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.
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)