Meeting the Challenge: Sit Down & Read

assorted books on shelf
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From Mary:

A few weeks ago I accepted Kristen’s challenge to read this month. I confessed that it’s actually more difficult to find the time to read when the kids haven’t started school yet (and they still haven’t), and I mused that I would have to set an alarm and get up early to find quiet time to read.


Oh! Whew. Sometimes I slay myself. I love sleep. And while I did get up early some days, it was to get out and hike a bit while the world was quiet. It’s much more difficult to fall back asleep when I’m hiking than when I’m reading.

I did, however, carve out some time during the day—not every day, but most days. In many homes, mine included, there is no end to what could be done. There is always cleaning, organizing, meal prep—there is no point at which everything is finished and I look around bored, wondering what to do. (Perhaps this changes when all the kids are independent? I’ll let you know when I get there.) Thanks to Kristen, I forced myself to reevaluate what absolutely had to be done, and what could wait for 30 more minutes while I grabbed a book and took a break.

I’m so glad I did. I reconnected with some old friends, including tracking down a book that made its mark when I was young, but I had nothing more to go on than “I think it’s about the world ending or something…there’s a boy in it, unless it was maybe a girl…at one point he (or maybe she) sees a cow.” The internet really can be a useful tool.

I also made some new friends, including a lovely and horrifying little graphic novel that I thought would be for kids but definitely is not. I’m currently in the middle of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a book that’s been on my wish list for years and I’m finally making time to read. (Russell is the keynote speaker at the conference Kristen and I will be speaking at in November.) So far it is engrossing, and I find myself mulling over its mysteries at all times of the day—nothing makes my brain happier.

From Kristen: Yes! I love that feeling when a book really consumes me, even when I am not reading it.

As I was laying down this challenge, I knew I was doomed to fail. I returned to teaching in the first week of August, and I began two summer graduate courses. I did not have nearly as much free reading time as I had in July. That was partly why I wanted to take on this challenge.  I wanted to push myself to read. It was more of a struggle than I expected, though. Like Mary, I REALLY had to work at carving out any time for reading (that wasn’t for my coursework. I read hundreds of journal articles this past month!) Beyond that, though, I realize now that I also just frittered away good hours of reading time mindlessly scrolling through screens.

Still, I did have a summer romance with books. I made regular trips to my local library. It is such a beautiful space, staffed by delightful women–many of whom I know, because it is a small town–and it is a real treasure trove of resources. To preprare for this coming school year, I reread many of my favorite children’s books, and over all, they stand up to the test of time. I am especially smitten with Pippi Longstocking. I’ve been reading the book to my preschool class. Their obvious delight with the ridiculous adventures of the young Swedish orphan makes me love the book even more.

I had a quick little fling with an old flame, Stephen King. When my daughter was born, my long-time love affair with Stephen King soured. I simply didn’t get the same thrill from being scared anymore. Being a first-time parent was terrifying enough. About ten years ago, I started reading King’s writings about baseball, and on the craft of writing, and other non-scary subjects. Mary loves horror stories, and talking about that with her rekindled an old passion. Coincidentally, a friend gifted a group of us Library Book Sale copies of Richard Bachman’s (Stephen King) Thinner to read for our poorly organized (but the snacks cannot be beat!) “Book Club.” What a great romp that book was!

I have several other books started, but not yet finished. I have piles of books all over the house that I haven’t yet begun. The month is over, and I am disappointed in myself. I am disheartened by my time-and-brain-sucking screen habit. I want to do something about that.

On a bright note, though, I remembered how much I love talking about books with people. So, I want to keep reading, just so I can talk to Mary about what I’ve read.



Accepting the Challenge to Be Cool & Read

beach beach chair daylight footsteps
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Kristen dared us to find a cool spot and read this month. That’s a little like daring me to breathe or eat cookies, so I was excited. Success was in the bag.

She also issued an “extra credit” dare to re-read something we read when we were younger. This excited me even more–she probably doesn’t know it, but I was voted Most Likely to Do Extra Credit in high school. (Yes, really. I like to hope that I’ve mellowed a bit since then, but I’m going to do the extra credit even if I already have an A-plus and you can’t stop me.) As it happened, by August 1 I was on vacation with my family and had at least five books in my backpack, two of which I had requested from the library because I’d read them as a kid and wanted to reread them. I gleefully spent a few minutes each night revisiting a world that had enchanted me as a seventh grader.

But then we came home from vacation. We came back to reality, to piles and piles of laundry, to grocery schlepping and meal planning and back-to-school shopping. Suddenly it was hard to keep my eyes open for a few stolen minutes of reading each day, even in the middle of the afternoon. I’d get through a sentence just fine, the next would blur a bit as my head bobbed, and before I knew it I’d be mumbling “hunh” to a kid’s question, which they’d take as a “yes” and run off to do I’m-not-sure-what with what they presumed was my permission.

In other words, this dare is just what I need to force me to carve out purposeful time to read. The end of summer will get hectic—it always does. My youngest two don’t start school until after Labor Day, so they’ll be wanting to pack in fun activities while they still can. This will take some planning, and will probably require the use of an earlier wake-up alarm for some quiet time. But I am eagerly anticipating returning to the pages that initially captivated a much-younger me.

A Challenge for the Dog Days of August: Find Someplace Cool to Rest and Read a Good Book

The Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time–John 6:1-15

adult appetite boil boiler
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Each month, we extend a challenge aimed at teaching us something about ourselves, our community, our faith, or maybe just to amuse us!

 Last month, Mary challenged us to sweat , and we did.   Gosh, did we ever sweat. It has been so ridiculously hot and steamy! This month, stay cool, and feed your mind, and maybe your soul.

I challenge you to step away from screens (AFTER YOU READ OUR BLOG!), pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea, get comfy in a beach chair at the edge of the water or maybe under some trees, and read a book or two or more!

I further challenge you to go to your local library to find that book or two or more. Libraries are the most magical places on earth! There are books about EVERYTHING, magazines about ANYTHING, and newspapers from EVERYWHERE. There are film dvds and music cds and audio books. There are art exhibits and special events. The library is where you can find ALL THE ANSWERS. If you haven’t been to one in a while, GO, and be astounded.

And for you super competitive types, I double dog dare you to spend the dog days of August RE-reading a book or two or more that you read when you were younger. Notice what is different for you this time around. Maybe you will discover new levels to the story. Maybe you will find that you have outgrown the tale. You won’t know until you pick up the book and read it again!