My mother loves word games. Her puzzle books are always within reach. Between her vocabulary and wit, she excels at all forms of them from cryptograms and rebuses (or is the plural rebi?) to anagrams and word jumbles. Although I enjoy crossword puzzles, I don’t have the same level of devotion as my mother. My younger daughter, as I am learning, has inherited the gene. Recently, she was sitting on the couch with me as I was working on The New York Times’ daily Spelling Bee. It’s a word game where six letters are arranged like flower petals around a center letter. The goal is to make as many words as possible with the letters provided. There are a few caveats. The center letter must be used in order for the word to count and the word must have at least four letters, although duplication of letters is allowed.

For example, if the center letter is B and the six adjacent letters are M, E, S, R, N, and A, you could score with any of the following: Barn, Beers, or Samba. The points are scaled based on the number of letters in the word with the most points awarded for words that use all of the letters on the board. In the example case, the word Membranes would be considered a pangram. Technically, a pangram is a phrase or sentence that incorporates all of the letters of the alphabet, but its meaning is adapted for the game to include a word using all letters on the board.

My six-year old is obsessed. To accommodate her nascent spelling skills, I’ve adjusted the word-length requirement down to three letters. She will sit there, captivated, for over an hour at times. [Note to my mom: She really is set with the app that we have. Please do not send puzzle books. 🙂 ].

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about her new-found hobby and what it means to use everything that you have available to solve a problem. As she shuffles the letters on the app, considering them from a different vantage point, a new configuration, I think about the ways in which I often fail to do the same in my own life, especially now. Frankly, I feel very stuck. Although intellectually I know that I am not, the feeling persists nonetheless. I am learning to shuffle and reshuffle my perspective, keeping an eye on my center, my positive core. The words are there. I just need to find them.

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