Reading Stacks & Commonplace

"C.S. Lewis wrote that friendship happened the moment when you realize that you share something important with another. I think story offers a similar friendship. Connections such as this will go unnoticed however, if story, or friendship, is approached as a thing to consume instead of a relationship. It would be easy with the thousands of words that scroll across my screen every day, to forget the words that really touch my heart. The words that really matter. A sort of gluttonous feast that, instead of nourishing, serves to overwhelm until I don't know the quality from the quantity. In an attempt to prevent this, or counteract it at east, and also in hopes of encouraging others to embrace the stillness that does the same, I will share my commonplace quotes and reading selections here."

We HAVE been reading! I just haven't made blogging a priority this summer and early fall. It has been one crazy year, and being a part of the internet noise has not been my goal. Not to mention  I just don't seem to have time without interuptions to write. I can sit with a book and be asked a million questions, take a minute, answer them and then go on to what was I reading. Writing is a different story. I think I remember reading somewhere in Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book A Gift From the Sea many years ago how writing and being a mother is a very difficult thing. There are many mamas who have done amazing work while caring for many littles, but this mama can't keep my thoughts together as I try to get out a paragraph with multiple discussions happening between the first word and the last. My whole (wonderful, beautiful) reality throws off my writing. I end up spelling things wrong, writing sentences that are terrible and mostly, writing everything except for what I wanted to say. So, writing has been rare but reading has been great this year.
 Our summer challenge was completed on 8/14/2020 and we collectiely read 13, 512 pages! It was amazing! 
Summer Reading Time!
This summer our family has decided to complete a summer reading challenge:
Our goal is to read, collectively, ten thousand pages by the end of summer break.
These can be short essays, entire books, and yes, if you really love a book and reread it the pages count twice!
The point is to read, and to fill our hearts and minds with Good, True, and Beautiful things. I may suggest some reading for the kids, but nothing is a required read.
We've been at this for about a month, and so far, we are on the right track!
Happy Summer!
Happy Reading! 
Wow! If I though February went by in a flash, March and April have been a blur. I have been reading, but I have had much less time to write about it. It seems that there is a rumor going around that since we are at home, we should be bored. I find that, at least as a mom, this time has been very full. We are not running around and busy outside of the home, but we have been filling our days nonetheless.
Along with reading the books Adore and On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (both amazing books!), I have been working on my previous reading stacks, some books more than others. My youngest and I just finished Little Women. We started this book at the beginning of the school year and I wasn't sure if we were going to finish it before summer. We were fitting our readings in between so many other things and it often was bumped for something else. Finally, these past few weeks we made it a priority and enjoyed each moment. I love the way the characters are developed and just the sweetness of the story overall.
A few other recently completed books are:
The Faithful Spy by Hendrix- a graphic novel about the life of Bonhoeffer. I was actually very skeptical of this format, but I found that it was exceptionally well done!
At the Back of the Northwind by MacDonald. I enjoyed this story very much. I think, though, that upon a second reading I will appreciate it even more. One favorite quote was
"A poet is a man who is gald of something, and tries to make other people glad of it too."
which I really appreciated finding quoted in Andrew Peterson's Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling and the Mystery of Making.
I listened to the audio book of Life Together by Bonhoeffer. This book will take a few times through for me to really digest it, but he made so many great observations about community and humanity together.  This year, my year of Quiet, I am learning how to be a better listener. I feel so often that in a conversation I tend to want to speak more than listen. I appreciated what Bonhoeffer wrote about this...
"We should listen with the ears of God, that we may speak the word of God."
I have a long way to go.
I was priviledged to read The Hidden Smile of God by Piper along with a really good friend. It was great to discuss each chapter and point, and to really internalize how God worked in each man's life  and through them. There were a lot of moments of discovery for me in this book, but one in particular was how, so often, the legacy that these men left was not something they enjoyed while living. Mostly, they had no idea the lasting impact their lives, and their lives of suffering, would have on generations to come.
Lastly, I recently finished The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. I try to make a point, a few times a year at least, to read books that my kids recommend or request that I read.  I want them to know that  sharing stories is a great way to connect and share-and that  sharing books isn't a one way street. I recommend and assign all kinds of reading throughout the year, it would be my loss if I didn't pay attention to their recommendations as well.
I really enjoyed this story! Getting to know Mr. Benedict as a child, his friends and his history was enlightening. I really was surprised to find that the author had include a deaf character, and I found (but was not surprised because of having read a few other Mysterious Benedict stories) that there was a depth to the story. After reading it, I was able to laugh and connect about different parts of the story with my oldest and I was thrilled when we found ourselves talking about Nicholas' transformation in the story and what that meant for his character.
Teen years can be tough to find common ground to talk on. I am finding that books, both stories and informational texts, all serve as a great bridge. I learn more about each of my children and they learn more about me. It really is a great way to build a family culture!
Is it really March already?!
The days have been flying by lately.
Spring is in full bloom, the trees all over the area are full of beautiful blossoms and, like many springs of the past, we are saying goodbye to February with hearts grateful for sunshine and also with schedules busy with activity.
My reading stacks are still the same, but most of those have been paused while I participate in TWO book launches!
As a self-admitted book-nerd, participating in these launches is super exciting. Not only do I get to read some amazing books, but I get to participate in a community of people ( the authors, their teams and the other launch participants) that is creative, invested, and just as excited about writing and reading as I am.
I can't wait to share more about these books soon!

You can check them out, too!
Adore by Sara Hagerty
The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
(there is a Preorder Offer!)

Exciting news! Our family finished our Read Aloud for February (our month to read aloud every night) The Call of the Wild.  We are looking forward to seeing the movie next week!
For the rest of the month we will be reading from Aesop's Fables.
We read a handful the other evening and I thought they were great, as fables go, but I didn't think much else. And then, later, as I was folding laundry and thinking about some things that I am pretty discontented about, one came back to me. It made me pause and chuckle at the same time.  I, too, have been given things that are unique to me and I should not utter my "foolish complaints" so easily.

I added two books this week (that I already read bits of, but I will work on them more directly now).

This week I  "finalized" the reading plans I wrote about last week. I am excited because it helps me think about what and when to read at the right time. I can put the books that need to be on the shelf back and just focus on what is on the plan for today and this year.

To recap recently completed books:
Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare
Hallelujah, Anyway by Lamott
Devoted by Challies
Tiger Rising by DeCamillo
The Call of the Wild by London

To recap my current reading rotation:

Where the Red Fern Grows (Read Aloud for lunch time)
Little Women (Slowly, with youngest, as we can get to it)
Hannah Coulter (I am reading slowly to better hold the story)
A Poetry Handbook by Oliver
At the Back of the North Wind by MacDonald (Also, reading this very slowly)
The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Henry
The Intellectual Life by Sertillanges
Ourselves by Mason

A few CommonPlace entries from this week's reading:

From Where the Red Fern Grows
While prowling the woods, I had seen the big tree many times. I had always stopped and admired it. Like a king in his own domain, it towered far above the smaller trees. It had taken me quite a while to find a name suitable for the big sycamore. For a while I had called it "the chicken tree". In some ways it had reminded me of a mother hen hovering over her young in a rainstorm. Its huge limbs spread out over the small birch, ash, box elder, and water oak as if it alone were their protector. Next, I named it "the giant". That name didn't last long. Mama told us children a story about a big giant that lived in the mount ains and ate little children that were lost. Right away I started looking for another name.
From The Intellectual Life
And when we have done our part, results and the measure of them will demand the same virtue of acceptance, the same selflessness, the same peace in a Will that is not ours. One achieves what one can, and we need to judge our own capacity so as not on the one hand to underestimate it, or, inversely, not to exceed in the direction of pretentiousness and van conceit.

(this makes me think about one of our mottos
Fortiter Fideliter Forsan Feliciter, Bravely, faithfully, perhaps successfully)

From Ourselves 
(from the Preface)

As a stream can rise no higher than its source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise above the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth...


And the path indicated by the law is continuous and progressive, with no transition stage from the cradle to the grave, except that maturity takes up the regular self-direction to which immaturity has been trained.

(this made me think..what happens when immaturity isn't trained, or is trained in dysfunction?")


I've spent the past few weeks shoring up some future reading plans for middle school and high school. This past year has brought one thing in particular into focus:
The years are short.
I have about three years of at home reading left for my oldest, just a few more for my youngest. I want to be sure that we have a focused reading plan so we are intentional about our reading. There are so many wonderful things to read and the truth is, we cannot read them all before graduation. So I want to be sure that if there is something we need to be reading on-purpose, it doesn't get left behind because of a last minute decision. 
One problem with this method, however, is that I am also a firm believer in reading things in season. I believe all things are best read at the time they are meant to be read. That is very untechnical and mysterious. This simply means that I make a plan that I expect will be altered as the years go by. The plan is a roadmap of sorts, but when life calls us to detour I am willing to go there, too (or instead). Sometimes those last minute decisions are exactly what we needed at that time. So, I trust that, with my effort and the Holy Spirit's leading, they will read what needs to be read before they leave home. 
For my reading these past few weeks, I have finished a few books and set aside some others. My current reading stack includes some past mentions (The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Matthew Henry, Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Hales,  At the Back of the North Wind by MacDonald, Hannah Coulter by Berry,  Where the Red Fern Grows by Rawls and The Call of the Wild by London). 
And also a few new books, The Tiger Rising by DiCamillo, Hallelujah, Anyways by Lamott, and  A Poetry Handbook by Oliver. 
Some CommonPlace Quotes from these reads are:

"All that we gave remains." Lamott
"Thank God I am in charge of so little, or this could never have happened; life is much wilder, richer, and more profound than I am comfortable with." Lamott
-Lamott always finds a way to put her words in such an order that I cry-laugh as I read them. I cry because of their hard truth, and I laugh because, well, they way she communicates this hard-truth is done is such a way that catches me off guard and knocks the pretense right out. 

The Tiger Rising by DiCamillo is a beautiful short story that hits my heart right where grief sits. During the story, Rob (a young boy grieving the loss of his mother to cancer) talks about putting all the things he is grieving over into an imaginary suitcase. It was an analogy that was beautifully illustrated throughout the book. I think this would be a great story to give to a child who is grieving some loss, and to use it as a conversation point. Not in a pushy way, not in a literary analysis way, just let the child read it and either have them narrate their readings or just ask simple questions like, "what do you think when Willie May said this about Rob's rash or What do you think about Rob's suitcase?
Better yet, just let them read it and let them lead the discussion. It isn't a time for fixing things or moralizing things, but discussions such as these are better left for listening and hugs.
"Sadness," said Willie May, closing her eyes and nodding her head. "You keeping all that sadness down low, in your legs. You not letting it get up to your heart, where it belongs. You got to let that sadness rise on up."

"Rob remembered and as he remembered, he stepped into the motel room. He shook his head and scolded himself for opening his suitcase. Just thinking about all the things that were gone now seemed to make the darkness darker."


This week and last week were a bit off schedule and crazy for me (for us). There were many unexpected things that came up (like multiple days of construction that would shake our house for hours and hours) and some other challenges that we are still working through. Since I am ahead in my Prereading, I decided that for my personal reading time I would focus my reading on books that are waiting in the wings to be finished and some more "fun" reading.
We are still reading Romeo and Juliet, Where the Red Fern Grows and Little Women as together reading. I really (really!) want to find time to continue the reading aloud of Bauer's history book (The History of the Medieval World) that I was reading with my highschooler, but his schedule is already packed and I haven't found a time that consistently works for both of us. I won't give up on this yet, however! Every time we sit down to read it, we both enjoy it and the conversation that flows after.

I finally finished listening to Amusing Ourselves to Death by Postman. The entire book was incredibly eye opening towards culture, technology and humanity as a whole. The book is filled with connections and quotes that were very enlightening. I especially liked the statement he made about our "Now This" news culture.  This book is in a league of its own, but it reminded me in many ways of the book The Shallows (What the Internet is Doing to our Brains) by Carr. These books are very informative and make very compelling cases towards making sure we are using technology (of all kinds) responsibly and not gluttonously/without caution. I think that if more people read these books and then used that information to make better decisions about technology use, then our culture would experience a major turn around.
I continued reading Hannah Coulter this week. I remembered that it is one of my favorite stories, but I forgot just how much I love it. There is so much wisdom that Hannah has, her life perspective is humble and true, and yet she is not larger than life. She just is. And that is part of what makes the story so beautiful.
My favorite quote from her story is:
"You can't give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering. You can't give yourself to love for a soldier without giving yourself to his suffering in war."

Also this week, I picked back up in the book Finding Holy in the Suburbs by Ashley Hales. I just happened upon this book at the same time that I was struggling with coming to terms with our new living situation. I am reading this book alongside a group of amazing women and I look forward to the discussion we will have soon about what Hales has to say about suburban life.  I have not finished the book yet but so far, page after page, she has brought comfort and conviction about living as Christians in suburban America. There are many selections from her book for my commonplace, but a few of the most recent are:
(a quote she gathered from another author)
"yet, revolution in politics or faith always starts small. It always begins when you dig into your place and embrace that actual stuff of earth with all its specificity and brokenness"
"Personal and communal wholeness is not birthed from hustle."

Finally, I started reading Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Karon this week. This was a book that I've wanted to read for awhile. I have read some of the other Mitford novels in the past and enjoyed their lighthearted yet touching story. I ultimately picked it up this past week because I wanted to read something easy. This isn't to say that the story doesn't have value and that it isn't very well written. It just isn't full of facts like Postman's book and it isn't something I need to think of from a school prep standpoint. I can just read, enjoy the story, get to know and love the characters, and still be filled with quotes like this, (a quote that Father Tim copied in his notebook while browsing a bookstore), 

"All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art. JL Borges"
I loved that quote.

This past week I was able to finish my prereading selections of Frankenstein and On the Banks of Plum Creek. I remember reading OTBOPC when I was in third grade and I remember loving that story more than any others I had read previously. Rereading it to prepare for discussion, it did not disappoint me even after all of these years.
Frankenstein is a classic that I have always wanted to read but never have. I believe I picked it up once, long ago, but the way in which it was written was hard for me to approach. I have grown as a reader since then, mostly growing by knowing that when a book isn't easy, it becomes more readable when you push through. Also, these are often the most rewarding kinds of stories I have experienced. By rewarding I don't necessarily mean that the stories were the best thing I've ever read, but they made me think while reading and long after.
One quote I copied into my commonplace from Frankenstein from this past week was :
"Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change." 
How true this is.
I am looking forward to discussion this book will inevitably bring in our home.
My reading stack for this week is unchanged except for the removal of Frankenstein and OTBOPC, and in their place I will be reading some of Shakespeare's sonnets (to add to our Morning Time), The Call of the Wild (this was bumped up in our reading list due to the movie that will be in theaters soon), and I am rereading Hannah Coulter (which is probably my favorite story that I have read so far by Wendell Berry.)
My Current Reading Stack
This does not include the Book of Acts that I am slowly reading through or the books that I turn to on my kindle when I am waiting in line or before I fall asleep at night. 
We are reading some Shakespeare in the morning during our Morning Basket time (so I am not reading the entire Shakespeare book pictured here!)
This pile is daunting to me, but it is currently where I have found myself; between homeschooling two (very good readers) and also wanting to continue with my own education. So far, I have discovered if I read a little every day, it really does get done! (Thank you, Cindy Rollins!) and also, I am working on reading instead of scrolling ;)

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