Reading Aloud to Grandma: A Story

My book addiction started as a hobby — not something that was a large part of my life, but a thing that I enjoyed doing when nothing else was going on. It strengthened the older I got, and by the time I was about eight or nine years old, I was hooked. My sisters and I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house in those days, since my parents worked nights, and I would bring over an entire stack for the evening, “just in case.” Even now, I always have a charged Kindle and a physical copy or two, “just in case.” And just in case of what, I couldn’t really tell you. A dull moment? My reading speed becomes phenomenal and I finish a whole book in a free fifteen-minute period and have nothing to do for the next five minutes? I really don’t know. All I know is that I never want to be without a book, so I bring extras, in case the book I bring doesn’t work or is whipped away by a hurricane or something. I know it sounds crazy, but hey, I’m a book addict: I’m kind of crazy when it comes to books.

I’m not sure what led up to the conversation about reading, but my grandma in some way mentioned something about me reading, so I asked her what books she liked to read. Partly, I was truly interested in what she might like. But mostly, I was looking for guidance. In those days, I exclusively read Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, and was perilously close to finishing the shiny, yellow and blue hard-backed series. I figured that my grandma had already read Nancy Drew, since she probably finished them at my age (as I imagined was the case for all the adults in my life). So, I threw the question out there, looking to see what might come next for me.

“Oh, honey, I don’t read. I can’t see the words very well,” my grandma replied.

My mouth dropped open at the same time my heart broke. She didn’t read. The words played over in my head like some sort of horror movie tagline. My grandma didn’t read. I was no longer concerned about a post-Nancy Drew world, because this, this was a true catastrophe. How did she get through the dull moments in life? What did she do with her time? How could she not read? To not fall in love with characters and become friends with them, to not solve daring mysteries, or go on adventures with them — how? I really didn’t understand that sort of life or that sort of world, and I felt overwhelmingly sad for my grandmother. How could she live such a deprived life? I had to fix it for her. This sort of thing could not stand — I would not let my own grandmother suffer, if I could help it. “Come here, Grandma,” I said, patting the spot next to me on the couch. “I’m going to read this book to you.”

It’s funny, being an adult and looking back at your thoughts as a child. I knew, I was absolutely certain, that not being able to read was a misery for grandma. She probably cried about it at least once a week, wishing her eyes were better so she could live a better life. It never once occurred to me that maybe reading wasn’t a priority for her, that she could have found a way to enjoy stories if she really wanted it. No, she was suffering from lack of books and never mentioned it, because she didn’t want to be a bother. But I was having none of that.

Luckily, my grandma was accommodating and aimed to please her granddaughters, because she got right up from her super comfortable recliner to sit next to me on a semi-comfortable couch and listen to me read. I’m not sure exactly what our first book out of the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series was, but that’s what started a years-long tradition of us going over to grandma’s house and reading to her. Usually it was me who did the reading, but my two sisters also joined and took turns. Sometimes, it would be all four of us, sitting on the couch or outside, listening to the adventures of Nancy Drew, sometimes just three while a sister played the PlayStation, and sometimes, it was just me and grandma. We went through almost the entire series of Nancy Drew, a good portion of Hardy Boys, the first 4 books of Anne of Green Gables, and the first 3 books of Harry Potter (my sisters eagerly joined in for those ones). And my grandma once again experienced the joy of stories. (As a kid, I truly believed in this sentiment, though I will say that she genuinely loved Anne of Green Gables.) I’m not sure how much of it was her indulging me, how much was her just wanting to spend time together, or how much she really even enjoyed the stories, but until she moved away to Oregon when I was fourteen, there was always some reading time built into our visits together.

Now, there are babies in the family that I can read to. They’ve quickly figured out that storytime is a guaranteed from me — I will never say no to a child who asks me to read a story to them. And at family gatherings, I’ll be curled up in the corner with a couple of the kids, a nephew, niece, or cousin, reading them whatever book they thrust into my hand. We’re often caught by one of my sisters or my parents, who rolls their eyes and smiles when they see what we’re up to. “Of course,” they mutter.

But I can’t help but notice that even though they were most likely sent to fetch us, they sit down right next to us and take the next reading shift, unable to drag themselves away from sharing a story with the family.

Teaching & Nursing: My Frustrations

My mom is a pediatric hospital registered nurse and has been for just about 28 years or so now. Just last week, her nurse’s union went on strike because the hospital board for the hospital she’s worked at for her entire career has decided that they’re in the money game rather than the healthcare game.

The hospital took out full-page ads in newspapers to tell the public how greedy nurses are for wanting more money (they weren’t striking for more money), and then they locked out their own nurses for 4 days after the 1-day strike. This was partly was a punishment measure, partly that they people they contracted with to provide backup medical staff required 5 days’ staffing and the hospital didn’t want to pay their own staff for working as well. And when they finally opened the doors to the nurses, they thanked them for finally coming back to work. (?!)

The sad thing is that some of the public started agreeing with the hospital on social media. Yes, those nurses are so greedy and need to suck it up. Those nurses need to think about what’s best for the patients and go to work, regardless of work conditions, pay cuts, cuts in benefit, and retirement. Who cares about those nurses’ families and futures — they’re nurses. They need to work. So many people have it harder.

Nurses are not greedy. They work 12-hour shifts and sometimes don’t even take meal breaks during those time in order to make sure your family members are taken care of during their time of illness. They work weekends and holidays, they work through the night. They study and go to school throughout their entire careers so that people have the best care possible. On their days off, they teach CPR and first aid classes, renew certifications, go to professional developments. And yes, they have families who rely on them for support. My mom worked the evening shift full-time, would get off work at 7 AM after starting at 7 PM, pick me and my sisters up to drop us off at school, go shopping and do errands, maybe finally get some sleep starting around 9 AM, and then pick us up at 3 PM, drive us to our various after-school activities, and start it all over again. This is the situation of many nurses. And it breaks my heart for anyone to dare call people like her and her friends “greedy.” You have no idea.

My husband is a teacher, and people are complaining about how much he’s paid, because as we all know, teachers are lazy and make so much money for the job that they do. I’m sorry — but when did we start attacking NURSES and TEACHERS. What is wrong with people? They are literally saving lives and building futures — what wouldn’t you pay to have a highly trained professional in charge of YOUR LIFE when you’re in the hospital? What wouldn’t you pay to have a highly trained professional in charge of your CHILD’S FUTURE at school? When did people in society decide to think that nursing and teaching aren’t two of the most difficult jobs anyone could ever do?

Teachers are not lazy and aren’t just babysitters — most of them have spent over five years in school, whole YEARS dedicated to specifically learning teaching techniques. Yes, they get vacation time, but that’s because they’re working from 7 AM (6 AM in some cases) until easily 5:30 PM. That’s not even counting the weekends they spend supporting their students in various extracurricular activities. Then, when they get home at 6 PM, they lesson plan and read up on different teaching strategies for another hour or two. Trust me, these people are some of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. If they wanted to get rich working 50-60 hours a week, they would have gone into something that actually pays over $100k. My husband makes just under $50k a year working these hours. Don’t tell me he and his co-workers are greedy. They accept all of this, because they love their jobs and they love helping their students. People who go into service jobs like nursing and teaching aren’t in it for the money.

I cannot describe how angry I get when I hear someone say that maybe they’ll just go into teaching when they get bored of their current job. Excuse me? You’re using teaching as a chill backup for when you burn out? I have seen grown adults sob for hours because of the stress of trying to teach 150 teenagers to be decent human beings while also teaching content like grammar, basic writing skills, or math, or biology.

We need to re-think our values and re-think the way we accept the media spin on certain things. Why are you trusting what the person who makes over $400k a year says about how “lazy” nurses or teachers are when they’re asking for a living wage and decent retirement? Think about your own boss or CEO, think about your own situation, and imagine that your salary was under attack because your company has decided to use the money to build a new recreation center instead of giving it to the workers. So they’re asking you to work for 5% less, doing more work because of staff layoffs and cuts, and worse benefits because insurance is expensive. Nothing will change for your boss, though. They’ll still be making their $300k a year. Sound fair? That’s what these people are fighting against, and the higher-ups attacking them are somehow able to turn the public against them. Let’s be better about thinking through things before we accept the fact that workers who serve the public are greedy. Maybe the people trying to make a profit off public service are the ones we need to be looking at.

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo!

So, last year, Andrew and I attempted to do the NaNoWriMo thing, but we lost interest because the novel we were writing was so unfocused and ended up being not very interesting to either of us. This time, though, I remembered in time that it’s coming up and we’ve decided to try it out again.

The next month will be spent doing lots of planning, brainstorming, and free-writing to see what we can come up with and hopefully have a more successful writing experience this November. We’re not expecting to write a full novel, or even to write something that’s amazing, but we’re looking forward to setting aside some time to work on creative projects and be more active about writing.

It was actually really nice last night when we had an almost hour-long conversation about what makes us want to write, what sort of stories we love, and what sort of thing we hope we can write in the future. Creative Writing was my major in college, so of course, it’s one of my favorite things to talk about — I really appreciate that I can talk about it with my husband and he gets just as excited about reading, storytelling, and the creative process. I can’t wait to see what the next couple of months will bring.

Places We Like: The Coffee and Tea Exchange

The Coffee and Tea Exchange
3311 N Broadway St
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 528-2241

 

We love this place. It’s become Andrew and my go-to for good coffee, and every time we go we find something new to love. The staff is always friendly and helpful whenever we go and they have great suggestions when we ask them advice on what roast to get. Also, if you need a coffee fix right away, they offered brewed coffee right in the shop.

The best part is that even though it’s a small, local place, the prices are incredibly reasonable and they have a huge selection. We’re currently working our way through the various flavored coffee they offer, but so far we’ve really enjoyed the Tiramisu, with the Swiss Chocolate and Almond coming in a close second. Our favorite used to be the French Mocha, but there was a sale on the Northwest roast, so we tried it and found it that we actually liked it better. For a dark roast like the French Mocha or Northwest, it’s 11.95/lb, which is cheaper and tastes better than most chain coffees. Better yet, they have weekly sales, so if you want to try something new at a lower cost (like we did!), that’s definitely an option.

We go here about 2-3 times a month, and it is always worth it. Definitely something to check out if you’re a coffee and tea lover and in the Chicago area.

Happy Birthday to Me!

It’s really hard to keep up with everything going on in life, especially since I now have an actual life. I used to think that college and school were hard, but they didn’t really take up as much time as I thought they did. Now that I’m living with my fiancé, working a real-life full-time job that has responsibilities and occasional overtime, I realize how cushy school was. I don’t miss it by any means. I’m not that crazy (yet). Grad school cured me of missing school for a long while, I think. But it’s amazing to me how much I was able to be involved with while in school, whereas now, I’m lucky if I manage to make dinner and get all my chores done on a weekly basis.

With that said, I’ve been missing being involved with something that’s just for me. I always have reading, but I miss my book blogging days, where I was able to have actual conversations with people online about things I was interested about. It was fun. And while I don’t have as much time as I did back then, I’m going to start making time for it. It is, however, going to be a bit different.

I now have someone I can share pretty much anything and everything with, so while I did often have other people make posts on my blog, Andrew is very much going to be a part of this blogging activity, even if most of it is behind-the-scenes giving me advice about whether or not he likes my new background color or if that title makes sense. He’ll probably write a post or two. He also likes being involved in online communities.

This is very much a for-me activity. Last time, I was so worried about making my blog relevant and helping out publishers and authors getting the word out there. If I like whatever they’re trying to get press done about, I’ll happily do that, but I’m less concerned about doing that now. I just want to share my opinions. Which also means that this isn’t just going to be books, but everything else I love, like my cooking adventures with Andrew and my thoughts on the TV shows we watch, and stories from our travels and average life occurrences.

So, Happy Birthday to me! A new blog, and a new activity to squish into my already full schedule. It should be a lot of fun, though, and I’m excited.