Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

I’m reading the Bible from start to finish for no other reason than that I’ve never done it before.


The Good Book ready for reading

Between attending Catholic school and being a lector at Mass, I’ve read parts of it. But never the whole thing.

I’m just over 500 pages in and if you’ve read the Bible, you know that’s not very far. Some thoughts on what I’ve learned to date:

·         I have no concept of Middle Eastern geography.

·         In biblical times, gold and silver were apparently lying around in big heaps everywhere.

·         It was a difficult period in which to be a woman.

·         In the Bible, people have huge families and live for abnormally long periods of time.

·         The Bible would be a lot shorter if it didn’t tell the same stories over and over.

·         There are many excruciatingly painful ways to die.

Since I’m approaching reading the Bible in the same manner in which I read any book, I didn’t go into it looking for hidden meanings or life-changing lessons. I’m just reading it. But since it IS the Bible, you sort of expect it to teach you something.

The version I’m reading is a study Bible which means in addition to the scripture, along the margins are interpretations of how biblical lessons can be translated into modern life. Some of these seem a little far-fetched but others are shockingly simple and make obvious sense.

I asked my best friend, who incidentally gave me this Bible many years ago and now works for a church, whether I could use a highlighter and write in it without being sacrilegious.

“Of course,” she said. “In its physical sense, it’s just a book, like any other book. It’s the words themselves and what they mean to you that make it spiritual.”

Since then I’ve highlighted a few verses and turned back the corners on a couple of pages I want to refer back to.

I haven’t experienced any epiphanies while reading the Bible but the exercise is making me more thoughtful in the sense that I’m thinking more about the world around me, my place in it and what I’m doing with my time on Earth.

Since I only read a couple of chapters every morning, I won’t be finishing the Bible any time soon. I figure there’s no hurry; it’s been around a LONG time and however long it takes me to read it is how long it takes. Like any Good Book, it’ll be worth it.

Have you ever read the Bible? What did you get out of it?

Mark Twain wrote “Tom Sawyer” more than 80 years before actors Jodie Foster and Johnny Whitaker were born. But when I picture Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, I’m seeing kid versions of Jodie Foster and Johnny Whitaker. That’s thanks to a 1973 musical version of the novel which, while not the best adaptation of Twain’s work, is unfortunately the one that sticks in my head.

Any time you lift words from the page and set them in motion there’s the risk your interpretation will be met with “I don’t get it” or worse, “That sucked”. But if the alternative is that nobody will ever hear those words if you don’t do it, it’s a risk worth taking.

The founders of the poetry film collaboration project Motionpoems were worried that great poems were going unread because people just weren’t reading poetry. So maybe they’d be more interested in WATCHING it.

Motionpoems pairs contemporary poets with filmmakers to create short film adaptations of poems. Some are animated, others live action, some dark, some funny, some so far removed from what a reader might get out of just reading the poem that you might watch it twice because it’s so interesting.

See for yourself. In the waning hours of National Poetry Month and as spring is FINALLY coming to my corner of the Midwest, here’s the Motionpoem “Ecclesiastes 11:1” by Richard Wilbur, film adaptation by Faith Eskola for your viewing enjoyment.

If you find a Motionpoem that speaks to you, feel free to share it in a comment!

That should last me the week...

That should last me the week…

Fifty percent of my household didn’t read a single book last year.

That was my husband. Early in our relationship, he eyed the overflowing bookshelves in my apartment and said, “I don’t read.”

“You’re illiterate? I can teach you,” I offered.

“I know HOW to read. I just don’t read books.”

I don’t know how this marriage has survived so long.

I was raised by readers. My sister’s a reader as are all of my closest friends. I’ve carted favorite books thousands of miles, been late countless times because I couldn’t put a good book down, and if given the choice between buying a dinette set or a comfortable chair and a reading lamp, I will eat dinner over the kitchen sink…then go sit in my chair and read. People who don’t read puzzle me.

A recent Pew Center Research Poll shows that 23 percent of adults didn’t read a single book in 2013. That’s up from 16 percent in 1990 and 8 percent in 1978. And according to the National Endowment for the Arts, only 47% of Americans say they read a book for pleasure in 2012.

Books give us knowledge, insight, inspiration, ideas, truths, lies, instructions, humor, emotional release, a chance to dream, an opportunity to escape, a place to go even if it’s just in our heads. Why WOULDN’T you read one?

RIF (Reading is Fundamental) was still a fairly new literacy program in the early 1970’s when I was learning how to read but its message was already solid: knowing how to read was the key to unlocking a world of doors and it wasn’t just a useful skill, it could also be FUN. I believed that as a kid; now as a bigger kid, I still believe it.

Maria Keller does, too. Maria’s a 13-year-old from Minneapolis, MN who founded her own non-profit organization to promote literacy. When she was 8, she started collecting used books and since then, with the help of thousands of people around the country, her organization Read Indeed has given 1 million books to schools, hospitals and community centers in 30 states and more than a dozen foreign countries. What can you say? The kid likes to read.

Anyone can spread the joy of reading. I recently received some literary love from my 9-year-old nephew who said, “Hey, I got you something” and handed me this:

Kid-approved reading material

Kid-approved reading material

It came from his school book fair; I also got a complimentary Minions’ poster and pencil eraser. Did you know that “Bello” is a popular greeting among Minions and that “Poopaye” is how they say goodbye? True that. I read it in a book.

Read any good books lately? Find me on Goodreads and we can compare notes.

The more you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss


A snowy world, at peace

The author is Mark Helprin. The book is “In Sunlight and in Shadow.” And given the devastation caused by this past weekend’s blizzard, the passage below is an appropriate description of the bleak battle we wage with Old Man Winter.

“They had practically nothing but snow – the feel of it, the silence it imposed with an almost beneath-the-threshold-of-sound hissing as it fell, the way it lit the darkness even as it smothered sight. Snow was God’s scolding of the world for war. It suppressed and conquered legions and nations. It quieted continents, forced branches to bow in submission, and broke those that would not. It made a mockery of military power and pride in numbers, throwing into the world inexhaustibly its own soldiers, tiny crystals each with an inimitable identity, each fragile, temporary, frozen, resigned, but in such endless profusion that they could slaughter entire armies in absolute silence and bury them until spring. Snow muffled the sounds of soldiers who fought across it or waited in it; it sent them messages in its glistening whirlwinds; and like a wrestler who need not expend energy or breath, it effortlessly pinned them to earth.”

Thoughts are with you weary warriors still struggling in the white.

Carton 12 of 12 in the big move.

It costs more beer to get a dozen boxes of books carried across a front lawn than it takes to get a six-hundred-pound hide-a-bed couch shoved through a front door.

“ANOTHER box of books?” groaned the friends who were helping us move, as I handed over the last carton.

“It’s just paperbacks,” I said. “Did I mention there‘s beer?”

By the time we moved into our current house, I’d been amassing reading material for about 25 years. I am now 40 years into my collection. New selections are added and familiar tomes recycled continuously. I thought the Thompson library was pretty impressive until I read about Brewster Kahle’s little project to save the world’s books.

Kahle is an Internet entrepreneur whose goal is to collect one copy of every book ever published. With more books going digital, he wondered what was going to happen to all the hard copies? Now, he and his staff of 150 helpers are packing them away for safe-keeping in shipping containers in a warehouse in Richmond, California. They’re being digitized first but should something happen to the electronic copies, the physical ones, with covers and spines and pages you can turn the corners back on, will still exist. Kahle’s crew has half a million squirreled away already with a goal of 10 million altogether.

The number of books published since publishing began is many times more than 10 million. So how does he decide what to keep? For my own culling criteria, if I look at the book’s cover and know the butler did it with a candlestick in the dining room after finding out the mysterious woman he was having an affair with is really his cousin, it can go. But if I scan the book jacket and find one tidbit I don’t remember reading, it’s a keeper. My old books are usually passed along to other readers but there was one book that sucked so badly I actually threw it away. If I could have tracked down every copy of it and shredded them all to save the reading public from trudging through such crap, I would have. At least I was able to save one unsuspecting thrift store bibliophile from making the same mistake I did.

You can learn more about Kahle’s project at the Internet Archives, an online respository which includes archived text, video and audio. Another great resource for free audio books and stories no longer in print is Librivox, a site for which I’ve actually recorded some selections.

Mr. Kahle, best of luck to you in your efforts. I can’t imagine how much beer money it’s costing you to get the job done.

If you were saving hard copy books from extinction, what book would you make sure made it into the archives?

Margaret Norton has her flaws, and she knows it. But instead of letting them consume her, she confronted them in a years-long battle to find peace within herself. Margaret’s struggle and her salvation are chronicled in her memoir “When Ties Break: Thriving After Loss”.

The Specifics

Title: When Ties Break: A Memoir About Thriving After Loss

Author: Margaret Norton

Paperbook: 260 pages, available now in e-book

Publisher: Tate Publishing (August 3, 2010)



Following her father’s death, Margaret Norton suddenly finds herself cast out of her family, chastised by an older brother for her selfish ways and questionable decisions. Set adrift with only her faith to cling to, she weathers multiple divorces, drug abuse, financial ruin, the deaths of family and close friends, a nomadic lifestyle, and conflicting personal relationships. Instead of succumbing to these trials and tragedies, Margaret eventually learns to rise above them by following the simplest of principles: trust in God then trust yourself.

Here‘s what I think…

Despite being raised in a strong Catholic family and attending eight years of parochial school, I am not a religious person. While I enjoy reading memoirs, a book with such an obvious spiritual bent would not have been the first thing I grabbed off the shelf. But Margaret’s story is well worth reading, regardless of your degree of faith, because it holds some valuable lessons for anyone who struggles. The challenges Margaret faced confront ordinary people everywhere, every day, and readers will identify with her frustration and pain, and rejoice in her triumph over them. Margaret makes many admissions in her memoir but few apologies and that’s the lesson people should relate to most about her story – that you don’t need to apologize to others for what they think of you but you do need to accept who you are and be comfortable with yourself.

Chatting with Margaret

Margaret was gracious enough to take some time to visit with me about her life and her book. Here’s the lowdown:

You began writing your story at the suggestion of your therapist. If they hadn’t suggested it, would you have arrived at that decision on your own to write your memoir?  That’s a hard one. Probably not. When I was younger I used to journal and write but somewhere along the way, I stopped doing that. I’ve had a lot of therapy through the years and a lot of times they’d suggest things like “write a letter to someone but don’t mail it”. Writing a book about your life is more than mailing it; it’s like putting it on page one of the newspaper. Something I probably would have never done, since I tend to be a little shy, without someone encouraging me.

Your story is so emotional that it would have been easy to become self-pitying in your writing yet you didn’t. How did you avoid that? I’ve had my struggles with self pity and sometimes I still feel sorry for myself. But belief in God and positive thinking got me where I am today. No matter how bad my life was I always seemed to meet people who had it worse. As I’d listen to their stories, I’d think I’m sure glad I don’t have their problems. I came to really believe that everything happened in my life as it should – that God had a plan for me – and I learned to be thankful and content even when life wasn’t going my way. It wasn’t easy. It took many years, lots of stops and starts, and much support from my friends. Self-pity is surrounded by regret and anger – two emotions that I tried to rid my life of.

“When Ties Break” has such a strong message about trusting in your faith to carry you through life’s trials. Why should readers who don’t have that close of a relationship with God read your book? That’s an interesting question that I’ve given much thought to. I think my book and my life was not only a struggle to understand God but a journey to find myself. I suspect everyone goes through similar experiences. It’s full of real, very challenging situations – things that everyone experiences – whether they believe in God or not. I think I would have survived without God, though that might sound un-Christian. There are principles, like forgiveness, that I talk about in my book that everyone could benefit from, regardless of their religious beliefs.

What advice would you offer writers who may want to share their own difficult stories but are afraid to do so? One blog that I recently wrote was titled “Writing Memoir is not for Sissies”. Writing about painful life experiences can be very healing but it’s not easy. There are all kinds of things to take into consideration. Why are you doing it? To help others or get back at someone? Should you change the names? Should you wait until certain people die? How will you handle it when people get angry with you and don’t support your writing? So many people still believe, even with reality TV that we have today, that you should not talk about your problems openly. I believe that only by talking about them openly can you begin to solve them. There are a lot of good books on writing your story. I strongly recommend following the advice of experts.

Any new projects we should look forward to from the pen of Margaret Norton? My book was the first thing that I wrote – not the way that most people start out writing. Now I’m going back to the beginning and doing short stories and articles. I’m hoping to retire in a few years and would like to do more writing then. Maybe a book of female survival stories, ones that readers have shared with me. Or maybe I’ll turn my story into fiction. That way I could control the ending. I do feel that I have much to share; I’m just not sure how writing fits in with my life at the moment. For the past seven months, I’ve been writing on my blog –  HealthyNFit Granny – and for now this seems to be a good fit for me.

Big thanks to Margaret for her comments and allowing me to read and review her book, and thanks as well to Margo Dill for bringing Margaret’s blog tour to “Hot Off The Wire”. And now, here’s the part where…

You could be a winner!

Margaret is celebrating her 60th birthday by giving away three grand prizes: a 30-minute FREE life coaching session (by phone, for U.S. residents only), her memoir in paperback (for U.S. residents only), and her memoir in e-book format (for anyone!). To enter Margaret’s Celebrate 60 blog tour contest, just leave a comment on this post.

Each blogger participating in the tour will randomly select one winner from all the comments and enter that name into the grand prize drawing. Margaret will contact the three grand prize winners for their choice of prize the week of February 27, 2012 and announce the winners on her blog on March 2, 2012.

And if you’re on Twitter, you have even MORE chances to enter. Please tweet about the contest or why you love being the age you are; be sure to use the hash tag #Celebrate60. Anyone tweeting with that hash tag will get an extra entry into the contest. For more information, contact Margaret’s publicist, Margo, at

Here’s the part where you comment…thanks for stopping by the Wire!

I’ve been a student of World War II since junior high school. Strategy, armament, location, cause, aftermath – there’s a lot to learn and much to remember. At one time I could identify all the aircraft used by any country in World War II by sight alone. But all of those things, while essential to history, can’t compare to the true lessons of war – the ones you learn from the soldiers themselves.

I am a huge “Band of Brothers” fan. If you’re shrugging your shoulders and shaking your head right now, you obviously are not. Let me help you out. In 1992, Stephen Ambrose wrote “Band of Brothers”, a book that recounted the World War II experiences of the men of Easy Company, paratroopers with the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. Ambrose researched his book by interviewing Easy Company veterans who gave him a personal view of their war, not just the fighting but the friendships, the heroism and the hardship, the insanity and the normalcy. The story of soldiers.

In 2001, thanks to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (and honestly, if you want to get something produced, they would be the ones to do it), HBO aired a 10 part miniseries based on Ambrose’s book. Though I’d read “Band of Brothers” not long after it was published and loved it, I didn’t see the miniseries for the simplest of reasons – we didn’t have HBO. I was working part-time in a video store when the DVDs finally came out and I brought them home, the whole set, one rainy Sunday afternoon and spent until early Monday morning watching the entire miniseries from start to finish. Eventually, I had to take them back (one missing DVD is not unusual but a wandering box set is a little tough to ignore) but now that I own the set, I still watch it, frequently.

Now that you have some grasp of what I’m talking about, you should know that “BoB” fans are a serious bunch. They know things, and I mean really KNOW things, like all the veterans’ names, who’s passed away and when, the locations for all the battles, what actor played who in the miniseries and what those actors are doing now, 10 years after the program first aired. Which brings me to the real point of this post.

This Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the miniseries, nearly a dozen of the show’s actors will be parachuting out of a plane over Devon, England to raise funds for the Richard D. Winters Leadership Project. Those monies will go toward the building of a monument in Normandy to recognize the leadership of officers like the late Major Winters who led the way on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The event, called “Jumping for Heroes”, was organized by Scottish actor/writer Ross Owen and has already drawn donations from all over the world. But it can always use more. Whether you’re a “BoB” fan or not, recognize the cause for what it is…a worthy one. To find out more, visit or look for Jumping for Heroes on Facebook and Twitter.

To the actors and others who are jumping this weekend, good luck and Godspeed. And to the men of Easy Company who inspired them, thank you for your service. None can be forgotten if there are those who will remember.

If you’re looking for more great soldiers’ stories, here are a couple to grab: “The Good War“ by Louis “Studs“ Terkel, “Nam” by Mark Baker, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, and “The Long Road Home” by Martha Raddatz