Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Book Club Event and Book Review: Run With Me

   Hey there fine citizen! This past Thursday evening our famous little Oklahoma book club, known far and wide as Dinner Club With a Reading Problem, enjoyed an especially wonderful discussion dinner. Our selection this go-round was Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, by Jennifer Luitwieler. Have you read it? Also, do you read Jen's blog? It is a refreshing balance of philosophy, inspiration, culture, and family. Check her out at jenniferluitwieler.com



   This book was recommended to us by Margi, author of that cool, smart blog called The M Half. Y'all know her as the chick who tried to get me killed in the Pine Forest. Margi reviewed Jen's luscious little piece of non-fiction way back in March of last year, and you can read that right here.

   Okay. Thursday night's event was much more than another pot-luck-and-gab session. We were honored to welcome the author herself into the cramped but cozy living room here at the farm! We circled around her with plates made heavy from comfort foods and desserts, and of course there was plenty of sweet tea and butter. We had a blast and also managed to mostly behave ourselves.


Except for Steph. She is one of our oldest common friends, 
and I am sorry to say that she rarely behaves herself.
Which is mainly why we love her so much.

   Jen indulged us with answers to our questions about her faith, her journey through different churches and role as middle child/ Pastor's daughter, running as a sport, and depression. Depression, so you know, is an important theme in her book, and our little group learned a lot that night. We learned more about this illness and about each other. Some of us shared about personal struggles with depression, and others of us admitted to needing to know how to help loved ones who suffer from it.



Kudos to our guest for maintaining her focus and composure 
while I tried repeatedly to get a focused photo of her pretty face. 
Over anxious hostesses with cameras can be annoying.

   We shared varying perspectives on life and family, family patterns, marriage, the hurt and healing of church and coming of age, and so much more. Six hours of fantastic socializing flew by in a minute, it seemed, and we all agreed that it was the best book club event to date. (We actually say that every single time we meet, but truly, it's gonna be difficult to top an author visiting us in the flesh!)

   My guess is that if we asked each of the ten women who attended Thursday night, "What was the discussion about?" We would hear ten different answers. Because while we probably spent most of our time exploring Depression and its attendant* complications, every varying slice of conversation was meaningful to different women in different ways. For example, I was highly motivated by Jen's chapter on Grace and some of the spiritual observations she made in her book and in our visit. Another couple of our members seemed to be most interested in hearing more about running (me too, by the way... Jen just ran 18 miles on Saturday and is training for another half marathon!). Still more book-clubbers were thirsty for Jen's' guidance in writing and publishing original work. Had we been successful in convincing our guest to stay overnight, we would surely have kept her awake until dawn with the brain-picking. Small wonder, then, that she opted to drive home at night.


This mantra, this slice of her benediction, applies to anything you choose.

   Whatever our specific takeaways, though, one strong theme runs all throughout. And it is actually what Jen uses to end her book, the encouragement to find your thing, whatever it is, and do it well.

"Run far. Run short.
Run north and south, east and west.
Run with me.
Run to everything you were ever meant to be.
Run with me.
Run hard. Run easy. 
Run with me. Run with me. Run with me."
~Jennifer Luitwieler

   I do hope you find or download a copy of this book and read Run With Me. It is a comfortable, smart, witty, conversational offering of one woman's imperfect and nourishing life experiences and how she has profited in surprising ways by lacing up and hitting the pavement.



   You stand to gain so much by reading this book. But the fact remains that we are the lucky ones who got to chat her up and share roasted chicken, cheesy grits, and coconut cake. She shared even more generously in our suppertime conversation. So...Just for fun, how about a list of special facts we learned about this lovely woman during our hours together? This was such fun!

  • She also has a book club. And she belongs to various writers groups and leads a weekly writers' discussion on Twitter. All of this, on top of being active in her church and running marathons and mothering three children and homeschooling two of them, AND she perfectly put together and polished. I am in awe.
  • She wrote this book in less than a year, originally as a series of blog posts, and revised it over and over.
  • Her husband still hasn't read it. tsk-tsk... But we all surmised he was there for most of her stories. He knows what happens, right?
  • All of her family's pets are rescues.
  • Jen has done several telephone and Skype interviews, but Thursday night at the Lazy W was her first in-person appearance!
  • She places high value on small but daily doses of solitude.
  • Her unique take on modern Christianity is fascinating. Her remark, "We go to a really weird little church," garnered lots of belly laughs. Then, her descriptions of its uniqueness and community ministries brought smiles to all ten of our faces.
  • She just finished her first novel, YAY JEN!!! She wrote Seven Days in May, a volume of historical fiction set right here in Oklahoma, as a participant in NaNoWriMo. This means that she fleshed it out in one month, folks. She is currently shopping agents for its publication and promised us a return visit after its release. We are so excited!!
  • Jen is actually a fellow fan of Aimee Bender, author of our group's much-debated read of 2010 The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (my review here), a fact which when revealed sent peals of laughter through the high-carb room. I do not mind admitting a feeling of vindication. Aaaannnddd... Now I'm craving lemon cake again. As I sit here writing, I may settle for a slice of leftover coconut-lime cake!
  • Her running playlist is so rad, ranging from Eminem (yep) to Mumford and Sons (double yep). And I suspect that a few of our ladies will be dipping their polished toes into Couch-to-5K after hearing from her. 
  • Jen Luitwieler is one of those women who, though fascinating on paper and perfectly lovely in photos, makes an even more profound impact in person. She is glowy in every sense of that expression: She has the sheen of good health, certainly, but she also emits a lot of love and peace. Wisdom beyond her forty-one years. I am so happy to have made her acquaintance, and I know that all of Dinner Club With a Reading Problem feels the same way.
   Many thanks to Margi for not only selecting this title, but also for inviting our esteemed guest and coordinating this event. Of course, too, many thanks M for running around town with me on Thursday and then letting me boss you around in the final hours before our shin dig. She even dusted artwork and cut flowers for us, ladies!


Part of our Book Club, from left to right: 
Amber, Stephanie, Desiree, Kerri, DeLana, me, Tracy, Margi, Misti, and Melissa. 
And of course our lovely guest Jen in front. 
While snapping photos for us, my husband suggested 
she lay sideways and let us hold her up, cheer-leader style, and she said no.

   Thanks to Kerri for taking charge of our group's token of appreciation. Thanks to Melissa for the thoughtful party favors, the delish cake, and time spent neatening up our brainstorm of questions. Stephanie, Tracy, Amber, DeLana, Misti, and Desiree, thanks for helping to supply such a gorgeous spread of comfort food, including roasted lemon chicken, rolls, sweet corn casserole, garlic-cheddar grits, chocolate cheesecake, fresh salad, and too many beverages! Seri, thanks for bringing your appetizer early even though you couldn't attend! Too sweet. We are the world's best book club for a lot of reasons, and team work is one of them.

"Run to Everything You Were Ever Meant to Be."
~Jennifer Luitwieler
xoxoxoxo

*Jen's artful use of this word in this way has me hooked. I must credit her influence.


 

pinnable

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