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

One does not simply walk into a book club… A note from the Iowa City Well-Read Mom group

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The ‘Year of the Friend’ book list concluded with J R R Tolkien’s  The Fellowship of the Ring, a wonderful example of friendship.  Kim Nuxoll from Iowa City, IA and her Well-Read Mom group made the most of it with their special Lord of the Rings family get-together. We’re grateful to Kim for sharing her reflections on this great event!   When it was announced that Well-Read Mom would be reading The Fellowship of the Ring as our ultimate book for the Year of the Friend, I found that my husband and boys (age 8-13) were more enthused than I was.  A shout rang out, “Mom, is finally going to read Tolkien!” During the first month, as I reluctantly trudged into Middle Earth, there was often a set of eyes glancing over my shoulder and an attempt to act casual as they asked, “What part are you at?”  Even though my husband was reading it out loud, for the third time, to my three boys I found myself retreating to my room to try to tackle the text on my own.  Finally, I gave in. I contacted the others in my group to see if I was the only one experiencing this level of enthusiasm at … Read More

Is Reading Selfish?

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Rachel Digman As an avid reader since childhood, I was the type who was never without a book and felt a little bit lost whenever I finished a great book. Even after having kids and encountering sleep deprivation, busier schedules, and more people demanding things from me, reading was one habit in my life that was unalterable, until this spring. When our family said yes to a new job for my husband in a town four hours away, putting our house on the market and looking for a new home ate up most of my spare moments. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t reading regularly. There was so much to do that I felt as if stealing moments away just to read a book was not helping my family in any way. In this new set of circumstances, I wondered whether my reading habit was a bit selfish. Particularly now that I have children who watch my every move and ask everything of me, this hobby of mine has become more and more costly. Just today as I settled down to power through Frankenstein, encouraging my 5-year-old to find something quiet to do while I read, … Read More

Three Perspectives on Well-Read Mom – Part 2

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

Earlier this week we began an interview with three Well-Read Mom group leaders. Here is the continuation of the discussion on the joys and difficulties of leading a WRM group. Beth Nelson: What have some of the struggles been in leading a WRM group? Megan Vera: Before our gatherings, I sometimes get a little nervous. I know that these ladies who attend are busy, tired mother, and I know that the time spent at our gatherings (8:00pm – 9:30pm) is a precious time slot that could be used as quality time with their husbands or catching up after a hectic day. I sometimes worry that I won’t be able to facilitate the discussions well and that some of the ladies will wonder if it was worth their evening. However, once we begin, the discussion takes off, and my “discussion-leading” skills become entirely unnecessary and irrelevant. I love how, after a few minutes, I’m able to slip into the background of the conversation and simply reflect on the perspectives of the other women. Kristee Flynn: The only thing that comes to mind is the sadness I have felt when a member decides to quit. I can’t help but think of all … Read More

Three Perspective on Well-Read Mom – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

This article was originally published in the ‘Year of the Spouse’ Journal. Well-Read Mom team member Beth Nelson asked three WRM group leaders, from three different states, to reflect on their experience in WRM over the years. Megan Vera writes from South Bend, IN, Kristee Flynn leads a group in Stillwater, MN, and Holly Peterson joins us from Sacramento, CA. Beth Nelson: How did you decide to lead a WRM group? Megan Vera: I first heard about Well-Read Mom from a friend. She brought up the idea to start up a group because she knows I love to organize events. I jumped at the opportunity. I had just finished my graduate studies and was longing for a way t o continue delving into rich, beautiful, and intellectually-stimulating literature. I didn’t have the courage to put together a group on my own, but with Well-Read Mom providing the structure and community support, I was given the courage to start one up. Kristee Flynn: I had recently moved to Stillwater, MN and joined St. Michaels’ Church and was eager to get to know my new community. Through a group of women from St. Michael’s, I discovered that they were reading a book called, The … Read More

Where Are We Going So Fast?

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

Welcome to the Well-Read Mom Blog! We are very excited to bring you a new way to connect with Well-Read Mom, and we hope you will find this a place of help and encouragement in your daily living.  To kick off our new Blog, we’ll share a word from Well-Read Mom founder, Marcie Stokman. This letter comes from our ‘Year of the Pilgrim’ Reading Companion. If you are interested in more great information and reflections, become a Well-Read Mom member and receive your own Reading Companion! “You go too fast.” Pete cautioned me, “Slow down coming into the driveway.” “Hurry up kids,” I’d order when we’d stop at a gas station. “You have five minutes to be back in this van. Go fast!” Once, with six kids in tow, I pulled into Dave’s Pit Stop. As the kids tumbled out, so did a bottle, a few books, and more miscellaneous clutter. “We’re going to make this fast!” As the baby wailed in the car seat, I filled the tank, conscious of the scene we were making. In record time, we were buzzing down Highway 210. Frantically, a man passed us on the road indicating that something was wrong. I pulled … Read More