Posted by: learningfromreading | January 18, 2016

We’re Back!

So we are back now!  Daughter is in high school. Mom has her Ph.D.  We’ve moved to a new state. We are ready to write about books again. Stay tuned!!!

 

mom

Posted by: learningfromreading | October 16, 2012

Fundraising – Please support my charity team

In five days (on October 21), I will be running the Newburyport Green Stride Half Marathon in an effort to raise money for the Life is Good Playmakers charity. This will be my first half marathon, and I am very excited. I really could use the support of my blog readers, family and friends in raising money for this amazing charity! It only takes five minutes!

This charity helps children who live in conditions of poverty, violence, and domestic violence in overcoming those obstacles. Every child should have the opportunity to experience positive play and to develop relationships with positive role models in their life. You can help this amazing charity reach more children!

I am asking my blog readers to donate to my running team. Even a donation of $5 or $10 will help me reach my $2,000 fundraising goal! Please consider supporting me in my first half marathon for charity! You can donate online at https://lifeisgood.fundraise.com/meghans-run or can write a check to Life is Good Playmakers and get it to me.

Happy reading!

Posted by: learningfromreading | October 16, 2012

The Reading Promise

I just finished reading The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma.  The following people should read this book: (a) kids whose parents read to them, (b) parents who read to their children, (c) anyone with children period, and (d) anyone who has ever read a book (and even those who haven’t).  Some quotes:

“’The most frustrating part,’ he summarized as he reached for the check, ‘is that reading has become irrelevant.’”

“’Yes, it simply must be done.  There’s no way around it.  If you don’t shake out your sheep before they go to bed, you will lose so many important things’”

“A reading family never stops reading.”

And perhaps the quote that has stuck with me the most:

“But inevitably, his mind wandered back to the children he had left behind.  After working in a school made up mostly of minorities and almost entirely of children who qualified for free lunches from the state, he always worried about the students who slip through the cracks.  A library without books seemed like a nightmarish punishment for students who desperately needed literacy to move on in the world and rise out of poverty.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Dad yesterday.  We were discussing how politicians who can’t make sense of the experience of women like me (or frankly women in general) can make decisions that deeply affect my life.  It brings to mind the idea of Plato’s cave.  If they have not experienced raising two children on your own as a single mother, barely making enough money to pay the rent (and with a rather small amount of child support to help), how can they understand the ways it influences your life beyond income?  The inability to go to the doctor when you need to (despite the fact that you know you have cancer, again).  The daily struggles to pay bills AND put food on the table AND pay the rent (when sometimes you have to choose between them).

As a mother who is fighting to surround her kids with love, books, and music, and teach them that you can do a lot with very little, I have pretty big problems with these politicians trying to make decisions for me.  How about this, we ban spending money on campaigns and ridiculous campaign ads (which I am, frankly, sick of seeing), and instead give politicians a certain amount of money to run their campaign on.  They cannot go over it.  Let’s set it at $10,000.  That’s it.  No more.  Then let’s take all of the money they raise during their campaigns and use it to contribute to the national debt, or better yet donate it to charities that help people living in poverty and other  negative conditions.  People who have to fight to survive in the United States and abroad.  Charities like the Life is Good Playmakers (which I raise money for).  Food for thought…

So, here is my reading promise (adapted from Ozma’s at the end of the book):

I, Meg, promise to read.

I promise to read on my own, in print, or on a screen, wherever books appear.  I promise to visit fictional worlds and gain new perspectives – to keep an open mind about books, even when the cover is unappealing and the author is unfamiliar.  I promise to laugh out loud (especially in public) when the chapter amuses me, and to sob uncontrollably on my bed for hours at a time when my favorite character dies.  I promise to look up words when I don’t know them, and cities when I can’t locate them, and people when I can’t remember them.  I promise to lose track of time.

I promise to read with my family, if not every night, then whenever I can.  I promise to remember that this person is more than my son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, landlord, or dog walker; he or she has a mind that, like mine, loves to be used and challenged.  I promise to share books however it suits us best, whether we choose to read to each other or simply get together for discussions and homemade baked goods.  I promise to appreciate the time we spend together and the literature we meet, even when I am stressed or tired or sunburned (or an awful combination of the three), because books are better when they’re shared.  I promise to do my best to meet our goal, whether that goal is to read for ten thousand nights or simply to get to know each other better.  I promise never to give up on reading, nor let us give up on each other, whether we meet our goal or not.

I promise to support reading in my community however I can, and everywhere else for that matter.  I promise to spread the word about words, whether it’s volunteering at my local library or just recommending good books to friends.  I promise to speak out if reading is cut from the school curriculum, and to fight for books whenever their value is challenged.  I promise to tell everyone I know how reading calms me down, riles me up, makes me think, or helps me get to sleep at night.  I promise to read, and read to someone, as long as human thought is still valued and there are still words to be shared.

I promise to be there for books, because I know they will always be there for me.

Happy reading!

Posted by: learningfromreading | October 14, 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club

First, let me apologize for my lengthy absence from posting.  I have been crazy busy with being a mom, a professor, a writer, a reader, a runner, and so many other things.  I am back, and back to reading, so I should be posting more often.  Of course, I have not been neglecting my reading during this time – I just have been neglecting to write about my reading.  Some of the books I have read do not warrant a post here (i.e., Fifty Shades of Grey – rip off).

I have been training for a half marathon which I will be running next Sunday (October 21, 2012).  I am running this half marathon for the Life is Good Playmakers charity.  If you are reading this and would like to donate to my run, I would appreciate it.  I am still far short of my goal of $2,000.  The link to donate is https://lifeisgood.fundraise.com/meghans-run

Back to talking about books.  In the last year, my father learned that he has prostate cancer.  I, honestly, had been expecting this news at the time he told me based on health problems he had been having, but it was still quite a shock.  After surgery last spring, they were unable to completely remove the cancer, and it seems it has spread to other parts of his body.  They are now giving him shots to slow the growth of the cancer.  He also may be having another surgery in the near future to deal with other issues the original surgery has caused.

I tell you all of this, because it relates to why I chose to read my most recent book The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  This was an excellent book, and memoir.  It recounts the last months/years of an amazing woman’s life through the eyes of her son.  They read their way through her battle with cancer.

One of the many things I learned from this book is the importance of teaching my kids the lessons I want them to take away from their short time with me as children.  I have very little time left before my 12 year old daughter does not listen to me anymore, and the same is true for my 9 year old son.  I started to think, what do I want my children to remember of me?  What do I want to leave them with that could shape them as adults?  If I died today, what memories do I want to leave my children with?

One of the things I want to leave my children with is a love of books and reading.  The author says: “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.”  I can’t give you a page number for these quotes, as I read the book on my Kindle, but I suppose I am leaving you with a scavenger hunt of sorts if you do read the book.  I love this quote and it highlights one of the many things I want to leave my children with.  Reading is living, and I want my kids to know that.

I also want to teach my children kindness at all costs. In the book, Schwalbe says: “Mom also believed that there is such a thing as a good secret.  Maybe something kind you did for someone but didn’t want that person to know, because you didn’t want him t be embarrassed or feel as though he owed you anything.”  I want my children to learn kindness and generosity.  I am going to have my children volunteer by my side at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving this year.  What is the point of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner when you don’t truly recognize what you should be thankful for in life?  I want to teach my children to be thankful for what they have, and that we do not need that traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Sometimes it is more special to spend time together as a family giving back to those who have less than we do (even though what we have is considerably less than most of the world).

I want to surround myself with books, but I also want to surround my children with them.  I want them to find solace in those books.  Ironically, I have been reading most of my latest books on my Kindle.  A quote from the book made me laugh as I read from the screen:

“She was surrounded by books – a wall of bookshelves, books on her night table, a book beside her…The spines were of all colors, and there were paperbacks and hardcovers, and books that had lost their dust jackets and ones that never had them…They were Mom’s companions and teachers.  They had shown her the way.  And she was able to look at them as she readied herself for the life everlasting that she knew awaited her.  What comfort could be gained from staring at my lifeless e-reader?”  Needless to say, the next book I picked up to read was a paperback.  I also will be making a trip to one of the great used bookstores in the area soon.

I also want to teach my children to engage in constant acts of love and kindness.  One of the best reasons for this is seen in this quote from the book: “Then I read the rest of the page.  At the bottom was a quote from John Ruskin: ‘If you do not wish for His kingdom, don’t pray for it.  But if you do, you must do more than pray for it; you must work for it.’  I believe those were the last words Mom ever read.”  The woman depicted in the book had given so much of herself to the rest of the world, she definitely should have been at peace if those were the final words she read.  I want to do the same in my own life, and teach my children to do the same.

This book highlighted that no matter how much time we have left in this world, life is short.  There is only so much time to accomplish what you wish to accomplish and to leave your mark on the world.  I want the mark I leave to be a positive one.  I want to make people’s lives better, and to make the world a better place to live on a daily basis.  I hope others who read this book feel the same way.

I also want to make sure that I surround my parents with the love and support that the author and his siblings were able to provide to their mother.  It isn’t too late to learn from his example.

Off to tackle The Gulag Archipelago.  Happy reading!

Posted by: learningfromreading | June 7, 2012

Eat and Run and My First Barefoot Running Experience

I have finished another great book – Eat and Run by Scott Jurek (with steve Friedman).  What an EXCELLENT book!  It is inspiring!  Scott is defnitely on my list of people I would like to be like.

I read this book much faster than most that I read (and I tend to read fast anyway), but I simply could not put it down.  I loved the structure of the book where each chapter focused on a different life event or race to highlight the lessons Scott learned from that particular moment in his life (or series of moments).  Another book that makes me want to lace up my sneakers (or throw on my KSOs) and head out on a run.  I think this will remain in the “for when I am not motivated” pile!!!

Yesterday, I went out for my run along the beach.  The favorite sneaks are still drying (wow, I really must have been drenched), so I decided I would give running in the KSOs a shot.  I have been wearing them around to walk, but have never actually completed a run in them.  I did just over 4.5 miles and I have to say, it really does change the way you run.  Today my calves are much more sore than usual (I had been warned about this), but otherwise, I feel great!  I am ready to get back out there.  I think for a while I will reserve these shoes for one run a week.

Now, I must say – since I am only in week 5 of my running life, I do not run the entire time yet.  I am doing a slow run-walk program to build up my endurance.  The end goal is a marathon (or who knows, maybe even an ultra down the road).  I am up to three minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking this week.  Next week I will shrink the walking time down to one minute.  I have come so far since that first week of 1 minute running and 2 minutes walking.  I really thought I would never be able to run for any length of time.  Three minutes is starting to feel good.  I am really enjoying it!!!  I cannot wait until the day that I am able to run for 10-20 minutes at a time, or even just run continuously!  But I know that it will take time to get there.

Off to grab a quick breakfast (starving) drink my chia (love it), and head out for my morning run.  Then it is back to tackling the big scary D word….

Happy Running, and Happy Reading!!!

Posted by: learningfromreading | June 6, 2012

Yesterday’s Tough Run

A quick post before I head out for my run.  I squeezed in a short run yesterday after the kids got home from school and before our first (and, sadly, last) playoff game of the season.  The problem – I had to run in different shoes that I really did not want to run in.  You see, my shoes got absolutely soaked in my fun and exhilirating Monday run.  They are still wet today.  I pulled a pair of old adidas out from under the bed yesterday and quickly realized that they were heavier than my usual Nike LiveStrongs and also were pushing my feet to land in a very unnatural way.  This made for a very frustrating run (but true to form I finished it anyway).

Today, I face the problem of my favorite shoes are still dripping and drying, but I cannot bear the idea of putting those crap horrible evil other shoes back on my feet.  My solution – I am finally going to run in my “toe shoes” – the Vibram KSOs.  Hopefully, this does not hurt worse than yesterday – but hey – honestly, how much worse can it get???

I have also started (and nearly completed) Scott Jurek’s new book Eat and Run.  More on that later (when I finish it).

Happy running and reading!

Posted by: learningfromreading | June 5, 2012

14 Minutes

I just finished reading 14 Minutes by Alberto Salazar and John Brant.  It is a great read about an inspiring runner.  I am constantly searching for new ways to motivate myself, and this story of Salazar’s life leading up to his 14 minutes is wonderful.  I recommend this book to runners and non-runners alike who need inspiration and motivation in their lives.

Salazar is very honest, often brutally so, throughout this text.  Listening to how he navigated injury, sickness, depression, and so much more in his life was a clear demonstration that even the elite athletes of the world are not immune to problems.  Salazar makes it clear that underneath everything, every runner – professional/elite or garden-variety, citizen runner – is really seeking the same things.  His quest for happiness and sense of purpose and accomplishment is something that echoes through all of our lives.  I could not put this excellent book down.

Off to get dressed for my run on the beach.

Happy reading  (and running)!

Posted by: learningfromreading | June 5, 2012

Running in the Waves

Yesterday, I went for one of the most exhilarating runs I have ever been on in my life.  The tide was in, and there were powerful waves and winds, and there was that type of rain that comes in sideways.  It was a steady, constant rain.  You see, I had to take Friday off from running because of the commencement ceremonies that I take part in as a faculty member, then I had an ulcer attack that put me on the sofa both Saturday and Sunday (and had me puking on top off it).  So, yesterday, despite the constant rain and heavy winds, I was determined to get my run in.  Once I was certain I was keeping down my food, I headed down to the beach for my run.  As I rounded the corner, I could see the waves pounding against the concrete walls.  I knew it was going to be an interesting first run back.

I secured my phone in my pocket and my keys in the pouch in the waistband of my pants.  I stepped out of the car, started my runkeeper and endomondo apps, and headed out to walk down the beach for my warmup.  As I started my combination of running and walking (just over 4 miles of it today), I felt pretty good.  I felt the spray of the sea water coming over the wall and misting me.  I could smell and taste the salt water in the air, I smiled and started my run. 

As I ran, I felt lighter than usual.  I was really happy to be back out there running.  On my way down the beach, I was running into the wind at times.  The extra effort this took usually would irritate me, today it felt good.  The hard wind would occasionally push me toward the street, but I would push back to stay close to the wall and away from the traffic (which tends to average 15-20 miles over the speed limit on this road and in weather like this could be extremely dangerous).  I felt powerful and in control of my body.  I could feel the muscles in my legs pushing me forward.  I felt my breath settle into a natural rhythm.  I looked over the city skyline in the distance – the first place to ever feel like home to me – and fell in love again with that skyline now draped in clouds and a cold gray mist. 

As I turned back down the beach to return to my car, the view switched to the powerful bay.  I watched, mesmerized, by the powerful waves crashing on the beach.  As I got closer to the car and continued past it, I exulted in the feeling of running through the ankle deep water the pounding surf was leaving along the path.  My shoes became so water logged that I took them off, stuffing my soaked socks inside.  I tied them together and threw them over my shoulder and continued my run barefoot.  I felt the water crashing into me as it hit the wall.  I wasn’t just running in this storm and the rain, I was running with it.  I was absorbing the power of nature and drawing my own serene power for my run from it.  I felt great.  As I turned back one more time to return to my car, I was now running straight into the wind.  It felt as though I was running against the front of a semi-truck that was slowly pushing back against me.  I continued to push into that wind.  I would not let it defeat me.  A couple of times I was tempted to stop and walk, but I reached down and pulled out the strength and determination to continue to run into the wind.  Waves crashed over the wall drenching me to the bone.  I was again running through deep ponds of water on the pathway.  I made it back to the car, excited and exhilarated – on cloud nine.  There were several cars parked in the lot to watch the powerful waves – Mother Nature in all her glory – as they crashed over the wall.  Two women were in a truck next to my car and looked intrigued as I stopped next to the car, unlocked it and started pulling off layer after layer of wet clothes.  I was going to have to drive in my wet t-shirt and pants, but I could at least get the other dripping layers off of me now.  I threw my dripping clothes and my socks and shoes into the back of the car, grabbed a blanket from the back and lined my seat with it and jumped in the car to head home.  I felt better than I had ever after a run. 

Posted by: learningfromreading | May 24, 2012

Running, Dissertation, and Some Goals

As I run down the beach, I take in the different shades of blue as I watch the sun burn through the clouds.  First, a little piece of blue shows through in the sky, and it slowly grows.  This brilliant blue is reflected in the still water.  I have only been running a couple of weeks now.  As classes wound down for the start of summer and temperatures climbed to a comfortable mid 70s, I found myself wanting to be outside again.  I ran a 5k with my kids one day, and I was so proud of myself for finishing it, that I decided I would run a bit more.  I ran a couple of times the next week, and the following Saturday I did another 5k with the kids.  Now I was hooked.  I love the serenity that comes with running.

The past few years have been a bit rough for me.  I am trying (unsuccessfully at the moment) to finish my dissertation, teaching a full course load at UMass Boston (while receiving complaints on a nearly regular basis), working on various research projects with some of the top scholars in my field, and trying to raise two children on my own.  I have also been going through a divorce.  My soon-to-be-ex likes women a little too much.  Translation, I got sick of his harem habits.  I was slowly disintegrating into an unconfident mess of a person who could not handle the stress that came with all of the “stuff”.  A few weeks ago, I started going to the gym again.  It was in the midst of a yoga class that I realized something was really wrong with me.  I was doing something that used to calm me – yoga – and instead I was pushing my body so hard I was hurting myself.  It was like I was using yoga to punish my body.  I knew something needed to change.

Another major change in the past couple of years has been a new guy in my life.  I have been dating one of the most amazing men left on the planet.  He is kind, compassionate, and completely unafraid to be himself.  When everyone else in my life is saying “you can’t” he is always the one person cheering me on saying “you can.”  I started wondering one day what makes him so positive despite the rough life he has had (very rough when you compare it to my pretty easy life).  Then it dawned on me – no matter how busy he is, he always makes time for him.  That time can be spent on a bike ride, lifting weights in the gym, or running, but he always has time for him set aside.  I started to think that was pretty impressive.  How could I get that me time and that balance in my life?

I borrowed a book from my guy, Born to Run.  It was inspiring and a really great read.  It changed my outlook on life, and I started wanting to learn more about how the various characters in the book (all real people) were so happy with what they did – running.  How did they get to a place where something most of us consider grueling (I mean, we do call them workouts.  Work implying that it is in the same category as our daily job!) is actually fun for them.  Then I read an article by Scott Jurek in Runner’s World magazine.  Again, there was a pretty consistent theme.  I started realizing that the common thing for all of these people was balance.  How can I get balance in my own life?  This was something that I really started to think about.

I bought a book, Running with the Mind of Meditation, that really started to highlight some of the problems in my life.  No, this was not a self help book that told me how to change my life.  It was just a book about a Lama who trained for the Boston Marathon and found meditative running along the way.  I started reflecting on the lack of balance in my life.  I realized I needed to build that balance into my own life.  I needed to spend some time on me – as my guy taught me, – I needed to spend some time on work, I needed to spend some time on my kids, and I needed to spend some time on my guy.  I needed a balance that would let love back into my life – and not in a romantic sense, but love of myself and love of life.  I started to really focus on running.

Now, back to the scary d word – the dissertation.  I started working on my dissertation in the fall of 2009.  It still is not done.  I have not had the drive or desire to work on it lately, despite the fact that it is in near final form.  How can I find that drive again?  This question haunted me for a month until I found the calm of running.  Can I run my way to a finished dissertation?  Can I run my way to finishing my work on my other research and writings?  Can I run my way to being a better teacher, girlfriend, and mother?  Hopefully, this will be a journey to all of those things.

Now, I feel that I have to say there are many projects I have started in the past and not finished.  There are several knitting projects in my basket that will testify to that.  Also several started manuscripts on the hard drive of this laptop.  Several started diets, workout plans, etc.  All failed.  Is this running project going to turn out the same?  What about the dissertation?  Will that ever get finished?  Only time will tell.  But I plan on writing about it every day, if for no other reason to get my head around what is causing my struggles, and what happens when things are going well.

To start off, I am going to list my goals.  I want to:

  • Finish my dissertation by the end of June – I mean FINISH!!!!
  • Finish the writing projects with Anthony
  • Run at least 6 days a week without getting injured or sick
  • Get my house clean and organized
  • Spend more time with my kids having fun
  • Run a half marathon by the end of September
  • Run a full marathon within a year
  • Get a good job (not this bullshit adjunct job)
  • Become a better teacher
  • Read at least one new book each week.
  • Eat better
  • GET ORGANIZED
  • FIND BALANCE!!!!!!!

At the start of each new week (Sundays) I am going to assess my progress on each of these goals.  I want to figure out where I stand and if I am even making any progress.

Of course, I need to also acknowledge my hurdles along the way.  The first one is my father constantly saying “you’re going to get hurt” every time I tell him about my running.  NO I AM NOT!  I am going to listen to my body.  When I am sore or there is pain, I am going to acknowledge it and correct what is causing it.  I am going to work with my body.  Work with the pain.  And learn from all of that.  I think the balance and organization problems are fueling quite a few of the other problems.   If I can tackle those two problems, I think the rest will naturally fall into place.  That being said, I am going to head out for my run.  Yesterday was over 9.5 miles, so today will be an easier run.  When I get home, I am going to reflect on that run here.  Then I am going to clean up, fold laundry and organize some (I know I cannot magically get organized in one day).  Baby steps!  I plan on finishing the first review I need to complete and sending that off while eating lunch.  Then I am going to work on the house until the kids get home.  I will get my son ready for his game, and then I will clean up some more.  Before I go to bed I will meditate on my day, and reflect on what worked and what did not.  I can conquer the lack of balance, and I can find love and happiness in my own life – no matter how busy I get.  I should also choose a book for the week (especially with only three days to read it!!!)

Posted by: learningfromreading | February 26, 2012

Waiting for Godot

I finally wrapped up reading Waiting for Godot.  It is a fascinating play by Samuel Beckett.  I recommend it to other readers, but I would caution that you need to be in the right mood to read it.  I have started this work several times, but only recently have been successful in getting much past the first 20 or so pages.

A story with only five characters, Waiting for Godot has important meaning for the reader.  I suspect that the reader’s state of mind will influence the way that the reader interprets the play.

Off to start on the second Harry Potterbook, I think.  Or perhaps the first of The Chronicles of Narnia series.  MaybeThe Hobbit.  Maybe I will finishThe Great Gatsby instead.  Too many books to choose from.

Happy Reading!

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