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Pep things up by trying something new in your routine

Georgina gets up at 7 a.m. Monday through Friday, fixes breakfast, goes for a walk on the beach and then, religiously at 9 a.m., sits at her desk at home to work on her travel writing. It’s a routine she adores but one she loves to shake up now and then.

Take Monday, Aug. 1. Instead of getting up at 7 a.m., she got up at 5:30. Instead of being at her desk at 9, she was at the Gardens Mall of the Palm Beaches, close to a two-hour drive from our Vero Beach, Fla., home, doing something she’d never done: joining Humberto to sign up to play in a simultaneous exhibition by chess grandmaster Susan Polgar.

Polgar, a Hungarian-born four-time women’s world champion who now lives in New York, played against 326 opponents at once, winning 309 games, drawing 14 and losing just three to set a Guinness World Record. She beat us both, naturally. Including other games, Polgar played 1,131 consecutive games in 16 and-a-half hours, winning 1,112, drawing 16 and losing three, also a record.

Georgina, who is only an occasional social player and has never participated in tournaments or joined a chess club, was amazed at the champion’s skill.

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Polgar would glance at each chess board for just a few seconds and make a move, then go on to the next board and the next - followed by television cameramen, reporters and fans - leaving her opponents to ponder their responses before she arrived at their board again.

It was like being invited to Picasso’s studio to watch him work on many canvasses, Georgina thought, so exciting she never even cracked open a Harry Potter book she’d brought along just in case she got bored with all the chess.

Georgina lasted only 15 moves against Polgar, longer than many

others did. But she felt like a winner, too. She’d been privileged to meet and play against one of the top minds and most gracious personalities in chess, and even better, she had tried something new.

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Trying new things is something we both like doing from time to time, particularly Georgina, who’s been expanding her range of interests.

Seldom are they as spectacular as a world-record performance but they’re all meaningful.

In May, for example, Georgina went on a semi-thrill ride, Soarin’ (it felt like hang-gliding over California) at Disney World.

Although she’s not a fan of thrill rides and had not been on one since she was a teen-ager in her native Cuba, she loved the experience.

In June, she experimented with pastels, instead of her usual watercolors. In July, she witnessed the launch of the space shuttle Discovery with hundreds of others on our beach. She read a non-fiction book, “A Royal Duty,” by Paul Burrell, butler and friend to Princess Diana, instead of her usual steady stream of fiction, and she enjoyed the change.

“It’s a very good idea to try new things,” said Bill Allen, general

manager of Merrill Gardens at Vero Beach, a retirement community. “It contributes to alertness and general well-being.”

In trying new experiences, Allen recommends we strive for a balance in our spiritual, physical and emotional development.

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Sometimes, after trying something new, Georgina continues it as a hobby or occasional pursuit, like the pastels, for instance. Other times, she decides never to repeat it, like her parasailing at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas during a cruise on Holland America’s Zaandam three years ago, and a hot-air balloon ride in 2000 over a gator-filled swamp in Kissimmee, Fla. She was glad she had tried both exhilarating experiences, but having done so once, she was satisfied.

And Georgina will continue doing novel things; she plans to try tai chi this fall. Sources of information about classes and other events that she has found useful through the years include local newspapers’ event calendars, and bulletin boards and newsletters from community centers, museums, parks, public libraries and bookstores.