My Book Club Basics, 2 of 3

My last post was about why I love my book club. Since people have asked us about how to set up/run/host a book club, know that there are many options to create a club that works for you. Some groups are very organized and intense, and some (like ours) are a bit less formal in pre-planning and execution.

Here are some ideas to think about, when setting up your own group:

  • Consider inviting varied members who are willing to research the book, develop questions and will be involved in the discussions.
  • Mix up the genres of books you read.
  • How will you make your book selections? My next post will explore this topic, since there are so many resources.
  • Choose where/when you will meet. Our group meets at someone’s house at night; others go to a coffee shop, out for lunch, or meet at a local bookstore or library.
  • Possibly have some set times, such as 30-60 minutes for catch up, then giving a specific time for the book discussion to start. We started doing this, and this structure helps our meetings run smoother when some people come who have not read the book.
  • Decide who you will have a discussion leader for each meeting who will do research on the author bio, background on subject matter, pose pointed discussion questions.  Will it be the current host? Hire someone?
  • Pair up the book with a movie or tv show. For example, we have read and seen the movies: Chocolat, Wuthering Heights, The Help and A Man Called Ove(the latter two were seen in the theater).
  • Decide if you will record a member rating for each book.
  • Mix it up! At our December meeting, we choose an easy book with a holiday theme, wear Christmas sweaters, and do a white elephant.
  • Enjoy reading and each other!

Now, gather some people, then start reading. And talking.

C

My Book Club Basics, 1 of 3

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Display from the Printer’s Row Book Fair, Chicago

To answer the most frequently asked question first—Yes, we discuss the books in our monthly meetings! We do not just drink wine.

I am honored to have been part of our book club since its inception in 2003! Our first book was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, shortly before it was debunked as a fraudulent biography. Ironically, there was a lot of discussion at our initial meeting about which parts of that book seemed fake (and later, how easy it should have been for Oprah’s team to research the story before catapulting it to stardom).

In 14 years, we have welcomed new friends to our group, had our dear friend Janaki move, seen births, deaths, kids grow through school and beyond, job changes, and illnesses. I personally have enjoyed books and genres I never would have chosen and found some authors I now covet—Lianne Moriarity, Fredrik Backman, Kristin Hannah.  In our discussions and debates, I still learn about my friends’ histories, dreams, passions, losses.

My friend Theresa, who launched our book club, says that she is very proud of our club’s longevity as a no judgment book club. If you only read the back page but want to listen to the discussion….come on in. Only read one book a year and come only twice a year…we will be happy to see you. Listen on Audible at double-time speed…more credit to you.

People often ask me for reading suggestions. This can be a baited question, since there are so many types of books. Do you like novels, chick lit, romance, biographies, non-fiction, science fiction, history? If for a book club, will you read recently released books? Or only ones that are available at the local library?

For several book ideas now, here is the list of books that our book club read in 2016, and the start of 2017, in the order that we read them:

Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello
Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith
The Wedding Pearl by Carolyn Brown
Before the Fall by Noah Hawle
My Grandmother Forgot to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
11/22/63 by Stephen King

My personal favorites from this list were My Grandmother Forgot to Tell You She’s Sorry, A Man Called Ove,11/22/63, and Whiskey & Charlie. 

If you want to start a book club, it just takes a little time and a few friends. There are many options to best set up and run your club, choose your books,etc.  My next post will address these topics.

Books and Bucket Lists

Reading. Friends. Cocktails. Discussion. Learning. Debate. Snacks. Laughter. Maybe One.More.Drink.

I so look forward to my monthly neighborhood book club meetings. While our families joke that we do not actually discuss our varied selections, we do!   The amount we talk about the book may be proportionate to how relatable (or debatable) the book is, whether there is a difference of opinion about the quality of the characters-plot-writing, and if the host has good discussion questions.

Through others reading choices I have discovered authors and books I never would have picked up, lived vicariously through a variety of eras and locations, expanded my life views, made new friends, and become a better writer.

Sometimes we even have homework assignments.

For our last book club we were asked to bring our bucket list of 5 things we wanted to do, typed and unsigned. We then tried to guess who wrote out each sheet.   (this “homework” went along with our discussion, nameless but light romantic fluff).

It was eye-opening to see how similar some of the items were on our lists: a lot of travel, learning new skills like writing and knitting, re-learning old hobbies, more travel, and spending more time with our families.

We will continue to share, learn, cry, discuss life in each meeting. Hopefully grow individually and as a group. And prop each other up outside our ongoing gatherings.

And my bucket list, in case you are interested:

  • Travel to Iceland and Australia.
  • Research family history to learn my mom’s family when/why they came to US.
  • Do travel and photo exploration of large swath of Route 66. (maybe Sante Fe to Flagstaff or CA).
  • Write a novel.
  • Sky dive.

What is on your list? (bucket or reading)

C

Goal: Increasing the Fun Level

This past weekend my goal was to do at least one fun, unexpected thing each day. Mission accomplished. It is too easy to fill free hours with errands, busywork, chores.   Recent life events made me realize that I need to grab a hold of my time when I can, not let my life slip away.  Some weekends are scheduled from start to finish, some productive, but hopefully there is some time to explore, enjoy.

I spent an evening socializing with friends, saw Bad Moms with a neighbor (very funny, from someone who endured the PTO Primadonnas), gardened, walked my dogs, went out to eat.

One of the highlights was biking in the Lake County Forest Preserve. It was a gorgeous morning and so reminded me of my childhood. Eight friends on bikes, riding for miles while laughing, reminiscing, planning, joking, only one getting lost for a brief few minutes. No real schedule, no set plans, other than to enjoy our morning, leaving all responsibilities behind.

 

 

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Can you spot the 3 sandhill cranes?   

And the weekend is upon us again. So I shall set the same goal—do one spontaneous thing each day. Try it.  And let me know what new experiences you have!

C

Just Show Up

Who Shows Up? and when? It is easy to show support during joyous times. It can be far more stressful –and sometimes uncomfortable–to be available in times of crisis, confusion, or death. There are some people who you expect to Show Up during those latter times; others shock you when they reach out. Those few especially make you glance outward from your grief, realizing that circle of people you hold close is wider than you think.

It’s been a month since my dad passed away. I am still amazed at who I have heard from—and who has remained invisible– the last difficult months. Every word and action has truly made an impact on me:  a short text or phone call, stacks of cards (some from people I didn’t even know were aware my dad was gone), delivering food for us, sending flowers, reaching out a hand or hug, giving a gift card for a meal, driving people to the airport, sharing some wine, a kind word, an impactful memory, traveling to see us.

There have been foggy days and sleepless nights, my brain running in the opposite direction from where my focus needs to be.   So those gestures can jolt me back to today, now.

It is okay to feel uncomfortable when acknowledging your sentiments to me. Stumble, if you need to. You may be articulating your feelings for the first time, while I have been addressing mine for many, many hours already. Whether you express yourself with grace, anger, grief, humor, surprise, tears, hope or couched in your own experiences of someone close to you dying, it means so much when people share.

So Just. Show. Up. I know I will be more conscious of Being There in the future, during those times of mourning. Sadly, I can relate.

C

Girlfriends

Letter to my Daughters,

Of the many people you meet in life, some are with you for a moment, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime. Some barely touch your boundaries, others learn your heart, guess your secrets, know your emotions even when they are hiding. And there are many in-between layers, which will fluctuate over time.

Hold onto those girlfriends—you learn who they are as your foundation grows and life circumstances change—with all you can. They are the ones who

Make you laugh out loud. Most important.
Tell you when you look amazing (always, of course) and when asked, tell you not to buy that outfit.
Whether you speak daily or once a year, the conversation flows with no sense of separation.
Hand you Kleenex when you cry, hold your hair on nights you are unwell.
Know your history and dreams, your crushes, your dashed hopes.
Feel like an extension of you. Your family.
Know that sometimes silence is what you crave, a quiet touch.
Listen intently, sometimes offer opinions even when opposite yours,
but don’t force you to think their viewpoint is the only correct one.
They will be there when your romantic relationships fail—so don’t shut them out when you are flying,
Tell you unwanted truths about you, your partner, your children
If you are willing to hear them,
Reach out when you are in need, sometimes unexpectedly,
Share new hobbies, books, card games, films, or restaurants with you,
Explore your neighborhood or travel across the world with you,
stand up for you when you others gossip,
hold onto your secrets forever,
accept when you do not want to share,
let you vanish inside your world–for a little while
wish you joy.

Invest your time and truths with girls you can learn from, laugh with, cry with, yell at, eat and drink with, share with, listen to, forgive, accept. Just Be. Yourself.

On a truly lousy day, I often don’t want to bother anyone with the myriad of stresses crowding my brain. I know I have these girlfriends that I CAN call them if I want to talk; that alone can give me some peace.

Reach out to them. Help them. Thank them. Love them. Laugh with them and sometimes at them. Agree with them. Challenge them. Respect them. Nurture them.Trust them.

Know that some of those friendships will wane, some surprising ones will last decades. But hold onto those winners. You won’t regret it.

Love,

Your Mama

First Mud Run

There was a rainbow of tutus, team tee shirts with long socks, fake boobs, long sparkly dresses, headbands, sneakers, smiles, singing, and mud.  Lots of mud.  Last weekend I ran the first IL Dirty Girl run, a 5K run with obstacles throughout the course, and it was a BLAST!   I highly recommend trying an event like this, even if you are not a runner.

Waiting for our wave to start the race!

The course started deceivingly simple, climbing over a wall of hay bales.  Then the baptism through the muddy pool crawl teased of what was to come.  There were walls to climb over–the first one a bit slippery and scary, mud hills to conquer, tires to jump through, ropes to climb both up and down a hill, a short burst through up-down-up-down terrain, lots of muddy baths to crawl through, and my favorite: a giant rope wall to conquer.

Throughout the untimed run women were cheering on strangers and friends, helping people stuck on obstacles, non-participants took pictures, we were handed water from volunteers.  The mud tightened and itched on our skins as it dried, so we welcomed the next muddy crawl to soften it up.  If you thought you made it through the course almost unscathed, near the end of the course there was a mud-only pool you belly-moved through under ropes.  Oozing,  I left plenty of room to avoid the person kicking in front of me.

Run completed with Ann and Mary

During the race my headband was used to clean mud from  my eyes, my ears, my mouth, and completely covering my body.  After the race there were freebies from sponsors, and a huge mound of filthy shoes to be cleaned and donated.  And an icy hose off and cold beer reward.

Wanna clean these??

A fundraiser for breast cancer, this very social event included my daughter Devon’s group who ran the whole course to people who walked most of the race.  It didn’t matter how quickly you went–everyone was covered in mud by the end of the run.  The promoters said that almost 10,000 women ran the course over 2 days!  I expect more next year, as it was such an inclusive event.   C