When my sister Suzy and I were in college—she was one year ahead of me—one weekend we were together and lamenting the fact that we weren’t very informed about current events, that we weren’t very “smart.” Testing in junior high had shown us to have the exact same I.Q. She’d been the valedictorian of her high school class and she was on an honor scholarship to Denver University with excellent grades. I, on the other hand, was missing my final in chemistry because I didn’t know how to read the schedule. So I.Q. wasn’t so much a reflection of how we used our brains, but it was more of a measure of potential. She was using her potential a little bit better than I.
In second grade, I could feel my teacher’s impatience and disappointment in me as I tried to sound out “Run, Dick, Run” and “See Spot Run.” I slowed the reading circle down way too much. Growing up, when I looked at the newspaper, it was to read the comics on Sundays. And that was mostly to see the colorful pictures. I didn’t “get” the funnies. Eventually, in high school, I graduated to reading Dear Abby. But for the most part, I was basically illiterate. Sadly, I never really improved to a proficient level until the end of nursing school, and probably not really until even after that, when I met Jason and he inspired me to learn to read books (and to just plain read read). My senior year of college, I was incredibly motivated to learn Obstetrics, and so excelled more than I ever had in school. But still, I had to learn by sitting in lectures and hearing the information, and then attending clinicals where it was a “see one, do one” type of learning environment. Reading was excruciating and nearly useless. Page after page would go by, and I could barely tell what I’d just read. It wasn’t until our first year of marriage that I started to really read, where I sat with a dictionary next to my novel and looked up every word I didn’t know, and practiced, practiced, practiced. I started reading all the time, as I got better at it. I had a lot of time to make up for. A lot of catching up to do.
Currently, as I’m trying to finish up the third book of my trilogy, I’m feeling like I’ve lost ground. I’m on meds that confuse me and make it impossible sometimes to comprehend what I’m looking at. I stare at a sentence and try to see what I’ve just written. Editing is far more difficult than it has ever been. I can’t always figure out the noun and verb, let alone spot a wrongly used homonym or homophone, or a misplaced modifying phrase. It’s driving me crazy! (If anyone finds a mistake in one of my books, I hope you’ll send me a message about it.)
So that weekend back in college when Suzy and I decided we’d get smart, it was a Friday night. We went to a store and bought a Newsweek and a Time magazine, then hunkered down to read them, to find out how the world worked, to learn who was who and what they were doing. It might have lasted ten minutes tops. We looked up at each other, sighed deeply, then one of us suggested, “Want to go get ice cream?” The other said, “Yeah!” and we tossed the magazines in the backseat and never looked at them again. When it was a choice between ice cream and current events, ice cream would win every time with me!
Now that I think about it, while I’m in the midst of a cram editing session, I think this might just be an excellent time to toss the book in the backseat and for me to go have some ice cream. With plenty of chocolate sauce!
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