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Melissa Carter: A scorching Scrabble game rivals the record heat

Melissa CarterThe recent temperatures over 100 degrees brought headlines warning people how dangerous such weather can be. The intent was to remind people not to get overheated or dehydrated by spending a lot of time outside. However, no one gave warning about the dangers of being stuck in the air conditioning with your family, and in my case, taking part in an epic Scrabble battle.

My mother and I play Words with Friends online, so it made sense that when Katie and I went to visit her last weekend we would lay out the Scrabble board and play face-to-face. My sister, who also plays online, was part of the dining room table competition.

The game began without incident. I was the scorekeeper, listening to my mother and sister begin their ritual trash talking, as Katie poured the wine.

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Melissa Carter: Vision, vanity and breaking my streak

My avMelissa Carterersion to wearing glasses comes from sibling rivalry. My older brother and sister needed glasses young, so this offered a challenge for me to see how long I could go without them. At 42, I still pass my driver’s license test without my glasses. But barely.

I am near-sighted. I think. Much like the debate over “affect” or “effect” seems to commence whenever either word is cautiously used, a similar confusion occurs whenever one gives an eyesight diagnosis.

I can see things near me, but the detail of things far away is blurry. I have a prescription for this condition, but find I only use these glasses in dark places, like a movie theater or driving at night.

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Melissa Carter: We can help bridge the gap between past neglect and future stability

Melissa CarterI think we’ve made great progress with Trevor. Our first foster dog, this GoldenDoodle was found on the streets of Alabama and sent to Adopt A Golden Atlanta.

A few years ago, we adopted our dog GiGi from Adopt-A-Golden. They asked that we foster Trevor and try to get him more comfortable and emotionally healthy so he could one day soon be moved into a loving and permanent home.

When Trevor came to us he kept his distance, literally. We let him out in our fenced back yard and that is where he stayed, choosing instead to sleep outside the first night. He wouldn’t let us pet him and showed his teeth to our other animals when they came too close.

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Melissa Carter: How can we help LGBT youth be not only out, but proud?

Melissa CarterIt seems that suicide is spilling into our headlines more than ever before, with another gay teenager falling victim to this tragic trend a couple weeks ago.

Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. of Iowa took his own life at the age of 14, after being tormented by classmates for his decision last month to come out. His mother told The Washington Post that Kenneth quickly became the target of threatening cellphone calls, voicemails, and online comments.

Kenneth was a popular kid in school, but only when classmates thought he was straight. Once they learned his truth, Kenneth’s peers quickly turned on him and that rejection led to his death April 15.

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Melissa Carter: TV made me smarter

Melissa CarterI am a smarter person because of Made-for-TV movies. I realized this the other night when Katie Jo and I were sitting on our back porch talking. The topic of Helen Keller came up, and I began to tearfully recall the scene from “The Miracle Worker” where Patty Duke’s Anne Sullivan finally gets through to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen at the well.

W. A. T. E. R. Who doesn’t get choked up at that memory? Katie Jo.

When I realized my other half gave no reaction to my description of that pivotal scene, I questioned if she had ever seen “The Miracle Worker.” She had not, and went on to tell me she really wasn’t that familiar with Helen Keller’s life. I was shocked, but remembered that if it weren’t for Duke and Gilbert, I might not be either.

So much of my early education came from those mini dramas, which provided greater opportunities for learning than books or theatrical releases ever could. That’s because Made-for-TV movies came on one of the only three or four channels available then, and the lack of choice forced everyone in the family, and the country, to watch it together.

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Melissa Carter: My mother is going blind, but her artistic vision remains

Melissa CarterMillie Pete is going blind. My 82-year-old mother was diagnosed with macular degeneration two months ago, and the condition is quickly taking away her vision because of damage to her retina.

As an artist, this has posed a serious challenge to her lifestyle, since the result of the condition is the inability to see detail or recognize faces. As the daughter of this artist, I have come to realize these past few weeks that is was through her art that I learned my most important life lessons:

• Shadows. My mother taught me never to use black when shading paintings. Instead you use complimentary colors to show depth to an object. As a child I saw shadows as dark places to avoid, but Millie Pete allowed me to see they are never as black as they seem, and that shadows actually help enhance the world around you.

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Melissa Carter: Not quite home improvement

Melissa CarterWhen you own an older home, improvement projects come with the territory. Theoretically, these occasional updates to your dwelling should be fun. But for me, they are a source of high anxiety.

The reason is because the woman I live with is determined to complete as many of these projects as possible all on her own even though she has no qualifications whatsoever to be doing construction work, plumbing work, electrical work, flooring installation, etc. The result is that I have to stay at the house while these little projects are being undertaken, prepared at any minute to call 911.

For example, Katie decided months ago she no longer wanted a ceiling fan in our bedroom, so she took it down. Those wires protruding through the ceiling seemed to wave in jest at us each morning until last weekend, when Katie found a new light fixture and decided it was time to fix the problem.

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Melissa Carter: It’s not new love we should celebrate

VMelissa Carteralentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love — or at least the idea of how love could be. We see plenty of examples of young romance on television and in movies. But I wish there were more portrayals of couples still hot for each other after years together. Those are the couples who have figured out what true love really is and remind us that sometimes the secret is more simple than you would think. 

My parents were married for 50 years until my father passed away from cancer in 2001. Their unique and touching romantic gestures towards each other began when they were newlyweds and had no money. On their first anniversary she arrived home from her teaching job and checked the mailbox first like she did every day.

Inside was a letter informing her that her gift was upstairs waiting for her. When she got to her bedroom, there was my dad waiting for her wearing a bow. My mom is in her ‘80s and this story still makes her smile and blush when she tells it.

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Melissa Carter: Listen up, ladies. Stop being gross in 2012.

Melissa CarterIt’s a brand new year. Crowds of resolution-inspired men and women are rushing to gyms and health food stores all over town to satisfy their internal promises. This time of year we make all kinds of goals. We pledge to spend more time with family and friends, kick the smoking habit, get out of debt, and try the latest diet.

I have another resolution to add to the To-Do list, but this one is just for women: Get cleaner in the public restrooms. Quite simply, ladies, you are nasty in the bathroom. And it needs to change. Now.

In recent weeks, I attended the standard regiment of holiday parties at bars and restaurants, and scoured the city for the perfect Christmas gifts. While on my trek, I was forced to frequent several public bathrooms. This is the breakdown of what I have experienced. And it isn’t pretty.

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Melissa Carter: Peace, joy, and … family?

Melissa CarterChristmas is a time for joy and peace — until you get around your family. There always seems to be one nagging holiday issue that resurfaces each year for every clan.

It might be where and when you gather, or even who gets to come celebrate. For my family, the big issue has always been determining the best gift exchange scenario.

It began after I started college. Since I was the youngest child, my parents finally had an empty nest. As a broke college student, I cried to my mom that I wasn’t going to be able to buy proper gifts for my whole family, which then forced her to initiate the conversation with everyone about a structured gift exchange to save us all money. Twenty years later we still haven’t found an arrangement that makes everyone happy.