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 Thief, by parishioner Stephanie Landsem. I was ecstatic to be with these women, sharing in our love for reading. After we finished discussing Landsem’s book, a few of us wanted to choose another book, but didn’t know which to choose. A few days later, I came across the Well-Read Mom website and I knew exactly what book we would read…Whatever the Well-Read Mom women were reading next! I sent out an email to everyone and without even realizing it, I became the leader.
Holly Peterson: I have many friends, around my age, who didn’t know one another, but all shared in the same love of reading… When Well-Read Mom founder Marcie Stokman told me about the books she was proposing for that year I was excited to start a group of my own. I read a lot for my work at school and the university, but rarely got to read for “fun”. I reached out to these five friends, who didn’t know one another, and proposed the book club idea. They all risked a yes to give this thing a shot, and for each yes I am so grateful.
BN: Has leading and being part of a WRM group been life-giving for you?
MV: The biggest surprise starting this Well-Read Mom group is the way it has helped my prayer life. I thought that the more time I put into reading and coordinating WRM meetings, the less time there would be for prayer. No, apparently. The few pages of reading I do in the morning deepens my reflections for the rest of the day. Thinking about the virtues (or lack thereof) of Elizabeth Bennet while washing dishes suddenly turns into prayerful reflection on my own vanity and need for humility. God is using this rich literature to enhance my inner spiritual landscape, which is bearing fruit in my marriage and helping me to be a more loving woman. I am so grateful for that.
When I ask myself if leading the group has been specifically life-giving, I have a more difficult time answering that question. To be honest, WRM gives enough resources/support that I don’t consider leading the group to be that different from simply participating in the group. The only difference with leading a group is that it forces me to stay committed. For example, even after an exhausting day I can’t be persuaded to skip the meeting because the other ladies are counting on me to bring the recordings and prompt them with discussion questions. In that way, being the leader of the group has been incredibly life-giving because it has forced me to stay committed to the pursuit of reading beautiful literature and exploring it further with my beautiful friends!
KF: It has absolutely been life-giving. As a mother of five, I have the responsibility of forming my children’s minds and hearts. I want my kids to love reading, yet they had never seen me curled up on the couch with a good book. I found that I rarely took the time to read, after all, reading wasn’t on my lengthy to-do list. I’m delighted to say that is no longer the case.
One day, my freshman daughter, Rachel, came home from school and told me she was required to read The Odyssey. I was so proud because I had spent the month of January reading it. I was able to relate and discuss the book with her. I know for a fact that without the accountability of the book club, I would never have thought to read some of the more difficult books myself, let alone finish them!
While traveling in February, I saw a woman reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and discovered she too was in Well-Read Mom. I immediately connected with her on a whole different level and began a wonderful conversation. Even though I had never seen her before, I felt she was a lifelong friend. What a beautiful experience to be a pat of a book club, which connects women around the world, by raising the literary bar for us.
HP: What has been life-giving is to watch the friendships grow. In the past two years I can say that we have all become fast friends, as have the husbands of those who are married in the group. We have been supportive of one another through cancer, children getting married, spouses changing jobs and helping each other with children going through high school or college drama. The husbands appeared to be a little jealous of this friendship, so last year we began occasional outings with them included. Outside of our Well-Read Mom meetings we get together for plays and for dinners. We girls see one another in smaller groups for coffee or lunch, and we all went on a day-long hike to Lake Tahoe together. Our next getaway will be a weekend retreat in the mountains. We have become great friends through this experience.
Part 2 of “Three Perspective on Well-Read Mom” will appear on Thursday, August 10th. Check back to read more reflections on the difficulties and joys of leading a Well-Read Mom group!