Chores Open Doors

Getting even one chance this year to visit my family in Texas has been tough.  Missing some important events earlier this year like my aunt’s funeral and my cousin’s wedding upset me quite a bit.  Something wonderful happened in June however.  My wife got a call from her Dad to let us know his frequent flyer miles were about to expire.  It so happened that he had enough credit to purchase each of us an airline ticket to travel to our respective family’s homes in Georgia and Texas.  Living in New Jersey since last fall has opened our eyes to many new things, but being away from my family since my wedding in 2010 has not been easy.

My grandmother in San Antonio was at the top of my list.  I knew her health had been failing a bit at a mere 91 years of age.  Little did I know after talking with her for a few days that she had had a mild stroke the year before.  My aunt had sent me a photograph of her in a temporary nursing home, but I had very little knowledge of why she was there.  Her ability to walk had been impaired.  She was taking medication and improving every week.  Her speech on the phone for several months had been noticeably less expressive and slower.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear her speak again like the grandmother I’ve known for a very long time after spending this time with her a few weeks ago.

An independent woman like my grandmother continues to manage most affairs of running a household.  Of course, my aunt is only a phone call away and for many years has lived no more than 80 feet away from her back door. Learning the news of  my grandmother’s recovery gave me more encouragement to re-introduce to her the game of chess.  She knew of the game through her father who was an avid player, but in that time chess was almost exclusively played by men of stature and perceived intellect.  I explained to her that chess does offer an intellectual challenge, but can be taught to anyone and practiced.

She thought this would be okay, but in exchange for her concentration to learn something new I first had to – you guessed it – a few chores around her house.

Learning the news of my grandmother’s recovery gave me more encouragement to re-introduce to her the game of chess. Playing chess can be enjoyed by anyone at any level of experience.

The Starting Line

Warren and I have stepped up to the starting line. We recently took a vacation back to Georgia! Upon coming home we have decided it is time to get our priorities in order.  First things first we need to get back in shape. One thing my family has always supported is a healthy life style. Fitness and Mental!

I remember in my early 20’s watching my sister completing the Chicago Marathon and thinking…. Wow!!! I was so proud of her.  When I decided to start jogging she was there to help me along.  I completed my first 12k with my sister, brother-in-law and family friend in St. Peter

sburg Florida.  Probably the best road trip I took that year. Marie and I then took a sister’s road trip to Nashville Tennessee and completed my first half Marathon! The moral of this story is — if I can do it so can most others.  It took a little training, time and determination.  I did decide that day 13.1 miles was a good milestone for me.  A full marathon was not my next goal.

Skinny is not a word in my body’s vocabulary.  Getting in shape however really did my body good!  Warren and I have been a pretty active couple compared to many.  Eating right, jogging, biking, and swimming has somehow been pushed aside these last few years since moving into our first apartment.  All of the top chess coaches I know emphasize that getting a brain workout everyday is important.  Just as important as getting one’s fitness workout in too.  Most top chess teams during competitions and training workout together.  I thought this was interesting when I first learned of it!  Now I understand it much better.  For the mind to con

centrate for long periods of time, the physical body plays a vital role supporting it.

I am a coupon lover!  I enjoy seeing daily deals from Groupon, Living Social and Amazon.  With a tight budget coupons even tend to feel more like window shopping these days.  Warren and I were so happy when we got back to New Jersey and received a daily deal from amazon for Escape Fitness.  This gym is only 5 minutes from our apartment and the deal included; 1 fitness assessment, 4 personal training sessions and 10 fitness classes.  This sounded like an offer we couldn’t refuse.

Yesterday we stepped up to the starting line with our personal trainer Alisha to complete our fitness assessment.  Did we pass? I think so because this journey will improve with time and taking the test was just the first step.  Saturday morning will be our first training session.  I look forward to recovery on Sunday.

Half Marathon Front
Probably the best road trip I took that year. Marie and I then took a sister’s trip to Nashville Tennessee and completed my first half Marathon! The moral of this story is — if I can do it so can most others.

New Tricks In Their Final Stages

pexels-photo-1152664-12010 was filled with emotion coming to grips with family members in risky health situations and even survival. My wife’s mother was recovering from major back surgery, and her grandfather was holding on after being diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer that year. Unfortunately, within a few months, Leonard passed away during the Christmas holidays, so this was a trying time for her family.

The following summer, after she had some time to grieve, we decided to take what we had learned coaching chess in after-school programs and bring it into the healthcare community on a volunteer basis. Compassionate Care Hospice had recently expanded its service offering in locations around the US to include many events and activities centered around individual patient interests. Lin Tatum, our volunteer coordinator in Atlanta, thought chess would be an excellent and fun way to engage her patients. Our first new friend who will go unnamed was 91 and quite with it!  She played bingo and spoke a little.  The hospice chaplain thought she would enjoy chess. The other reason is that the facility was GREAT and welcomed regular appointments with their patients. Another man we met was not be capable of playing chess on his own, however his wife really enjoyed playing and has been looking after her hubby for a long time. He had been diagnosed as a Cardiac patient. She told us, “you never know, you might get him on a good day and he could play!!!!

Another woman we met was AWESOME…She was 89 (you would never know) and resided at Freedom Point of Roswell, another great facility. Proper dress attire was required (a polo shirt and khakis). They were all about us looking NEAT. This was another good facility for us to get our foot in the door. We spoke with the Activity director about setting up a time for any of the residents to play… Finally, another woman, 84, was TERRIFIC…She loved to play Wii bowling and loves puzzles, so we knew she would be up for CHESS. She resided at Atria of Johnson Ferry which was again a great place for us to get into for other residents.  Her daughter came around as she does sometimes.

Volunteering our time with Compassionate Care Hospice was a wonderful experience. We encourage you to try something new if you have already thought about doing something like this and have even included a volunteer application for their office in Atlanta, GA.

Depending upon each patient’s individual needs and condition, holistic therapy can be quite beneficial. It can meet a wide range of patient needs, including emotional, spiritual, cognitive, social and physical. Holistic therapies can be just as, if not more, effective in relieving various forms of pain and discomfort than traditional methods.

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Anniversary getaways

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Some people can say I started my week with a “Case of the Monday’s”. I have been struggling with some pretty life changing decisions with hopes of Warren and I to do well. The last few weeks have been a little tough to say the least. Such is Life! Something reminded me of our Wedding Day.

With this fall approaching fast. What are Warren and I going to do on our anniversary? It seems living in the North East and finding stable income would be easy.

Such is Life! I remember that on our special day. Due to budget constraints and logistics issues. There was not enough time for speech’s. Thankfully my older sister always came through as promised.

For any interested readers. Let me share the wedding speech she wrote on my behalf. I love you Marie! I can’t wait to see Lexi, Brent and you soon!

As Yvonne’s older sister, I have had the pleasure of knowing Bonnie her whole life. Those that were actually there when she came into this world unanimously say the same thing. The first thing you noticed about Yvonne was her bright blue full of life beaming eyes. Little did anyone just know how much a foreshadow that would be of the passion and zest for the way she lives life, and the way she cares for those she loves in life. I would dare say those that know Yvonne may also use the word “determined” to describe her at times. My little sister doesn’t back down. One of her most admirable traits: when she believes in something, or someone, you can count on her to not only to be by you side, but to fight for you with all of her enormous heart. Anyone that knows Yvonne is truly blessed to have her in your corner. Well today, we are here to talk about a new light in her eyes, and a new determination. Warren, from the day you met Yvonne, she beamed when she spoke about you. Was it love at first sight for the two of you? Well I’m not sure about that, but I am sure that you have always challenged her, that you your willngness to be adventurous and active excites her. I am sure that there is a new spark in her eye that you have created, a new passion for life that you have inspired. And for that, I thank you because this is what my little sister deserves. And here is where I decided during the ceremony that I had to edit this speech. I realize during the ceremony that I would also have to say, this light from Bonnies eyes must also be contagious, because I saw it in your eyes today Warren, and that makes me so happy for the two of you. And in return, there is no doubt in my mind, that she will provide to you a level of determination and dedication that will bolster the strength of your marriage, that will sustain your Love through every up and more importantly, every down. Love is not a cliche, it is work, it is fun and a happy marriage will be the best journey of your life. Let’s raise a toast and celebrate the beginning of this journey for Mr. And Mrs. Warren White.

“Chess is Child’s Play”

With all of the chess literature developed through history and to date, any chess enthusiast knows there are countless resources available. It would seem that becoming a chess coach is an easy enough possibility. Becoming a chess coach with only basic knowledge of the game however can feel a bit more challenging.  Warren and I had the honor and good fortune of meeting and working with Carolina Blanco. Carolina is a top women’s  international master and proved to be an invaluable asset for the training we desparately needed. For those of you interested in learning and coaching chess without a F.I.D.E. master in your telephone contact list — let’s talk.  Chess Made Fun finally found a tool that anyone can use without being overwhelmed with complex diagrams and games shown in what would appear to be some type of code: d4,e5 etc.

One month ago I opened in my hands for the first time ever a chess book written for the “Average Joe”. Warren and I sat down immediately after reading through a single chapter. We repeated this process after each chapter. Instead of trying to teach chess all in one sitting, each chapter uses a new concept of teaching chess called “mini-games”. This method seems so completely simple! Let me emphasize SIMPLE! Warren taught me to play chess in 2009.  Since that time we have searched through hundreds of websites, hundreds of books or chess blogs determined to find something that we could use or understand. As it happened, we decided to stop searching and start developing our own materials.  Well, as I have been told many times throughout my life when you stop searching for what you are looking for it will find its way to you. Once again, this rang true when we randomly connected with Laura Sherman through social media.  It seems crazy that technology allows random paths to cross in our everyday world! (Ironically, that is how Warren and my paths crossed, and I am so grateful for that everyday)!

Laura just released a book called Chess is Child’s Play written with Bill Kilpatrick. I encourage any person who would like to play chess with young or old minds to purchase this book. You too will be surprised how easy it is to learn and how easy it is to teach chess to anyone of any age!!  Thank you Laura for writing our most cherished coaching tool yet!  For you those of you who would like to learn more from the author who laid this golden egg, this is a quick video introduction to the book by Laura herself.  Good luck Laura as your book sales take off!  We look forward to purchasing these books for our local chess events soon!

Chess Is Child’s Play is a book designed to teach parents how to teach very young kids to play chess. Laura Sherman is a freelance writer and chess coach.  Together with her husband, Dan, she founded Your Chess Coach in Florida. They enjoy teaching dozens of children the wonders of chess!

What’s Out There?

In a first of it’s kind research project called the Nun Study, a convent of nuns donated their brains to science to further the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Mentally active until death these women showed no visible signs of dementia despite brain scans with advanced chemical changes that cause Alzheimer’s.

My wife and I are very interested in becoming active participants in the fight against cognitive dysfunction and memory loss in senior communities with particular attention to stronger and lasting family bonds.

Without any formal clinical training, we decided to begin a chess initiative with young children in Atlanta in 2010 working with an International Chess Master in after-school programs.  Although we have found numerous accounts of research conducted with kids to strengthen cognitive function, we are curious to learn what independent research exists in the senior community in a chess learning environment.

The Nun Study from the National Institute on Aging is what we have to date, so we would like to propose an idea.  First, has your research center collected any relevant data in a clinical setting that supports the need to institute a chess learning program in the senior community?  If not, would your center have a desire to do so?  If so, how would the center garner willing participants to conduct a study like this?

If you see some potential here, or at least have some interest in a study on the topic of chess learning as a form of holistic therapy, feel free to contact me to discuss some possibilities.  We would like to become members of the Georgia Area Therapeutic Recreation Association as a valued source for information sharing among professionals working in Georgia.

The Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease is a continuing longitudinal study, begun in 1986, to examine the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. David Snowdon, the founding Nun Study investigator, originally began his research at the University of Minnesota, but moved it to the University of Kentucky in 1986. In 2008, with Dr. Snowdon's retirement from the University of Kentucky the study returned to the University of Minnesota. Similar environmental influences and general lifestyles make the nuns an ideal population to study, and although it is ongoing it has yielded several findings.
The Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease is a continuing longitudinal study, begun in 1986, to examine the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. David Snowdon, the founding Nun Study investigator, originally began his research at the University of Minnesota, but moved it to the University of Kentucky in 1986. In 2008, with Dr. Snowdon’s retirement from the University of Kentucky the study returned to the University of Minnesota. Similar environmental influences and general lifestyles make the nuns an ideal population to study, and although it is ongoing it has yielded several findings.

The Fun Never Stops

Well, it’s been just over a year since our last blog post.  With the best of intentions the beat moves on.  Everyday life is a thing of the past as I share new experiences with my wife in the Garden State.  We moved from Atlanta, GA last fall to Southern New Jersey.  To those of you here, Chess Made Fun is bringing chess to some of the newly explored locations along the Jersey Shore and wonderous outdoor parks!

Of course, what we’re really about is making new friends along the way.  We thought we would share with you some of the places we’ve visited this year.

We’ve put some time aside to practice play and to network through Facebook with a few volunteer groups since our move.  We’re getting back into full swing albeit a late start with summer activities already underway.  Compared with the Southern US, outdoor activities seem to be more common with kids than adults.  Community events  however are very organized and we’re enjoying the ‘old world’ culture and feel of farmers markets and large volunteer drives without the need for corporate sponsorship and promotion found in larger cities.   Southern New Jersey seems like a great place to have landed to spread the word about what we’re doing to help local communities.

Throughout the forest are rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails (including a major section of the Batona Trail), miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking, horseback riding plus numerous lakes, ponds and fields ideal for wildlife observation. Tent camping in family, primative and wilderneness.
Throughout the forest are rivers and streams for canoeing, hiking trails (including a major section of the Batona Trail), miles of unpaved roads for mountain biking, horseback riding plus numerous lakes, ponds and fields ideal for wildlife observation. Tent camping in family, primative and wilderneness.

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What An Experience

Last weekend was something new for my wife and me.  Yvonne’s aunt invited us several weeks ago to go horseback riding – we finally did.  She also introduced us to Sandra Floyd.  Sandra began a wonderful program in recent years that provides fun and excitement for kids who are physically handicapped. Sandra is amazing in more ways than one.  She also teaches disadvantaged kids positive “life lessons” that many would never receive.  With a huge bag of chess sets in tow Yvonne & I set off to find out more…

We met Sandra in the Talladega National Forest near the Alabama-Georgia border.  Over the next couple of days she introduced us to many of her newly adopted kids ranging in age from 5 years all the way up to teenagers.  Many of you know the record-setting tornadoes that pillaged this region only last week, but horseback riding had everyone’s attention.  Fallen trees became an obstacle for us as we navigated through the winding and hilly trails.  Mealtimes around the campfire allowed for storytelling and what else…chess!

We met Greg who was one of the older and wiser young men.  He told us about his grandmother.  It turns out that Greg’s grandmother was on top of the chess world and was a ranking worldchess competitor!  It was no surprise to see Greg give Yvonne and me tough games.

Learn more about this wonderful program by contacting Rachel’s Wish Foundation headquartered in Tallapoosa, GA, or by contacting the  Tanner Behavior Health Equine Therapeutic Program at (770)-832-8247.  Sandra Floyd may be reached directly by phone at the Possum Snout Arena at (770) 574-8104.

The kids let us know they had never played chess along side an early firelight on a Spring afternoon. What a tranquil place…

 

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Easter Twist

Where do I start?  Yvonne’s parents were in a car accident on their way to West Georgia which is about a 45 minute accident-free drive. Thankfully we were sitting down to Easter lunch only two hours later – all passengers accounted for along with a car load of delicious food.  Everyone meets at Yvonne’s grandparent’s house for most holidays. Arriving late is one of the family traditions began by none other than Yvonne’s family. Yvonne and I have taken the #1 spot on the “will arrive late” list, so we normally arrive late in the 3rd quarter.

I’ll manage to weave a chess story in here.  The excitement is just beginning…

I’m new around here – to the area and to the family. I think I’m doing OK. My new aunt does not think of me as a “nephew in-law”, nor does an estranged brother I’ve been lucky to see a couple of times. I told him last week he did a fantastic job power washing his grandparents deck. I thought it had been rebuilt from scratch.

I’m doing great as a matter of fact! Yvonne and I opened our swimming pool on Saturday to kick off the season. I’m turning 40 next month, so we invited everyone we saw on Easter – which was “everyone” to stop by. I didn’t mention the lack of patio furniture, but news travels fast 😉

My new aunt invited Yvonne and me to go camping this weekend with a large group of teenagers. I haven’t done this since I was one myself. These kids are supposed to fend for themselves. They’re not allowed to ask us for any camping supplies over the weekend. We’ll also be riding horses in the Talladega National Forest. I never really learned to ride horses well and have always been a little scared of horses from a young age. My first experience was at age 7 in the mountains at Circle K Ranch outside Durango, Colorado. I did go back the following year – for the trout fishing and tug-of-war on the river that ran through our campground.

Safe & sound at our grandparent’s house in West Georgia.

Back to Easter weekend.  We eventually made our way to my wife’s parents house to enjoy the rest of time we had.  Her family lives near us throughout Atlanta and beyond. Traditions have been set down especially around the holidays.  Traditions include a “friendly” game of family poker around a large table.  If you consider a single lottery ticket I bought for my sister in 1992 when the lottery came to Texas, I could say that I’ve been lucky with games of chance – which chess is not.

Chess for the first time has given me the confidence to participate in the family fun.  Aside from a “meeting of the minds” about everyday life, the game has also offered me one-on-one interaction with my father in-law – not an easy task with so much going on.

I wish I could say I let him triumph during our game.  Anyone who knows me knows better…

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National Chess Meetup Day

Warren and I are always looking for local chess events that we can attend.  To our surprise there really aren’t too many!  There was a group that met at Barnes & Noble in Roswell.  That group stopped a year ago.  We noticed chess.com has partnered with meetup.com to create a national chess meetup day.  We are excited to find an event located in our area!

Starbucks is only 10 minutes from our house.  The sun was shining early, so we had all the makings for a good morning!  It was a little cool.  We shivered through it and enjoyed a few hours of playing chess.  At one point we had as many as five games being played at once!  I had the pleasure of playing Henry, Dave, and Krish and losing to each of them.  I did have one victorious rematch.  I noticed that everyone was sure to acknowledge they were beginners before starting a game.  You could slowly start to see who has been playing chess for years!  Chess tournaments can be extremely competitive.  This relaxed atmosphere of casual chess games was a lot more enjoyable for me.

I personally enjoyed meeting local chess enthusiasts and would love to keep this group going.  Does anyone have ideas of locations in the Kennesaw/Marietta area that might allow 10 – 20 players to play chess comfortably for a few hours?  It sounds like we missed a few people unable to make it in the morning.  Maybe we can meet one Saturday morning each month and one weekday evening a month to accommodate all schedules.  Warren and I created a Chess Made Fun Facebook page.  We will post chess events in our area.  Be sure to click on the link and “Like” our page.  We will send you invitations to all events so you do not miss out on an opportunity to get your brain workout!

Astrophysicist planning his next move!
For those of you who don’t remember that cool April morning at Starbucks in 2011, take a close look at the pictures.

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Riding the Wave

Birds-view21-300x199Does chess have a stadium scoreboard?  Who’s leading?  Who’s catching up?  Yvonne let us know last week about her first experience participating in an actual chess tournament.  This got me thinking about her opponents who stood with her toe to toe.  Shoe sizes will grow of course and egos will shrink as young players gain experience.

Technology has a bigger and bigger role in tournament play with the advent of computerized chess boards.  Whether playing speed chess or positional chess, these computers track each players move in real-time.  I’ve connected with folks on Twitter who are pushing for more meaningful technology in schools.  This raises another thought – can opponents “breathe the same air” during a tournament as a computer decides who walks away champion?  I’ll do some research.

In the meantime here’s what I’m talking about.  Have you seen those chess magicians who play 20 games at once?  Why not in a tournament setting?  While tracking moves the computer knows the best move to make.  The computer also knows the worst move to make – somewhere in the middle is the player’s next move.  The player whose total score is highest wins!  Better make a lot of good moves…

Keep the competitive spirit alive!

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A Mixed Bag

My wife’s a chess coach.  I told her the other day that I have some free time to help her out.  We ended up in a huge game of team chess at one of her schools.  This was my first interaction with more experienced kids in her after school programs.  This was also the first time I’ve played chess outside on a large patio chess board.  It was a lot of fun.

One of the coolest things about the experience was that the squares on the board were not notated.  Every time the black team or white tea

m had to make a move they had to call each move out in correct notation.  The time it took for twenty excited kids to shout  “King captures E4” actually had a calming effect on them.  This process made the game one of great precision and quality because it gave them time to think about their next move.

Communication skills developed from playing team chess outdoors are unmatched. The solace of a video game said one of our kids is a great escape however as the pressure builds.  Even with wonderful weather it’s great to rotate the kids indoors when the game “gets interesting” to keep the competitive spirit intact.  Team leaders always make themselves known.  It’s good to assign someone else to call the next move.  This has been my experience so far.

I’ve helped Yvonne on Friday afternoons with some of the younger kids in her developmental classes.  I have a little more experience than Yvonne playing kids in tournaments though.  This doesn’t mean I’ve had better results beating them.  She played in her first tournament last Friday.  I told her I would support her from the sidelines this time.  A pitcher of margaritas before a tournament is not the kind of fun I need.  It’s not what this blog is about.

Back to the other kids at school.  School is out for two weeks.  I wrote down all twenty-eight moves have been played so far.  We’ll finish the game on a demonstration board when the kids return from their break.  We can figure out what the losing team can do to have the advantage in the next outdoor game.

I’ll also follow-up with the results here in my next blog entry.

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Chillin… on a Saturday afternoon! Warren and Yvonne in Marietta, GA grabbin’ some grub!