What is a “wordist?” A wordist is a person, especially a playful person (like me), who think words are just pure fun.
I’ve always loved to play Scrabble because I’ve always loved words. Words are play for me, like blowing bubbles on a lazy afternoon.
When I was a small child, I thought having “big letters” (the ones with the highest point value) would insure I’d win. Being the little imp I was, I would find the “x” and the “z” and I’d ever-so-cleverly put my finger on them as I supposedly mixed up the tiles in the box before we drew our letters. It didn’t take me long to figure out that not only did this cheating not feel good, though, it didn’t help me in the game either. Later, as I became a better and better Scrabble player, I learned you can get great scores with “small letters” and simple words.
I have a wood plaque hanging in my kitchen that says, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Dancing in the rain, something I’ve become quite good at, is very much like playing the game of Scrabble with small letters. It’s about understanding that success doesn’t depend as much on what we’re given as it does on what we do with it. Or to say it one more way, it’s about doing as much with the little “i” of who we are as we possibly can.
Here’s the story of my little “i.”
i am going places
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.”
This verse from Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” perfectly captures how I felt when I gleefully accepted my diploma from Marshall Wythe School of Law. It was my third, and last, diploma (at least of the official variety); it joined my high school degree (earned with a 4.0 average, thank you very much) and my B.A. (in Psychology) from The College of William and Mary.
After my first marriage and all these degrees, I charged into the world with great expectations. Like an eager puppy, I took a job clerking for an appellate court judge in Washington State and went on to romp into a position as a legal writing instructor with a law school in Tacoma, Washington.
In spite of my enthusiasm, I discovered I had a little problem. I didn’t like being in the legal field. I’d wanted to be an attorney since I was 11 years old. That was when my favorite great uncle took me to a trial in a courtroom paneled in gleaming oak and filled with confident people in great suits. I fell in love, not with the legal process but with the pomp and circumstance of it all. From that point on, I was determined to be an attorney like my uncle.
I should have stuck with my first love: writing. I began scribbling stories and poems when I was barely old enough to write. I blame this on my mother. She began reading to me when I was still a baby. Stories burbled in my veins.
To keep this from being as long as one of my books, I’ll speed us along.
When I realized I didn’t enjoy the law as much as my 11-year old self had thought I would, I “retired,” at the age of 30, and returned to my first love. I began writing short stories, poetry, essays, novels, and nonfiction books.
Life got in the way of my passion for writing (stuff like divorce and starting a new life by the ocean and figuring out who the heck I was when I took others’ expectations out of the picture), so it took me a few years to get from having stories and poetry published in magazines to having a weekly newspaper column. It took a few more years after that before I sold my first novel, to Bantam. Actually, I didn’t do the selling. My wonderful husband did.
Tim came into my life in 2000, or I should say, he came back into my life. Tim and I reconnected after being apart for 20 years. I had a dream that I should find him, so I went looking, found him, and the rest, as they say, is history.
After Tim and I married, he read all my completed novels and nonfiction books. He proclaimed Alternate Beauty to be the best, even though it wasn’t finished yet, and he told me I had to complete it. I did, and he sent it to Bantam, and they published it. Tim then sold my self-help book, Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise—52 Life-changing Lessons for the 21st Century. After that, he landed me an agent who took on and sold Dog Parenting—How to Have an Outrageously Happy, Well-adjusted Canine.
Unfortunately, after these books came out, Tim and I had what Dr. Seuss calls “an unpleasant bump.”
The bump was a head injury that wiped out 99 percent of Tim’s lifetime memories. It’s tough to imagine, if you haven’t lived it, what it’s like to have your life partner get a nearly complete brain-wipe. It creates ripples, or rather, waves, that rock the whole of your life. I.e., it creates “an unpleasant slump.”
i can bounce back
I can attest to the truth of this verse from Oh, the Places You’ll Go.
“And when you're in a Slump,
you're not in for much fun.
is not easily done.”
But un-slumping we have done and are still doing. Scrabble, by the way, has played a big role in that un-slumping. Because Tim’s vocabulary was one of the casualties of his memory wipe, he had to relearn literally thousands of words … how to spell them and how to use them. Hours and hours of us playing Scrabble by the fire helped rebuild his verbal skills, his reasoning process, and his confidence. It also gave us a lot of joy.
Unfortunately, we had another bump coming. In October of 2017 and again in March of 2018, Tim suffered his 17th and 18th concussions, and they were catastrophic. He ended up losing all his memories again, including his education and career skills. We had to start over with the alphabet and go from there. His recovery is a day-to-day process that requires we don’t try to go back to where we were but rather, start from where we are and go forward.
Although I put most of my focus in the last several years on using my writing skills to teach or ghostwrite rather than to create my own projects, I have blissfully and joyfully reconnected with that giggly giddy part of me who loves to write play with words. I’m doing much less coaching and far more ghostwriting and my own writing now, and I’m once again finding what Dr. Seuss calls “the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.”
Throughout my early days of steering toward my dreams and on through my bumps and slumps, I have relished so many wonders in my life. Not only am I loved by an amazing man whose courage and determination to know himself even without the kind of memories the rest of us rely on to define us continues to awe me, I also am the joyous receiver of more puppy love than I could possibly describe. My Springer spaniel, Ducky, is my life coach, personal trainer, cuddle-buddy, and my very own stand-up comedienne.
Tim and Ducky and I are blessed to live near the ocean in a cozy house nestled on a ½ acre of trees. I have the love and loyalty of wonderful friends and supportive parents. And I have my words, which, along with my husband, dog, the rain (and, oh yeah, pizza) are as essential to me as oxygen ... and fun.