to share it—that’s the key, the sharing.

Letting go has new meaning. I can detach from physical items I thought I’d have forever—I can hold onto the memory instead. I can also let go of old forms of relationships that have been awkward or unfulfilling. They can be restructured and as a result be more luminous than ever.

In these seasoned days, we know that the words “tragedy” and “entitlement” are used too casually, and the word “gratitude” is often overlooked, but may be the most crucial word of all.

There’s no recipe for a holiday meal here, only the opinion that considerable perks, clarity, and joy, can and do accompany age.

Gravy, anyone?

When Creatures Don’t Belong

Published in The Ferndale Record, August 10, 2011

Not finding something where you thought it would be is frustrating. Even more disturbing is finding things that don’t belong in space designated for other purposes. I’m referring specifically to creatures that crawl into these places under their own power.

I’m not talking about people who have boa constrictors as pets, or keep monkey butlers. As unusual and potentially frightening as these particular situations are, I’m thinking about when animals appear in polite society where they terrorize humans.

I know, I know. Animal lovers and activists will say the creatures were here first and that they have the right of first refusal—or some legal or ethical reason for being where they aren’t wanted. I say animals should know better.

A couple of situations I’ve read about recently: A bear discovered in someone’s home quietly finishing up a box of chocolates, and a rattlesnake found coiled in the corner of a dentist’s office.

One would assume a bear or rattlesnake would inherently know it was in a foreign, even hostile environment and get out, ideally the way it came in. But no.

Another example is the old alligator in the toilet story. Every now and then this horrifying scenario really happens—usually in a Southern state, but sometimes much further north—and the media broadcasts it so we can all look twice before taking a seat in the bathroom. You never know, right?

Sometimes there’s word, often out of California, about a person reaching into a bag of grapes from the grocery store and feeling something move. It’s a black widow spider, and the individual comes just this close to a trip to the emergency room. We all cringe and wash our own produce a little less casually.

While I’ve written openly about my contempt for anything in the arachnid family, I believe that finding something surprising in a bowl of grapes should almost be expected. It’s unnerving, but it’s the price we may be asked to pay for fresh fruit. By comparison, the creepiness factor in this example doesn’t even come close to two other news stories this month.

MSNBC.com reported this little tidbit concerning a passenger on Alaska Airlines: “Jeff Ellis was stung by a scorpion while napping on a flight to Alaska. A doctor on board examined the sting and said Ellis wouldn’t die—probably.”

This is just what you want to hear at 33,000 feet. The Alaskan EMTs standing by when they landed apparently had to Google how to treat a scorpion sting—something of an anomaly in those parts.

“Alaska Airlines said the scorpion probably crawled on board during a stop in Austin, Texas,” the report says.

The best online comment about this story was, “[The passenger] is lucky the airline didn’t charge him their recently added “$25 scorpion removal fee.””

Also, a deadly snake curled up under the hood of a car slid out onto the windshield and somehow remained attached to the vehicle while the family inside frantically drove the interstate. A friend who knows my policy on things that slither thoughtfully sent the compelling YouTube video to me this week. Due to the magic of technology we can not only record these things for posterity, but also view them within seconds of the actual event. Lucky us!

Animals where they don’t belong can be scary and unnatural, like sun in Northwest Washington, or Seth Rogan on the big screen.

Creatures who roam into my comfort zone can consider themselves on notice, and don’t get me started on a bear that eats my chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pass The Weird News, Please

After several weeks of reading about toppled bully dictators and the costly antics of several Hollywood celebrities whose names I will not dignify here (as if mention in this column inspires respectability), I choose to focus on news that entertains, or at the very least makes me smile. Give me the absurd, the inane, the weird and ridiculous.

For example, a story on MSNBC.com provided by Reuters reports that a Belarus man on a fox hunting expedition closed in on his target after wounding it from a distance, planning to finish the job when, “The animal fiercely resisted and in the struggle accidentally pulled the trigger with its paw.”

His prey escaped and the hunter landed in the hospital with a gunshot to the leg.

My favorite comment on the thread that followed: “How do we know the fox pulled the trigger on accident? Sly as a fox? Maybe it was on purpose.”

Then, a story also from MSNBC.com by Associated Press, about a “Siesta Contest” held at a shopping mall in Madrid, Spain, organized by The National Association of Friends of the Siesta.

“Its aim? To promote a revival of this timeless custom so identified with Spain but which some believe is in danger of vanishing because of the pressures of modern times.

“’People are so stressed out they can’t take siestas any more,’ said spokesman Andres Lemes. ‘Studies show it’s a healthy practice that recharges your batteries.’

“Contestants in groups of five were given 20 minutes to lie down on garish blue couches and timed by a doctor with a pulse-measuring device to determine how long they spent snoozing. A judge perched on an umpire’s seat awarded points for position, snoring ability and apparel.”

The winner was a 62-year-old man from Ecuador, whose snoring prowess rocked the bustling shopping mall and earned him the $1400 prize.

As a nap enthusiast, I not only found this story delightful, but I am seriously considering starting a Ferndale chapter of the NAFS.

Finally, there’s a story from MSNBC.com out of Chickasha, Oklahoma concerning an alleged theft from a hardware store. Apparently, 21-year-old Anthony Black wanted a displayed Echo chainsaw, and made the boldly innovative decision to steal it by shoving it down the front of his trousers and casually leaving the premises.

“George Graham, an employee at the Ross Seed Company, witnessed the incident, telling NBC affiliate KEOR, ‘I seen the bar between his legs. It was pretty obvious. Imagine it in the front of your pants.’”

The encumbered Black was chased out of the store, soon abandoned the chainsaw, and ran into a creek where he was pulled out and arrested.

The winner of “Most Apparent Observation” clearly comes from employee Graham, who stated, “’He could have cut himself up real good. He’d have been walking with a permanent limp,’ Graham explained.”

The most disturbing part of this story is that the chainsaw was returned to the store. It’s my sincere hope this occurred only after a thorough scrub down with Lysol.

In a world where it’s important to keep abreast of what’s happening, I get tired of reading rehashed headlines only to find much the same story I read yesterday.

Last week, a wily fox and a siesta fiesta proved to be more interesting than almost anything else in the news—not to mention a guy hiding a chainsaw in his pants.

 

 

 

 

Online Scrabble? Bring It!

Published in The Ferndale Record, February 23, 2011

The game of Scrabble has deep roots in my family of origin. Whenever we all came together, my four older siblings played for hours leaving me out because I was too young. I hated that it took so long and that apparently, I lacked the required intellect or life experience to participate.

When I was 8-years-old my oldest brother, who thought I was adorable, took pity on me and during one of their Scrabble marathons told me that I must spell the word “dictionary” before I got a seat at the table.

That night while they played, I studied until I had it right. When I proudly spelled it for everyone in the room, they were generous—I got a shot. And while I was out of my league, I’d officially joined the club.

The brother who made me a player was a classic Scrabble con artist, playing words that even as a child I knew weren’t real. But he persisted. His plays were almost always challenged, and often he lost a turn because of his bold behavior, trying to snag the rest of us in his lies.

My favorite word he played was “retux.”  When it was loudly and laughably contested, he argued that it meant a man took off his tuxedo and put it on again—thus, he was “retuxing.”  The dictionary proved, of course, it wasn’t a word, but I loved that he tried to get away with it.

Recently, I’ve been playing Scrabble online with my other brother. Known for his gaming prowess, he’d be a formidable opponent, I thought. It took me awhile to discern that online playing is an entirely different species than the board game. On the Web, anything goes.

There’s no argument about a play because the game won’t allow invalid words. So, I was on my own to come up with brilliant moves worth points that would leave my brother in awe of how well his little sister had learned to play Scrabble. After all, I’m a word person. How hard could it be?

Now, my brother is a smart guy, but I began to suspect he wasn’t finding words like “dialytic,” “sabaton,” and “aboiteau,” stored in the recesses of his memory.

However, I decided to take the high road. Online Scrabble cheats weren’t for me. Nope. I was going to play fair and come out the winner—until last week. When I saw there wasn’t a way for me to compete with the number of Bingos (when one uses all seven letters dealt, earning very high scores) he was producing, I goaded him into telling me his secret.

I chose to fight fire with fire, and within the past week I’ve laid down a few exquisite plays of my own. With a little research on a Web site built exclusively for Scrabble users, I found that  “azonal,” “levanted,” and “doolee” are all perfectly acceptable words, and as a result I’ve racked up more wins in a couple of days than I had all last month.

Game on.

I’m oddly competitive. It’s like flipping a switch. The usually easy-going me morphs into a feral carnivore circling prey. Now that I’m armed with a level playing field, I must, no—I WILL win. It’s a side of myself I’m unfamiliar with, but I like it.

My brother, a stellar competitor, also happens to be a nice person. When I win, my comments are “BOOYAH!” and “Who’s Your Daddy?”  His are “Good Job, Suzie” and “Way To Go.”

I guess if we’re both using outside help and winning games, the least I can do is be a gracious winner. Maybe I’ll try that next week.

For now, I’ll enjoy rolling around in my small victories. I like sitting with the grownups and winning a few.