Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading and Chess

I fell in love with reading and chess when I was in first grade. I had pneumonia and pleurisy and missed a ton of school in the fall that year. My birthday is in mid-October and I was absent starting about a week before my birthday until almost Thanksgiving. (I totally missed trick-or-treating that year and was really bummed out about it. My Dad took me to Baskin Robbins for ice cream that day to make up for it. And so began my love for mint chocolate chip ice cream...) My infection was so bad that even after I went back to school, I wasn't allowed to play outside for P.E. until after Christmas Break. I had to stay inside because the doctors were worried that running around in the cold air would cause a relapse. Talk about sucky!

Because I was so sick, I spent a lot of time in bed. I hadn't really thought about it until recently when I looked at my own 7 year old (Jack) and realized how sick he would have to be to spend that much time motionless. Most of the 7 year old's I know are in perpetual motion! How the heck did I stay in bed so much? Answer... I was really, REALLY sick. Anyway, because I had so much downtime. The grown ups in my life had to come up with new things to keep me both occupied AND still. That's how I developed a love of reading and playing chess.

My Grammy (Yes, the one who also introduced me to her World Famous Bourbon Slushies!) mailed me the very first chapter book I ever read on my own. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 got me hooked on reading in a huge way. I knew how to read before that but, after that I just inhaled books. I loved anything written by Beverly Cleary. The Mouse and The Motorcycle, Henry Huggins, Dear Mr. Henshaw... I had them all and loved getting lost in their stories. My Grammy kept on sending me books and I would lay in bed all day reading. I got to be really speedy and I'd start and finish one those books in about a day. I got a library card and starting checking out 5 or 6 at a time. I read anything I could get my hands on. My Dad started using new books as a token of affection. He worked down the street from the Glendale Galleria (That's a really huge mall for people who aren't familiar with that word.) and would go to the book store there on his lunch break. He'd leave new books on my pillow with a Post-It note that said, "I didn't think you'd read this one yet. I love you. Dad" Eventually, I got my own book shelves in my room and, over time, they ended up cram packed full of books. Savings all those books ended up being really handy! Now the RiceCakes have a pretty huge library of books to read. Pack Ratting for the win!

My family is all about playing board games. We played word games like Taboo and Scattergories quite a bit when I was growing up. We learned to play backgammon and all sorts of card games. At my Grammy's house at Christmas, we always played Tripoley... which means, YES my Grammy also introduced me to poker and bluffing. (Is she not the coolest Grammy ever?!) My brother Sean and I would play Monopoly for a week at a time. It's not surprising that we play a lot of games at my house now is it? See why Dave bringing the Surinamese version of Monopoly was such a crazy hit at my house this summer? It's fun to sit around with a group of friends and family laughing and visiting together. I really don't care who wins. I love games but, I'm not really that competitive. The camaraderie is the best part of playing a game.

I knew how to play a bunch of games by the time I was in first grade. Mostly I knew popular card games like Go Fish and Uno. But when I had pneumonia, my Dad taught me to play chess. Again, it was all about keeping me occupied, but still resting, for all those weeks. That had to have been challenging for my parents! After all, my brothers were 4 and 5 years old when I was in first grade. Can you imagine keeping your 7 year old still to 2 wild little boys running all over the place at the same time? My Dad had this beautiful wooden chess set. It was given to him by his grandfather, who'd come to this country from Switzerland. The pieces were so pretty and shiny. The game was all about using logic and paying attention to details. I got hooked.

Now, I'm not an expert chess player by any means. I've never competed in a tournament and I have no clue what my rating would be. I just LIKE it. I've played off and on over the years. I didn't realize how UNcommon the ability to play the game really was! I thought it was a game that we all learned to play... like Go Fish and Unothankful for being so sick when I was a kid. I think it's just another example of God using something that could be considered "bad" and working it out to be something that's ultimately "good." I keep telling my kids to do the things they LIKE to do, get better at those things, and don't sweat it when some people tell you that what you like is "nerdy" and "lame" because you never know... you might end up with a paycheck for it!

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

Romans 8:28 (NAS)

10 comments:

  1. I play chess as well... Although I am really awful & it's more of a game to see how quick I get beat. One of our former teachers used to teach Chess at the end of the year; maybe I'll do that this year... It's a super game that helps develop so much advanced thought processes it's not even funny. And besides~ being nerdy in my class is cool. :o)

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    1. You rule NES! You're totally right about higher thought processes. Chess is a fabulous way to teach kids logic without them realizing that they're learning math. AND it's good for learning about consequences for poor choices. A bad move in chess quickly goes downhill.
      It's awesome that being nerdy in your class is cool... since being nerdy ends up being "cool" in reality anyway!
      Go NES!

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  2. I kept my copy of that book and gave it to my daughter for Christmas last year. :) Sadly though I'm the only one in my family that don't know how to play chess. :(

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    1. Ramona is a great story! How fun that you saved yours!
      And chess... isn't hard! Give it a whirl!

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  3. I took a math class one summer to get ahead (yeah... WTF) and instead of teaching us math, the teacher taught us chess. I haven't played in a long time because nobody else seems to know how to play it. I always like the horse (duh) because it was a horse AND it makes and L, like Larson. haha

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    1. Seriously, I can't believe how many people really have never even SEEN a real game of chess played. I didn't realize it was THAT uncommon.
      But dude... you took extra math... in the summer?!?!?! My mind is blown.
      And knight pieces are awesome... totally underrated... I get where you're coming from. ha ha!

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  4. I had three chess sets growing up. Two were plastic - they were the same figures but one was plain & one had all the pieces richly colored. It was beautiful.

    BUT the real gem is the set I have that is CARVED JADE! I am dead serious. It's wonderful. They are still with my mom but I'm going to pick it up now. It's so gorgeous.

    Also - will you play monopoly with me? Chris won't and it's my favorite board game ever.

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    1. OK first of all... JADE?!?!?!? omg. I am so jealous! That's so awesome it's not even funny!

      And Monopoly is THE BOMB! My brother Sean and I used to play for a WEEK at a time. I LOVE IT! I totally geeked out of the Surinamese version that Dave brought home this summer! It's so cool.

      But I feel your pain over Chris not playing with you... Dave won't play Risk with me. Although, to be fair... if we ever divorce, it would probably be over THAT GAME. Maybe it's best if we leave it out of our marriage.

      One of these days dude... you... me... beach... Monopoly! It's ON! ;)

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  5. My grandfather insisted that his grandchildren had to know how to play both Chess and Cribbage (figure that one out, when you've got time!). He wouldn't let us leave the table until we beat him, at least one game... so, my brother and I ended up in mini-tournaments and won plastic traveling chess games. My grandfather said that, if you can play chess, you can figure out your life because it can be applied to everything you do. We laughed. Now, that I'm older (I wish, wiser!), in looking back, I realize how right he was. All your choices are like chess and can be approached in the same way. Of course, life is a lot messier, but the logic-training you've given your brain really helps. Great post! Come visit when you can.

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    1. I totally dig your grandfather! I LOVE cribbage! My husband and I play with his parents when they come visit. It's so fun!
      The philosophy of being able to apply chess principles to the rest of your life is completely accurate. I think that learning to play the game definitely helps train our brains to weigh choices logically... something that I think we lack as a society in general lately. So much is left up to "chance" or "luck" or we simply just hope things will instantaneously change... rather than seeing circumstances as the results of choices we've made. I'm hoping to at least encourage a few kids to use their noggin in ways that playing chance-based games won't.
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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