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Are You Playing Wordle and Pickleball?

Wordle and pickleball are popular games, and while they are much more different than alike, do you know how are they alike? 

            The differences are obvious. Wordle is an online five-letter word guessing game, a mental exercise.  Pickleball is an active, hit-the-ball-over-the-net physical game.

            Solving the unknown Wordle word can be a group activity, but is most often a solitary challenge.  Pickleball is played as singles, two people opposing each other, or doubles with two people on a team.

            Wordle was created to be played in two to three minutes; most pickleball games take 15 – 25 minutes.  There are exceptions:  a difficult Wordle puzzle takes longer and a pickleball game might be completed quickly, especially if one player is more skilled than the other.

            To play Wordle, only an electronic device is needed and it can be played anywhere, anytime.  Pickleball is played on a 20’ x 44’ marked court with a 36” high net in the middle of the court.   A small plastic ball is needed, and each player uses a paddle.

            Wordle was created in 2021 and Pickleball started in 1965, yet both are played by many people now. According to two of my friends, everybody is playing. One said, “I want to learn to play pickleball. It’s the fastest growing sport worldwide and everybody I know is playing.”   Another asked, “Will you show me how to play Wordle?  Everybody I know is playing.” 

            Because everybody is playing isn’t really what struck me as how Wordle and pickleball are alike, but it made me think about these two games.  Did you know that both were created by men for their loved ones?  Not to be marketed for the public, but just for family members?

            Josh Wardle, a software engineer, created Wordle for his wife because she loved words games.  Together they worked crossword puzzles and he wanted to her to have a fun, fast word game. 

            Pickleball was created when three men wanted to entertain their young children, who were restless and claimed boredom, so they handed the kids tennis paddles and a wiffle ball.  The men lowered a badminton net and made up the rules as they went along.

            Both games were shared with friends and relatives and then taken to the public by demand. 

On November 1, 2021, ninety people played Wordle, and today claims to have millions of users.  Pickleball has become so popular that every state in the USA and all Canadian provinces have pickleball venues and tournaments are held in most states.

            How did these two games get their names?  Mr. Wardle chose Wordle as a play on his name.  According to one of pickleball’s creators, it was named after a pet, a dog who often ran after the ball.  The dog’s name was Pickle.

            Two very different games. One a five-letter word game.  The other a hit-the-ball-over-the-net game.  The fact that both of these popular games were created for family members at someone’s home makes me smile.  

When a Book is Read

Bridgette and Rogd

I first saw her black afro and its red highlights. “You all want to go on the next tram tour?” How did she talk and grin at the same time? Her dark eyes sparkled against her dark skin. “Hop on. We leave again in ten minutes,” she said and then walked toward the welcome center at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

He stood ramrod straight, about 6″ 2″ tall.  His grey-rimmed glasses matched his eyes and hair; his fair complexion could burn under the Florida sun, even on this winter day.  “I like to get to know people. Where are you from?”  he asked in a controlled monotone.

At 12:00 noon, tram driver Bridgette took her seat and helped Rodg untangle the wires on his headset microphone. Then we twenty or so guests set off for a one-hour, two-mile tour of the eighty-three-acre park.

First impressions. She was short, feisty, middle age.  He was tall, serious, retirement age. The driver and the guide couldn’t seem more opposite.

The tram travelled slowly as Rodg pointed to and named trees, shrubs, flowering plants; he included scientific names that I can’t spell or pronounce. “That’s a royal palm.  There’s a clonal palm – it’s leaves are used on thatched roofs. And there’s a…….,” Rodg hestitated.  He looked at Bridgette; she said names that he repeated and then he said, “I taught her everything she knows and now tells me.”  He chuckled quietly.

“Stop at the lipstick tree and let’s see who wants red lips,” he said. After the tram stopped, he slowly walked toward a branch loaded with ping-pong size red fruits.  He stretched his arm overhead and touched a fruit with his fingertips, but didn’t grasp it. Bridgette stepped off the tram and jumped to pull down the branch with one hand, and grabbed a fruit with her other hand. 

Rodg explained the origin of the tree and opened the fruit filled tiny balloon-like seeds.  Red liquid squirted when he squeezed the seeds. “Anyone want red lips?  Or maybe stripes on your cheeks or forehead?  It’ll wear off in a week or so.”  

The next stop Rodg suggested everyone get off the tram and look up for football-size yellow pods. He asked, “Does anybody like chocolate?” and he talked about the tropical evergreen cocoa tree.  I stood apart from the group, near Bridgette. “You and Rodg have a good time together, don’t you?” I said. 

Bridgette’s face softened. “I love that man. He’s in the beginning phase of Parkinson’s, and they (the park management) thought he should quit.  But he’s so kind and knowledgeable and I said I’d be his driver.  Now we do just three tours a day, only two days a week, and we have fun.”

At the Fairchild Garden, I saw beautiful trees and plants and a butterfly conservatory.  Birds, iguanas, and lizards scattered quickly from sight. But my take-away at this botanical garden was the respect and friendship between two people who are so very different. 

She saw only the best in him.

Valentine’s Day Cards – Then and Now

Every February, I open the large brown envelope that a friend gave me for a few years ago.  Inside are four cards, all fragile and yellowed with age.

            A flat cardboard card opens to a red faded tissue paper accordion greeting.  Only the words ‘Valentine Thoughts’ convey the message of the bright-eyed smiling children shown.  This 10 x 8-inch card was probably made in the early 1900s when honeycomb paper and fold-out valentines were popular.  I wonder if the person who first received this card appreciated its simplicity, its beauty as I do.

            A postcard-sized rectangle folds out to stand. Tiny colorful flowers and an outdoor fountain provide the backdrop for a little boy dressed in short pants looking toward a little girl wearing a dress, short enough to show her white bloomers. The only words are To My Valentine.  Nothing more is needed.

            Two other cards are much more wordy.  One shows a man dressed in pants and jacket fitting for his top hat and bow tie.  The verse title is ‘Don’t Say I’m No Bargain.’

            I know that you love bargains

            Confess Now! Ain’t it true?

            Ain’t I a bargain, Honey?

            Please take me home with you!

            Be My Valentine!

            The man wears a placard that reads, “Take me home for Nothing.”  A shopper might like his offer.

            Red hearts decorate the corners of another vintage card.  A man and a woman look toward each other.  She’s wearing a green dress that falls at mid-calf and is seated, her fingers on a manual typewriter.  He’s dressed in a white shirt, a red tie, a black jacket, and green pants, and stands, leaning toward her.   

            The verse is titled ‘Take This Down!’

            You’re just my type, and do we click?      

            I’ll say we do – but gee!

            Now get this straight, and get it quick,

            You can’t dictate to ME!

            When I first saw this card, my heart softened.  Ah, an old-fashioned sweetheart card.  Then I read the message and was brought up short.  Well, it is old-fashioned, for sure.

            The couple’s clothing and the typewriter are clues to when it was printed.  The best clue is the artist, Dudley T. Fisher, Jr.  If Wikipedia is correct, Fisher lived from 1890 – 1951 and was a syndicated newspaper cartoonist beginning in 1937.  So, maybe someone gave this card to his sweetheart in the 1940s. 

            Today Valentine cards are printed for everyone, not just sweethearts.  There are cards for parents, children, teachers, friends, grandchildren.  To avoid doing what my friend did, read the verses.  He thought he’d chosen the perfect card for his wife.  The front had flowers and hearts and a simple Happy Valentine’s Day greeting.  But he overlooked the inside of the card:  To my favorite teacher. 

            His wife is a teacher who has a sense of humor so she laughed. Maybe I should loan him my honey-comb fold out card.  He couldn’t go wrong with Valentine Thoughts. 

            And we can’t go wrong with a simple Valentine greeting to tell someone we care. 

You Get It, Right?

“Why was the Energizer bunny arrested?” I asked. My teenage Grand didn’t even guess; he shook his head and held his hands palms up.  “He was charged with battery!” 

            My Grand dropped his chin and closed his eyes.  “You get it, right?” I asked.  He nodded and looked at me with no expression.  His responses were exactly as I’d expected; not everyone appreciates jokes known as groaners. 

            Why did the puppy jump into the pool?  He was a hot dog.

            The other day I held the door open for a clown. It was a nice jester.

            How do you clean a tuba?  With a tuba toothpaste.

            I put my grandma on speed dial.  I call that Instagram.

            Thank you to my friend Brad Gran for sharing these and many other groaners.  Brad must have an unlimited source because almost every week he responds to an informative and inspiring Sunday school email with a list of jokes, and he granted me permission to share them with you.

            We need groaners. Questions with obvious answers and puns that make plays on words.  One-liners that make us think twice.  As a kid, I knew these jokes as corny, a term that describes anything overused or obvious, as simple as the corn we country folk shelled to feed to pigs. 

            Groaners cover many subjects. A pessimist’s blood type is always B negative. Every calendar’s days are numbered.  I’ve been to the dentist many times so I know the drill.  A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.  Everyone thinks my runny nose is funny, but it’s snot. (That’s a good one for my young Grands.)

            Stand-up comedians have perfected the art of delivering groaners: serious dead-pan facial expressions, monotone voices, and patience to wait for delayed responses.  Groaners are also known as Dad jokes.  Maybe because dads master a comedian’s delivery, and children often think their dads are silly.  

            Your fingers have fingertips, but your toes don’t have toetips.  Yet, you can tiptoe, but you can’t tipfinger.   If lawyers are disbarred and clerygymen defrocked, then doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

If money doesn’t grow on trees, why does every bank have so many branches?

            A twist on the definitions of words brings moans and groans. Pasteurize:  too far to see. Acre:  someone that aches.  Thesaurus: a dinosaur that studies words.  Professor:  the opposite of confessor.   Tooth: the ordinal number of two.  Infantry:  a small, young tree.

            I search for groaner riddles to share with my young Grands.  During a FaceTime visit with a six-year-old Grand, she asked twice for just one more.   What did one marshmallow say to the other?  I want s’more time with you! What goes up and down and never moves?  A staircase.

            Young Grands laugh quicker than teenage Grands, but I’m not giving up.  Eventually teenagers regain their sense of humor, and groaners will be around forever.  

It’s What Kids Do

“What’s the difference between broccoli and boogers?” Carol asked. 

            Color.   One is yucky.  Well, some people think both are yucky. 

            Carol smiled and her eyes glistened.  “First graders don’t eat broccoli.” Having taught first grade for 25 years, my friend is an authority on six-year-olds.   

            Stop reading now if you don’t want to read about boogers and kids picking their noses and then sticking their fingers in their mouths.  For the past three winters, I’ve moved a post-it note with this topic from one year to the next.  Carol’s riddle prompted me that now is the time.

            Why write about such a topic?  It’s life.  It’s what kids do. Honestly, anyone around toddlers and young children see little fingers in little noses, and if you’re like me, you hope the fingers are wiped on shirts. If you know the children well, you say, “Don’t put your finger in your nose,” then hand out tissues or gently touch hands, not fingers, and move the hands away from faces.

             I’ve said, “Do you need a Kleenex?” Such a silly question.  By the time I ask, the finger has retrieved whatever was in the nose.  I’ve even explained that what’s in the nose isn’t clean, that nose hairs catch dirt and dust and bacteria and that boogers are dirty.  That satisfies my need to teach, but rarely does the kid respond as a learner.

            Nose picking is universal – about 120,000,000 results popped up when I googled why do kids pick their noses.   There were 260,000 results when for why kids eat boogers and 14,7000,00 sites are available to explain how to stop nose picking. 

            Kids usually stick their fingers in their noses because there is something uncomfortable inside their nasal passages and they want to get it out.  Very young children may be exploring their bodies, and for some kids, it’s a nervous habit, an unconscious habit.  

            Kids eat boogers because they are salty, unlike broccoli, and fingers slip so easily from noses to mouths, and again, it becomes a habit.   

            So, what’s the big problem?  In every country, a finger up a nose is taboo – it’s socially unacceptable everywhere.  From a health standpoint, when excess moisture or dry nasal mucus (a more clinical word than boogers) is removed, nasal passages are more receptable to bacteria which causes infection, and nose-picking can cause nosebleeds.

            Supposedly, the best way to stop this habit is to remind children to stop.  To explain the health aspects if the child is old enough to understand.  To keep tissues available and praise children when tissues are used. 

       While researching this topic, I discovered children’s books I’d like to read:  The Boy Who Picked His Nose, Maggie McNair Get Your Finger Out of There!, and  Fairytales Gone Wrong:  Don’t Pick Your Nose, Pinocciho!

            Now is a perfect time to drink hot chocolate and read one of these books to my first grade Grand.  He’ll use a tissue and I’ll insist he wash his hands before lunchtime and I won’t serve broccoli.   




Old Person Bingo

BINGO!  It’s easy to cover the Bingo squares under O.  Concerned about fiber. Living room furniture all matches. Excited about Farmers Markets.  Have a kid older than 10.  Increased the font size on your phone. 

            This is a unique Bingo card that doesn’t have numbers; it has phrases. I only have one card which is really a birthday card that I’ve kept beside my writing calendar since July.  Every time I glance at it, I smile.  OLD PERSON BINGO (yes, in all caps) is written at the top on the front.

            If you have Medicare or receive Social Security, you could easily win prizes playing OLD PERSON BINGO, but younger people probably won’t like the game.  Look at the five spaces I covered under O.  Why would anyone not have matching living room furniture? My matching red wing-back chairs are perfect, and the fiber I’m concerned about has nothing to do with the fiber content covering those two chairs.

            Doesn’t everyone increase the font size on mobile phones?  (As I wrote mobile phone, I laughed at myself.  Only an old person who has a land line phone would write mobile.)   Have a kid over 10?  How about five Grands over 10!  And if you’ve ever read columns I’ve written during peak summer harvest season, you know I’m excited about our local Farmers Market.  

            Playing OLD PERSON BINGO, I can win across rows, down columns, and diagonally and I bet many of you could, too.  Wear clothing with additional support.  Does that include those elastic tummy control panels?  Can’t find your keys.  Found grey hairs.  Why do some things disappear and others glare?

            Think dinner at 4 PM sounds pretty good. Think 11 PM is late.  I can’t cover the dinner at 4 space, but everyone knows when both clock hands near 12, it’s late.  (Another old person thinking; I thought of an analog clock, not a digital one.)

            Enjoy jazz.  Don’t recognize any popular music.  Not only do I not recognize popular music, I can’t understand the words.

            Still uses Facebook.  Fan of historical dramas.  Get annoyed about remake of movies.  Worried about the economy.  Have considered moving to Florida. Have a 401K.  Feel stiff for no reason.  Have your own garden.  How many of those spaces can you cover?

            Have said the phrase, “Kids these days…”  Have said, “Ooh, a cheese plate!” in a restaurant.  Oh, the things I’ve said and wished I hadn’t. 

            Maybe my friends and I can create more OLD PERSON BINGO cards and add more phrases.  Doctors are listed among contact favorites.  Ate TV dinners on a metal tray. An exciting evening is watching basketball games on TV.  Do banking in person.  Pay bills by check.  Look forward to mail delivery. Wore plastic bread bags as boots to play in snow. Rereads birthday cards.             Playing OLD PERSON BINGO will be fun and prizes won’t be needed.  Laughing and being with like-minded friends – those are real prizes.

A Letter to 2022

Dear 2022,

            Welcome.  Come in, take your coat off, and stay a while.  I’ve been expecting you and hope you come bearing gifts.

            Your recent predecessors, 2020 and 2021, gave moments – sometimes days, weeks, and months – that I want to forget.  Times that my friends and I never want to visit again. So, 2022, you can do almost nothing and be remembered kindly, but allow me to share a few words that I’ve heard would be welcomed during the next twelve months.


            Common Sense




            Mark Twain said, “Compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”  It’s concern for other people’s misfortune and suffering.  People don’t share the same experiences, the same mishaps, the same problems, but everyone can show compassion.  Standing beside those who hurt shows concern and mercy.  Suffering is part of life and can’t be avoided, but compassion fosters healing.

            Would you please bring cooperation?  The process where people work together to reach a common goal.  Sport teams are an example.  When a volleyball team wins a match, all six players are credited.  Blockers stop the ball at the net.  Other players ‘dig’ the ball off the ground, and the setter and hitter work together to return the ball into the opponents’ court.  Cooperation requires teamwork and compromise and combined efforts. 

            Now, about common sense.  Some people call it ‘horse sense’ because even a horse has enough sense to return to the safety of the barn. My grandfather, Papa, practiced common sense.  With a limited education, he looked at the facts, surveyed possibilities, allowed for exceptions, and made decisions based on past experiences and what was available at the moment.  And then he lived with the outcome.  Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as writing, “Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”  That was Papa.

            Consideration is simply being nice, being kind.  It’s what was learned while sitting on the floor in Sunday School class: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Consideration is a choice, an opportunity to show respect. It’s the good manners that mothers around the world preach to their children, especially as they go out the backdoor to play with friends and siblings or go to school. 

            A few doses of childlike would be welcomed gifts.  Adults could uncover the good of being a child, leaving the not-so-good covered. Young children enjoy life at its simplest.  The wonder of an ant carrying a crumb.  Splashing in a puddle of water.  Walking in the rain.  Amazed by a shooting star and the colors of rainbows.  Stacking blocks just for the fun of knocking them down. Could you bring the joys of everyday life?

            So dear friend, 2022, share your best and be remembered kindly. With these gifts, maybe each person will be remembered kindly also.             

P.S.  This writing is a bit late because last week I enjoyed a heavy dose of childlike when Tennessee was blanketed with snow and I forgot to mail this letter.

Some Things Don’t Wait

Monday, January 3, 2022.  Chores and tasks lay ahead.  Laundry.  Respond to emails.  Make plans for a club meeting.  Submit a column to the newspaper. 

            The column, a letter addressed to 2022, was written and ready for one more read-aloud. Then Husband’s edits:  insert words I omitted or maybe add an s to a word I meant to write plural.

            But Mother Nature gave us snow and Monday tasks and that column, fell to the wayside. I sat where I begin most days to drink coffee, list blessings, read a devotion, write notes, and watch a few birds.  But Monday, I munched on grapes and drank coffee and stared outside for a long time.

            Except for driveways and streets, everything was white – clean, brilliant, beautiful.  Every branch, every twig, were laden with snow and many more birds came to our birdfeeder that is about 18” from my window. 

            Brown house finches ate quickly and flew.  A downy woodpecker pecked into an open feeder hole as he would into a dead tree.  A red Northern cardinal perched, but didn’t eat until a female cardinal sat beside him.  Both held seeds in their beaks and turned their heads side to side before flying away. 

            A Carolina chickadee, smaller than the other birds, perched at the feeder’s top as if claiming ownership before he chose a perch and stayed a while.  A tufted titmouse joined the chickadee, not giving up his perch quickly.

            I didn’t immediately identify several birds about the size of house finches.  Their dark charcoal -colored backs and tailfeathers set off their white bellies and orange beaks.  Looking through my bird field guide, I found the junco, a sparrow that winters in the southeastern states.  And I found a date I’d written when I’d spotted juncos another time: February, 2021.

            Doves strutted slowly on the ground and picked up seeds that had been dropped by other birds.   I admired their patience.

            Then I learned my Grands across town were playing outside. “I’m coming over,” I texted Daughter.  She responded, “Come quickly. After two hours outside, it’s almost time for hot chocolate.”

            “Want to ride down the hill, Gran?” Lucy asked.  While I considered how steep the hill was and the many trees, my Grand jumped onto her sled and flew down the hill.  I didn’t sled or roll like a log down the hill or throw fistfuls of snow down anyone’s coat, but I did make the biggest snow angel and stomp a giant S while my Grand stomped all the letters to spell her name.

            I lost miserably playing a game of UNO that went on and on because nobody, my four Grands nor I, wanted it to end.  What’s better than sitting inside a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, and drinking hot chocolate after playing outside on winter’s first snow day?

            Chores and tasks wait.  Playing with Grands and watching birds do not.   

            And that previously written column?  Maybe it’ll keep until next week.

What If?

I’m caught again.  Caught between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  I want to hang on to Christmas and I look forward to a new year, a new beginning. Between Christmas and 2022, my thoughts are mish-mashed and tangled.  It’s difficult to separate my writing notes to remember Christmas from my notes to move forward.  I’d like to write about both, but for now I’m storing 2022 thoughts.

            I wish the spirits and events of Christmas would stay with us.  Kindness. Worship. Smiles. Generosity.  Gathering with family and friends. 

            Husband and I stood at the back of our church sanctuary on Christmas Eve night and searched for a place to sit.  Our ‘regular’ seats were taken and most pews were filled so we gladly sat wherever there were empty seats.  People, most we didn’t know and who probably didn’t know each other, sat shoulder to shoulder. 

            When a man stood at the end of a pew, people moved a bit closer to make room for one more.  A group of twenty-something year-olds sat side-ways, arms across the back of the church pew to offer seats to others.

            During Sunday church services Ken and Cindy sit with friends, but Christmas Eve they were flanked by their three sons, daughters-in-law, and two toddler grandchildren – all who had travelled hours to be together.  On some pews, college students, home for a short time, sat between parents and grandparents. 

            Scripture was read; Christmas carolswere sung.  There were shepherds abiding. An angel appeared.  Born this night in Bethlehem, the city of David, Christ the Lord.  Joy to the World.  Mary, Did You Know?  Oh, Holy Night.  Silent Night.   

            As the service ended, the flame from the Christ candle was passed from candle to candle until every candle, one held by every person, was lit. When I touched my unlit candle to the flame of the candle held by a friend beside me, he and I connected.  Connected by the light of Christmas.   

            Although I don’t like to shop, I purposedly shop just a few days before Christmas.  My young Grands wanted to buy gifts last week, and I gladly took them.  We walked past half-stocked shelves and wove among many shoppers and dodged fast-moving shopping carts, but most everyone was joyful.  Sales clerks offered help and bid us “Merry Christmas.” 

            While my two Grands and I stood in a self-checkout line, I saw a man turn to two boys, young teen-agers who I assumed were his sons, and say, “It’s a long line, but everyone looks happy.”  Indeed, shopping on December 23 is a happier experience than the 23rd day of other months.  We shoppers purchased gifts to make someone else happy.

            Can we keep Christmas?  What if we always made room for one more person?  Through the long nights of winter, what if candles glowed in the windows of our homes? 

            What if we always shopped to make others happy?    

When the calendar reads 2022, what if we held onto the spirit of Christmas?