Beauty and Truth in Sorrow – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The following selection of poetry was written by Well-Read Mom member Josephine Corr-Elsenpeter, from her larger collection of poems entitled “Beauty and Truth in Sorrow”. They are posted now in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day, on October 15th. A second selection will be posted next week. The Cup The precious gift you sent to me Was wrapped in swaddled pink   Her lips were sealed in quiet adieu The cup of sin she would not drink   Her eyes were shut in peaceful sleep Carnal desires were not bequeathed   Her heart laid still within her chest Warm from the womb that paired as her tomb   This wholesome cup of suffering from which I was chosen to drink   Was the ultimate paradox of life and death For which I was forced to think   This was sin at its worst For the devil a succulent taste of Hell   And salvation at its finest For Jesus wanted to pass but did drink His cup well   Burden Avoiding the unavoidable Discussion of death Of the long-awaited daughter The day is coming The day will pass Few will be wiser Fewer still know what to say … Read More

Questions to the Mothers of Saints

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. Here at the Well-Read Mom blog, we want to take the month of October to honor and acknowledge all mothers and families that have mourned the loss of a child with beautiful posts written by our members. This week we have a reflection, “Questions to the Mother’s of Saints” by Margaret Pauwels, found originally in the ‘Year of the Mother’ Journal. When are you having children? How many children do you have? Aren’t you about ready for another one? Are you having any more? Are you done? Why do you want more? Are you trying for a girl this time? Why do you need another one? Why can’t you be happy with the children you have? Don’t you think you are a little too old to keep trying? Do you think maybe the miscarriages are God’s way of telling you have enough? Don’t you know everything happens for a reason? Why would the next time be any different? Why don’t you just adopt? Why do you need more children why you already have three? Why would this pregnancy be different?Why would you expect to carry to term? Did you try reading … Read More

Tobit’s Dog – A Book Review

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

 Have you ever reached the end of a book to find yourself feeling a little sad that it was finished; as if you were saying goodbye to good friends? That is how I felt as I closed Tobit’s Dog, by Michael Nicholas Richard. Tobit’s Dog is a novel based on the beautiful Old Testament book of Tobit. I had never read Tobit in its entirety, and decided to do so before reading the novel. As I moved on to Tobit’s Dog, I quickly discovered how creatively and thoughtfully the author brought the Biblical book into the Twentieth Century. The story is about the Messager family (a black family living in North Carolina during the Great Depression) and their many trials, sufferings, and joys. I immediately connected with Tobit Messager, his wife Anna, his son Tobias and of course his faithful companion Okra. Tobit was a hard working man of faith. He was respected by those who knew him well; however being a black, Catholic man in the south didn’t make life easy for him. After losing a good job Tobit made his living by finding things at the dump to fix up and sell. Anna cleaned houses to help. Hardships continued to find … Read More

How Reading Frankenstein Changed the Way I Work and Study

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Margaret Stokman When I glanced at my literature syllabus and saw the title Frankenstein, I thought “Oh, cool, the horror story.” When I started reading the novel, however, two things surprised me: First of all, the name Frankenstein doesn’t refer to the monster; Victor Frankenstein is the scientist who created the monster. Second, the horror of the novel for me didn’t have to do at all with the monster, but with Victor Frankenstein’s loss of freedom – this is the unexpected horror that I encountered within the story. Although the title that is most common to us is Frankenstein, the book is also called, The Modern Prometheus. Prometheus is a character from Greek mythology who steals fire from the gods and ends up chained to a rock and tortured for the rest of his life. Shelley claimed that the book was a “warning about the effects of letting oneself be controlled by ambition and losing control over its own possibilities.” Therefore, what is fire for Prometheus is finding the spark of life for Frankenstein. The novel is fascinating and fun to read, but I wondered what this science fiction story could have to do with my life as a high-schooler, studying and … Read More

How to Read a Book – Part 2

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove Visit Part 1 to learn about the first two types of reading. Mortimer Adler provides almost 150 pages of suggestions for analytical reading in How to Read a Book. We’re going to focus on the one I find the most useful for analytically reading novels, marking up a book: Whenever possible, buy your own copy of a book you intend to read analytically. You can always make use of book sales or used copies online. If you can’t buy the book, find a notebook or pad of paper where you can make observations and ask questions about what you read. As you read, underline or box any passages you find especially compelling. Pause and ask yourself why. Record your thoughts in the margins. If you have questions while you’re reading—and you almost certainly will—write them down in the margins. Why did the character act in a certain way? Why did the author decide to have a particular thing happen to a character? Recall what the blurbs had to say about why this book is worth reading. Make note of any observations you have about the meaning of the book in the margins or the end papers. If … Read More

How to Read a Book – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove There is a tenth-century Anglo-Saxon riddle about a moth that ate words. Like a thief, he stole a man’s words and swallowed them. He wasn’t any wiser because of what he had taken. The answer to the riddle is pretty obvious. A moth that ate words is a bookworm. But that riddle also has something to teach all of us about the way we read. No one wants to be a mindless insect. There is no sense in merely “consuming” the words on the page. We have to read intelligently, really engaging with a book’s content and ideas. Medieval monks were even encouraged to ruminate when they read—digesting the material over and over again like a cow chewing its cud. That’s all well and good. But intelligent reading can be a tall order. For many of us, it’s hard enough to sit down and read a book, let alone ruminate on one. We might be discouraged by how difficult it is just to understand one of the great books. We might be startled by how easily distracted we are. Or we might have bad memories of an English teacher that tried to get us to see things … Read More

Reading Giants in the Earth in Laura Ingalls Wilder Country: Some Parallels and Personal Reflections

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Ana Braga-Henebry This piece was originally published in the ‘Year of the Worker’ Newsletter. One of the most delightful things about reading is that no matter how many different genres we may read, we never know what awaits us when we open a new book. This past winter we read Giants in the Earth for Well-Read Mom. The book tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant family that settle in the Northern Plains. Before we moved to the university town where we now live, we owned acreage about an hour away, somewhere in the southeast direction. The 1880’s farmhouse sat on the prettiest 18 acres this side of the Minnesota border with a creek running through it and a robust, imposing shelterbelt. The property was so old that it predated even the county country roads, forcing a rare curve on the road. During the eight years I lived there, for the first time a resident of a country property, and astounded by the brutality of the winter each year, I wondered how the first settlers ever made it. How did they get there? Why did they come? And most intriguing: What on earth made them stay after surviving their first … Read More

A Greater Awareness

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman “Do you ever miss your prayer when you’re traveling or have company? Does it ever feel like you just don’t have enough time in the day to pray?” I posed these questions to the priest sitting next to me at a luncheon a few months ago. He seemed perplexed by my question, so I stumbled to clarify. “I’m sure it’s rare but don’t you ever – every now and then – miss saying your prayers?” After an awkward pause he slowly responded, “For me it’s just the opposite. I miss other things but I don’t miss prayer.” I was surprised. His faithfulness to prayer seemed to spring from a deep well of self-knowledge and an acute awareness of his dependence on God. Through this brief exchange, I understood something new that might help us in our effort to read more and read well. When it comes to forming the habit of reading great and worthy books, many women lament, “I just don’t have time to read!” But is lack of time really the problem? Perhaps, if we delve deeper, we will discover that the problem is neither a lack of time nor a lack of willpower, but … Read More

This Ordinary Life

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Beth Hautala I sat in the quiet early morning darkness with my infant daughter. It was the third time I’d been up with her since I’d fallen into bed the night before, and I was tired. Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ve actually slept in the last nine years – not since my son, the oldest of four, was born. But my baby’s long eyelashes against her firm little cheek made me catch my breath. As they always do. And it was at that very moment a robin chose to burst into song outside the nursery window. It was early spring, and he was its harbinger. He sang for the sun alone. He sang because he was created to do so. Without applause. And I marveled at his courage. It takes courage to do the ordinary. This has been a slowly-dawning realization for me. Our culture praises the risk-takers. The adventurers. The ones who leave it all behind and risk life and limb for great causes and glorious endeavors. I praise them myself – I admire them. Sometimes I wish I could be them. But we are brave. It takes courage to rise in the wee hours of the … Read More

Embracing Silence

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The Well-Read Mom book for March 2015 was Robert Waldron’s The Hound of Heaven at My Heels: The Secret Diary of Francis Thompson. At the Third Annual Conference for Women which took place in January at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, we shared a portion of Teresa Vargo’s recorded talk on Francis Thompson’s great poem, The Hound of Heaven. Beth Nelson had the chance to sit down with Teresa and ask her some questions. In this article we bring you some highlights from that interview. Beth Nelson: Teresa, in your talk you spoke about a journey you have been on. Could you explain it to us briefly? Teresa Vargo: On November 21, 2014, I’ll be in training at a Monastery of cloistered Dominican nuns. Their whole life is one of contemplation, but also of prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of all souls. It’s scary, but also really exciting. BN: You have given talks at two Well-Read Mom conferences. Does Well-Read Mom have something to do with this journey you are making?  TV: Definitely! Several of the readings from Well-Read Mom over the past two to three years have paralleled my own spiritual life. The first year I was asked to … Read More