Saturday, March 18, 2017

Reading and keeping weekly update - 3/18/17

It's been a productive reading week, I'm happy to say. My kind husband gave me some time out of the house early in the week and I spent the day reading and studying.

I finally crossed the bridge this week. In most fiction that I read, and I tend toward classics, there is almost always a bridge to cross before I find myself completely on the journey, fully invested. The number of pages preceding the bridge differs from book to book, but I know I've hit it when I am no longer content to read a handful of pages at a time. Isn't there a time like that it all books, perhaps, other than the simplest of stories or those that are very short? (I remember reading The Mill on the Floss, an absolute favorite book of mine, and hitting the bridge at about page 100.) Anyway, this week I hit the bridge in Brideshead. Only a calamity should keep me from finishing it within the next few days. I won't say anymore more now but will write about it next week.

I finished my year-long stroll through the English countryside this week and it was lovely. Here is a poem that I particularly enjoyed:

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, 
The bird of dawning singeth all night long,
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm 
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
-William Shakespeare

In addition to its primary purpose as a nature diary, her reference on November 5 was intriguing and led me to a little history lesson. First, her entry:

Bonfire Night. The particular service commemorative of the Papists' conspiracy on the 5th was abolished in 1859.

She had me at Papists. I have heard the name Guy Fawkes before but never knew who he was. I wasn't looking to do extensive research but a quick look found this.

I was so excited to read here something I had just learned in a class on Holy Week, the concept of kairos and chronos. (During the class, we were encouraged to experience the events of Holy Week in the sense of kairos.) Kairos refers to experience outside of our understanding of time, and chronos meaning time by the clock. She said:

Perhaps one of the saddest things we can do is waste time, as Shakespeare knew when he had Richard the Second cry out, "I have wasted time, and now doth time waste me."

But being time is never wasted time. When we we are being, not only are we collaborating with chronological time, but we are touching on kairos, and are freed from the normal restrictions of time. In moments of mystical illumination we may experience, in a few chronological seconds, years of transfigured love.

I am so glad I decided to read this book; I have high hopes that it will help me understand other philosophical works down the road. I don't have anything particular to share as I spent much of this week writing notes in a notebook and making sense of what I've read so far. (I am taking notes in the notebook in which I began my Summa of the Summa notes; I guess it's become my philosophy notebook. See here for how I read and keep notes.)

This book gave me an idea for something that I have been struggling with for a long time. Around here, there are a lot of people who stand in the median at traffic lights holding signs asking for help. I am always torn. I want to help, truly. But how do I know what their real needs are? How do I know that my $5 is going to help and not hurt them? I saw it happen once, my $5 not being used as the man had said and in a way that would most definitely not help him. Through a story one of the authors shared, I've decided to put together some brown bags with non-perishable food in them: canned fruit, granola bar, and some nuts. I'll keep them in my car so that when I see a person in need, I can at least share something. I know it can't solve everything, but now I can look them in the eye and be at peace with what I am doing. I can share the love of Christ with them and, at the very least, light one candle in the darkness.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Reading and keeping weekly update - 3/11/17

This was a decent week for reading as I settled my philosophy dilemma and got myself back to my normal rotation of four books (not including my philosophy; I consider that more a study book). I didn't post last week but it's probably just as well. I was in and out of books so much that there were days even I wasn't sure what I was reading!

Our friend David, one of the people who recommended this book to me, urged me to be careful of judging Sebastian too soon. I have kept that in mind. I've noticed that how I judge characters in books is not too far off from how I judge in real life. Ouch. I had a poor impression of him in the beginning, truly a bit unsure that I really wanted to continue with the book. But I also have a deep sense of compassion for others, too, and that helps to combat the urge to judge. I'm about a third of the way through the book and I still can't see where it's going, but I am grateful for the chance to grow in my love for the characters in the book and at the same time, practice for the messiness of real life.

I continue to enjoy this book; I am in the month of September now. I tabbed this poem that appeared in the June section:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may
Old Time is still a flying
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
-R. Herrick

This is so very true. I hope I will remember this during the growing season and take every opportunity I have to observe and sketch from nature.

It's getting a bit crazy how many Post-it note tabs I have in this book so far and I am only half-way finished! Loved this:

Creativity is a way of life, not matter what our vocation, or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career. Several women have written to me to complain about A Swiftly Tilting Planet. They feel that I should not have allowed Meg Murry to give up a career by marrying Calvin, having children, and quietly helping her husband with his work behind the scenes. But if women are to be free to choose to pursue a career as well as marriage, they must also be free to choose the making of a home and the nurture of a family as their vocation; that was Meg's choice, and a free one, and it was as creative a choice as if she had gone on to get a PhD in quantum mechanics. Our freedom to be creators is far less limited than some people would think.

I began this book last week and am making quick progress through it. It's a lovely little book, easy to read, and full of practical ideas on how to live out the beauty of divine mercy as a mom of young children. I love books that inspire but I also long for practicality as well. This book does both.

After much going back and forth, a holy religious sister (who is helping me in my desire to study and learn more about the deeper truths of life and our Catholic faith) suggested I begin my study of philosophy with this book. Having no background whatsoever in philosophy, this book is very approachable and understandable. I read a few chapters over the course of the week and will likely spend some time this week making notes from what I read. The author states in his introduction that while he did not title the book as being "for children," he wrote it with the thought that it would be accessible to one as young as 12 years old or so.

Other reading this week:

I have a pre-teen boy whom I love so much. This week I decided to pull this book off the shelf and re-read the chapter entitled A Mother's Son. I read this book several years ago when this phase in my son's life seemed so far away. An excellent book on raising boys. And I need it. :)

Pinnochio - Carlo Collodi, illus. by Roberta MacDonald

I'm linking to this exact edition simply because I really, really like the illustrations. We are only a quarter of the way through the book but we are all enjoying it immensely. More to come! Here is one of the excellent illustrations in the book - I just think they perfectly fit the very mischievous Pinnochio.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reading and Keeping weekly update - 2/25/17

This was a week of transition. I finished one book, decided to pause on another, and have added two new books to my pile. I aim to have 3-4 books going at a time, usually (ideally) on different topics.

This book was on my to-read pile for the last couple of weeks and I finally pushed and read it this week. The premise: what if you could live forever? Would you do it? Why or why not? This unassuming little book asks important questions; we get to wrestle with them as we live along with the characters and see how the answers play out in their lives. I liked it, and think I would have liked it more if I had read more than a few pages at a time. It was not a religious book at all, but touched on the eternal. Many years ago I was afraid of death and probably would have welcomed the chance to live forever on earth. I am older now and, perhaps, just a bit wiser; I see death differently now. This book made me look at it in a different light than I had before, touching on the natural instinct for us as human beings to keep moving ahead.

My next fiction read is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. This book has come recommended from a number of sources whom I trust so am super excited to read it. I got home late last night and was only able to get partly through the prologue so I don't have much to say about it yet. I will say, though, that I do not like the cover of my edition! I'm not going to take the trouble to link to it but it is a photo of the people who starred in the PBS screen version of it. Had I known this is what I would get, I would have spent a few extra dollars and gotten a cover I liked - the one I link to above is much better.

I have a commitment to the Blessed Mother to pray the Rosary every day, but it is not always easy. I am always open to helping myself be more inspired by it and more committed. I haven't opened this book yet but it's in my basket and I plan to start it this week. More later.

I am putting this book on pause in hopes of building up a bit more philosophy knowledge. I could muddle my way through, but I really want to give myself the best chance at understanding as much as I can. I am currently trying to figure out the best way to do this. Maybe by next week?

Still reading this in small bits; I'm in the month of June right now. I really could read this faster but am trying to savor it. One poem I really liked this week by Norman Gale:

Here in the country's heart
Where the grass is green
Life is the same sweet life
As it e'er hath been

Trust in a God still lives,
And the bell at morn
Floats with a thought of God
O'er the rising corn.

God comes down in the rain
And the crop grows tall - 
This is the country faith,
And the best of all!

I grew up in the suburb of a very large city and was far from anything remotely country (except country music in college, maybe...). Now living in a rural subdivision, I find that even this little taste of country life suits me pretty well. So, this poem captured a bit of what I dream about country life.

I made no progress on this book all week. Boy, I really need to get my reading routine back! See the weekly updates prior to this one for some thoughts on this book.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Reading and keeping weekly update - 2/18/17

I made only a little progress on my books this week as my daily routine was disrupted due to midwinter break and a lot of outside commitments. I do miss my reading time, though, and am looking forward to its return this week.

I enjoyed the introductory page to June because of the author's addition of folklore and a bit of history. Some highlights:

Ovid assigns the name of this month to Juno; others connect it with the Consulate of Junius Brutus. 

Mist in May and heat in June
Brings all things into tune.

Barnaby bright, (June 11) all day and no night.

Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit
This is very quick reading; I am perhaps a third of the way through it. During a less busy week, I would have finished it by now! I am not prepared to talk about it just yet.

I continue to enjoy this book. She writes freely, going from one topic to another while connecting them all back to each other. There were a couple of times I finished reading something and felt a bit muddled - do I really understand what she means, and furthermore, do I agree? But one part I particularly liked was when she talked about learning language in context. It may seem a bit random but it fit.

[Talking about her family life.] But when we read, we read. We were capable of absorbing far more vocabulary when we read straight on than when we stopped to look up every word. Sometimes I will jot down words to be looked up later. But we learn words in many ways, and much of my vocabulary has been absorbed by my subconscious mind which then kindly blips it up to my conscious mind when it is needed.

Summa of the Summa - Peter Kreeft/St. Thomas Aquinas
If you read last week's update, you know that I was struggling a bit. However, with a bit more study, I managed to understand Question One, Third Article well enough to move on to the Fourth Article: Whether Sacred Doctrine Is a Practical Science? Stay tuned to see how long it takes me to figure this one out. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Catholic non-fiction / Adult

My desire to learn the Catholic faith is rather insatiable; years of neglect leave me with a desire to make up for lost time. I know I will never learn it all in this life, but there is some comfort in knowing that I will never run out of good books to read and study! There are so many, but these have had a particular influence on my life. I'll continue to add to this list, I am sure!

My Daily Bread - Fr. Anthony J. Paone
Of all of the books on this list, I have had this book the longest, so long, that I don't remember where or when I bought it. The insights in this book are thought-provoking and true in a way that I find both comforting and challenging. One of my top two or three spiritual books (outside of the Bible, of course).

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart - Fr. Jacques Philippe
This would be another of my top two or three spiritual books. I have purchased this book time and again for others and continue to think about its insights often. Fr. Philippe has a powerful grasp on the spiritual challenges that can plague us all.

(added 3/14/17)
In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year - Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
I can't believe I left this off when I first published this list. This is an AMAZING set of books. The reflections are not short nor are they light. They are densely packed with the author's own good thoughts and reflections, along with the writings of saints, official writings of the Church, popes, etc. Highly, highly recommended. (I was able to acquire my almost-complete set by purchasing individual volumes used but in good condition - I still need one more!)

Ignatius Study Bible - New Testament
I have a few different Bibles and they each serve a different purpose. The name of this particular Bible says it all; it's an excellent Bible for delving more deeply into the meanings of particular passages as well as short essays on certain topics throughout. I first learned about typology through the work of Scott Hahn and the notes in this Bible have helped me continue to learn.

Ignatius Study Bible - Old Testament guides
The goodness of these OT study guides is the same as I shared above. I (along with many others) am eagerly awaiting the release of the full Ignatius Old Testament Bible. Right now, though, there are a handful available as individual volumes. I have Genesis and Exodus and they are excellent.

The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer - Fr. John Bartunek
I was fortunate to find a used copy of this book; it is an investment. However, if you wish to do lectio divina, this is a truly powerful resource and would be worth the full price. All four Gospels are contained in this book, broken up into small sections for meditation.

Come to Me in the Blessed Sacrament
Mother Teresa found this book to be a worthy companion for Eucharistic Adoration, and I agree. Passages from scripture, meditations, and holy hours are just a few of the wonderful features of this book.

Choosing Joy: The Secret of Living a Fully Christian Life - Dan Lord
I want so much to be a joyful person but it is a struggle. This book is a gem. It's filled with the author's own experiences mixed with the wisdom of the saints, popes, and the Church. I liked his mix of the inspirational and the practical. A short read, it will stay with you long after you put it down. (And as of this posting, it is very inexpensive!)

The Bible Compass: A Catholic's Guide to Navigating the Scriptures - Edward Sri
This was the perfect book to read in support of my goal of becoming Biblically literate.

Time for God - Fr. Jacques Philippe
Another book by this insightful priest offers help on prayer, specifically mental prayer, something that is so foundational to life but also hard to grasp at times. He has much encouragement as well as practical help for the struggles we face in prayer.

33 Days to Morning Glory: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat in Preparation for Marian Consecration - Fr. Michael Gaitley
It's very simple: this is the book that finally helped me to grow close to our Blessed Mother Mary.

Christian Prayer
The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church. I hope to increase my use of this powerful prayer.

Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy in God's Kingdom - Michael Barber
My parish offered a class on the Psalms based on this book. Having never studied the Psalms in depth, I learned quite a bit from this book. I tabbed it with Post-it notes galore and had so much to add to my Bible binder.

The How-to Book of the Mass: Everything You Need to Know but No One Ever Taught You - Michael Dubriel
I took copious notes from this book. It was humbling to realize how much I was missing in the Mass as I went through this book; it changed my prayer and focus at Mass in a significant way. (I am glad to see they have given this book a new cover - my copy has a very unattractive green and black design not worthy of the content of the book!)
3/14/17 note - something I learned in this book was recently contradicted by a priest I respect. It wasn't an issue of core teaching or doctrine, but it caught my attention. The author states that the procession into the sanctuary is a matter of order and practicality. This particular priest said specifically that it is not just for order and practicality, but that it represents the celebrant leading the people to an encounter with God (that's not a direct quote, but reflects the general idea). Just a FYI! I really did learn much from this book and do not think this one particular thing anywhere near enough to not recommend it. However, after reading through the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (see next book recommendation below) for details on the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I prefer its more concrete style. Each has something good to offer depending on what you are seeking!)

General Instruction of the Roman Missal
This book goes into great detail about each element of the Mass. What a joy! I am especially drawn to the section on the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion - Peter Kreeft
I was invited to read this book a few years ago with some women from my parish. I liked the author's discussion on the virtues in light of history as well as modern times. It stretched me at the time as I had not been used to this type of deeper reading (deeper thinking, yes, not deeper reading!). It may be time to visit it again.

Prayer for Beginners - Peter Kreeft
A couple of years ago, a seminarian at our parish offered a summer class on prayer based on this book. It was a life-changing experience because it inspired me to develop a daily prayer routine to anchor my life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Reading and keeping weekly update - 2/11/17

The end of last week was very full, and many of my books sat neglected. However, since this is the first of these kind of posts, I have some things to share by way of introductions.

Summa of the Summa - St. Thomas Aquinas/Peter Kreeft
I was pretty excited to start this book, looking to stretch my intellectual life (believe me, there is a lot of potential here - nobody will every accuse me of being too intellectual!). I'm on Question One, The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine. With just a bit of study, I was able to understand articles one and two and I thought, well, maybe philosophy isn't so hard after all. Article three, however, has brought me back to reality as I have struggled to understand what St. Thomas is saying in this short text. My total lack of any philosophy knowledge is a hindrance now and will likely continue to be. How did I graduate high school and college with no formal study in philosophy? Peter Kreeft says I shouldn't approach the Summa without some working knowledge of philosophy; he recommended Aristotle for Everybody by Mortimer Adler. I bought it because he told me to but I thought, perhaps, I could get away with not reading it after my success with articles one and two. Rethinking that.

Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit
I like to read well-written children's literature and this has been recommended by people whose opinions I respect. This was not a good week to start something new, though, due to the busy-ness of things so I haven't ventured past the prologue. And frankly, I think I needed some time to recover from the conclusion of Oliver Twist. My first Dickens novel was better than I had wished, but it was intense and affected me greatly. I don't know how much more mistreatment of Oliver I could have taken. I loved this paragraph near the end the book:

How Mr. Brownlow went on, from day to day, filling the mind of his adopted child with stores of knowledge, and becoming attached to him, more and more, as his nature developed itself and showed the thriving seeds of all he wished him to become - how he traced in him new traits of his early friend, that awakened in his own bosom old remembrances, melancholy and yet sweet and soothing - how the two orphans, tried by adversity, remembered its lessons in mercy to others, and mutual love and fervent thanks to Him who had protected and preserved them - these are all matters which need not to be told. I have said that they were truly happy; and without strong affection, and humanity of heart, and gratitude to that Being whose code is Mercy, and whose great attribute is Benevolence to all things that breathe, true happiness can never be attained. p. 404

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art - Madeleine L'Engle
It was at least a couple of years ago when I heard of this book and it interested me enough to buy it. I finally decided to pull it off the shelf as my creative impulses have been awakened and renewed lately. She writes about creativity from a Christian perspective and since I like to be creative and to think deeply about everything, I've been enjoying it so far. Since it's not a Catholic book, I know she may explore and have ideas that veer from what I believe, but I know that anything true and good comes from God, no matter the human source, and interestingly enough, she makes a similar point in the book when she says:

But even when one denies God, to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept that fact. Basically there can be no categories such as "religious" art and "secular" art, because all true art is incarnational, and therefore "religious." p. 25 (bold emphasis mine)

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady - Edith Holden
I am not so much reading this book more than enjoying it as I would a cup of hot tea at the end of the day. Formatted as a diary, the author shares nature sketches, poems, and observations of her life in England. It's providing inspiration for me as I work toward nature sketching more and I have tabbed a few poems to copy into my Poetry notebook. Here is one from William Wordsworth:

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things
We murder to dissect.
Enough of Science and of Art
Close up these barren leaves,
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Walking with God: A Journey through the Bible - Tim Gray/Jeff Cavins
I have been reading this book for a looooong time. It is so dense, and on every page I am tabbing something with my post-it notes (see here for the way I keep track of ideas in books). In addition to reading the daily Mass readings most days, I began setting aside time a few times a week for the boys and me to read our respective Bibles, around 15 minutes or so at a time. I have been using that time to continue reading this book. I got so hung up in the section on Egypt and Exodus because I was learning something new on every page plus it is so foundational and, well, the post-it notes are kind of out of control there. But it is so very good for giving the overview of salvation history. When I have a minute, I'm working on transferring my tabbed notes to my Bible notes binder.

With my kids (We read more than what I share here; I am only noting those books that I am particularly connecting to):

St. Patrick's Summer - Marigold Hunt
I do not know of too many books like this that are able to catechize well in the context of a story. Probably a bit beyond my 8yo, but not too far beyond for him to take in the ideas and allow them to mature in due time. My 11yo is at a good age for this book. And I am learning right alongside them, absolutely. A story in which two children, guided by St. Patrick, meet with different spiritual figures from the past and learn many tenets of our Catholic faith.

The War in Vietnam - Robert Lawson
I hated history in school. Too many names, dates, and facts to remember that I never could grasp the story behind them all. Certainly, this book has its share of names, dates, and facts (and they are important) but I can now focus on the bigger picture and how it fits into the bigger story. Discussing it with my son is great, too, as I can tap into his love of history. This is a book for youth, but I have found that books like this make history accessible for someone like me who wants to learn, but is not interested in a 500-page tome on the intricacies of the Vietnam War. I just want to know the basics about the major players and some of the hows and whys. This is helping me do that.

How I read books, keeping, and what I use

Keeping is the art of saving all of the ideas and notes and things from books I read. I am very inspired by Charlotte Mason's methods but do not claim to be a purist.

I do not write in my books. When I did a book study with some friends from my parish a few years ago, we studied Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft. (Great book, by the way.) That was one of my first experiences with a group book study and as I saw everyone else marking up their books, I decided to do the same. I just didn't like it. It got messy and if I didn't like how I made a particular mark or line, it bothered me and I couldn't focus on the words. My eyes were always drawn back to what I had marked, making it hard to discover anything new. (This is also why I don't buy, or will return if I can, books that are highlighted or marked.)

Instead I keep a stock of these Post-it notes. On the inside back cover of every book I am currently reading, I place several of them. I split up the bundle so the book still lays flat, and while I'm reading, whenever there is something I want to remember, I just pull out a tab and place it by the text. Then I keep reading. I have tried in the past to take notes while I am reading but there are several problems with this. One, it slows down reading and interrupts the flow of the story or text. Two, it makes my reading time a chore. Most of my reading is done at night before sleep and by that point I want my time to be relaxing. And lastly, sometimes I will mark something that by the end of the book is no longer something I need or want to remember, or perhaps it was said better somewhere else in the book. I don't always end up keeping everything I tab.

So what do I ultimately do with the passages I have tabbed?

I use this notebook to keep any passages that I want to remember, mostly from fiction. I will include conversations between characters, descriptions of scenery, and particularly well-written sentences or phrases. It is possible the theme may be spiritual, but since it is not coming from an overtly spiritual book, it will land here. This is a recent addition from The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge (a favorite author):

She was running through amber sunshine, and the leaves from the elm trees were drifting past her as once the birds had done on the cliffs at Roch, and she remembered the little bird whose tiny claw had encircled he finger like a wedding ring. She had been espoused then to the world of woods and fields and water. At the far end of the first field, there was a coppice and she ran into it and sat down on leaves and grasses that were warm and dry, for it had been a dry season. All about her the nut trees and maple trees were pale gold and amethyst, like royal tapestry, festooned here and there with the pink and orange of spindle-berries. It was like a bower and suddenly she felt supremely safe. The apparent security of a loved world can be an illusion, as Lucy had discovered when the family nest fell to pieces, but every time the badger returns to his holt he believes himself to be safe. p. 189

You might read this and think, meh, what's the big deal about this? You might not care about it at all. That's the beauty of this kind of notebook - it's highly personal. When I go back and read through it, I can revisit the many stories and characters that I cherish. This particular quote is so beautiful to me, especially as I think back to the character and the time I spent with her in this book.

Spiritual notes
This notebook contains passages from books I read that have an overtly spiritual nature. Quotes from saints, passages from books such as Summa of the Summa, Time for God, Story of a Soul, etc. I will also include some passages from the Bible. This is not a place for fact-based Bible study notes, though, or prayer aids such as how to do lectio divina, mental prayer, or helps for the Rosary. This notebook might contain an inspiring passage about the benefits of praying the Rosary, but not help on how to pray it better.

My poetry notebook is currently in a bit of an identity crisis. My plan for it when I began was to add poems to it after I memorized them; there are a few in there like that now. But we are not doing poetry memory like that at the moment so I need to rethink this one. I may continue to use it this way but also to add poems that I run across that I want to remember. Yes, I like that idea.

Bible study notes
I use a three-ring binder stocked with loose-leaf paper. I have a page for each of the 73 books in the Bible. When I am studying a particular book, I add notes about that book to its page. When I read through the entire Bible about 12 years ago, I took notes on many of the books' introductions and put them here. I have different Bible study books now than I did then, so it's good to have a place to add new notes and make connections. I know I will add lots of notes from Walking with God. I also have separate pages for OT notes, NT notes, and Bible notes in general that are not specific to a particular book. I also use this to flesh out Biblical genealogy and other things that I just am not able to keep straight (for example, the 12 tribes and which major figures come from each line, all of the different names that refer to the same thing, etc).

For example, the other day I learned that the mountain where Isaac was almost sacrificed by his father Abraham was the the same mountain where Jesus was crucified! How did I miss this before? To ensure I remember this, I added the note to my Genesis page and could also add it to any of the Gospels.

I also have a binder for notes on prayer. This is not wholly handwritten content but also contains printed notes on prayer from other sources. This is the place that I would also write notes from the spiritual books I read that are practical, more of the how-to. For example, I recently finished reading Time for God by Fr. Jacques Philippe, probably my favorite modern author of spiritual books. Most, if not all, of these notes will likely land here but some may end up in my Spiritual notebook. Honestly, there is some overlap here where I could put a passage in more than one place. I just make a decision as to where it fits best and put it in there. No need for perfectionism here. :)

This is just a small spiral notebook for notes on the current fiction book I'm reading; it's not intended to be a keepsake, rather just for practical help while I'm reading. If there are a lot of characters or places whose names I cannot keep straight (happens easily when I read only a few pages at a time), I will jot notes here to refer back to easily while I am reading. I did this when I read the Kristin Lavrnasdatter trilogy and it was so helpful. I forgot to do it (or was too lazy) while reading Oliver Twist and I am sure I missed some things by not remembering who exactly a person was and his connection to them in an earlier part of the book. This notebook isn't necessary for every fiction read but you'll know when you need it.

Other notebooks
I also keep notebooks for Education as well as other topics related to my role as mom, homeschooler, and lifelong learner. For example, as I am reading through St. Thomas' Summa (with Peter Kreeft's help), once I think I understand an article, I am writing down a summary in my own words in its own notebook. It's a super long book so a spiral notebook will do the job. My Education notebook is a small, spiral bound notebook containing notes related to books on education. In general, I will start a new notebook for a specific project or topic as I see the need. I also keep a nature journal where I sketch from nature and keep notes about interesting nature-related things. I am just learning how to sketch and paint and do these kinds of things but it is fun. I use this notebook. 

Narration, or remembering what you read
Another way to retain more of what you read, what is important to you, is to orally narrate to yourself what you have read after every few pages. This is much harder than it sounds. It requires attentive reading and then taking what you have read and being able to say out loud to yourself what you read, what it means, etc. It is very easy to read and read and read and to think, yes, I understand. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Narrating to yourself is the best way to find out. It is hard, though, so don't be discouraged. It's something you can continue to work at. You can even start with just narrating a paragraph at a time. My schooling was test-based so I read to remember for tests and then most of that was forgotten. Narration's focus is different - you narrate to know. I still need to write notes to help me remember, though. 

My favorite tools for keeping
  • I am picky about my pens! My family knows to not mess with my pens. I like the uni-ball Jetstream RT pens quite a lot. They write smoothly with ease, and the despicable ink blob that can appear when writing is almost non-existent.
  • Standard spiral notebooks work for some keeping, but I like something a bit nicer for my Commonplace, Poetry, and Spiritual notes - in these books I aim to use my best handwriting (such as it is) and I view them as keepsake notebooks. I like Moleskine products for these because the pages lie perfectly flat with no spiral interference in the middle of writing. I really dislike bumping into the spiral when I am writing! They are an investment but I plan to have these for the rest of my life and they are a true pleasure to write in, very different from spiral notebooks.
  • Any good three-ring binder will do if you want to do any keeping with loose-leaf paper. Avery products have been reliably good for me.
When do I update my notebooks?
I have learned that if I don't actively plan a time to do this, it just doesn't happen. The down side to all of those Post-it notes is that they cry out to be copied into my notebooks. It is a bit of work. But when I look back on all I have kept so far, I am so filled with joy that I am willing to do the work. Sometimes I will set aside time on the weekend; this doesn't happen super often as I am not in the time in life where I have several hours every weekend to do with what I like. Most often, I will take the 5-10-15 minutes I find during a day to copy a passage or two. This may be time that I might have looked something up online (which is never quick, right?) but will instead keep a few more thoughts and ideas in my notebooks. When I am sitting down to lessons with my older son and he is doing independent work, I may take those few minutes and copy a few more passages. I recently finished two entire books of keeping just doing it this way. A motivator for me to keep my desk clean is so I can keep a book and notebook out and be ready to take advantage of the 5-10-15 minute block without having to pull out all of my supplies.

When I write it down in my weekly planner along with other to-do tasks such as laundry and paying bills, it has a chance to get done. I have had to accept that if I want to keep like this, I will likely always have a backlog. The perfectionist in me says that this is not good. The more reasonable side of me says that the further away I get from having finished reading a book, the more discerning I will be about what to keep when it comes time to look at what I marked. While what I ultimately want is fully up-to-date notebooks, I am trying to enjoy the process as well. I might as well because as long as I read, I will have things waiting to be kept.