Tag Archives: Boomers

Words With Friends: How to Improve Your Game

Words With Friends: How to Improve Your GameAre you as addicted to Words With Friends as I am?

Sometimes I think I need a 12-Step program, because I can get so wrapped in my games that I neglect other things. Like taking a shower and getting dressed.

But then, as addictions go, this is a fairly healthy one to have. After all, is it not a workout for the brain? That’s what I tell myself.

If only my other body parts were as well exercised. But that’s another story for another day.

I am not alone in my affinity for Words With Friends. According to an article in The Atlantic, Words with Friends is one of the most popular apps used by my midlife/boomer generation.

When I was a young girl I watched my mother do The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and eventually it became part of my Sunday morning routine as well. I love the challenge of word games. When Words With Friends became available as an app, I jumped on it — and it became an obsession.

I don’t profess to be an expert, but over time I have developed certain strategies that have been effective for me. If you are an advanced player these will seem a matter of course, but perhaps you will help me add on to this list.

Save your S tiles, and to a somewhat lesser extent, your R and D tiles.

They will come in handy with making a word plural or past tense

Look for possible suffixes: -ING, -ED, -IER, or prefixes: RE-. IN-,e.g.

These are valuable tools for enhancing an existing word.

Scrutinize the board for other opportunities.

For example, add A to moral to create amoral, or add A to toll to create atoll. Add Y to the end of miser for misery.

If you are the one to open the game, get rid of low-points letters.

That said, if you can make a double word on the opening move, do so only if the point score is worth it.  I wouldn’t do it for less than 20 points.

Never use your best tiles on an opening move.

The point score just won’t justify it. Save them for a bonus square.

Down to one consonant and six vowels? Time to swap.

If you must swap for other reasons, always keep at least one vowel and one consonant in your possession.

Get rid of Is, Us and Vs.

They’re hardest to place.

Play defensively.

Minimize your opponent’s opportunities to take advantage of a triple word score. Assume that your opponent will have the final letter — an S or Y, e.g. — when you are considering a move that will open up the triple word opportunity.

Check the status of the high points letters.

When my game has about 20 letters left to play, I do a quick inventory of the high scoring letters – X, J, Q and Z. Have they been played? If not, I want to make sure I am not leaving a high scoring opportunity open in case my opponent has one of them.

And if you have one of them, don’t get stuck.

If you have an X., J, Q or Z, use it or get rid of it if you are down to 10 letters. Too many games are lost because you are left hanging with one of these.

Learn the language: Words With Friends-ese.

A good vocabulary is your best friend, but also be aware of the two- and three-letter words common in Words With Friends: QI, ZA, SUQ, QUA, RAJ, HAJ.

Are there other strategies that work well for you?

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Retirement U

Assuming our good health continues, my husband and I will continue living in our home in the leafy suburbs where we’ve raised our children. We considered relinquishing the flora and fauna for a cute pied-à-terre as some of our empty nester friends have quite happily done, but we are too attached to our home and the neighborhood. We’re staying.

We’ve taken good care of ourselves. We eat healthy most of the time (if you don’t count the occasional movie popcorn for dinner and a few other other bad habits involving chocolate) and we exercise. Well, he exercises. I don workout gear and imagine myself running and lunging, burning calories, feeling that adrenaline rush. Then I sit down and pick up a book.

Someday, we could face the decision that confronts many seniors: the need to move to assisted living. Obviously, I hope this will be a long ways off, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about it.

“Our next home has to feel like home,” I told my husband. “I want us to feel good about it. No regrets.”

As boomers, our numbers will translate into a huge demand for these facilities. I started to imagine the ideal accommodations for us and our friends. What features would inspire us to sell the old homestead, not with sorrow but with anticipation for the move? What would it take to make us feel positive about making this lifestyle change? What would feel like a home away from home?

A tall order, I know. But then it hit me. You know how they say the college years are the best years of your life? Remember how fast those fabulous years flew by?

What if moving to a retirement facility was like returning to college?

memory lane, sign

Picture this: a place just for nostalgic 60s and 70s flower children. How much fun would it be to walk down memory lane on the grounds of a facility that simulates the quintessential college campus of our heyday? Direct out of central casting, you’ve got your ivy-covered halls, your grassy lawn for frisbee throwing, your meal plan in the dining hall. Dorm rooms are furnished with lumpy beds or a waterbed or simply a mattress on the floor covered with an Indian blanket.

Taped to the cinderblock walls are posters of favorite musicians (Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues) and movies (Love Story, American Graffiti, The Godfather) and sports (Dorothy Hamill, Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comenici, Seattle Slew).

Classes may be taken but they are all pass/pass. You get credit for just showing up on time. Forgot to drop/add? Not a problem; the professors are understanding. Out on the quad there are benches with sensible backs for mid-afternoon bull sessions, with rock and roll music wafting through the air on a sound system turned up extra loud. Former SDS members might stage a sit-in in front of the administration building with demands for greater representation. Assistants are on hand to help them stand up.

How about late night “rap sessions” at 8 p.m. before the R.A. tells us it’s time to turn in? Instead of pondering the meaning of life, which we pretty much get by now, we would play “Name that Alma Mater Tune” and give the old brain cells a workout.

My fantasy is all in fun and I mean no disrespect. But when I think back to a time when life was ripe with promise and dreams were yours to follow, I like to think that it could happen again.

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The Woman in the Mirror: a Personal Reflection

I remember sitting in a college French class absently twirling a string of my hair and half listening to the professor talk about idiomatic expressions. Until one in particular caught my attention.

Etre bien dans sa peau

The literal translation is “to feel well in one’s own skin.” It means to feel good about yourself. But typically the expression is used in the negative — ne pas etre bien dans sa peau — and relates to anxiety or dissatisfaction with yourself. As in “I’m too fat, too thin, not pretty enough, not smart enough …” Wow, I thought.

Je ne suis pas bien dans ma peau. 

Mon dieu. C’est moi.

Yes, that was, and is, me.

Since as far back as I can remember, I have had … issues. Like looking in the mirror and grimacing at my image.

I blame my internal critic who is on call 24/7, providing continuous commentary of the negative sort.

She gives me a head-to-toe appraisal, her eyes flickering over the most egregious of body parts, and shakes her head sadly. Clears her throat. And with a sigh, begins to tick off the litany of flaws present in my body.

I listen. I agree. Even though, by probably anyone else’s standards, I look just fine.

Like the late Nora Ephron, whose book “I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” resonated with many of us dames d’un certain age, I fret about wrinkles, cellulite, hair loss and all the rest of it. That is to be expected, I suppose.

But that doesn’t account for why I felt this way as a teenager. Any probably even younger. I wasn’t obsessed with my body image. But I sure wasn’t happy about it.

The insecurities start at a very young age, especially with girls. Where does it come from? My mother didn’t instil these feelings — I did. Why? Is it societal norms, the overwhelming pressure to be thin, be beautiful, be perfect, thereby finding eternal happiness?

As I begin my latest diet to get rid of the 10 pounds that have crept up on me, I think of the alternative, being content absorbing the extra 10 pounds. Being happy in my own skin.

But that’s just not me.

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